Archive of October 2016

Oct 28, 2016

There’s nothing new in the observation that perfectionism leads to procrastination, but too often we perfectionists are secretly proud of our affliction: we’re convinced that this time, finally, if we pulled out all the stops, we might get things exactly right. The bracing Gnostic response is: forget it. Creation is imperfect by definition; to bring something into being is unavoidably to screw it up. It’s not a question of “embracing failure”, but of seeing there’s no option but to embrace failure. I’m pretty sure the Gnostics didn’t intend it as motivational advice, but that’s the effect it has on me: it’s far easier to get things done, and to take interesting risks, if you’ve already failed. There’s no point worrying things might go wrong when they already have.

Oct 25, 2016

When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set.
— Lin Yutang, writer and translator (1895–1976)

Oct 14, 2016

All of which goes to show that external constraints aren’t antithetical to fun, but rather a precondition of it: a game with no limiting rules is no game at all. One curious consequence of this is that fun isn’t always, or even usually, pleasurable. Ask any serious player of chess, golf or video games, and they’ll concede it’s often a struggle – otherwise, why bother playing? Fun, from this perspective, isn’t a matter of enjoying yourself in the moment, but of looking back with satisfaction at having found creative new possibilities in whatever constraints you’re facing.