danielsjourney seeking stories beauty meaning

It's ok to be sad, part 2

This one is really obvious

The point of this little series of blog posts might just be a complete copy of that of the movie Inside Out. I, like many parents of young children, am exposed to such media in short, fragmented, nonlinear bursts. But when I finally realized that the point of the movie was to legitimize the emotion of sadness, I was, well, happy.

Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.


And Sadness is not only an important, central figure: Happiness’ attempts to quell Sadness lead to ruin. Happiness is portrayed as manic and hyper-focused on making things appear great no matter how unraveled they might be; Sadness is thoughtful, sympathetic and comprehends a larger context. (Her physicality is also entirely cliché, a critique I will save for a later time.)

At least, that’s my reading of it. Here’s another one:

(And if you don’t already know about The Nerdwriter, subscribe immediately.)

It's ok to be sad: on the legitimacy of unhappiness, part 1

On the meaning of suffering


…our current mental-hygiene philosophy stresses the idea that people ought to be happy, that unhappiness is a symptom of maladjustment. Such a value system might be responsible for the fact that the burden of unavoidable unhappiness is increased by the unhappiness about being unhappy.

(Frankl quoting professor of psychology Edith Weisskopf-Joelson)

I very recently returned to Man’s Search for Meaning. I’ve written of Frankl before; but the passages on finding meaning through suffering have taken on a different meaning; the last time I read them was before Margot’s passing.

And what about man? Are you sure that the human world is a terminal point in the evolution of the cosmos? Is it not conceivable that there is still another dimension, a world beyond man’s world; a world in which the question of an ultimate meaning of human suffering would find an answer?

This ultimate meaning necessarily exceeds and surpasses the finite intellectual capacities of man; in logotherapy, we speak in this context of a super-meaning. What is demanded of man is not, as some existential philosophers teach, to endure the meaninglessness of life, but rather to bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional meaningfulness in rational terms. Logos is deeper than logic.

I have written about potential meanings, I have wrestled with what could have justified her loss. But the thing I have never done is believe that such a meaning could exist outside of my understanding. Not just outside of my understanding, but outside my potential for understanding.

Frankl differentiated his from other psychotherapies through this will to meaning as a primary motivator of human behavior; in contrast to Freud’s will to pleasure or Nietzsche’s will to power.

What I like about framing around meaning as opposed to around happiness is that it is the most resistant to life’s inevitable circumstances. The clinically depressed, those suffering loss, those in the throws of addiction, those under tremendous stress; those who are functionally out of reach of happiness can still find a path to meaning.

The title of this post comes from my friend Salim Nourallah’s excellent song, It’s Ok to be Sad (amazon).

This Blog

This blog started in September 2001 after I read a Wired magazine article on Blogger. It’s currently in a bit of a state, and I’ll be cleaning it up and organizing it over the coming months. But it does contain (almost) every post from these 14 years.

Some stats:

  • 3,194 posts:
    • 2001: 45
    • 2002: 467
    • 2003: 568
    • 2004: 216
    • 2005: 406
    • 2006: 456
    • 2007: 300
    • 2008: 373
    • 2009: 115
    • 2010: 63
    • 2011: 94
    • 2012: 37
    • 2013: 21
    • 2014: 23
    • 2015: 10
  • 558,481 words
    • an average of 175 words per post
  • 4374 links total
    • 1062 dead links
  • 4 blogging engines
    • Blogger
    • A homespun PHP blog engine
    • LiveJournal
    • For about 6 years now, Jekyll, with a short break to test out the great engine at Known.
  • More designs than I could track, although after a quick trip through the Wayback Machine, I am still pretty happy with most of them. Minimalism serves well.



When I look at this photo I don’t see a girl growing up too fast, trained to accept outward standards of beauty.

I see the way the one hand holds the other, the tentative gaze of the self, that contemplation of being, of fragile identity, of what it all means. A girl who deserves more time with her father, who merits the protection of all the gods, whose angels instantly curse all those who cross her.

And I just want her to be able to feel how much I love her.

