Photo credit: Sunset Girl
My head is my address. I live there, most of the time, alone.
Sometimes there are guests, but they’re usually only a few steps inside or peeking in through the window.
Introverts Anonymous, anyone?
I recently revisited an old blog post due to a renewed realization at how private the act of thinking is to an individual. I tend to rate thinking—solitary thinking and reflection—as the most sacred activity in our existence as human beings. No one can touch that space where a fountain of insights and creativity resides.
Thinking of the deepest kind is, by nature, lonely. And it is not a bad thing to be lonely in this sense. In fact, it is a necessity for the birth of individuality.
“Every human being, created in the image of God, is endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator—individuality, power to think and to do. The men in whom this power is developed are the men who bear responsibilities, who are leaders in enterprise, and who influence character. It is the work of true education to develop this power, to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men’s thought.” Ellen G. White in Education, p 17.
I sometimes go overboard with cherishing moments of contemplation. When an issue or situation perplexes me, I could ruminate silently for days. But out of this silence and solitude comes the most profound ideas that last a lifetime. Personal truths, as it were. The deeper the solitude, the stronger it is anchored to the soul.
Being a thinker and not a mere reflector of others’ thoughts is a lofty goal that requires utmost diligence. It involves iterations of asking, Whose voice is it that I’m hearing? Who are influencing my thoughts? Add knowledge, refine the mental model, reshape, reshape.
This, by definition, must be done alone. If anyone else does the work, then it ceases to be independent thinking. And if the power to think is foregone, identity will follow not far behind.
Photo credit: dryicons
Time is something fleeting that’s barely felt in the present. Things move and change in time, but in the present, they are often imperceptible because we, the observers, move along with them. Only when we “pause and reflect,” metaphorically taking ourselves out of the moving system, can we see the changes around us that are in fact pretty drastic.
The easiest example of this is observing a growing infant or toddler. The parents or siblings may not notice the height change as much as a distant relative who sees the child once a year. “Oh, he/she’s grown so much,” they say. The same changes, in proximity, are not as dramatic.
Since dramatic narratives are really appealing, I take quite a bit of pleasure doing the exercise of zooming out and observing things at a macro level. At this vantage point, storylines become larger than life. One of these exercises is studying timelines.
Timelines tell grand stories of how the world has altered. They can reveal things that may be imperceptible over years, decades, or even generations.
Usually, timelines are created for specific narratives, for example the timelines of U.S. presidents, American history, or the French Revolution, etc. While these are already fascinating, what fascinates me even more is overlaying these specific timelines into a more complete picture.
I call this the “vertical slice”—it’s when you have multiple timelines with time (e.g., year, centuries, etc.) as the horizontal axis, overlaid on top of each other do compared side-by-side, and you draw a vertical line at a particular time point. A different story then emerges. This vertical slice in time shows what things happened concurrently at a given point.
This is really a simple pivot in data visualization, but as data analysts know, merely inverting the x- and y- axis sometimes reveals different perspectives of the same data set. What’s amazing about data analysis these days is the technological advancement that allows more and more capabilities to tell stories out of complex data.
Back in 2011, I worked on several simple timelines that have continued to be the most visited posts on my old blog. Today, I’m about to embark on a fun data visualization project again. Along the way, I’m also trying to learn more about good principles of data visualization, so if you have recommendations on related books or resources, let me know!
Some TED Talks on data visualization:
When I look back to the time periods I’ve felt happiest, I’d say they are times when I am in intense pursuit of some goal—knowledge, skill, project, service, mission, etc. Before somebody lectures me about happiness vs. joy, I want to say that I am not talking about joy. I’m talking about happiness–excitement, exhilaration, smile-on-my-face happy.
These are the moments I’ve felt most alive, as if every cell in my body aligns to the same direction. There’s a reason to stay up late and wake up early, and everything else I do is more efficient so I can free up time for the pursuit.
Part of the fun is brainstorming with like-minded people, when one idea feeds another in a chain reaction, exploding to… something awesome. Or not. The ideas may totally tank. Regardless, the process is fun.
A pursuit has the ability to orient an entire life to a certain directionality. Everything counts; every moment is infused with a purpose. I can’t think of any better way to live.
It would be a sad day when one finds nothing else to pursue. It’s like being on top of the highest mountain and finding there is no other peak to climb. While the satisfaction may last a while, boredom will surface from a long-term state of sameness. And boredom is the opposite of happiness.
I’ve definitely experienced this unhappiness. The thought of resting and settling down a bit after a phase/pursuit ends is nice, but detrimental if prolonged. I’m not sure I can live without some kind of overarching pursuit.
The good thing is that there’s always something to pursue. Life is too big and too vast to run out of goals.
I’m writing this to remind myself to always live and strive for something—something good, something better.
What have you been doing pursuing lately?
P.S. This will be my next light read: The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life.