'bout a week ago, I had a great conversation with Sam Snyder. Sam is really, really, really smart. If you haven't been to his site, you should click over there and at least skim until you find something personally fascinating to you (and you will), and then you'll probably be a fan of his for life.
We covered a lot of ground talking. The first thing I made a note of was on reference points for exercise. We were talking why fitness is so enjoyable, such a good thing, but people often don't do it?
Sam said something really insightful - he said people's reference points for fitness are probably thinking about the hard part of starting, when you're getting going it, when you're not into the flow of it. When someone thinks exercise, they don't think about being engaged mind and body, feeling strong, feeling alive. They think about the beginning part where the body and bones and muscles feel creaky and it's hard to do.
I'm paraphrasing - I'm not even capturing the sentiment of it really well, it was a very sharp insight. The takeaway for me was, when thinking about exercise think about the height of enjoyable moments from it. Not the hassle, not the details, not the admin, not the pain. But the most enjoyable moments. Make that your reference point.
"Everything that goes on in the world can be reduced to cause and effect." We talked about tracing ways through cause and effect, and how you could have more predictive power if you did. Economic events, social events, wealth, and so on. We talked about some ways on how you model what was going to happen and make predictions. Fascinating stuff - Sam's playing on a really high mental level.
We talked about lots of good stuff - had a good chat on biochemistry and surgery and proteins and things like that. He's a really sharp guy. I do highly recommend Sam Snyder's site - note, there's a lot of information and references on there. I'd recommend on your first visit that you skim until you find something really valuable or fascinating to you, and I'm pretty sure you will. Great chatting with Sam, very very sharp insights.
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.
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.