The Zen of Intuition as Understood by Steve Jobs

I started reading Walter Isaacson‘s biography of Steve Job two days ago and, like many have said before, it is a fascinating story. There are so many interesting quotes from Jobs himself about his past experiences that seem to be more revealing for a man who was famously guarded about his personal life and philosophies. And so far, I have only reached page 49. People often talk about how intuitive Apple products are and how he had a powerful sense of  what is natural to people’s emotions. His affiliations to Hinduism and Zen Buddhism are well-known and they are often reflected in the aesthetically minimal products that he allowed to come out of Apple’s production lines. In his teenage years, young Steve travelled to India in search of a spiritual guru, only to find out upon his arrival that the guru he sought had died. Without money, the starving teenager walked to many remote spiritual places in the northern states of India, where he learned something about intuition.

“Coming back to America was, for me, much more of a cultural shock than going to India.  The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world.  Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion.  That’s had a big impact on my work.

Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic; it is learned and it is a great achievement of Western civilization. In the villages of India, they never learned it. They learned something else which is in some ways just as valuable, but in other ways is not. That’s the power of intuition and experiential wisdom.Coming back after seven months in Indian villages, I saw the craziness of the western world and its capacity for rational thought. If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is.  If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things – that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more.  Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment.  You see so much more than you could see before.  It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.

Zen has been a deep influence in my life ever since. At one point I was thinking of going to Japan and trying to get into the Eihei-Ji monastery but my spiritual advisor urged me to stay here. He said there is nothing over there that isn’t here, and he was right. I learned the truth of the Zen saying that if you are willing to travel around the world to meet a teacher, one will appear next door.” – Steve Jobs

It is a telling quote from a man who was so famously adamant about what is and what is not right for products that would be shipped to millions around the world. While so many companies strived to design for the lowest common denominator, Apple always had one choice to make – Did Steve Jobs like it ? Only with a clear understanding of his own mind and the confidence that his intuition will lead him to the right answers, he was able to command such compliance from his company men and deliver such massive successes. This explains his seemingly magical power: To be able to predict what his customers wanted before they knew what they wanted.


A Resaonable Suggestion to Facebook

When you click ‘Like’ on something on Facebook and then place the mouse on top of the link, a tool tip shows up beneath the mouse pointer saying ‘Stop liking this item’. See, I didn’t realize that ‘Like’-ing something on Facebook was a present and continuous affair. I thought ‘Like’-ing is a one-time affirmation, like saying, ‘Hey, I like that pizza’. It does not mean I am continuing to like that pizza every single moment of passing time for eternity. Now I have to be more careful about what I like on Facebook. The more I think about it I am not sure if I can like anything that is not related to air, water and coffee anymore.

In certain sense, the prompt for ‘Stop liking this item’ can also be taken as Facebook trying to tell me that the item I liked isn’t good enough for me. May be based on my activity on Facebook, it has constructed a profile of me that is far more eclectic and demanding of quality, that the genius folks of Facebook deemed this particular item I liked is not worthy of my liking it. Well, I hate to tell you Facebook, but you don’t know me. Sure you know all of my friends -at least those who have a Facebook account, which is about 99%- and you know the posts I like and what I choose to ignore. You know the games I like to play, movies I like to watch, blogs I read and even the people who I stalk online. But you don’t know me completely. Because I have browser plugins that disable cookies and tracking. Also, you don’t know the things I do when I am not online and my phone is turned off. So your idea of me is not complete. There are many things you don’t know about me. Of course I won’t reveal all of them here, but be advised that, for this context, I have very low standards. No item on my Facebook timeline is beneath my consideration and you can’t tell me what I can like or dislike on Facebook.

It is my Facebook account and I will ‘Like’ or ‘Unlike’ the shit out of any item I want, as long your privacy settings allow me to do so, and you can’t do a fucking thing about it. No disrespect.

Also, after I ‘Like’d an item, when I place the mouse pointer over the ‘Unlike’ link, the tool tip that shows up beneath the mouse pointer should say ‘Unlike this item’. You are welcome.

