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Odds & Ends

Trust 30 Challenge: Day 4

Today’s prompt from the Trust 30 challenge, suggested by Jenny Blake:

That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? … Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Identify one of your biggest challenges at the moment (ie [sic] I don’t feel passionate about my work) and turn it into a question (ie [sic] How can I do work I’m passionate about?) Write it on a post-it and put it up on your bathroom mirror or the back of your front door. After 48 hours, journal what answers came up for you and be sure to evaluate them.

Bonus: tweet or blog a photo of your post-it.

Post-It

Here’s mine:

Post-itTrust 30 Challenge

Trust 30 Challenge: Day 3

Here is today’s writing prompt from the Trust 30 challenge, offered by Buster Benson:

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?

Evidence Trumps Belief

Trust 30 Challenge

I am an agnostic, an atheist, an secular humanist, an empiricist, a methodological naturalist—a skeptic of almost anything beyond the scope of what humans can know by way of the scientific method. I reject the notion that humans can add richness, meaning, or purpose to life by grasping at a belief or set of beliefs. I consider “faith” and “superstition” to be synonymous, for all practical purposes—unproductive ways of thinking at their best, dangerous fictions at their worst.

But it seems to be human nature to want to believe things, and to want others to share your beliefs, so my orientation toward disbelief is not particularly popular among my friends and family. No one gives me too hard a time about my lack of faith, but one devout Christian friend has opined that I can’t really be an atheist because I have “too good a heart.” If I think about it too much, that feels like an insult to my intelligence and judgment, so I chalk it up as the kind of ignorance that’s bound to flow out of “the evidence of things not seen.” Her beliefs about me are just another part of her fiction, and I take comfort in the thought that facts—deduced from the reality of the natural world—are what’s true, no matter what anyone chooses to believe.

I try to “live my unbelief” by taking a skeptical view of anything that’s presented to me as truth. I try to look for multiple, independent lines of evidence before provisionally accepting a new idea as a fact. I try to recognize my own cognitive biases, to examine my assumptions, and to listen to points of view that differ from my own—unless they ask me to take anything on faith. Naturally, I fall into the same emotional traps and habitual responses to which all of us are subject. But I pay attention, I remain curious, and I hope that I’m always learning. And I trust the centuries of evidence that science and skepticism are the only reliable route to knowledge.

Trust 30 Challenge: Day 2

Tortured Metaphor

Today’s writing prompt from the Trust 30 challenge is by Liz Danzico:

Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. The force of character is cumulative.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

If “the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks,” then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence? Tell today’s sentence to one other person. Repeat each day.

Here’s how my day went, in one brutal sentence:

Trust 30 Challenge

The morning forecast predicted a calm, bright day with just one scheduled appointment and only a slight chance of sudden deadlines, but by mid-afternoon, a warm, moist mass of chaos moved in off the Gulf and collided with local conditions: unrealistic client expectations, technical difficulties, and an uncooperative vendor; the confluence produced a flash flood of incomplete deliverables and frustrated long-term objectives until an early-evening nap cleared the air.

Trust 30 Challenge: Day 1

Trust 30 Challenge

15 Minutes to Live

This morning’s e-mail bought an intriguing announcement: The Domino Project, Seth Godin’s new book-publishing initiative, launched Trust 30, a 30-day writing challenge that invites participants “to reflect on your now and to create direction for your future.”

I’m always eager for a new game to shake up my writing routine, so I signed up for Trust 30. The first prompt, from Seattle-based writer Gwen Bell, went like this:

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.
1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.

2. Write the story that has to be written.

I practice timed-writing exercises nearly every day, so knowing that 15 minutes was ticking away might not have produced the same sense of urgency in me that it creates in writers who don’t routinely use a timer. Still, trying to pretend that these were my last 15 minutes was an interesting exercise. I made four tries. Each time, I wasn’t happy with where the piece was going, so I stopped, restarted the clock, and tried a different approach to the prompt.

My first take was an attempt to offer some kind of life lesson to posterity. It was panicky, self-conscious, and obsessed with the idea that I should have started that project at an earlier time. The second was a love letter and a plea for forgiveness. The third was the fictional last testament of a man condemned to death for his unpopular lack of faith. The fourth was a list of secrets that seem too juicy to die with me.

They’re all unfit to publish for different reasons, but maybe I’ll find a place for the ideas in future writing projects.

Technical/Design Support

I provide technical or design support for these sites:

CaribExcel Associates, Inc.
Investment advisory, project management, development services for petrochemical, power, and mining sectors in emerging markets

Convergence Advisors International, Inc.
Creating and implementing targeted, cost-effective corporate social-responsibility programs

Errand Eliminator, Inc.
Personal concierge service in Houston, Texas