Truisms, 1979-1983

If it is possible for truisms to be truer now than before, some of these, many of these, are. Jenny Holzer started out in 1978 pasting these up in the streets, but reading through them, they seem written for today. Which is the one Jenny Holzer thinks bloggers should read? In an interview with The Gentlewoman she says it is: “PEOPLE ARE NUTS IF THEY THINK THEY ARE IMPORTANT”.

TRUISMS (1979-1983)
A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE CAN GO A LONG WAY
A LOT OF PROFESSIONALS ARE CRACKPOTS
A MAN CAN’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A MOTHER
A NAME MEANS A LOT JUST BY ITSELF
A POSITIVE ATTITUDE MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD
A RELAXED MAN IS NOT NECESSARILY A BETTER MAN
A SENSE OF TIMING IS THE MARK OF A GENIUS
A SINCERE EFFORT IS ALL YOU CAN ASK
A SINGLE EVENT CAN HAVE INFINITELY MANY INTERPRETATIONS
A SOLID HOME BASE BUILDS A SENSE OF SELF
A STRONG SENSE OF DUTY IMPRISONS YOU
ABSOLUTE SUBMISSION CAN BE A FORM OF FREEDOM
ABSTRACTION IS A TYPE OF DECADENCE
ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE
ACTION CAUSES MORE TROUBLE THAN THOUGHT
ALIENATION PRODUCES ECCENTRICS OR REVOLUTIONARIES
ALL THINGS ARE DELICATELY INTERCONNECTED
AMBITION IS JUST AS DANGEROUS AS COMPLACENCY
AMBIVALENCE CAN RUIN YOUR LIFE
AN ELITE IS INEVITABLE
ANGER OR HATE CAN BE A USEFUL MOTIVATING FORCE
ANIMALISM IS PERFECTLY HEALTHY
ANY SURPLUS IS IMMORAL
ANYTHING IS A LEGITIMATE AREA OF IN VESTIGATION
ARTIFICIAL DESIRES ARE DESPOILING THE EARTH
AT TIMES INACTIVITY IS PREFERABLE TO MINDLESS FUNCTIONING
AT TIMES YOUR UNCONSCIOUS IS TRUER THAN YOUR CONSCIOUS MIND
AUTOMATION IS DEADLY
AWFUL PUNISHMENT AWAITS REALLY BAD PEOPLE
BAD INTENTIONS CAN YIELD GOOD RESULTS
BEING ALONE WITH YOURSELF IS INCREASINGLY UNPOPULAR
BEING HAPPY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING ELSE
BEING HONEST IS NOT ALWAYS THE KINDEST WAY
BEING JUDGMENTAL IS A SIGN OF LIFE
BEING SURE OF YOURSELF MEANS YOU’RE A FOOL
BELIEVING IN REBIRTH IS THE SAME AS ADMITTING DEFEAT
BOREDOM MAKES YOU DO CRAZY THINGS
CALM IS MORE CONDUCIVE TO CREATIVITY THAN IS ANXIETY
CATERGORIZING FEAR IS CALMING
CHANGE IS VALUABLE WHEN YHE OPPRESSED BECOME THE TYRANTS
CHASING THE NEW IS DANGEROUS TO SOCIETY
CHILDREN ARE THE CRUELEST OF ALL
CHILDREN ARE THE HOPE OF THE FUTURE
CLASS ACTION IS A NICE IDEA WITH NO SUBSTANCE
CLASS STRUCTURE IS AS ARTIFICIAL AS PLASTIC
CONFUSING YOURSELF IS A WAY TO STAY HONEST
CRIME AGAINST PROPERTY IS RELATIVELY UNIMPORTANT