Richard Feynman Explains How Fire Comes From “Jiggling”

Celebrated theoretical physicist and a pioneering researcher in quantum computing and nano-technology – the late Richard Feynman – was also a champion of logical reasoning and a true believer of an intellectually curious lifestyle. His lectures on the laws of physical phenomenon, like gravity and light, that govern everything from the tiniest sub-atomic particles to the entire f*cking universe are considered to be some of the most enlightening and entertaining explanations on the subject. He was a life long learner which gave him a focus that was fine-tuned for every aspect of information he received and he had the skill and enthusiasm to explain complex ideas and concepts in ways that transmitted that enthusiasm to the listener.

Here is he is explaining how and why carbon atoms, fire, trees and the sun ‘jiggle’ around us.

via Brain Picker

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The Universal Inner Child

When I came to Lake Victoria, it was quite obvious to me that in some of the most important ways you are much more mature than I am. . . . But in many other ways obviously you are still childish — how could you not be, you alone among mankind?

It’s something people don’t discuss, because it’s something most people are aware of only as a general crisis of sense of inadequacy, or helpless dependence, or pointless loneliness, or a sense of not having a strong enough ego to meet and master inner storms that come from an unexpected angle. But not many people realise that it is, in fact, the suffering of the child inside them. Everybody tries to protect this vulnerable two three four five six seven eight year old inside, and to acquire skills and aptitudes for dealing with the situations that threaten to overwhelm it. So everybody develops a whole armour of secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world, and the crush of circumstances. And when we meet people this is what we usually meet. And if this is the only part of them we meet we’re likely to get a rough time, and to end up making ‘no contact’. But when you develop a strong divining sense for the child behind that armour, and you make your dealings and negotiations only with that child, you find that everybody becomes, in a way, like your own child.

It’s an intangible thing. But they too sense when that is what you are appealing to, and they respond with an impulse of real life, you get a little flash of the essential person, which is the child. Usually, that child is a wretchedly isolated undeveloped little being. It’s been protected by the efficient armour, it’s never participated in life, it’s never been exposed to living and to managing the person’s affairs, it’s never been given responsibility for taking the brunt. And it’s never properly lived. That’s how it is in almost everybody. And that little creature is sitting there, behind the armour, peering through the slits. And in its own self, it is still unprotected, incapable, inexperienced.

Every single person is vulnerable to unexpected defeat in this inmost emotional self. At every moment, behind the most efficient seeming adult exterior, the whole world of the person’s childhood is being carefully held like a glass of water bulging above the brim. And in fact, that child is the only real thing in them. It’s their humanity, their real individuality, the one that can’t understand why it was born and that knows it will have to die, in no matter how crowded a place, quite on its own. That’s the carrier of all the living qualities. It’s the centre of all the possible magic and revelation. What doesn’t come out of that creature isn’t worth having, or it’s worth having only as a tool — for that creature to use and turn to account and make meaningful. So there it is. And the sense of itself, in that little being, at its core, is what it always was. But since that artificial secondary self took over the control of life around the age of eight, and relegated the real, vulnerable, supersensitive, suffering self back into its nursery, it has lacked training, this inner prisoner. And so, wherever life takes it by surprise, and suddenly the artificial self of adaptations proves inadequate, and fails to ward off the invasion of raw experience, that inner self is thrown into the front line — unprepared, with all its childhood terrors round its ears.

And yet that’s the moment it wants. That’s where it comes alive — even if only to be overwhelmed and bewildered and hurt. And that’s where it calls up its own resources — not artificial aids, picked up outside, but real inner resources, real biological ability to cope, and to turn to account, and to enjoy. That’s the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they’re suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That’s why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember. But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells—he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster. So when you realise you’ve gone a few weeks and haven’t felt that awful struggle of your childish self — struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence — you’ll know you’ve gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you’ve gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself.

The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.

