“Political science – a misnomer from the get-go (and I say that with a PhD in it) – is terrified of human nature, individual character, the unknowable biographical and psychological factors that bear down on any leader’s decisions, and anything that, effectively, cannot be quantified. But a huge amount of human behavior cannot be quantified. Which is why I often thought, as I sat through another stats class, that we’d do better to study Shakespeare than mere regressions to the mean.”

Andrew Sullivan reflects on the power of great leaders.

Pair with political philosopher Judith Butler on the value of reading and humanities

(via explore-blog)

utnereader:

The Ship of Theseus and the Question of Identity
In ancient Greece, there was a legendary king named Theseus who supposedly founded the city of Athens. Since he fought many naval battles, the people of Athens dedicated a memorial in his honor by preserving his ship in the port. This “ship of Theseus” stayed there for hundreds of years. As time went on, some of the wooden planks of Theseus’ ship started rotting away. To keep the ship nice and complete, the rotting planks were replaced with new planks made of the same material. Here is the key question: If you replace one of the planks, is it still the same ship of Theseus? This question about a mythical ship is the poster child for one of the most interesting problems in all of philosophy, namely the problem of identity. What is a physical object? How do things stay the same even after they change? At what point does an object become different? When we talk about a certain object and say that “it changed,” what exactly is “it”?
Keep reading …

utnereader:

The Ship of Theseus and the Question of Identity

In ancient Greece, there was a legendary king named Theseus who supposedly founded the city of Athens. Since he fought many naval battles, the people of Athens dedicated a memorial in his honor by preserving his ship in the port. This “ship of Theseus” stayed there for hundreds of years. As time went on, some of the wooden planks of Theseus’ ship started rotting away. To keep the ship nice and complete, the rotting planks were replaced with new planks made of the same material. Here is the key question: If you replace one of the planks, is it still the same ship of Theseus? This question about a mythical ship is the poster child for one of the most interesting problems in all of philosophy, namely the problem of identity. What is a physical object? How do things stay the same even after they change? At what point does an object become different? When we talk about a certain object and say that “it changed,” what exactly is “it”?

Keep reading …

The Verbs of Resilience: Andrew Zolli

A good read that lays out “a simplified model of resilience, inspired by principles articulated by the Danish systems researcher Erik Hollnagel, that decomposes the concept into four, concurrent clusters ofverbs — the things that constitute the “doing” of resilience. The clusters are focused on building regenerative capacity, sensingemerging risks, responding to disruption, and learning and transformationWhether in a city, a group of neurons, a social-ecological system, a community or even a person, resilience is often found in context-specific variations of these activities.” 

The full post, here: http://andrewzolli.com/the-verbs-of-resilience/#!

It is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about ‘the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.’

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

And I submit that this is what the real, no-bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.

On the 5th anniversary of David Foster Wallace’s death, his timeless commencement address on the meaning of life – the only public talk he ever gave on his worldview and philosophy. (via explore-blog)
“An idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements [and] the capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships. The habit of mind which leads to a search for relationships between facts becomes of the highest importance in the production of ideas.”
3Jocelyn Ling·Source: 

Yes, we are all related. You are a (probably distant) cousin of the Queen, and of the president of the United States, and of me. You and I are cousins of each other. … The real population of the world at the time of Julius Caesar was only a few million, and all of us, all seven billion of us, are descended from them. We are indeed all related. Every marriage is between more or less distant cousins, who already share lots and lots of ancestors before they have children of their own.

By the same kind of argument, we are distant cousins not only of all human beings but of all animals and plants. You are a cousin of my dog and of the lettuce you had for lunch, and of the next bird that you see fly past the window. You and I share ancestors with all of them.

Legendary evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins answers a child’s question about evolution and why we are all related, from this fantastic collection of scientists’ and philosophers’ answers to kids’ most pressing questions about how the world works.

Also see Dawkins’s The Magic of Reality, a charming children’s book fighting myth with science.

(via explore-blog)

Fire Monks & Fire Guests

 

 

Two weeks ago I went to Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, in Carmel Valley. It was a week-long personal retreat; time for me to unwind, get quiet, be in a beautiful natural environment and a supportive community of zen practitioners. I’d wanted to go for years, but there was always something more important that claimed my non-work time during the summer months when the retreat center – a year-round monastery – opened to the public. I was so excited to go. I rented a truck that could handle the 14 mile dirt road entrance, packed clothes for meditation, hiking, swimming, yoga, a sketchpad and pens, and off I went. 

When I reached Carmel, two hours from San Francisco, I turned off my phone knowing that I wouldn’t turn it on again for a week. And also knowing that I wouldn’t have any connectivity to the digital sphere in which I spend large amounts of my time working, entertaining and distracting myself. Before I went, I thought a lot about being completely digitally disconnected and wondered if I was going to freak out with anxiety. I realized that even thinking that thought was a clear sign that I needed to disconnect. I don’t want to lose the ability to simply be an embodied person in the world, dealing with what’s in front of me in the present moment. 

I loved the drive in from Carmel Valley. It was so fun. The road is windy, filled with hairpin turns, steep climbs, descents and sharp drop-offs hundreds of feet through the Los Padres National Forest. Not very trafficked. Picturesque. When I arrived at Tassajara I quickly found a rhythm to my days. One activity flowed easily into the next. I spent a lot of time alone, except for meals which are social. There’s a large dining room with open seating. Everyone is so friendly, it’s easy to strike up conversations. And the food is delicious. 

On the afternoon of the third day, I saw a large plume of smoke coming over one of the mountain ridges. Fire. It happens every summer in the California wilderness. I wondered what it meant this time. The temple bell was rung, and everyone gathered together in a large circle; 75 monks and about the same number of guests. The Cal Fire Chief was there. She was calm and in charge. She apprised us of the situation. The fire was two ridges over. The fire crews were going to start cutting a fire line and would use Tassajara as their base of operation. There was some risk, but in her opinion, low risk to staying. She looked at her watch and said “It’s 3:45pm. We’ll do a voluntary evacuation. Anyone who wants to leave, may do so, by 4:30pm. After that time the road will be closed to everyone except fire personnel. If you are going to leave, you need to move with purpose.” Move with purpose: That phrase stuck with me. People started asking questions. One person asked, “If we stay can you guarantee we’ll be safe?”. A wave of chuckles went through the group. Oh, the irony. “No, I cannot. But if we feel you are in danger, we will call a mandatory evacuation” the Fire Chief responded. 

It was definitely a moment to take a deep breath. Did I want to leave or stay? I decided to stay. It turns out the most of the guests chose to leave. 24 hours later it was 10 of us guests left, and the monks. At first it was almost spooky. We were one table of people in the dining room, the other 7 empty. We bonded. We called ourselves the fire survivors. And we all started to feel that the time together was a gift. The road stayed closed for the next four. Every day three or four single file lines of fire fighters, 24 each, marched into Tassajara in the morning, waved hello up into the mountains, slowly cut the fire line to cut the fire line and marched back out every evening. They were inspiring. So we all lived with the fire for five days, each in our own way.