Destinations Shape Us. What's Yours?
Focus questions for Adelaide Lunchtime
Seminar, 20 July 2019
Note: About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding.
1. AND WHAT IS YOUR GRAND QUEST? Tell us a
little about it.
2. HOW IS THE QUALITY OF YOUR JOURNEY
LIMITED IF THE ONLY DESTINATION YOU CAN IMAGINE IS DEATH? "The
Journey is More Important than the Destination" is an idiom often
accepted as obviously true. Is it?
3. AS A TRAVELER (in body or in spirit) YOU
MUST HAVE A QUEST. (At least that's Thor's view). It doesn't matter
much what the quest is ... You can hunt for unusual bottle tops or
collect kinky cigarette lighters, or become a world expert on UFOs.
The point is, when you have a goal, you have an excuse to kick in
other people's heads, starve yourself for a world record, or head
off to the South Pole. Once embarked on a journey of the heart, or
of shoe leather, the world is coloured with meaning, no matter that
your destination may be, after all, a mirage... (see Thor May 
"Traveller on a Leash, or a Free Spirit?" - a fake interview with
4. WE SET DESTINATIONS IN THINKING TOO, OR
FAIL TO, OR WANDER ON THE JOURNEY. What are the consequences of
these choices? Is knowing more and more about less and less really
the best way to succeed (even within a specialization)?. The answer
seems to be no. A winding path can be the fastest way to a
destination. See: "Why generalists thrive in a specialized world"
]. So why does specialization limit creativity?
5. IS SETTLING FOR RANDOM DAILY STIMULATION
- media, drugs, gossip, sex, watching spectator sport, music shows
etc - ENOUGH TO FILL A SATISFYING LIFE FOR, SAY, 90 YEARS? Explain
6. DOES IT REALLY MATTER IF OUR DESTINATION
DREAM IS ILLUSORY? Think of 'eternal life' (heaven), or trying to
learn a language you are never going to master (Chinese for me), or
aiming to make a billion dollars, or ....
7. THERE IS SUCH A THING AS MAGNIFICENT
FAILURE. EXAMPLES? Think of those who never tried, who meekly lived
and died as blobs in the landscape. And then there are colourful,
crazy or tragic figures who bravely tried to be heroes, or
gangsters, or inventors, or dancers ... and never quite made it.
8. A QUALITY OF EMPIRES IS THAT WHILE THEY
LAST MOST OF THE PEOPLE IN THEM THINK OF THEMSELVES AS SOMEHOW
EXCEPTIONAL AND SUPERIOR TO THE PEOPLE IN OTHER LANDS. THEY SEE
THEIR EMPIRE AS HAVING A MISSION, VISION OR QUEST. Is this illusion
useful, or damaging? Why?
9. FORMAL EDUCATION SYSTEMS IN MANY
COUNTRIES TRY TO PERSUADE STUDENTS TO ADOPT CERTAIN IDEOLOGIES AND
EXPECTED LIFE PATHS ? Is this legitimate? Why or why not? What is
your actual experience with this process? Examples, stories?
10. LARGE CORPORATIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS
(AND MILITARY FORCES) ALWAYS CLAIM TO HAVE A MISSION. EMPLOYEES MAY
EMBED THE COMPANY MISSION AND STATUS AS PART OF THEIR OWN IDENTITY.
Is acting out you life with this kind of borrowed identity a
worthwhile ambition for those who undertake it? What about your own
Comments & Extra Reading
Ammar Kalia [10 July 2019] "A greener way to go: what’s the most eco-friendly way to dispose of a body?" The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jul/09/greener-way-to-go-eco-friendly-way-dispose-of-body-burial-cremation . [Thor, comment: Talking of destinations, here's your future (not science fiction), replacing burial and cremation - quote: "The machine is a Resomator – a pressurised canister in which corpses are submerged in a mixture of 150C water and potassium hydroxide solution for three to four hours until the flesh is dissolved, leaving behind only soft, greyish bones. After drying in an adjacent oven, these are ground down into paper-white powder, while the fluid is sent to a water treatment plant for disposal. The entire process is operated by a touchscreen and a single “start” button, away from the view of mourners." If you are destined to be turned into green sludge, with the fluid part of you coming back as tap water and the rest as fish food, perhaps you'd better make the most of life while you are a fully assembled collection of atoms ... Consciousness? A soul? you ask. My view (drawn from decades of my own research trying to figure out how the brain makes language) is that consciousness is an emergent property of highly complex systems which come to act agentively. But that argument is too complicated to develop in a conversational meetup. I'm sure you'll stick to your own preferred form of magical explanation on this ...]
