This Is Post 100

I have now blogged every day for 100 days. If you have read anything I’ve written here, thank you!

Top 10 Most Popular Posts

  1. Eons of Lifelessness (Thoughts on the Moon) (4-min. read)
  2. Growing Up: A Few Stories from the First Grade (9-min. read)
  3. My Top 10 Books of 2020 (4-min. read)
  4. How I Lost 106 Pounds (1-min. read)
  5. My Favorite Mental Trick to Stop Overeating (3-min. read)
  6. 3 Habits That Kill Friendships (2-min. read)
  7. A Guide to Becoming a Successful Freelancer (16-min. read)
  8. I Tried CrossFit for 3 Months: Here’s My Takeaway (7-min. read)
  9. Over It and Still Creating (1-min. read)
  10. I’m Not Always the Parent I Thought I’d Be (2-min. read)

My 3 Favorite Non-Popular Posts

  1. How a Robin Helped Me Through the Pandemic (3-min. read)
  2. Feeling Far Away (3-min. read)
  3. A Reflection on American Building (3-min. read)

This is the end of daily posting for now. I have several long-form pieces on deck that I’ll be sharing with you soon that are hopefully more researched, thought through, and helpful to you.

Posting daily has been a great lesson in consistency and brevity, but there are longer things I want to write that will require me to let go of the daily thoughts.

Have you subscribed to the email list? It’s the best way to know if I post something new. I don’t spam. You can sign up here!

Last Thing

Have you enjoyed reading this blog so far? If so, would you drop me a quick line to let me know you have. I’d also love to hear what you would like to see more of. One thing I’ve learned about blogging is that it mostly feels like talking to yourself on the street corner. You never know who is listening, if anyone.

Some of you have let me know you’re reading, and I can’t tell you how much it has meant.

I’ll talk to you soon!

-Nate

The Magic Phrase That Would Stop War

“I don’t blame you one iota for feeling as you do. If I were you, I would undoubtedly feel just as you do.”

This is from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

He continues:

The only reason that you are not a rattlesnake is that your mother and father weren’t rattlesnakes. You deserve very little credit for being what you are, and remember the people who come to you irritated, bigoted, and unreasoning deserve very little discredit for being what they are. Feel sorry for the poor devils. Pity them. Sympathize with them. Say to yourself, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Three-fourths of the people you will ever meet are hungering and thirsting for sympathy. Give it to them and they will love you.

*

How can a society as advanced as ours remain so uncivilized? How can we be so content for hate to abound?

If we spent one tenth of the amount of time trying to understand other people as we do trying to reinforce ourselves, we would have a drastically different America. As it is, we are addicts—always chasing another hit of affirmation to make us feel okay and secure.

Some talk about civil war like it would be a good thing—like we could get the results of it without seeing our sons and daughters die. We think that’s possible because of the environment we’ve been raised in. Few who love ordering steaks would be willing to see the cow upside down in the slaughterhouse, its blood running on the floor like a river.

Imagine implying something so foolish as being willing to kill your neighbors when you’ve never even asked them why they feel the way they do.

Incidents of the war. A harvest of death, Gettysburg, PA. Dead Federal soldiers on battlefield. Negative by Timothy H. O’Sullivan. Positive by Alexander Gardner.

What if we sought growth as much as reinforcement? What if instead of denigrating those who see things differently, we listened to their story? What if in our zeal to do anything for our country we were bold enough to do the task we most dread—change our minds.

The problem is, understanding takes effort and time and we’re lazy and in a hurry. “You’re what’s wrong with our country” feels better and is faster than, “Thanks for sharing your perspective. Just so I can understand, can you explain this part? I haven’t heard that yet and would love to learn more.” Who has time for that?

*

America will never be uniform in its ideologies and policies. There will never be a day when all problems are solved. But there can be a day, and it could be as soon as tomorrow, when understanding fills our interactions, when sympathy is extended as a habit, and when we fight for service and brotherhood instead of fighting for our own way. The day could come when our rally cry is no longer “this is MY America” but “this is OUR America”—a day when we are most troubled, not that the world around us is changing, but that voices around us remain unheard. A day when, for the first time in our history, we truly see liberty and justice for all.

Our problem is widespread, but the only place change can happen is in the minds of individuals. Some of the most powerful and disarming words you could say are, “I may be wrong.” They are also some of the most truthful.

