Tickles n’ Tidbits

I was recently talking to a friend about how I felt like while I was consuming a lot of information through various books and podcasts, I was forgetting everything that I read or heard. He then told me how he combatted this inevitable forgetting by writing summaries of book chapters when he finished reading them. Feeling inspired, I developed an impetus to actively record insights procured through my consumption of intellectual media, and then, to share them with others!

I’m hoping to share 3 things I found interesting or thought-provoking each ~week, along with relevant links for those interested in delving deeper. So here we are—I present to you, the first of what I cutely coined “Tickles n’ Tidbits.” Enjoy 🙂 (EDIT: Alas, I cannot keep my promises to write weekly. Have accepted that this was more of a one-off writing experiment). 

1. x+y by Eugenia Cheng [Nature – book review]

I just started this wonderful new book about what category theory, a subfield of pure math, can offer in reshifting our collective mindset about gender diversity in STEM fields. She argues that instead of focusing on inherent differences between men and women and 9781541646513-1pitting the two against each other (e.g., suggesting that lifting women up implies putting men down), that we could instead benefit from focusing on redefining the structures that reward success. These structures would reward relevant character traits without “associating certain traits with genders, as we have so often done historically—for example, with traits like strength, ambition, confidence, empathy, kindness, communication skills.” In this way, we can stop thinking of two-dimensional Cartesian graphs where y is plotted against x, but rather, how x and y can be added together (hence, x+y) to create new dimensions and new ways of relational thinking that benefit both genders.

As someone who has admittedly fallen into the trap of thinking that I had to suck it up and be more “manly” in order to “make it” in academia, I appreciated the breath of fresh air that this book provided and the reminder that I must continually reshape my own deeply-ingrained gendered ways of thinking. Going forward, I want to be particularly cognizant of the ways in which I describe my male and female colleagues to others, so as to not contribute to the traditional partition of assigning specific character traits to one gender over another.

2. Tim Ferriss’s podcast interview with Esther Perel [show notes]

I recently re-listened to this great podcast episode by two of my favorite people: productivity lord Tim Ferriss and Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel.  Around minute ~30 they have a discussion about the beauty of impermanence: in the fact of knowing that something “went away,” lies the encouragement to enjoy what you knew wasn’t permanent. I deeply Syme-EstherPerel-Quarantineresonated with this, as I can point to several instances in my own life—romantic relationships, academic opportunities, and getting lost in travel overseas—where this principle held true. This simple reframing, Ferriss concludes, can teach us how to not fear things being impermanent but instead leverage the oppourtunity to maximally enjoy those things while we can.

There are related concepts, which they go on to discuss: 

Voracity in living: “If there’s one more experience I can have, one more thing I can discover, one more place I can travel to, one more conversation that could be interesting, I am quite voracious. Not because I’m insatiable but because a part of me always says ‘who knows what will be tomorrow?’ I don’t live with ‘there’s always a tomorrow,’ I live with ‘who knows if there will be a tomorrow?’ and that’s very simple.” – EP

Counterphobia: “I act as if I’m fearless, but I’m actually petrified with dread. I act like nothing scares me…there are a lot of things I do that could be very scary sometimes (to other people, anyway), and I live it as if I have no fear.” – EP

I like these terms—voracity and counterphobia—because they vividly illustrate this insatiability I feel towards how much there is yet to experience in life and how sometimes, naive fearlessness can be the catalyst for unimaginable and extraordinary experiences that I could never have even dreamed of. 

3. Lastly, I would like to share one quote that I found deeply resonant. This one comes from an interview with Patti Callahan, who authored a book about poet and writer Helen Joy Davidman, the late wife of proclaimed Christian academic and lay theologian C.S. Lewis:

220px-Joy_Davidman.Joy carried with her a profound respect for mystery, for the answers she would never have, but also a faith that her questions were worth asking. She understood that there would never be answers that would fully satisfy her intellect, but that never, not once, stopped her from asking the questions.

This, indeed, is the same spirit of curiosity I hope to adopt in my approach towards understanding everything from science to spirituality to all the other important and interesting questions of life.

Have a blessed week, friends!

With love,


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