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Reference Points

I just spent some time reading Thomas Schelling's "Choice and Consequences" and I heartily recommend it. Here's a Google books link to the chapter I was reading, "The Intimate Contest for Self Command."

It's fascinating, and if you like LessWrong, rationality, understanding things, decision theories, figuring people and the world out - well, then I think you'd like Schelling. Actually, you'll probably be amazed with how much of his stuff you're already familiar with - he really established a heck of a lot modern thinking on game theory.

Allow me to depart from Schelling a moment, and talk of Sam Snyder. He's a very intelligent guy who has lots of intelligent thoughts. Here's a link to his website - there's massive amounts of data and references there, so I'd recommend you just skim his site if you go visit until you find something interesting. You'll probably find something interesting pretty quickly.

I got a chance to have a conversation with him a while back, and we covered immense amounts of ground. He introduced me to a concept I've been thinking about nonstop since learning it from him - reference points.

Now, he explained it very eloquently, and I'm afraid I'm going to mangle and not do justice to his explanation. But to make a long story really short, your reference points affect your motivation a lot.


On Tynan

I was going to just email this to Tynan but noticed Tynan.com is running on SETT now so figured, what the hell, I'll share it with everyone.

The reason I came to the site was to find the quote from his post on meditation. It's the first sentence of the post. "The thing that really scares me is spontaneous personal expression."

That's certainly the case for me, too, and of all my fears, pushing on that one has been the most rewarding thing I've ever done. Eight years of western therapy and western Buddhist meditation have done a lot for that particular fear but it's still the strongest. I'm afraid of heights and falling and injury and public speaking all sorts of other stuff but working with those fears is nothing compared to the fear of expressing myself, especially in ways that I don't already identify as "things I'm good at" or "things I'm proud of."

I went to the Game Developer's Conference last week, but only managed to attend two talks other than my own (because I was still preparing for my own) but one of them was by John Sharp, an art historian, academic, and game designer who teaches at Georgia Institute of Technology. His was a talk on Abstraction in art and game design. He talked about a lot of stuff: painting, photorealism, photography, Jackson Pollock, Islamic religious art, dance, and more I'm forgetting, but one thing that struck me was the trailer clips he used from Wim Wenders' "Pina", a documentary film about Pina Bausch, a choreographer I'd never heard of, but Wikipedia told me was one of the foremost influences in modern dance over the last 30 years.

Then I got back to Seattle and completely coincidentally a friend had posted on Facebook about it playing at a theater here, and about wanting to see it. I bought tickets and saw it tonight.

First, it's the first and only 3D movie I've seen where the 3D was not just a dumb gimmick. It was integral: it felt like you were on stage watching all the dance. Second, the dance was all incredible. And third, and most important, it did an incredibly job of showing how modern dance is a practice of - and performance about - overcoming that deepest fear of personal self-expression. Bausch died days before the film began shooting, so it became a tribute to her, but has no interviews with her directly. Instead, her dancers talk about how she was constantly challenging their fear, pushing them out of their comfort zones, driving them to explore the deep yearning that motivates them, and inviting them to scare themselves and others with the intensity and intimacy of their work.

I cannot recommend this film highly enough. Like I said, I was just going to tell Ty he should try to find a theater showing it because I think he'd love it, but I'd say the same for any reader of this blog. If Tynan's words and attitude resonate with you, I bet Pina will too. It's a real masterpiece.

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