Stanford University is famous for producing amazing entrepreneurs such as: Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Tom Proulx and Scott Cook of Intuit, and Hewlett and Packard. Being so, when we found out that this great well-spring for entrepreneurs was creating an early stage…
Update: I’ve learned some lessons.
I should’ve included some sort of thesis for this blog post given the length. A few people half read half of what I wrote on drew some conclusions on things I didn’t say. The point I am trying to make is this: Divorcing grief from the source is wrong. In other words, public grief for some reason secondary or tertiary to the actual loss belittles the process of grieving
Also, I can’t say that some people might be assholes and then grant broad exemptions from the status. Way more people assume that I’m calling them assholes than warranted. To be clear, I think most people are not assholes. Additionally, I mostly used the word “asshole” as a rhetorical device. I don’t think much of being called an asshole (telling, perhaps), and I arrogantly forget that some people might. Using such a colorful word felt much more accurate and effective at getting a point across than just saying something like: “Your Opportunistic Grief Implies That You’re Not Super Considerate of the Implications.” Yes, I made an ass of myself in the process, but I learned a bunch of stuff about the way people grieve, so it was totally worth it.
It is a horrible fact of life that people die all the time. Every day, in fact. But judging from the way my friends act online, I could be fooled into thinking that people die much less frequently. It feels like the only times people have died are when airplanes blow up or when it’s an event worthy of Nancy Grace coverage. It is in those times when my Facebook and Twitter news feeds erupt with statements like “My thoughts and prayers are with the deceased.” and “This death is such a tragedy. I am heart broken.”
If you’re making those statements at such times, please stop. You’re making yourself look like an asshole.
The explanation of why is a little hyperbolic, is going to sound ridiculous, and I’m going to come off as a jerk, but I really don’t know how else to say any of it. I hope I don’t offend anyone, and I fully acknowledge that I haven’t considered all angles. But I have watched the manic explosion of public grief time and time again with disappointment and I think that my ideas have some merit. So please bear with my poor explanation, and please disagree and argue with me, because I want to refine the ideas.
Now, I’m not saying that anyone who expresses remorse over the loss of a life is an asshole. And I’m not saying that paying respect or homage makes you an asshole. And I’m not saying that the general informative sharing of news makes you an asshole. What I am saying is that, if you’re expressing your grief online for an event that doesn’t directly affect you, and you’re expressing it to a group of people also unrelated to and generally unaffected by the death, you are very strongly implying that you are an asshole.
The first implication of your statements is that you only feel bereaved for hyper-publicized deaths. If that is true, you are an asshole.
A death is tragic no matter how much news coverage it gets. Most deaths, even the most tragic ones, don’t a lot of news coverage. So if you need some tanning-bed jockey to tell you when you should find a death tragic, you are an asshole.
If tragic death happens every day, does that mean that you should always be upset about people dying?
I think so. That doesn’t mean that you should always be depressed or that mourning should be your dominant state of mind. But if you, even for a day, forget that the grown men kill innocent children using guns and bombs, or if you forget that you too are mortal, you are an asshole.
The second implication of such statements is that you only announce your grief for hyper-publicized deaths. If that is true, you are an asshole.
This second implication is worse than the first. Not everyone is mindful and conscious of how messed up the world is. Ok, fine. But there is something abhorrently gross about the conspicuous consumption of tragedy. When you make those public statements that say “Look at me be sad and offended,” you hijack someone else’s loss and make it your own. That misappropriation is disrespectful to the people that are actually at a loss. You’re implying that you, who have lost nothing, are entitled to the same feelings as those who have lost something irreplaceable. Furthermore, you took their tragedy and pimped it out for your image and for a few Facebook likes.
Not only is that wrong, but it creates perverted cultural norms. When you go to the Internet to take offense about your non-loss tragedy, you participate in a culture where people congratulate each other on how offended they can be. Additionally, you’re signaling to the people that sell things that you will consume tragedy and you will watch Nancy Grace. And anyone willing to finance Nancy Grace is an asshole.
The third implication is that you were unaware of the systematic problems that caused the tragedy in the first place. If the tragedy is a surprise to you, you are an asshole.
When the Internet seizes a hyper-publicized death as its own, I’ll see people wondering aloud if they too can die in the same way as in that hyper-publicized death. Headlines and status updates abound with the question, “Am I safe anymore?”
No, you were never safe. Welcome to the World. If your lack of safety really bothers you that much, you can commit yourself to improving your lot and the lot of others. But you’re not going to. You never have. So stop.
I understand that sometimes very public deaths can have a powerful impact on individuals who have no relation to the deceased. It’s happened to me a couple of times. It’s not that having those feelings is wrong. It’s that the opportunistic expression of those feelings is wrong.
Maybe there are legitimate reasons for going online to voice your grief, but I can’t think of any. Are you showing support and solidarity? Not really. You don’t need to be so publicly grieved to show solidarity. And posting to your super private Facebook feed, you’re not supporting the people who need it.
Are you identifying a systematic problem? Maybe, but when when the tragedy illuminates a systematic problem in society or in law, that’s not a time to be offended, it’s a time to be thoughtful and rational and examine the system for what it is, not for how much it makes you cry when it creates tragic results.
The sentiment of grief and loss and tragedy may be sincere and that’s great, but the implications of the timeliness of your expressions are fucked, so stop it.
