An uplifting news item, poem, thought or quotation each day.
Archive of past entries

28 November 2004

We have come to expect commercial interests to steamroll over communitarian development in municipal politics, but there are shining exceptions. The city of Curitiba, Brazil has an auto-free market center, and efficient bus lines on streets that are reserved for public transit. The city has coped with a flood of economic refugees with a program of urban homesteading: each family is given title to a tiny land grant, with the resources and the guidance to build themselves a stake in the city’s future. Despite a per capita income of $2500, the city has a quality of life that is the envy of wealthy Western cities.


Read more about Curitiba in Bill McKibben’s book, Hope: Human and Wild, or in an excerpt from Yes magazine, or in this brief review

27 November 2004

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." 

-Franklin Delano Roosevelt

26 November 2004

"We fill our heads with nonsense, and we spend the rest of our days unlearning it all. Finally we realize what we knew at the instant of our birth: that every moment, every drop of water, every single breath we take is precious."
 -Elder Bob

25 November 2004

As a child, I understood Thanksgiving to be an obeisance I was obliged to make for the sake of Others: to Nature for sharing her harvest with me, to a World of Adults that organized its labors for my comfort and convenience, and, worst of all, to God before whose sight I was expected to cringe and avert my eyes. There was no clear line in my mind between humility and humiliation, and I wanted none of either, thank you very much.

Well into adulthood, the sense I was able to make of Giving Thanks was the adoption of an attitude that enhances our sense of well-being. So much of our time and attention is devoted to problem-solving that we come to see the world around us as a web of problems. For some people, some of the time, this stance has survival value, but it also has a life of its own, which continues to occupy our psyches after its usefulness has passed. So it may require a conscious effort to shift away from survival mode and seek a mindset of appreciation. 

If we can live in cognizance of the miracles of existence, the beauty of the natural world, the bounty and variety of experiences that are available to us - even the rich complexity of life’s challenges - if we root our awareness in these things, then we are better company for ourselves and for those we love. Nourished and sustained by our own attitude of appreciation, we are poised to expand our common horizons and amplify our ambitions.


-Josh Mitteldorf

23 November 2004

Our brains are plastic. Decades ago, in a perceptual experiment that seemed just a parlor stunt, people who wore prism glasses that turned the world upside down were found to adjust automatically in just a few days so that the world looked right-side up.

Now add computer technology and it’s not just a stunt. Blind people can learn to see when images from a videocamera are projected onto their backs, with a strap-on sheet that sends electric signals directly to the nerves in the skin. The information comes in as touch, but the brain soon learns to treat it as an image, and process it as automatically as vision.

The tongue has a high concentration of nerve endings and has been found to be more convenient. Blind people are learning to see with their tongues.

In other experiments, pilots are getting a sixth sense to guide airplanes, and surgeons are learning to sense tiny probes that they manipulate within a patient’s body. The experience is described as so mind-opening that it can’t be long before it is offered for recreational applications, simply to expand the range of our experience for its own sake.

New York Times article.  
Researchers at University of Wisconsin.

22 November 2004

               Ode to Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy cells.

- John Keats (1795-1821)