Culture You Can Heft

The game is a free-to-play sandbox survival experience where players can craft, build and explore. The roadmap for the game includes new features like weather systems, seasonal changes to their biomes, and dynamic events that could affect player movement or gameplay mechanics.

A man reading a book.

In 2004, I made a significant shift in how I connected with culture.

That was the year I received my very first iPod.

I used to have to drop a CD into my car’s 5-disc changer or carry my Discman with me if I wanted to listen to music before my iPod. I’d have to put in a new CD when one was finished and I wanted to listen to anything else. I’d go to a music shop if I wanted to get a new CD. I’d frequently go into a shop seeking for an album by one band, only to leave with one by another that I’d never heard of but ended up appreciating.

I had my complete music collection at my fingertips after getting the iPod. I could purchase just the music I wanted on iTunes, and with a simple turn of that massive iPod wheel, I could instantly queue up any song or playlist. I didn’t have to go to the music shop anymore. I went to the music shop.

My shift from physically absorbing culture — physical, concrete “analog culture” — to consuming ethereal, digital culture had started.

With the debut of the Amazon Kindle in 2007, my move away from analog proceeded even further. I could now store a full library of books in a gadget that fits nearly perfectly in my back pocket. There will be no more books in my room to take up physical space. There will be no more visits to the library or bookshop. All I had to do was go to Amazon and purchase a new book with a single click. It’s that simple.

Since 2007, owing to the power of streaming, the magicians of Silicon Valley have digitized more and more of our culture, making it simpler and easier to consume. You don’t even have to purchase individual tracks with a service like Spotify. You may easily stream any music to any device of your choice. You may now have access to millions of books with Kindle Unlimited without having to buy them individually. With Netflix, Prime Video, or Hulu, you can obtain almost any movie or TV program you want and watch it whenever you want.

It is, in many respects, a great period for literature, movies, essays, and music.

But, over the last several years, I’ve become bored with the digital means of absorbing all of this culture; the gloss of its seemingly golden colour — and its accompanying pleasure — has begun to wear off. All of these alternatives made me feel filled. Saturated. At the same time, I’m curiously hungry.

As a result, I’ve been drawn back into the realm of “analog” culture. I prefer reading actual books versus reading novels on a Kindle. I’ve started listening to old scratchy vinyl albums instead of streaming music. Rather of reading the news online, I subscribe to our local newspaper in print. This was done not out of any hipster desire to be eccentric, but simply because it felt appropriate, and it appeared to soothe a nagging ache.


I’m not the only one who’s been doing this 180-degree turn. According to studies, although ebooks used to outsell physical books, the trend has shifted; sales of paperback and hardback books have increased, while digital sales have decreased. The number of independent bookshops is increasing, as are their sales. Over the last decade, vinyl records have seen a resurgence.

What’s going on?

Why are so many individuals returning to earth and taking up culture they can heft after gaining endless access to any and all culture through the cloud?

Here are a few suggestions:

It’s Just More Fun to Consume Culture You Can Heft.

Humans are physical beings that have spent thousands of years of their life interacting with the physical environment. We like being able to feel, taste, hear, and smell our surroundings. Something about computerized culture’s abstract, tasteless, textureless outlines fails to gratify. Its weightlessness might be unsettling, and it can even make you feel nauseous.

Real books, albums, magazines, and newspapers provide you with something to grip, handle, and absorb. It was a sensory overload. Our nostrils like the fragrance of an old book’s patina or a new book’s fresh print. The tactile sense of flipping pages appeals to our fingertips. When deciding what music to listen to, we prefer to sweep our eyes over an album sleeve. Our physical selves yearn for physical contact with other persons as well as the tangible environment around us.

Exhibits on Culture You Can Heft What Is It That Makes You, You?

When I go to someone’s house, one of my favorite things to do is look through their bookshelves. I can get an indication of what interests that individual by looking at the spines lined up on each row. It may also start a discussion. “Oh, Lonesome Dove!” exclaims the narrator. That is a fantastic book. What were your thoughts about it?”

But you can’t do that when all of your books are on your phone. Nobody wants to go through your Kindle book collection.

