Future of Text, cultures of thankfulness, rationality & religion...
Happy Sunday & welcome to Issue 20!
I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend. I feel like we've been talking about how unusual Thanksgiving was going to be since the pandemic began, but it was still a bummer not having all of our extended family around. The meal was still great, though!
I've mentioned a few times in this newsletter how inconsistency is one of my biggest weaknesses. I'm beginning to realize that saying that is an excuse for me to be lazy. Case in point, this 30-day writing challenge (and to some extent the revival of this newsletter) has managed to prove me wrong.
Today is Day 14, and the challenge has easily been one of my most rewarding projects of 2020. The hard part is generating ideas. Once that's decided on, I've been knocking 250 words out in about 15 minutes, give or take.
I like the idea of publishing something every day, but I need to transfer this consistency over to longer-form work. It's difficult to flesh out an idea in 15 minutes, so committing to sitting down for 1 hour 2-3 times a week to write will be an interesting challenge.
All of these experiments have been really fun, though, and writing has been an extremely rewarding process.
Here's my favorite thing that I wrote this week: a mini-essay on why we should be more productive... but not in the way you're thinking.
And without further ado...
Book of the Week: "The Future of Text"
There are so many things to love about this project. I'm only going to highlight a few, but I encourage you to dive in if you have the time.
The Future Text Initiative was founded "to stimulate community dialogue and implementation of forward looking text interactions to augment how we think, learn and communicate by enabling and fostering a deeper literacy."
If you're not familiar with the organization, it's worth reading the brief manifesto on their website.
This past week, the organization published a book by the same name. The book is a collection of essays about the future of writing, of mediums through which we deliver text, and of our consumption of text as media. Here's the description:
The book is a collection of dreams for how we want text to evolve as well as how we understand our current textual infrastructures, how we view the history of writing, and much more. The aim is to make it inspire a powerfully rich future of text in a multitude of ways today and to still have value in a thousand years and beyond. It should serve as a record for how we saw the medium of text and how it relates to our world, our problems and each other in the early twenty first century.
I'm currently making my way through the essays. Some will be more interesting than others depending on where your interests lay, but you're sure to find something that catches your eye. Across the board, the quality of thought has been top notch.
🦃 An incredible thread by Jawad Mian on cultures of thankfulness. "Am I alone in detecting in people—myself included—an unappealing sense of ingratitude, the conceit of those blessed but whose heads swing in frustration because they fail to see their good fortune?"
🛠️ It's Time to Build for Good. Investor Marc Andreessen wrote a blockbuster essay entitled IT’S TIME TO BUILD earlier this year. While the underlying thesis was solid, the messaging of the piece rubbed me the wrong way. In the middle of April, at the peak of our COVID fears, it seemed to me that Andreessen's calls to focus on "building the future" were tone deaf. Yale student Isaac Wilks's response, It's Time to Build for Good, was a much more refreshing take on the strong thesis, and I'm happy to have discovered it.
🙏🏼 In Praise of the gods. Simon Sarris is one of the most fascinating writers I follow. This essay explores a lot of ideas, but I was specifically intrigued by his view of religion through the lens of critiquing rationalism:
There is this tendency to think that you must understand everything, or that a thing must be proven, to enjoy it or derive serious meaning from it. This mistake is at the heart of the disembodied rationalist worldview. Rituals are the beginning of acknowledging embodied experience. To respect their power is to share in it, and they help you to begin to have values beyond the rationalistic, economic view of the world. We all have these values already, we know this because the most cherished things in this world (art, talent, family, monuments, achievements, etc) are those that we call extraordinary, not rational, and the extraordinary is always the standard of greatness.
Simon also published this gem this week:
🎒 Embedded Education. "Perhaps most importantly, Embedded Education can contribute to a more equitable and effective distribution of knowledge, skills, and information. [...] By creating real platform-native encounters rather than broadcasting information, embedded education is a more effective way to change behaviors. By shortening the feedback loop from theory to practice, it engages people to more deeply internalize what they’ve just learned."
That’s all for this week…
I’m thankful for everyone who read this on a weekly basis :) please share with a friend you think would be interested!