An Introduction to FFFY

Issue #15 - 2m32s

Hey,

Welcome to M ND THE GAP, a lifestyle newsletter for those that are young, weird, and curious. Scattered thoughts, but often around technology, culture, and adolescent romances. If you’re with it, you can sign up here.

I've been thinking about the idea of awe recently. How awesome.

4 years back, one of my first mentors shared an article with me offhand — The Death of Awe in the Age of Awesome. Not the more tactical piece of advice he's shared, but the one that stuck with me the hardest.

Life was a bit lackluster for me then. I was at a high — thinking I knew everything. Everything seemed to operate under the same principles. All things seemed too abstract to the same theorems. Fuck the nuances.

That article didn't immediately provide any answers. But it planted the seed. It was a seed that was subconsciously nurtured and surfaced only when a new piece of information could latch onto it. So it grew! It grew and grew until it found a form — a conscious thought.

When we were children, ignorant little beasts, we knew nothing. Our frameworks and mental models were weak, liable to be broken by any new bit of information. Any surprise and every surprise was disruptive. But as we grew, we eventually discovered this information collective codenamed the Internet. We found that we were granted access to almost every bit of information ever recorded in world history.

And for us curious kids, in it we found a heaven. We become able to learn about anything we imagined — anything, everything. It was bliss. But human cognition is finite and our curiosity withers. We pattern-match stimuli out of their conscious existence until life becomes a cycle of mindless repeats and regurgitations.

And then what? What do we do when our curiosities are satisfied and the natural world becomes mundane? There's always more to explore, of course, more to learn. But our immediate environment eventually loses its luster. The things we find interesting become highly selective, they were given the luxury to be interesting. We gave them the leeway, the ability, through cognition. Everything else wasn't even allowed the conscious eye.

Actually, I don’t want to speak for you. That’s just me.

It was horrible. I wanted life to be as exciting as the movies I've watched and the books I've read. I wanted to see life as Murakami saw the forests and Martin saw the highlands. I wanted to romanticize all of life.

So 65 days ago, I took a small step and started For the Fair-Folk and the Yokai (FFFY), a personal project where I attempt to find a bit of magic, the precursor to art, in my day-to-day life. FFFY is a battle hymn against the forces of the mundane, a reminder that the world around me can still be as magical as it was in those years of my foolish youth. I just need to remember how to look.

Hold your innocence close,

Albert

Thank you Dom for introducing me to this article all those summers ago.

Ctrl+F → 51, 24, 10 for some especially fun ones 🤪

Breathe

Issue #14 - 0m56s

Hey,

Welcome to M ND THE GAP, a lifestyle newsletter for those that are young, weird, and curious. Scattered thoughts, but often around technology, culture, and adolescent romances. If you’re with it, you can sign up here.

I don't have much to say this week. These past few days have been pretty busy with new projects at work and with friends visiting from out of town. A nice balance of duty and play.

A passing thought though —

Building off of last week's piece about ancient practices and base needs, it's been interesting to see that a significant amount of retreats and rehab centers list "fresh air" as one of the key descriptors for their center.

What is it about fresh air that warrants its placement as one of a place's top amenities? Is it the romanticized version of what fresh air means — nature, cleanliness, purity? Or does it have an actual biological root — the difference in the quality between NYC city air and that of the Appalachians?

Anecdotally, I do recognize that I am happier and more at peace when I'm in an area with fresh air, moving air. Its effect is hard to decouple from the effects of nature on the human body though (of which, is pretty substantial)

Anyways, reading recs on this topic are appreciated !

Have a blessed week y'all 🤟🏽

Persistent Lived Experiences

Issue #13 - 5m07s

Hey,

Welcome to M ND THE GAP, a lifestyle newsletter for those that are young, weird, and curious. Scattered thoughts, but often around technology, culture, and adolescent romances. If you’re with it, you can sign up here.

San Lorenzo's Olmec head discovered by M.W. Stirling and his archaeological expedition.

Lately, I've been looking up to our ancestors for advice on how to live a good life. Not ancestors of blood, although I do talk to my grandma weekly, but ancestors of species and mentality. People separated from me by space and time, those who know nothing about my condition, those whose upbringing is nothing like my own, those who share only a single commonality with myself — the human experience of trying to live a life of worth. We share the eternal quest of finding purpose and self-actualization.

Why them? It's unclear. Perhaps it's just a reaction — being a young guy in tech, my inboxes are bombarded with commentary every day, much of it homogenous. Much of it good, much of it inspiring, but collectively, lackluster. Endless amounts of people spewing the same ideas, constructed with different language, extrapolating off limited datasets, stating opinions as aphorisms.

