Pondering
A reflection on what's come to pass in a day
13 entries
First: Nov 23, 2020
1 contributor
internetvin
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This sounds incredible! Totally what I’m...
hey rishabh! i learned this mantra in ...
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I love this journal lol - I find myself ...
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I really enjoy reading your writing, whi...
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1

i may have over done it with the hackathon. exhausted myself and a few days later, still recuperating.

interestingly, the way this recuperation is manifesting is in a profound sadness and feeling of loss. i can't quite peg why this feeling, but then again, did a feeling ever need an excuse to exist in the first place?

i suppose my body is telling me to chill out. i rarely chill out willing so, here we are!

what i'd prefer to do with my time, currently is:
-watch deadwood
-drink red wine
-cry periodically
-read fantasy novels
-slowly, ever so slowly, parse through some of Heidegger's writing

so this is what i'm doing. it is enough.

oh, and i may have a new gig coming into play in the next few days. this feels nice, my first work since working on my own app. it's nice to work on someone else's thing - less heart and soul to cloud (enliven) the experience.

my team's first update for the hackathon - the team's mostly just me and a new friend, Conrad. Dave (my partner is helping too - but kind of back burner design support lol). We're calling the project Constellations 🌌

The focus is - exploring async, branching conversations… so basically a new-fangled chat tool. The diagram I have here is some of my more esoteric work… luckily Conrad seems to be following my thinking (he's a dev/engineer). 🙃

Here's the "official" update shared with the Interhackt community:

okok, so we're interested in zettelkasten x async chat, what could go wrong?

initial ideas include having an idea pane (vs typical chat with a focus on people you're chatting with pane) - so re-focusing UI on ideas. a bit too conceptual? just wait and see.

ideas==tags, and represent 1+ messages (node)
user specifies the ideas (tags) by choosing which messages group together (see below)
kinda like a zettel, maybe a zettel index, with the index being an idea/concept/tag aka some pithy phrase
use your own words to describe something so you can remember what you were talking about later

initial thinking is allowing users to set their own views of the data (chat messages).

chat messages are atomized - each a node in a graph.
user can set relationships between nodes based on their own thinking/what makes sense to them.
engineering wise, this is introducing a lot of states, so may not be feasible. it's possible this is too advanced for the hackathon - pie in the sky for now.
it's gotta be doable - MMO games save user specific data based on their relationship to geo location, among other things, right? at what cost, you say? indeed.

gonna build a prototype with a network structure - see where this gets us: https://github.com/visjs/vis-network

our figma is a bunch of insanity but sure, take a look!https://www.figma.com/file/L8pqbf3kab8QmLowHG63SO/Branching-Convos-Exploration?node-id=20%3A90

4

I'm helping organize a design hackathon this week. Which is cool because if it were a regular hackathon, I don't think half the people who are hanging around would be be there. Myself included!

What's cool is there's this mix of highly technical folks (think: backend engineer types), product designers, UI/UX designers, and then a really big mix of others - folks with a background in video production, finance, social work, user research and behavior, etc.

What seems to be the unifying interest is finding ways to better connect with others through tech innovations. This makes sense - the designathon was pitched as a place to brainstorm and prototype tools, platforms and spaces for collaborative creation. It makes me happy that there's a community out there who's excited about this.

What I wasn't expecting was 250+ people to come together almost overnight! It's been a whirlwind of connecting with people, running events, and pulling together things last minute. The organizers have been joking around that this is a hacked hackathon, which to be perfectly honest is the way it should be! It's fun and exciting to work this way. (Not that I could do this often, it's a lot!)

Last night, we had our launch party, and apparently the video/audio chat went on for 5 hours! I stayed for 3 and we talked about everything imaginable: farm simulators, self-governance, chains of trust, community building, ways to improve the adaptability between tools, game design, Jungian archetypes, learning styles, sentiment analysis and natural language processing, shared note taking, decentralization, vulnerability and psychological safety, cultivating curiosity, economic systems as the background for human society, tech as an amplifier or accelerator, tech in the form of meditation/mental health therapies/embodiment rituals.

