But what the gang was missing was a big vision beyond local turf wars. A few weeks before I met them, they had decided to convert as a whole to “Islam,” which they were drawn to because they understood it to be the enemy of the “system,” as they also saw themselves to be. Crucially, they were attracted to the idea that this “Islam” would allow them to continue carrying out street robberies, break-ins and extortion of other local gangs with the added benefit of association with a movement that was fighting Western forces on the world stage. The money their activities brought in was used to buy time in recording studios to further their ambitions to become rap artists.
This is the type of thing that led me to spend so much time working on theories about what motivates people. Super interesting… Al Qaeda’s New Front: Jihadi Rap - Amil Khan - POLITICO Magazine
The view of “grammar” as “you must learn the rules or else be ostracized” just makes grammar no fun at all! Studying language—really digging into it, uncovering its remarkably complex yet orderly structure, investigating what makes it different across speakers and communities—is SUPER FUN! Giving people a list of rules of things to do in order to not be criticized is NOT FUN! I want my students to think language is FUN, and to have FUN thinking about language!
Forcing yourself to think inside other people’s boxes is hard work. You literally have to retrain the brain’s pattern recognition system. You have to open yourself to whole new ways of seeing (to borrow John Berger’s phrase). But, in the end, these constraints will actually sharpen your talent—a point well made by brothers Dan and Chip Heath, the bestselling authors of Made to Stick, in the pages of Fast Company: “Don’t think outside the box. Go box shopping. Keep trying on one after another until you find the one that catalyzes your thinking. A good box is like a lane marker on the highway. It’s a constraint that liberates.”
On the ‘two phases’ of creative careers: Why Creatives Fail: The Difficulties Of Staying Innovative For An Entire Career
via @jurgenappelo
I mean, the thing about the church is, what I learned early — they used to say this when I was going to church. They used to say, “Don’t go up there for no form or fashion.” So I guess what that means is, “Listen, we’re up here singing for the Lord. So don’t be up here trying to be cute,” you know. “Cause we don’t care about all that. We just want to feel what you, you know, and what the spirit is moving through you.” And it’s the best place to learn that. So you shut yourself down and you let whatever’s coming, come through you.

D’Angelo via http://www.npr.org/blogs/MicrophoneCheck/2014/05/23/314883957/dangelo-im-trying-to-go-deep

I like this. I feel like most people who get in front of people with a guitar or whatever are putting on an act. I see them suddenly get all artificially intense. Maybe I do this too. But they’re acting like someone else — like what a musician is “supposed to” act like — not themselves. But if you *try* to act like yourself there’s not really a self there. Your self is just something you are, not something you act like or aim for or even “know.” We need to not think about ourselves in order to be ourselves. When you stop trying to emulate some abstract idea of yourself, it clears the way for more natural feelings and actions to come through (although at first this might feel “unnatural” because it’s unfamiliar). I’m not religious, but I’m not anti-religious. I like this notion of thinking about channeling spirit as a way to get away from imitating others and pretending to channel your “true self,” which is no less a matter of faith. “So you shut yourself down and let whatever’s coming, come through you.”

We cannot wipe the slate clean. Neither, however, are we powerless to loosen the stranglehold of constraint embodied in the established practices and institutions of society as well as in the practiced dogmas of culture. We can change the relation between repetition and novelty in our collective experience, using the repetitions, embodied in standard practices and machines, to facilitate what does not yet lend itself to repetition. We can make the passage from our framework-preserving to our framework-transforming activities more continuous. By so doing, we can diminish the dependence of change on calamity…. the history that shapes us becomes something we do rather than something we suffer.

Roberto Mangabeira Unger, The Self Awakened (2007). p. 129-30.

There are a lot of similarities between this book and my own work, notably the way time is appreciated as something essential to any theory of life, not just something that comes along after life’s set up and ready to go. The similarities and differences are interesting. It’s also getting me a little re-energized, looking at some of my ideas in a different light…

A couple of times a year I make myself a tape to play in the car, a tape full of all the new songs I’ve loved over the previous few months, and every time I finish one I can’t believe that there’ll be another. Yet there always is, and I can’t wait for the next one; you only need a few hundred more things like that, and you’ve got a life worth living.
I’m having a nice time with Nick Hornby’s Songbook at the moment.
What is essential in him is that he should have a real thirst for such knowledge—a thirst which will make him restless till satisfied; the thirst that will make him blind to the world and its enjoyments. He should be, in short, fired with or desire for emancipation. To such a one, there is nothing dearer than the accomplishment of this object. A true lover will risk his very life to gain union with his beloved like Tulasîdâs. A true lover will see everywhere, in every direction, in every tree and leaf, in every blade of grass his own beloved. The whole of the world, with all its beauties, is a dreary waste in his eyes, without his beloved. And he will court death, fall into the mouth of a gaping grave, for the sake of his beloved. The student whose heart burns with such intense desire for union with Paraṃâtmâ, is sure to find a teacher, and through him he will surely find Him It is a tried experience that Paraṃâtmâ will try to meet you half way, with the degree of intensity with which you will go to meet Him. Even He Himself will become your guide, direct you on to the road to success, or put you on the track to find a teacher, or lead him to you.
Summing up, “learning is personal” refers to my strong belief that we should all be personally responsible for what we know (and what we don’t); “knowledge is social” refers to my strong belief that all of that knowledge should be shared and improved through conversation, and especially in writing (e.g. on blogs); “truth is an adventure” refers to my strong belief that ultimately the process of learning and dialog is worthwhile in itself.
Revisiting this mantra lately » Learning is Personal, Knowledge is Social, Truth is an Adventure
The tragic truth is that it is all too easy to express empathy when we’re in comfortable situations and can opine about personal sacrifice without actually making any. And it isn’t hard to praise the power of reason when we’re not experiencing a moment of fevered temptation. Character building enterprises are hard work: learning about our failings can be painful; virtue often gets strengthened through trying experiences. If bookish environments aren’t integrated with this taxing personal path, moral improvement remains a fantasy disguised by beautiful lip service.
Keep On Tweeting, There’s No Techno-Fix For Incivility Or Injustice - Forbes
Pretty nice except for the damn bird.

Pretty nice except for the damn bird.

(Source: wardnate, via oofcat-deactivated20140205)