DECADENCE CAN BE AN END IN ITSELF
DECENY IS A RELATIVE THING
DEPENDENCE CAN BE A MEAL TICKET
DESCRIPTION IS MORE VALUABLE THAN METAPHOR
DEVIANTS ARE SACRIFICED TO INCREASE GROUP SOLIDARITY
DISGUST IS THE APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO MOSE SITUATIONS
DISORGANIZATION IS A KIND OF ANESTHESIA
DON’T PLACE TOO MUCH TRUST IN EXPERTS
DON’T RUIN PEOPLE’S LIVES FOR THEM
DRAMA OFTEN OBSCURES THE REAL ISSUES
DREAMING WHILE AWAKE IS A FRIGHTENING CONTRADICTION
DYING AND COMING BACK GIVES YOU CONSIDERABLE PERSPECTIVE
DYING SHOULD BE EASY AS FALLING OFF A LOG
EATING TOO MUCH IS CRIMINAL
ELABORATION IS A FORM OF POLLUTION
EMOTIONAL RESPONSES ARE AS VAULABLE AS INTELLECTUAL RESPONSES
ENJOY YOURSELF BECAUSE YOU CAN’T CHANGE ANYTHING ANYWAY
ENSURE THAT YOUR LIFE STAYS IS FLUX
EVEN YOUR FAMILY CAN BETRAY YOU
EVERY ACHIEVMENT REQUIRES A SACRIFICE
EVERYONE’S WORK IS EQUALLY IMPORTANT
EVERYTHING THAT’S INTERESTING IS NEW
EXCEPTIONAL PEOPLE DESERVE SPECIAL CONSESSIONS
EXPIRING FOR LOVE IS BEAUTIFUL BUT STUPID
EXPRESSING ANGER IS NECESSARY
EXTREME BEHAVIOR HAS ITS BASIS IN PATHOLOGICAL PSYCHOLOGY
EXTREME SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS LEADS TO PERVERSION
FAITHFULNESS IS A SOCIAL NOT A BIOLOGICAL LAW
FAKE OR REAL INDIFFERENCE IS A POWERFUL PERSONAL WEAPON
FATHERS OFTEN USE TOO MUCH FORCE
FEAR IS THE GREATEST INCAPACITATOR
FREEDOM IS A LUXURY NOT A NECESSITY
GIVING FREE REIN TO YOUR EMOTIONS IS AN HONEST WAY TO LIVE
GO ALL OUT IN ROMANCE AND LET THE CHIPS FALL WHERE THEY MAY
GOING WITH THE FLOW IS SOOTHING BUT RISKY
GOOD DEEDS EVENTUALLY ARE REWARDED
GOVERNMENT IS A BURDEN ON THE PEOPLE
GRASS ROOTS AGITATION IS THE ONLY HOPE
GUILT AND SELF-LACERATION ARE INDULGENCES
HABITUAL CONTEMPT DOESN’T REFLECT A FINER SENSIBILITY
HIDING YOUR MOTIVES IS DESPICABLE
HOLDING BACK PROTECTS YOUR VITAL ENERGIES
HUMANISM IS OBSELETE
HUMOR IS A RELEASE
IDEALS ARE REPLACED BY CONVENTIONAL GOALS AT A CERTAIN AGE
IF YOU AREN’T POLITICAL YOUR PERSONAL LIFE SHOULD BE EXEMPLARY
IF YOU CAN’T LEAVE YOUR MARK GIVE UP
IF YOU HAVE MANY DESIRES LIFE WILL BE INTERESTING
IF YOU LIVE SIMPLY THERE IS NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT
IGNORING ENEMIES IS THE BEST WAY TO FIGHT
ILLNESS IS A STATE OF MIND
IMPOSING ORDER IS MAN’S VOCATION FOR CHAOS IS HELL
IN SOME INSTANCES IT’S BETTER TO DIE THAN TO CONTINUE
INHERITANCE MUST BE ABOLISHED
IT CAN BE HELPFUL TO KEEP GOING NO MATTER WHAT
IT IS HEROIC TO TRY TO STOP TIME
IT IS MAN’S FATE TO OUTSMART HIMSELF
