Subject: Re: All instances
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2001 23:15:02 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Erik Naggum
> ("Live in the moment" is an insult to human intelligence and human
> survival.")

* Kurt B. Kaiser
> But the most powerful and gratifying intellectual force, creativity,
> seems to arise in some ineffable way only out of the present moment!  The
> past seems only to provide the opportunity to develop the necessary
> intellectual scope.

  I had hoped the context would be clear.  Of course, we actually _do_ live
  in the moment, but the expression is in my view incredibly stupid.  The
  question is whether we live _for_ the moment, _for_ the past, or _for_
  the future.  The (my) question is what meaning the moment has to each one
  of us.  Some cultures are incredibly history-bound, and go on for
  millennia sulking about lost territories, oppression, what have you, and
  destroy the moment they could have lived in by creating mass hysteria,
  abject fear, society-wide angst, and a despondent outlook towards
  whatever they can catch a glimmer of a future in such a fucked-up
  culture.  Some subcultures pine for a past that has _no_ links to the
  present at all, such as some of the political parties favoring farmers
  and the like in Europe.  And people in some subcultures live so much for
  the future that it is perfectly OK to be rewarded with a Nobel prize half
  a century after your discovery, when the world has caught up with you.
  Now, because of the dreadfully short life-span of the human body, it is
  nigh impossible to do something that will be rewarded more than 100 years
  into the future.  In fact, the 100-year limit to our perspective is _so_
  strong with the present human cultures that people _still_ write the year
  they live in with only two digits.  Regular mortals cannot grasp the need
  to write down a date that is unamiguous for more than one hundred years,
  and this is not because they are immensely stupid (that is, that they are
  does not explain this phenomenon :), but because the human lifespan is so
  tragically short that in 100 years everything is literally forgotten.
  (Except with certain cultures that live millennia in the past, although I
  suspect that they, too forget the details and just cling to the emotions
  that the transgressions of the past instilled in their forefathers, so
  much so that there is no hope of recovery after the facts are forgotten).

> Of course the vast majority spend no time whatsoever in the present
> moment; they are either reliving the past or planning/rehearsing the
> future.  (I suppose even Buddhists must plan, or natural selection would
> have eliminated them ages ago!) But IMHO attemping to live at least a
> small part of one's life in the present moment (it's difficult) does
> wonders for peace of mind and creativity.

  Take up shooting as your next hobby.  Absolutely nothing beats "living in
  the moment" when you pull that trigger.  Peace of mind is a prerequisite
  for the marksman, and anyone who wants to succeed in shooting needs to
  find his own way of relaxing and calming body and soul.  But it would
  still be a literally meaningless task if it were done without a purpose
  _other_ than mere relaxation and fun.  Becoming good at it is one goal,
  another is to use it as a rewarding recreation.  I think of most of the
  silly things people do that they claim are recreational but cause more
  stress than they relieve (traveling somewhere on vacation, for instance).

> Since devising sophisticated software has such a large creative
> component, wouldn't it be important to nurture ways of thinking which
> enhance creativity?

  I found that the process of forcing my mind clear and the body to relax
  and return to 45-50 in pulse with 10-12-second breathing intervals needs
  to be rewarded in order to be achieved on a regular basis.  Even with an
  air/CO2 .177 gun you can achieve this in minutes.  Half an hour's worth
  of mental and physical cycles of relaxation and concentration can give
  you back two hours of energy.

  There is, however, a much more sinister angle on this "live in the
  moment" thing which I maybe should not bring up, but it is important.
  People who have no direction and do not plan are incredibly easy to lead,
  for a religious leader, for a political leader, for a gang leader, for
  any psychopath who wants to control other people.  If he can make people
  "live in and for the moment", that "leader" gets to define the direction
  and gets to plan for a lot of other people.  Slaves live for the moment,
  never knowing what their master will do next.  _Fear_ is the most potent
  instrument to cause people to abandon planning -- the greater the fear,
  the shorter the time-span of the plans.  People who cannot plan the next
  meal do not plan for old age.  Living without plans is anti-human.  So
  whenever I hear this said by someone who also seeks power over people, I
  get very, very suspicious about their _real_ motives.  If it is said by
  your ordinary fellow, it probably means taking time off from stressful
  work in _order_ to reflect and plan and recover, such a different thing.

  So this does emphatically not mean that recreation and "time off" should
  not be planned.  Quite the contrary.  But it is not because it is a good
  thing to "live in tne moment" -- it is because it is a good thing for our
  ability to make and fulfill better plans.

  To bring this a tad back to programming and the reason this whole thing
  came up: When squeezed for resources, people's planning horizon gets a
  lot closer.  Day-to-day operations should be sufficiently well known and
  sufficiently "safe" at least three months into the future (even taking
  the inevitable changes during this time into account), for people to plan
  ahead for real.  Empirically, if your planning horizon comes closer than
  that, you start doing things that are counter-productive to long-range
  planning only to keep going in the short term.  Stress builds up, and a
  lot lower quality work comes out of it.  That is why people who are under
  a great stress from unavailable resources prefer tools that solve their
  immedaite problems instead of their _real_ problems.  That is why Perl is
  more popular than Lisp.  That is why people put up with the insane log
  formats of most "server" software instead of fixing it for good.  That is
  why bad IT management makes their staff work very hard at ensuring that
  they stay within the mainstream and do not stray into _real_ solutions.
  People who solve _real_ problems are simply unmanageable, because they
  pose a risk from within to a manager who is supposed to handle risks from
  without.  Since IT professionals usually _do_ want to solve real problems,
  this requires _much_ better managers than can pass in other industries.
  _This_ is the root cause of the "software crisis", not software, not IT
  professionals, not programming languages, but managers who are unable to
  deal with internal risk factors.  That is why C++ and Java and Perl are
  such good bets: Hiring people who claim to be good at those languages is
  risk-free to a manager.  They are never going to do anything to upset the
  plans laid by _any_ IT manager, but they are never going to do anything
  other than solve immediate problems, either, thus perpetuating their own
  class and causing a whole industry for idiot manager education to deal
  with idiot employees when probably _one_ Lisp programmer worth his salt
  could put thousands of those jerks out of circulation and take their
  managers with them.  I firmly believe that when a manager chooses (read:
  enforces) one of those languages, it is for purposes of self-preservation
  rather than problem-solving.

  Travel is a meat thing.