The Bystanders: photographers who didn’t step in to help

Photo-essay at The Guardian:

It was my first exposure to such a thing. And although, as a journalist, my reaction was fine, as a human being I felt I’d really let myself down. It wasn’t how I’d expected I’d react – I thought I’d try to intervene, or do something more noble. Yet I hadn’t. I was really quite torn up about that. I was gutted that I’d been such a coward.

Ramadan poem by Rumi

O moon-faced Beloved,
the month of Ramadan has arrived
Cover the table
and open the path of praise.

O fickle busybody,
it’s time to change your ways.
Can you see the one who’s selling the halvah
how long will it be the halvah you desire?

Just a glimpse of the halvah-maker
has made you so sweet even honey says,
“I’ll put myself beneath your feet, like soil;
I’ll worship at your shrine.”

Your chick frets within the egg
with all your eating and choking.
Break out of your shell that your wings may grow.
Let yourself fly.

The lips of the Master are parched
from calling the Beloved.
The sound of your call resounds
through the horn of your empty belly.

Let nothing be inside of you.
Be empty:  give your lips to the lips of the reed.
When like a reed you fill with His breath,
then you’ll taste sweetness.

Sweetness is hidden in the Breath
that fills the reed.
Be like Mary – by that sweet breath
a child grew within her.

–Rumi (via Darvish)

Get rid of the crappy stuff

Nike CEO Mark Parker called up Steve Jobs one day, shortly after Parker had become CEO:

“Do you have any advice?”  Parker asked Jobs.  “Well, just one thing,” said Jobs. “Nike makes some of the best products in the world.  Products that you lust after.  But you also make a lot of crap.  Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”  Parker said Jobs paused and Parker filled the quiet with a chuckle.  But Jobs didn’t laugh.  He was serious. “He was absolutely right,” said Parker.  “We had to edit.”

Parker used the word ‘edit’ not in a design sense but in the context of making business decisions.  Editing also leads to great product designs and effective communications. According to Steve Jobs, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on.  But that’s not what it means at all.  It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.  I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done.  Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

(via Forbes)

The Slow Web

Three years ago on the occasion of Ramadan, I started an info-fast. I unplugged from Twitter, disabled most of my Facebook account’s functionality, unsubscribed from all my Google Reader RSS feeds, stopped commenting on blogs and closed off comments on my blogs (that last one may have happened before or after, but let’s pretend it all happened at the same time).

There is too much to keep track of, and I simply gave up. In the end, the things you do have to add value to your life. This generation is struggling with the Web the same our parents may have struggled with watching too much TV. We are glued to this stuff. I know most of my day is spent at the computer. I wanted and still want to rethink my relationship to all this web-based activity. I suppose it’s about bringing mindfulness to the act. Slow Blogging was something I mentioned around that info-fast. Jack Cheng’s Slow Web is an idea that fits perfectly into this as well.

Timely not real-time. Rhythm not random. Moderation not excess. Knowledge not information. These are a few of the many characteristics of the Slow Web. It’s not so much a checklist as a feeling, one of being at greater ease with the web-enabled products and services in our lives.

Like Slow Food, Slow Web is concerned as much with production as it is with consumption. We as individuals can always set our own guidelines and curb the effect of the Fast Web, but as I hope I’ve illustrated, there are a number of considerations the creators of web-connected products can make to help us along. And maybe the Slow Web isn’t quite a movement yet. Maybe it’s still simmering. But I do think there is something distinctly different about the feeling that some of these products impart on their users, and that feeling manifests from the intent of their makers.

A great example of the Slow Web is the recently launched Evening Edition news site. It’s ironic that we broke away from the strictures of the broadcast, mass-communication era and are now trying to break away from (or find a different relationship to) the on-demand era.

The Chairs Are Where The People Go

A couple of intriguing thoughts from Toronto artist/teacher Misha Glouberman in his book The Chairs Are Where The People Go:

Art is communication made in the hope that interesting miscommunications will arise.