IT’S A GIFT TO THE WORLD NO TO HAVE BABIES
IT’S BETTER TO BE A GOOD PERSON THAN A FAMOUS PERSON
IT’S BETTER TO BE LONELY THAN TO BE WITH INFERIOR PEOPLE
IT’S BETTER TO BE NAIVE THAN JADED
IT’S BETTER TO STUDY THE LIVING TFACT THAN TO ANALYZE HISTORY
IT’S CRUCIAL TO HAVE AN ACTIVE FANTASY LIFE
IT’S GOOD TO GIVE EXTRA MONEY TO CHARITY
IT’S IMPORTANT TO STAY CLEAN ON ALL LEVELS
IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO RECONCILE YOUR HEART AND HEAD
IT’S JUST AN ACCIDENT YOUR PARENTS ARE YOUR PARENTS
IT’S NOT GOOD TO HOLD TOO MANY ABSOLUTES
IT’S NOT GOOD TO OPERATE ON CREDIT
IT’S VITAL TO LIVE IN HARMONY WITH NATURE
JUST BELIEVING SOMETHING CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN
KEEP SOMETHING IN RESERVE FOR EMERGENCIES
KILLING IS UNAVOIDABLE BUT IS NOTHING TO BE PROUD OF
KNOWING YOURSELF LETS YOU UNDERSTAND OTHERS
KNOWLEDGE SHOULD BE ADVANCED AT ALL COSTS
LABOR IS A LIFE DESTROYING ACTIVITY
LACK OF CHARISMA CAN BE FATAL
LEARN THING FROM THE GROUND UP
LEARN TO TRUST YOUR OWN EYES
LEISURE TIME IS A GIGANTIC SMOKESCREEN
LETTING GO IS THE HARDEST THING TO DO
LISTEN WHEN YOUR BODY TALKS
LOOKING BACK IS THE FIRST SIGN OF AGING AND DECAY
LOVING ANIMALS IS A SUBSTITUTE ACTIVITY
LOW EXPECTATIONS ARE GOOD PROTECTION
MANUAL LABOR CAN BE REFRESHING AND WHOLESOME
MEN ARE NOT MONOGAMOUS BY NATURE
MODERATION KILLS THE SPIRIT
MONEY CREATES TASTE
MONOMANIA IS A PREREQUISITE OF SUCCESS
MORALS ARE FOR LITTLE PEOPLE
MOST PEOPLE ARE NOT FIT TO RULE THEMSELVES
MOSTLY YOU SHOULD MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS
MOTHERS SHOULDN’T MAKE TOO MANY SACRIFICES
MUCH WAS DECIDED BEFORE YOU WHERE BORN
MURDER HAS ITS SEXUAL SIDE
MYTHS MAKE REALITY MORE INTELLIGIBLE
NOISE CAN BE HOSTILE
NOTHING UPSETS THE BALANCE OF GOOD AND EVIL
OCCASIONALLY PRINCIPLES ARE MORE VALUABLE THAN PEOPLE
OFFER VERY LITTLE INFORMATION ABOUT YOURSELF
OFTEN YOU SHOULD ACT LIKE UOU ARE SEXLESS
OLD FRIENDS ARE BETTER LEFT IN THE PAST
OPACITY IS AN IRRESISTIBLE CHALLENGE
PAIN CAN BE A VERY POSITIVE THING
PEOPLE ARE BORING UNLESS THEY ARE EXTREMISTS
PEOPLE ARE NUTS IF THEY THINK THEY ARE IMPORTANT
PEOPLE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT THEY DO UNLESS THEY’RE INSANE
PEOPLE WHO DON’T WORK WITH THEIR HANDS ARE PARASITES
PEOPLE GO CRAZY ARE TOO SENSITIVE
PEOPLE WON’T BEHAVE IF THEY HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE
PHYSICAL CULTURE IS SECOND-BEST
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE IS ESCAPISM
