Life Updates, Cool Tools & Mini Musings

And Why No-one Reads the Same Book Twice...

👋  Why Hello There Curious Friend!

🌴 Balinese Offerings // It's early morning here as I'm typing these words and Madé who works in this villa is preparing her morning offerings (called 'canang sari'), crafted mostly from flowers inside bamboo leaves with an incense stick or small gift. Madé, like most locals I've come to know here, is quick to laugh and seems to almost smile with her eyes. I wonder if this sense of delight and celebration through ritual is one of the reasons that so many people fall in love with this island.

📝  Annual Retrospective // For the past few years I've set aside a few days to re-read monthly journals and scribble an annual review of sorts (initially inspired by Chris Guillebeau). These were initially very goal-oriented but have evolved into more of an opportunity to press pause and appreciate a few lessons that have dropped out of this unfolding curriculum of life (there are many!)

🧘‍♂️  Meditation Teacher Training // I have recently taken the plunge and signed up for an 8 month part time meditation teacher training program that starts in January, led by these phenomenal humans. Maybe I'm just excited to embrace my hermit-ish tendencies, but also realising that this domain where I have the most to learn (or un-learn?) but there are also rare moments when it comes together, like accidentally hitting one true note when your instrument is usually way out of tune.
 

📷  Loved & Lost // I was invited to take part in a poignant photography project by British photographer Simon Bray. Nearly a decade ago, Simon lost his father to prostate cancer and felt moved to start this project as a way to shine a light on the stigma of grief in our society—to 'act as a public declaration that death has lost its sting'. I found myself feeling all kinds of tender listening to the recorded conversation and also exceptionally grateful to him for inviting me to share my story. Listen to the interview and see his photos here

Anyhow! Self-indulgent ramblings aside, I wish you not so much luck but a renewed fountain of courage and curiosity to lean into 2019's inevitable challenges that are sure to land on your path. Please do hit reply with any thoughts or pencil in a virtual 'curiosi-tea' with me here (no agenda necessary).

Sending high fives and good vibes 🙌

Jonny

​p.s. Kurt Vonnegut once quipped that when he sat down to write, he often feel like an 'armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth...' which is how I feel 98% of the time, so thanks for taking the time to read my scribblings and if these inbox intruding reflections might be something that a curious friend might appreciate, please feel free to forward this on with a note and they'll get the next one 🙏 
 
 

Three Mini Musings 💭

1 // The Lost Virtue of 'Tonglen' >> I recently discovered the Tibetan word 'Tonglen' which is their method for connecting with suffering and leaning into fear. It feels to me that it's a virtue that lies in the the intersection between radical or courageous curiosity and might be a lost superpower for navigating the scary liminal spaces of our lives and society? Interested to hear if anyone has any thoughts on this...

2 // Living in the Gift >> Along with over a thousand folks, I've joined Charles Eisenstein's new course: 'Personal and collective transition from an age of scarcity and separation, to an age of abundance, community, and gift.' Far from being a new-agey guide to how to be more self-righteous, thus far it has been a deep dive into understanding our natural urges to share gifts and to have them received (think being acknowledged for your work). It's intriguing to imagine how communities and the world of work might operate from this place.

3 // No-one Reads the Same Book >> I've recently finished re-reading Alan Watts' classic 'The Wisdom of Insecurity' and was reflecting on how this time around I had highlighted completely different passages that resonated in new ways. It was a different me to the person who tried to read this a few years ago... which is of course part of Alan Watts' message that 'no man ever steps in the same river twice'. 

 

Four Radical Reads 📚

1 // Getting Real about the Placebo Effect – Does it boggle anyone else's mind that drugs with fancy names are literally more effective than regular ones? Or how our guts respond differently to 'diet' drinks... even though we've normalised it with fancy words, the placebo effect is genuinely bizarre. This NYTimes piece is a long one but brings up some juicy questions. For example, “Will this work destroy the stuff that actually has to do with wisdom, preciousness, imagination, the things that are actually critical to who we are as human beings?” he asks. His answer: “I don’t know, but I have to believe there is an infinite reserve of wisdom and imagination that will resist being reduced to simple materialistic explanations.”

