Those Were The Days


Ah, nostalgia. So sweet and so deadly.

Yesterday evening we went to a Dueling Pianos show and one of the songs was Those Were The Days. We, the audience, sang along to the refrain:

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance, forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days.

Of all the songs played that evening this was the one that hit me hardest. Where Proust wrote In Search of Lost Time, I could have written In Search of Lost Youth. Thoughts ran through my head of days spent with friends on that most romantic of cliffs, Clogwyn Du’r Arddu, of weeks spent climbing perfect granite cliffs in Yosemite, of early days in Boulder, Colorado.


But youth was never as rose colored as memory has it. There was as much frustration as accomplishment, as much loneliness as friendship. Nostalgia is memories of things that happened tinged with dreams of possibilities that never happened.

Friendship was never as good as in the past, experiences never as rich, relationships never as close. Our memories of what was, are overlaid with all that might have been.

Nostalgia is a problem. In politics, when people long for the good old days and support politicians in their promises of a return to those mythical, never-were times. In our personal lives, when we let nostalgia for the past prevent us from creating a better future.

I don’t like nostalgia and I try to avoid it (1). I have a box of climbing slides from the 70s and 80s that I wanted to throw away twenty years ago but my wife wouldn’t let me. I have a box of old photos that I want to throw away, but Tanya told me not to. I don’t want to look back at these old parts of my life; both boxes are stored in the shed. (And yes, I tend to do what the women in my life tell me to do 😀)

For me, nostalgia is something to indulge in when I don’t have visions and plans for the future, when it seems that the only good days left are those in the past. I’d rather dream up and plan for a wonderful future so that I can enjoy the anticipation and then the present.

The past is good for giving us lessons that hopefully we learn, but it’s not a good place to live or even spend much time.


  1. Perhaps my only nostalgic indulgence is the scrapbook I’ve kept for the last 15 years, which I rarely look at and I keep just to remind myself of the events in my life. I’ve more than once looked through it and come across a theater ticket to a play I have no recollection whatever of seeing.

Links and Other Clicks

Posted in Change | 4 Comments

The Best Laid Plans

SmileMy friend Cat told me that she hadn’t seen me smile in a while. We were at a restaurant – and after a few drinks I was definitely smiling and laughing.

But I realized she was correct. I haven’t been smiling much. And I’ve been more irritable with Tanya than I (or she) would like.

The problem is I’m not exercising. I hurt my leg in mid-December although I’m not sure how. I researched shin splints on the Web and as a result I tried icing my leg, taping up my leg, stretching, massaging my shin, walking on my heels, using a foam roller, and riding my bicycle.

Riding was okay but the next day my leg would hurt more. Walking on my heels seemed like a good way to strength my shin muscles, but now my other leg hurts just as much. Now I have sore shins on both legs.

EatingI had great plans for this spring and summer. Among other things I was hoping to cycle with friends in Death Valley, climb volcanoes in Bali, and walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Now I’ve canceled all these plans and our travel plans for the year are in flux. Perhaps I’ll focus on eating and drinking instead of exercise. Which unfortunately presents a problem because without exercise I need to eat less rather than more if I’m to avoid becoming round.

But perhaps I’ve been given a chance to learn what else can fill my days with joy – or at least contentment. After all, one day I won’t be able to do hard exercise, regardless of any injuries.

IMG_3313I’ve started doing art again. Over the winter months Tanya and I did three art classes (drawing, pastel, watercolor). What I most learned was that I don’t have the patience to develop the skills to do art that looks remotely realistic.

So I’m going back to my old style of stylized art. Hopefully art will be one way to fill my time with an activity that brings me satisfaction, if not joy.

I also started writing another novel but very quickly ran out of inspiration. No, that’s not correct. I’m a firm believer in what Chuck Close said: “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.” It’s more that I fear I don’t have the skills or imagination to write the book. That what I’m writing is crap. If you’ve read Ann Patchett’s wonderful description of writing a novel, I don’t even have the dry husk and broken chipped body to start with, let alone a butterfly of indescribable beauty.

