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

13 February 2005

Feelings carry an insistent, immediate reality.  When we are in pain, in particular, it is difficult to remember there was a time without pain, or to remember that we will be free of pain once again.

Meditation provides a habit of perspective.  We learn enough distance from our feelings to be able to say to pain, "this, too will pass".

Peace is a blessing.  But in gaining a mature equanimity, must we forfeit the gift of the child: the capacity to forget time and lose oneself in rapture?  Or may bliss also be a fruit of meditation?

Ay - thatís the trick, isnít it?

-Josh Mitteldorf

12 February 2005

I danced in the morning when the World was begun
I danced in the Moon and the Stars and the Sun
I was called from the Darkness by the Song of the Earth
I joined in the Song, and She gave Me the Birth!

I dance in the Circle when the flames leap up high
I dance in the Fire, and I never, ever, die
I dance in the waves of the bright summer sea
For I am the Lord of the wave's mystery

I sleep in the kernel, and I dance in the rain
I dance in the wind, and through the waving grain
And when you cut me down, I care nothing for the pain;
In the Spring I'm the Lord of the Dance once again!

11 February 2005

Dr Philippa Uwins in Queensland, Australia, has been documenting the existence of life's smallest forms.  Bacteria are typically about a micron across (1/10,000 centimeter), but Uwins's "nanobes" are only 1/20 that size. (Nanobes are larger than viruses, but a virus is not an independent living organism, and only comes alive when inside a living cell, which it infects.)

Uwins is a geologist, specializing in experimental techniques of electron microscopy at the smallest scales.  She discovered nanobes while photographing undersea rock samples, and has overcome prejudice and skepticism just to get her work published in biology journals, and ultimately prove to the scientific community that they are alive.

The potential significance of nanobes is this: All of life as we know it is based on the genetic code.  DNA contains information about how to build proteins.  Proteins are the workhorses that do the cell's chemistry.  Where did this fundamentally complex system come from?  A prime hypothesis is that, the first living organisms used neither DNA nor protein, but lived in an "RNA world", where RNA was both the repository of information and the chemical workhorse of the cell.  

Nanobes are too small to translate DNA into proteins.  The tantalizing possibility is that nanobes are RNA-based life forms, living fossils from which we can learn how life began.

10 February 2005

"If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong. I do not say 'give them up,' for they may be all you have; but conceal them like a vice, lest they should spoil the lives of better and simpler people."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

9 February 2005

The second most common word for happiness in Chinese is kai shin. The characters literally mean "open heart".

"Fundamental happiness depends more than anything else upon what may be called a friendly interest in persons and things. ... The kind [of interest in persons] that makes for happiness is the kind that likes to observe people and finds pleasure in their individual traits, that wishes to afford scope for the interests and pleasures of those with whom it is brought into contact without desiring to acquire power over them or to secure their enthusiastic admiration. The person whose attitude towards others is genuinely of this kind will be a source of happiness and a recipient of reciprocal kindness. ... To like many people spontaneously and without effort is perhaps the greatest of all sources of personal happiness."

-Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

8 February 2005

LOVE

"...meets me through grace. It is not found by seeking. But my speaking of the primary word [I-Thou] is an act of my being, it is indeed the act of my being."

"Feelings accompany the metaphysical and metapsychical fact of love, but they do not constitute it. Feelings are "entertained": love comes to pass. Feelings dwell in man, but man dwells in his love. That is no metaphor but the actual truth. Love does not cling to the I in such a way as to have the beloved only for its "content", its object; but love is between I and Thou. The man who does not know this, with his very being know this, does not know love..."

"In the eyes of him who takes his stand in love, gazes out of it, men are cut free from entanglement in bustling activity. Good people and evil, wise and foolish, beautiful and ugly become successively real to him; that is, set free they step forth in their singleness, and confront him as Thou."

from I and Thou, by Martin Buber, born this day in 1878
(tr Ronald Gregor Smith)

7 February 2005

It's the beginning of the end for the world's biggest family feud, as planes fly directly between Taiwan and China for the first time in half a century.  A million families were divided across the Strait of Formosa when Guomindang Republicans fled Mao's army in the 1949 Revolution.  As they visit for the Lunar New Year this week, they will be able to take direct charter flights that don't stop in Hong Kong.  Ideologies on the two sides have been converging for decades, but at a glacial pace.