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I'm currently mesmerized by Dave Eggers's new(ish) novel, The Circle. It's largely about the life of a young woman who goes to work for what seems to be a combination of Facebook and Google. It explores lots of wonderful themes, but a key one is "voluntary transparency" -- the dystopian notion that one should record literally every action one takes during the day in the name of some kind of digital paradise that's good for humanity.

The idea of privacy disappearing is horrifying on so many levels. I finished the book with a renewed sense of how important it is to resist the increasing "datafication," and surveillance, of so much of our lives.

And yet:

I've had good experiences with a certain mindset that goes something like the following.

All of us have people in our lives for whom we have deep respect. They can be a relative, friend, mentor, or even someone you don't know personally, like a favorite writer or thinker.

When I'm working on something -- it might be a bigger project like a new cookbook or something tiny like running an errand or answering an email -- I sometimes imagine I'm being observed by this person I really respect. And I try to do that thing as impeccably as I possibly can. It works for the smallest of things, like washing dishes, or cooking an egg, or weeding, or having a conversation. You can up the ante, and imagine that this single action might be recorded and viewed years later.

And then you can apply it to a different activity tomorrow. They begin to add up. And before you know it becomes a practice.

Steve Jobs was famously obsessed with what the screws looked like inside the Mac.

Many have said it in many ways, but C. S. Lewis might have said it simplest: “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching”

Can you do one thing with impeccable integrity today? And one tomorrow, too?

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