Mind Maps #9 - Bamboo & Stone, Passionate Spaniards, Creative Uncertainty

Mind Maps #9 - Bamboo & Stone, Passionate Spaniards, Creative Uncertainty

Hey all,

It's been a week of home cooking, passionate Spaniards, and a memorable underground adventure.

Each day, when I wake up, I flick the kettle for my morning coffee as I come to my senses.

Dappled light glimmers through the canopy of green leaves and bamboo.

I booked one night at Bamboo Nest Hostel, a mystical enclave outside of Puerto Princesa, Philippines, and wound up staying for eight days. The sounds of the local village spill through the slatted, wooden walls. A rooster crows. A late riser, like me. A motorbike taxi passes with a metallic rattle. The rhythmic rubber thudding of a bouncing basketball. Kids laughing.

It has been nice to pause the locomotion and put the backpack down for a while, freeing up some of the mental real estate that's become dedicated to constant practical considerations. Where and when to eat (my main preoccupation), places to stay, pesos to spend.

I met some memorable fellow travellers here, an exuberant American teacher, a German logistician and a Spanish woman who spent a lot of time and energy explaining the romantic travails of Shakira.

With a kitchen here, I’ve even been cooking for myself, a rediscovered pleasure that I hadn't realised I was missing. I have usually whipped up some variation of noodles, eggs, and local veggies. Ottolenghi, eat your heart out.

My main excursion was visiting the "Underground River," where the turquoise ocean meets the mountains, snaking beneath limestone cliffs and old-growth forests.

Our tour group piled into a narrow canoe. A Spanish couple (separate from my Shakira-informed friend) grinned like school children as they clamoured into the boat. They were a lovely, worldly pair who had made the trip from their current home base in Singapore. They worked in finance but to their credit, you couldn’t tell by looking at them.

Off we paddled into the cave, the shimmering tropical colours resolving to total black. Bats fluttered past our heads, echolocating with their sonar-like squeaks, swerving and diving more precisely than the deftest fighter pilot. Soft sounds reverberated on ancient rock. Together, their wings beat like muted applause.

We imagined forms in the gloomy rocks: towering castles, the pointed bow of a shipwreck, a nativity scene. We nudged each other and pointed excitedly like daydreamers finding figures in the clouds.

After several kilometers of narrow passageways and epic caverns, we turned around and found our way back to light and land. Needless to say, I was impressed but also compressed. Having my knees folded to my chest for forty minutes meant I was pretty happy to disembark and stretch out. Despite experiencing genuine awe at this natural spectacle, soon after our journey ended, I reverted to my standard food-seeking behaviour, pondering where my next mango smoothie was coming from.

That’s when I noticed that one of my Spanish comrades was crying. Tears of joyful wonder. She profusely thanked the local guides, who smiled in return, a little confused.

Perhaps it’s the emotionally repressed male in me, but I felt a bit of second-hand embarrassment for my gushing tour mate.

But later, as I stared our of the mini-bus window, I reflected more on that moment. Maybe overwhelming gratitude is the appropriate response to the beauty of nature. The jungle passed in a blur. I sipped my coveted mango smoothie.

A few recommendations

▶️ Creative Uncertainty - This clip from legendary comedian John Cleese describes how uncertainty is a prerequisite for creativity. It's reassuring to hear that successful creators experience the same discomfort and agitation but learn to tolerate it as a necessary part of the process.

🎙️ Growth Mindset - A few years ago I read 'Grit' by Stanford Psychologist, Carol Dweck. She pioneered the study of Growth Mindset, the belief that intelligence and abilities are not fixed traits, but can be improved upon. One of her foundational studies found that school-aged children praised for their innate intelligence performed worse than peers who were praised for their effort. They chose easier tasks and gave up on those tasks more quickly, perhaps because they were rewarded for looking smart, rather than persisting through discomfort. It's a fascinating area that extends beyond the classroom and can reveal our own self-limiting beliefs. This episode of the Huberman Lab is a clear and actionable overview of the research. Listen: YouTube | Apple Podcasts | Spotify

💣 Exposive History - This week, I took myself out on a solo date to a Philippino movie theatre to see Oppenheimer. The story is masterfully told. When it comes to dramatic/psychological tension it doesn't get much jucier than potentially destroying all of humanity.  Afterwards, I listened an episode of the Plain English podcast that interviewed Pulitzer-Prize winning author Richard Rhodes about the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project, perhaps one of the most consequential technological developments in human history. Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify

Wishing you peace, progress & adventure,