[no. 18] GoB: weekly musings

“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”

- Joseph Campbell

The most amazing reads of the week:

1. “How the CIA Forgot the Art of Spying” (20 min read, link here)

“As the culture and mission of the agency changed, so did the workforce. The war on terror had created a burgeoning private intelligence, homeland security and defense industry. I saw many older and more experienced officers cash out to join the private sector.”

This was a pretty interesting piece from Politico on the changes that have occurred internally at the CIA. It is rare to get an insiders’ perspective on such things so when an article briefly outlines the history, change after 9/11, current state and what is needed in the CIA — it makes for great reading. The recent events with Trump’s relationship with the CIA, Russia, North Korea, China and WikiLeaks all mean that the role of the CIA will be more pronounced than ever before. It will be interesting to see where the agency goes in the new geopolitical context.

2. “How the World’s Heaviest Man Lost It All” (30 min read, link here)

“Paul Mason used to weigh close to 1,000 pounds. Now that he’s shed almost all of it, freeing himself from his tomb of a body, he’s facing a question that’s heavy in its own right: How should he spend the rest of his life?”

This article from GQ was a fantastically written piece on the inner workings and life changes of Paul Mason (previously weighing 1,000 pounds!). The mindset and life that gets one to such a state is one most of us would never experience. But the overcoming of adversity, depression, grace that allows one to change and people we leave behind in the process of such a change is something that resonates with everyone. This is a rare look into a completely different person’s experience on this crazy rock.

3. “The biggest threat facing middle-age men is not smoking or obesity. It’s lonliness.” (10 min read, link here)

“I’m hesitant to say I’m lonely, though I’m clearly a textbook case of the silent majority of middle-aged men who won’t admit they’re starved for friendship, even if all signs point to the contrary. Now that I’ve been forced to recognize it, the question is what to do about it.”

This article hit a nerve with me as a man heading into his 30’s. Most guys know the nagging but silent wish to have more quality and regular contact with friends. Recently however, this phenomenon has been documented by scientists who have also acknowledged that although we live closer than ever in concrete boxes, it is often easier to binge-watch a TV show than go out and be with a mate. So ladies; kick your men out for more regular guy-time and you should do the same with your girlfriends. This illness of the modern world can only survive if we let it.

4. “How people learn to become resilient” (11 min read, link here)

“Frame adversity as a challenge, and you become more flexible and able to deal with it, move on, learn from it, and grow. Focus on it, frame it as a threat, and a potentially traumatic event becomes an enduring problem; you become more inflexible, and more likely to be negatively affected.”

My closest have heard me say multiple times that adversity builds character. This is one of the greatest dangers in the 21st century given that we have not been through an extended period of economic depression or global war. It becomes our challenge then to go out and find our own stone on which we can sharpen our sword. The author in this article does a great job of distilling the science behind resilience research and encourages us to now shift the conversation from the importance of resilience to how to build it.

Related read: “5 best ways to build resiliency” (10 min read, link here)
This is a great partner-read on ways we can improve our own “pliability” in life. Waking up at 4am to do heavy deadlifts may not be everyone’s way of doing things — which is why this article gives some useful pointers on the types of habits we can cultivate to build our own version of sustained, personality developing and spirit awakening challenges.

5. “Yoga, brief history of an idea” (40 min read, link here)

“Clearly something is missing here. There is a gap between the ancient, “classical” yoga tradition and yoga as we know it. In order to understand the disconnect between then and now, we would do well to go back to the earliest uses of the term yoga […] Here I am referring to India’s earliest scriptures, the Vedas.”

This fascinating read is an extract from the book, Yoga in practice. Which outlines the history and types of yoga in pretty stunning and simply written detail. The author has tied in the knowledge from the Vedas and impacts of colonialism on the art. I love this stuff and have always been interested in knowing what was intended by the people who figured out how to bend the body and mind. The inner peace that comes after a strenuous yoga class or the cumulative benefits of meditation must have had a deeper purpose. When someone answers these questions for you, it automatically becomes a must-read, especially if you are into the art of yoga or meditation.

Related read: “‘He said he could do what he wanted’: the scandal that rocked Bikram Yoga” (10 min read, link here)
A fascinating account of how guru-worship inflated one man’s ego from humble yoga instructor to a personality-empire. The story warns against personality cults when it comes to all things Eastern. If you do, have done or heard of Bikram Yoga in the past, this will be more revealing to you. Read for cautionary and comical value.

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Keep it 100,

Aman