Category: Reading

Beyond the Book: Geek Sublime

Beyond the Book is a series of essays, each inspired by something I’ve read. This essay was inspired by Geek Sublime – Writing Fiction, Coding Software by Vikram Chandra.

Consider Hemingway’s 6 word story:

For sale:

Baby shoes. Never worn.

Look beyond the explicit, what do the words imply? How do they make us feel?

Words to a writer are the foundation of suggestion. Enough blocks are placed that the shape is implied, though not quite complete. We fill the gaps with snippets of our imagination, we make the story our own.

Imagination is unique, a construct of individual experience. We look within for meaning and then project it back on the words. We experience the narrative as an extension of ourselves, the protagonist is us in a different circumstance.

A story has as many connotations as it does readers. The story becomes our story.

Beyond the book: The World Beyond Your Head

Beyond the Book is a series of essays, each inspired by something I’ve read. This essay was inspired by The World Beyond Your Head: How to Flourish in an Age of Distraction by Matthew Crawford.

Those who have worked a “9-5” understand its implicit monotony. The daily commute. The weekly meetings. The crowded grocery store on the way home. We give “40 hours” to another, and then crave “me” time.

These mundane tasks are then burdened with frustration, they impose on our “me” time. We are enraged by the lady that cuts us off. We are annoyed at the amount of groceries the man in front of us is buying. We wish the pedestrian would walk faster through the crossing. We wonder why they didn’t think of me.

In a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace, we’re introduced to the idea of choosing the way we perceive situations. Perhaps the lady that cut us off was driving her dying son to the hospital. Perhaps the man with the groceries was buying food for a homeless shelter. Such sympathetic reconstructions are intended to sedate our emotions, though they they do not alter reality.

An alternate approach is to shift our attention from that which torments us. We’ve long used attentional diversion on children, why not on ourselves?

Find beauty in the moment and act upon it. Smile at someone. Jovially tell the lady at the checkout what you’re going to cook tonight. Dance to the music in the elevator. Create the reality you wish to exist.