I don't claim to be original — I'm sure anything I say now and ever has been said before — nor do I claim to be right. I'm here to find my own truth of the world. I work in tech but hope my mind doesn't live exclusively in it. I hope to bring in ideas and talk concepts birthed from other fields — common topics perhaps, but those hidden from the tech discourse by the disparate tribal networks that make our society function.

I want y'all to care about the world. I'm sure many of y'all do, I hope many of y'all do. I know as a community, we're getting there. I meet so many inspiring people every week, found from this newsletter (reach out! ❤️) and from friends who know we share similar sentiments. It's been a great time and I'm glad I started writing this.

But I digress...

Studies have shown that the repetition of sounds at certain cadences, while a person is sleeping, can have a significant impact on their sleep quality, boosting and diminishing both NREM and REM sleep.

Buddhist melodies. Did those played at ancient temples since antiquity confer benefits that allowed for its survival into the modern-day? In many temples, these hymns, these melodies, these chants, these intentional combinations of sounds that could be simple as a water drop were played at set moments of the day, oftentimes while going to sleep and in sleep. In more extreme sects of the religion, holy sounds would be played continuously throughout the day. Devotees believed that they should continuously practice their faith throughout the day and the more they listen to the hymns, believe in the hymns, and resonate with the hymns, the closer they will be to Nirvana.

Were the monks cognizant of the biological benefits of their classic hymns and mantras? Not to a granular level, science wasn't as advanced as it was today. But perhaps they felt the impact, they woke up in the morning to those sounds feeling better than the nights before and attribute it to the chant's holiness. In time, those chants would rise in status at the temple and be played more than before. They would attributed it to spirituality, to holiness, and we would to the biological sciences — it matters not as these chants may have **rose to prominence not because we understood their science or religious basis, but because of their observed effects on our biology.

For the practices of our ancients that still exist today, do they offer advantages unknown to modern science? Practices that were built through time and convergence, through lived experiences rather than biological science? Does a form of Darwinism exist here where the ultimate practices, the ones which have faced and felled many challengers throughout the millennia holds benefits not yet understood by modern science?

Unclear, but a good first filter to discovering these practices are limiting the time horizon. Biological Darwinism requires tens of millions of years for the optimal traits to become majority traits in the entire population. Darwinism in this context is likely quicker, a mere millennium may be enough for the role of chance and luck to have been competed away and allow for the most beneficial practices to succeed.

Indexing on these persistent lived experiences over the chemical roots of modern science may prove worthwhile.

Science is ever-changing — a series of convergences and divergences that in theory, brings us closer to the truth. The goal is that we eventually converge into the truth of the world but the series of events looks more like a sine wave than an asymptote — we converge through a series of waves with reducing amplitudes rather than line getting ever closer to the truth.

What this means to say is that while the scientific process and its manifestations are ever improving, the accuracy of science at any given point in time is not an absolute improvement upon the past, nor may it be accurate.

It may be functionally enough — oftentimes it should be.

We ought to hold it as a field of worth, a matron of knowledge that we default to but we should not hold it as a god, lowercase g. Other forms of knowledge construction may offer esoteric insights above what is being derived from the current state of modern science. I've found persistent lived experiences to be rewarding, placebo'd or otherwise.

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[addendum]

Buddhist hymns is a niche example here. Others may be equally niche (Islamic Salat) or universal (fresh, moving air). What ties them together is their targeting of our base biological needs — food, water, breath, sleep, and attention. The former is given extensive research but the latter 4 are often ignored. Fundamentals of human existence that live below the waking consciousness for most. Dangerous, as our relationship with these base needs have changed dramatically as a result of this recent wave of human innovation. We cannot change ourselves biologically, so as such we must alter our environment to allow us to function at our utmost given our legacy biology.

An end bit: A friend of mine, Mark Linao of Akatsuki (yes, like Naruto for you weebs) Entertainment Fund recently started a bi-weekly newsletter on all matters TechxEntertainment. If you're in LA, give him a holler! Otherwise, you can find it here.

Divisive Decisions

Issue #12 - 5m56s

Hey,

Welcome to M ND THE GAP, a lifestyle newsletter for those that are young, weird, and curious. Scattered thoughts, but often around technology, culture, and adolescent romances. If you’re with it, you can sign up here.

Blue, red, and yellow by Sam Francis

Recently, I've been noticing a particular trend in my life. Among groups of people with a shared goal, ideas that initially garner divisiveness — those that elicit an almost equal amount of positive and negative emotion are those that have been outperforming their peers. This has proved to be especially true when compared to ideas that garner widespread, yet lukewarm, support.

Building off of this, ideas that generate the greatest magnitude of emotion, regardless of direction, are those that should be taken. I'll condition this statement with the idea that the net direction should fall no lower than slightly net negative.