Reading actual books in public is also a terrific way to strike up a discussion. While Gus was at a jiu-jitsu lesson the other night, I was reading Aristotle’s The Nicomachean Ethics. “Are you reading Aristotle for pleasure or for school?” a lady seated next to me said after seeing the cover.

“Just for fun,” I explained.

And thus started a delightful 10-minute talk with a stranger about the importance of reading philosophy and other great works of literature, even if you aren’t seeking a formal degree.

That discussion would not have occurred if I had been reading Aristotle on my smartphone.

What applies to literature also applies to music.

My record collection is housed in a container in my living room. Guests are always attracted to the box and browsing through the records when they come over to our place. As a result, they get a sense of my musical preferences. They exclaim with delight when they discover my father’s old copy of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’ Whipped Cream and Other Delights, explaining that their father owned the same record. There are stories to be told. The bonds between people are reinforced.


That type of engagement isn’t possible when all of your music is stored on the cloud. No one wants to listen to your Spotify playlist on repeat.

You may show people (and yourself) what makes you, you by having a strong sense of culture. We connect better as people when we show others what makes us human.

Increase the Amount of Serendipity in Your Life with Culture You Can Heft

One of the delightful discoveries I’ve made since consuming more physical culture is that I’m experiencing more surprise and serendipity in my life.

Complex algorithms that generate recommendations based on the books, music, and movies you’ve already consumed are meant to introduce you to new books, music, and movies that you’d appreciate, according to the philosophy behind Culture of the Cloud.

And, owing to these algorithms, I’ve found new ways to enjoy myself.

However, these automated choices never really delighted me for two reasons: For starters, they remove items that are unrelated to what I’ve already eaten – items I don’t even realize I’m interested in since I’m not aware they exist! Second, I’m quite aware that the discoveries I make using algorithms aren’t real discoveries in the traditional sense; a discovery doesn’t seem like a discovery if it’s thrown in your lap. Serendipity isn’t serendipity at all when it comes to programmatic serendipity.

When you go to a bookshop, library, or record store, however, you have the chance of actually stumbling onto a treasure, since no algorithm is pushing book or CD recommendations in your face. You must conduct your own searching and are free to explore without any expectations or limitations.

One of mine and Kate’s favorite ways to come up with new ideas for podcast guests or articles is to just browse the shelves of a real bookshop. We always come upon a book we would not have found if we depended entirely on coding algorithms. It’s always satisfying to make such serendipitous discoveries.

When I go to the record shop in downtown Tulsa, I get the same sensation. I’m never sure what I’ll discover when I get there. I sometimes hit gold and come away with a secondhand Les Baxter CD, but more often than not, I leave empty-handed. The element of surprise is part of the appeal. When I get an album home, the serendipity continues; if I simply bought a digital single I already knew I loved, that would be the end of it; but, listening to a complete album allows me to find songs I didn’t know existed but end up appreciating.

If I’m browsing a website, I’ll only click on headlines that appear engaging and that the site is pushing on their homepage since they’re the most popular. When I browse through a paper magazine, on the other hand, I come across items I wouldn’t have known to seek for and am attracted into things I wouldn’t have expected to be interested in.


You Can Heft Culture Because You Own It

Here’s a little secret that the geniuses of Silicon Valley, the cloud culture’s middlemen, won’t tell you: When you “purchase” an ebook on Amazon or a record on iTunes, you’re not actually purchasing anything. It’s simply something you’re renting.

You’re only paying for the privilege to read or listen to the ebook or digital record, which they still control.

Amazon and Apple could destroy all of your Kindle ebooks and iTunes collection if they wanted to, and there’s nothing you can do about it since you don’t truly own the books or music you’ve purchased, according to their Terms of Service. Companies are the ones who do it.

When you purchase actual goods, you own them. Indefinitely. You don’t have to be concerned about a company sucking your books and music from the internet since your culture is securely stored in your house.

