comment by hamnox ·
2021-04-21T17:55:41.352Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
anatomy of a summer solstice talk. comments?
anatomy of a solstice talk
- Dig your roots deep, and spread your leaves wide
- We sometimes associate summer with passion, with fire and flash. As we celebrate today, I say lean into this. Let's have fun. Let's have passionate joy. Let's dive head-first into the gut sense of living at its best. Not to stoke burning hot coals of determination, just to enjoy it. Take in the warmth and light for its own sake. Life is not just abstractly good and important, it's viscerally so.
Pretty good theme. Have fun, be wild. I could end my speech there.
Instead, I'll ask you to think about a tree. A tree with roots going deep into the ground, and leaves spread out to catch as much sun as it can. Hold that tree in mind, I'm gonna speak more about that in a moment.
The other solstice, we often reference the dream of leaving the earth and solar system under our own power. That's an important goal. It's not, however, immediately achievable. We are, for now, pretty tied to pale blue dot we were born on. And when we leave, we will take much of it with us. Much of it intentionally, because we're sentimental like that, but also it will come in the marks of *the kind of beings it has made us*.
I want summer to be a time that we think about the environment that we live in, how it shapes us and how we shape it. We ought to know the soil we grow in, and know it well. A general purpose rationality must produce local knowledge, specialized to the time and space and life you are living. We must dig our roots deep, and spread our leaves wide.
We talk a lot about the general theory of rational agents. It informs a lot about how to learn true things and make good choices. But we are not the general example of an agent. Our minds did not spring up from first principals. Evolutionary history, cultural memetics, and an academic tradition also inform the way you learn true things and make good choices. That which is at our roots can affect what the truth and good choices even are, thousands of years later, whether you are aware of them or not.
The tree is a metaphor. There are grand forces of optimization that have existed before you, and will exist after you. Seek them out. Use what they can give you. Dig your roots deep.
And spread your leaves wide. Catch every ray of sunlight and harness it. Drink in the present moment, and turn it into something awesome. Plants are often portrayed as passive; that's incorrect. They move. Their movement is more efficient, and slower, but they move a great deal to catch the sun. In the same way, you don't have to chase after every opportunity. You can position yourself well and take in the chances that come your way. Have patience, not passivity. and spread your leaves wide.
Now for the audience participation bit.
- I'll give you five minutes to think. What's something you know about the environments that you live in, or that shaped you? Your city. your ecosystem. Your history. Your economy. Your community. Just write down some facts, or some questions. After those five minutes, I'll take contributions from the audience. With these, I want to paint a collective picture of where we are rooted, and how deeply. This is the first time I'm trying this, so.
- As an example. California is more environmentally conscientious than most US state governemnts. We have a few extra restrictions on cars and plastics. Native tribes maintained the forests around here with regular burns, and I want to know if they maintained the forests in other ways or if they still do in some areas. There's a lot of resentment towards people moving in for jobs who don't really have roots or interests in the people they're displacing, and the rationalist community is a small part of that.
- If you want to share but don't want to speak, write down what you want to say and hand it to someone. It can keep getting passed along until it hits a person willing to read it aloud. It can be anonymous this way, or you can write your name.
- I encourage giving silent responses in ASL or gesture. False. True. Yes. No.
- Another five minutes, let's talk about opportunities. What serendipitous chance might you hope to catch, today? What would you be prepared to act on if it happened?