PLAYING IT SAFE CAN CAUSE A LOT OF DAMAGE IN THE LONG RUN
POLITICS IS USED FOR PERSONAL GAIN
POTENTIAL COUNTS FOR NOTHING UNTIL IT’S REALIZED
PRESENTATION IS AS IMPORTANT AS CONTENT
PURSUING PLEASURE FOR THE SAKE OF PLEASURE WILL RUIN YOU
PUSH YOURSELF TO THE LIMIT AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE
RAISE BOYS AND GIRLS THE SAME WAY
RANDOM MATING IS GOOD FOR DEBUNKING SEX MYTHS
RECHANNELING DESTRUCTIVE IMPULSES IS A SIGN OF MATURITY
RECLUSES ALWAYS GET WEAK
REDISTRIBUTING WEALTH IS IMPERATIVE
RELATIVITY IS NO BOON TO MANKIND
RELIGION CAUSES AS MANY PROBLEMS AS IT SOLVES
REMEMBER YOU ALWAYS HAVE FREEDOM OF CHOICE
REPETITION IS THE BEST WAY TO LEARN
RESOLUTIONS SERVE TO EASE YOUR CONSCIENCE
REVOLUTION BEGINS WITH THE CHANGES IN THE INDIVIDUAL
ROMANTIC LOVE WAS INVENTED TO MANIPULATE WOMEN
ROUTINE IS A LINK WITH THE PAST
ROUTINE SMALL EXCESSES ARE WORSE THAN THE OCCASIONAL DEBAUCH
SACRIFICING YOURSELF FOR A BAD CAUSE IS NOT A MORAL ACT
SALVATION CAN’T BE BOUGHT AND SOLD
SELF-AWARENESS CAN BE CRIPPLING
SELF-CONTEMPT CAN DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD
SELFISHNESS IS THE MOST BASIC MOTIVATION
SELFLESSNESS IS THE HIGHEST ACHIEVEMENT
SEPARATISM IS THE WAY TO A NEW BEGINNING
SEX DIFFERENCES ARE HERE TO STAY
SIN IS A MEANS OF SOCIAL CONTROL
SLIPPING INTO MADNESS IS GOOD FOR THE SAKE OF COMPARISON
SLOPPY THINKING GETS WORSE OVER TIME
SOLITUDE IS ENRICHING
SOME STONES ARE BETTER LEFT UNTURNED
SOME WOUNDS NEVER HEAL
SOMETIMES ALL YOU CAN DO IS LOOK THE OTHER WAY
SOMETIMES SCIENCE ADVANCES FASTER THAN IT SHOULD
SOMETIMES THINGS SEEMS TO HAPPEN OF THEIR OWN ACCORD
SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME ON SELF-IMPROVEMENT IS ANTI-SOCIAL
STARVATION IS NATURE’S WAY
STATIS IS A DREAM STATE
STERILIZATION IS THE WEAPON OF THE RULERS
STRONG EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT STEMS FROM BASIC INSECURITY
STUPID PEOPLE SHOULDN’T BREED
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST APPLIES TO MEN AND ANIMALS
SYMBOLS ARE MORE MEANINGFUL THAN THINGS THEMSELVES
TAKING A STRONG STAND PUBLICIZES THE OPPOSITE POSITION
TALKING IS USED TO HIDE ONE’S INABILITY TO ACT
TEASING PEOPLE SEXUALLY CAN HAVE UGLY CONSEQUENCES
TECHNOLOGY WILL MAKE OR BREAK US
THE CRUELEST DISAPPOINTMENT IS WHEN YOU LET YOURSELF DOWN
THE DESIRE TO REPRODUCE IS A DEATH WISH
THE FAMILY IS LIVING ON BORROWED TIME
THE IDEA OF REVOLUTION IS AN ADOLESCENT FANTASY
THE IDEA OF TRANSCENDENCE IS USED TO OBSCURE OPPRESSION
THE IDIOSYNCRATIC HAS LOST ITS AUTHORITY
