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Falling in Love with the World—Weekly Wisdom 20th June, 2021

Also, the paradox of positivity and what it means to be a maniac in an insane world.

Hello Everyone

Welcome to Weekly Wisdom, your weekly dose of highlights, quotes and notes from my notebook. If you would like to receive this in your inbox, subscribe now.

This week I would Like to Share:

  • How Apple will make money from services: I wrote this essay last year, in light of the then recent WWDC 2020. I had no idea how prescient it will be. Not only has Apple stifled Facebook’s App Install business, but they are in the process of destroying whole categories of business. I am in the process of writing a follow-up to this essay, so you will probably get to read it by next week.

This week’s Wisdom:

Maniacs

Arthur Koestler wrote this in 1944, at the tail end of the second World War. While he was talking about denialism around the Nazi atrocities, it is more relevant today. We live in the era of epistemological collapse. The people fighting for the truth are now the maniacs. The ‘sane’ live in comfortable fantasies like QAnon, Stop the steal, and “It’s just a re-education camp”.

But the other day I met one of the best-known American journalists over here. He told me that in the course of some recent public opinion survey nine out of ten average American citizens, when asked whether they believed that the Nazis commit atrocities, answered that it was all propaganda lies, and that they didn’t believe a word of it. As to this country, I have been lecturing now for three years to the troops and their attitude is the same. They don’t believe in concentration camps, they don’t believe in the starved children of Greece, in the shot hostages of France, in the mass-graves of Poland; they have never heard of Lidice, Treblinka or Belzec; you can convince them for an hour, then they shake themselves, their mental self-defence begins to work and in a week the shrug of incredulity has returned like a reflex temporarily weakened by a shock.

Clearly all this is becoming a mania with me and my like. Clearly we must suffer from some morbid obsession, whereas the others are healthy and normal. But the characteristic symptom of maniacs is that they lose contact with reality and live in a phantasy world. So, perhaps, it is the other way round: perhaps it is we, the screamers, who react in a sound and healthy way to the reality which surrounds us, whereas you are the neurotics who totter about in a screened phantasy world because you lack the faculty to face the facts. Were it not so, this war would have been avoided, and those murdered within sight of your day-dreaming eyes would still be alive. I said: perhaps, because obviously the above can only be half the truth.

—Arthur Koestler, The Nightmare That Is a Reality

On Ambivalence

I am not a fan of dichotomies. History is not a narrative of good and evil. I may not be against you if I am not with you. The truth resists simplification, and dichotomies are the simplistic method of framing history.

But in 2020, it feels as though we live in a society that doesn’t believe people can be two things at the same time. It’s not a matter of ideological difference; it’s a matter of sloppy, dichotomous thinking. We want simplicity while we resist ambivalence.

—Polina Marinova Pompliano, The Profile

“Feeling your mind swim before the beauty”

In his first non-fiction book, John Green reviews the human created world, or the ‘Anthropocene” on 5-star scale. This passage, from the intro, provides a great insight in to his reason for writing this book. His poetic style is just a treat to read.

It has taken me all my life up to now to fall in love with the world, but I’ve started to feel it the last couple of years. To fall in love with the world isn’t to ignore or overlook suffering, both human and otherwise. For me anyway, to fall in love with the world is to look up at the night sky and feel your mind swim before the beauty and the distance of the stars. It is to hold your children while they cry, to watch as the sycamore trees leaf out in June. When my breastbone starts to hurt, and my throat tightens, and tears well in my eyes, I want to look away from feeling. I want to deflect with irony, or anything else that will keep me from feeling directly. We all know how loving ends. But I want to fall in love with the world anyway, to let it crack me open. I want to feel what there is to feel while I am here.

—John Green, The Anthropocene Reviewed

Acceptance is Key

As mentioned, I do not like dichotomies. The worst is Positive vs Negative. However, in describing psychological phenomenon, it is a great metaphor. Author Mark Manson uses this metaphor as an inherent paradox of seeking happiness.

The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.

—Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

—Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck


Thank you for joining me this week. Hope to see you again next time.

Mudassir Chapra

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