— A letter from Ted Hughes, British Poet Laureate to his 24-year-old son Nicholas Hughes about the inner child that lives inside every one of us.


via Brain Pickings

The Prayer

O Great Spirit

whose voice I hear in the winds, and
whose breath give the life to all the world, hear me !

I am small and weak.

I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.

Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.

Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people.

Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.

I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy – myself.

Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.

So when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to without shame.

— a prayer song from the Lakota Indian tribes who lived in the plains of North and South Dakota.

Found this one at the souvenir shop inside the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota. Since the memorial does not accept any form of federal funding, the entire budget for the memorial and the Crazy Horse monument comes from charities and donations from visitors and the public. I am not a fan of prayer stuff, but this one seems peculiar in that it is very simple and bare. There are no Gods to revere and there are no sins to repent. All good and evil are within and around us. It comes from the firm belief that nature is where we all came from and, in the end, that is where we are all headed. We get everything we need from it and anything we take will be eventually returned. Most of us know these things of course, at least in the abstract.

This prayer song just makes it an utterly clear realization.

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Neil Armstrong, A Hero For The World

Neil Armstrong, the pioneering astronaut who proved, without a doubt, that it was possible to walk on the moon by actually walking on the surface of the moon while simultaneously inspiring countless minds around the world to dream big. On July 21, 1969, his left foot made contact with the soft sediments on the lunar surface, soon followed by his right foot, both feet encased inside a hi-tech pair of boots designed by engineers at NASA, who were staring at Mr.Armstrong’s movements on a grainy black and white video shown on, what was at that time, a giant screen.  It was the first time any man had ever set foot on anything outside the Earth. With his amusing hops on that low gravity lunar surface, Mr.Armstrong forever etched himself on a page of human history titled “On this day, the human race will make a ‘Giant Leap'”. He was a well-known aviator and a test pilot but he will forever be known as the man who first set foot on the moon.

Mr.Armstrong passed away last month, on August 25. For obvious reasons, tributes have been flowing from around the world. Now NASA has released a new video celebrating Mr.Armstrong’s life, through the words of his friends and colleagues and with some breath-taking original video footage of Mr.Armstrong and his cohorts preparing and executing the Apollo 11 missions.

What Mr.Armstrong achieved is a result of a coordinated effort by some of the greatest minds of the time, pooling in diverse resources and dedicated in a goal that was larger than any of them individually. Together, they showed what is possible when we work together. We would all be better off if we can remind ourselves of that message often.


The Power to Create

Create is what we do all the time. Long before we became ‘consumers’ we were creators. We created fire and food, weapons and wheels. We created relationships and communities. Contrary to pop culture portrayal, we are still creators. We create data and meta-data by pouring them into social-media sites that power a good portion of our information age. We create massive virtual communities that defeat hordes of space aliens in virtual world and topple tyrannical institutions in the physical one. We still create fire, food and weapons, now, at a global scale. Although a lot has been delegated to the exquisitely designed and deceptively lifeless hands of electronic beings, there are still many things in our world made with the touch of a human hand.

Touch is ubiquitous these days. Of course it has been there since the dawn of the first organism with somatosensory nervous system, but these days, touch is even in electronics. We can glide, pinch, drag and swipe across squeaky, cold glass screens that react with impressive accuracy. The real touch though is way more powerful than any gizmo we have ever manufactured out of a Chinese province. Our hands are capable of informing us everything from the temperature to the texture of the object we touch, almost instantaneously. And these are the hands that have been creating for millions of years, fueling constant expansion of the limits of primate evolution. Today, the same hands gather woods in Africa, harvest rice in Asia, wrestle crocodiles in Australia, drive on the wrong side of the road in Europe, applaud for reality stars in the Americas and, of course, write code everywhere.

No matter how advanced our technology gets, we will always have the power to create. The power to create is the power to change things. It is the power we have to take something and change it into something entirely different and there by changing the course of time itself (seems exaggerated but true). Whether it is mixing clay and water to make pottery or banging the keyboard to produce incomprehensible zeros and ones that run the world, we are always creating. We would be wise to remember that next time we wake up in the morning.


Create responsibly.

Via Those Who Make.

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