THE LAND BELONGS TO NO ONE
THE MORE YOU KNOW THE BETTER YOU ARE
THE MOST PROFOUND THINGS ARE INEXPRESSIBLE
THE MUNDANE IS TO BE CHERISHED
THE NEW IS NOTHING BUT A RESTATEMENT OF THE OLD
THE ONLY WAY TO BE PURE IS TO STAY YOURSELF
THE SUM OF ALL YOUR ACTIONS DETERMINES WHAT YOU ARE
THE UNATTAINABLE INVARIABLE IS ATTRACTIVE
THE WORLD OPERATES ACCORDING TO DISCOVERABLE LAWS
THERE ARE TOO FEW IMMUTABLE TRUTHS TODAY
THERE’S A FINE LINE BETWEEN INFORMATION AND PROPAGANDA
THERE’S NO SENSE BEING ANYWHERE BUT THE TOP OF THE HEAP
THERE’S NOTHING EXCEPT WHAT YOU SENSE
THERE’S NOTHING REDEEMING IN TOIL
THINKING TOO MUCH CAN ONLY CAUSE PROBLEMS
THREATENING SOMEONE SEXUALLY IS A HORRIBLE ACT
TIMIDITY IS LAUGHABLE
TO DISAGREE PRESUPPOSES MORAL INTREGRITY
TO VOLUNTEER IS REACTIONARY
TORTURE IS BARBARIC
TRADING A LIFE FOR A LIFE IS FAIR ENOUGH
TRUE FREEDOM IS FRIGHTFUL
UNIQUE THINGS MUST BE THE MOST VALUABLE
UNQUESTIONING LOVE DEMONSTRATES THE LARGESSE OF SPIRIT
USING FORCE TO STOP FORCE IS ABSURD
VIOLENCE IS PERMISSIBLE EVEN DESIRABLE OCCASIONALLY
WAR IS THE PURIFICATION RITE
WE MUST MAKE SACRIFICES TO MAINTAIN OUR QUALITY OF LIFE
WHEN SOMETHING TERRIBLE HAPPENS PEOPLE WAKE UP
WISHING THINGS AWAY IS NOT EFFECTIVE
WITH PERSEVERANCE YOU CAN DISCOVER ANY TRUTH
WORDS TEND TO BE INADEQUATE
WORRYING CAN HELP YOU PREPARE
YOU ARE A VICTIM OF THE RULES YOU LIVE BY
YOU ARE GUILELESS IN YOUR DREAMS
YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR CONSTITUTING THE MEANING OF THINGS
YOU ARE THE PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE
YOU CAN LIVE THROUGH YOUR DESCENDANTS
YOU CAN NEVER OUTRUN YOURSELF
YOU CAN PULL YOURSELF OUT OF ANY HOLE
YOU CAN’T EXPECT PEOPLE TO BE SOMETHING THEY’RE NOT
YOU CAN’T FOOL OTHERS IF YOU’RE FOOLING YOURSELF
YOU DIG YOUR OWN GRAVE
YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S WHAT UNTIL YOU SUPPORT YOURSELF
YOU GET THE FACE YOU DESERVE
YOU HAVE TO HURT OTHERS TO BE EXTRAORDINARY
YOU MUST BE INTIMATE WITH A TOKEN FEW
YOU MUST DISAGREE WITH AUTHORITY FIGURES
YOU MUST HAVE ONE GRAND PASSION
YOU MUST KNOW WHERE YOU STOP AND THE WORLD BEGINS
YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT PEOPLE REALLY THINK ABOUT YOU
YOU ONLY CAN UNDERSTAND SOMEONE OF YOUR OWN SEX
YOU OWN THE WORLD NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND
YOU SHOULD TRAVEL LIGHT
YOU SHOULD STUDY AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
YOUR ACTIONS ARE POINTLESS IF NO ONE NOTICES
YOUR OLDEST FEARS ARE THE WORST ONES

