Escape the box

boxes

“They are born, then put in a box; they go home to live in a box; they study by ticking boxes; they go to what is called “work” in a box, where they sit in their cubicle box; they drive to the grocery store in a box to buy food in a box; they go to the gym in a box to sit in a box; they talk about thinking “outside the box”; and when they die they are put in a box. All boxes, Euclidian, geometrically smooth boxes.”

I found this quote from Hacker News thought-provoking. It is originally from a book, “The Bed of Procrustes” by Nassim Taleb.

Procrustes? The stretcher? What?

In Greek Mythology, Procrustes was an evil smith and robber who owned a small state along the sacred way between Eleusis and Athens. He forced the travelers to spend the night there and try fitting them into an iron bed by sketching their limbs or cutting off the appropriate length of legs. Luckily, Theseus, the mythical king of Athens, killed him in the end.

Cruel and bloody. Just like other terrifying Greek Myths.

Why would someone want to do that? Why would someone try to make something that doesn’t fit, fit?

I think it is a clever observation of the world. We do it all the time by trying to fit people and ideas into a mold. The education system, cultural norms, dogmas, arbitrary standard of success…you get the idea.

I guess Taleb wanted us to think about all these things critically in a black humor way. We need to realize the fact that we know nothing about the world, so we can become better at dealing with it.

My favorite quotes from the book:

Desire to control everything

If you know, in the morning, what your day looks like with any precision, you are a little bit dead—the more precision, the more dead you are.

Improvising

We are hunters; we are only truly alive in those moments when we improvise; no schedule, just small surprises and stimuli from the environment.”

Fear of thinking

Most people fear being without audiovisual stimulation because they are too repetitive when they think and imagine things on their own.

Resisting temptation

You are rich if and only if money you refuse tastes better than money you accept.

Employment and slavery

Those who do not think that employment is systemic slavery are either blind or employed.

How to spend time

What fools call “wasting time” is most often the best investment.

How to become rich fast

The fastest way to become rich is to socialize with the poor; the fastest way to become poor is to socialize with the rich.

Ideal civilization

You will be civilized on the day you can spend a long period doing nothing, learning nothing, and improving nothing, without feeling the slightest amount of guilt.

Obsessions

Most feed their obsessions by trying to get rid of them.

Reason to have a job

If someone gives you more than one reason why he wants the job, don’t hire him.

Competition

You have a real life if and only if you do not compete with anyone in any of your pursuits.

Advice

When we want to do something while unconsciously certain to fail, we seek advice so we can blame someone else for the failure.

Argument

You never win an argument until they attack your person

Being completely free

You don’t become completely free by just avoiding to be a slave; you also need to avoid becoming a master.

Modernity

Modernity: we created youth without heroism, age without wisdom, and life without grandeur.

Reverse thinking on heroes

People focus on role models; it is more effective to find antimodels—people you don’t want to resemble when you grow up.

Salary and comfort

The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.

The bad side of the internet

The calamity of the information age is that the toxicity of data increases much faster than its benefits.

Trust

Don’t trust a man who needs an income—except if it is minimum wage. (Those in corporate captivity would do anything to “feed a family.”)


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