The Hardest Work

I’m nearly done reading Robert Moss’s The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead. It’s about dreaming and death and imagination and some other far-out things, all mostly topics for another time.

You can read about Robert Moss on his website and Wikipedia page. He’s a fascinating guy who has more to say about dreaming than just about anyone I’ve come across.

Anyway, of the many parts of this book that have stuck with me, there’s one that’s grabbed me and even helped me shift my thinking a little bit about the things we choose to focus our energy on.

Throughout The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead, Moss talks a lot about his relationship with the poet W.B. Yeats. “Relationship,” because Moss claims to have had contact with Yeats through his dreams, and considers him a mentor from another realm.

Moss also talks about the idea of the “daimon,” a demigod or guardian/guiding spirit in Greek mythology—and in particular Yeats’ conception of the daimon, which was, as Moss explains, as a kind of creative energy, “a larger entity that does not permit the ordinary self to slumber when great things are afoot.”

Where am I going with this? In Yeats’ own words, from Per amica silentia lunae, an early book of his:

When I think of life as a struggle with the Daimon who would ever set us to the hardest work among those not impossible, I understand why there is a deep enmity between a man and his destiny, and why a man loves nothing but his destiny.

The hardest work among those not impossible.

Let that sink in a bit. Then hear what Moss has to say about this terrifying and wonderful notion. Some of what he talks about below might make a bit more sense in the context of the rest of the book—and I gladly recommend you read it—but…read on.

The following thoughts occurred to me as I reflected on this:

  • When we are passionately engaged in a creative venture—love, art, or something else that is really worthwhile—we draw support from other minds and other beings, seen and unseen.

  • According to the direction of our will and desire, and the depth of our work, those minds may include masters from other times and other beings.

  • We draw greater support the greater the challenges involved in our venture. Great spirits love great challenges.

  • Whether we are aware of it or not, all our life choices are witnessed by the larger self that Yeats called the daimon. The daimon lends or withholds its immense energy from our lives according to whether we choose the big agenda or the little one. The daimon is bored by our everyday vacillations and compromises and detests us when we choose against the grand passion and the Life Work, the soul’s purpose.

  • The daimon loves us best when we choose to attempt “the hardest thing among those not impossible.”

I find all this daimon business just terrifying enough—but still inspiring. Because, let’s face it, terrifying without inspiring is like, what—really bad decaf?

How would you proceed if you were assured of the existence of an energy like that? One with such a monumental stake in your choice of pursuits, creative and otherwise? One that wanted you to choose the big agenda?

I thought about going on about how you should choose the big agenda, how you should embrace the grand passion, and how you should tackle the hardest work among those not impossible. And I do think that, and I like to think that I am slowly getting better at it myself.

But I also know how hard it is, and I don’t want to disingenuously tell you to just effing do it, so I will mostly let Yeats’s and Moss’s words speak for themselves.

As for me, I’m off to start planning this great new idea I just had for a coffee shop.

Sunday at Seth’s

I like Seth Godin’s blog. It’s refreshing to not feel compelled to wade through comments sometimes (because you have no choice chez Seth). He also knows how to be pithy without sounding too much like, I dunno, a prophet or a salesman.

And he gets some things about editors and editing:

The copyeditor will fix a misstated fact, spot a typo and get your prose clean.

The line editor will rearrange a paragraph and help you organize a thought more clearly.

And the editor who is your partner will tell you that the chapters are in the wrong order, that you must delete a third of what you wrote, or perhaps consider writing for TV instead. This kind of editor is the one who will tell you your time is better spent doing something else entirely.

Then, to take it home:

Sure, fix my typos, thanks a lot, but what’s truly precious is someone able to fix your plan.

I happen to think all editors are precious, but he still has a good point.

And if you’re looking for a copyeditor, or a line editor, or a strategic editor, or an I-don’t-care-what-you-call-yourself-but-the-words-on-the-page-just-don’t-match-the-ones-in-my-head-itor, then click on over here and drop me a line.

Clean Eating, or, What’s in a Couple Words?

