"Pleasure as an organizing principle"

This post/talk (video if you prefer) is a really good description of where I’m often getting to these days.

(I immediately feel a need to defend and hedge by saying “when I (or Tiago Forte) say pleasure, I’m not talking about stupid-hedonism, like just sex drugs rock and roll”; if we’ve ever talked about this, I’ve probably said this exact phrase to you; perhaps a way to put it from adrienne maree brown quoted here: “the idea is not to be in a heady state of ecstasy at all times, but rather to learn how to sense when something is good for you, to be able to feel what enough is.")

I’ve been wondering about this when traveling recently; traveling was hard, and I wanted more comfort. But when I’m home for too long and have too much comfort, that’s not great either. I mean, obviously this is true with food and sex and stuff too. Walking that line of “enough” feels better in the long run.

“If you can never tell what makes you come alive, you can never take responsibility for yourself; you’re always at the mercy of what you want to do, what you must do, what you should do - there’s always some externally defined obligation.”

Some of this feels like just the concept of creativity. Like, it’s way harder to draw a dog than it is to just color in the lines of someone else’s dog drawing. Or, it’s way harder to draw something you like than it is to erase things you don’t like, or to look at 10 pictures and throw out the 9 you don’t like. But curating all the time is draining; creating often feels better afterward.

“The opposite of pleasure is not pain, it’s dissociation. Just unhinging from any kind of sense.”

I’m trying to just get to a place that is sustainable, that doesn’t hurt. What would that be like? How would I know? I can keep increasing my bank account, but that doesn’t even necessarily make me feel any better. I thought for a while I could keep increasing my meditative zen and that would just be Better, but that might not be true either. Living a happy life seems more like gardening than spreadsheeting or optimizing. (If this metaphor makes no sense, I will expand it in a future post.) Maybe the real thing is to keep learning what feels right (both to my body and my mind) and trying to get closer to that.

(On the other hand, this is appealing; not suffering sounds better than gritting your teeth and fighting through it. So maybe this is all confirming-what-I-want-to-be-true; maybe I’ll wake up someday and realize I’ve been ineffective my whole life because I’ve been chasing this dream. But I think it’s worth taking that chance.)

ok, enough pleasure, here’s some pain, from around the internet:

A good recap of why Uber/Lyft are Bad. (and this doesn’t even get into how crummy they treat their *ahem* employees!)

Scientists have been underestimating the pace of climate change. So like, A of all, Mitch McConnell Roger Ailes and Newt Gingrich have done all they can to destroy our future but will die pleasantly of old age before they have to face the consequences of their actions, yes we know, and sorry to pour more salt on that wound; but B of all, this is an interesting look into science communication. The emphasis on univocality and “conservativeness” is a thing I feel too: I really undersell stuff, because I don’t want to be wrong. It’s hard to build a career on “knowing stuff and being right all the time.”

In that direction, Project Wren: make it easy to buy carbon offsets. I’m going so back and forth on A. whether this is good and/or B. whether I should do it. Speaking of “not being wrong”, I am loathe to sign up and Be Wrong again, because:
- they’re y combinator, and like, that means they *might* run a successful business, but they *might* just totally hose the whole thing and cause more harm than good, not that that ever happens with white people dumping money into Africa
- carbon offsets has been a scammy market in the past (sometimes maliciously scammy, sometimes ignorantly)
- shouldn’t I be donating to bed nets instead?
BUT, all that said, it might be worth it for the purely selfish reason of making myself feel less guilty.
Eh. Anyone got some better climate-guilt-soothing donations?


Daniel -

I’m only a few minutes into this video, but it’s really good! Thanks for posting.

Daniel -

I’m hijacking this to talk about my work / effective altruism, but this talk is really hitting home!

There are a few obvious reasons to cultivate joy in good works – joy is intrinsically good, work becomes more sustainable, and it’ll probably put me in a place where I can be a good husband / friend / family member, etc. The idea that it’s also a good way to get more people to join the team more sustainably, just because it’s awesome, seems really powerful! (I’ve gravitated toward this in a fuzzy way, e.g. thinking that it’s worth spending $ to have AI retreats in places that make you feel more alive and happy, but I didn’t have this explanation in mind.) Why would someone want to join something miserable?

I intuitively would also hope that paying attention to the pleasurable / joyful parts of work would provide a bit of moral compass – I think some of the most questionable things I’ve done have come when I’m feeling cynical and not enjoying things.

Random: refactor camp looks pretty cool.

Dan -

Yeah, totally! I think, 10 years ago, I would have definitely believed your second paragraph (“There are a few obvious reasons…"), but I would have then said “yep, see, joy is a good recruitment tool, so we should use it for the purpose of recruiting people to good causes.” No, old Dan! That’s just using the “solving things” mind for everything again.

“I think some of the most questionable things I’ve done have come when I’m feeling cynical and not enjoying things.” - I agree, and I think that’s important for me to remember.

“refactor camp looks pretty cool.” - I agree!

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