I understand that part of the problem is that I’m focusing on the result rather than the process. I need to focus on simply enjoying the act of imagination even if it goes nowhere, even if I have to backtrack, even if I end up throwing it away. This is difficult because one of the key motivators for most people (including me) is progress.

But a good life progresses in baby steps and shitty first drafts. So I’ve bought a book called 300 Writing Prompts to help me on my journey 🙂  And we’ve accepted that our travel plans will be very fluid and subject to change, even as we embark on them.

What do you do when you are unable to do the things that give you the most satisfaction in life?


The Progress Principle, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer

ProgressThis pattern is what we call the progress principle: of all the positive events that influence inner work life, the single most powerful is progress in meaningful work; of all the negative events, the single most powerful is the opposite of progress—setbacks in the work.

Chuck Close:

InspirationAheadThe advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to do an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction.

Ann Patchett

ButterfliesThe book is my invisible friend, omnipresent, evolving, thrilling. During the months (or years) it takes me to put my ideas together, I don’t take notes or make outlines; I’m figuring things out, and all the while the book makes a breeze around my head like an oversized butterfly whose wings were cut from the rose window in Notre Dame. This book I have not yet written one word of is a thing of indescribable beauty, unpredictable in its patterns, piercing in its colour, so wild and loyal in its nature that my love for this book, and my faith in it as I track its lazy flight, is the single perfect joy in my life. It is the greatest novel in the history of literature, and I have thought it up, and all I have to do is put it down on paper and then everyone can see this beauty that I see. And so I do. When I can’t think of another stall, when putting it off has actually become more painful than doing it, I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air. I take it from the region of my head and I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it. It’s not that I want to kill it, but it’s the only way I can get something that is so three-dimensional onto the flat page… Imagine running over a butterfly with an SUV. Everything that was beautiful about this living thing – all the colour, the light and movement – is gone. What I’m left with is the dry husk of my friend, the broken body chipped, dismantled and poorly reassembled. Dead. That’s my book.

Bird by Bird, by Annie LaMott

FirstDraftsNow, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. People tend to look at successful writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her. (Although when I mentioned this to my priest friend Tom, he said you can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.) Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies across the snow. One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and says to himself nicely, “It’s not like you don’t have a choice, because you do — you can either type, or kill yourself.” We all often feel like we are pulling teeth, even those writers whose prose ends up being the most natural and fluid. The right words and sentences just do not come pouring out like ticker tape most of the time. Now, Muriel Spark is said to have felt that she was taking dictation from God every morning — sitting there, one supposes, plugged into a Dictaphone, typing away, humming. But this is a very hostile and aggressive position. One might hope for bad things to rain down on a person like this.

Links and Other Clicks

300 Writing Prompts

The novel I did manage to write.

Posted in Change, Engagement, Travel, Vacations | 2 Comments

The Power of Gamblers

Drug PricesI was reading an article about the broken Pharma system – basically about how people like Martin Shkreli can jack up the prices of drugs by 5000% in order to make a fortune at the expense of the people who need the drugs. And how the government – Medicare, Medicaid – is banned from negotiating better prices with the drug companies – again making money for the drug companies at the expense of the people who need the drugs.

And it ocurred to me that in this country we give an incredible amount of power to gamblers at the expense of other people.

By this I mean that companies have many stakeholders – customers, employees, shareholders, the community in which they are located, and more – but give absolute priority to shareholders. The stock price of public companies is pretty much the only thing that counts. The interests of customers, employees, or the community matter only in how they affect the stock price.

GoldenRuleIn their early days, corporations were very different animals. Three examples: 1) a license to incorporate was only given if the corporation was doing something for the public good; 2) corporations were not allowed to make political or charitable contributions or spend money to influence law-making; 3) as well as sharing in the profits of the corporation, shareholders also shared in the losses.

