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Note 85: When you don’t like someone…
Sirens, smartphones, surprise!
Phones are the new air raid sirens.
Last Sunday, I was with some friends, talking over burgers and The Banker on Apple TV+ (good film, by the way!) when everyone's phones went off in alarm.
We all looked at each other, confused, for maybe three seconds, before we suddenly remembered the notice we'd all got going back at least two weeks that this would happen. This was, in fact, a drill. The government had announced they'd be testing an emergency alert system.
Although this was nationwide, the plan is for the alarms to be location-focused. (The UK.gov website gives examples of severe flooding, fire and extreme weather, but of course, there are a few missing, possibly nationwide options one hopes we will never need.) They'll be sent via masts to every nearby phone (even if silent), so you get them based on where you are and without the government needing to identify you or your location.
How times have changed, right? In the World War, air raid sirens were how the government warned people of incoming danger, and they remained viable throughout the Cold War. Now we all have smartphones, these powerful computers we carry everywhere we go—even if yours is dead, it's improbable someone near you won’t have one. It just makes a lot more sense to use them. The new phone alerts also provide a link to what's happening and what you should do, which air raid sirens couldn't do.
And with that, the computers we used to think of as just "phones" have replaced yet another old technology.
The new air raid sirens are in your pocket.
Speaking of—get Notes on Being Human in your pockets every week!👇🏾
Fighting back with humility
I had an essay published last weekend: Your Most Powerful Weapon Against Your Inner Critic is… Humility. It's about what I call the creative paradox: the challenge of putting our energy into making things when we can't reliably predict their value.
Here's how it begins:
What if the secret to creativity is…
Bear with me, I’m going somewhere.
It’s well known that it’s hard to be creative when our inner critic is in full force. Ideas are fragile things, especially when they’re new or still forming, and they don’t long withstand the withering gaze of criticism. Like the seeds they are, they need the dark, away from direct sunlight, while they take shape in the soil of our minds.
Except, that’s a lot of effort to put into something you’re not sure will prove useful.…
What if ideas have to be nurtured, not because we know for sure they’ll be valuable, but precisely because we don’t?
Keep reading here:
Opening up to surprise…
It’s easy, when you don’t like someone, to simply ignore them, but there’s another choice it’s worth being aware of:
"One person says, “I don’t like that man; therefore I will not speak to him. When and if my feelings change, I will speak.” Another says, “I don’t like that person; therefore I am going to speak to him.” The person, surprised at the friendliness, cheerfully responds and suddenly friendliness is shared."
— Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
Many things sound simple enough to understand but are hard enough to practice that we don't often find them. This is one. We all meet people we don't like now and then. We don't like how they talk, how they act, how they engage, and sometimes (to our shame) even how they look. And if we're being honest, there are people you don't like, and you can't even articulate why.
Of course, the instinctive reaction is to not speak to people like that any more than you have to.
And, while I wouldn't encourage you to ignore your instincts, it's worth remembering that our instincts, like so much else about us, are far from infallible. We sometimes get things wrong. Some of the richest friendships I've had are with people who I didn't take to at first sight or who didn't take to me. So, sure, acknowledge your feelings, don't dismiss them, but also push past them now and then because you never know when you (and the other person) will be pleasantly surprised.
Imagine what we miss out on otherwise.