What I've Been Enjoying Recently
In the past few weeks and months, I have received or stumbled upon many beautiful, thought-provoking and/or inspiring things that I want to share with you. (Thank you to those of you who have been sending me links, I appreciate them all.) I’m thinking of sending out a recommendations post semi-regularly, probably once every few months or so. My reasons:
Much of what we see online is driven by algorithms and virality. No wonder it comes across as fake. Plus: just because a lot of people like something, doesn’t mean it’s good. (I am reminded of this every time I look at the Everybody’s Watching section on Netflix.) My hope is we can return to sharing from one human to another, the way that happens spontaneously between friends. It may not have mass reach, but it has meaning and it feels special. Our brains and bodies know each other much deeper than the algorithms do, and always will. In other words, quality > quantity.
To engage in the practice of praise. When I did my first yoga teacher training in 2011, my trainer told me to put more encouragement into my cues, and not limit myself to just instructions and corrections. Since then I’ve taken that advice to heart no matter who I’m interacting with, because we all need to hear what we’re doing well to stay motivated (myself included). Genuine praise is wonderful because it’s free, and it has a tangible impact on people’s feelings, behaviors and choices. You can sing the praises of anything you like, literally. It opens up channels of appreciation between ourselves and the world, and enhances our ability to communicate in positive ways. It’s also a way to remember and be grateful for everything we are receiving all the time.
Networks of Goodness
I have always thought of my work (whether writing or teaching) as a solitary thing that I do by myself. In fact, one of the difficulties of my job is how lonely it can be. Although as a teacher you interact with many people, it’s not a relationship of equals and they’re not your friends; and the only time most of your friends are free to meet you is when you’re working. Ironically though, long hours of sitting by myself and writing have made me realise that there is a whole community of people whose presence invisibly impacts my actions. We are a network, and we exist in relationship. What you say, write, share, and do—all of that is absorbed, processed and distilled into whatever I say, write, share and do. Maybe it sounds obvious, but there is something profound about it. It is interbeing in action. To that end, please put your own recommendations in the comments, or email them back to me, so we can create a network of goodness and enjoyment.
I’ve been changing email accounts recently, and in going through my old emails I found I’ve amassed a large collection of online links and resources that I enjoyed once, saved and never went back to again. It was like discovering there’s a library in my house that I completely forgot about. The internet encourages a lot of attention on the latest piece, the newest article, the most recent thing. We don’t do this with print books as much, but with online writing our attention is directed and manipulated differently. (I think this trend comes from the news cycle, and all the commentary that mushrooms around it.)
Online, it’s easier to forget that writing evolved as a means of giving thoughts and ideas permanency. The whole point is that you can return to it later, that it endures and still has value over time. Returning to my library metaphor, it’s as if we’re only looking at the window display of the newest additions and forgetting about everything else inside the building. So another thing I will sometimes do in these recommendation posts is recommend old links: things I appreciated—or even that I wrote—in the past that are still relevant and meaningful. If a link is over a year old, I’ll indicate it with a *, for a vintage flair, and/or put it under a separate section called ‘From the Archive’.
Finally, you may know that Substack already has a recommendations feature for publications (you can find my recommended publications here.) In these roundups, I am excluding posts by authors I already recommend, unless I’ve only just started following them, because there would be too many otherwise. There is so much brilliance everywhere.
The Age of Average, by Alex Murrell
Profound implications for creativity and inspiration here. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
The Diminishing Returns of Productivity Culture*, and The Wages of Overwork, by
TikTok’s Enshittification, by Cory Doctorow
I don’t use TikTok but I found this got to the heart of how social media of all kinds actually works. Also watching The Playlist, a Netflix series about Spotify. I didn’t enjoy it (it came across like a poorly disguised promotional piece) but it was informative, particularly from the business model angle.
lunar wellsprings & wild belonging, by
Marvelously weaves together art, research and personal reflection.
The Dao of Using Your Smartphone, by Alan Levinovitz
I appreciate the non-judgmental and balanced viewpoint offered here, at a time when views on technology seem increasingly black-and-white.
Patience With What is Strange: In Praise of Slow Art, by Chris Horner
I am reminded of this as I read The Famous Ghalib by Ralph Russell, and try to brush up on my Urdu vocabulary in the process.
The Life I Refused to Surrender, by Amanda Knox
From the Archive
Learned Helplessness*, by Ken McLeod
I’m on the mailing list for Unfettered Mind, and wanted to share some of the old emails I had saved, but couldn’t figure out how to do so. Instead, this article, which seems apt for the times, even though it’s probably quite old (no date given).
And one from me, with some advice I’m taking myself:
Thanks for sticking around. Let me know what you thought of these links, or if you have anything you’d like to share with me, in the comments.
I’m not quite sure what my next post will be about yet. I’ve been working on a series about technology, AI and virtual reality, another series on tantra and mysticism, and other reflections on topics that come up in life. Subscribe to get those if you haven’t already.
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