So what does this reveal about human nature that the same idea can elicit equally powerful positive and negative emotions from a group of people who share the same goal?

The easy answer here is that people have different levels of openness to change. Ideas deviant from the established norm will feel like a messiah to some and horrifying to others. Maintaining the status quo is enticing.

This is augmented by their risk tolerance. People are inherently risk-averse. We care more about protecting what we have than what we can gain. We lean towards decisions that have the highest floor rather than the highest ceiling or the highest expected value.

The best ideas are risky. The best ideas are deviant.

Now on the idea side, this may reveal a level of information asymmetry within this particular idea space. Inherent to the existence of networks is the existence of esoteric knowledge — information privy to portions of the population but not the whole. That esoteric knowledge is what contextualizes the idea for some and makes it seem brilliant. A lack of that knowledge is a lack of a framework for the idea to build on, making it seem confusing and illogical to others.

Or more abstractly, this may reveal the existence of a shared fundamental belief about the world — a philosophical understanding of how the world works that predate the individual's introduction to the idea. The originator has a belief of how the world functions and the idea is birthed from that notion. Those that share the same belief can make the logical connection while those that do not, cannot. Convincing the latter will prove impossible until that dissonance in their world-views is identified.

The curious thing about these decisions is that there will inevitably be three groups of directional reactions to any of these decisions. The first are those that will agree with the idea from the very beginning. The second are those that originally disagreed with the idea but have since switched sides after further consideration or development of the idea. And the third are those that originally disagreed with it and will continue to do so.

If the idea manifests and grows, if you actualize it, then those in the third category MUST deal with the ramifications of the idea due to its scale and its permeation into the public consciousness. It may not be what they want, it may never be, but the belief here must be that your idea creates a better world for them that even they themselves have yet to recognize. No idea in history has ever garnered absolute approval, but what is an acceptable threshold?

After all, the current state of affairs is built by humans. You are a human. You have the ability to build the state of affairs of the future. Whether that future is positive to yourself, to those you care about, to your local community, to your digital community, to your nation, to your church, to the world — well, that's up to you. Success is measured along your own metrics. Choose what makes you happy. Choose to manifest your dream.

You must always believe that you have the ability to manifest, that you have the ability to make the world a better place. Those that fall short of that belief, fall short of success, and fall short of bringing about their change.

That belief resides in the belief of self, a form of hubris — that you can build a better world for humanity that those around you. You will build this world alongside them, but they will be fighting different battles. They will different stories. They will be the side characters of your story just as you will be the side characters in theirs. Contemporaries, friends, supporters, cheerleaders, cofounders. You will lift each other up — as long as you have the belief.

A hero without a dream is just a side character.

And if the world wills it — then your change will manifest. Most of us will fail and settle. Most of us will post-rationalize and come to terms with what we accomplished, making ourselves consciously ignorant of what we could have done. That's okay — it can still be a good life; give care to your family, give care to your friends. Statistically, it is almost guaranteed that most of us will fail to manifest our dreams, that I will fail to manifest my dreams. Hold on to your dreams and don't let them go. Believe in yourself. By the pure strength of belief, the probability of you succeeding jumps to nothing short of 100%.

Hopefully you succeed, hopefully I succeed, hopefully we all succeed and make the change we want to see in the world. Hopefully, you find your competitive edge and that your truth is aligned with the worlds. Hopefully your future is full of love and that your original dream finds its form. It will. All it takes is the belief. Stick to your guns.

[addendum]

With all this said, the trick here is not letting yourself be swayed to make a decision, to pursue an idea, because of its divisiveness. The ideas which I found successful are those that arose from the soul and found division in the world. They are ones which seem beautiful to you, so obvious, so logical, built on top of your own experiences and bias and only after they manifest do they find pushback from those around you.

Good ideas, in this case, aren't those which is harmful to the human condition. They aren't ones which are divisiveness because they hurt marginalized groups and trivially improve majority groups. They are divisive because they seem foolish. Because other's understanding of humanity differs from your own. They may be right and you should listen; oftentimes they will tell you what you are missing. But if you are not fully convinced, if your heart still wants to pursue the original dream, then you must trust yourself and stick to your own belief. Trust your intuition. How else will you be able to manifest your dreams into reality?

Anyways, I'm hesitant to extrapolate this observation to the broad spectrums of ideas that exist in the world. Can this apply to politics, where a mistake is thousands of human lives? Maybe it can, but the cost of leaving people behind is too great. Where's the line here though? In what cases are necessary sacrifices acceptable? Is it better to be conscious of your sacrifices than to be ignorant of their existence?

