Monday Seven No. 034

On resilience, optimism, love, and truth in the information age

Welcome to the latest edition of Monday Seven — actionable ideas and frameworks for those of us who seek more out of life and work.

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Hi friends,

It’s been four weeks since I first shared a big life win. Life is mostly a marathon, but every now and then we need to sprint. I’m in a full sprint now. There is so much going on, all of it equally exciting and demanding. I’ll have more to share with you very soon.

For this week, I’m sharing a podcast on resilience and optimism featuring none other than my beloved and formidable mother, a short note of gratitude on love, and a few thoughts on truth in the information age.

Let’s get into it.

No. 034

On Resilience and Optimism: The Sky Never Stays Dark

I am biased, but I highly recommend listening to Mahbubeh Mojtahed in the podcast episode The Sky Never Stays Dark (Spotify, Apple Podcasts). She’s a captivating storyteller, and also happens to be my mother.

From the show description:

Mahbubeh and her husband were political acitivists in Iran in the 1980s. They were imprisoned - when she was seven months pregnant. Her husband was executed and she had to flee her home country. First smuggled to Malaysia, imprisoned and then released to Thailand before finally reaching Canada.

Her story is one that is both shocking and horrific in its detail of torture and imprisonment. She talks about the heartbreak and truly desperate lenghts she went to for safety and peace. The brave decisiosn she took are ones that many of us will never have to face.

She’s been through more in her lifetime than many people could bear. And yet despite the three decades being full of expcetional challenges, somehow, she remaind undanted, unbowed and full of hope and life.

On Gratitude for Love

For my personal journal:

Love, like life, can be taken away at any time. Relationships don’t come with a best-before date printed on a label. We hope it ends in old age in each other’s arms. But, two people can grow apart, get sick, or fall in love with someone else. A love story can have a thousand and one endings. If you’re lucky enough to share life with someone you love, love them as each day might be your last. When you reach the inevitable end, no matter how the story goes, you’ll have loved with the full spectrum of your heart.

The Messy Days of the Information Age

My latest essay Nobody’s Safe Until We All Are: On Vaccines and Freedom has me thinking a lot about the truth. In the essay, I wrote:

How can we go through such a collective human experience and come out of it so far part?

I think the answer is in the unprecedented amount of information we have access to. Everyone is an expert with the world’s knowledge in the palm of their hands. The danger is that when we’re all experts then there remains no expert authority to trust.

A friend recently described this as a similar phenomenon to what happened when we began building cities and moved from rural agricultural life to urban city life. Early cities were disgusting places. People would throw feces out the window and onto the streets. Livestock roamed the neighborhoods. Everything was a mess. It took time for us to put in the systems and infrastructure for cities to function. The 21st-century city is an incredibly complex and well-functioning machine. The fact that cities exist at all with tens of millions of people cohabitating is an incredible human achievement.

The information age is messy today. But we’re just getting started.

Just as the early inhabitants of urban cities could not phantom the complex network of sewer systems, freshwater supply, and waste collection; we cannot yet imagine what the systems of the information age will look like. What we know is that they’ll most likely run in the background, invisible to us. We’ll learn to trust information once again, just as we learned to (mostly) trust the water that flows through our taps. We won’t think about information, just as we no longer think about the toilet flush flows.

For now, we must learn to navigate the messy days of the information age.

Book I’m Reading —

The Revolt of the Public by Martin Gurri had been on my bookshelf longer than I’d like to admit. I finally picked it up after watching this video by the author.

I highly recommend it for anyone trying to understand the root cause of some of the more head-scratching differences on what is truth.

The recovery of truth requires the restoration of trusted authority. At the moment, that is nowhere insight. The question before us is whether the current elite class can ever resume that function. The crisis of authroity, currently at the statge of paralysis, will otherwise continue to warp and fracture the top-down model of liberal democracy long managed by this class. To have any hope of reversing this trend, the elites must counter negation with a positive vision—a shared adventure—that includes and persuades the public.

For what it’s worth, I believe we are past the point of return on a centralized authority on truth. This is why I am optimistic about technologies that enable decentralization.

Song to wake up to —

Rose Golden by Kid Cudi (YoutubeSpotifyApple Music). I play this on max volume with headphones on while singing at the top of my lungs every day last week. Part of me feels that C might be secretly recording and will release the videos one day.

Quote of the week —

Tying it back to the skill of staying optimistic in spite of reality, I want to share a simple but fantastically visual quote by Tim Urban from Wait But Why.

For context, Tim is answering a question about the age he most likely expects to die. But I think his answer can be applied more broadly to optimism and pessimism.

I think it’s inevitable to find pessimism when we place reality under a microscope. But what’s the point? To arrive at a healthy recipe, I find it helps to stay optimistic about the future, and paranoid about what will prevent me from getting there. Optimism without awareness that the road between now and then is filled with landmines is dangerous. But, pessimism without the ability to zoom out on life is crippling.

The pessimistic part of my brain, looking at reality, makes a sad face and pats the optimistic part of my brain on the head. The optimistic part of my brain, remembering how bad humans are at intuitively understanding exponential growth, pats the pessimistic part of my brain on the head.

— Tim Urban

Thanks for reading. Whether you enjoyed this newsletter or not, I’d really appreciate it if you leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

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The next time you’ll hear from me will be Monday, May 24

Until then,

Yashar ✌🏼