*

I’ll leave you with the often quoted but never worn out prayer attributed to St. Francis.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

7 Life Hacks That Aren’t Hacks At All

1. Document your life. – Spend no more time wondering how to keep a journal, searching for methods, or reading reviews on notebooks and digital note apps, just write. Write something down about this day, then do the same thing tomorrow, then the next day. Don’t tell yourself you need to start at the first of the year, or the month, or the week. Start on a random Thursday, and don’t stop.

I have written something about every day in my personal journal since October, 2012, and there is likely not a day that I wouldn’t remember if I read it. How did the habit start in my case? By writing a few bullet points about the day and nothing else.

Example (fictitious):

2015-11-05 – Saturday

  • Had lunch with John at Cracker Barrel.
  • Worked on Project until my computer broke and I had to fix it all afternoon.
  • Walked through the neighborhood and spent time reading Mark Twain before bed.

2015-11-06 – Sunday

  • Sunday dinner with Megan’s family.
  • Cowboys lost to the Eagles.
  • Talked to Bart on the phone before bed.

That’s all you need to remember a day when you’re getting started, especially if it’s surrounded by simple data points from other days. Start small and sustainable.

Nothing is as satisfying as looking back over a whole year and knowing how you spent your time.

(That’s one purpose of a journal. Another and significant purpose is to express emotions and quiet your mind. Do this as needed, but burn when done.)

2. Take time to reflect. – Once you document your life, stop and look at it. Are you spending your time like you want to? Many of us remain sedated in the rhythm of life and are afraid to take inventory. There is no more healthy thing you can do than to stop and ask if you’re doing now what you will want to have done. 

A second major benefit is remembering the good. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to think of only the negative things and how unnatural to recall the positive? Gratitude brings happiness but takes effort.

3. Develop a tolerance for pain, discipline, and consistency. – When we google “how to lose weight,” we’re actually looking for shortcuts to results without discomfort. Focus on developing patience with the discomfort and you won’t need shortcuts. Modern living is convenient and makes us think we can accomplish amazing things without sweat, but it’s a lie. Resistance is built in to meaningful progress. It will never eradicated, so it should be embraced.

4. Develop an intolerance for pleasure, procrastination, and indifference. – We cut ourselves way too much slack. Those who are disciplined have learned to envision the consequences of inaction while they are still invisible. We don’t remember that we’re going to die, not acutely. We will run out of time, but daily life hums us to sleep and we forget. The feeling only arises at certain moments, like when the seasons change or on New Year’s Eve.

We don’t often consider that life can change, sometimes very quickly, and the easiest time to start on a thing might be now. We waste many days in a vague motion with no clear direction, and we can’t see how this will be bitter in the end. We’re like cars idling through neighborhoods, looking at Christmas lights, taking it as it comes, when we should be like the lead driver in the secret service—our routes are memorized, our destination is certain, and absolutely nothing matters more than getting there.

5. Always remember you don’t know the full story. – Always in such a hurry to judge situations, we forget the most basic truth: we don’t know everything. We don’t know what has made a person the way they are. We don’t know why the man on the side of the road is begging or why a person was rude to us on the phone or why we smiled and said a jovial “Take care!” to the cashier and she didn’t even look up at us. What if she buried a family member yesterday? Well then, she has the right to be distracted. Every time you feel the judging instinct rise up (and if you’re like me, this is often), remember that you don’t know the full story.

6. Assume people know more than you. – Which also means expecting that they can teach you something. Think this about everyone, especially the people you’re prone to look down on or overlook. This is even helpful if your specific purpose is to teach the person. Knowledge is attractive when shared in humility.

7. Appreciate your friends for what they are. – Don’t make them what they aren’t. Don’t withhold yourself from them because they don’t fully fit your preference. One friend might be really good at certain kinds of conversations you like, but you may have another kind of conversation you don’t relate on. Don’t throw them away because of the part you don’t enjoy.