But the people with the gold make the rules, and over time the rules about corporations all changed. Today none of those three examples is true.

StockMarketGamblingShareholders in a public company are not owners in the normal sense of ownership. They simply have a claim on aspects of the corporate assets. Shareholders are gamblers. They buy the stock in the hope that its price will go up and they can sell at a profit.

Unlike casino gambling, the winnings of share price gamblers are taxed on their winnings at a reduced tax rate (for long-term holds). Unlike casino gamblers, share price gamblers can deduct all their losses – sometimes as a carry-over loss to the next year.

Even activist shareholders, who you might think are acting a bit more like owners, are just gambling, but trying to affect the outcome of the gamble. They are like someone who plays roulette and who has taken a file and chisel to the roulette wheel in the hope of improving their odds.

I understand that a focus on shareholder value reduces the chances of hostile takers. Yet I also believe that the shareholder value dogma is hurting America and Americans. I don’t know what the answer is. Do you have any thoughts?

Links and Other Clicks

The article Pharma Bro Goes to Washington: A Congressional hearing with Martin Shkreli reveals the brokenness of the prescription-drug market. Sample paragraph: One reason our drugs cost so much more than they do in Europe is because there, governments and insurers have more power to bargain down prices with drug companies. Meanwhile Medicare, one of the biggest buyers of prescription drugs, is prohibited from negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

The article How the cult of shareholder value wrecked American business. This is the best and most articulate article I found about why shareholder value became the dominant dogma. Sample paragraph: The funny thing is that this supposed imperative to “maximize” a company’s share price has no foundation in history or in law. Nor is there any empirical evidence that it makes the economy or the society better off. What began in the 1970s and ’80s as a useful corrective to self-satisfied managerial mediocrity has become a corrupting, self-interested dogma peddled by finance professors, money managers and over-compensated corporate executives.

Another interesting article about shareholder value, focusing on how it has affected IBM. Sample paragraph: In 1970, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman wrote an article in the New York Times Magazine in which he famously argued that the only “social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.” Then in 1976, economists Michael Jensen and William Meckling published a paper saying that shareholders were “principals” who hired executives and board members as “agents.” In other words, when you are an executive or corporate director, you work for the shareholders.

Article about the history of corporations in the U.S. Sample paragraph: For 100 years after the American Revolution, legislators maintained tight control of the corporate chartering process. Because of widespread public opposition, early legislators granted very few corporate charters, and only after debate. Citizens governed corporations by detailing operating conditions not just in charters but also in state constitutions and state laws. Incorporated businesses were prohibited from taking any action that legislators did not specifically allow.


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Seeing Things As They Really Are

SeeAsWeAreWhile doing art classes it’s become obvious how bad I am at seeing things as they really are.

In drawing class it was so easy to draw things as I thought they were rather than as they actually were. Getting the shape wrong, the proportions wrong, the relationship to other objects wrong.

In watercolor class it was so easy to see the colors as I thought they were. Leaves are green, for heaven’s sake. In reality they were a multitude of greens and grays and blues, and some almost black as they lay in the shadow of other leaves.

Art class showed me that I see things as I think they are rather than as they actually are. The eyes take in the reality but my brain takes the reality then makes shortcuts and ignores the complexity of the reality. I then draw what my brain “knows” rather than what my eyes see.

GraspTheUnivereAsItIsThis made me wonder how much else of what I “know” is really just a shortcut that my brain made to avoid complexity. How much of what I “know” – about the world, about economics, about politics, about relationships, about people, about possibilities and impossibilities – is really just shortcuts created by my brain to avoid dealing with the difficult complexities of reality?

How much of what I fear – making a fool of myself, failing in some way, doing some house project – is just my brain taking a shortcut to avoid reality?

Art forces me to recognize the disconnect between reality and what I “know” because I can see that my artwork bears little relationship to the thing I’m drawing or painting. The output doesn’t match the input. With skill and dedicated practice I can bring the two closer together.

