Photo of sign saying Permission for Burial Required

I’ll be an entrepreneur … if you pay me to do it.
I’ll paint the picture … if you will hang it.
I’ll write the book … if you will sell it.
I’ll take the test … if you promise to pass me.
I’ll take the exam … if it says I am healthy.
I’ll tell you I love you … if you love me.
I want to live a life where all my dreams come true.
I’ll strive for them, I will. It’s only up to you.

—©LLS, 4/26/16

Photo: Richard Elzey [CC]

And now Prince


Let's just agree that 57 is too young.


When I saw the news on Twitter that David Bowie had died, I started to cry. It was the middle of the night, but I couldn't sleep anymore. I tossed and turned with "Heroes" echoing in my head.

Here it is, three days later and I'm still trying to process it. David Bowie was not just part of the soundtrack of my life, he represented the ultimate in individuality.

This was a time of Carly Simon, Neil Diamond, Neal Young, and Elton John. In Bowie's early years, The Beatles were still recording. Led Zeppelin hit it big about when Bowie did. In this company, Bowie stood out. And he was hugely popular, which was perhaps odd because this was still a time when people didn't admit to being gay, not publicly. Conformity was still the norm. Queerness was shunned, ridiculed, sometimes beaten. This was before punk, before new wave, before metal, but I can't help but feel that those movements all grew out of aspects of Bowie profound stage presence and music. And while Bowie was not vocal about his private life, his performances, especially as Ziggy Stardust, challenged people's notions of sexuality and gender, and rumors in the press colored public perceptions of him. And yet they loved his music. We all did. (Well, except for those who didn't. They can speak for themselves.)

Bowie was there in my college days, in grad school, and repeatedly from then on—always different, even after he dropped the deliberate personas. And he was there in movies. My own favorites were Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and The Hunger.

Bowie showed us that we could be ourselves. He rejected the establishment even as he exploited it. And just by being there, he let us know that things were okay.

And now he's gone. I'm still trying to absorb that.

Below are some music videos and performance clips of just some of the songs I've loved so much. I recommend also browsing images online. You'll see someone who loved life and loved people. His open smile in candid settings. He was so alive! One of my big regrets is that I never saw him in concert.

Bother me less (or: I don't want your notification's nose under my attention tent)

Photo of electric bell

The Apple Watch seems to be inspiring a lot of uninspired thinking. Things like all the news that fits on the wrist. I for one cannot imagine why I would spend hundreds of dollars so a device can annoy me with yet more notifications. I certainly don’t need to have my work/flow/conversation/meeting/meditation/relaxation interrupted with news about people I don’t know in places I’m not. That crap can wait until I’m ready to lean back and browse the headlines. That’s what Feedly and Flipboard are for. I see articles of other app developers eagerly working to get out their own Watch versions and/or extensions of their apps.

That’s great! But … no thanks.

I don’t want more, streamlined, easy-to-access notifications. I don’t want yet more interruptions to pull me out of what I’m doing.

I want fewer notifications.

Right now, I have basically two levels of stuff being pushed at me every day: the most important stuff that I always want to know about asap (e.g., phone calls from my family); and the rest of the stuff, which on any given day might include things which I may be interested in seeing right away, but not always (e.g., an email from a long-lost friend, a call from someone I’m meeting tomorrow, a text from an acquaintance with whom I chat asynchronously, a server alert requiring attention), intermixed with the general crap I’m inundated with all the time (e.g., outsourcing spammers, newsletters I find myself magically subscribed to, newsletters I actually subscribed to, professional listservs, non-urgent business emails that may or may not require any response, Kickstarter updates, email from developers of apps I’ve downloaded over the past several years, non-urgent server notifications from my own sites, server alerts of all kinds for clients I had eight years ago, political action emails of all stripes, and so on — all of which arrive with the rhetorical fanfare of OMG YOU WANT TO READ THIS NOW!!!).

I’d love to be able to have multiple levels of urgency smartly applied to the things that interrupt me. The phone, with its dozens of apps, each with their own arcane notification settings, does not offer that. The system is too dumb, as in limited by the simplest of algorithms. Same with email rules.

Maybe, just maybe, something like the Apple Watch can allow me to set up yet another level of urgency filtering, so that I can leave the iPhone in the drawer, thus enabling it to leave me alone and bother me less. That makes me hopeful, and is the #1 reason I’m interested in the Apple Watch. Maybe I hope for too much. But there must be an improvement upon the Monolith of Distraction.

[Image: "DoorBell 001" by HNH - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.]

Building a better superego

Punishment in 18th century Bristol by John Latimer

’Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions, a tradition floated by best hopes and intentions for the future … and grounded by the reality that most will fade long before Summer Solstice, some forgotten by the first day of February.

The problem with resolutions is that they are, for the most part, structured as demands upon ourselves. We look at our shortcomings and shake our heads. Dissatisfied with our unworthy ways, we try to parent ourselves into doing better.

And so we make lists, and read listicles, and download apps, and sign up for seminars, and buy books — somehow convincing ourselves that this time things will be different, this time you won’t let yourself fall off the bridge to success.

It doesn’t help that there’s an entire industry of task management apps, books, workbooks, videos, seminars, retreats that all focus on constructing a better way to parent ourselves.

The problem, however, is that so many of these approaches focus on scolding ourselves into achieving, and their answer with all of these systems is that somehow we can engineer the building of a better, more effective, more powerful superego, and that super-ego will parent us into success. Here’s how it works:

The developing superego absorbs the traditions of the family and the surrounding society and serves to control aggressive or other socially unacceptable impulses. Violation of the superego’s standards results in feelings of guilt or anxiety and a need to atone for one’s actions. The superego continues to develop into young adulthood as a person encounters other admired role models and copes with the rules and regulations of the larger society.

In other words, according to Freudian psychology, the super-ego — the ‘over-I’ — is the voice that scolds oneself for doing poorly, that triggers guilt over things done or not done, usually by the id — the ‘it’. When you cheat on your diet and feel guilty, that’s your superego at work. When you get depressed because you sat around drinking coffee instead of getting up on that treadmill to exercise, that’s your superego at work. When you flog yourself emotionally when you see in March that your savings account is not nearly as flush as you had intended in your New Year’s resolutions, that’s your superego at work. Desk not cleared, inbox not zero, fruit in the fridge not eaten, thank you’s not sent — all occasions for self-pillorying.

If superego had an IPO, it would instantly become the biggest company in the world.

The thing is: it doesn’t work.

At least it doesn’t for me.

I don’t believe I’m atypical in spending most of my free time doing things I enjoy rather than things I’ve decided in the past I should do (for my own good). We all do it. Why? Because we’re human, because we’re animals, because we want to be happy and we end up doing things to achieve that. The only problem with that is that we often do the wrong things, and therefore end up not meeting our needs. We eat ice cream to find a modicum of joy, only to hinder our goal of losing weight. We go to Facebook to find connection with others, only to hinder our productivity and perhaps reduce our wherewithal to enjoy even stronger connections with others in person.

And when we see ourselves doing this, we scold ourselves. “Bad you! Bad bad you! Don’t do that!” And duly chastened, we parent ourselves into behaving better. And yet the next week or next hour we find ourselves doing it all yet again.

In Dharma practice, the super-ego is something that usually brings nothing but anguish. Simply wishing things to be other than they are only brings anguish. And until you can let go of that anguish, you’re trapped in this self-flogging cycle, unable to see clearly, and thus unable to effect the change you yearn for.

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