June 22, 2010


Woody Allen said that eighty percent of success is showing up. I think that's about right. I'd say most of the other twenty percent is paying attention and being ready. The remainder consists of striking skillfully when an opportunity occurs, which itself only takes up a fraction of the overall time (although learning how to do that may take years).

One reason why I've been strip mining Thoreau's Walden these days is that I've really found some of the ideas he expresses to be of great value in trying to change things that need to be changed or preserve things that need to be preserved.

Here's a great line in a great passage. Because it's so good, I want to highlight the key line before the whole passage:

No method nor discipline can supercede the necessity of being forever on the alert.

Here's the rest of it:

What is a course of history, or philosophy, or poetry, now matter how well selected, or the best society, or the most admirable routine of life, compared with the discipline of looking always at what is to be seen? Will you be a reader, a student merely, or a seer? Read your fate, see what is before you, and walk on into futurity.

By way of qualification, I don't think this means being hyper vigilant all the time, which can be a kind of mania and is impossible in any case, but at the very least tracking things the way so many animals do, watching changes, observing trends, moving when appropriate.

I never throw a scrap of food into the yard without seeing a some chickens responding right away. Our lazy cats seem to zone out most of the time but tune right in when there's something to see. The goats notice the least little change. Dogs track motion. Maybe we'd be more successful in our undertakings if we were better animals.

GOOD FOR A LAUGH about something that isn't funny: here's Jon Stewart on America's endless quest for an energy policy. Thanks to Ken Ward at Coal Tattoo for including this link.

SOMETHING ELSE THAT ISN'T FUNNY. Here's an interesting blog post from the NY Times Economix about how people think about unemployment.

A HOLE IN THE WORLD. Here's Naomi Klein on the BP Gulf oil disaster.

SLIP-SLIDING AWAY? Here's Bob Herbert from the NY Times on missed opportunities for greatness.


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