But other aspects of life rarely have an output that I can compare to reality, so I’m rarely faced with the disconnect. And so I don’t know where I have a disconnect. I don’t know what skill or what dedicated practice will bring my “knowledge” closer to reality.

How do I solve this? How do you solve this?

Posted in Curiosity, Habits | 2 Comments

Taking Action – Or Not – Part 3 (Superpowers)


I didn’t expect to have a Part 3, but while reading the Art of Taking Action I found two quotes that reinforce Oliver Burkeman’s quote in Part 1  about having a superpower.

Alternatively, they are about maturity. About outgrowing the belief that your feelings dictate your actions.

So here they are.

Oliver Burkeman (the quote in Part 1): To be able to do what needs doing, whether or not you feel like it, is pretty close to a superpower.

George Bernard Shaw: Forget about likes and dislikes. They are of no consequence. Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness but it is greatness.

Eknath Easwaran: Nothing in life is more satisfying, more masterful, than to be able to change our likes and dislikes when we need to. In fact, anyone who has mastered this skill has mastered life, and anyone who has not learned to overcome likes and dislikes is a victim of life. The statement we hear so often these days – “I like it, so I’m going to do it” – is a confession that that person is not free. When I say, “I am going to do this because I like it; I am not going to do that because I don’t like it,” what I am really saying is, “My hands are bound; I have no choice in life.”


May you too have superpowers!

Links and Other Clicks

Part 1

Part 2

The Art of Taking Action, by Gregg Krech.

Posted in Change, Engagement, Habits | 5 Comments

Taking Action – Or Not – Part 2

SocialComparisonAs I mentioned in Part 1, many of the mind problems that plague us are based on social comparison. Thoughts of not accomplishing enough, not being rich enough, not being pretty enough, not having enough interesting experiences, FOMO (fear of missing out). They are all related to comparing ourselves with others who seemingly have more.

Unfortunately we usually compare ourselves with the wrong people. We generally compare ourselves upwards – with those who have more money, success, looks, experiences – rather than downwards – with those who have less money, success, looks, experiences.

FacebookEyeWe also tend to compare ourselves with our friends and people around us. Rarely do we compare ourselves with Bill Gates or Michael Jordan – they are simply too distant from our knowledge and experience. So how we feel about ourselves and our abilities and accomplishments is strongly related to the people we know and associate with.


BoulderFor me, not being in Boulder, Colorado, makes a difference. Boulder is an A-list town. At different times during the last few decades, it has been home to many of the best athletes in the country: marathon runners, cyclists, ultra-runners, rock climbers. As a result there are also many wanna-be A-list athletes.

Apart from my early days in Boulder as a rock climber pushing the limits of hard, scary climbing, there were always people who were better, fitter, faster, and did more than I. Boulder also has lots of very smart people and is often ranked as the smartest city in the U.S. based on the number of graduates and Ph.D’s. On top of that, it’s a rich town where people come after making their money elsewhere – several of my neighbors were investment bankers who moved to Boulder after making their fortunes on Wall Street. In Boulder it was difficult to not compare myself with others, whether in accomplishments, intelligence, or wealth.

TucsonTucson, on the other hand, is not an A-list type of town at all. There are certainly very fit people here, but there’s a very different energy to the town. These are not the serious wanna-be’s, so I don’t get caught up in the comparison rat race. Tucson feels less competitive, more low-key and relaxed. It’s easier to do or not-do here, to take action or not-take-action.


Getting older also means acceptance – at least it does if one is wise 🙂  Most real accomplishments come when one is younger, as does the drive to accomplish. As I’ve got older, I increasingly realize I’m not going to accomplish as much as I once did. I simply don’t have the drive or the desire.

Having done what I want to do

In fact I’ve done a lot of the things I want to do. I’ve done most of the hikes and and bike rides I want to do in the Tucson area. I can always think of more to do but they are out on the less important, maybe-one-day fringe. I don’t do anything as fast as others might do, whether it’s riding up a hill or completing a long hike. I ride and hike at my own pace, but I finish things and that’s what counts for me. There are a few more hikes I’d like to do in Colorado but nothing I’m going to stress over.

