Chum or Cream? Asinine or Aristotle?

What was so great about what Aristotle had to say — or how he said it?

What was so great about what Aristotle had to say — or how he said it?

Congratulations Kazuo Ishiguro, on being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature–and thank you for your stories. Bringing this back from September 2, 2016.

In Kazuo Ishiguro’s book The Buried Giant, the dragon Querig is blamed for cursing the land with “a mist of forgetfulness.” With each breath, she exhales a mist with the power to shroud those within her range in amnesia.

The mist is an unforgiving thing, wiping out the good and the bad memories. Pain and Happiness exit stage left hand and hand, with Experience and Knowledge joining them.

Axl, an old man at the center of The Buried Giant, can’t understand why a young soldier is familiar to him because Axl has no memory of his own youth. And when Axl meets an old knight, the same occurs. Why is the knight familiar to Axl and Axl in turn familiar to the knight? How could Axl, just an old man, know anything of fighting and battles?

With the emotional and experience memories, the mist stole the memories of how the The Buried Giant’s many characters connected with each other. A strange woman asks Axl’s wife, “How will you and your husband prove your love for each other when you can’t remember the past you’ve shared?”

As the story continues, we find that Merlin was responsible for infusing Querig’s breath with amnesia. In the post-Arthurian period in which the story takes place, the previously warring Britons and Saxons live in peace because they can’t remember the genocide and other atrocities that occurred. Oblivion is Bliss.

The Internet reminds me of Querig’s breath, with Information playing the role of the mist.

Where cream used to rise, chum resides, fueling the top feeders.

All the information bombarding our in-boxes and Facebook walls and Twitter feeds, is “new” — and there’s so much of it to wade through.

Instead, ignore the now and look to the past. Think about how “they” did it before the Internet.

How did Aristotle get people to listen to him? He wasn’t the only philosopher on the block. Why him?

How did Christopher Columbus pull together a trip to the New World, without a Go Fund Me campaign to back him?

How did the Wright Brothers convince people to go for a ride when crashing was a reality?

Why VHS instead of Betamax? Or Coke or Pepsi? Or Apple or Samsung?

Slay the shit at the top and dive deep for how people “did it” before all the tech and info access and you’ll find personal relationships and hard work. You’ll find some assholes, too, but in general, you’ll find that everything you need to know today has existed for thousands of years. Instead of figuring out how to game Facebook and Amazon for success today, figure out what Aristotle did it to achieve longevity hundreds and hundreds of years later.

Find out what has always worked, rather than trying to sort out what works right now.

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  1. Mary Doyle on September 2, 2016 at 5:35 am

    Great post Callie, and such good advice – thanks!

  2. Joe on September 2, 2016 at 6:24 am

    “How did Christopher Columbus pull together a trip to the New World, without a Go Fund Me campaign to back him?” This one made me smile.

  3. Michael Beverly on September 2, 2016 at 6:56 am

    This reminds my of Taleb’s metric that something is as likely to exist into the future for as long as it has into the past.
    Chairs, forks, and the wheel, for instance, will probably be around in a thousand years.

  4. Joel D Canfield on September 2, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Find out what has always worked, rather than trying to sort out what works right now.

    I was half-way through this post before I realized it wasn’t Steve or Shawn’s voice. That last line is totally on-theme and still all Callie O.

    Brilliant post.

  5. David Kaufmann on September 2, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Seth Godin talks about this a lot in the context of marketing. First is content: Aristotle stands out because he offered something new that had explanatory value. In other words, it wasn’t just the newness, but the effectiveness of what he offered (or had to sell). The second element is platform: Aristotle was a teacher (even before he became Alexander’s tutor), and so he had an audience. How did he build that audience? Through relationships, hard work (learning from his mistakes, putting his work out there for critique, etc.). It might help if we thought of the transactional process not as solely object transference (you give me money and I give you a widget), but relational interchange (mutual need fulfillment (you need a widget, I need money) based on a commitment (often unspoken) of trust and support (I will provide attention and the proper item and support at the time of sale, and customer support afterwards (if the widget doesn’t work, return and replace) and you will provide proper currency, acknowledgment, etc.)) Finally, we might look at the transactional communication – the sales process – not as manipulation (which it often is, see advertisers), but persuasion (which, per Seth Godin, is based on permission).