Steve Paulson (May 4, 2017) "Roger Penrose On Why Consciousness Does Not Compute - The emperor of physics defends his controversial theory of mind". Nautilus @ https://getpocket.com/explore/item/roger-penrose-on-why-consciousness-does-not-compute .. [Thor, comment: I think that Penrose, a physicist devoted to quantum theory, is neither right nor wrong in his speculation. If that sounds like Schrodinger's cat, it's meant to. He has noticed that consciousness is not computable, and finds this the ultimate mystery of mind. I don't. I (and many others) have noticed that in countless natural phenomena the probability of outcomes is computable, but the probability of particular intermediate states is not. It is called bounded random variability. It is true of thunderstorms and heartbeats and ... It is even true of your life which has a determinate termination, death, but is indeterminate (to a greater or lesser extent) at each moment between birth and death. The indeterminate equation which describes mind will make use of bounded random variability but (my speculation) requires a level of complexity that generates new emergent properties.]
ian beutler => I accept the Meister Eckhart's idea: Affix yr. ambition to a star.. which makes me pretty hopeless for sharing with most aussies, -peering thru their mental-prison bars...
David Epstein (12 July 2019) "Generalise, don't specialise: why focusing too narrowly is bad for us - The 10,000-hour rule says intense, dedicated practice makes perfect – at that one thing. But what if breadth actually serves us better than depth? " The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jul/12/generalise-dont-specialise-why-focusing-too-narrowly-is-bad-for-us
Annalee Newitz )29 May 2014) "Two Ways of Dealing with the Apocalypse - You can decide that the apocalypse is inevitable, so you might as well just give up hope now. Or you can decide that the apocalypse is quantifiable, and make plans to deal with it when it happens". Gizmodo @https://io9.gizmodo.com/two-ways-of-dealing-with-the-apocalypse-1583533478
Annalee Newitz (April 20, 2014) "Want to reboot civilization? What you’ll need - The knowledge, tools, and seeds we’ll want if disaster strikes". Boston Globe @ https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/04/19/want-reboot-civilization-what-you-need/fReMGOEq2ZkgZ8WPu3xLCL/story.html
Andrew Anthony (19 March 2017) "Yuval Noah Harari: ‘Homo sapiens as we know them will disappear in a century or so’ - The visionary historian, author of two dazzling bestsellers on the state of mankind, takes questions from Lucy Prebble, Arianna Huffington, Esther Rantzen and a selection of our readers". The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/mar/19/yuval-harari-sapiens-readers-questions-lucy-prebble-arianna-huffington-future-of-humanity
Manoush Zomorodi (6 September 2018) “The average person checks email 74 times a day, and switches tasks on their computer 566 times a day.” — Is staving off boredom actually ruining your creativity? Watch the full TED Talk here: http://bit.ly/2NRqbqz...
Manoush Zomorodi (October 26, 2017) "What Boredom Does to You - The science of the wandering mind and why Steve Jobs believed in boredom". Nautilus @ http://nautil.us/issue/53/monsters/what-boredom-does-to-you .
Srini Pillay (May 12, 2017) "Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus - Studies show that concentrating for too long on one task makes us less productive. Turns out, our brains need to wander a bit throughout the day". Harvard Business Review| @ https://getpocket.com/explore/item/your-brain-can-only-take-so-much-focus
Atul Gawande (June 2, 2018) "Curiosity and What Equality Really Means - For doctors as much as anyone else, regarding people as having lives of equal worth means recognizing each as having a common core of humanity". The New Yorker @ https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/curiosity-and-the-prisoner
Quora.com (n.d.) "How can I stop from wanting to learn everything and focus on one thing?" Quora.com @https://www.quora.com/How-can-I-stop-from-wanting-to-learn-everything-and-focus-on-one-thing .
