We eat food to fuel our bodies, but I read nonfiction essays and watch documentaries to feed my soul. Every day I consume inspiration like a vampire consumes blood. Inspiration keeps me alive.
A Powerful Punch in the Gut
The older I get the more aware I am of my inevitable fate of a long lingering death. Few people like to dwell on this future. Most hope they will go quickly, or quietly in their sleep, but it’s doubtful that modern medicine will allow that. Last night I saw Life and Death in Assisted Living on PBS Frontline via my PBS Roku channel. They reported that as much as 67% of assisted living residents have some kind of dementia, and although these facilities weren’t meant to be nursing homes, they’ve become essentially unregulated care for the dying. The show attacks the big business practices of making fortunes off of end-of-lifers, but that’s not what inspired me about the show. I watched its videos seeing the elders as explorers of territory I must one day travel myself. To live with any kind of dignity while dying requires enough health to keep saying fuck you to fate. Once you are condemned to a wheelchair to be cared for like an infant it’s very hard to find meaning in life. Although I’m an atheist I’m praying like crazy for the acceptance of euthanasia by the time I get feeble. At some point before I forget too much I’ll need to get a tattoo over my heart that says in big letters: DNR. But as long as we do live, we have to keep finding inspiration and ways to make ordinary daily living meaningful.
John Green, An Impressive Young Man Who Speaks to Millions
I’m very grateful to The New Yorker for publishing “The Teen Whisperer” about John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars, and for putting the full article on the web so I can link it to my friends. I read The New Yorker via Next Issue on my tablets, and it’s always depressing to read an inspirational essay and not be able to share it with friends. Next Issue is the Netflix of digital magazines offering 135 titles for $15 a month. I wished Next Issue had a desktop web app, or Windows application like Spotify, that made sharing fantastic reads easier with fellow members.
But back to John Green. Read the Margaret Talbot article linked above to see just how cool John Green is as young writer and internet entrepreneur. Green’s web presence allowed The Fault in Our Stars to be a bestseller long before it was published and gave him the opportunity to autograph the entire first printing of 150,000 copies of his book before they went on sale, which cost Green ten weeks of time and a lot of physical therapy. Green and his brother Hank also produce the Crash Course series on YouTube. Between those educational courses and his Nerdfighter followers, Green has a fandom to make anything he writes an instant hit.
If you haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars then you’ve been staring at your iPhone way too much. The book is magnitudes more powerful than it’s hype, so go get a copy if you haven’t. By the way, be prepared to cry your guts out, and that even applies to macho moronic dickheads. In Norway the book was titled Fuck Fate, so don’t think of it as just another YA teenager read. I don’t know if Green has lasting literary talent, but he certain Babe Ruthed one out of the park with The Fault in Our Stars.
Worry Less About The Future
Right-wing conservative global warming deniers all cry in Chicken Little unison that doing the right thing about climate change will destroy our economy. Well, Ramez Naam points out in his essay “Reducing Carbon Emissions Will Be Cheaper Than Expected – It Always Is” that in the past after everyone ran around crying the economy would collapse, it didn’t.
We need to do something about CO2 pollution, and we need to do it fast. Probably if we spent as much time and money on converting energy sources as trying to build the F-35 fighter we’d be mostly done by now. We could fix the carbon pollution problem in a decade if we applied ourselves. Much could be done with just conservation, and a tremendous lot could be accomplished by switching energy sources. Anyone should be able to see that altering the environment is dangerous, and burning coal is stupid. The goal should be something like converting carbon to coal and burying it, not burning it. Coal was nature’s way of getting rid of CO2 in the first place.
Policy makers talk about making changes by 2050. That’s bogus shirking the responsibility. We should clean up our mess before we die, by 2025. Besides converting to a new clean economy will stimulate the economy, not kill it. Anyone who thinks otherwise lacks inspiration.
Makers and Robots
I find people who make things inspirational. And the Maker movement is a nice antithesis to digital life. Forbes covers “Maker Movement Fuels Apps, Robots, and Internet of Things.” This is a movement that is growing so rapidly that I even hear non-Geeks are talking about it. If I was a kid today I’d be totally into the FIRST Robotics Competition.
Building robots is becoming a mania. Make Magazine even recommends “10 Ways to Make Your Robot More Humanlike.” Building a robot teaches us about how bodies work. Building an AI will teach us how the mind works. If you aren’t paying attention, you might someday be shocked when humans are no longer the smartest beings on the planet. Creating an AI mind should be possible but it’s going to be really hard. O’Reilly.com says, ‘“It works like the brain.” So?’ Computers can already out-do us at many intelligent tasks now.
I expect someone to invent a cyber-cortex any day now that allows machines to learn and eventually become self-aware. Maybe it will be a maker or one of those kids building robots. Maybe they will be inspired by ODROID Magazine.
JWH – 6/4/14