We've got a very international crowd, mostly people from the U.S., and Europe (France, Belgium, Germany), but also Canada, South America (Columbia, Brazil), and then South/east Asia (Philippines, India). I'm missing many places, but it's fun to hang with a diverse crowd - of thinkers, of location, of interests. But all convening to find better ways to collaborate and co-create.

I'm trying to figure out how to partner with a computer science student to build some kind of asynchronous, branching conversation tool. Wish us luck, I'm pushing my comfort level with getting into the technical world, but hopefully we're finding a happy meeting place in the middle.

I'm pretty exhausted, and for the first time this week, I'm kinda, sorta getting to bed at a decent hour… goodnight.

2

Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha

A mantra from Lord Ganesha to remove obstacles as we move through life - internally and externally. Lord Ganesha is an elephant, in part, with large ears to pick up even the unsaid prayers of spiritual seekers.

Chant or meditate on the mantra - om gam Ganapataye namaha. In some cultures, a mala is used to count as a mantra is repeated. Traditionally, the mala has 108 beads and have historically been known as prayer beads, originating in India a loooong time ago. This is what the mala necklace looks like: 📿 (how fun that there's an emoji!)

So why 108 beads, why 108 mantra repetitions? There's many different answers:
-the average distance of the moon from the earth is 108x the diameter of the moon
-the sun's diameter is 108x the earth's diameter; the distance from the sun to the earth is 108x the diameter of the sun
-Sanskrit alphabet has 54 letters, each letter with a masculine and feminine energy - 54 x 2 = 108
-or maybe a more esoteric, inventive reason: 1 for truth, 0 for emptiness, 8 for infinity

As far as I'm concerned, any and all of these reasons sound good to me.

Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha
Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha
Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha
🙏🏼 📿

May you break through obstacles, and find success.

Well, I over did it on the computer today. Over the past week, I only used my iPad and phone while visiting my dad - no computer. Today was my first day back, and the computer was so nice to get back to! So nice, that I overdosed.

Too much screen time, too much flow state (it's a thing!), and suddenly I feel like I'm inhuman. Out of touch with my body, which is hard for me - I'm a very embodied person. Couple that with a current project where I'm pushing on my comfort zone. Finally, around 8:30pm, I broke down. My mind had enough.

I cried a bunch, and watched my thinking spiral into negativity. So be it. I let it happen. Surprisingly, I rebounded very quickly. Here I am, back on the computer! Addictions, man.

Time for a walk, and then reading. No more computer, you sweet, sweet, lovely creature. I will see you tomorrow morning. XO.

How to get better at note taking using the Zettelkasten approach.

The cool thing about Zettelkasten is that it compounds your own brain power over time. It's pretty simple, but does take a commitment to achieve full benefits. I'm still in the infancy of figuring out my approach for bring Zettelkasten to life using a software tool called Roam Research.

I've been doing qualitative research and non-fiction writing for way too long - 11+ years and counting. Most of those years, I've gotten paid to do it, and I've focused my work in the health care space. More specifically in publicly funded healthcare. More specifically in the U.S. low-income insurance program Medicaid. More specifically in home and community-based services. Talk about specialization. Woof.

It's proving more difficult than I imagined it would to disentangle and unspecialize from this career. I don't know why I thought it would be any different. I suppose I thought I could easily pivot to another application of research and writing, easy peasy. To be fair, I've always lived a connect-the-dots kind of work life. Jumping around to try out different nooks and corners of the healthcare space.

I guess I severely mis-judged the challenge of putting healthcare to the side and exploring other industries and interests. More importantly - I left a highly structured world and found myself left up to my own devices, needing to figure out my own structure, completely, from scratch.

More specifically, my current challenge is that I'm freed up to use my brain to think about whatever I want, not just healthcare. And this is a problem… why? Well, because combinatorial explosion. There's just too many things I'm interested in, not enough narrowing down the scope, not enough structure in my day-to-day research and note taking.

Enter Zettelkasten. I recently read the book "How to Take Smart Notes" by Sönke Ahrens. This guy is amazing - he's very much a non-fiction research and writing philosopher. And his book offers an amazing structure to use to operationalize the Zettelkasten method.

Now's where you ask, "but then your work here is done, is it not?" And I would say, "HAHA. if only life was so simple." What I've learned is: no matter how much I learn about these fancy approaches to note taking, there is no substitute for figuring out how these approaches work, in practice, for myself.

