The actual value of advice can be only be appreciated in hindsight…

Monday, 29 September, 2014

If I was asked to write a letter to my decade or two younger self, offering a little wisdom – and if I could be so… audacious, a tip or two as to when to turn, say, right rather than, say, left – I’m not sure I’d know where to begin.

That’s of course not correct, but put it this way, I’d have a lot to say to my youthful self. Anyway, it’s a premise that was recently put to seven Australian writers including Mark Dapin, Amanda Hooton, and Charlotte Wood. Then there’s this astute observation from Anna Funder:

At the beginning of anything important – writing a book, starting a friendship – it’s a case of imagining something that doesn’t yet exist and calling it into being: with desire, curiosity, knee-quaking trust in its future. When I think about you, starting out at university and feeling like you’re starting out in your real life, that’s how I see you. Know this: reality – the world’s and your own private path – will far outstrip what you could ever have imagined. You’re not as lost as you feel, though possibly you’ll never feel as found as you’d like.

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Now that we’ve lived our best years, let’s bow out at 75

Friday, 26 September, 2014

Ezekiel Emanuel, writing for The Atlantic, thinks age seventy-five would be about a good time for him to make an exit from this life.

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

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Fredkin’s Paradox and the difficulty in making some decisions

Friday, 26 September, 2014

Do you find yourself unable to decide whether to have a choc-top ice cream, or pop-corn, while at the movies, or stuck when it comes to choosing between a three-door hatch back car, or a four-door sedan? It just may be a mild case of Fredkin’s Paradox

As the options get closer to each other in quality, the difference in the effect they have on your life necessarily shrinks. This is true for big decisions as well as little ones. Sure, buying a car means making a large investment, but there’s only so much one mid-sized practical car can do for you that another mid-sized practical car can’t. If you try to distinguish between them by cup-holder size, you’ll spend a long time thinking about something that you know is just going to hold one half-full bottle of water and two paper napkins until you set the whole car on fire and roll it into a ditch.

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No life for bucket lists, seek out the unscripted and spontaneous

Thursday, 25 September, 2014

Life’s too short to go following the crowd, and adhering to their ideas of should be on your bucket list, or list of things to do and see before you die.

Better still, ditch the idea of a bucket list all together, and simply embrace the chaos that is this existence, and savour whatever experiences come your way. Hopefully most of it will be enjoyable, fulfilling, and memorable.

Thinking about my own most transformative moments, I can’t identify one which I had specifically sought to make me feel more alive. Bungee jumping was fun, sure, and running a half marathon gave me a nice sense of accomplishment. But the moments I will remember on my death bed – those which made me feel honoured to be alive – came at unexpected times: laying down on a parking lot patch of grass at night with a lover; picking up an unpromising book only to be jolted by how it spoke to me at a specific time in my life; an old 1990s song serendipitously playing during a night drive; eating my grandmother’s last batch of apricot jam after she died; love-making that suddenly turned into a true communion.

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Sitting down like adults to discuss the apparent death of adulthood

Thursday, 25 September, 2014

US film critic A.O. Scott caused a stir a few weeks ago when he wrote an article suggesting adulthood, or maturity, was no longer what it once seemed to be. Cue then a bevy of writers who have penned responses.

Perhaps adulthood is a state that only a limited few fully achieve, and look through the facade that many so-called adults present to the world, and you’ll find most people you thought to be mature, aren’t really at all.

Is such a state of affairs all that bad though? While adults behaving like overgrown adolescents is hardly desirable, possibly our lives are not as stifled, and pretentious, as they used to be? I think Scott nails it with this paragraph:

It is now possible to conceive of adulthood as the state of being forever young. Childhood, once a condition of limited autonomy and deferred pleasure (“wait until you’re older”), is now a zone of perpetual freedom and delight. Grown people feel no compulsion to put away childish things: We can live with our parents, go to summer camp, play dodge ball, collect dolls and action figures and watch cartoons to our hearts’ content. These symptoms of arrested development will also be signs that we are freer, more honest and happier than the uptight fools who let go of such pastimes.

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Curiosity doesn’t kill introverts, it defends them

Wednesday, 24 September, 2014

I don’t mean to keep banging on about introversion, even if it is in my nature, but I couldn’t go passed this piece written by Michael Lopp:

My curiosity is a defense mechanism. I am desperately trying to get back to my Cave where the surprises are scheduled. I have learned the faster I can learn about you, the faster I will figure out what you want, and that will tell me what motivates you, and when I know what motivates you, I will better understand how to communicate with you. I am not trying to manipulate you, I am not trying to pander to you, I am trying to understand you because… I am an introvert.

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Are dreams shaped by what we eat?

Wednesday, 24 September, 2014

Is there a link between the sort of food you eat later in the evening, and the type of dreams you may have? Seemingly not, but a snack of some sort before going to sleep doesn’t sound like a bad idea, given how active the brain is while dreaming

A dreaming brain is a hungry brain. “Sleep is a very active process and your brain needs a lot of sugar. I actually recommend to people having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before they go to bed: The bread and the jelly are great sources of simple carbohydrates, which are terrible usually, but great for sleep,” Wenk states. The theory here: Not only will you supply energy (sugar) to the busy brain, but you’re also providing it with extra serotonin – the “calming” hormone – to help usher in the onset of sleep.

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Please accept this apology that is being made by proxy

Tuesday, 23 September, 2014

If, somehow, you fancy a career as a professional apologiser – as opposed to an apologist – then Japan is the place to go. There you might find work with an “apology agency”.

By hiring an expert, not only do you get to avoid the discomfort, you also make sure that the person gets a proper apology. These agencies train their employees to handle things based on the gravity of the situation. These people are professionals, and it looks like they can get you out of all sorts of sticky situations.

You have to wonder how a person on the receiving end of a professional apology must feel though. Wouldn’t it be a little too impersonal? It’s the thought that counts I guess.

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Even when I sleep I can still be productive

Monday, 22 September, 2014

If you have a full diary, or an overly busy schedule, news that you might be able to do a thing or two while sleeping could be music to your ears

The researchers then lulled the participants to sleep, putting them in a dark room in a reclining chair. Researchers watched them fall into the state between light sleep and the deeper sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). They were then told a new list of words. This time, their hands didn’t move, but their brains showed the same sorting activity as before. “In a way, what’s going on is that the rule they learn and practice still is getting applied,” Tristan Bekinschtein, one of the authors of the study, told Shots. The human brain continued, when triggered, to respond even through sleep.

It sounds like what we might be able to do while asleep is pretty limited – actually it’s incredible that anything at all is possible – so I wouldn’t go expecting to achieve all that much.

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Procrastination, a symptom that all may not be well?

Monday, 22 September, 2014

Simply trying to force yourself into action may not be the remedy for procrastination. In fact procrastination may be symptomatic of stress and low self-compassion, suggests some Canadian research into the subject.

Sirois found that people prone to procrastination had lower levels of self-compassion and higher levels of stress. Further analysis revealed that procrastination might increase levels of stress – particularly among people low in self-compassion.

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