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Thursday, February 9, 2012


I've been meaning to do some writing here for far too long, and it's finally time to get on with it. Business travel does make finding the time a little easier. Anyway, if you've known me for some time you might have gotten a little bit of my chautauqua about the funnel. That's the core of this whole thing (and series of blog posts I intend to develop), and has even snuck into classes I teach and my thinking about how to live a life. The diagram above is kind of messy because this conversation touches on so many things. This picture is the final result of a conversation with KS Kang, a colleague of mine from Seoul, over dinner at the food court in Chinatown near Clarke Quay, Singapore. At the core of the diagram is a funnel, and the letters N, M, L, and W.
The N is for the right now. What am I doing right now? What should I be doing? Hopefully we are all living at least partially in the right Now (unless you've got your head stuck too far up your cellphone). The present moment is all we have, and being present in it is important. Kids seem to be especially good at it.
However, most adults need to plan a little farther ahead to function in the world we've created. That brings us to Mid. Mid is for short to mid-term planning. I suspect most adults live at the M. Even a 5-year plan is kind of uncommon among people I talk to. We pay the bills, work the job, keep up the house, and basically do what we need to do to stay functioning and solvent. It's important, but I don't see it as being key to a deep sense of meaning. The M does help dictate what we should be doing at any given moment though, and so it informs the N. Most people will use short and mid-term thinking to avoid future pain and make gains where they can.
Even fewer people live at the level of L, by which I mean thinking about M and N in terms of their whole Life. L is about strategy- lining up Mid-term events and the Now in order to accomplish life goals. The 'bucket list' I hear a lot of people talk about these days (maybe it's my age? The people I hang around?) has something to do with Life goals. Somehow it still strikes me as selfish although more likely to be fulfilling vs. living at M.
At the top of the funnel is W for World. It is a rare few people these days who view their own life contribution in context of a world cause larger than their own Life. These are often the kind of people who make history- Lincoln, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, etc. Sacrifice is involved- and subordinating one's own emotions and day-to-day happiness for something larger. I'm no longer particularly religious but my own link to this World state is an interest (irrational past my own life?) in the future well-being of the human race and our planet . My interest for my children is part of it, but I think the story goes deeper than that (see Charlie Stross' e-book Accelerando for another perspective). We live in an interesting time: On the edge of widespread sequencing of the human genome and possibly human genetic engineering, the impending singularity, and the anthropocene. I don't know how this will play out, but am very interested in exploring the question.

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