Tapestries-11 \\ Bands
Revisiting a popular section of the last edition about "emotional bands," AI questions, and Israel's political challenges.
1. What I’m thinking
The section of my recent What I Learned This Year piece that generated the most engagement was the reflection on my emotional range or “band” of experience. So with that, I thought I’d dive a little deeper into the concept and some of its responses.
The concept seems to have articulated an experience that many men, and many wives of said men, related to. Some of the responses I received — from fathers in particular — noted how my band of emotional experience is about to fundamentally change with the birth of a child. They noted that a new type of love would blow out the upper limit of the band, but may also bring a symmetrical increase in the lower limit of the band as the fear, stress or gravity of newfound responsibilities dawn on me. Suffice to say I’m conscious — at least intellectually — of the change coming to mine and Tali’s lives and emotional bands, and will prepare however I can to be the husband and father I want to be.
One exchange in particular stuck with me. I have a friend in Los Angeles I consider a role model as a father, scholar and man of spirit, and he brought the concepts of a narrow emotional band and coming fatherhood together in a way that I found quite exquisite. I like having a relatively narrow emotional band, as it allows me to live with equanimity. My emotional detachment seems to be (using his framing) from the “volatility of others’ emotions and excitements,” and I consider this part of a healthy approach to living. But I’m also conscious that there needs to be some counterbalance to detachment, and my friend articulated this for me in reference to starting a family.
He suggested a potential counterbalance to increasing detachment from others’ emotional volatility is increasing attachment to a deeper purpose and deeper rhythm. This resonated with me. With the birth of a child, to quote my friend, I will be “newly entangled in a chain of life” that is bigger and more timeless than me; a strand in a grander tapestry, if you will. Taking a more emotionally detached path has at times forced me to ask what’s the point of all this thinking and striving? I don’t yet know the answer, but perhaps I’ve been waiting for an attachment to life I can anchor my emotional and spiritual experience to, and that experience may be starting a family and investing my energies in something other than myself. My reflection is that life cannot be lived indefinitely above the fray, as to do so risks (at least for me) sliding into numbness and monotony.
Alongside my analytical and intellectual cups, I have a pretty important spiritual vessel I’ve tried to fill over the years (I touched on this in reference to “faith” at length here). I don’t want to suggest that having a child is an “answer” for me or anyone else to a cosmic question of spiritual purpose; I’m sure sleepless nights and nappies overflowing with shit will focus the mind on the practical before the spiritual, and I’m also conscious that assuming too much about the experience is a dangerous exercise in expectation setting. But understanding how starting a family will not only change my range of emotional experience, but also potentially open a spiritual pathway that balances some emotional detachment, has been pretty cool for me to consider.
2. What I’m consuming
Going forward, I want to keep this section short and to the point: more sharing content, less expressing my views. Let me know what you think.
Here’s three things I’ve read recently that spoke thoughtfully about issues and topics I care about, and why you might be interested in reading them too:
A. An A.I. Pioneer on What We Should Really Fear, an interview with Yejin Choi by David Marchese in The New York Times Magazine
ChatGPT and generative artificial intelligence burst into popular discussions in 2022. You might be interested in reading this piece if you want to understand what these models are, and are not, and if you want to understand what questions researchers in the field are grappling with. If you enjoyed the first piece, you might enjoy the following too: Interview: Why Mastering Language Is So Difficult for AI. Thanks to Dean for the recommendations.
B. Eight Thoughts on Israel’s Political Crisis, by Matti Friedman in Tablet
Israel’s most recent elections saw Benjamin Netanyahu ascend to power with the help of a disturbing coalition of right-wing Jewish parties. You might be interested in reading this piece if you want to understand the nature of the political crisis the country is facing, and why “this time may be different.” Tablet had another piece on the topic (The Only (Illiberal) Democracy in the Middle East) that I recommend reading if you enjoy the first one.
C. What’s So Hard About Understanding Consciousness? by Kristen French in Nautilus
Neuroscience is a fascinating and consequential area of scientific discovery, and the last 30 years have seen really meaningful developments in the space. You might be interested in reading this piece if you want to see two of the field’s most thoughtful and well-rounded practitioners discussing the state of the science, and what it means for understanding the most enigmatic of entities: ourselves.
3. What I’m writing
Now that I’m back in New York, I’m finding a better writing rhythm. I’m at about ~35,000 words of the first draft. I’m getting more comfortable with the idea that the first draft is going to be somewhat disjointed and not up to the quality I’d like, which is helping me put words on a page and move forward.
I’m currently working on a chapter about the growing distance between people. I’m talking about what it means to “connect,” and how in spite of growing “connectivity,” we’ve arguably never been more alone. Snippet from early in the chapter here:
Where abstract forms of identity have been elevated as our defining attributes, and we have been empowered to find and connect with those others with whom we share an attribute with, we end up with globally distributed “communities” of people who may share something in common, but are untethered from any sense of real accountability to one another. While we are more “connected” than ever, we’ve also never been more alone, which shouldn’t be a particularly surprising outcome of an approach and culture that prioritizes the feelings and experience of the individual. In this sense, as our connectivity grew, our world got larger, and the distance between real people grew.
In this chapter, I want to explore how technology has opened up our world, and made it bigger, by facilitating the creation of communities based on shared interest. To again return to the concept of topography, technology has fundamentally changed how we interact with and move around our world, and observing the increased importance of identity, and rising scourge of loneliness — separate but related phenomena — provide a useful snapshot into this manifestation of a change in distance. Ultimately, I want to talk about what it means to “connect.”
Until next time.