November 22, 2023
Current location: Seattle, Washington, USA
Reading: The Knowledge Gap by Natalie Wexler
Listening: I have had essentially zero time to listen to anything other than the Video Game Soundtracks playlist on Spotify—while working—this week :)
(if you have a moment, reply with your own 3-item status via email or in the comments)
I don’t think false, unjustified optimism is productive, but I do have a bias toward reframing bad situations to focus on the (at times meager) silver-linings that will almost aways be there, if you look.
This isn’t typically a pleasant or easy recalibration, as there’s an innate desire (for many of us at least, myself included) to wallow in the bad, to sink deeper and deeper, and to just accept—uncritically—the overt horribleness of a bad situation, allowing it to overwhelm our psychological systems and short-out our capacity for reason or forethought, which in turn refocuses our perceptual lenses on the least-favorable interpretations and predictions and impacts.
The main benefit of a trained bias away from knee-jerk (if usually understandable) pessimism toward gratitude, I would argue, is that it provides motive power at the moment in which we most need fuel to help us escape the gravity well of despondency.
The inclination to keep planting seeds and tend to one’s garden even when every ounce of one’s being is shouting that there’s no point, why bother, isn’t latent for most of us, but it’s a tendency that can be intentionally adopted and honed.
Leaning toward the assumption that things can and will get better often yields preferable outcomes (compared to the alternative) because we tend to reflexively, if not necessarily enthusiastically or happily, stack the deck for favorable future circumstances when it seems like there’s reason to do so—even if that deck-stacking feels like a slog through endless horribleness, in the interim.
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Interesting & Useful
“During the tumultuous years of the Cold War, when political tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union reached their zenith, one man found himself at the center of this ideological battle in the heart of Moscow. Martin Manhoff, an American diplomat, was stationed in the Soviet capital during the 1950s, serving as the Assistant Army Attaché at the United States Embassy. His remarkable story has come to light through the discovery and publication of his personal diary and photographs, invaluable historical documents that provide a candid and intimate account of his experiences during that era.”
“Immediately prior to the war's outbreak in 1914, Central Europe was dominated by two powerful states: Germany to the north and its weaker cousin, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to the South. The two countries formed the core of the Central Powers, also known as the Quadruple Alliance because they were joined after war began by Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (modern Turkey). The other major pre-war alliance was the Triple Entente, a pact between Russia, Great Britain, and France (called the Allied Powers during the war). These alliances set the stage for a massive war: any dispute between two members of these blocs could pull in all of the others, as the treaties committed these states to defending their allies. And that's exactly what happened.”
“The first thing to note about this process, before we even start is that the dilectus was a regular process which happened every year at a regular time. The Romans did have a system to rapidly raise new troops in an emergency (it was called a tumultus), where the main officials, the consuls, could just grab any citizen into their army in a major emergency. But emergencies like that were very rare; for the most part the Roman army was filled out by the regular process of the dilectus, which happened annually in tune with Rome’s political calendar. That regularity is going to be important to understand how this process is able to move so many people around: because it is regular, people could adapt their schedules and make provisions for a process that happened every year. I should note the dilectus could also be held out of season, though often the times we hear about this it is because it went poorly (e.g. in 275, no one shows up).”
A few things:
First, a recent bout of COVID (my first) went away just in time for me to still make it out to Seattle to visit my family and help my little nephew—who’s had some serious medical issues these past few months—with his rehab (fortunate timing, all things considered!).
So while I should be able to maintain my usual publishing cadence these next few weeks (and am planning to do so), there may be deviations in that schedule due to family-related priorities.
Second, this is the last week there’ll be an early bird discount (and a substantial one) on the retreat I’m speaking at in May, which will be a multi-day, all-inclusive, campfire-discussion-laden hike deep into a beautiful state park in Utah.
I’m really looking forward to it, but this thing is not cheap, so please keep in mind that you can always visit state parks inexpensively on your own, and you can email me about whatever you want anytime, if you’d like to connect. Please don’t spend money you don’t have (on this or anything, in this spendiest of seasons).
(Also: the woman who owns the company that runs these retreats does custom, interest-free payment plans, if this is something you really want to do, but if you want to break the cost into less chonky pieces.)
And third, thanks for all the e-shop name suggestions!
That’s something I’ll be working on and fleshing out over the next few weeks, alongside a new book I’m planning to publish the first quarter of next year, some tweaking of my online publication setup, and a few other projects I’ll tell you about, soon.
Lots to look forward to and lots to be grateful for!
Thank you very much for your kind words, well-wishes, and support (whatever shape it takes). I appreciate you :)
What are you up to this winter holiday season? Going anywhere? Doing anything special? Working on anything you’re super-keen on and wouldn’t mind telling me about? Reply to this newsletter and tell me what’s up: I respond to every message I receive and would love to hear from you!
Prefer stamps and paper? Send me a letter, postcard, or some other physical communication (a doodle? A Polaroid of your cat?) at: Colin Wright, PO Box 11442, Milwaukee, WI 53211