Melville: Chapter XI: Nightgown. (Moby Dick. 1851)

32636-le-rire-1901-n-357-henry-gerbault-d-ostoya-scottish-dance-hprints-com“Truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.”

Compare with Chapter 2 of Tao Te Ching (tr. J. Legge, 1891):

1. All in the world know the beauty of the beautiful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what ugliness is; they all know the skill of the skilful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what the want of skill is.

2. So it is that existence and non-existence give birth the one to (the idea of) the other; that difficulty and ease produce the one (the idea of) the other; that length and shortness fashion out the one the figure of the other; that (the ideas of) height and lowness arise from the contrast of the one with the other; that the musical notes and tones become harmonious through the relation of one with another; and that being before and behind give the idea of one following another.

3. Therefore the sage manages affairs without doing anything, and conveys his instructions without the use of speech.

4. All things spring up, and there is not one which declines to show itself; they grow, and there is no claim made for their ownership; they go through their processes, and there is no expectation (of a reward for the results). The work is accomplished, and there is no resting in it (as an achievement). The work is done, but how no one can see; ‘Tis this that makes the power not cease to be.

This last line reminds me of a concept I learned from James Altucher: by replacing goals with themes, you never cease to succeed. Rather than have a goal ‘to make a million dollars’, your theme is ‘to provide value to other people in such a way that is also financially beneficial to me.’

Mumford: The Influence of Capitalism (Technics and Civilization, 1934)

monopolyThe “romanticism of numbers” directly led to the rise of capitalism, already well-structured by the 1300s, and modern (double-entry bookkeeping, bills of exchange, letters of credit, speculation in ‘futures’) by the 1500s. The result: abstraction and calculation became part of the everyday lives of city people. Business became more abstract, concerned with non-commodities, imaginary futures, and hypothetical gains. Marx: “money does not disclose what has been transformed into it”–everything can be bought and sold. Money is the only thing one can acquire without limit. Money both grew out of a need through trade, as well as promoted increased trade. The continual and fast-paced development of machines can be attributed to the lure of commercial profit.

Sun Tzu: XIII: “Spies” (The Art of War)

  1. Art-of-War-Sun-TzuHiring people is really expensive, and building a successful organization takes a long time.
  2. When it comes to market research and competitive analysis, don’t skimp on investment because the cost is trifling compared to the rest you’re spending, and the intelligence you gather will be crucial to your success.
  3. Your goal is to be profitable and bestow wealth and value across the board—and dragging out your eventual success is a waste of resources, and therefore the opposite of your goal.
  4. Therefore, as a leader you need to know as much as you can about both your target market, and competitors.
  5. The knowledge acquired by this research cannot be acquired simply by analogous experience or one’s intuition.
  6. The only way to acquire this knowledge is through other people.
  7. So, you must hire people to do this research.
  8. There are five sorts of “spies”—and when all are employed simultaneously, it’s impossible for others to determine where you gain your total effectiveness.
  9. “Local spies” are people who are either within your target market, or who are already within your competing organizations. You can win them over with kindness.
  10. “Inward spies” are higher-ups who are greedy, fickle, or aggrieved at some perceived injustice against them, i.e., upset that their strengths aren’t universally recognized. Approach them secretly, bear expensive gifts, but be careful with entrusting them with great responsibilities, because they’re only out there for themselves.
  11. “Converted spies” are the spies working for your competition. Make them heavy bribes and great promises, and then give them false information to bring back to their side.
  12. “Doomed spies” are spies whose identities you sell out to the competition secretly, at which point the spies give false information to the enemy (not knowing you sold them out), and who are “killed” when it turns out they’re liars. By killed, that could be having their professional or online/social reputations ruined.
  13. “Surviving spies” are classic spies—people who go out and listen/gather intelligence, and then come back and report it.
  14. Spies should be given the most access to you, the greatest compensations, and exist with the greatest secrecy. Nobody should know who they are, and they shouldn’t know about the existence of each other either. Their only attachment is to he who compensates them most. Never tell them more than they least they need to know.
  15. Your experience and intuition comes into play because you need to ascertain whether they’re telling you the truth or lying.
  16. Treat them with straightforwardness and sincerity.
  17. Always remember that they may be working against you.
  18. Use them for every sort of business, however subtle.
  19. If a spy leaks information prior to when he’s supposed to, kill him, and also kill the person he leaked information to.
  20. The first step to any sort of information gathering is to figure out the names of all people and gatekeepers involved—and then figuring out which can be won over via bribery.
  21. Second, figure out which of your people are already spies for your competition—and then bribe them back to your side.
  22. These Converted Spies are how you gain Inward and Local spies.
  23. Converted Spies also know how to best deceive the competition, so they are the ones who can help you get the Doomed spy to carry false tidings.
  24. Also, it’s through his information that Surviving spies can be used well.
  25. The goal of all spying has its beginnings in the Converted Spy. He brings information himself, but also makes possible all other types of spying.
  26. Spies must be men of the highest mental caliber, wisdom, and heroic qualities
  27. Therefore, use your most intelligent employees for these tasks
  28. Spies are an organization’s most valuable asset—the organization’s movements are dictated by their knowledge