Besties and other blogging finds

Some bloggers I have enjoyed reading of late if you need recommendations ūüôā I love blogs about real people who share at least some unbridled emotion. Disclaimer: lots I haven’t mentioned…

Brian’s blog,¬†a man we affectionately call Pink’s blog, Bela’s blog, Stephen’s blog, Kenzie’s blog, Plectumm’s blog, with special thanks to a particularly tempered interlocutor.

Paul and Akira’s trials and tribulations:¬†I have been reading George F.’s works for some time and lately he has upped the crazy dial resulting in some pretty captivating riffs.

Brand new blog about writing¬†and a long standing one.¬†Kelsey’s blog about goals: Kelsey reached out to me about her blog where she explores goal-focused pursuits.

Lots more out there, please comment with your own faves, so that I can follow them.

Path dependence, Chekhov and control

Blogging resides on the boundary between personal and literary for most people.

I just read a heart-wrenching piece,¬†and it’s impossible to comment on it because it is so personal, but for me, it is also impossible to walk past it without reflecting on it given how sorrowful it is.

Anton Chekhov said something that resonated with me:

“If I had left my family and handed them over to the mercy of fate, I would try to find an excuse in my mother’s inadequacy, in my TB, and so on. This is natural and excusable. This is just human nature.”¬†(my translation)

I think the original blog piece is more about gender, but my point is more about sovereignty, a kind of independence from the past.

We are all functions of what we were yesterday, no doubt about it. My argument isn’t about outcomes, it’s about motives.

Our motives cannot be subverted and limited by what happened to us in the past. This doesn’t mean that we have unlearn what we learnt, but rather find the strength to learn even more about that little bit of space in this world where we do have some control.

What would your friends buy from you?

I did a 5 hour exam seminar today and one of the things that the students perked their ears up at was the idea of writing not for readers, but for a reader.

This was half way across the country (it’s snowing here). On the train home, in a bout of nostalgic tiredness, I flicked through the blogs of people who I followed 10 years ago and something occurred to me. A lot of bloggers ended up having some kind of successful business, often hingeing on a personal brand. I found an interesting correlation between their business and their friends. It’s painfully obvious, but for me it has been hidden in plain sight for a long time.

They sell the things their friends would buy from them.

And by friends, I don’t mean people who follow them, I mean friends. Real life friends.

So to rephrase the writing canon:

Don’t sell to followers, sell to a follower.¬†

The concept of selling to your friends seems a bit odd at first, but it’s the perfect litmus test of whether what you’re selling is worth buying. I think some people rely on the vastness of the internet to find their product and end up making spammy things that don’t sell, where in reality it’s probably not going to take off unless their friends would buy it from them.

The publisher has been the supplier of good books for her friends. The photographer who became popular has been taking her friends’ photographs for a long time. The lad who has a web development studio developed his friend’s sites. The girl with the jewellery store has been the to-go to person for nice jewellery before she had a bona fide store. My personal experience is congruent with this.

I think it’s a good way to think about small business. Think of a friend: what would you buy from them? What would you sell to them? I had a think of my friends and all they are good for is professional advice and good alcohol. Oh dear, rofl.

The social/economic mechanics of this are obvious and not worth chewing over, but it’s just a good way to think for some people who are thinking of monetising something.

What would your friends buy from you?

Cool, as of 1528

Sprezzatura¬†[sprettsaňątuňźra]¬†is an¬†Italian¬†word originating from¬†Baldassare Castiglione‘s¬†The Book of the Courtier, where it is defined by the author as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it”.¬†It is the ability of the¬†courtier¬†to display “an easy facility in accomplishing difficult actions which hides the conscious effort that went into them”.

Sprezzatura¬†has also been described “as a form of defensive¬†irony: the ability to disguise what one really desires, feels, thinks, and means or intends behind a mask of apparent reticence and nonchalance”. (Wikipedia)

The word has entered the English language; the¬†Oxford English Dictionary¬†defines it as “studied carelessness”.

It would be the Italians who would come up with something like this and it would be in Oxford that they would make it sound so lame… Why couldn’t they just say cool?

I think swans have a significant amount of sprezzatura.

Sprezzatura is my excuse for not publishing the results of how I got on with the plans I set in September. It is also one of the great things I learnt from Taleb’s¬†The Bed of Procrustes.¬†I recommend it.

P.S. An existential question for WordPress bloggers. Why WordPress and not Instagram or Facebook? Why not Medium?

 

Notes on The Last Psychiatrist

I love few things more than a great blog. My latest find: The Last Psychiatrist, an archived blog, mostly about narcissism.

I was so excited to learn his insights… I made notes.

What follows are his finest insights about narcissism and my comments.

Imagine a crowded subway, and a beautiful woman gets on. Hyper-beautiful, the kind of woman who can wear no makeup, a parka, earmuffs and a bulky scarf and that somehow makes her look even prettier. A handsome man about her age in an expensive suit gets up and says, “please, take my seat.” She smiles, and hastily sits down.

TLP (The Last Psychiatrist), as the author refers to himself, gives us two options as to how the woman should think about this:

  1. This was a sexually motivated act as far as the man was concerned
  2. He was just being nice

If you think of narcissism as grandiosity you miss the nuances, e.g. in her case the problem is narcissism without any grandiosity:

she is so consumed with her identity (as not pretty) that she is not able to read, to empathise with, other people’s feelings. Source

In another post, TLP explains why narcissism isn’t necessarily about grandiosity. This is a blatantly obvious point that escapes most people, unfortunately.

Being the main character of your own film isn’t necessarily grandiose. It is narcissistic though because all the other characters are only important because they help the viewer to understand the main story line.

