A first pass at my value-level goals for Orbit:
Orbit helps you deepen your relationship with whatever you care about most. The activities are largely cognitive, but your relationship to the material is emotional. It’s for ideas and imagery that you could talk about all night. Orbit’s for the stuff which gives your life meaning.
Orbit is not about eating your broccoli. It’s not for things you think you “should” be engaged with, things which require you to summon your willpower. It’s not “educational” in tone. Orbit results in learning, but the goal isn’t to learn: it’s to be able to do something that brings you meaning, in the world.
Putting something in Orbit is like gardening. You plant the seeds; you trust that they will grow and mature. You’re not terribly concerned about the specifics of when or how often you’re going to see a given item. You feel a kind of lazy confidence that the timing will be vaguely reasonable; that over time you’ll internalize everything you add; that over time items will move to longer orbits so that they don’t overstay their welcome. Your Orbit never feels “too full.”
Your daily Orbit practice is like your daily meditation practice. You’re never “done,” exactly, and you don’t have a progress graph going up and to the right. Like your meditation practice, you don’t and can’t ask for the specific outcomes of a specific exercise. But you show up, and you follow the breath, and over time, you see more clearly.
Orbit is not an inbox which demands grooming. It’s not a red badge with a three-digit number. You don’t “dial in” your Orbit items. You don’t obsessively track the “progress” of any one item (though you do feel some broader arc of “progress”).
Meditation involves effortlessness at one scale but diligence at another. You show up for practice every day and follow the instructions, trusting that the activities will help you become wiser without understanding the exact mechanism. But that doesn’t mean that meditation is easy! If you’re not engaging seriously, fifteen minutes can slip by without you clearly observing a single breath.
Likewise, Orbit involves both effortlessness and diligence. You show up to your daily session without specific expectations or demands, but you engage attentively with what you find there. Orbit is ultimately a tool for serious people. It’s about going deeper, understanding more clearly; it’s about dissatisfaction with prior methods, with just hoping you’ll remember to think about something.
Authors sculpt the Orbit experience by providing prompts, but Orbit is a tool you must wield for yourself. It expects and rewards your own agency—in writing your own prompts, in remixing those given to you, in ditching ones you don’t care about, in molding the system to your values.
“Poetry is language in orbit. It may start with recollected emotion or immediate anger or rapture, but once that personal boost has helped a poem to lift off, it runs on its own energy circuit.”
— Seamus Heaney, Finders Keepers (via Noah Tye, 2022-04-08)