While there's some fundamentals of note taking that are non-negotiable, the devil is in the details. And there's nuance when trying to figure out a note taking flow using a specific software program. So, I'm figuring out my custom-built process for Zetteling in Roam. It's fun, but I haven't been able to spend much time on the project after visiting my dad over the past week or so. I'm ready to get back into the mix. I'm ready to screw my brain on tight, and get my thinking a bit more organized.

So maybe, hopefully, I can start putting my years of research and writing to use in a way that's less slipshod and more organized. Never again will I underestimate the amount of structure that I got for free working in existing systems. And never again will I underestimate the undue influence of existing systems on my thinking and my creativity.

It's worth finding a way to organize my thinking so I'll not only exist but thrive outside of systems. I believe Zettelkasten is a key component for my qualitative research and writing explorations, and Roam seems like a great place to Zettel. Proof will be in the pudding, and I predict pudding for taste testing sometime before the year's end.

Om shanti, shanti, shanti.

As-Salaam-Alaikum.

This morning my yoga class ended with om, shanti, shanti, shanti. Om meaning nothing, but considered to be the sound of the universe. That which came before and birthed all else after. Now and for eternity. Shanti simply meaning peace. Om, shanti, shanti, shanti is a common mantra used in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Tonight, I watched Malcom X, the movie starring Denzel Washington. A commonly used Muslim greeting spoken in the movie is As-Salaam-Alaikum, or peace be unto you. Both a salutation when greeting people, and when saying goodbye. Salaam means peace, and is from the same root as the word Islam. As-Salaam-Alaikum is also quite similar to the Hebrew phrase Shalom aleichem - peace be upon you.

Across cultures and languages, we find tidings of peace. Something I haven’t been aware of, at least not consciously. I’m curious about our relationship and history with peace, as humans—a freedom from (unnecessary) violence. An experience of harmony with life.

Alas, I’m tired and tonight will have to leave things here.

Solarpunk is indeed quite a strange concept, but not for the reason you might guess.

All of these aspects of the solarpunk movement are reasonable:

☑️ A focus on (renewable) energy as a lynch pin for a sustainable future
☑️ Humans living in partnership with the environment, instead of seeing nature as a resource to extract from
☑️ Emphasis on decentralized tech and infrastructure to facilitate eco-collaboration
☑️ Adaptation of behaviors and ways of being to adjust our definition of contemporary culture vis-a-vis climate change
☑️ Using utopian perspectives of seeing the world to imagine a better, sustainable future

No, none of this is strange to me. Not in the slightest.

What’s strange is what makes this punk - the expressly political nature of energy, of climate change, of our shared future on and with the earth.

How bizarre that we must fight and advocate for all that solarpunk stands for… renewable energy? Partnership with nature? Decentralization? Responsiveness to climate change?

It’s like I posted on utopia and idealism the other day - this approach to solving problems or seeing the world with an idealistic lens is often viewed as unreasonable. Or perhaps even unachievable.

What gets me is… we can’t even attempt to pull off some of the stunts from our utopian visions? We’re not allowed to experiment in ways that have a utopian bent?

We’ve really found ourselves in a strange bind here, we’re running out of runway on exponential growth… on the earth as some kind of magical, self-renewing resource. We can’t keep building more, bigger, higher. Not without changing our approach.

And yet, it’s as though we have Stockholm Syndrome. We’ve fallen in love with our captor, the status quo. If solarpunk represents a kind of utopian revival, I can’t help but wonder: are we living in a kind of dystopian present?

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Inspiration for this post: http://opentranscripts.org/transcript/solarpunk-grand-dress-rehearsal/

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Totally vibing on personalized sabbath practices—with sabbath to mean a rest or a break from… well anything I want a rest from, most importantly from the constraints I place on myself. Sabbath as “…a time to revel in the beauty and delight of simply being.”*

One time I took a sabbath from tech. For a day, 24-hours. Looking back on the experience, it was very cleansing, relaxing even. But I realized that I still used my computer (because I had been writing a lot at the time and was hellbent on keeping up my writing practice) and my Apple Watch (because how could I not use it to track my exercise).