20 Random and Interesting Things

  1. How long exactly is the present?
  2. Scientists estimate that there are, in the known universe, 10,000 stars per grain of sand in the world.
  3. There are more atoms in a single grain of sand than stars in the universe. (Source for 2 & 3.)
  4. The Fermi Paradox (the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations and various high estimates for their probability). 
  5. The fact that seasons changing always feels like a surprise despite it happening every year.
  6. John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States, born in 1790, has a living grandson. He had two living grandsons until one passed away in September, 2020.
  7. From this article: “When President Obama was born (1961), President Herbert Hoover was still alive (1874-1964). When Hoover was born, President Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) was still alive. When President Johnson was born, President John Adams (1735-1826) was still alive. And just like that, we’ve connected present day to the Founding Fathers.”
  8. Take a selfie and set a timer for 8 minutes. When the timer goes off, look at the picture to see what you were doing when the current sunlight coming through the window was just leaving the sun’s surface. 
  9. At night, while falling asleep, I’ve often realized I’m falling asleep, gotten excited about sleeping, and woken up from the excitement.
  10. The more fashionable your clothes are presently, the more foolish you feel later.
  11. “Phone” used to mean a rectangle on the wall moms and dads talked on sometimes. Now it’s a rectangle in their hands they tap on most of the day.
  12. Texarkana, TX is closer to Chicago, IL than to El Paso, TX.
  13. The Library of Babel. It’s a short story conceiving of a library that contains all possible combinations of words in books. Literally all. You can read the story here. There’s a digital simulation here. Go to the simulation, type in what happened to you last night at 10:00 PM, and there will be a book with the exact words in it. There will also be another passage somewhere in the library that reads the same way verbatim, except for one letter is different, and another where two letters are different, and so on. In fact, you can paste this paragraph in the search and it will be there.
  14. American slaves were enslaved much longer than they have been free. (The first documented birth of an African slave in America was in 1606. The slaves were declared free in 1865. That means slavery existed in pre-America/America for 259 years before freedom was declared, which was a mere 155 years ago.)
  15. The cicadas that hiss at the end of our summers are usually 2-5 years old by the time we hear them, though some species are as old as 17 years.
  16. Every book written before 1874 (or so) was written by hand, and many books for a long time afterward. That may be obvious, but in this digital age it’s also amazing. Legend has it that Tom Sawyer was the first book composed on a typewriter, but the story is debatable.
  17. Not only is all food and fuel brought to us on trucks, every material used in the construction of every building, and every item inside every room of every building was, at some point, on a truck—those annoying and loud road monsters that we hate driving next to. The exceptions to this are rare: Food you’ve grown in your own garden; things you’ve brought home straight from the factory in your car; anything else?
  18. Similar to #15, everything your eyes see that is not of nature was designed by someone, from the pattern of the bricks on the walls of your house to the fonts and colors on the menu of the fast food place down the street. Every pattern in every fabric, every cable, light bulb, door lock, lug nut, lampshade, shoe sole, spice label, logo, and cookbook—everything that is not naturally occurring was designed.
  19. People who are wrong often think the wrong thing with exactly as much force and commitment as those who are right. Is anyone wrong on purpose?
  20. Spoken language is gibberish, and written language mere scribbling, to which we attach ideas and meaning. It’s organized chaos that brings clarity.

Andromeda

Adam Evans, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve talked about the Andromeda Galaxy recently, but I will do so again with no apologies because I’m on a kick.

A fact I didn’t know until this year is that, apart from the Milky Way, there are 7 other galaxies visible to the naked eye in our night sky in the right conditions.

Here’s what the Andromeda Galaxy might look like with the naked eye in a very dark place.

ESO/B. Tafreshi, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

My eyes have seen many things. A man urinating on the sidewalk in Chicago; a burnt piece of toast; a toenail under a church pew. I feel I’ve been robbed to not know until just now that I could use those same eyes to see a galaxy of a trillion stars hovering in the midnight like an accidental paint smear.

Check out this image the Hubble telescope captured.

This image, captured with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the largest and sharpest image ever taken of the Andromeda galaxy — otherwise known as M31. This is a cropped version of the full image and has 1.5 billion pixels. You would need more than 600 HD television screens to display the whole image. It is the biggest Hubble image ever released and shows over 100 million stars and thousands of star clusters embedded in a section of the galaxy’s pancake-shaped disc stretching across over 40 000 light-years. This image is too large to be easily displayed at full resolution and is best appreciated using the zoom tool.

Zoom around on the full resolution here (better on a computer).

Someone made a video on YouTube panning around the image, and watching it will threaten to crush your soul.

Comments under the video I appreciate:

Imagine someone in Andromeda is watching “Gigapixels of Milkyway [4K]”

Then I remind myself that the distance between any 2 of those points of lights needs to be measured in LIGHT YEARS!

I don’t know which is more terrifying to grasp: (1) the number of stars or (2) the volume empty space surrounding them.

There’s probably some huge galactic war we have no clue about

In 2021, NASA will be launching Hubble telescope’s big brother, James Webb Space Telescope. What will it reveal?

*

What does this mean for us? Why does it make my soul tremble with awe? Some see the image and wonder how people could ever doubt God’s existence. Others look and wonder why God would make so much just to impress a tiny species on a nearly invisible speck of dust called earth and then remain hidden (or allow that impression) when they suffer.

Whatever the truth is, it’s absolutely spellbinding.