Sit back and watch the garden of my thoughts grow!
signifies that a thought has either sprouted, or grown in size.
means that a thought has wilted and is no longer present in the garden.
Hi hi! Welcome to my digital garden!
This is a place for growth, casual exploration, and sharing about thoughts that I think would be helpful to others.
I had the idea to create a writing website where a single page would perpetually grow in size as you added more articles. I was thinking that the articles were formatted with boxes laid in a mosaic layout, sort of like how a newspaper is laid out. But then I had this idea along with the concept of a digital garden, put two and two together, and now this page exists as a result. Look at all of these plant boxes!
This is definitely not going to be a daily thing. There are seasons where plants may not grow, and there are times when plants thrive and I have a lot of thoughts to share. Some thoughts may grow big and strong; some may wilt away, never to be seen again, or they may serve as fertilizer for the next thought that may take its place. Some thoughts may even grow to the point where I can harvest them and they get their own separate page in the writings section!
The mentality of this section is essentially "I post whatever I want, whenever I want". It may be an interesting space, it may not. Heck, this section could shut down at any time if I think it has lost its purpose. We shall see. Time will tell.
The world doesn't owe you anything. Not recognition, attention, or even respect.
But you're here for a purpose higher than yourself, and that's more lasting than anything the world can ever give.
To give to others, but not expecting anything back: that is true charity. To always expect something back merely turns everything into a business transaction.
To temper my own ego, I always say these words to myself:
No matter how much you accomplish, how smart you are, or how talented you are: those things don't make you a good person.
Objective intelligence or skill doesn't equate to moral good. Some of the most intelligent people in the world are war criminals, serial killers, and the like. Don't mistake intelligence and talent for being a good individual.
And despite that, this is great news! Why? Because everyone has the capacity to do good. It's not barred by a paywall, or lack of IQ. If you're lacking everything, you have this one talent: to do good, to yourself and unto others.
To quote Marcus Aurelius:
"No one could ever accuse you of being quick-witted.
Alright, but there are plenty of other things you can't claim you 'haven't got in you'. Practice the virtues you can show: honesty, gravity, endurance, austerity, resignation, abstinence, patience, sincerity, moderation, seriousness, high-mindedness.
Don't you see how much you have to offer--beyond excuses like 'can't'? And yet you still settle for less."
Meditations, Book 5, 5.
As a continuation of the idea of creating even if no one is watching, I found three quotations that Seneca shared with his friend Lucilius through one of his letters:
"'To me,' says Democritus, 'a single man is a crowd, and a crowd is a single man.'
Equally good is the answer given by the person, whoever it was (his identity is uncertain), who when asked what was the object of all the trouble he took over a piece of craftsmanship when it would never reach more than a very few people, replied: 'A few is enough for me; so is one; and so is none.'
The third is a nice expression used by Epicurus in a letter to one of his colleagues. 'I am writing this,' he says, 'not for the eyes of the many, but yours alone: for each of us is audience enough for the other.'
... The many speak highly of you, but have you really any grounds for satisfaction with yourself if you are the kind of person the many understand? Your merits should not be outward facing."
Letters from a Stoic, Letter VII
I realize that our thoughts are like food: they are meant to be savoured, expanded upon, and if important, are stored in a place where it will last.
To expand on this food metaphor: people don't carry all of the food in their household on themselves; they'll just start dropping them, or it'll decay and wear away as a result of their travels. They can't eat it all at once, either; it'll hinder their mobility and ruin their health in the process. It's best to store most of your food in the refrigerator, but there are some snacks which are handy to carry around with you to munch on during the day.
Same thing with our thoughts. If a thought pops up and it is of significance, write it down. Find some deep message or something worthy to contemplate upon during the day, and expand on it. Integrate it as a part of your thinking, and it'll slowly assimilate into your thought process, and suddenly many of life's decisions become very clear.
We don't put enough thoughts into storage, and then we start forgetting ideas, dropping insights to the floor. Our memory is good, impeccible even, but don't count on it. The moment a thought is out of conscious space, who knows when it will be fished out. And it certainly won't be coming out when you need it most.