Solar System

well put all your love where it hurts the most
expect a little visit from the Holy Ghost
but when your short wave dies and there’s no one to listen
the stars going cold in your solar system

It’s like the kind of track that sounds great at 3 o’clock in the morning. It’s the kind of track that makes sense late at night, rather than the middle of the day. #

Feeling lonely, sleepless, tired, melancholy, sober and nostalgic for days more filled with artistic pursuits. Bill Mallonee is always good company for these moments. Probably the most well-kept secret in the American songbook, Bill has been writing and recording music for over 24 years, and most of it is exceptional. He’s also dug more than a few ruts into the road, touring as a matter of course throughout his career. I had the honor of playing the same stage as he during the 2003 Greenbelt festival (he had a much better draw).

Murder Machines

By the end of the 1920s, more than 200,000 Americans had been killed by automobiles. Most of these fatalities were pedestrians in cities, and the majority of these were children. “If a kid is hit in a street in 2014, I think our first reaction would be to ask, ‘What parent is so neglectful that they let their child play in the street?,’” says Norton.

In 1914, it was pretty much the opposite. It was more like, ‘What evil bastard would drive their speeding car where a kid might be playing?’ That tells us how much our outlook on the public street has changed—blaming the driver was really automatic then. It didn’t help if they said something like, ‘The kid darted out into the street!,’ because the answer would’ve been, ‘That’s what kids do. By choosing to operate this dangerous machine, it’s your job to watch out for others.’ It would be like if you drove a motorcycle in a hallway today and hit somebody—you couldn’t say, ‘Oh, well, they just jumped out in front of me,’ because the response would be that you shouldn’t operate a motorcycle in a hallway.”

In the face of this traffic fatality epidemic, there was a fierce public outcry including enormous rallies, public memorials, vehement newspaper editorials, and even a few angry mobs that attacked motorists following a collision. “Several cities installed public memorials to the children hit by cars that looked like war monuments, except that they were temporary,” says Norton. “To me, that says a lot, because you collectively memorialize people who are considered a public loss. Soldiers killed in battle are mourned by the whole community, and they were doing that for children killed in traffic, which really captures how much the street was considered a public space. People killed in it were losses to the whole community.”

Murder Machines

The billionaire's typewriter

In truth, Medium’s main product is not a publishing platform, but the production of a publishing platform. This production brings readers and writers onto the site. This, in turn, generates the usage data that’s valuable to advertisers. Boiled down, Medium is simply marketing in the service of more marketing. It is not a “place for ideas.” It is a place for advertisers. It is, therefore, utterly superfluous…

Medium is a new kind of typewriter–the billionaire’s typewriter. It’s not the only billionaire’s typewriter. So is the Kindle. So is iBooks. So is Twitter. What distinguishes these new typewriters is not the possibilities they make available to writers, but what they take away.

The billionaire’s typewriter

If we want it to get better, we need to start building what we want to come next...

Everyone’s spending increasingly more consumption time…snacking on bite-sized social content…

Publishers are relying more on social traffic not because Google’s squeezing them out, but because that’s where everyone went…

Every hour we spend on Twitter or Facebook instead of reading and writing elsewhere is just making this worse…

Social…we’ve swung too far in that direction for our own good, as both producers and consumers. I hope the pendulum starts to swing back soon, because it hasn’t yet. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, if it ever does.

If we want it to get better, we need to start pushing back against the trend, modernizing blogs, and building what we want to come next.


That Nationwide Commercial

…we can’t make safe happen because we don’t live in a safe world. The ad warns about preventable accidents. You know what? Most accidents are considered preventable when viewed in hindsight. That’s why they are called ‘accidents’ not ‘inevitables’. But the dangers that lurk aren’t products of our failure, they are symptoms of mortality. And no matter how much we try, at the end of the day all we can do is guard against a state of being that will, despite our very best efforts, eventually hurt and take some of our babies. This isn’t anyone’s fault. Moms and Dads, this isn’t your fault.

It’s just life.

I didn’t watch a second of the super bowl, but couldn’t avoid the news about the disgusting Nationwide insurance commercial. I watched it today and the negative emotional effects on me have been profound. The blog post above says it better than I could.