As well as that, Tanya and I spent several months cycling in Europe last summer. I managed to ride most of the great Tour de France climbs in the French Alps, and the great Giro d’Italia climbs in the Italian Alps. There are still more climbs to do in different parts of the world, but if I could do no more, I’d be satisfied with what I’ve done.

Nobody Cares

NobodyCaresA key life lesson is that few people care what I’ve done anyway. People are mostly focused on themselves and their own lives and their own happiness. No one thinks I’m any better a person for having accomplished anything I might have accomplished. At best they might be slightly inspired. At worst they might be slightly resentful. But their feelings will usually relate to how my life makes them feel about their life. Basically no one cares.

Taking the longer view, one day I’ll be dead and it will all be irrelevant. No one at all will care. No one will even know who I was. Of course, this attitude comes a little more easily as I get older and closer to death.


Part 1 talked mostly about how I sometimes feel I’m not accomplishing as much as I’d like. Part 2 talked mostly about why it doesn’t matter so much to me now.

But all the above is only a partial answer as we do need projects, things to focus on. We need to find things to fill our time, things that give us feelings of satisfaction and meaning. Boredom is a terrible thing, and the Devil Makes Work for Idle Hands. So it’s not a good life plan to just give up and not pursue worthwhile goals. We need to step up and find things we want to pursue, which sometimes leads to feelings of not accomplishing very much.

I think I’ve gone full circle here.

Do I sound muddled and confused? Well, we are complex creatures with multiple, often contradictory, motivations. There’s a great book called Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite, which talks about how “the human mind consists of many specialized units designed by the process of evolution by natural selection. While these modules sometimes work together seamlessly, they don’t always, resulting in impossibly contradictory beliefs, vacillations between patience and impulsiveness, violations of our supposed moral principles, and overinflated views of ourselves.”



But I think Walt Whitman said it best in his poem, Song of Myself.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)


How about you? What are your thoughts on all this?

Links and Other Clicks

Part 1 of this two part blog post.

Part 3 of this two part blog post.

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind, by Robert Kurzban

Walt Whitman’s poem, Song of Myself.

Posted in Change, Engagement, Retirement | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Taking Action – Or Not – Part 1

I often feel that I’m not accomplishing very much. When I was working I made pretty good use of my time because time was a limited resource, and I got a fair amount done. But I still felt that I wasn’t accomplishing very much. Now that I’m not working, things are a lot more complex (more in Part 2), but I still sometimes feel I’m not accomplishing very much.

What causes these thoughts? I think there are many factors. The cultural Protestant work ethic. Trying to prove my worth to my father, even though he has long been dead. And we are social comparison creatures, with comparison skills finely tuned through millennia of evolution. Two examples: 1) In the US, the measure of worth is usually wealth, and there were plenty of people in Boulder much wealthier than I. 2) Many of the people we read or hear about are outliers who seem to go from one major accomplishment after another (if they weren’t outliers we wouldn’t be reading about them.)

I’ll defer to Part 2 the interesting question of how to reduce these thoughts of having to accomplish more. In the meantime, I’ve always been a sucker for books and articles that will tell me how to be more successful, and how to get more done.


Of course I already know the answer.

  • Just Do It.
  • Put in your 10,000 hours.
  • Do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, regardless of how you feel.

Or, as Oliver Burkeman puts it in an article, to be able to do what needs doing, whether or not you feel like it, is pretty close to a superpower.

But even though I know the answer, I still want to read books. I’m looking for the magical secret that doesn’t require me to put in 10,000 hours, or do what needs to be done even though I’m feeling tired and would rather sit around reading a book. So I read books. The latest one I want to read, and have put it in my Amazon cart, is The Art of Taking Action. I haven’t yet have now pressed the Buy button.


