I've been reading Sally Rooney's Beautiful World, Where Are You lately. I'm about halfway through now, and so far, it's a beautiful showing of the beauty in "ordinary" life. The summary isn't much to write home about:
It's about things that happen in normal life: friends and lovers, career hopes and worries, hobbies, purpose, coffee in the morning and wine at night and the weird, dumb, boring thoughts that pop into our minds throughout it all.
Normal Life is a difficult topic to write about. Other than the obvious fact that everyone has a different sort of "Normal Life," there are a lot of problems even if you want to write about your general life experience (growing up in X part of the world, under Y external conditions and environments, as a Y sort of person), you can overdo it and artificially focus on things that are boring or that people don't actually care about. You can also under-do it and be too abstract and grandoise for anyone to actually relate to. I think its especially hard because it's what everyone goes through every day. There's a balance to writing authentically, like you would in your diary, but also weaving together a compelling story and cutting the fluff for each part of the text to really pop to life.
Living as an Instrument
Rooney makes the comparison to going through life actually living it and feeling the ordinary things that happen to being an instrument—vibrating in response to the world. That's the key to finding beauty in the mundane.I've thought a lot about resonance as a principle to seek out because it feels like a more full way of living. I hate talking about lives as a thing to compare the ability to live better, but the periods of my life where I've had a lot of resonance have truly felt like I was more alive. It feels like there's endless possibility to live for.
I think this feeling of infinite potential (playing infinite games) is the key to finding beauty and meaning in everything we do. That's how I've always interpreted optimistic nihilism, and it seems like one of those things that determines your fundamental default orientation towards life.
A Better Internet
I spend a lot of my time thinking about software and the internet both because it's one of my crafts and because it's something that I spend so much time on. Given that, it's natural that I feel a lot of dissonance around the fact that a lot of the internet is not only unhealthy but actively harmful to our health. With all the positive capabilities it’s enabled (and all the positive potential it has), I'm very hopeful for how we can shape the future to be more and more empowering, enlightening, and intimate.
I'll focus on intimacy for this post because that's the feeling that spoke to me after reading this passage. I want an internet that will empower me to share these beautiful moments with the people I care about. We get these now in little pockets of coziness and moments of joy, whether it's a quarantine group dance zoom or doing little doodles together in skribbl.io, or creating a collective story together a paragraph at a time, but there's no canonical place to go to for that.
How can we make more and more of the web default feel like this and encourage more spaces that enable this kind of sharing and togetherness?
I started a recent Twitter thread collecting ideas and vibes that feel like this new kind of web:
There's been a lot of talk about a new web lately with the buzz around web3 and crypto things (both very contentious, loose, and ungrounded terms). My perspective is that whatever it really is and however people define it, it is here to stay now, so our job is to make it feel like the internet and web that we really want—a collective, pluralistic, intimate, and beautiful one.
More to share on that soon...
I think I was trying to train that muscle in my recent mini-essay experiment. I wanted to write purely from my heart but also in a way that was concise and easy for others to quickly understand and parse given the busy lives everyone has and the overwhelming amount of content produced from our busy web.
this is maybe the one grand "life philosophy" that appeals to me. TLDR; it's the idea that nothing matters (nihilism), so everything matters because everything you do is directed by you and the life you have is yours to make. The foundation of nothing mattering means you're free to discover personal meaning rather than some gate-kept Meaning that is dictated from above.