To miss the target is failure for a moment. To have no target at all is failure for life.
People become what you accuse them of being. In the same vein, you become what you accuse yourself of being.
Now that is frightening.
A sacrifice which I realize every single master has taken: in trying to become the very best, they risk alienating themselves from everyone else. They know that people will become envious, people will hate them from the sheer fact that they even dared to try improving themselves.
This is something that I knew I had to cope with in trying to push my abilities: a small minority of people are going to try and take me down, for no other reason than envy. Since I'm also naturally accommodating, this frightened me beyond belief. But I had to understand that there's a point where if I don't detach from these people, then we're all going to fall down together into the abyss.
Envy is often the response to having our insecurities being shown to us by another person who lacks said insecurities. There's two paths to go from there: either respect, admiration, and aspiration, or attempt to take the person down in bitterness. Envy doesn't bring you up, it just attempts to take everyone down to your level.
Envy also results from wanting a person's fruits of labour, but not willing to put any work to get there. I think the emphasis on the results rather than the process just exacerbates this issue further. People want to become masters at various types of things without knowing or even bearing what it takes to get to that level.
For example, look at a large majority of lottery winners: they often squander their earnings because they don't know how much effort there is in managing one's finances to get to that level of wealth without winning the lottery. And so they often end up back where they started: without money, and even worse: having to deal with knowing that they had won the lottery and yet still managed to become broke. Now that is impressive. Impressive in the egregious sense.
"Work which remains permeated with the play attitude is art."
~ John Dewey
Pleasure is fleeting, but learning is forever.
"How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?"
And what is best for ourselves is often something that will hurt. A lot. Don't mix what is best for what is most pleasurable; a great error in judgment, but an error that people too often make.
"Who does not willingly exchange health, tranquility, and life itself for reputation and glory—the most useless, worthless, and counterfeit coin that circulates among us?"
~ Michel de Montaigne, Of Solitude (1580)
I have realized that any sort of system implementing "upvotes" or "likes" is a detriment to people's creativity in general, even something as small as Neocities' liking system.
Truthfully, it can influence people to create or not create content, even if it isn't so obvious. It's insidious in that way. And having the power to influence people in that way makes me sick to my stomach. I honestly don't want people to stop creating things that they like to make just because I didn't click the "like" button.
So I was faced with a decision: either keep liking everyone's posts, or stop liking things entirely. And I chose the latter option. I rather just disregard the system entirely rather than disingenuously liking something that I honestly didn't really "like" per se.
I still look through and read everyone's stuff, but I don't want to intrude upon the creative process as a result of a petty system of validation. It may not affect one's viewership as a whole (unlike Instagram let's say), but it still weighs heavy on our mind regardless.
Create content that you think is worth sharing, regardless of the followers and the likes that you get. That is all.
I sincerely believe that everyone can master a skill that they've always wished to be good at. Everyone has that capacity, without a doubt. There's more than enough time to master at least one skill that one has always dreamed of, and even more.
It's just that we're mastering the wrong things. Really, we're already masters at a lot of things, it's just a matter of what we've mastered.
Some are masters at art, some in writing, music, design, sports, and many different things.
But a lot of people are masters at distracting themselves, amusing themselves, ruining their health, and even worse: sabotaging and lying to themselves.
The scary thing is that the more you do it, the better you're going to be at it. This does not only apply to the good things—harmful acts, too, will be reinforced. So not only are people getting better at their craft the more they do it, people are also getting better at ruining themselves the more they do it.
It's not like we're doomed if we didn't start early, both in working on a skill and ceasing to damage ourselves. There's no such thing as "too late"—who gave you the timeframe to determine if you were late anyway? Every present moment is an opportunity to start fresh. To think that you've missed the bus, that you've missed your chance to finally improve yourself, is possibly one of the greatest deceptions that we tell ourselves every day.
Like all habits, neglecting a skill will make your brain prune neurons relating to said skill, and eventually it'll be so weak that it's essentially non-existent. This holds both for positive skills and also the damaging things that we do to ourselves.
