Milky Way

Credit: Milky Way over Colorado - Max and Dee Bernt - CC BY

One third of the world’s population can’t see the milky way. There is even a generation of people whom have never seen the milky way.

In 1994, an earthquake shook Los Angeles, 4:30 AM, and caused a city-wide blackout. People anxiously came out of their homes to check out on the neighborhood but what greeted them up in the sky was so alien and strange to them that some called emergency and asked if the giant silvery cloud had anything to do with the disaster. (Light Pollution - PBS)

It shouldn’t be like this. We are becoming increasingly detached from the universe and drenched in our day to day struggles. We are losing the bigger picture.

I think we should all take some time off to gaze at the endless sky above every now and then. I’ll describe how your amazing star gazing trip goes.

First you find a place far from cities and their light pollution. Maybe use a map to find a remote place. Next, using a lunar calendar and the weather forecast of the place; you pick a date in the beginning or end of lunar cycle with clear night sky.

On the chosen day; you get into a car, solo or with one or two close friends or loved ones, and hit the roads. You Take a country lane or a dirt road and drive away from road lights; You see a nice place, you go a bit off road and stop at a nice, flat surface. You get out of the car, and place a mat on the ground. From this moment on you avoid any kind of light, like your phone’s screen or headlights on your car. You also avoid looking at the sky for now.

You lie down on the mat with your eyes closed, listening to silence; no music or talking for five minutes. You are giving your eyes time to rest and adapt to the dark. Also with minimal sensory input, your brain can rest a bit, and slowly put away all the filters it has set up throughout the day.

Now you feel you are ready. You open your eyes to the sky above and see the same magical thing your ancestors used to see. you see thousands of tiny balls of light scattered on this unbelievably vast black dome; they look so close that if you just reach out with your hand you can grab one. But of course they are light years afar. In the middle, stretched all across, is a wide stripe of silver. This stripe is made up of billions of indistinguishable stars, in our home galaxy, the milky way; each millions of times bigger than the earth.

You have seen pictures and videos of the night sky. But no device can ever replicate the majesty of this mind boggling image in front of your eyes.

All of a sudden you see a shooting star! There are one or more meteor showers going on. You have looked up tonight’s shower’s radiant points and keep an eye on those parts of the sky. You see tens of shooting stars through the night.

Your imagination runs wild. You stay up all night, wondering in amazement. You try to comprehend the vastness of our galaxy but the numbers don’t make any sense, they are just too big. Then you think about the countless other galaxies in the universe with their own hundreds of billions of stars. And let’s just put away the thought that there might be infinite number of parallel universes, that’s just too much.

With all these worlds out there, we can’t be alone; It’s probabilistically impossible. There should be entire races of people out there, looking above and think the same thoughts. People with their own planet, society, culture, history, gods, problems, struggles, feelings, and questions. Some of those may know the answers to the age-old questions of humanity. What are we? Do we matter? What is my place in the universe? Did this infinitely big universe conspired to make me just so I can ask these questions?

You think and think, but there’s only one thing for certain, this is beautiful. Just being able to observe this incredible beauty fills you with joy. You are looking at a painting with a canvas as big as the space and as old as the time itself. Your chance of even existing is close to zero. You must have been pretty important to the universe or maybe just extremely lucky. What does it matter?

You may use a pair of binoculars to take a closer look sometimes. Eventually the Morning Star comes and announces the imminent sunrise. You watch the sky as it’s getting brighter while a breeze caresses your face. Slowly but surely the tip of a white ball of flame appears in the east horizon; as it has for billions of years before us, and will continue to do so billions of years after we are long gone and forgotten.

After this experience, you will never be the same.


This post, in its entirety, came to me in a dream in form of an English podcast (I know, weird); In the morning of August 18, 2017.


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On creative work

“Hard to start off, boring to continue, impossible to finish up”; ingredients for failure in any given task. Add unhealthy criticism to the mix and you’ll have how I feel about every thing I do or want to do.

Starting new things is hard. They just are. I try to fight this by tricking myself into starting something while it doesn’t seem like doing so. From there on it’s just changing what’s already started and not that intimating.

Anything big enough to matter is going to take long enough to get boring. Sometimes adding some unplanned stuff can spice things up a little bit. Other times the only way would be taking a break.

I know exactly why I can hardly finish what I started. The ol’ perfectionism is to blame here. Whatever you do must be perfect, but nothing can ever be perfect; so the sure way to avoid doing anything imperfect is not doing anything at all. What a brilliant solution!

Breaking free from perfectionism is probably the longest ongoing battle of my life. Looking back I made a lot of progress. Nowadays I worry about finishing a task more than I do about it being perfect. And I try to stop adding details that have diminishing returns. But actually doing something leads us to the next problem.

Unhealthy self-criticism is the new battle front. Now that I hesitate less when making, I make up for it when I have to share. I can’t remember the last time I actively tried to show-off or promote something I did. The rationale here is: if I promote it, everyone will see it and its flaws and they’re going to judge me, laugh at me or whatever. Better just leave it somewhere and don’t tell anyone about it.

In reality though, the truth is, no one really cares. People are too busy with their own lives to look for mistakes in your creations. And they don’t just happen to stumble upon your work that often. Any creative work without an audience becomes a tedious and demoralizing in its own way. I mean what’s the point if no one is going to see/use it anyway?


All that said, this whole post started as a recommendation to this short video that really changed my mindset and helped me a lot to open up. I re-watch it from time to time and I guess you can benefit from it too.