Why do I want to did I buy this book? Even though I know it won’t change me? Even though I know it’s just a form of procrastination? Even though I know I’ll just be reading it for entertainment rather than results?

I think that’s the answer. Deep down I know I won’t change, but I enjoy this type of entertainment that is mixed with a little wishful thinking.

I tend to exist in a sort of comfort zone where any attempt to get out of the zone requires change which requires doing things differently. And I resist that. I prefer to take the easy road and enjoy the entertainment value I get from reading self-help types of books. So I think I’ll enjoy sitting on the couch reading The Art of Taking Action when it arrives. (Of course, the main purpose of this post is to provide me with a very subtle way of telling Tanya that I’ve bought an unnecessary book that she might not approve of 🙂 )

Do you have any stories about taking action – or not? Or suggestions for me and other readers?

Links and Other Clicks

Part 2 of this two part blog post.

Part 3 of this two part blog post.

Oliver Burkeman article, The Art of Taking Action. Or Not.

The Art of Taking Action, by Gregg Krech.

My own web-based self-help book, The Happiness Dance.

Posted in Change, Habits, Time Management | Leave a comment

Friends Who Write Books

BooksI recently finished reading The Broom of God, by my friend John Bragg. A couple of years ago I’d read a book written by another friend, Bernie’s Bar and Girll, by Marc Rochkind. After reading the second book, I started wondering how many of their friends had bought and read their novels.

The reason I wondered is that very few of my friends bought my novel, A God of Manageable Size. The good people I worked with at Silver Creek Systems bought copies – probably because they saw me every day and would have been embarrassed not to. But even though I told all my friends and cycling buddies about the book, only a loyal few ( 🙂 ) actually bought a copy.

It can’t be a matter of money. A paperback book doesn’t cost much money, and anyway, how many of us have friends who write books? My thought is that people are very status conscious – a relic of our evolutionary past – and a friend’s success can give us feelings we’d rather not feel. I think Gore Vidal said it most eloquently: “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.”

So I asked John and Marc about their experiences with friends buying their books.

Marc: “A few of my relatives and friends bought copies, and I gave away a few. But most people who hear I wrote a novel don’t really care. I have a few friends, including you, who have written a novel, and I’ve read all of them. I think it’s fascinating to read something home-made, so to speak.

John: “I sold quite a few to climbers at a couple of events here in New Hampshire early on. After that the sales to close friends were quite good, but to more casual friends not so good. I think that’s pretty typical from what I’ve read in the self-publishing world.

While it’s understandable from an evolutionary perspective, it’s also a little sad that you can’t count more on the support of friends. I was certainly hurt that so few of my friends bought my book. As a result, I decided to support any friend who has put in the time and effort to write and publish a novel. I would buy (and read) their book.

(I distinguish novels from non-fiction because not everyone is interested in the subject of a non-fiction book. For example, I would never expect friends to buy a copy of a book on computer programming.)

Hence Marc and John’s books. The wonderful bonus was that both novels are great reads – interesting and really well written. Buy them and read them!

Do you have a story you’d like to share about books and friends?

Short Aside

kindleI’m more likely to read a physical book than an electronic book. I have a Kindle and lots of books on it, but many of my Kindle books I either haven’t read, or have read only some of. Having too many choices makes me less likely to finish any of them. Marc mentioned noticing a similar experience with his friends, although he came up with a different reason: “I noticed that everyone to whom I gave a paper copy read it, but very few read the ebook. I think they found the paper more impressive, although there’s no reason why, as it’s self-published.

Links and Other Clicks

Bernie’s Bar and Girll, by Marc Rochkind

The Broom of God, by John Bragg

A God of Manageable Size, by me

Here’s an interesting article that compares reading a physical book with reading electronically.

Posted in Engagement, Relationships | 12 Comments

Eternity is a really long time

“Think of a ball of steel as large as the world, and a fly alighting on it once every million years. When the ball of steel is rubbed away by the friction, eternity will not even have begun.” – The Picturegoers by David Lodge.