 

Links to Things I Like

Tall Poppy Syndrome

  • The Death of Adulthood In American Culture. I talked about the tragic loss of American adulthood in an interview with Free Lunch Diaries a couple years ago. Oddly, people are also talking about the death of American Childhood. Maybe we’re all merging into a single, unstratified Age. Which is approximately 17.
  • Do you Speak Startup? It’s easy to agree with this article, since it builds on one of my earlier blog posts.
  • The “Ringo Starr Strategy” is a concept I came up with today, which means, if you can’t be great at something, surround yourself with people who are.
  • The Law of Jante, which is the Scandinavian tendency to put the collective before the individual, but is another way of describing Tall Poppy Syndrome (a term I didn’t realize had its origins in The Histories of Herodotus). I first learned of The Law of Jante in an interview with Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Memorization, Facts and Learning to Learn

“Never memorize what you can look up in books” is a quote often attributed to Einstein, though what he actually said was somewhat different. He was asked, but did not know the speed of sound as included in the Edison Test. When this was pointed out, he said, “[I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books. He also said, “…The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.” See also Ray Bradbury, in Fahrenheit 451:

“Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.”

The single thing I’ve found it valuable to memorize is poetry. As a child I learned hundreds of poems by heart, which I can recite even now. I wanted to become a writer, and felt that poetry was perfected language, so having it in my subconscious mind would make the music of language always available to me.

Priya Haji, 1970-2014

Priya Haji

How can we honor Priya Haji, a social entrepreneur, a mother, a friend, an inspiration to us all? She had such heart.

Priya believed that everyone, from ex-Presidents to ex-cons, were worthy of respect. When, in a group of entrepreneurs, someone had behaved badly, everyone backed away. But Priya said, yes, that wasn’t good, but here’s how he can be helped. When she met people, she saw they weren’t the worst thing thing they had done. She saw them bigger than they were, bigger than they even saw themselves. She treated everyone this way.

Van Jones, at her memorial yesterday, said that when everyone on the Stanford campus was marching around, waving banners and saying that Racism was Bad, Priya was down the road in East Palo Alto starting Free at Last. She believed everyone, without exception, could do better. From Free at Last, through World of Good, and to SaveUp, she was always working to make the world, and everyone in it, better, kinder, more compassionate. As good, and as kind, and as compassionate as she herself was.

Beloved Priya, Goodbye.

Pulmonary Embolism & Advanced Directives

A friend of mine died this past week, suddenly, of a pulmonary embolism. After she died, I learned that a pulmonary embolism is caused by a blood clot, typically from the legs, blocks one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs. Death is sudden. Be aware of potential causes: you should be cautious after surgery, if you have cancer, after flying on a plane, and if you have been immobilized for some time — when you are most likely to develop blood clots. On planes it is common to have swelling in both ankles, but you should be on guard if one of your ankles, or feet, has more swelling than the other. Call a doctor immediately! And do those plane exercises, and move your legs as much as you can during the flight.

I wasn’t aware of any of this and felt it should be passed on. It turns out that many people I know have friends and family members who have died from pulmonary embolism. Here is more information about it from The Mayo Clinic.

And while we’re talking about the end of life, please read Shoshana Berger’s essay How to Die in 5 Easy Steps — and make sure you have an advanced directive written to help people who love you make decisions about your care should you become incapacitated.

Which is more important? Being cool, winning, and engaging in consensus reality with other winners? Or catching a glimpse of something miraculous, unforeseen, strange or uncanny, full of chance and possibility?

Mingle with Road Crews

“Yes, my consuming desire is to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, barroom regulars—to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all this is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always supposedly in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yes, God, I want to talk to everybody as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night…”

― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

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