According to the French philosopher Pierre Hadot, ancient philosophy was something that had to be practised at each instant, and the goal of which was to transform the whole of the individual’s life
Central to Hadot’s reading of ancient philosophy are what he termed ‘spiritual exercises’.
The form of these exercises is ‘voluntary, personal practices through which we seek to change our way of being and of seeing the world’
the practising philosopher seeks through these exercises
to enter into a dialogue with oneself,
to convince and persuade oneself of some point, and
to establish in oneself the strength to live according to its truth.
To encourage in himself an attitude of compassion and self-control, the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius describes a practice of preparing himself for the day ahead:
Say to yourself first thing in the morning: today I shall meet people who are meddling, ungrateful, aggressive, treacherous, malicious and unsocial.
I have seen that the nature of good is what is right, and the nature of evil what is wrong; and I have reflected that the nature of the offender himself is akin to my own…
readied himself to respond in a rational and temperate way.
a further exercise of mentally reducing things to their fundamental nature, so as to rob them of their allure:
the transformative force of such exercises lies not only in their content, but also in their expression and form.
others encourage more overt behavioural change in an attempt to promote good habits, and to change our way of thinking as a result
in Letter 18 of his Letters on Ethics, Seneca writes:
Set yourself a period of some days in which you will be content with very small amounts of food, and the cheapest kinds, and with coarse, uncomfortable clothing … A time when the mind is free of anxieties is the very time when it should prepare itself for adversity.
How good it is, when you have roast meat or suchlike foods before you, to impress on your mind that this is the dead body of a fish or a bird or a pig; and again, that Falernian wine [the best at the time] is the mere juice of grapes, and your purple-edged robe simply the hair of a sheep soaked in shell-fish blood!
Another technique used widely by these thinkers had to do with expressing ideas in ways that could be easily brought to mind in the moments when they were needed.
Epictetus reminds his students that every situation has multiple ways of being interpreted. Whether we see a problem to be solved or an immovable obstacle is up to us.
Epicurus sought to support his followers to adopt an attitude of gratitude, by encouraging them to shift their focus away from those things they don’t have or truly need, and to focus instead on enjoying what is already theirs:
Epicurus and Epictetus encourage their followers to memorise and meditate on their ideas, until they become habitual ways of thinking and behaving.
The practising philosopher might then begin each morning by contemplating the meaning of such phrases, or might bring them quickly to mind in moments where emotions or desires become overwhelming.
Learning to make ceramics on the wheel feels initially impossible, pointless, tantrum-inducing.
Making ceramics requires patience and is an exercise in delayed gratification (or dissatisfaction).
There are so many ways to fuck something up, so many stages to the process, and
entering that cycle of hope, expectation, and either failure and trying again or ecstatic satisfaction added a new dimension to the rhythms of my life.
Powerlessness, for an amateur, can be its own draw.
I had something to care about.
I had a place to go in my free time
I had something to be curious about, and
my goals were unrelated to exterior forces
my progress was quantifiable
Hobbies: Leisure and the Culture of Work in America, by Steven Gelber
Leisure came to represent freedom because it took place in time separate from work
Leisure does not exist without work and is therefore defined by it.
Hobbies were a Trojan horse that brought the ideology of the factory and office into the parlor.
The capitalist value of a “work ethic” has always been present in the world of the hobbyist.
we are still proud of ourselves when we perform our hobbies efficiently, competently.
Pursuit of mastery is implied, if not always present.
Once I had made a few things that I didn’t hate — and because I have a smartphone and a need for validation — I began posting photos of my work on Instagram.
it felt irresponsible to turn down a few people who would help cover my expenses and who wanted my work in their hands.
I take a sick pleasure in the exhausting production line
It’s the same sick pleasure I get in staying up until 2 am working on a jigsaw puzzle:
maniacally focused on my goal at the expense of my posture.
Untangling the question of what I want to make from what will sell feels like crawling out of a very deep well.
This is, for many of us, the dream: unfettered commitment to externalizing our innards without concern for any gaze but our own.
I can no longer call ceramics my hobby, and I doubt I ever will.
Most of the dissonance comes from the fact that a job is much more than the core activity.
the act of making the pottery is a much smaller part of the overall workload.
Hobbies, by definition, can't be a job.
You can try to make a job or business that includes your hobby,
but it's a superset of the hobby with numerous other activities that you may or may not enjoy.
I have turned two of my hobbies into businesses
For me, the fact that you have to sell/market something isn't what makes it a stressful
Instead, I find most of the stress coming from the high stakes and need to hyper-optimise
Software is a conversation, between the software developer and the user.
But for that conversation to happen requires a lot of work beyond the software development.
It takes marketing, yes, but also sales, and public relations, and an office, and a network, and infrastructure, and air conditioning in the office, and customer service, and accounting, and a bunch of other support tasks.
But what do software developers do? They design and write code, they layout screens, they debug, they integrate, and they check things into the source code control repository.
The level a programmer works at is too abstract to support a business.
Developers working at the developer abstraction layer need an implementation layer — an organization that takes their code and turns it into products.