Science Daily (May 16, 2019) How we make complex decisions - Neuroscientists identify a brain circuit that helps break decisions down into smaller pieces". Science Daily @ https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190516142840.htm . . Original journal source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Morteza Sarafyazd, Mehrdad Jazayeri. Hierarchical reasoning by neural circuits in the frontal cortex. Science, 2019; 364 (6441): eaav8911 DOI: 10.1126/science.aav8911
Justine Toh (14 April 2019) "What monks can teach us about binge-watching bouts of distraction". Australian Broadcasting Commission @ https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-14/monks-teach-about-binge-watching-netflix-distraction/10976528..
Frank Robson (11 August 2018) "Why do so many friendships dissolve as we age?What are we without friends, those who know us warts and all but love us anyway? Yet many friendships drift away as we age, leaving us beating on, boats against the current, borne back into the past…" Brisbane Times @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/why-do-so-many-friendships-dissolve-as-we-age-20180807-p4zvxm.html
James Clear (6 June 2018) "The Scientific Argument for Mastering One Thing at a Time". Medium.com @ https://medium.com/personal-growth/the-scientific-argument-for-mastering-one-thing-at-a-time-d794a983dac1
Thor (1988) - a poem -
Welcome traveller, to my hearth
Where you may stay awhile and find
What you may find.
May I bring you peace, as you bring light.
A small gift I ask, a vision,
A moment of your forever, while you pause;
For the walls of my dwelling are shadows
And though you rest upon the certainty of my flesh
In the void of time my heart is adrift.
So tell me traveller, what you see here
Where I cannot see at all.
A mist? A gulf of flame? A meadow?
A working man? A king? A prophet?
What is my quest? Who is my guide and companion?
Am I cocooned in an eddy of four dimensions
Or riding cowboy on an avalanche of stars?
For only a moment traveller, you are real,
And so I ask,
While God forgets to draw his hand
Like a veil, across your face.
Vauhini Vara (2019)"NEW WORKERS in five continents" Bloomberg.com @ https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2019-workers-of-the-world/ [Quote: "Often we hear about the change in terms of math—the looming subtraction of jobs from the workforce, the multiples by which the richest among us have acquired more wealth than the most impoverished. Or we might hear about communities left struggling by technological transformations or offshored jobs. Harder, in this globalized era, is to get a sense of how change affects individuals themselves. Inspired by Studs Terkel, Liao Yiwu, Svetlana Alexievich, and other writers, I recently spent six months traveling across five continents hearing the stories of working-class people from the millennial generation, particularly those in occupations that didn’t exist a generation ago... "] => Thor, comment: When we sit in The Rose cafe talking comfortably about destinations, it is easy to become a bit detached. These first person biographical stories of the young working class people in this article are a splash of cold water on the face. In their own ways they are choosing destinations in matter-of-fact but often promising ways. Read about their lives and count your lucky stars.
Natasha Johnson (10 July 2019) "ABC Late Night Live host Phillip Adams on life at 80 and his hope of dying at the mic" ABC @ https://www.abc.net.au/news/about/backstory/radio/2019-07-10/late-night-live-broadcaster-phillip-adams-on-life-at-80/11287174 [Thor, comment: Phillip Adams over decades as a public writer and explorer of issues has always had ideas on big questions, expressed fairly, with humour and tolerance, in a country where ideas are often small and narrow. His own preference is progressive, but he has given air time to many conservatives too. If Australian culture has a form and destination, you would have to hope that he expresses part of it. Adams has more far talent and achievement than I could ever hope for, but in a way he sums up the purpose of gatherings like the Lunchtime Seminar].
Thor's own websites:
1. articles at http://independent.academia.edu/ThorMay ;
2. legacy site: http://thormay.net .
Destinations Shape Us. What's Yours? (c) Thor May 2019 return to Ddiscussion