2018-08-10

New Minimalist Computing Environment for Structured Writing with Markdown and Pandoc

My decision to stop being a "domesticated cow" or a "hamster in a wheel" in my professional life has been exerting a ripple effect on my life. in general I'm becoming even more minimalist, getting rid of clutters and distractions even from my professional life.

Such clutters and distractions in my computing environment include illusionary mindset and bloatware, especially the WYSIWYG-oriented writing tools called word processors. Thanks to this profound transformation in my professional life I don't have to use not only LibreOffice Writer, which is a less intolerable alternative to Word, and even Scrivener, which I used to use for several years as my default program for structured writing, including academic-shmacademic writing.

My new computing environment is totally based on plain text not only for nonstructured writing but also for structured writing now! Long live plain text! For nonstructured and shorter structured writing I continue to use my favorite Windows text editor EditPad Pro. For longer structured writing I continue to use Markdown (as well as enhancements from CommonMark) as my favorite format (see Markdown Tutorial and Markdown Guide for further details about Markdown in practice) and have started to use a new dedicated Markdown editor for Windows called Markdown Monster together with Pandoc for outputs such as HTML5, Slidy, ODT and EPUB (see, for example, an online article entitled "Sustainable Authorship in Plain Text Using pandoc and Markdown" that explains succinctly and convincingly the rationale for using this combination.

For Mac OS there have been many excellent dedicated Markdown editors, most notably Ulysses, but for Windows I haven't found any satisfying one, probably with the sole exception of Writemonkey (actually, I used to use its older version, but unfortunately, its new version has added more problems than improvements in my opinion). Markdown Monster is the first Markdown editor for Windows I've fallen in love with (as is the case with women, I seldom meet software programs I fall in love with, but once I do, I'm totally dedicated to them). Its developer has a nice blog entry entitled "Why use a dedicated Markdown editor". One of the most important enhancements this dedicated Markdown editor has is its integration of Pandoc as one of its add-ins.

Since I discovered Markdown Monster last week, I'm still experimenting with it. Once I've learned how to use it together with Pandoc, I'll prepare my workflow and even share it here though I don't think there will be a huge demand for it. What I write here must sound totally foreign and enigmatic to those who write everything with Word. But if the idea should resonate with you and you would like to try this new computing environment for structured writing on Windows, I'll be more than glad to help you learn it especially because the learning curve can be quite steep if you've never used any writing tool other than Word.

2018-08-03

Spiral Dynamics

I've recently got acquainted with and started learning an amazing model for the evolution of the human consciousness called "Spiral Dynamics", which is presented in a book also entitled Spiral Dynamics. The authors - Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan - have based this model of theirs on their own research, which in turn is based on the pioneering work of Clare W. Graves.

This model offers offer the following eight evolutionary stages in the ascending order:

  1. BEIGE - Survival Sense - Instinctive
    • Automatic, autistic, reflexive
    • Centers around satisfaction of human biological needs
    • Driven by deep brain programs, instincts, and genetics
    • Little awareness of self as a distinct being (undifferentiated)
    • Lives 'off the land' much as other animals
    • Minimal impact on or control over environment
  2. PURPLE - KinSpirits - Clannish
    • Obey desires of the mystical spirit beings
    • Show allegiance to elders, custom, clan
    • Preserve sacred places, objects, rituals
    • Bond together to endure and find safety
    • Live in an enchanted, magical village
    • Seek harmony with nature's power
  3. RED - PowerGods - Egocentric
    • In a world of haves and have-nots, it's good to be a have
    • Avoid shame, defend reputation, be respected
    • Gratify impulses and senses immediately
    • Fight remorselessly and without guilt to break constraints
    • Don't worry about consequences that may not come
  4. BLUE - TruthForce - Purposeful
    • Find meaning and purpose in living
    • Sacrifice self to the Way for deferred reward
    • Bring order and stability to all things
    • Control impulsivity and respond to guilt
    • Enforce principles of righteous living
    • Divine plan assigns people to their places
  5. ORANGE - StriveDrive - Strategic
    • Strive for autonomy and independence
    • Seek out 'the good life' and material abundence
    • Progress through searching out the best solutions
    • Enhance living for many through science and technology
    • Play to win and enjoy competition
    • Learn through tried-and-true experience
  6. GREEN - HumanBond - Relativistic
    • Explore the inner beings of self and others
    • Promote a sense of community and unity
    • Share society's resources among all
    • Liberate humans from greed and dogma
    • Reach decisions through consensus
    • Refresh spirituality and bring harmony
  7. YELLOW - FlexFlow - Systemic
    • Accept the inevitability of nature's flows and forms
    • Focus on functionality, competence, flexibility, and spontaneity
    • Find natural mix of conflicting 'truths' and 'uncertainties'
    • Discovering personal freedom without harm to others or excesses of self-interest
    • Experience fullness of living on an Earth of such diversity in multiple dimensions
    • Demand integrative and open systems
  8. TURQUOISE - GlobalView - Holistic
    • Blending and harmonizing a strong collective of individuals
    • Focus on the good of all living entities as integrated systems
    • Expanded use of human brain/mind tools and competencies
    • Self is part of larger, conscious, spiritual whole that also serves self
    • Global (and whole-Spiral!) networking seen as routine
    • Acts for minimalist living so less actually is more

The model is too comprehensive and complicated to be summarized in such a short blog entry. I myself have started to understand its descriptive and explanatory power only after watching the following six YouTube videos by Leo Gura; the first is an excellent general introduction to Spiral Dynamics, and the other five are detailed presentations of the last five of these eight evolutionary stages with ample examples of individuals and societies belonging to each of them:

I've been wondering at which stage, or to be more precise, at what stages simultaneously, my consciousness is at this stage of my life, but I now know a clear picture of the spiritual stage I should aspire for and how it must look. This model has also helped me understand far more clearly than before many behaviors, including weird and enigmatic ones, by individuals and societies, and conflicts between them, including those between me and other individuals in various societies in various degrees of severity.

What I find the most interesting in this model of the evolution of the human consciousness is a hypothesis that no individual or society can skip any stage in order to evolve spiritually. This also explains why many bona fide efforts by individuals and organizations from one evolutionary stage often end up bearing few or no fruits in societies that are lower by two or more stages as these people and organizations try to skip one or more stages.