A good reading session will take me on a journey. Often the start will come as a surprise, and will take me on a voyage to an unknown destination. Along the way, my mind will be engaged, interested, and challenged.

Today, I’ve had one of those mornings.

Here is some of what I found, and some of the most captivating excerpts from them. I invite you to come with me on my reading adventure.


I started with an article on musical taste. Daniel Parris dives into how musical tastes change and develop, using statistics:

Open-earedness refers to an individual’s desire and ability to listen and consider different sounds and musical styling. Research has shown that adolescents exhibit higher levels of open-earedness, with a greater willingness to explore and appreciate diverse musical genres. During these years of sonic exploration, music gets wrapped up in the emotion and identity formation of youth; as a result, the songs of our childhood prove wildly influential over our lifelong music tastes.

My music tastes were definitely set in my earlier years. I still get ridiculously happy when I play Radiohead’s OK Computer and it still feels modern.

While reading the article, I found it supported a stance I often talk about when I buy the same noodle dish from the same shop, the theory of opportunity cost. Then Parris educated me on the optimal-stopping problem and the 37% Rule, which were new to me:

The explore-exploit trade-off and an adjacent decision-making puzzle known as the optimal-stopping problem have prompted extensive research and the coining of a shortcut known as the 37% rule. This heuristic suggests we spend the first 37% of available search time exploring our options before settling on a preferred solution or selection.  


Next, I found an article by Ian Leslie1 on what it takes to be a “serious person”. If I could choose to live my life over, I would be a serious person. Sadly, I think my personality traits and my lived experience prevent me from achieving this.

On seriousness, this quote sums up my issue well:

I wanted to have children partly because I thought it might make me feel more serious. It actually did, although only somewhat. Maybe the biggest difference is that I stopped worrying about being serious.


Having recently suffered the wrath of extreme wokeness in a work setting, I have been subconsciously trying to understand this issue better. For most of my adult life, I’ve identified as ‘centre-left’. Progressive, but with an understanding that there is a place in society for a functioning economy, but that the economy is there to serve people and create an improved society. I don’t believe we are there merely as agents to feed the economic machine, and so there is a social justice and care for humanity that must be incorporated. Then, all of sudden, I was in a meeting where I became type-cast as the ‘old white guy’ and became the target for woke vitriol. Since then, I’ve been somewhat fascinated by my own stance on all of this.

This morning’s reading was interesting, in this regard, as another of Ian Leslie’s articles was entitled, Am I Anti-Woke?

On Nick Cave, Leslie writes:

Cave is, like most rock stars and artists, a left-leaning liberal, but he has a well-stocked mind which draws from various streams of influence, including and particularly Christianity (although he’s not a practicing Christian). As a result he takes positions that are unusual for his milieu. For instance, he has written that “cancel culture” is having “an asphyxiating effect on the creative soul of a society.” In another blog post he says he’s repelled by “woke culture” because of its “lack of humility and the paternalistic and doctrinal sureness of its claims”.

On conservatism, this resonates. Am I becoming a conservatist? Or just willing to recognise the value that it can deliver?

“The man of conservative temperament believes that a known good is not lightly to be surrendered for an unknown better.”

Ah, hang on. Leslie covers my thinking in the next paragraph:

By the standards of most conservatives, Cave is a progressive, but I take him to be saying that he combines a conservative sensibility with a liberal one. This is how the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie puts it: “Yes, there is a part of me, as I think there should be a part of everyone, that is conservative. There are things that we don’t want to change, you know.”

And getting to wokeness itself, Leslie writes:

Wokeness is a social contagion at least as much as it is a set of ideas - I’m sorry to say it, but ‘mind-virus’ is not the most inapposite epithet I’ve ever heard. It has an amazing ability to make clever people say stupid things and to lower the IQ of institutions. I think that’s partly a function of an emphasis on appearances, on being seen to be saying the right thing, in a world where everyone feels on show, and vulnerable to a moralising ransomware attack.

That’s why so many people in positions of power have passively gone along with it, without quite buying into it. Up until recently (this is changing) wokeness has been a safe space for those who can’t or don’t want to risk thinking for themselves in public. The passivity of moderates allowed a minority of activists outsized influence, and woke’s worst aspects - divisiveness, scapegoating, obscurity, just the sheer absurdity it generates - to flourish without check.

I think this is what I experienced in my work setting. I appeared different, I didn’t speak according to the norms of the room, and so I became vulnerable to attack.

I love this 1924 quote, showing that things have, in a sense, always been about finding a way between two extremes. However it seems that, as with many things, time has created further polarisation. Less shades of grey:

In 1924, G.K. Chesterton wrote about how the world was dividing into Conservatives and Progressives: “The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.” The world is now dividing into a degraded version of this dichotomy: woke and anti-woke. You’re either for Kamala Harris or Ron DeSantis. You’re either for children being taught there are 183 different genders or you want to ban gay marriage.

Nick Cave

All these links and discussion of Nick Cave were a surprise. I know virtually nothing about Nick Cave other than he is liked by Tim Hein of The Unmade Podcast. Today, I learned he is an interesting and thoughtful character.

My reading session led me to articles about Cave, and his own blog.

A couple of quotes from Cave that stood out to me today, include:

I tend to become uncomfortable around all ideologies that brand themselves as ‘the truth’ or ‘the way’. This not only includes most religions, but also atheism, radical bi-partisan politics or any system of thought, including ‘woke’ culture, that finds its energy in self-righteous belief and the suppression of contrary systems of thought. Regardless of the virtuous intentions of many woke issues, it is its lack of humility and the paternalistic and doctrinal sureness of its claims that repel me.

Wokeness, for all its virtues, is an ideology immune to the slightest suggestion that in a generation’s time their implacable beliefs will appear as outmoded and fallacious as those of their own former generation. This may well be the engine of progress, but history has a habit of embarrassing our treasured beliefs.

However, my duty as a songwriter is not to try to save the world, but rather to save the soul of the world. This requires me to live my life on the other side of truth, beyond conviction and within uncertainty, where things make less sense, absurdity is a virtue and art rages and burns; where dogma is anathema, discourse is essential, doubt is an energy, magical thinking is not a crime and where possibility and potentiality rule.

Nick Cave, is, indeed, a serious person.

  1. Incidentally, this article led me down a rabbit-hole of Ian Leslie writing, and has me closer to subscribing to a Substack article than I have been before. For now, I’ve grabbed the RSS feed. ↩︎