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

25 December 2005

Feeling pressured to be jolly?  Sometimes the best Christmas present we can give ourselves is not to pretend to be happier than we are.

It may also be the best gift we can give our loved ones.

~ Josh Mitteldorf

24 December 2005

If he were to be remembered for nothing else, George Fox might still be hailed for a major contribution to theology because he gave us permission not to celebrate Christmas.  For this and other heresies, he was reviled and jailed by truer Christians.  It is a lesson we should have learned by now that persecution of believers lends attention and credibility to any idea, which is usually the opposite of the intended result.  In this case, it may seem that Christmas has won and the Quakers have lost.  But ambivalence about Christmas, and the recognition that everyone else is 'doing it wrong' remain a recurring thread in our celebrations of the season. 

23 December 2005

SARK © 1990 

Stay loose. Learn to watch snails. Plant an impossible Garden. Invite someone dangerous to tea. Make little signs that say 'yes'! and post them all over your house. Make friends with freedom and uncertainty. Look forward to Dreams. Cry during movies. Swing as high as you can on a swing set, by moonlight. Cultivate moods. refuse to "be responsible". Do it for love. Take lots of naps. Give money away. Do it now.. The money will follow. Believe in Magic. Laugh a lot. Celebrate every gorgeous moment. Take moon baths. have wild imaginings, Transformative Dreams, and perfect calm. Draw on the walls. read every day.  Imagine yourself Magic. Giggle with children. Listen to old people. Bless yourself. play with everything. Entertain your inner child. You are innocent. Build a fort with blankets. Get wet. Hug a tree. Write love letters.

A good beginning, to be sure, but the last thing Sark would want is for us to take her literally.  The only way to follow the spirit  of her imperatives is to make up your own.  Here's my beginning...

how to be my own person

Run through the sprinkler.  Go to work barefoot.  Wish upon stars.  Expect your wish to come true.  Reveal intimacies to strangers. Pay your electric bill on time.  Walk along fence rails.  Dig for buried treasure.  Draw your shadow in the sand. Dance with your enemies.  Run full speed through the meadow with eyes closed.  Memorize all the digits of p.   Eat snow.  Make up a song as you sing it.

...your turn...

22 December 2005

Humans seem to be hard-wired for empathy. If we see someone hurting, we hurt too (or at least the same neurons fire in our brains). Sounds of laughter make us laugh.  Evolution has prepared us with the tools we need to live in cooperative societies, and to participate in loving families.

Reuters article by Merritt McKinney
Scientific American article by Carl Zimmer

21 December 2005

"I believe that people have a right to decide their own destiny; people own themselves. I also believe that, in a democracy, government exists because (and only as long as) individual citizens give it a "temporary license to exist" – in exchange for a promise that it will behave itself. In a democracy you own the government – it doesn't own you. Along with this comes a responsibility to ensure that individual actions, in the pursuit of a personal destiny, do not threaten the wellbeing of others while the "pursuit" is in progress."

Frank Zappa was one of the most accomplished composers of the rock era; his music combines an understanding of and appreciation for such contemporary classical figures as Stravinsky, Stockhausen, and Varèse with an affection for late-'50s doo wop rock & roll and a facility for the guitar-heavy rock that dominated pop in the '70s. But Zappa was also a satirist whose reserves of scorn seemed bottomless and whose wicked sense of humor and absurdity have delighted his numerous fans, even when his lyrics crossed over the broadest bounds of taste. Finally, Zappa was perhaps the most prolific record-maker of his time, turning out massive amounts of music on his own Barking Pumpkin label and through distribution deals with Rykodisc and Rhino after long, unhappy associations with industry giants like Warner Brothers and the now-defunct MGM.

-from the AOL website

Frank Zappa would have been 65 today.

20 December 2005

Physics can explain a lot of fundamental things remarkably well: how particles affect each other, how they move and how they transform, spontaneously or through interactions, into other particles. But physicists are ultimately ambitious: they would like to explain as well why the proton is so much heavier than the electron, why gravity is so much weaker than electrical forces, why does the universe have 3 spatial dimensions rather than 2 or 4 or 11?

Thirty years ago, some astrophysicists suggested that perhaps these things would never be explained through equations, and proposed a new mode of thinking about them: suppose there are many, many universes with many, many combinations of these numbers. Some of these universes would be chaotic; some would be boringly uniform; some would have just the right kind and amount of complexity that could support processes of life and evolution. Perhaps the meaning of some of these fundamental, seemingly arbitrary facts about physics is that ‘they had to be that way – otherwise we’d never be here to ask the question’. This kind of reasoning is called the Anthropic Principle’. Perhaps surprisingly, calculations can be done that support the idea that fundamental constants of nature had to be in a very narrow range in order to support life – not just ‘life as we know it’, but any phenomenon that is complex enough to be considered ‘life’ under a very broad definition.

Many physicists thought of this whole line of reason as ‘giving up on a fundamental scientific explanation’, and continued to pursue theory that might offer explanations, ultimately from pure mathematics, for the fundamental constants of nature. Now, some of these theories actually point in the direction of a ‘multiverse’ – hints that our ‘universe’ might be part of a much larger entity, with wildly different physical conditions in its different parts. That is pointing right back to the question, ‘why does our part have the properties that it does?’ and the answer, ‘because if it didn’t we wouldn’t be here to ask!’

New Scientist Interview with Leonard Susskind

19 December 2005

The single species of Orcas have divided themselves into two cultures. One has rightfully earned for itself the name ‘killer whales’, roaming the seas in packs, ranging widely and killing other marine mammals for sport as well as for food.

The other culture is peaceful, cooperative and domestic, with stable communities and well-developed language. They kill only to eat, and eat only fish.

Do orcas use symbols? by Howard Garrett
Culture in Whales and Dolphins, by Luke Rendell and Hal Whitehead