You can’t make art by working on it only when you feel like it.

There’s this terrible idea that the things you do are like this manifesto against everything else.

If you’re worried about failure, then it’s very hard to let yourself be surprised. If you’re thinking you shouldn’t fail, then probably you imagine that there’s somewhere in particular you need to be. You’re probably intent on taking a particular path to get there. So if you find yourself somewhere surprising, you might find the need to go backwards, to get back on the right path. That means you’ll miss a lot of interesting and useful surprises. It’s good to learn to suspend the fear of failure. Game structures can be very useful for that, because failure is built into games. If you’re playing baseball and you swing at the ball and you don’t hit the ball, you understand that’s part of the game. It wouldn’t be a very good game if you always hit the ball. What happens mostly is you swing at the ball and you don’t hit. Does that mean that playing baseball is a miserable experience because you’re mostly failing? If you miss the ball playing baseball, it doesn’t mean you’re playing baseball wrong. It just means you’re playing baseball.

Squishy Doctrines

From Adam Gopnik’s review of the book Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation by Elaine Pagels:

Don’t squishy doctrines of transformation through personal illumination always get marginalized in mass movements? As Stephen Batchelor has recently shown, the open-minded, non-authoritarian side of Buddhism, too, quickly succumbed to its theocratic side, gasping under the weight of those heavy statues. The histories of faiths are all essentially the same: a vague and ambiguous millennial doctrine preached by a charismatic founder, Marx or Jesus; mystical variants held by the first generations of followers; and a militant consensus put firmly in place by the power-achieving generation. Bakunin, like the Essenes, never really had a chance. The truth is that punitive, hysterical religions thrive, while soft, mystical ones must hide their scriptures somewhere in the hot sand.

The Snarky Voice in Your Head Is Killing Your Productivity; Here’s How to Stop It

It’s easy it is to be snarky, sarcastic and just plain mean in our culture.

“There’s a jerk inside all of us: we roll our eyes when someone in line has a complicated order, curse at little old ladies who don’t drive fast enough, and sneer at people who are just too happy. Over time, that snark kills our productivity and poisons our relationships. Here’s how to keep your inner asshole in check.”

How Silence Works: Emailed Conversations With Four Trappist Monks

An email interview with four monks about the world of silence they live in:

A human being is a social creature, and we find that, while maintaining silence alone is natural and a blessing, cultivating silence in a group is hard and a discipline we have to commit to over and over again. I would not speak of the “sacrifice of words” except in relatively rare instances when a passion moves me to speak and I struggle to hold my tongue. The silence which is my natural habitat is not created by forcibly sacrificing anything. When a man and woman meet and fall in love they begin to talk. They talk and talk and talk all day long and can’t wait to meet again to talk some more. They talk for hours together, and never tire of talking and so talk late into the night, until they become intimate—and then they don’t talk anymore. Neither would describe intimacy as “the sacrifice of words” and a monk is not inclined to speak about his intimacy with God in this way. Is silence beneficial for all people? I would say the cultivation of silence is indispensable to being human. People sometimes talk as if they were “looking for silence,” as if silence had gone away or they had misplaced it somewhere. But it is hardly something they could have misplaced. Silence is the infinite horizon against which is set every word they have ever spoken, and they can’t find it? Not to worry—it will find them.

Success Amnesia

Via shervster:

Practice success and failure amnesia. Forget that you succeeded. Forgive and forget that you failed. Learn from both and move on fast. Failure can be a patient teacher—it’s often a learnable event. Success can lead to signal and pattern blindness. The greatest achievers I have met are grounded and focused. They practice success amnesia.  Achievement is a state of mind. It needs to be practiced, protected and sharpened. Don’t let success blind that state of mind or failure bog it down. The faster we forget the twins of success and failure and focus on only creating value the faster the engines of achievement can carry you forward.

Your time is limited

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Steve Jobs