    In this way, the technology is just a different tool. The printing press, pen and paper, stylus and clay – all were open to abuse, all were used to inundate with information (or “information”), and the fallacy of the appeal to novelty.

  6. Dorothy Ross on September 2, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    I wouldn’t romanticize the past. A lot of good – maybe even great – books weren’t published because they couldn’t get a publisher. Now there are more self-publishing options. Sure, a lot of crap is published, but there are also excellent writers who might not get a chance through conventional routes.

    In the old days, you had to get a patron if you wanted to do something that cost money, and you didn’t have it yourself. Patrons still exist, but now there are alternatives, like Go Fund Me.

    There was just as much garbage produced in the old days as now. It’s just that over time, the good is more likely to endure than the garbage.

  7. Patricia Wilson on September 3, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    Mr. Steven Pressfield, I wrote a very long missive in response to your post, then lost it in its entirety because I’m a computer, Internet Luddite. The gist of my response to the post was/is that I’m tired of opening my e-mail only to find it filled with garbage (not spam), garbage sent to me by friends and family. If I were to delete all spam and just read and respond to each and every e-mail from people I actually care about, I’d never be able to rise from the chair in front of my computer to actually live my life and accomplish even the most mundane tasks, let alone pursuing my life goals. What do you think?

  8. Erik Dolson on September 8, 2016 at 8:42 am

    “Slay the shit at the top…”
    But then I’d miss all that the Kardashian’s have to teach me.

  9. Ben on September 8, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Maybe it’s best we not hold Columbus up as a model to follow. I get the impression it’s a placeholder or go-to example here. But he did such terrible things during his adventures. A little distracting from the point. Go Fund Me or not, let us not do like unto him.

  10. Brian Nelson on October 6, 2017 at 5:38 am

    Love the introduction, my reading list always grows from this site. The idea of no memory is fascinating.

    Enduring greatness. As I’ve read or listened to others over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that there may be 30-50 fundamental truths. Because language changes, environment changes, we need people to continually re-frame/re-phrase these truths for the present.

    Does what Tony Robbins/Seth Godin/Steven Pressfield/Dali Lhama all say differ from the great philosophies of the past? Like Erik noted above…I don’t think the Kardashian’s fall into the same mold.

  11. Mary Doyle on October 6, 2017 at 5:39 am

    Thanks for rerunning this Callie – I was thrilled to see yesterday’s announcement that Ishiguro is being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature!

  12. Susan on October 6, 2017 at 6:51 am

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you

  13. Arthur W Jones on October 6, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Thank you for a compelling article. I always say “Less Tech, Just be Human.”

  14. Julie Murphy on October 6, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    Memory. What a thing. We trust it like fact and are disconnected from others and ourselves when it waivers.

    It’s the baton hand-off between past experience and future choices. Without it we’re at sea. Too ensconced in it and we’re stagnant.

    Good reminder and insights, Callie. Thanks.

  15. Joe on October 7, 2017 at 5:36 am

    I was going to comment that I liked: “How did Christopher Columbus pull together a trip to the New World, without a Go Fund Me campaign to back him?”

    Then I looked above and saw that was the line that grabbed my attention last year. So, hooray for internal consistency.

  16. Bonnie on October 9, 2017 at 6:20 am

    Dig deep and look to the past. Love it! I look to Marcus Aurelius and Meditations.

  17. Curtis on October 9, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    RE: Columbus meets Go Fund Me


    Don’t look now but your work ethic is showing. I do love the way you get it said. 🙂

  18. Sean Crawford on October 11, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    One of the horrors of being a reader during adolescence was that I had a memory, and no one else my age did.

    Now those same conformists are stuck on the Internet, and many of them, formerly nonreaders, think that skimming is a valid lifestyle choice, “like everybody else.” Not me. I don’t care whether others won’t dive past the chum. I can look for myself.

  19. Michelle Jackson on November 6, 2020 at 2:34 am

    It is so amazing that Kazuo Ishiguro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Buried Giant is one of my favourite books, and the style of writing is really amazing. Recently, I was working on my project for a literature class, and I have read another book by him that is called Never let me go. I was so impressed and decided to do deep research and investigate different reviews of this writing. I have found a few ones on this site. I think that this story is even better than Buried Giant. Highly recommended.

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