Sometime in this past year, I just stopped caring, and now I can’t quite remember how you trick yourself into starting again. You lure yourself into any major undertaking—a vocation, a marriage, life—with certain hubristic delusions: I will be rich and famous. We will be happy forever. This all means something. And once you’re disabused of those, you need to find truer, more enduring motives to go on. If you can.
“The classical ideal of wisdom was based on mental harmony resulting from knowing the highest truths. The ideal of wisdom of Kant’s modern person would be to realize the consciousness of one’s finitude and the rationality it entails—to know it is the tension between the meaningful questions and their impossible answers that defines the authentic human condition, and to make this recognition a defining force in one’s life.”
— Yovel, Kant's Philosophical Revolution
I'm increasingly thinking that every functioning system has two forms: The abstraction that outsiders are led to believe, and the reality that insiders actually and carefully operate.
You don't incrementally learn a system. You eventually unlearn its necessary lies.
Building yourself a house is an incomplete activity, because its end goal—living in the finished house—is not something you can experience while you are building it. Building a house and living in it are fundamentally different things. By contrast, taking a walk in the woods is a complete activity: by walking, you are doing the very thing you wish to do. The first kind of activity is “telic”—that is, directed toward an end, or telos. The second kind is “atelic”: something you do for its own sake.
The secret to avoiding Schopenhauerian ennui, Setiya argues, is either to do things that are complete and atelic or to find ways of engaging with your projects atelically.
It is a human trait to organize things into categories. Inventing categories creates an illusion that there is an overriding rationale in the way that the world works.
Surfaces that are "easy to clean" also show dirt more. In reality a surface that camouflages dirt is much more practical than one that is easy to clean.
Maintenance takes time and energy that can sometimes impede other forms or progress such as learning about new things.
All materials ultimately deteriorate and show signs of wear. It is therefore important to create designs that will look better after years of distress.
A perfect filling system can sometimes decrease efficiency. For instance, when letters and bills are filed away too quickly, it is easy to forget to respond to them.
Many "progressive" designs actually hark back towards a lost idea of nature or a more "original form."
Ambiguity in visual design ultimately leads to a greater variety of functions than designs that are functionally fixed.
No matter how many options there are, it is human nature to always narrow things down to two polar, yet inextricably linked choices.
The creation of rules is more creative than the destruction of them. Creation demands a higher level of reasoning and draws connections between cause and effect. The best rules are never stable or permanent, but evolve, naturally according to content or need.
What makes us feel liberated is not total freedom, but rather living in a set of limitations that we have created and prescribed for ourselves.
Things that we think are liberating can ultimately become restrictive, and things that we initially think are controlling can sometimes give us a sense of comfort and security.
Ideas seem to gestate best in a void--- when that void is filled, it is more difficult to access them. In our consumption-driven society, almost all voids are filled, blocking moments of greater clarity and creativity. Things that block voids are called "avoids."
Sometimes if you can't change a situation, you just have to change the way you think about the situation.
People are most happy when they are moving towards something not quite yet attained (I also wonder if this extends as well to the sensation of physical motion in space. I believe that I am happier when I am in a plane or car because I am moving towards an identifiable and attainable goal.)
What you own, owns you.
Personal truths are often perceived as universal truths. For instance it is easy to imagine that a system or design works well for oneself will work for everyone else.
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time … Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.
Like his contemporary Jean-Paul Sartre, Lacan was interested in the lack — the encroaching nothingness — that gnaws at the foundations of human life; he was interested in the feeling of emptiness that often permeates our being even when things are in principle going fine. His explanation for why we feel this way was developmental. He hypothesized that the void at the heart of human subjectivity is an inevitable byproduct of the process of socialization that molds an infant — who is initially a creature of unorganized bodily functions — into a culturally viable being, into a child who understands the basic codes of behavior that she’s expected to adhere to. This process is necessary because it allows the child to become a member of her society.
But it comes at a price: it forces the child to encounter a symbolic world of meanings that she has had no part in devising; it throws her into a vast universe of complex (and often enigmatic or inscrutable) signifiers, including language, in relation to which she’s asked to find her bearings. This experience, according to Lacan, is intrinsically humbling, bound to make the child feel inadequate to the task. Because children can’t always fully process the signifiers that surround them, including what adults are saying to them (or around them) — because they can’t always figure out what adults want from them or why adults want certain things done in a certain way — they’re never able to feel completely in control of the universe they inhabit. This feeling of failure lingers into adulthood, making each newly minted human being feel like it has lost something precious, like a piece of its being is missing.
I was reminded of the well-known story of Alexander the Great and the Dervish who refused to prostrate himself as the King of Kings went by. Alexander sent for him and asked why he had failed to show respect. He answered:
“I TOO AM A KING OF KINGS”
“Then where is your army? There is no king without an army.”
“I HAVE NO ENEMIES AND I NEED NO ARMY.”
“Then where is your treasury? Every king has a treasury.”
“I HAVE NO WANTS, SO I NEED NO TREASURY.”
This story shoes in an exaggerated opposition the two aspects of freedom: the freedom of having everything, and the freedom of wanting nothing.
— J.G. Bennett, from Gentry Magazine Number Eight, Fall 1953 (via Ben Pieratt)