▶ A guide to worrying

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Memory

I’m a night owl. The silence and the darkness of the nights are the things I seek. Makes for a clearer head in my opinion.

I remember, in our late home, there was absolute silence at nights. Hardly anything noisy was going on. But the things that did occasionally make a sound, had the chance to be heard fully and with clarity. The one thing I remember from every night up, is the sound of sweeping.

Every night around 4 AM, I could hear the sound of sweeping on the street below my window. It had a calming quality to it. I would halt whatever I was doing and just listen. Sometimes I would go to the window and watch the sweeper as he worked his way down the street. This sound was my signal to call it a night and head to the bed.

You were a valued companion in my sleepless nights Mr. Sweeper. Though we never met, you’ll be remembered.

P.S. Memory by Andrew Lloyd Webber is a pleasant late night tune.

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Back to routines

For whatever reason, I stopped doing all my daily routines one by one. I had a few things I did daily and often on a specific time of the day. There are a lot to be said about good habits and routines, and how they can help you grow as a person every passing day. For example I used to do 5 minutes of some course on Memrise every night; it’s obvious that I learned something each time which is a good thing. But the reason I decided to start doing specific things at specific times each day again, is something completely unrelated to the task and more to do with the intervals themselves.

The thing I noticed in my routine-free life is that now I have no sense of time. Like rising and setting of the sun, those timely tasks gave me a sense of time passing by. Now that my days are a chaos of unscheduled activities, I can’t say with certainty when I did what; it wasn’t used to be like this. That’s reason enought for me to go back to doing routines, including these nightly freewritings.

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It's a trap

I fell in the perfectionists trap again for posting here.

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Friendship, Kindle, and Elon Musk

Here goes the story of a friendship, how I got introduced to a book, how and for what I use my Kindle, and why you may want to own one.

Friendship…

The story begins by a message in Telegram1 from Amir, one of my closest friends. It was just a single link with no description. The actual conversation in its entirety is as follows:

Amir, [05.03.16 18:36]
http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/05/elon-musk-the-worlds-raddest-man.html

Mohsen, [05.03.16 21:32]
[In reply to Amir]
added to pocket. will read on kindle. thanks.

This kind of telegraphic conversations is one of the reasons I cherish my friendship with Amir. We can skip formalities. In part it’s because I trust his opinion and taste so much so that I’m sure the content of the link is of quality. He doesn’t have to explain why I should check it out.

…Kindle…

The link, like other long reads, went strait to Pocket and waited for Calibre to retrieve my Pocket articles using Pocket+ plugin. Calibre then makes a nice ‘issue’2 out of those; and finally emails the issue to the Kindle. One of the conveniences of a Kindle is that you can email a document to it and it’ll show up in your Kindle.3 The issue waited till I turned on the wi-fi.

With the issue downloaded, all I had to do next was to open the Issue, and read the post. 13 days after the initial introduction to the article; I finally started reading it.

The illustrations of the article are really funny. The article is Part 1 of a four-part series on Elon Musk’s companies. To be honest I skipped the other three. What I did instead was to mark the biography book mentioned in the article, ‘Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future’ by Ashlee Vance, as ‘to-read’ in Goodreads and downloaded it on my Kindle after that. At the time I was (and still am) halfway through ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde —recommend by another friend. I have to admit while the characters are well developed and the writing is rock solid and I kinda enjoy reading it, classics are not for me; as it seems to take me forever to finish them. But they are usually in public domain and free, therefore economical choices for reading.4

It took me a long time to finish this review of the book and that would have been impossible to do without the highlight feature. It can be a real timesaver to have all of your notes and highlights of a book in a list.

I'm writing the following segment months after finishing the book and I couldn't do this without reviewing my highlights. Reviewing highlights of a book can freshen the whole experience therefore a good habit to get into for someone forgetful like me .

…Elon Musk

It took me more than two months to finally open the book and start reading it. The irrational guilt associated with starting a book while I haven’t finished the last one yet was to blame. All the same, a month after that the 400-page book was finished.

Getting to the end of the book, I wished it never ended. I couldn’t get enough of the fascinating (true) story I was reading. Lucky for me —and all of us, really— he is alive and well and in his golden years. Hardly any day passes without him or one of his companies making headlines. Following the news around him is somehow reading the book after the (metaphorical) back cover.

More than anything, for me, the book was a huge motive to work hard. Musk and employees’ superhuman work ethic is the ever prominent topic in the book. As one SpaceX intern puts it, “You can work whatever 80 hours a week you want”.5 This way of work was in dire contrast with the chill atmosphere portrayed in the book I read right before this —How Google Works. And all that hard work actually sounded so fulfilling and rewarding. For a few glorious days I was working harder than I ever did before.

There are also dark sides to this hardworking startup genius, and the book does not seem to shy away from those at all. Musk’s impatience on what appears to a normal human being as trivial; and disrespect for his employees opinions; and his (dare I say deserved) huge ego cost his businesses a lot of top talents.

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  1. A popular messaging service as of writing. Telegram.org 

  2. Documents in a Kindle are either books, or issues. Each issue can have several ‘sections’ and ‘articles’. 

  3. Send to Kindle by E-mail 

  4. There are thousands of public domain books in Project Gutenberg. You can also find a whole lot of public domain stuff from books and audiobooks to paintings and photographies in The Internet Archive

  5. The exciting and grueling life of a SpaceX intern, where you meet Elon Musk and ‘work whatever 80 hours a week you want’ article on Business Insider

This

There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity.
Tom Peters