A good way to frame damaging habits: instead of treating it like a "stain" that will forever mark your entire being, think of it like feeding a caged, but very dangerous animal. Stop feeding it, and the "animal", the primal instincts, will eventually die. But constantly feeding it will make it grow bigger and bigger...
...until it breaks out of the cage and it takes you out for good. Not only you, but everyone else around you as well. It's dangerous. Don't feed the wild animal.
Every action is training for mastery, but exactly what are we training for? What habits and skills are we reinforcing?
"So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it."
~ Seneca, On the Shortness of Life
When a rock is thrown into the air, it goes down at the same speed at which it was thrown up.
The same goes for fame. And for a lot of things, really.
As a very impulsive person, I realize that it's less about how fast you get somewhere, but rather how long you're willing to stick to the path. Because really, there's no "somewhere" to get to. Life is a road trip, not a drag race. Using all the juice in the tank right from the get go will lead to both fast improvement and instantaneous burnout. I've had my fair share of that, definitely.
The times when I focus more on endurance, and making activities sustainable in the long term were my most happiest, because I was still making progress, even if it was step by step. It's definitely better than going hardcore for a month and then dropping off the face of the planet for a year. Unbridled enthusiasm just makes one liable to get too carried away.
"To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you, and you alone, what matters is the process: the experience of shaping that artwork. The viewers' concerns are not your concerns (although it's dangerously easy to adopt their attitudes.) Their job is whatever it is: to be moved by art, to be entertained by it, to make a killing off it, whatever. Your job is to learn to work on your work."
Art & Fear
"Someone despises me.
That's their problem.
Mine: not to do or say anything despicable.
Someone hates me. Their problem.
Mine: to be patient and cheerful with everyone, including them. Ready to show them their mistake. Not spitefully, or to show off my own self-control, but in an honest, upright way. ..."
Meditations, Book 11, 13.
Is it not the most tragic thing for someone to grow in fame while sacrificing their growth as an individual?
Take them away from the spotlight, and they're suddenly reduced to nothing.
Don't wait for life to make a move, because it likely won't. And if life does make a move, it's almost always something catastrophic, to get you to start moving.
If you wait for the perfect opportunity to start living, then your entire life will only consist of you waiting for the perfect opportunity. Because it will never come. And even if it did, how would you know?
It's not like I'm any better either. There are so many things I wish I could have done sooner: I wish I took drawing more seriously as a child, read more books, write more things, picked up an instrument, not played so many games, etc. I have many regrets despite my age.
But now is not the time for regret. Regret is often the catalyst of the downward spiral: regret leads to resignation, which leads to more regret, which inevitably leads to regret manifested in reality: self-destruction.
A chinese proverb has spoken thus: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
Boundaries are very important in a lot of things: productivity, health, creative work, social interactions, and more.
An illustration: a sandbox is not a sandbox without boundaries, and sandboxes are naturally a playful environment to experiment in and to mess around. Boundaries help keep things inside the box, and it allows people to work creatively under limitations. Same thing with work: blocking a limited time for a certain task will make you use your time better. Boundaries are a healthy thing—a necessity, even.
Remove the boundaries of the sandbox and now it's no longer a sandbox: it's a desert, the most barren of wastelands you could possibly think of. To remove boundaries just makes you more likely to push things too far, resulting in burnout, illness, and many other ailments. Without boundaries, even the things which are deemed "good" can be extremely dangerous.
It's important to know when to push yourself, but it's just as important to know when to stop. Because if you don't stop, your body will do it for you, and it won't be done in a pretty manner.
"Your life can end way before your death—all it takes is to go on autopilot."
~ Nathaniel Drew
Inspiration does not occur until you know what you're capable of. So often you must start working before inspiration even shows itself.
And to think that you're not capable of anything is a lie. Are seeds deemed incapable to grow when they are not even in the ground? Plant them first and see what happens.
An amusing conversation from Epictetus' Discourses and Selected Writings:
'I made my decision,' he said.
'Yes, but what drove you to it? Look, if it is the right decision, we are ready to sit by your side and help you make the passage. But if it was a reckless decision, it should be open to change.'
'But we must stick with a decision.'
