Red sky thinking

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What is urgency? Why are some people driven while others sit back?  

Because I am a happy cliche, Hamilton has been on repeat recently. In Burr’s words: “he has something to prove, he has nothing to lose.”

Why wouldn’t you try to do everything you can? Time is limited, and you can’t wait for life to happen to you.

Clearly not everyone feels this way. Or even if they do, they don’t all feel able to do the same.

There is a moment in the recent Kurt Vonnegut documentary where they talk about how he failed at all kinds of things; as a General Electric publicist, as a car salesman, and sometimes as a parent. But he was driven beyond comprehension to write, write, write. 

Where it comes from, that inner momentum, is a mystery. Perhaps it’s desperation. Or necessity. Or, like Vonnegut, a need for expression. 

Perhaps parents pass their workaholism on

But urgency is real, and there are urgent things all around us. Not the distractions, the cheap trinkets that want your attention for a millisecond to justify their existence. I mean the big stuff. The real politics—the invasions, the insurrections—or the stuff of science, the energy crisis, the burning world. These worlds circle each other and interlink, two cultures writ over again.

What if drive is just another way of expressing resilience? Of overcoming?

Because not stopping looks a lot like resilience to me. We make new things, share new thoughts. We keep going.

Compliance can decline over time, but psychology says resilience is the default state

Nick Harkaway talks about something similar he calls ”wild sky thinking”

“It’s about resilience, flexibility, adaptation and novelty in the face of the strange, not just on a physical or policy level, but as a strand of self-identity,” he says. “Wild Sky thinking is about how to live with yawning existential chaos… Wild Sky thinking accepts radical change as a permanent state, generates fluid or branching strategies, and seeks to thrive by creating chains of liveable space in volatile environments.”

The wildest sky I remember happened on September 9, 2020. San Francisco was bathed in unending dusk caused by a horrible cascade. The wildfires created smoke. The smoke blocked the sun. The sun turned the skies red.

For a moment it was a slap in the face, a hiatus, a break in what you thought you knew.

It was that moment when you don’t know what to do.

And then?

Urgency. Drive.

Time is limited.

What can we do but create? What can we do but keep going?

We make new things, we share new thoughts. We keep going.

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