There are some things which after longer reflection acquire a definite "I want to trumpet this from the rooftops" quality, and which I end up not saying because the world doesn't seem to be listening anyway. I also don't have enough clarity and/or writing skill to write so well that the world would be forced to listen.
This is a story of my 2-year-long struggle with an unwanted habit of cracking my neck, which had gotten out of hand around 2013-2015. If it seems to you like it's not a serious problem, consider:
it's a serious health hazard (it seems that repeated strain of the neck area can eventually cause e.g. a stroke),
it made me look socially awkward, bordering on retarded at the peak of intensity,
there are powerful subconscious mechanisms that regulate muscle tension and produce the impulse to stretch, and denying them results in ever growing pressure that eventually breaks your will, or if it doesn't it happens at the slightest lapse in attention,
This will be short and to the point.
Sometimes when you are learning something, you reach a point when you are constrained by raw power. Think physics and particle accelerators.
You compensate by being better at interpreting subtle evidence. Even with low power, you can learn most of anything if you have good models, and do the hard work of extracting a weak signal from noise.
However if you find yourself in this situation, increasing power should be your first priority. If you hit the power jackpot, you'll experience some very rapid progress, because your sophistication is way ahead of your previous level of power. You are ready to wield more of it.
Content warning: the last part of this post is saying some things that might be uncomfortable to hear, in a sharp tone which you might not like.
I'm spending this week living in Airbnb with my partner. The host, a young Chinese woman, has a dog. Mixed-breed. Maybe half a year old. Underfed. Lonely. Mostly left alone for the day. It's a young dog goddamit, it wants to play. Or rather it must play! Play is needed to develop social instincts. Otherwise, the dog will never learn how to find its place in the pack. It will never be happy.
There are three stances one can take when dealing with a mathematical subject.
The first one is the engineering/practical/below math stance:
- what works, works
- mistakes can be avoided by doing empirical tests
- math is difficult and scary
"I'm not weird. I'm just optimized."
This is a rare chance to learn some little-known rationality lore. Proceed cautiously, according to the instructions below.
Before you start, please remember -- never question a technique until you have mastered it. Your weak, human mind is certain to raise objections as you make progress on this path -- but this weakness will be overcome with time. Eventually, the technique will become your second nature, and you will hardly even remember what your life was like before.
Yoga, as commonly taught, in a multitude of versions descended from the Indian tradition, gets some crucial things right. At the same time, it gets some other things terribly wrong.
One obvious thing it gets wrong is attaching metaphysical or religious meaning to all the teachings. But annoying as it can be, I do not consider it a deal breaker for anyone who has half-decent epistemic habits. It is fairly trivial to filter out the wordy noise and benefit from generations upon generations of accumulated and slowly refined practical knowledge.