NC Weekly 12: Take the open road – How framing pushes us forward

(Note: This post was initially published as part of my newsletter. )

Cheers from lake Trasimeno, Italy.

I’m spending a few days chilling with family and basically not doing any work for the first time in almost a year. It feels good to detach and take some real time to think, meditate and experience a new place, especially when it looks like this…

I’ll try to keep this letter sweet and to the point, so I can stop being the loner at the laptop and join the others, but I wanted to share something I’ve discovered recently.

Poetry.

Duh, I know, I wasn’t listening in school. It just sounded boring and too abstract for my taste.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned lately is to keep my eyes and ears open to advice from people who know their shit. So I asked around and got some advice.

 

Thanks to Timothy at Precursor Poets, I started reading some of Whitman’s poetry and I love it. Tip: always revisit what you hate after a few years. New learnings bring with them new perspectives.

A poem that got my attention, maybe because it relates to this moment in time, the uncertainty and all, was Song of the Open Road. It’s 15 parts but the first resonates a lot:

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.

The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)

In times like these I think it’s important to acknowledge that we are in control, if not of our environment or of our society, at least of ourselves. Even if you don’t believe you’re in control and the future is doomed (like someone I’ve had a discussion with recently), I think it’s still useful to at least try and focus on something you can control.

Like your ability to learn something, to read, to exercise, to share positive things with others, to avoid social media and the news as much as possible (or to use them wisely) and so on.

Even the simple but fundamental fact of not knowing everything, actually gives you control on what you know a bit more about.

We choose our frame of mind

“The last time I was intimidated was when I was 6 years old in karate class. I was an orange belt and the instructor ordered me to fight a black belt who was a couple years older and a lot bigger. I was scared s–less. I mean, I was terrified and he kicked my ass. But then I realized he didn’t kick my ass as bad as I thought he was going to and that there was nothing really to be afraid of. That was around the time I realized that intimidation didn’t really exist if you’re in the right frame of mind.”
JULY 24, 2020

The best thing about Whitman’s poem is that he chooses his own frame of mind even considering the road in front of him is completely unknown and open to potential chaos. He is his own good fortune. He creates his own luck.

He even says he doesn’t hope to reach the stars, he’s content with what he has. This includes being content with his own demons, his delicious burdens.

If this is not a good framework to get off our asses and start doing something with our own lives, even when the world is a mess, I don’t know what it is.

If you are healthy and can express your free will, all you have to do is to take on the open road. Be curious, be content with what you have, keep your feet on the ground, embrace discomfort and accept your past – as it is, not as you wish it would have been.

That’s all for today. I’ll go back to exploring this beautiful place and to reading more, because I don’t know shit, but I have control of what I do to make up for it.


Here are this week’s top finds:

Written

The damage we’re not attending to

  • A really interesting and thought provoking article about the real crisis we’re facing, a complexity crisis. Good reminder about how reality is way more complex than what we think and about all the tradeoffs we constantly make for our simplifications.

Audio

Joshua Hyslop

  • Some good old folk music to keep you company in your thinking and writing or ideating sessions.

Video

Nietzsche and the Will to Power

  • Interesting concept I’ve encountered after watching the TV show “The sinner” (season 3). I definitely have to learn more about this. Love how Nietzsche saw every concept as a subjective interpretation and never accepted anything as a total truth.

Have a great week!

Chris