Do you think it’s a question of how much you balance that drive to achieve with being present and enjoying the moment?
You know, it’s funny because I frequently get emails from young people starting out and asking, “How do I make a successful website or start my own thing?” And, very often, it’s tied to some measure of success that’s audience-based or reach-based. “How do you build up to seven million readers a month or two million Facebook fans?” But the work is not how to get that size of an audience or those numbers. That’s just the byproduct of what Lewis Hyde calls “creative labor,” which is really our inner drive. The real work is how not to hang your self-worth, your sense of success and merits, the fullness of your heart, and the stability of your soul on those numbers—on that constant positive reinforcement and external validation. That’s the only real work, and the irony is that the more “successful” you get, by either by your own standards or external standards, the harder it is to decouple all of those inner values from your work. I think we often confuse the doing for the being.
If you’re curious why I just posted an article about the biology of the sarlacc that lives in the pit of Carkoon on Tatooine, written from the perspective of an interplanetary naturalist based on Earth… trust me, there’s a good reason.
Today, I’m taking part in a blog carnival all about the science of Tatooine in the Star Wars universe! Several superb science writers have posted awesome articles about Tatooine-related science, from climate to ecology to megafauna, on great blogs all over the web. Go check ‘em out:
Diary of An Interplanetary Naturalist - The Sarlacc
C-3PO: “You will therefore be taken to the Dune Sea and cast into the pit of Carkoon, the nesting place of the all-powerful sarlacc.”
C-3PO: “In his belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering, as you are slowly digested over a thousand years.”
It was twenty years ago that I came into possession of that protocol droid. I was its fourteenth owner, although it would not disclose any information on the thirteen previous ones. By the time it entered my possession its body’s brass plating was almost as thin and timid as its AI. For the first year after I purchased this tarnished, golden droid from the district auction, this memory recall occurred without warning, at first daily, then weekly, then, for some reason, scarcely at all.
Owing to this unpredictable glitch, I was never able to make use of the C-3PO unit as a translator or a cultural mediator, not that I ever really needed it considering the advancement of modern neural AI embeds. But C-3PO’s terror, its obsession stuck with me.
It’s a fool’s errand to project free will or desire upon even the most sentient of droids, but there was something about this recall, its intensity, its pain… its fear, so unlike anything I had ever heard uttered in digital voice, that called like a Siren to my curiosity. Never could I have imagined how a droid so distressed would guide my journeys.
What did it mean? What is the “sarlacc” this droid spoke of?
Historic records from the time of the Galactic Rebellion are sadly incomplete thanks to the Great Cyberwar, but even a child would turn rapt at the mention of the legendary Han Solo, and from that very first mention I knew I must uncover more.
What I, an interplanetary naturalist, have observed in my lifetime of exploration and study, may top the list of “horrible ways to die in the known universe”, this thousand-year psychotorture, this eon of agony. I present here my natural observations of the sarlacc.
I meet many people offended by evolution, who passionately prefer to be the personal handicraft of God than to arise by blind physical and chemical forces over aeons from slime…What they wish to be true, they believe is true.
Only 9 percent of Americans accept the central finding of modern biology that human beings (and all other species) have slowly evolved by natural processes from a succession of more ancient beings with no divine intervention needed along the way.
Look on the bright side! Since Carl wrote these words in 1995’s The Demon-Haunted World, support for human beings evolving solely by natural processes has risen to a whopping 32%!! Although, I must admit, I don’t know where that 9% number comes from.
Some of you may have noticed that I posted three videos this week to the OKTBS YouTube channel, and if you’re good at math, you realize that is exactly two more than I normally post in a week.
That’s because this week’s videos were part of a special series all about how our bodies evolved to look the way that they do! You know, why you have a brain-filled head on top, a spine down the back, a belly full of guts, and some interesting differences (and similarities) between left vs. right.
If you’d like to watch them all together, I’ve collected them in a playlist, which you can watch below:
Sometimes a subject like this just won’t fit into a single video (or at least a video that isn’t 20 minutes long). I’d love to hear your feedback. Would you like to see more of these multi-part series in the future?
Check me out on this week’s Inquiring Minds podcast with Chris Mooney and Indre Viskontas. We talk about UFOs, Bigfoot, and a little bit of Game of Thrones. If that’s not enough of my voice, I was on some other podcasts this week too, listen to them here.
You’ll also enjoy this week’s other guest, scientist, philosopher, historian, and art aficionado Arthur I. Miller on how science, art, and technology are combining to create a third culture of creative wonder. Great stuff!
“While some early forms of scientific engagement are known to have been present in prehistoric cultures, it wasn’t until the 19th century that science emerged as a formal, specialized field. Art, on the other hand, was important to the human experience even before we were fully human. Neanderthals were using ochre pigments for ornamental purposes 250,000 years ago, and many of our earliest relics are cave paintings and musical instruments. Hegel has a theory that as time progresses, the world is coming to know itself. Perhaps art is the very illustration of that idea: a collective creative embodiment of the world coming to know itself. Evolution combined with consciousness produces culture.”—
Or at least let’s listen to me talk about things? I was on three, count ‘em three separate podcasts this week, and two of the episodes have been released (the third one, Inquiring Minds with Chris Mooney and Indre Viskontas is coming out on Friday). I’ve embedded them below if you’d like to listen to me talk about things! (Tumblr dashboard viewers will have to click through)
"Talk Nerdy" with Cara Santa Maria: Cara’s a good friend of mine, and while I was in LA for VidCon we took time out from a nerdy pool party to chat about everything from what it’s like to love science and be from Texas to whether ignorance is the most powerful force in the universe. Oh, and a cute little kitty joined us for part of the show:
“You Are Not So Smart” with David McRaney: David helped me research cognitive biases and brain tricks for a recent OKTBS video, Why Did We Blow On Nintendo Games, and it was my pleasure to join him to talk about the future of science communication and what happens when you rub diseased chickens on your beard. Plus, we have this whole “smart vs. smart” thing going on:
The folks at io9 have collected some of our most commonly misused scientific terms , from “theory” vs. “hypothesis” to “innate” vs. “learned” and a helping side of “natural” vs. “artificial”, all with explanations from prominent thinkers on exactly how those words are used in the language of Sciencese.
This is important, because many of the words and concepts that we use in scientific discourse have completely different meanings in everyday language. and knowing the difference can prevent a lot of misunderstandings. For instance, how things like evolution and man-made climate change could still be “theories” despite being overwhelmingly supported by scientific observation and really not up for argument.
My own feeling is that science fiction, of all the different forms of literature, is the one that most easily accepts the notion of change. Things are changing very quickly, and any kid who thinks about it knows that the world in which he or she will be a grown-up — which he or she will be helping to run — will be considerably different from this one. Maybe better, maybe worse, but different. Science fiction explores the future world.
I think more and more young people are beginning to feel that science fiction is the kind of literature that a person interested in reality should be reading.