Another advantage of detaching your culture from corporate tentacles is that you eliminate their capacity to monitor what you consume (at least if you pay cash!). Amazon keeps track of how many books you have on your Kindle, what you’ve highlighted, and how far you’ve progressed through each one. Apple and Spotify both use your music library in the same way. While they’ll say that this spying is harmless and helps their algorithm serve you better, the Ron Swanson-esque individualist in me doesn’t appreciate the thought that some international business knows what I’m reading and listening to. It has an Orwellian vibe about it.

No one knows what I’m doing when I open a physical book or slip a record out of an album cover except myself and the others in my immediate proximity. And that feels liberating as well as provocative.

You Can Heft Culture focuses your attention on a single activity.

The main problem with digital material is that no matter what you’re reading or listening to, there’s always another alternative for amusement only a finger swipe away. You’re reading a book on your Kindle and feel the urge to check Instagram; you’re listening to one song on Spotify and shuffle to the next, and then the next, since it’s just a hair off from perfectly complementing your mood.

When you’re reading a real book, there’s nothing else vying for your attention inside its pages. It’s difficult to skip a song while listening to an album on vinyl, so you take it all in at once. When you are confronted with culture that you can handle, you ingest it in a less fragmented manner.

A Decade or a Century From Now, Culture Can You Heft Will Always Be Accessible

This isn’t true with music, which has gone through several versions, from the record to the cassette to the CD to the mp3, each of which needed a new device to play.


Hardbound books and other paper publications, on the other hand, are certain to remain as accessible now as they will be a hundred years from now. I now have centuries-old books and publications on my shelf, which I can read just as well as their original owners, and which my children will be able to read just as well as I can.

Will my children be able to access all of my books if they are stored on my phone and that technology becomes outdated in the future? Will the ebooks I purchased in the 2010s need a specific, out-of-date equipment to access them in the future? If that is the case, my children and their children will miss out on the type of serendipity that comes from exploring your parents’ and grandparents’ book shelf.

You Can Heft Culture Has Defined Perimeters — A Real End Point

“Infinity pools,” said John Zeratsky, co-author of Make Time, was perhaps my favorite phrase of the year. In my interview with John, he characterized the digital infinity pool as follows:

“Any program, service, or product that has an unlimited and renewing stream of content inside of it is an infinity pool.” An infinity pool is one that you can pull to refresh or that streams constantly, such as Netflix’s example of beginning the next episode instantly after the previous one finishes. We coined the word since there’s always more water in the pool, right? You may always return to the game. The level isn’t likely to go down any time soon. It’s not going away anytime soon. There’ll never be a time when it’s empty.”

Infinity pools are websites where you can scroll down practically forever and pull-to-refresh applications like Twitter and Instagram. You can never get to the “bottom” of things, as John says. “I’m done with this,” you can never say.

This might trap you in a void of worthless stuff; you’re not getting anything out of it, yet you’re forced to keep scrolling.

You ultimately reach the real, concretely delimited conclusion of anything like a book or magazine; you’ve read it completely. You may go to the next step. You don’t have to keep spinning the same wheel, and you receive the pleasant sensation of fulfillment that only genuine completion can provide.

Working Together, Digital Culture and Culture You Can Heft

While my intake of hefty culture has expanded, I haven’t fully abandoned the digital variety. I’m simply more conscious of when I utilize one over the other, and I try to have a good balance of the two in my life.

I’ll play music via my garage gym’s Sonos speaker. On a quiet Sunday afternoon, though, I’ll have Gus choose an album for us to listen to as we play chess on my turntable.

When I’m doing article research, I still use a Kindle since it enables me to copy and paste my highlights into a single document when I’m ready to write. However, if I find that the book has a lot of importance for me, I’ll purchase a hardcopy edition for my physical collection. I usually prefer to read a hardbound copy of books I read for the podcast (where I make highlights and notes but don’t need them transcribed) or that I read for leisure.


Naturally, The Art of Manliness is primarily a digital platform, and we even use limitless scrolling. We do, however, provide hardbound copies of some of our material, and we want to generate more in the future for people who want to do more of their reading offline.

It isn’t necessary to choose between the two. Find a balance that works for you, keeping in mind that culture is meant to be felt, handled, and hefted, not just devoured.

Are you interested in learning more about this topic? Listen to my interview with David Sax on “The Revenge of Analog” here: