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

15 January 2006

Each of us can see clearly some aspects of ourselves and our relation to the world, but there are other areas in which we have been beaten down so long that we have a pessimistic, limited view of who we are and what we can reasonably expect.  These pieces of our world view have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophesies: we flourish in some ways, and fail repeatedly in others – and both experiences serve to reinforce the original assumptions about our strengths and limits.  Expectation becomes destiny.

We may be able to re-program our expectations by finding a phrase that essentially contradicts our low expectations, and repeating the words until they sink in.  We need help to begin this process because we cannot find the right phrase for ourselves.  Of course! we are trying to address precisely those areas in which our imagination has become frozen within its limits.  The phrase may come from a wise counselor or a trusted friend.  It needn’t be someone who is all-wise and all-knowing – so long as the person is sufficiently different from us that he or she is clear about an area of life in which we are stuck.  (Conversely, s/he may be stuck in an area in which we are clear, and then the helping relationship can be reciprocal.)

We’ll know we have the right phrase when it seems preposterous and fantastical – patently false.  We may also notice that the phrase is peculiarly difficult to remember:  though we repeat the words dozens of times on Saturday afternoon, we wake up Monday morning unable to remember what they were.

We can write the phrase over and over in a notebook.  Better still, repeat it aloud with a friend who will encourage us when it may seem that we are overreaching, that these words can’t possibly have any relation to reality.  In meditation practice, the mind can be opened up so that we are more receptive to re-programming, and the message may reach us more deeply and efficiently.  It may work to use the phrase as a mantra.

When we begin to get what we’ve always wanted but assumed we cannot have, when we succeed in areas where we are accustomed only to failure, the results seldom feel delightful.  The change can be profoundly upsetting.  Again, we need the support of a friend or counselor to help us persist in the face of discomfort, to continue expanding into areas of long-denied potential.

~Josh Mitteldorf

14 January 2006

Here’s an idea for turning the sun’s rays into usable energy that is both new and ancient:  Isaac Berzin of GreenFuel Technologies has discovered that algae are far more efficient at using sunlight when they have more CO2 than the atmosphere’s background 0.04%.  He has devised an arrangement for funneling the smokestack effluent of a coal power plant through an algae tank.  The algae cleans up the pollution and the greenhouse gases in the power plant effluent, while creating 15,000 gallons of biodiesel a year on each acre.  That’s 250 times the per-acre fuel productivity of corn or soy that has been proposed for biofuel.

article in Christian Science Monitor
article in E-magazine

13 January 2006

"A scientist who wishes to maximize the empirical content of the views he holds and who wants to understand them as clearly as he possibly can must therefore introduce other views; that is, he must adopt a pluralistic methodology. He must compare ideas with other ideas rather than with ‘experience’ and he must try to improve rather than discard the views that have failed in the competition. Proceeding in this way he will retain the theories of man and cosmos that are found in Genesis, or in the Pimander, he will elaborate them and use them to measure the success of evolution and other ‘modern’ views. He may then discover that the theory of evolution is not as good as is generally assumed and that it must be supplemented, or entirely replaced, by an improved version of Genesis. Knowledge so conceived is not a series of self-consistent theories that converges towards an ideal view; it is not a gradual approach towards truth. It is rather an ever increasing ocean of mutually incompatible alternatives, each single theory, each fairy-tale, each myth that is part of the collection forcing the others into greater articulation and all of them contributing, via this process of competition, to the development of our consciousness."

Paul Feyerabend, born this day in 1924, was above all an intellectual subversive, and I believe his words should not be separated from the politics of the era in which he wrote them.  In 1974, formal religious observance in America was in decline, and the danger of a dictatorship of science must have seemed far more imminent than a dictatorship of Christianity.  Feyerabend was trying to inject a bit of mysticism into a scientific culture that was too cock-sure of itself.  He was well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of neo-Darwinism, and I like to think that were he writing today, he would be as appalled at the dogma of ‘intelligent design’ as are we.

The Pimander, by the way, is a Greek Gnostic text, probably written in the first century AD, but attributed to the ancient, mythical Hermes Trismegistus.

12 January 2006

The tree the tempest with a crash of wood
Throws down in front of us does not bar
Our passage to our journey's end for good,
But just to ask us who we think we are

Insisting always on our own way so.
She likes to halt us in our runner tracks,
And make us get down in a foot of snow
Debating what to do without an ax.

And yet she knows obstruction is in vain:
We will not be put off the final goal
We have it hidden in us to attain,
Not though we have to seize earth by the pole

And, tired of aimless circling in one place,
Steer straight off after something into space.

Robert Frost
On a Tree Fallen Across the Road

11 January 2006

DUTCH NEIGHBORHOODS: A European Model for Sustainable Communities

"Two years ago I moved to The Netherlands, and was surprised in many ways to find myself in what might be called an urban model for sustainable living. The Netherlands has the second highest population density in the world (Hong Kong has the highest), and the bulk of the Dutch population is concentrated around the urban centers of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague…The design of Dutch cities is premised on the concept of neighborhoods, each with its own center of social and economic activity. This means that everyone can easily get to the grocery store, bank, post office, and local schools without having to drive a car. Within my relatively small neighborhood are five parks…as well as a few acres of woods with walking paths and a "kinderboerderij", a farm for children to learn about animals...People walk and bicycle much of the time, neighbors get to know each other, and the streets are far less congested. Indeed, there is a far greater sense of community than any other place I have lived."

article by Julian Scaff from the Population Coalition

10 January 2006

You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.

~ C. S. Lewis

9 January 2006

...begin to watch yourself at odd times during the day.  You may stop yourself, almost unexpectedly, and observe what you are doing, feeling, saying or thinking, letting your self-observation be made in a detached, impartial and impersonal spirit.  

The practice of suddenly observing oneself, one’s desires, moods and actions, is especially valuable because it tends to separate the thoughts and desires from the sense of selfhood which normally inheres in them, and thus tends to keep consciousness from being everlastingly drowned in the sea of the five physical senses.

~ Paul BruntonThe Secret Path