February 17, 2022
 min read

Mind Macros 04: The search for meaning, procrastination aiding creativity, and selective knowledge

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Hello, friend.

Welcome to another issue of Mind Macros - I hope you find something of value.

Food for Thought

1. Dr Viktor Frankl's three main directions for meaning

“I. By doing something, by acting, by creating—by bringing a work into being.

"II. By experiencing something—nature, art—or loving people.

"III. Human beings are able to find meaning even where finding value in life is not possible for them in either the first or the second way—namely, precisely when they take a stance toward the unalterable, fated, inevitable, and unavoidable limitation of their possibilities: how they adapt to this limitation, react toward it, how they accept this fate. In the course of life, human beings must be prepared to change the direction of this fulfillment of meaning, often abruptly, according to the particular ‘challenges of the hour.’” — From Yes to Life by Viktor Frankl

Dr Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor and the founder of logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy that explores meaning as the core motivational force in humans.

Frankl lost his parents, pregnant wife, brother, and life's work during his three years of imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps. These experiences influenced his work on meaning.

In light of Frankl’s story, the following quotation becomes more significant:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

2. Creativity involves procrastination

“'Creativity requires going slowly, pausing, even procrastinating. That allows ideas to marinate,’ Leonardo explained. Intuition needs nurturing. ‘Men of lofty genius sometimes accomplish the most when they work least,’ he told the duke, ‘for their minds are occupied with their ideas and the perfection of their conceptions, to which they afterwards give form.’” — From Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Creativity is an unconscious activity that takes place when we direct our attention elsewhere. But some conscious thought is necessary for the ideation process to take place. We need to be exploring, collecting data, pursuing our curiosity, and then following these activities with a period of rest. At this stage, the unconscious mind takes over and begins working.

Because of incubation, connections form in the unconscious. Incubation is the process of letting ideas, knowledge, and thoughts marinate. Our unconscious mind explores options during this time, like a computer program running in the background. When a piece of information connects with another, we have an idea that's transferred into our consciousness. The result is often a moment of insight or sudden clarity, when in reality, our mind has been continuously working on this problem in the background.

Practical Advice

1. How setting goals can restrict growth

“You eliminate your ability to grow as a person because you are limiting that growth to what is in the best interests of the person you happen to be right now, and not the person you will become.

“You can’t plan out how everything in your life will play out. But you can think in terms of creating the conditions in which things will likely move in certain directions: the conditions that allow for the possibility of rich growth.” — From The Path by Michael Puett

We base goals on our current desires, but why should our past constrain our future? Instead of dogmatically pursuing a goal, we could walk paths that allow different sides of our personalities to grow. By doing so, we lay the foundation for our future. While goals are fixed, paths are messy, allowing for exploration.

Alternatively, we could continue to set goals while reviewing them regularly to ensure they are still relevant. We might do this as part of a periodic review, checking that our goals align with our desires.

Don’t be afraid of dropping an old goal to pursue a new one. To succeed, we must know when to change our focus while ensuring we are not simply giving up when things get tough.

2. Sherlock Holmes on the significance of selective knowledge

“I consider that a man’s brain is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.

A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it.

​Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic.

​He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order.

​It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent.

​There comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before.

​It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.” — From A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

The world is awash in information. One study from 2011 found that if we transferred all the information on Earth to CDs and stacked them on top of one another, they would reach beyond the moon.

The same data stored in books would spread over every square inch of the United States, 13 layers high.

If a single star is equal to a byte of information, then there is a galaxy of data for each individual on Earth. This number is equivalent to 315 times the number of grains of sand on our planet.

The study above based its statistics on 295-billion gigabytes of data, the amount we had accumulated by 2011.

In 2021, 74-trillion gigabytes of information were generated, 250 times more than the 2011 study estimated we had produced since the advent of the digital format. That works out to 202-billion gigabytes of data created every day in 2021.

We are now creating enough information every year that, if burned to CDs and stacked, it would extend 60-million miles farther than the moon.

​Quotes to Ponder

1. Epictetus on accepting our fate by becoming malleable:

“Do not wish that all things will go well with you, but that you will go well with all things.”

2. Lao Tzu’s rules for life:

“Live in a good place. Keep your mind deep. Treat others well. Stand by your word. Make fair rules. Do the right thing. Work when it’s time.”

​Thank you for reading,

Matthew Vere

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