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
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."
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
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.
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.
York Times article.
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)