Here are some less obvious traits of narcissism TLP outlined:

Shame over guilt (I think this is because shame is an emotion directed at the self, whereas guilt is an emotion directed at your victim)

envy over greed (greed would be a primary reason to look for something, whereas envy is only a desire to catch up because otherwise otherwise it’s a bad reflection on you. I liked how this was called “existential agency” here.)

He [the narcissist] thinks the problem is people don’t like him, or not enough, so he exerts massive energy into the creation and maintenance of an identity: if they think of me as X… (and that’s one of the reasons why we love brands)

The narcissist feels unhappy because he thinks his life isn’t as it should be, or things are going wrong;¬† but all of those feelings find origin in¬†frustration, a specific frustration:¬†the¬†inability to love the other person.

And this really brings it back to the original myth that TLP broke down beautifully here:

Narcissus mother took him to a clairvoyant¬†who said, “He’ll have a long life as long as he never knows himself.

Narcissus kept rejecting people who fell in love with him because they weren’t good enough.

One rejected lover was furious and begged Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance, for retribution.¬† “If Narcissus ever falls in love, don’t let the love be returned!”

Nemesis¬† heard the prayer and caused Narcissus to fall in love with himself: he was lead to a¬† pool of water, and when he looked into it, he fell in love with what he saw.¬† And what he saw wasn’t real, so of course it couldn’t love him back.¬† But Narcissus sat patiently, forever, hoping that one day that beautiful person in the bottom of the pool was going to come out and love him.

Because he never loved anyone, he fell in love with himself. That was Narcissus’s¬†punishment.

This brings up an interesting point: how are you meant to feel about yourself?

Let’s first look at what we want. What we pay for. A huge portion of marketing directly helps us to be in love with ourselves, because we’re worth it. They’re not even trying to hide that the feeling of being in love with yourself is what they’re selling. And it’s not punishment as we see it – otherwise we wouldn’t buy it. I suppose it’s a psychic equivalent of putting a person on heroin. You mightn’t feel it’s a punishment, but it is.

Then there are the more subtle “intellectual” publications that help you love yourself (see the distinction from being in love with yourself? Cause that would be shallow.)¬†I wonder how many pages were dedicated to helping people see¬†Narcissus’ infatuation as Buddhist acceptance or some other high and mighty concept.

There isn’t really anywhere that would tell you that you’re meant to not love yourself.

What happened to Narcissus doesn’t really sound so horrible in today’s culture. Maybe he wouldn’t have even retaken a selfie if he lived today and been happy with the first shot? That level of self-acceptance is just enviable! He’s winning at life by millennial standards!… Indeed, TPL calls narcissism “a generational pathology”.

TLP goes on to discuss Narcissus’ parents’ role, which I thought was priceless:

He will have a long life, if he never knows himself.

Forget about whether the prophecy is true.¬† Ask instead, “what would the parents have done once they heard it?”…

Next time I feel insignificant and weak, maybe I need to hold on to that feeling, because my culture will obviously infuse me with my own grandiosity without me ever trying.

TLP has another explanation for why Narcissus stayed looking at the primordial selfie lake though.

He didn’t stay there for years because the reflection had pretty hair.¬† He stayed because daydreaming takes a lot of time.

In other words, Narcissus didn’t recognise himself and spent all that time conjuring up images of how wonderful life would be with that person in the reflection…

And the DSM says exactly that, only it adds a grandiose twist: “preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love”.

I am confused now.

Narcissus fell in love with himself, only he didn’t know if was himself.

So, as far as Narcissus was concerned, he was genuinely in love with another human being – only they were unreachable. Their personality was entirely a figment of his imagination…

Wait, that’s not Narcissus, that’s Gatsby! (Who also dies in a body of water, fair dues to FitzGerald).

Narcissus’ crime wasn’t being in love with himself at all. Phew, it’s ok to let L’Oreal and #positivethinking to get money and likes.

Narcissus’ crime was not knowing himself.

Actually, no, again.

TLP puts it better:

The moral of the story of Narcissus, told as a warning for the very people who refuse to hear it as such, is that how Narcissus came to be is irrelevant.  What was important was what he did, and what he did Рwas nothing.

And that’s his main crime: he never cared about anyone real. To me that’s all one ever needs to know to understand narcissism.

TLPs advice on how to not be a narcissist is to fake it. I think what TLP’s getting at is that your behaviour is much more important than your identity.

Ex-hurricane Ophelia

Ireland is beginning to recover from ex-hurricane Ophelia the worst storm we’ve had since 1961. Before getting herself to a nunnery, she claimed the lives of 3 people and left 360 thousand people without electricity.

I was down in Kilkenny during the hurricane and the power went. All in all, we were left without electricity for about 24 hours.

Here are my findings regarding life without electricity:

  • When it got dark, there was nothing left to do only talk to other people. You couldn’t read!¬†I couldn’t go online because I was trying to preserve the battery of my devices. I cooked in candle light, but these really weren’t my finest dishes… But it didn’t seem like anyone cared, perhaps because they couldn’t really see what they were eating… We then sat around the dinner table for hours and told funny stories. I think I got to know a whole new side to the people I’ve known for a long time.
  • I got the best sleep since… forever. It seems that the artificial lights really do mess with our brains. I wasn’t even tired, but I don’t remember falling asleep and certainly don’t remember the last time I woke up this refreshed in the early hours of the morning.
  • It occurred to me that back in the day when there was no electricity you had no hope of surviving on your own.

In conclusion, this technology has made us unsociable and sleep-deprived. Not that it comes without huge benefits.

In our recent budget there is a tax break on electric cars. Where would we be if all cars were electric and this happened?

My heart goes out to the thousands of people left without power. The electricity people said it may be up to 10 days before some homes get it back, probably the ones who are most remote and vulnerable to infrastructure interruptions – and that’s a lot of old people. I imagine that’s going to be very challenging.