Death and tragedy are complex and can be felt in countless ways, and I won’t be arrogant enough to claim considering all of them. So if there’s something I’m missing, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
He wish’d to please everybody; and, having little to give, he gave expectations.- Benjamin Franklin, on a man who promised much but delivered little.
The biggest motivator to my workouts is music. Science shows that having a properly intense song improves performance in strength and endurance. I believe in science and I want you to do some science with me.
I’ve tailored a few playlists with music ideal for maxing out in weight lifting and for beating my mile time. I don’t spend a whole lot of time discovering new music, however, so these playlists are getting stale.
I’d love to have people contribute badass workout music. I set up two collaborative playlists on Spotify, one for lifting and one for running. If you have any songs that help push you to be crazy strong or crazy fast, drop them in here:
- Lifting Heavy Things (collaborative lifting playlist)
- Running Really Fast (collaborative running playlist)
I got the playlists started with the workout music I currently listen to. I grew up on rap, so you’ll see a lot of Eminem and Beastie Boys.
I won’t do any curating in the collaborative playlist so that anyone can pick out songs they like. I will, however, pick the songs I like and add them to my personal, non-collaborative playlists:
I’m pretty picky with workout music, so those personal playlists are highly tested. Even if I hear a song I think might work, I won’t make it a permanent part of the list until I’ve tried it at the gym. If I don’t feel like it’s pushing me, I’ll cut it from the list right away.
(There’s no order to the music. I like to shuffle, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.- Albert Einstein
During my first year of law school, I started to struggle with sleep. I had trouble falling asleep, waking up, and always I felt tired. When you have infinity cases to read and hypothetical hooligans to defend, that begins to be a problem.
Stanford Hospital’s awesome sleep specialists diagnosed me with sleep apnea and delayed sleep phase syndrome (that same month, I was also diagnosed with TMJD and a chronic sinus-infection that required surgery, but those are not sleep related, so I’ll save those stories for later). I became very proactive about improving my sleep and I learned quite a few tricks along the way.
I feel it would be selfish to keep this knowledge to myself. Given the amount of work and stress common to law school, I’ve seen many of my classmates similarly struggle with sleep. In an effort to help, I’m writing up guides that other students might find useful. If you’re a student having problems with sleep, I’d love to get your feedback. Feel free to reach out here or through Twitter.
See the guide in the IFrame below.
(I wrote this guide on Evernote, but have had significant problems importing it into Tumblr’s rich-text editor. Fortunately, Evernote’s “share” feature takes notes and renders them perfectly online, so I’ll leave the note in an IFrame until I can find a better text-editing tool for Tumblr. You can go to the Evernote page directly if the IFrame gives you trouble)
People are disturbed by a determinate lifetime.
That’s the lesson I’ve learned this week after I posted the "Life by Months" tool which lets people enter their birthday and get a quick glimpse of the months they’ve lived and a view of the months ahead. Many expressed that the spreadsheet had made them feel unnerved.
I got a few people who responded with “memento mori,” or “remember your mortality.” As important as that is, I don’t think the awareness of mortality is what unnerves people. More than death, it seems to be the quantification of a lifetime that is unsettling. It’s an unusual insight. Time is quantified every day — we’re dominated by clocks and schedules and we’re paid by the hour. Why is this schedule more disturbing than the others?
It’s not unusual practice. When someone gets diagnosed with a terminal disease, doctors will give an estimate of how much longer that person will survive given the particular disease. Their time is quantified and their days are numbered. They get their affairs in order. They confess their love and settle their differences. They know that if they don’t get it done within that time frame, they will never do it. They stop wasting time on the trivial. They quit the job they hate and double park at the grocery store. The terminally ill don’t have time to waste.
The rest of us go along, doing things we hate, holding grudges, not telling that cute girl that she’s cute. We can wait until the time is right, and we’ll do all the important things then. For now, we can tolerate the trivial. We’re healthy. We have time to waste.
Except that we don’t. At birth, we get an estimate of how much longer we’ll survive, but because we don’t get labeled with a disease, we go on forgetting that we, too, need to get our affairs in order. It’s a luxury that those with a diagnosis don’t have. They’re told that they’re terminally ill and they never forget. Tragically, the healthy forget that, although there is no diagnosis, they, too, are terminally ill.
Which is why I made that spreadsheet. I’m a healthy, terminally ill person. I wanted a diagnosis so that I wouldn’t forget.
In the original post, I listed the reasons why I feel it is important to quantify my life in this way, but I thought it might be helpful to expand on each of my reasons so that others might understand why this isn’t an exercise in negativity.
- Life is finite: As elastic as time can seem, it moves at a constant pace and I can measure it. Therefore, it is divisible. Each moment is wholly unique. I should appreciate it, enjoy it, and take advantage of it.
- I know when I am mostly likely to die, given the vast amount of data on mortality: I have the ability to plan with the likely date of my death in mind.
- I am fortunate to have lived as long as I have: Each cell that goes gray was a whole month in which I had the great fortune to work, fail, look at the moon, see that one cute girl, embarrass myself, listen to music, think, and live.
I was expecting people to acknowledge the gray cells as a positive. Each is a little memento of good and bad times gone by. Surprisingly, none of the comments indicated that anyone appreciated their ocean of gray. I was disappointed by that result.
This month, shortly after his fifth birthday, a boy in my home town died of cancer. His parents would have done anything to see him grow into the many little gray cells that manage to unnerve the rest of us when we look at the vast fortunes that are our lives.