This is the 8th newsletter of Book Lovers sent on September 27, 2015, highlighting that we don't desire things because we find them valuable but that we find things valuable because we desire them and to remember that between all and nothing... there is something.
This edition features Baruch Spinoza & André Comte Sponville.
Don't miss the following letters:
Last week, we were talking about the need to choose the game before choosing how to play it.
The main takeaways:
1. we should pay attention not to put too much emphasis on efficiency (doing things right), running the risk of losing effectiveness (doing the right things).
2. we should always remember that we can have counterpoints in our lives, which is the relationship between voices that are interdependent harmonically yet independant in rythm and contour.
Don't lose your love for books even if you like to run.
This week, we will make it shorter. And you'll understand why.
Last Thursday, I was in Toulouse and met my old friend Thomas Goubin under the sun.
As we were mentioning this newsletter he told me (I’m quoting without his consent): “What I like about your newsletter is that it forces me to take the time to read it.”
You know how the mind works: I immediately thought about my lifelong battle against short content. “People like video. People like short essays. People like photos”. Yeah, I know. But I don’t really care. Or I really care but I can’t convince myself it is really something of value.
At the same time, I had several feedbacks asking me to write shorter essay, and to put more emphasis on my favourite articles of the week.
So here I am, stuck between two alternatives:
1. declaring war against short content, ie: just keeping on my newsletters as they are
2. accepting people as they are: we are busy people, facing tons of stimuli
Trusting (or avoiding to choose)
The very natural way for me, when confronted with an equivocal choice to make, is to not think about it and let my unconscious decide. So I open thebook I was reading at that time from André Comte Sponville (very good bookbtw).
And the answer was just there in front of my eyes, just as an intentional message from the author (high five André!).
Comte Sponville was speaking about relativism. He first told the difference between values and truths. “We should be relativist regarding values, but not regarding facts” (science is all about facts, they don't (and can't) say anything about values)
He tells us the difference between relativism and nihilism, which get often mixed up.
"To be a relativist is considering that any value is relative (to a certain subject, to a certain society, to a certain culture, to a certain time…). To be a nihilist[abolishing value], it’s thinking that everything has the same value and that this value is nothing."
Relativism & desire
He then adds: we should neither make norms absolute (we are not God) nor abolish them (it would be giving up our humanity).
Don't stop the reading there, you'll soon understand why we are talking about all of that.
Why would it be giving up humanity? Because “desire is the essence of a man” (Spinoza). And if reason makes us capable of knowing, desire makes us value things. Spinoza tells us that we desire things because they are pleasing to us, not the way around:
It is clear that we neither strive for, nor will, neither want, nor desire anything because we judge it to be good; on the contrary, we judge something to be good because we strive for it, will it, want it, and desire it. (Ethics, IIIp9s)
The conclusion (finally!)
When I read these words, I couldn't help but think that long content are not something more valuable than short content per se, it is just that I prefer them and as a consequence find them more desirable (high five Baruch!)
But the real conclusion lays in Comte Sponville words: between all (absolute value) and nothing (nihilism), there is something (relativism).
That might sounds obvious but I often forget it. So this week I just tried to keep that in mind.
Try yourself, maybe you will find matters in which you side in one camp forgetting that between the two opposing positions… there are many more.
Weekly #MustRead articles
1. In We’ve Got This Whole Unicorn Thing All Wrong!, Tim O'Reilly calls for a shift in our way of evaluating tech companies. We shouldn’t just look at their value for investors but as the real value they provide. And gives us 3 great indicators of desirable unicorns: (a) unbelievable at first, (b) change the way the world works, (c) enormous economic impact that is not all captured by the entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who birthed it.
2. In Give It Five Minutes, Jason Fried tells us a story in which he has the role of the jerk. And the lesson learned he gives us might prevent us from being the jerk ourselves.
3. In The Operating Model That Is Eating The World, Aaron Dignan describe what he calls the Responsive Operating System used by the new tech giants. Hint: Visionary (not commercial) Purpose that guides an agile Process that enables People who make (not manage) Products built to evolve (not to last) which become Platforms for the world (not just the company) to build upon.
If you enjoyed this week's newsletter, please forward it to someone you like.And start the conversation by replying to this email or by sending my a quick tweet:@willybraun
Looking forward to having your feedbacks and your impressions after the readings.