Thinking and feeling

A friend recently suggested that maybe a useful guide to think about phases of your life could be “what is the big challenge you’re dealing with now?” I kinda like that framing. (It’s not super clean, as you’re usually dealing with many of them at once; I’m gonna ignore that for now.)

One of my challenges for the past ~10 years has been roughly “to understand what it means to feel, to value feeling, and to get good at feeling.”

I’m assuming there are two ways our brains and bodies work: thinking and feeling. Maybe call this System 2 and 1, respectively, like Kahneman, but I don’t mean to just talk about decision making here. I mean that there are two ways you can experience reality: thinking about it and feeling it. And I’m relatively good at thinking about it and not as good at feeling it.

(in some ways, my meditation teacher and therapist are telling me the same message, just from different perspectives. convergent theories are encouraging.)

Why is this hard?
- every day I go to work and practice thinking. I don’t much have to practice feeling.
- I really like thinking. Like, I am currently spending spare time doing puzzles with some work friends, and it is one of the things that I enjoy most right now.
- my standard tactic when something is hard is to break it down into smaller pieces, figure those out, put it back together. This explicitly does not work when your goal is “feel your body.”
- I also like things with nice progress markers. Thinking-mode tends to rack these up: points on your video game, dollars in the bank, miles biked, whatever. Feeling-mode doesn’t tend to have them.

What gives me hope?
- feeling is usually at least kinda pleasant, when you can get yourself to do it.
- there’s occasionally a marker of progress. I can stop for a second, close my eyes, and feel a kind of “body high”; what Goenka might call the “subtle sensations.” Note that this pleasant state is not the goal! But it’s a nice sign that I have skills that maybe I didn’t previously have.
- if I consider myself an HCI person, HCI is the most feeling-oriented of the computer science fields, I think. So there’s hope that I’m not doing 100% thinking all day. (however, Data Science is more thinky. so it goes.)
- feeling-tasks tend not to feel like work. It’s probably easier to be good at thinking and working on feeling, than vice versa.

Why bother?
I think because mostly, thinking helps you accomplish things, but feeling makes you want to live. And I’m pretty good at the “how” of life but always searching for the “why.”

Unrelatedly, some things that I have found interesting recently:

This story, “Sort By Controversial”, is so amusing.
It doesn’t map onto our current world just right, because the problem is not that we keep getting these perfectly true/false statements; the problem is that there are people spending all their time to make these statements more controversial. (some actively like Fox, some clumsily like Twitter.)

AI winter is on its way” - are there hype cycles for high level concepts like “AI”? Do I want this to happen or not? Does it matter? I’m always a grump but I think he’s right; I think we might hit some limits (like with self driving cars) where it looked like we were going to hit 100% but we actually hit 90% and the last 10% is harder than the first 90%.

Finally watching Season 2 of Master of None, and it’s kind of great. There’s rocky bits, and I feel uncomfortable sometimes because, basically, I don’t really want The Olds to think that We Old Millennials are like that, but it kinda nails it sometimes. In particular, notice how much of their life revolves around eating! It’s like, I don’t know what else to do, so I might as well eat good things!

I recently bought a dehumidifier for the basement in Pittsburgh. What humidity level should I keep it at? Beats me, but this pdf from North Dakota State University suggests around 60% in summer and 40% in winter. Thanks, Stack Overflow!

Juliana v. US is bonkers, in a great way. I am surprised that “Sue the entire government for f’ing up all the climate forever” is a legit thing to bring to trial, but I guess so! It feels about right, too: like, we need a carbon tax 20 years ago, and I am a little bit personally mad at every damn Boomer in power who keeps twiddling their thumbs (or worse). Yes, it’s a collective action thing - what if we tax and China doesn’t, etc - but man, who’s going to take the lead if we don’t? Props to these young folks who figured out one more way to fight the apathy.


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