Discover more from Common Discourse
Common Discourse is a project designed to help others (and ourselves) think through creativity, focus, and intentional work—from Alex Tan & Alice Otieno.
Every Tuesday we share words from a journal, a few ideas, a quote from somebody else, and links worth sharing. On Fridays we invite a guest to share images from their camera roll and a sound that resonates with them.
I spent the weekend battling a sinus infection while Mackenzie was in New York which means I had Door Dash on call and old Wimbledon matches playing in the background while I sunk into the couch and scrolled through my camera roll.
A screenshot surfaced from a text thread in 2014 that I had saved for whatever reason & the person I was talking to book-ended the conversation with “ttyl.”
I didn’t respond, meaning that person was done conversing and I totally respected that as a nod to having more important things to do than whatever was happening through their phone. After perusing through more archived images, mostly embarrassing ones, I tried to remember the last time I used g2g, brb, or ttyl in a conversation.
I grew up in the social internet era—just after Internet Forums and right as social giants like Facebook were striking popular mainstream. At 13 years old I had signed up for a Twitter and Tumblr against my parent’s will which changed my life forever. In my land-locked rural upbringing, the Internet was a portal to a world of people that were much more interesting to me than high-school jocks and Future Farmers of America members who would blow dark diesel smoke out the top of their pickup truck as they rolled out of the parking lot.
Of course at that time, conversations had a time and place. Much like they do in real life.
They begun with a “Hey! What’s going on?” and ended with a “Gotta go! Talk to you later.”
Today, many of the conversations I have don’t include a definitive beginning, middle or end.
We don’t log on anymore, we just never log off.
For a moment, think about how dreadful of a place the school cafeteria is. Then imagine a world where you were never allowed to leave it...
You’re in a room with a ton of people and are left with no choice but to overhear conversations that you weren’t invited to, and then whenever somebody feels like it, they can come over and sit down in front of you and start talking to you, expecting that you respond promptly.
This scenario differs so little to our connection to the online world and leaves much to be desired.
The consequences of our increasingly larger ambitions to diminish the delineation between IRL vs URL experiences are obvious. And while you can find many of those things in books, articles, and movies, the thing I most often ponder on is that the biggest obstacle in a human’s life is one’s self.
It’s this idea that the “nature” in “human nature” is fading quickly right before our eyes. Tricia Hersey says it better than I can:
"I believe also that our lack of resting has stolen our imagination and our ability to be inventive and subversive and to imagine and to have hope. And to me, that’s true oppression. To me, once you have taken away a person’s ability to see their way out of a situation, to see a new way, to imagine a new world, to see something different, to invent, you pretty much have them. And I think we’re at that right now.”
Perhaps even the larger plague of our time is not that we have to be productive laborers, but also productive relaxers. What we’ve designated to our free time still has an agenda. Whether that be learning new skills, meditation, or physical activity. All of these things are measured through an app or a before & after picture that the world begs us to share socially. It’s apparent that our “free time” is far from free.
There is a word in the German language called muße [ˈmuːsə] that means leisure. In the context of which it was used, people would say, “Today I’ve got the muße to do X today.” meaning you’ve rested so much that you’ve reached the point of boredom and can entertain the idea of doing whatever it is that randomly pops into your mind.
Muße is no longer used in the German language, and it’s likely because we no longer know this feeling well enough to assign language to it.
I rested this weekend, not necessarily by choice, more so by force. The meditative sound of Federer and Nadal hitting the ball back and forth allowed my mind to wander to places that I would have never created time for in my regular day to day.
And during that time, I imagined a world where maybe I do more of this on purpose.
A few ideas
I. DOUBLE DOWN
I always think about the skillset spread offered through video game characters. Typically we select the character that is known for one thing. Donkey Kong for power, Yoshi for speed, Peach for technicality.
Often times, we pay no mind toward the characters that are well-rounded and not known for any one particular thing.
You will be remembered and most useful by becoming great at one thing. The amount of time you have to invest in yourself is limited. Don’t over-improve areas of weakness if it takes time away from the thing you’re naturally gifted at. The majority of your time is best spent making the most of your strengths.
II. SELECTIVE LISTENING
Think about the amount of trust we put into strangers.
Google or Yelp is our first destination for reviews on restaurants, but what we don’t ask is what their opinions are on everything else. You’ll likely get a better food recommendation from people who dress like you, listen to similar music, and read books from your favorite authors.
Word of mouth can be powerful or it can spin you in circles. Listen selectively.
III. DIFFERENCE MAKERS
In a world where everything is going to happen, attitude and resilience are the difference makers.
You can’t ever control the outcome but you are always responsible for your reaction to it.
A quote from somebody else
"The real epiphanies of figuring out what I’m trying to say don’t happen when I chain myself to my desk. I let myself into the labyrinth, to get lost in the footnotes of arcane books from the 19th century, or just out on a walk. I need a sense of timelessness to do my best work.”
— Anna Della Subin, On the Importance of Being Idle
Links worth sharing
🎹 Weave through some relaxing tunes on woven sound.
🎯 Collaging images using AI—Humans of AI is an online exhibition based on a series of image data sets.
🇿🇦 Dola is a platform showcasing the best of modern African lifestyle through an editorial curation of designs and goods.
🙋 Can I Ask You a Question? Visionary casting director Jennifer Venditti (Euphoria, Uncut Gems, Good Time, American Honey) gives a behind-the-scenes look at her distinctive process w/ 300 pages of original casting photos, writings and more.
Thanks for consuming!
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🗂 Here is every Common Discourse weekly briefing to date.
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🗣️ This project is more fun when there is dialogue amongst those who are reading. Use the comment feature at the bottom of this article to start a conversation, we’ll use your ideas for future briefings and food for thought.