Gravity

Astronauts in space have to exercise daily to stay fit and strong. It’s not just about keeping healthy – without gravity there is no constant force pulling down on their bodies all day long, and so their muscles and bones are in danger of growing so weak that they’ll be useless when the astronaut lands back on Earth.

They solve it by creating their own gravity by attaching bands that pull you down as you exercise, ensuring that by the time they land back on Earth their bodies are capable of once again coping with that constant force. Without such exercise in space, your bones are in danger of losing too much mass since they no longer need it, so by the time the familiar force is applied once more they will not be able to support your body.

It’s the same with our creative endeavors. Without the constant force to push against the artist grows weak. Just like the astronaut, if the artist does not exercise their talents on a regular basis, they will begin to atrophy, like the bones that support us growing weaker by the day.

It’s why I started this daily post month. It’s gravity. Yes, it’s artificial, but it’s also real. I could have kept the project to myself, but I’ve made a public commitment to keep going. The fear of public failure forces you to carry on. Yes, it’s a hack, just like the band pulling the astronaut down as they run on the treadmill, but it works, and that’s what matters.

Sun-Tzu has a concept known as a “death ground” strategy. If you maneuver your troops so that they have no way to retreat, by having mountains or sea behind them and to their sides, they will fight much more fiercely and with more energy than if an escape route was available. With no way out, your soldiers will be fighting for their lives with nothing else to lose, so they will give their all. Perform or perish.

My project isn’t the “death ground” strategy, but it’s a something little bit like it. Sometimes we need to create our own gravity if none exists, a force to push against, to fuel our energies and force us to exercise our skills, because if you don’t force yourself to do it, who will?

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“For even falsehood, uttered by the tongue of man, seemed like truth and light before this hopelessly-deaf and unresponsive silence.”

My new book: a translation of selected short stories by Leonid Andreyev, the father of Russian Expressionism from the Silver Age of Russian literature. A piercing, pitiless glance into the heart of the human condition.

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Further Reading

Proust wrote that the true voyage of discovery is not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold a hundred universes that each of them beholds. Thus, in the words of Ruskin, what good books give us is not mere knowledge, but sight.

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