I love this image. It’s so powerful in giving an idea of what eternity really looks like. We’ve all heard the word, but I’d never tried to give it emotional meaning.

Current thinking says that the universe has existed for 13.8 billion years, which is only 13,800 visits from the fly. So the entire age of the universe doesn’t even begin make a dent in the ball of steel. Perhaps there’s no such thing as eternity and the universe will end rather than continuing for eternity. Although the Heat Death of the universe seems to be at least 10100 years away, which is enough time for 1094 visits from the fly, an inconceivably large number.

But I don’t want to explore this question. It’s sufficient to just sit and marvel at the feeling of eternity conjured up by the image. Eternity is a really, really long time.

Links and Other Clicks

Here are other images of Eternity.

  • A sage was asked, “How long have we been on this journey?” He replied, “Imagine a mountain three miles wide, three miles high, and three miles long. Once every hundred years, a bird flies over the mountain, holding a silk scarf in its beak, which it brushes across the surface of the mountain. The time it would take for the scarf to wear down the mountain is how long we’ve been doing this.” – The Wheel of Illusion by Ram Dass
  • “If you have a steel ball, solid steel, the size of this earth, 25,000 miles in circumference, and every one million years a little sparrow would be released to land on that ball to sharpen his beak and fly away only to come back another million years later and begin again, by the time he would have worn that ball down to the size of a BB, eternity would have just begun”Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes
  • “High up in the North in the land called Svithjod, there stands a rock. It is a hundred miles high and a hundred miles wide. Once every thousand years a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak. When the rock has thus been worn away, then a single day of eternity will have gone by.”The Story of Mankind by Henrik van Loon

I got the beautiful picture of the space landscape from here.

Here’s a fascinating article about Putting Time in Perspective.

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Unlinking from Facebook

NoFBI’ve decided to unlink my blog from Facebook. I’ve never been very comfortable with knowing that my blog posts will appear on Facebook and I’m now listening to that discomfort. Tanya takes the view that if people don’t want to read the posts, they don’t have to. I, on the other hand, am terrible at marketing and would rather no one read my blog than parade it in front of people who don’t want to see it. After all, if someone wants to read the blog, they can subscribe to it.

The final impetus for this decision was reading Tim Urban’s blog post called 7 Ways to be Insufferable on Facebook. I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Facebook anyway because I fluctuate between wanting to show people what I’ve been doing, and thinking that showing people what I’ve been doing is rather narcissistic.

Tim Urban categorizes the 7 different type of statuses that are insufferable. Some of them I hadn’t consciously thought of as bad, but others just scream at me. My least favorite type of status is the one that should be private. You know, the “I’m so proud of you, my dear husband / wife / son / daughter. You fill my heart with joy and blah, blah, blah.”  I also dislike statuses that are too obviously attention seeking: photos of the person doing something amazing thirty years ago; posts telling me they’ve just checked into a $1,000 a night hotel; etc.

Few of my Facebook friends share interesting articles, unlike Tanya’s friends who share some fascinating stuff. So I don’t even need to go to Facebook to learn about interesting articles – Tanya tells me about them. And I’ve come to the conclusion that getting Likes or giving Likes is a poor substitute for genuine face time – you know, actually being with the other person.

StatusFBTim Urban says “To be unannoying, a Facebook status typically has to be one of two things: 1) Interesting/Informative, or 2) Funny/Amusing/Entertaining“. I like to think (or at least I hope) that my blog posts are interesting or informative to other people (although in the end I write them for myself.) But I’ve decided that if other people find them interesting or informative, they can subscribe to the blog, or at least look at it periodically. I also suspect that I’ll write more (interesting or informative 🙂 ) blog posts when my blog is no longer linked to Facebook.

So this will be the last blog post I link to Facebook.

Links and other Clicks

Here’s the 7 Ways to be Insufferable on Facebook post.


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