Don't Panic by Will Ringland

Slowly I feel like I'm getting a better hold of work. But I come home exhausted from all the Emergency Things we are dealing with. I have energy for maybe one other thing in a day right now like exercise or estate phone calls. But that's it.

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Finite by Will Ringland

Lost Time is lost Subsistence; it is therefore lost Treasure.

- Benjamin Franklin in a contribution to a pamphlet on the Principles of Trade.

The Inbetweener 2010.23

This week was a lesson in moderation and industry (and cleanliness, a little).

I'm writing this between bouts of working remotely. I've had an Industrious week. I have a review for a team member over due 4 days (now submitted for review review) and another due at the end of the month. There's a big deadline at the 26th and we moved the two largest projects for one of my applications in to QA last week. Which is about normal. But a poorly written red flag caused me to put everything aside and shore up a gap analysis other applications have been lagging on so that hen said flag goes to the executives, it isn't patently false.

So. I't's been a busy week. A number of these tasks are the sorts of things that drive me. I enjoy writing a good review, I really enjoy big projects. I enjoy meta-analysis of results from company-wide initiatives.

When I have the time.

When I have to time to fully engage.

This week was an exercise in lost moderation. Too much industry sucks time and energy and what gets me, thinking about tis in context of the type of work that Franklin did, is that there is little direct gain for my efforts. In fact, I ended the day with someone questioning my judgment in an inappropriate way. Franklin, working as a printer, has direct result to show for extra labor. More set type, more printed pages, more bound books, more things to put out into the world.

When you put in extra time in industry, where the output isn't tangible, that puts extra strain on you. Coming home un-energetic, I did not pic up a broom or (remember) to grab the laundry. I realized this morning that, instead of getting the laundry, I resorted to bachelor tendencies of clothing reuse. Meaning: ew, filthy habits. I feel like I need some sort of percentage graph to indicate how these things go.

But it's not mathematical. I've had weeks with similar hours, where I was in my office, logging in at night, where I left jazzed about it. It's the days where I can point to a things and say, 'Here. Right here is a result. This project is better because I was involved.

I don't feel that, at least not this week, doing analysis, fixing things others broke. The digital economy lacks the tangible results of extra time spent. And when you have no physical goods to hold in your hand, it's hard to see where that extra time goes. It's hard to see why I do what I do with weeks like this.

Moderation acts like an overfill channel which redirects efforts from on thing overflowing into other reserves. It keeps you able to other things.

Like change your shirt.

Applied moderation by Will Ringland

Hot cognition is Psychological concept regarding reasoning where a person's thinking is influenced by their emotional state (1). Hot cognition is cognition colored by emotional arousal and suggests that any emotional involvement prevents a person from being completely rational.

The obvious manifestation of a hot cognition is in the initial reaction to a stimulus. It's that gut reaction we have. A recent example in my own life: Alyska and I were at Barriques last night after work enjoying an impromptu tasting event. As we were settling in, a baby started screaming. My initial response was to cringe and question the person in my head). "Oh look. You brought a baby. To a bar…. (2)" I was filled with outrage at such a selfish choice - why would you take a baby out to a place like this‽

This is angry and extreme. I set down my pen and focused on my breathing. The baby is not out to get me nor is it unreasonable for a parent to want to get out of the house occasionally. And you can argue taking a baby to a coffee shop is hardly a crime against humanity, let alone a personal slight.

  1. Avoid excess in thought and deed.
  2. Do not hold grudges or belief of malign intent.

This is the essence of my edicts for the week, and though I think Franklin was implying political moderation in his definition of moderation, this sort of reactionary close-mindedness is antithetical to living in accord with other human beings.

So… that's a black mark for the day even if hot cognition is difficult to avoid - we react as we react with all the force of emotion we can muster some times. But the key is recognizing it and finding center and expressing these virtues outward.

As my views on these virtues evolve, it's interesting to see how their interpretation changes or solidifies for me. In previous weeks, I didn't really grok (3) moderation as anything but "avoiding excess" but I'm taking a shine to the interactive qualities of it. It, like Sincerity, Justice, and Humility, are virtues in external application, in interaction with a world of other human beings.

I mean, they don't need to exist in an unpopulated space. You, stranded on an island, don't need to be sincere or just. These ideas don't really matter where as virtues like Temperance, Silence, Industry, Tranquility, can all better the person herself irrespective of external effects(4).

