saol – life

Declan O’Rourke is an Artist

He’s an Artist (not just an artist).

We went to see Declan O’Rourke, a singer/song writer, at a Christmastime concert. I was expecting a mix of old songs and possibly new songs. An “intimate” show without a theme.

It turned out to be very different: the concert was a storytelling of the Famine. He mixed songs about the Famine, with stories in between the performances. He was obviously engrossed in the subject, had deep opinions on it and was moved by it. He was accompanied by a good handful of renowned musicians.

He could have done yet another tour, but instead he created something new, different. As Seth Godin would say, it was something that could have failed, and that gives an indication that it’s something possibly worthwhile doing. He chose to continue to be an Artist, not just an artist.

Declan has an LP that I also heartily recommend. We bought it after that same gig. It’s called “In Full Colour”, and had what looked like a best-of list of his songs. It turned out that the album was something different again: a two-record collection of his songs, backed by an orchestra. (To be honest, this doesn’t always work for all of his songs, but again it’s a sign of exploring something different.)

I’ll leave you with one of his recordings:

Look around
Take a good look around

Someday this will all be gone
You and I’ll be gone
Everything we’ve ever known
Long gone
But how unique this moment is
How rare and precious all this is
It seems we only have just this
So why hang on?

Let’s you and I
Not waste one breath
Not wait around
For old age and death
Let’s do this thing
Let’s take a swing
Let’s make big love

Declan O’Rourke (feat. John Prine & The Milk Spots) – Let’s Make Big Love

Principle of fixing the leak first

There was a software bug tracking system I found that was based on the principle of “fix the leak first”.

Their thesis was this: if your building is flooded, it makes sense to first fix the leak, and only then go about solving how to recover your building.

In software, your system software has many bugs, possibly hundreds of known bugs. First fix the new incoming bugs (fix any new bugs before moving on with other work). When this is stable, you can go about fixing existing bugs.

The approach would seem to work when you’re not being overwhelmed with a deluge of new incoming bugs/problems/issues.

I’ve attacked several inboxes on this approach lately, and it seems to work alright (it’s better than having no approach at all).

You can do the same with a full sink of dishes: first start by not introducing any new dirty dishes, clean them as you go.

Having a good day is an emergent property

Filling up your minute, morning, day, month, year and life with positive things lead to having an acceptably good life. A good day (and thus a good life) is an emergent property of the things you did during that day (and thus life).

In Why we make things and why it matters, Peter Korn mentions:

To master a craft is not to achieve a state of enlightenment, despite my youthful expectation to the contrary. Creative practice simply makes our lives richer in meaning and fulfillment than they might be otherwise. For some of us, creative practice may be among the few slender threads that bind our lives together.

Ch. 14 “A Good Life”, from Why we make things and why it matters by Peter Korn.

Korn’s obsession was to his craft (carpentry) and to enable those around him to master their craft, by building a school around the craft. He essentially argued that practicing his craft doesn’t offer an ultimate answer to a good life, but it’s a positive thing to be engaged in, which already justifies doing it.

Blogger Mr Money Mustache took the kaizen argument of improving your days: to take tiny steps of doing positive things to fool yourself into doing them. When asking yourself what to do with your day, he says seek not to be entertained:

It doesn’t matter what you enjoy. It matters what’s good for you. enjoy pumpkin cheesecake and key lime pie, but I only eat them a few times a year.

Mr Money Mustache

Psychologist Jordan Peterson has argued for this type of approach. To reduce your “suffering” ask “What is a list of things I’m doing that’s obviously hurting me?”. You accept humility and reduce at least just one thing on your list. And similarly you can ask “What is a list of things I can do that would improve my life?”. The answers will be simple and obvious, and now it’s up to you to start doing at least some of those things now.