2 // Unified Theory of Ram Dass >> I have fallen into a deep Ram Dass rabbit hole, listening to the original audio of his 'Experiments in Truth' lectures and the beautifully titled [We're all just] 'Walking Each Other Home.' This GQ piece frames him (formerly Richard Alpert) as a secular saint: “One of the virtues of [Be Here Now] is that it is not tied to any historical religious tradition. It just goes straight for the pay dirt and the essence and the heart that underlies them all.” He has a compelling gift for storytelling and sharing his remarkable journey from Harvard Social Scientist to psychonautic explorer to one of the most loved spiritual leaders of our generation.

3 // Humanity's 'Phase Shift' (must listen) >> if you're slightly concerned about the current state of the planet (perhaps it's more just a sliding scale of denial) then join the club! The world can feel as if it is unravelling before our eyes... or seeing the 'self-terminating dynamics' of our civilisation to borrow Daniel Schmachtenberger's words. This Rebel Wisdom interview (on itunes here) with Daniel powerfully articulates what got us here and more importantly, what questions we must ask to bring about the necessary 'phase shift'. To my mind, it seems like it will take a miracle... but fortunately our species comes from a lineage of miracles, forming multicellular life, coming out of the ocean, reaching the moon. The image I took from this conversation was that we're in the process of a deep transformation, like a caterpillar cocooning and digesting itself before emerging as the miracle of a butterfly (or at least that's the hope!)

4 // What is the Future of Learning? >> I'm endlessly fascinated in this emerging conversation, perhaps because it is such a bewilderingly departure between this and how 99% of schools approach learning. Nik writes: "In order to build true intelligence, we first have to let go of what we know." – and perhaps that's why we're so slow, because we grasp so tightly on our current learning systems. My favourite part was this conversation between Isaac Asimov (author of 500+ books) and his father: “How did you learn all this, Isaac?” “From you, Pappa,” I said. “From me? I don’t know any of this.” “You didn’t have to, Pappa,” I said. “You valued learning and you taught me to value it. Once I learned to value it, the rest came without trouble.”

Five Cool Tools 🛠️

1 // Talk to Books >> imagine if you could pose a question to someone who had read and could perfectly recall every book in history? That's the premise behind this brainchild of Google's AI lab and futurist Ray Kurzweil. I tried asking: 'How do you define love' / why is curiosity important? / 'What does it mean to have a good life?'

2 // Deep Time Walk App >> this is an example of what I'd consider 'nourishing technology', something absurdly clever (the app calculates your speed and distance as you journey through time) that teaches you about Earth’s 4.6bn year history as you explore the geological impact of us humans during the Anthropocene.

3 // Otter.ai >> I love voice memos but rarely took the time to transcribe the notes, so they inevitably got lost... which is where Otter comes in (the quality of the AI transcriptions are eerily good) and you get 600 minutes / month on their free plan.

4 // Readwise.io >> my reluctance to leave all paper books at home in the UK has been slightly compensated by this magical app that gathers all of my Kindle highlights in a most pleasing fashion and sends weekly highlights via email, which have been acting as prompts that resurface old ideas from books I had mostly forgotten about.

5 // Zeit + Carrd >> I've been having lots of side project ideas lately and rather than just jotting them down in a likely-to-be-forgotten Evernote folder I've started mocking up 15 minute landing pages. There is something deeply satisfying about going from idea to semi-real and having something that you can point to and share in a matter of minutes.

Et. Cetera 🤔

🌳 Love letters to trees 

🐙 In praise of the octopus 

🧠 52 brain-exploding factoids

📿 Dude, the hippies were right!

🕵️ The case against moral sainthood

🌎 Poems for the planet on Kickstarter 

✏️ Win $100k for 3,000 words on home

😲 None of these photos are real humans

🎉 30.4 is the age of an average living human

🦠 The earth is much more alive than we realised

🧐 Why you might want to refer to yourself in the 3rd person 


Parting Words 📝

"I want to know if you are prepared to live in the world with its harsh need to change you. If you can look back with firm eyes saying this is where I stand."
– David Whyte​