'For heaven's sake, man, that rule only applies to sound decisions.'
"There is no enjoying the possession of anything valuable unless one has someone to share it with."
Letters from a Stoic, Letter VI
Attempting to bend time to your will leads only to frustration. Try to slow down time, and it only speeds up. Try to speed up time, and our perception of it will slow down to a crawl.
Live in the present.
I realize that a lot my time is wasted just mindlessly browsing stuff.
How often is the content that crosses my eye intentionally searched for? Most of the time it just gets spoonfed to me through some algorithm and it just spirals into a descent of madness as I start mindlessly scrolling, scrolling...
I think it's best for me to cut down on these algorithmic "feeds" and instead reduce all content streams to a mere search bar. That way, if I'm truly looking for some information I'll actively go search it out, rather than just overloading my brain with things which algorithms think I will find interesting. And they are interesting, but inherently useless to me.
If I really want to make progress in things which matter, trash all of the other stuff which just gets in the way, and that's like 95% of everything that gets shoved down my throat. I need to stop muddying the waters and let everything settle down. Be still.
I am thinking about reducing my smartphone to where I have all the tools that I need but remove everything else. Like, I don't "need" a web browser on my phone. Honestly, a lot of things that are searched up out of habit can be solved if you just think for like a good minute. I often find solutions to things if I just used the time to use my brain than search things up instantly. And if I do need to search something, just jot a note and check it later on my computer.
It's just because the world makes everything so urgent. Why such the rush? Many things can wait. And yet the things that we put off are the things which can't wait. How ironic.
Learning has become backwards: people aim for the result rather than devoting themselves to learning and mastering their craft.
Results are still important: why else do we work so hard for it? But it's best to detach, and learn from the results like a scientist, as an outside observer.
Failed the first time around? Well, look at all of the possible factors that led to said failure, and adapt accordingly. A scientist seeks for the truth, not whether their grand experiment will yield the results they expect, because more often than not it doesn't. We wouldn't even characterize that as failure—we would call that progress.
The same should be with ourselves. With every stumble, we know where to not step the next time around. To lament the fact that we stumbled just leads us to be afraid of taking any more steps forward. It paralyzes us, and we end up stagnating.
We should treat results as feedback, not a reflection of who we are. To put too much of our self-worth on a single result, whether you win or lose, is setting ourselves up to let reality collapse right on top of us. Those whose life revolve around "winning" or being a "winner" is going to find something that will shatter their entire conception of reality sooner or later.
This is not to say that it's easy to adopt this mindset. It's not. We still feel the sting of failure, regardless of how we think about it. The world for the longest time has revolved around this idea of results: our survival depended on it. But with all of these more abstract callings, results start taking a back seat towards the goal of excellence and mastery.
Not to discredit results completely, but knowing how to use it in a way which promotes growth, not demoralizing us to the point where we just give up.
"Everything that is beautiful in any way is beautiful in itself, and its beauty is self-contained. Praise is not a part of it; nothing is made better or worse by being praised."
Meditations, Book 4, 20.
A good thing to keep in mind: there’s no point in life where you can compare yourself with someone else and cannot help feel discontent.
There’s always someone out there who will be better than you at X, Y, or Z, no matter what you are doing. The odd thing is that we sometimes take everyone’s strengths, combine them all to make this seemingly impossible amalgamation of a superhuman, and we compare ourselves to that.
As an example, say I'm good at X, but person A isn't. But person A may be good at Y and Z, and there's another person B who's good at X, so I end up combining persons A and B to create a fictional person C, who is good at X, Y and Z, and I end up comparing myself to that. There's just no escaping discontentment if I expand that to literally every human being in the world and compare myself to a "human" who is good at everything and has everything. No such human being even exists.
Comparison just makes us discontent no matter where we are in life, and it's not even productive. Why do we do it then?
If you wait for beauty to
it may, a time or two,
half dozen or so
over the winding course
of your life. If you
choose to find it on your own,
will never have time
~ Tyler Knott Gregson
"Learn to ask of all actions, 'Why are they doing that?'
Starting with your own."
Meditations, Book 10, 37.