Picking the work apart versus the artist

The internet has made it easier than ever before to find out if a movie or book will be “good”. I say “good” but what I really mean is something that fits the recipient’s taste.

With a couple of clicks anyone can voice their opinion. Every time we click something, we are casting an upvote for Google. You have Amazon reviews, Rotten Tomatoes and endless streams of blogs full of commentary.

Essentially, everyone is a critic. Because of that, we need to establish rules what is okay and what is not. Especially when hiding behind a user name. Amenity emboldens passive aggressive behavior.

As a rule for the viewer, comment on the work not the artist. The artist has painstakingly made something for you that they hope will change you. If it misstepped, that’s the work that failed to resonate with you. Because it might resonate with someone else and perhaps you weren’t the target audience who the artist was seeking to change.

Artists, don’t make criticisms about you. You know what this labor of love cost. And sometimes the work doesn’t make the impact you hoped it would. No author got better because they read all their one-star reviews.

There’s a difference between picking the work apart and picking the artist apart. Keep it civil and in the right perspective.

Event horizon

There is a point when crossing into a black hole that once you pass it you can’t come back.

It’s the point of no return.

We treat decisions the same type of way. But that isn’t true. Our lives are not black holes.

There are many choices and endless possibilities.

Just because you committed to one path doesn’t mean you choose another.

When you step back a bit, you will begin to see the degrees of freedom that you have. It’s when our vision becomes too narrow that we can’t see what’s around us.

Obedience and compliance

Please sit down. Use your number 2 pencil. And ask if you want permission to go to the bathroom.

We have had 20 plus years of indoctrination. Of being told that this was the blue print of happiness.

Put your head down, do as you are told, and we will pay you. And it worked for a short time. You got a pension. You had a house.

So the lie continues until…

Until there is no social mobility. Until debts systems grow so far out of control that you can’t get out of them. Because we have been trained to be told what to do, we continue to follow the step-by-step set of instructions are parents (or boss or teachers) told us to do.

Work harder.

There is an oversupply of those willing to be told what to do next.

We must understand the other part of the lie that many are told:

“You need us.”

We need capitalism (big business) to provide us jobs, healthcare, vacation, safety, security, abundance, and yes, fulfillment.

But none of that is true. Because finding humanity and authenticity and joy, all things that each of us profess to want to find, can’t be found in the stuff that is sold to us. Capitalism is the perfect system to produce average stuff for average people. It is perfect for producing for the masses. But what it can’t do is bring the happiness we seek.

That fulfillment requires none of obedience or compliance. It’s about embracing risk, uncertainty and emotional exposure. It’s about throwing away the map and carving a new path. It is about vulnerability and sharing your art. It’s about solving interesting, complex problems. It’s about commitment to see something through that has a higher probability of failing.

Capitalism continues to find someone who is faster and cheaper. What happens when a car can drive from Cleveland to LA without any pitstops. A driver that makes fewer mistakes and doesn’t demand dental coverage.

Over the next several decades, we have to ask what it means to be human. Because it isn’t defined by a paycheck. And it is more than your job. We can’t be told the answer because this is a new chapter in history. Instead, we can embrace the unknown and take a step.


Quarks and electrons are the smallest particles we know.

After that?

Well, the amount of energy it would take to observe at those depths would start a black hole.

So, for now, we have to be content that we don’t know what the next level is. The question I wonder is:

Does it have structure?

What has structure and what doesn’t is something worth examining in our own lives.

Seeing is believing

If we are interested in a phenomena that can only be detected experimentally, how do we come to have knowledge about unobservable entities?

In the case of black holes, by turning the whole Earth into what is essentially one large satellite dish, scientists from around the world have captured the first image of a black hole.

Silhouette of the Black Hole at M87.

Sometimes we need to be shown what we can’t see. Afterwards, we are changed forever.

Indeed, seeing is believing. It is also the first step in understanding.

Assessing risk

I do a large amount of backcountry skiing. And for many, that is way out of the comfort zone of what is an acceptable risk.

For me, watching someone free solo or free base, that just seems crazy.

It turns out, risk tolerance is different for each of us. There is a clear difference between comfort zones and growing zones and how willing each of us are willing to dance with the fear that is associated with taking risks.

We can’t eliminate all the risk. Sometimes we can manage it. But life is hazardous. It’s a dangerous world. So much is trying to kill us. At the same time, no one wants to live in a bubble.

When is the last time you tried taking a chance?

We often associate courage with capes, badges or guns. But there is courage in standing up for what is right or speaking for those without a voice. Or perhaps, sharing your best work to the world. Maybe that is what we are missing. Emotional courage.

2020 has made us very cautious. We have forgotten what it is like to take a risk. How are we to start living again? Especially since the pandemic is still happening.

Riding in the slow lane

We call this smelling the flowers. Yet, we often forget to enjoy the process.

Life isn’t a journey unless there is a destination. But we don’t stop long enough to ask, Where am I actually heading?

Courses change. The wind blows in all sorts of directions. Perhaps, slowing down and just simply taking it all in will help us not to forget to take in this moment before we turn to the next.

Free will

There is a lot of intensive debate about defining what free will is.

When asked, many will explain that free will has an important distinction–whether or not participants can resist outside influences.

If you believe in free action, you also tend to believe that you can resist the pressure of outside forces.

If you don’t, then you tend to believe that you didn’t (can’t?) act against outside forces.

But these are incredibly narrow views of free will.

We don’t know the internal motivation of people. And following the pressure of a crowd may well be a good thing. (I’m grateful it is common practice to wash your hands before prepping food.)

External pressures are not the root of free will. Free will is about autonomy regardless of outside forces.

The environment dictates so many of our choices, who knows how much free will each of us have? I do know that life is better when we choose to exercise our influence. No matter how small.

Remember who you are

More importantly, always remind yourself who it is you want to become.

For success and happiness doesn’t come out of pursuit but when one fully dedicates oneself to a cause greater than themselves.

People are plastic. Flexible and malleable. Not iron.