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State Control

Post #1633 • December 11, 2013, 3:26 PM • 1 Comment

Imagine a light bulb, if you will, with a beaded pull chain. The beads in that chain consist of notions gleaned several years' worth of reading about myriad topics bearing upon human nature. Finally this chain formed enough beads for me to reach, and when I pulled, a light came on. What follows is a note to self, with no particular conclusion. If anyone else finds it interesting, so much the better.

Michael Covel, The Complete Turtle Trader:

In essence [William] Eckhardt was saying, You are not special. You are not smarter than the market. So follow the rules. Whoever you are and however much brains you have, it doesn't make a hill of bean's difference, Because if you're facing the same issues and if you've got the same constraints, you must follow the rules. Eckhardt said this in a far nicer, more professorial and academic way, but that was what he meant. He id not want his students to wake up and say, I'm feeling smart today, I'm feeling lucky today, or I'm feeling dumb today. He taught them to wake up and say, I'll do what my rules say to do today.

[Richard] Dennis was clear that it would take stick-to-itiveness to follow the rules day to day and do it right: To follow the good principles and not let fear, greed and hope interfere with your trading is tough. You're swimming upstream against human nature.

Mark Spitznagel, The Dao of Capital:

Böhm-Bawerk's prescription for the organization and management of our resources is the equal treatment of present and future as an ideal—in other words, temporal depth. We engage in more than just the current moment, the realm of our immediate self; Böhm-Bawerk evokes all of our many forward moments that touch all of our many forward selves. All are equally our selves, all have equality of rights—though [w]hether this equality of rights as a matter of principle is matched by a full equality of rights as a matter of practice is another question. ... We are estranged from our forward selves, because we lack the gift of literally feeling in advance the emotions we shall experience in the future. Our chauvinism for the present self—the one certainly closest in temporal proximity and the most tangible to our experience—is such that we often neglect our forward selves. As Böhm-Bawerk cautioned, How often does a man, from weakness, let himself be hurried into taking some step, or making some promise, which he knows at the moment he will rue before twenty-four hours are over! The cause of such hasty actions, he added, is not a lack of knowledge, but rather a defect of will. ...

What hyperbolic discounting implies is that we do not process a discount rate over an interval in some gestalt (or coherent whole) fashion, as one would implicitly assume under exponential discounting. Rather, discounting is highly sequential and intertemporal: Our willingness to endure a wait from now until next week requires our willingness to wait from now until tomorrow, from tomorrow until the day after, and so forth. And (as per the definition of hyperbolic discounting) we perceive enduring the first day as really hard, and each successive day we perceive will be a little easier. But we must make it past the earlier days in order to get to the later days (thus it is sequential).

What this means is, if we are unsatisfied with the wait early on (from now until tomorrow), we won't make it to the wait much later (from six days to seven days from now)—despite how satisfied we may be were we to wait over the entire period (from now until a week from now).

Heartiste (no link, you'll find it if you're meant to):

You are an oak tree. You will not be manipulated by crying, yelling, lying, head games, sexual withdrawal, jealousy ploys, pity plays, shit tests, hot/cold/hot/cold, disappearing acts, or guilt trips. She will rain and thunder all around you and you will shelter her until her storm passes. She will not drag you into her chaos or uproot you. When you have mastery over yourself, you will have mastery over her.

Harry Lorayne, The Memory Book:

[Y]ou should be aware of the fact that most people don't really forget names. They just don't remember them in the first place—often, they don't really hear them in the first place. Just think back and remember the many times you've been introduced to someone, when all you heard was a mumble. There's no way on earth to remember a mumble!

The Buddha, in the Dhammapada:

Difficult, indeed, is self-control. One truly is the protector of oneself; who else could the protector be? With oneself fully controlled, one gains a mastery that is hard to gain. The evil a witless man does by himself, born of himself and produced by himself, grinds him as a diamond grinds a hard gem. Just as a single creeper strangles the tree on which it grows, even so, a man who is exceedingly depraved harms himself as only an enemy might wish. Easy to do are things that are bad and harmful to oneself. But exceedingly difficult to do are things that are good and beneficial.

What does this all have to do with art? Walter Darby Bannard, Aphorisms for Artists:

Your habits are always at war with your imagination.

Studio experience leads me to wonder if a large part of talent may be the ability to take one’s everyday habits, good and bad, and throw them out the window. “I did it my way” does not mean you did it the best way.

Hans Hofmann was inventive, hyperactive and productive. These characteristics often led him to kill a painting by overloading it. Late in life he learned to either leave a painting “unfinished” or paint large rectangular slabs over the excess. Both things went against his nature, and they were his best pictures.

Go with your gut instincts, but recognize when they are wrong.

New Writings

As previously mentioned, I was in Miami for the fairs this year, on assignment for Artcritical. Have a gander at my reports on Aqua and Art Miami. Also, be sure to pick up the December issue of The New Criterion to see my review of Balthus: Cats and Girls—Paintings and Provocations.



Walter Darby Bannard

December 15, 2013, 4:29 PM

This seems to be an ode to self-control, of trying to assure a future which does not exist through a process of present and hopeful self denial. There is something to this, certainly, as a kind of limited life lesson, but, as always, future results are less a matter of programmed denial in the moment as they are good judgment in the moment. Good or bad judgment may be realized in the future, but can only be sensibly characterized by reflection on the past. This is more or less the human condition, as demonstrated by evolution itself.

So, I would ask the Buddha, "then why not emulate the creeper rather than the tree?"



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