When I started the project, I assumed that these virtues were to be directed inward, that any external effects would be secondary or incidental, but I'm starting to understand more of the craftiness that Franklin built into it. Which I should have figured because he was a crafty bastard. Though he was certainly concerned with being an inherently good, moral person, he was also desirous of a high regard and status in society. Franklin believed that these things come from being a person of high character, one who contributed to the world, and treated people with respect.

There is personal virtue in being virtuous to others.

Or: it isn't not about you. It's about other people too.

    1. It's foil - cold cognition - is emotionless thinking. Logic, critical analysis, analytical thinking are generally consider cold cognitive tasks where the outcome is driven by facts rather than emotion. As with most human capability, these ideas processes fall on a spectrum and even the most inconsequential task can include emotional resonance, increasing the "heat" of the decision making process.

    2. This is reference to Sweet Home Alabama which is a delightful Reese Witherspoon movie.

    3. Term coined by Robert Heinlein in A Stranger in a Strange Land which is a marvelous book despite Heinlein being a misogynistic turd. It means "To understand something fully, usually by consuming its essence and adding it to your own. Funny thing - the term had usage before Heinlein in 1860. See Google's Ngram viewer; I wonder if that's just an OCR glitch.

    4. I think there's more to this - intrinsic versus extrinsic virtues - but I can't put my finger on it just yet…

Moderation by Will Ringland

Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

Franklin’s moderation is more inclusive than what we consider it to be today. Today, we tend to apply moderation to pleasurable actions. One shouldn’t drink to much, shouldn’t sleep too much, shouldn’t do any one thing to the exclusion of another. Franklin thought more broadly.

In a time of political tumult, Franklin would call for moderation in political extremes. In numerous letters between friends and political allies over the course of his life, Franklin calls for “moderation” in political influence. To Samuel Cooper (1) in 1770:

...Perhaps by this means some of that Influence with Governors might be retained, which induces them to treat the People with Equity and Moderation. But if our People will, by consuming such Commodities, purchase and pay for their Fetters, who that sees them so shackled will think they deserve either Redress or Pity?

Here, moderation is both a reduction in excess - a culling of power to avoid generating ill political will- and an approaching to governance. Moderation in state affairs can help maintain power, influence, and happiness. Similar mentions of moderation as a political stance appear in correspondence from Franklin to various US governing bodies regarding Britain’s excessive taxation leading up to the revolution. In a letter to the Massachusetts House of Representatives (2) regarding the US’s relationship with Britain, Franklin calls for moderation in asserting the rights of both parties,

By the Exercise of prudent Moderation on her part, mix’d with a little Kindness; and by a decent Behaviour on ours, excusing where we can excuse from a Consideration of Circumstances, and bearing a little, with the Infirmities of her Government as we would with those of an aged Parent, tho’ firmly asserting our Privileges, and declaring that we mean at a proper time to vindicate them, this advantageous Union may still be long continued.

This letter in particular is interesting because it outlines numerous grievances that both the US and Britain having in their dealings with each other. Many of them involve an excess of power in any of the proposed settlements between them. If either maintains too extreme a position, it becomes so much less likely any sort of accord may be reached which then ruins any mutual benefit otherwise available. This is especially the case where holding on to a grudge can forestall reconciliation.

In essence any extreme affect, be it in political beliefs to holding grudges to personal passions (3), leads to less worthy outcomes for an individual. It is only in setting aside the strength of our beliefs that we can come to mutual understanding and beneficial arrangements.

So, with that in mind, I think the following edicts make sense for the week:

  1. Avoid excess in thought and deed (4).
  2. Do not hold grudges or belief of malign intent.

Moderation is a soft open-mindedness. Do not assume others are ill intended and compromise. The truth in a matter, and the most beneficial circumstance, lies between extremes in belief. Holding no inviolable beliefs helps us find the best compromise.

    1. I’m not sure who this Samuel Cooper was but it is not the Cooper who served in the Civil war. The letter in question was sent on December 30th, 1770.

    2. Sent on July 7th, 1773. During this period, Franklin is acting as political ambassador for the colonies as they attempt to negotiate further rights from Britain, including the right to vote on proposed taxation from Britain.

    3. Arguably, Franklin’s entire Moral Perfection project is about moderating extremes in thought and deed. Many of his virtues take a restrictive bent designed to keep one working and engaged in more directly beneficial actions.

    4. I believe Franklin meant this but I like the clarity.