When Anais fell asleep in my arms this weekend, there was, luckily, an old New Yorker beside the recliner. I grabbed it with my free hand and greatly enjoyed David Brooks’s article, Social Animal. Here is a long lovely closing passage.
â€œI guess I used to think of myself as a lone agent, who made certain choices and established certain alliances with colleagues and friends,â€ he said. â€œNow, though, I see things differently. I believe we inherit a great river of knowledge, a flow of patterns coming from many sources. The information that comes from deep in the evolutionary past we call genetics. The information passed along from hundreds of years ago we call culture. The information passed along from decades ago we call family, and the information offered months ago we call education. But it is all information that flows through us. The brain is adapted to the river of knowledge and exists only as a creature in that river. Our thoughts are profoundly molded by this long historic flow, and none of us exists, self-made, in isolation from it.
â€œAnd though history has made us self-conscious in order to enhance our survival prospects, we still have deep impulses to erase the skull lines in our head and become immersed directly in the river. Iâ€™ve come to think that flourishing consists of putting yourself in situations in which you lose self-consciousness and become fused with other people, experiences, or tasks. It happens sometimes when you are lost in a hard challenge, or when an artist or a craftsman becomes one with the brush or the tool. It happens sometimes while youâ€™re playing sports, or listening to music or lost in a story, or to some people when they feel enveloped by Godâ€™s love. And it happens most when we connect with other people. Iâ€™ve come to think that happiness isnâ€™t really produced by conscious accomplishments. Happiness is a measure of how thickly the unconscious parts of our minds are intertwined with other people and with activities. Happiness is determined by how much information and affection flows through us covertly every day and year.â€
Technology is anything invented after you were born.Â Technology is anything that doesn’t work yet. I love these two half-comic definitions quoted by Kevin Kelly in this TED talk.
Paraphrasing Kelly: The real tricks are exploring the exploration. Technology is about better ways to evolve. The infinite game. A cosmic force begun at the big bang. It’s the expansion of options, possibilities, differences, freedoms. Technology wants a trillion zillion species individuals discovering differences. It’s a way of playing the game by playing all the games.
Every person here has an assignment. Your assignment is to spend your life discovering what your assignment is. That recursive nature is the infinite game. If you play that well, you’ll have other people involved so that that game extends and continues even when you’re gone.
That is the infinite game, and what technology is, is that medium in which we play that infinite game. And so I think we should embrace technology because it is an essential part of finding out who we are.
I love it. What a freeing view ofÂ technology. An assignment to discover.
After trying to crack Obama’s communications code, I’ve broken my philosophy down to the following five principles.
Truly believe in your cause: Nothing is more important than making and sharing great art, song.Â This year I need to make a great album, site, and share it with Austin (DC, New York, San Diego…) and the world.
Spread the word: I am a songwriter who cares about lyrics and poetry.Â Non-disposable words and a palette of folk, funk, soul, jazz, latin, rock and reggae. Everyday J making poetry pop.
Make it urgent: Countdown to the next album: 6 months.Â It’s been 4 years since my last album and I’ve got scads of unrecorded songs. I’ve been in Austin for 13 years and am almost completely unknown beyond my friends. The time is NOW! Make a great album, show, site. Get on the map in Austin, at the very least.
Give the power to the people: Solicit feedback and collaboration on everything I do.Â Create ways for fans to easily share with their friends. Be accessible to fans, creatively reward. Always offer clear opportunities for engagement.
Report from the front-line: Keep doing cool stuff, trying new things.Â Don’t sit around. Keep pioneering innovative approaches to writing and playing;Â bring your sketchbook, recorder, camera, and guitar and get some good footage for the folks that can’t be there live.