Timeless Ideas | February 14, 2021

Here’s your weekly dose of timeless ideas to sharpen your mind, make smarter decisions, and live better.

Quotes

I.

The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones. 

Joseph Joubert


II.

Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.

Robert Frost


III.

Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul? 

John Keats

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Ideas

I.

The real lesson is that under conditions of true complexity—where the knowledge required exceeds that of any individual and unpredictability reigns—efforts to dictate every step from the center will fail. People need room to act and adapt. The philosophy is that you push the power of decision making out to the periphery and away from the center. You give people the room to adapt, based on their experience and expertise. All you ask is that they talk to one another and take responsibility. That is what works.

Atul Gawande in The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right


II.

When someone you love dies, and you're not expecting it, you don't lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there's a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she's gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part. 

John Irving in A Prayer for Owen Meany


III.

One of the strangest things about life is that it will chug on, blind and oblivious, even as your private world - your little carved-out sphere - is twisting and morphing, even breaking apart. One day you have parents; the next day you're an orphan. One day you have a place and a path. The next day you're lost in the wilderness. And still the sun rises and clouds mass and drift and people shop for groceries and toilets flush and blinds go up and down. That's when you realize that most of it - life, the relentless mechanism of existing - isn't about you. It doesn't include you at all. It will thrust onward even after you've jumped the edge. Even after you're dead.

Lauren Oliver in Delirium

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Articles Worth Reading

I.

Emotions should be in the heart of complex political debates

Sabine Roeseri | Psyche

Emotions are not just inconvenient facts that need to be bracketed or controlled. They are not obstacles so much as sources of generative insight when it comes to thinking about risk. Rather than dismissing emotions, we should embrace them as a vital resource, even as a starting point for moral discussion and reflection. In order to take on the ethical challenges of risky technologies and uncertain futures, we need to draw on our rich human capacities: scientific knowledge, insights from social sciences, arts and humanities, and our capacity to feel deeply.


II.

Pause. Reflect. Think

Peter West | Aeon

Studying and contributing to philosophy can be an end in itself. But in an era of fake news and 24-hour news cycles, if philosophers are also able to help us pause, reflect and think clearly, regardless of the subject matter at hand, then that’s surely a good thing for them to do.


III.

A Simple Way to Reduce Cognitive Bias

Jim Davies | Nautilus

There is some evidence that, in general, people are happier if they are thinking about what they’re doing, even if that thing isn’t any fun, like washing the dishes. However, there is also evidence that thinking about happy things from your past (nostalgia) increases pain tolerance, positive mood, empathy, and creativity, and reduces anxiety, boredom, and stress. So, though mindfulness is generally good, it’s perhaps not something to strive for at every moment.

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