Only in retrospect can I see that this wasn’t a real tech sabbath. It was a partial tech sabbath. Which is still better than staying totally plugged in for-ev-er. But come on, I can do the real deal. I can unplug and get weird for 24-hours. And I fully intend to. And I’d like to do so weekly. There we go, intention set.

What’s next? I need more sabbath from others, mostly Dave. With COVID, we spend much of our time at home: working/sleeping/eating/hanging/all of the things. There’s not really anywhere to go, per se. But we can figure something out.

This is something we’ve been talking about lately—grabbing solo time. I’ve had a few outings recently where I’m out of the house for a good chunk of time, and when I get back he’s so relaxed and has a crazy story about a creative experience he had in solo land. I want this experience too!

Somehow it’s not the same if I go to the coffee shop for my alone time, even if the little outdoor patio space is mostly just me. I’m in public and not getting weird in the way that only happens when I’m truly alone. I specialize in strange dances, laughing at myself, and putzing about as I seriously ponder something that’s eating at me. It’s kind of hard to do that stuff at a coffee shop.

This is an interesting one, getting more solo time with COVID hanging over our heads. I’ll have to work out the particularities with Dave, but let’s go ahead and count this as a second intention set. More solo-me time.

What else? Sabbath from being too serious about work. This is a big one for me. I’m about to close out a big work project, freeing me up for whatever’s next. My options are pretty open, and while I don’t have the instinct to go into a super focused, super serious job search mode, I would like to get more intentional about figuring out next steps.

Honestly, I just want the next project, the next job, whatever it might be—I want it to be obvious. Not suddenly obvious like “here’s a perfect job”, but obvious in the sense that I’ve been open to seeing the path as it opens up before because I’m allowing things to unfold effortlessly. As opposed to manhandling and forcing my way into the work world.

I’m… not so good at effortlessly allowing life to happen. Habituating some kind of work sabbath, so I can play with work-related concepts and skills—that seems like a good place to start. I do want to explore working with my qualitative research and writing skills, so I’ll need to find some ways to get weird and play with those.

Actually, this kind of public journaling helps open me up to more playful approaches to work. Sharing this kind of writing makes me feel less precious about my writing, generally. The approach I take to these writing sessions isn’t quite as playful as I’d like though.

I suppose I need to give myself permission to write in a way that feels totally, completely playful and free. Usually when I go this route, I end up writing fiction, which is curious. Maybe my work sabbath ritual will need to simply be free form writing - whatever comes up, I follow the path… effortlessly.

So, I’d like to start a writing practice: playful writing explorations. Daily. It’s possible that I can use this space and just let this space be more free-form. Or I can start a 2nd journal, perhaps. Boom, third intention, set.

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* Quote from the book “The Power of Ritual” by Casper ter Kuile. This post inspired by the book and the sections on sabbath from tech, others, and work.

1

I’m in the process of sunsetting a project that I’ve been working on for about a year and a half - Ponder (https://ponder.to/). It was my first experience building software and for better or for worse, it didn’t turn out to be what I’d hoped for.

Today, I emailed our users to let them know we’d be shutting things down. For me, this single activity is the most important aspect of closing out the project. I suppose I feel some kind of responsibility, or accountability, to the people who gave us a try when we stuck our necks out, trying to make something new, not sure how things were going to pan out.

Oddly, I don’t feel like I’ve disappointed our users. But I do feel a connection to them. Many of our users are people I’ve personally met online over the past couple of years. Folks who have been part of my personal growth journey, particularly in figuring out my internet identity.

So sending out the email was bittersweet. While the goal was to build a product that a lot of people love with a team that I love working with - failing in this goal has brought me closer to something else. It’s brought me closer to a larger community of folks who are out there finding their way, just like I am.

The response emails and text messages started trickling in, and I found myself surrounded with support and genuinely feeling the love. Turns out, sometimes when you put yourself out there, shoot for the stars but come up short - even then, especially then, you’ll find yourself connecting with people over the journey, the experience.

What’s most fascinating about this whole experience is my real goal with the project was to meet new people, grow a community. Even as the sun sets on Ponder, I’m still making making new connections as a result of the project. And realizing, that I’ll never fully achieve this goal. Building community is a horizon that I’ll never quite reach, and what a sweet lesson this is. I’m grateful and looking forward to whatever comes next.