The Weekly Nibble

Feeling the information overload? Yea me too. This is the best read I found this past week. Take a peep and LMK.

https://perceptiongap.us

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/06/republicans-and-democrats-dont-understand-each-other/592324/

It is deeply worrying that Americans now have so little understanding of their political adversaries. It is downright disturbing that the very institutions that ought to help us become better informed may actually be deepening our mutual incomprehension.

I'm not an ardent follower of politics. Most of what I know and spend time thinking about are learned through BBC articles and heated conversations with a friend who aims to be the future POTUS. That said, this particular article and study were eye-opening to me — especially as someone whose political views were formed in the whirlwind of the left with very little input from the right. I estimate many of the readers of this blog went through similar environments — "elite" colleges. This was a refreshing take of the political landscape.

Searching for the Truth, Capital T

Issue #11 - 3m03s

Hey,

Welcome to M ND THE GAP, a lifestyle newsletter for those that are young, weird, and curious. Scattered thoughts, but often around technology, culture, and adolescent romances. If you’re with it, you can sign up here.

It’s been a busy week moving into the new apartment so thoughts may be more scattered this time around — a stream of consciousness rather than a piece of work.

As the young minds in tech, we are obsessed with finding the truth of the world. We hold as a default the Nietzschian notion that the truths currently known to man is not the Truth — the one set by the gods, metaphysical or scientific. That there is something closer to correctness, that there are nuances still unexamined.

I've been growing weary of that notion over the past month. It's been seeming to me recently that the current truths are functionality correct. The old adages we've been hearing since childhood keep proving to have substance and are immensely helpful when properly followed. Yet we push them away — a result of adolescent tendencies of counterculture furthered by tech's cultural root as the outcasts.

The ideas I've found the most powerful recently are so common that they are banal — they are the ones which fables are built around and passed down from our elders. They are the ones not backed by science and stats but rather by life and experience.

Sleep 8 hours a day.

Broken hearts heal over time.

You can do anything you believe in.

The simple things. We hear these phrases at an age where we reject all institutional wisdom. The key to a meaningful life is hidden in the throats of these little aphorisms.

The mistake is that they were delivered to us at an age where rejection is in our soul — counterculture holds supreme, the youth don't bend to authority and legacy. We create our own. We shields those ideas from our hearts — the meaning may reach us but the feelings do not. We do not sleep 8 hours a day, despite all scientific and anecdotal evidence espousing its benefits. We do not let our hearts heal, instead drowning out our pains in drink and lust. We never truly believe in ourselves, instead letting our doubts and fears dictate our path — settling for the beaten path and the road to redemption. I may have just triggered myself here.

These are the simple truths that many of my friends and I seem to consciously reject. We spent years fighting to find the Truth, some esoteric absolute notion of how the world works, only to realize that our discoveries are simply rehashes of the words we've been hearing since we were kids.

This is not to say the truth is not worth searching for. The known truths are simply functional, if not immaculate. The Truth is absolutely worth searching for. But when our research brings us back to beginning, closing the loop, perhaps sometimes we just have to defer to the aphorisms and accept them. Unlike VC, there is little to gain by being contrarian for its own sake in life.

Tangentially, I know many, including myself, seek the Truth for the competitive edge it gives. By engaging with esoteric practices, we believe that we can obtain a competitive edge over our peers who do not. It may.

But it may be of far more worth simply performing the old adages well. Actually getting more sleep, drinking enough water, spending significant time away from the phone screen. They seem boring, almost banal, but they work. The secret here is that most people, even those who espouse this beliefs, don't engage in with them in practice. Chefs ready to dish out the advice anyone who will listen but do not eat their own (dog)food. By simply being one who integrates the ancient adages into their daily life, the competitive advantage is already found.

The Weekly Nibble

Feeling the information overload? Yea me too. This is the best read I found this past week. Take a peep and LMK.

https://aeon.co/essays/metaphors-grow-the-mind-and-feed-the-soul-dont-lose-them

According to her, one reason for the adherence to realism is pragmatic: children simply have ever-increasing opportunities and resources for knowledge-gathering and study, for ‘empirical abstraction’. But, she argues, ‘to be creative, they also need opportunities to engage in the mental process of building knowledge through mental actions’. In her view, the exclusionary focus on ‘problem-solving’ in education is a mistake: education needs to address the more imaginative task of ‘problem-finding’ as well. 

Shoutout to my friend Tina He for introducing me to this site. This is yet another essay that questions the notion of traditional school systems as a way to enable (disable!) creativity. Flaw finding in the modern education system is easy — how do we work to improve it for our kids though? The current system caps the ceiling for what our kids can become but also raises their floor, the result of the industrial era of American history. We’re now living in a post-industrial age yet our education system has yet to catch up.

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