More negativity for the New Year!

Tipped by a friend on Facebook I bought an ebook by Oliver Burkeman with the wonderful title “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking”. What about this:

The point here is not that negative capability is always superior to the positive kind. Optimism is wonderful; goals can sometimes be useful; even positive thinking and positive visualisations have their benefits. The problem is that we have developed a habit of chronically overvaluing positivity and the skills of “doing”, in how we think about happiness, and that we chronically undervalue negativity, and the “not-doing” skills such as resting in uncertainty or getting friendly towards failure.

A good reminder for the coming year.

Sorry, no magic

Sometimes we try to make ourselves smarter. We call that research. Sometimes we try to make our peers smarter. We call that publishing. Sometimes we try to make our students smarter. We call that teaching. And that’s it. That’s all there is. These are important jobs for sure, and they are hard jobs at times, but they’re not magic. And neither are we.

Clay Shirky


Capturing knowledge the Y Worlds way

I just discovered a puzzling and wonderful site, Y Worlds by the Y Worlds Cooperative. It seems linked in some way to the SpaceCollective, who’s blogs I follow. Visiting the sites you get a “Time of Aquarius”-feeling at first, but there is lots of very good stuff, packaged in a not-so-traditional way.

The Y Worlds blog presented a post today which is both insightful and hilarious despite the somewhat dry heading “Knowledge Mapping Project”. What about this description of knowledge mapping:

We are on the hunt.
Our prey is accurate, systemic, comprehensive knowledge.
We understand that such knowledge exists within the wild and untamed frontier.
We do not intend to harm knowledge. Rather, we would like to capture it, record it, study it, map it, and if possible, breed it to generate stronger and wiser offspring.

Various species of knowledge roam the earth. Well documented sightings are scattered and rare. Specific variants of knowledge are known to live at corporate and non-profit breeding grounds. Herds of knowledge have been found to frequently congregate at conferences and universities and research centers. They are attracted to watering holes. And much of the population of knowledge roam the earth relatively alone and unrecorded.

For a previous researcher in professional, practical knowledge this humorously written approach describes very well the need for a respectful, ethical way of handling the delicate knowledge you find in the wild.

There is lots to explore at the web sites, what about this, under the rubric “Objectives”:

On meetings and thinking

David Gurteen’s newsletter is always full of wisdom and links to relevant sites.

In today’s newsletter he cites Andrew Armour  who says:

Most meetings, workshops and conferences are not viewed as an opportunity to converse, listen, build dialogue and explore solutions, but a means to present, report, control, persuade — to control your own plan, to get buy-in, to approve or deny.
No wonder then, that when the time does arise for focused, innovative, open and progressive conversation that most of the time –we fail.

This is common knowledge among reflective people, and in Armour’s listing of reasons why meetings, workshops and conferences are still organized in the way they are, lies the explanation – it’s a power game. Not showing up at a meeting in which you are supposed to participate (even if not personally invited) is seen as a lack of loyalty, however useless the meeting is for you.

This reminds me of The law of two feet, that David alluded to already in 2003:

… if at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing – use you two feet and move to some place more to you liking.

Another quote in David’s newsletter is by Ralph Waldo Emerson and goes like this:

Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day.

This again reminds me of Scatman John’s words:

I want to be a human being, not a human doing

Thinking in church

A little extreme, but that’s because it’s an answer to the US right wing activists efforts to eliminate teaching about evolution etc. in american schools.