I’ve always found myself to be an idealist. Lost in thought about how the world can be a better place. But is this idealism simply a flight of fancy?

Idealism is often associated with a certain unreasonableness, even fantastical thinking. And is often linked to the concept of utopia - a fictional place where life is pretty damn-near perfect. Interestingly, the term utopia has two meanings, from Greek:
eutopia: good place
outopia: no place

Can’t help but wonder, are my idealist tendencies a lost cause? A futile attempt to bring about a positive change in the world? Is an idealistic mindset not simply envisioning a “good” world, but also envisioning a world that does not and cannot exist?

Recently, I had a first hand experience stumbling into the concept of speculative fiction as a way to bring my idealism to life. It was born out of a restlessness and discomfort with the status quo of life, an itch to imagine a more desirable way of being. A life in greater connection with myself, with other animals (human and otherwise), with the planet.

What started as an exploration in more communal living, has given way to more collaborative projects and plans to move out of my current single family home that I share with my partner Dave. All born out of an idealistic notion that maybe if I start imagining a new life, that slowly this vision will become reality.

Perhaps there’s a way to breathe life in speculative futures by articulating them in great detail, and sharing them with the world. For now, I’m focused on stripping away everything in my life that I don’t need. Freeing myself up to spend my time envisioning a world that just might exist, and attracting the other idealists out there, keen on building our version of utopia.

Sacred as a verb, a process, something that can be enacted. As opposed to an adjective describing something.

If sacred is something enacted, this leaves space for us as individuals to create sacred practices on our own — we need not rely only on texts, rituals, experiences deemed sacred. We have the ability to decide for ourselves what is sacred, or important, to us.

I view sacred as something that exists beyond the major religions for this reason. A more democratized, personalized experience. Create your own sacred practices, alongside those who matter most to you.

Indeed, it is through sacred practices where we get to know ourselves better, find ourselves, discover something new about how we see and live in this world. What works for me, may not work for you - and how delightful is that?

The term sacred reading is new to me, while the underlying concept is not - summarizing from “The Power of Ritual” by Casper Ter Kuile, sacred reading is done 4 stages, by asking 4 sets of questions. Based in large part on work done by Guigo II in the 12th century - where he describes reading a text like climbing a ladder: reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating.

ter Kuile asks the following questions:

“1. What’s literally happening in the narrative? Where are we in the story?
2. What allegorical images, stories, songs, or metaphors show up for you?
3. What experiences have you had in your own life that come to mind?
4. What action are you being called to take?”

Group reading and discussion is something that can bring about insights not only for individuals but for groups of people, communities, as well.

I’m excited to enact a version of this in my personal life - my partner Dave and I have been reading philosophy texts together with a similar albeit more flexible approach. Perhaps we can be more intentional, form a stronger routine around this.

And I recently joined a philosophy course focusing on technology and Heidegger and Deleuze. If ever there was sacred reading, it’s reading and re-reading philosophical texts with a group and discussing along the way, finding new meanings and understandings as we go.

1

Modern humans are prone to exploitative behaviors - something worth further exploration and understanding.

One example is how we’ve come to view nature. Nature as a resource or tool to exploit. Through this perspective, we see nature as something we can take from. This seems fairly obvious, as judged by our current climate change predicament and the related disappearance of rain forests, animal species, and natural resources.

The more we treat nature as something to exploit, to take from, the further we get from holding sacred the magic of nature. There’s so much to be learned from nature - about ourselves, about life and finding meaning in places we never thought possible.

Another example of human exploitation comes in the form of self-exploitation. Interestingly, a form of this can be seen through the objectification of ourselves through technological platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

Striving to reach some kind of pinnacle of “good” performance through likes or comments. Treating ourselves like some kind of performing circus monkey (an interesting analogy that again points to human exploitation of nature).

In both of these exploitations, there seems to be a lack of understanding - of nature and of self. And how we form relationships with nature and ourselves.

I suppose the question I have is why? Why are we behaving this why? And to what end? How can we better understand this perspective of exploitation, and challenge these behaviors? How can we live in ways that are more magical, compassionate, and thoughtful?

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kristen Pondering