TSN’s Newsletter – Issue 1 – October 2021

I figured I’d share the first issue of my newsletter. (I don’t intend to do this every time, but I thought I’d open this up for feedback here since I don’t have as many readers on my newsletter. Click here to subscribe 😉) Already, I’ve learned to write the newsletter over the course of the month instead of cramming the writing in at the end of the month. I also realize that I focused mostly on breadth in this newsletter, and I hope to gradually move more towards depth in the future.

Please let me know if you have any feedback on how I can improve future issues, or feedback on what you like/dislike about how this first newsletter came out 🙂


Welcome to the first issue of my monthly newsletter 🙂 Thank you for subscribing! If you have any suggestions for future issues, or thoughts, please let me know!

Autopilot

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman introduces two distinct ways in which we think about things. He calls these System 1 and System 2. In brief, System 1 is fast, automatic, and unconscious. System 2 is slow, deliberate, and conscious.

Recently I’ve encountered a bunch of ideas that remind of these two systems. I wanted to touch on some of them here.

I’m slowly reading How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren. I think the automatic way most of us read books is to simply read them cover to cover. Adler and Van Doren recommend a more deliberate method of reading books. I am practicing part of this method which they call Analytical Reading. This involves slowing down and paying attention to the structure of the book, the meaning of the words the author(s) are using, and the arguments being put forward to support the author’s claim. This often involves taking notes or marking up the book as it’s being read.

This year, I completed Building a Second Brain and Linking Your Thinking. My default behaviour when watching TV is to just sit down and enjoy the show. However, both of these classes mentioned the value of Capture–making the effort to take notes about things that are interesting, surprising, useful, or otherwise worthy of recording. Unless I make the deliberate effort to pay attention and prepare to take notes when watching things, I make extra work for future me. I’ve encountered this recently while watching both House, M.D. and It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. I didn’t take notes while watching them, and now I wish I had because there’s a lot of references I relate to things I’m thinking about (eg. different modes of thinking, trauma).

David Allen’s Getting Things Done also advocates for a Capture habit. Many people leave much of personal productivity up to their System 1 brain. They trust their intuition that they can remember to do that thing later, or when it’s relevant (but have you ever forgotten to pick something up from the grocery store while you were there?). They think that the best way to decide what to do is to feel out what’s most important (picking up a birthday cake for your daughter may be your biggest priority, but that doesn’t really matter when you’re stuck on the train coming home late from work). They think that having done something means that they’ve done enough (eg. if you added a task to your to-do list but it’s been sitting there ignored for months, it probably means you need to change how it’s appearing on your to-do list; just because you can take comfort in knowing the fact that you have put in effort into repairing a damaged relationship doesn’t mean you no longer have the responsibility to make the deliberate choice to continue putting effort in). Allen’s Getting Things Done system teaches how to get the System 2 to put some cost upfront so that the system is prepared to create good results even when System 1 takes over again in the future.

The orientation session for Relating Between the Lines was this week. In this session, Norman Tran shared a thought he had from reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. This thought was that connection looks like playfulness, authenticity, and a feeling of renewal. These attributes reminded me of the idea of the Inner Child when they feel safe and free. In Fierce Intimacy, Terry Real talks about the idea of the Adaptive Child and the Functional Adult. When we feel threatened, the Inner Child falls back on the automatic patterns it had previously learned for survival. Because many of these patterns are double-edged swords (eg. independence, vengeful) centered around disconnection, we may choose to use our Functional Adult (ie. System 2) to step in and help navigate the world. If navigating the world in this way brings us back to a place where we feel safe again, our System 1 may once again take the perspective of the safe and free Inner Child (instead of the Adaptive Child).

Stories

It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what descriptions describe descriptions, what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories.
— Donna J. Haraway

One of the ideas covered in this week’s Relating Between the Lines session was distinguishing different states of relationships. One of the factors we used in this discussion was receptivity. I interpreted one of the motives for this framework as to help evaluate which relationships are worth the effort/investment.

(Note: This framework is new to me and I’m still processing it. Just thought I’d share some of my thoughts out loud here.)

While seeking clarification on how to determine receptivity, there were a couple things suggested for me to look at. The first was to consider whether the other person is putting effort into the relationship. The second was to consider whether the other person was being malicious.

I am concerned that both of these factors are heavily influenced by stories (ie. interpretation). If I’m evaluating whether a relationship is worth the investment, it is likely I carry some baggage in that relationship. That baggage is likely to shape how I see whether the other person is putting in effort, or whether they’re being malicious. The Landmark Forum calls this a Vicious Circle. The stories we have shape how we perceive the world, and then that world we’ve created further shapes our stories. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories.

This also reminded me of an idea from The Wisdom of Trauma. Trauma isn’t the result of having had a difficult experience. Rather, trauma is the result of feeling alone in dealing with a difficult experience. We experience different worlds when we deal with something alone versus with others. When we deal with something on our own, we experience the world of our stories about that situation, and the world where we have to deal with it alone. When we deal with something with others, we experience the world of our stories about that situation, a world where we recognize other people are with us through that journey, and other worlds that result as a result of that collaboration.

In any case, I also have to wonder whether determining receptivity really matters. I think opting for disconnection will always carry consequences. However, I also understand that some people are positioned to prefer those consequences over other consequences. So maybe it’s best to focus less on understanding receptivity and instead to focus on choosing what’s best for oneself.

People, in general, only ask advice not to follow it; or if they do follow it, it is for the sake of having someone to blame for having given it.
Alexandre Dumas

Scaling

For a long time, I think science was seen by many as somewhat of an authority figure. If you made a claim that was scientifically inaccurate, you’d be corrected either by the scientific method itself, or by other people who were more familiar with the findings that existed at the time.

I’m observing a lot of places where science is being challenged. Climate change and vaccinations stand out as two examples of this.

I suspect part of this is a scaling problem. Cunningham’s Law states that “The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question; it’s to post the wrong answer.” I think this observation may be particularly dangerous. Especially with the tendency towards homophily (perhaps more commonly recognized as echo chambers on the internet), people who post a wrong answer on the internet may not get the right answer. If they exist in a community who all prescribe to the wrong answer, the right answer may not bubble to the top, and even if it does, they have enough support through their community to hold on to their beliefs.

Tribalism

I recently visited Victoria and participated in a couple walking tours.

One of the interesting stories I heard involved public hangings. I learned that public hangings used to be public events in Victoria. They would draw large audiences, sometimes even from neighbouring islands. Businesses would offer food and drink for the onlookers as they observed the event.

This made me think of the idea of moral tribalism. I think that we often form tribes over the morals we have. In this case, the public likely prescribed to one set of morals that differed from the set of morals prescribed to by the person being executed. This story also made me think about how moral retribution can be used as a bonding mechanism for a tribe. People would show up to these public executions and bond with each other over their conquest of members of another tribe.

This also reminds me of political polarization. From what I’ve seen, many people tend to form tribes over their political beliefs. When the other tribe fails at something (eg. an election, a judicial trial), the tribe perceives this to be moral retribution. This often leads to celebrating and otherwise tribal bonding.

Random

I got my class 7 driver’s license 🎉

Recently on repeat:

Interesting facts:

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