But What For Newsletter - No. 002

Think Backwards, A Chinese Memoir, Being Informed, and External Things

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Latest Articles

Invert, Always Invert - Avoid Failure to Succeed : “Suppose I wanted to kill a lot of pilots - what would be the easy way to do it?" That might not be what you want to hear from the guy clearing your plane for take off, but if your fellow passengers are an elderly billionaire and some Cold War era Soviet engineers, they might rest easy knowing the right questions are being asked. That is because thinking about how to do the exact opposite of your goal is sometimes the best way to ensure you achieve it.”

Others to Read

While Everyone Is Distracted By Social Media, Successful People Double Down On An Underrated Skill: “The average person who is not deliberate will tend toward a media diet of “junk food.” They will engage with what’s presented, click on distractions, and when offered good options, never feel quite sure which is best. In health policy, a “food desert” is a geographic region where healthy food is not available. To those who are not deliberate, the Internet looks more and more like an information desert: full of mostly junk information. Even worse, many people living on “junk food” media diets think they’re getting more informed and smarter when the opposite is happening.”

Blood Red Sunset: A Memoir of the Chinese Cultural Revolution: “But getting angry wouldn’t do any good… I was a counterrevolutionary mirror that reflected people’s true souls. When they looked into it they discovered they weren’t as attractive as they’d thought. That made them unhappy, so they blamed the mirror.”

“Standing on your own two feet is one thing, standing alone is quite another.”

“Skeins of tangled emotion spilled into the pages… I wrote until I was lightheaded and breathless; then I wrote some more. I didn’t have to worry about the creative process. I just wrote what happened, letting the story tell itself.”

Quotes

“Part of our emergency is that it’s so tempting to do this sort of thing now, to retreat to narrow arrogance, pre-formed positions, rigid filters, the “moral clarity” of the immature. The alternative is dealing with massive, high-entropy amounts of info and ambiguity and conflict and flux; it’s continually discovering new areas of personal ignorance and delusion. In sum, to really try to be informed and literate today is to feel stupid nearly all the time and to need help.” - David Foster Wallace

Stoic’s Corner

“It was fitting, then, that the gods have placed in our power only the best faculty[reason] of all, the one that rules over all the others, that which enables us to make right use of our impressions; but everything else they haven’t place within our power… For in view of the fact that we’re here on earth, and are shackled to a body like our own, and to such companions as we have, how could it be possible that, in view of all that, we shouldn’t be hampered by external things?… What are we to do, then? To make the best of what lies within our power, and deal with everything else as it comes. ‘How does it come, then?’ As God wills… I’m bound to die. And if at once, I’ll go to my death… And how? As suits someone who is giving back that which is not his own.”

-Epictetus, Discourses, Book 1, 1.1, translation by Robin Hard