Cull and Surrender

This clip from an NPR article, The Sad Beautiful Fact That We’re Going To Miss Almost Everything, resonated strongly with me. I feel like there are too many books to read in order to read them all.

Now, everything gets dropped into our laps, and there are really only two responses if you want to feel like you’re well-read, or well-versed in music, or whatever the case may be: culling and surrender.

Culling is the choosing you do for yourself. It’s the sorting of what’s worth your time and what’s not worth your time. It’s saying, “I deem Keeping Up With The Kardashians a poor use of my time, and therefore, I choose not to watch it.” It’s saying, “I read the last Jonathan Franzen book and fell asleep six times, so I’m not going to read this one.”

Surrender, on the other hand, is the realization that you do not have time for everything that would be worth the time you invested in it if you had the time, and that this fact doesn’t have to threaten your sense that you are well-read. Surrender is the moment when you say, “I bet every single one of those 1,000 books I’m supposed to read before I die is very, very good, but I cannot read them all, and they will have to go on the list of things I didn’t get to.”

I use the resolutions to indicate what I deem worth my time. One year it was science, history, and policy kinds of books. I wanted to enrich my thinking. This year I figured my background in books most people have read was still lacking, so I picked a list. I get lots of comments from others saying they either have or want to read these books, so it was a decent list.

At times, I choose to cull my life by removing activities which I find unnecessary distractions. Too much social activity weighs down on me to the point I get edgy and snap at the people around me. It disappoints people for me to pull away, but this is what is good for me. I’ve seen people similarly cull their Facebook friends list to limit it to positive people. We should do what is necessary to protect our sanity and allow us to achieve our goals.

Also, I have surrendered on some books. I just get bogged down in not having enough interest. There are plenty of other, better books I could be reading. I try not to beat myself up about surrendering on a book.

Georgia Performance Standards has a million words a year goal. “Chapter books average 250 words per page.” 1,000,000 words / 250 words/page = 4,000 pages. Also, at 100 words per minute, that is about a 167 hour investment in either learning or developing empathy. That is the equivalent of a couple university lectures.

Community

Are people in the United States more insular? Is technology getting in the way of us being able to communicate? Why is technology breaking up marriages according to NPR? The line which stood out to me is:

But opportunity is a key predictor of infidelity, and social media have increased opportunity exponentially.

Just 10 minutes before this aired on NPR, I was talking to George about my Dorm, Major, or Race post. The biggest factor as to the friends we make is opportunity. Kids going to a public K-12 school become friends with those in their neighborhood because that is who they are around all the time. Kids going to a college where they are unlikely to have easy access to high school friends means the kids become friends with those people they are around all the time. I proposed to George changes in who people consider their friends has more to do with where people spend time than a decrease in the need to be social.

Those of us who spend most of our time online will be friends with those people interact with online. Those of us who spend large amounts of time in coffee shops, bars, restaurants, or grocery stores get to know the other regulars and employees approximating friendship. Hobbyists getting together become friends precisely because they  spend so much time. Humans are social creatures so we spend time with others wherever we spend time. Even those isolated from the general public in prison develop ties with the other prisoners around them. Wherever we spend our time is the source of our new friends.

Every time we choose to spend time with specific people we choose to strengthen neural connections with those people. Physical contact like a hug which triggers the neurotransmitter oxytocin making us feel bonds to that person. Seeing *hug* or /hug may not deliver the same effect, but I suspect it delivers something similar. It may be just enough that we like the feeling.

Compared to hanging out in the neighborhood, social media provide richer opportunities. Being “friends” through social media result a win-win effects without taking as much effort on both parties. The risks are also lower for social media friends. Your friend across the street might judge you for the embarrassing thing you did out in the street, but your Facebook friends only know if someone blabs about it. So much easier to make and hold these relationships compared to what we go through locally.

Knowing the people who live in nearby buildings is useful. Positive social bonds means in ambiguous situations the assumptions will be positive rather than negative. The more neighbors who think positively about me, the less likely they will assume bad things about me. (Like that I look like a scary Muslim.)  As a knowledge worker I often put too much value on the person with ideas I like over the physical body to help me accomplish actions. I do occasionally need help doing things I cannot think my way through.