Eating dirt appears nearly universal among children under 2 years of age. When I asked my 2-year-old daughter why she ate dirt, she just stared at me, her eyes wide open, a thick moustache of loam limning her lips. She must have decided that either what I had asked was unfathomably abstract or her answer would be far beyond my comprehension.



Clean eating. It just sounds good, doesn’t it? What could be wrong with a phrase that seems so clean? Clean is good, right?

Generally speaking, “clean” is considered a good thing. In a dietary context, “clean” usually seems to imply “healthy.” I’m pretty sure I’ve never come across a reference to “clean eating” where the author meant the phrase in a bad way.

But the problem with “clean” is it’s a tabula rasa—a blank slate. It implies an absence. But of what?

Of whatever you want.

There’s also a problem with the “eating” part of “clean eating,” because it implies a presence. But of what?

Of whatever you want.

Well, s***.

So the problem is twofold: That taking away—absence—is inherently good, when it may or may not be. And that the presence of whatever foods pass the “clean eating” test is also good, whether or not these foods are actually “good” or “clean,” whatever the hell either of those things means.

Clean eating can be defined so broadly that it’s practically meaningless. Which can be harmful when talking about topics as powerful and important as food, and health.

But there’s also this: Eating is a function of life, which is dirty. It’s the symbiotic, dirty sharing of the many, dirty elements of our ecosystem for nourishment.

Glad we cleaned cleared that one up.

Is Paleo Here to Stay?

Last week, I got something I’d been anticipating for a while: my first “paleo” spam.

This wasn’t an email from a well-meaning, verifiable source in the established paleo community trying to sell me something. It was true spam—an email from an unidentifiable source with some generic copy about paleo-something-or-other, trying to get me to click on one of its links and take me heck knows where.

It got me thinking about where we are in the lifecycle/track of this whole paleo trend.

Bring In the Model

Basic trend analysis categorizes a trend according to its audience, starting with innovators, then early adopters, late adopters, and late majority (and sometimes laggards, if you’re feeling crotchety).



Right now, I’d put paleo at the tail end of the “late adopter” and start of the “late majority” phase. Even if you think they’re close (I don’t), government institutions definitely aren’t on board with this one yet, kids.

Now, when I say “trend,” I mean that primarily in a value-neutral, not a pejorative way (but the spam, I will pejorate the crap out of the spam).

To any sane observer, paleo is clearly a trend.

A trend with a multi-year lifespan, and one with close ties to a number of other cultural threads and shifts, toward things like alternative and “natural” approaches to movement and exercise, local and decentralized food production and distribution, slow living, and a greater focus on family and community.

Which I think most of us would agree are all Pretty Good Things.

But even the most ardent paleo devotee also has to admit that the “movement” has been increasingly co-opted for its marketing potential.

We’re starting to see “paleo-friendly” on product labels in the same way we’ve seen “vegan” and “gluten-free” for a little while already. Some of the really fancy stuff even comes with a “keto” label now. “Low-FODMAP” isn’t far behind.

Wave for the Spamera

I like to also think of what’s going on with paleo as an ocean wave.

The core of the paleo trend—the ties to science, to deep and wide-ranging lifestyle changes, and to the general thrust of the zeitgeist—is the wave itself: large, powerful, carrying all manner of sediments and biologia. It’s strong, and it can last a while.

The wave also carries some froth with it. Salty bubbles, along for the ride. You can guess what the froth represents.

It’s not a perfect analogy by any means. Especially since I don’t know a lot about fluid dynamics. Or what the shore represents. (Whole Foods?)

*But back to my original question*: Is paleo here to stay?

I think so. The more meaningful lifestyle and social/cultural aspects of paleo still have roots to grow.  And in terms of dietary marketing, paleo will become as established and omnipresent as vegetarian or vegan.

Again, I’m trying to be as value-neutral as I can here. This is simply what I think will happen. Not what I want to happen, or how I’ll feel about what I think will happen.

In any case, my junk mailbox is probably going to keep seeing more and more paleo spam.

Speaking of, somebody’s gotta be working on a paleo substitute for actual SPAM. I would eat that (maybe).