More than possible...certain, someday

The fact that the regime of separation appears to be reaching new heights, the fact that the whole globe is falling into the grip of the monetization of life and the commodification of relationship, the fact that the numbering, labeling, and controlling of the world and everything in it is approaching unprecedented extremes, does not mean that prospects for a more beautiful world are receding into the distance. Rather, like a wave rolling toward shore, the Age of Separation rears up to its maximum height even as it hollows out in the moment before it crashes. This crash, inevitable eons ago, is upon us today. As for the world that we can build thereafter, we can see glimpses of it in all the ‘alternatives’ presented today with so little effect…

Deep deep down, we all know that a much better world is possible, and more than possible, certain, someday.

— Charles Eisenstein,Ascent of Humanity Ch 7

1 June 2012

Whooo are youuu?

‘How can I reconcile the fact that visual information from the environment must be filtered through my nervous system before it is perceived with the sensation that I am directly looking at the world?’

Since George Berkeley (1685-1753), Western philosophy has taken direct sense data to be our primary experience.  The nerve firings are our only font of information, and we construct a mental model of the world via a calculation based on purely nervous information.

In the 20th Century, James Gibson proposed that philosophy ought to accept a description based on how we intuitively feel about our perceptions, rather than a calculation of how the perception must take place.  We perceive objects, people, motion — not photons or nerve-firings.

‘Under the Gibsonian framework, perception is not constituted by the processing of sense-data through the bottleneck of retinal immediacy. Instead, the perceptual system is capable of a first-order perception of whole sequences in the environment...

‘There is this impossible divide between between “internal” world of the mind and the “external” physical world. Somehow information crosses this metaphysical gap. Gibson thought it was much more parsimonious and evolutionarily sound to talk about perception in terms of direct pickup by a holistic agent in the environment.

The fundamental question, as I see it, is whether the unconscious low-level processing in my brain should be considered part of me, or part of my equipment.

— From the blogs of Gary Williams, #1  #2 and #3

2 June 2012

Reflections on the texture of experience and the plausibility of reincarnation

Consciousness flashes forth from waking dreams –
A peek-a-boo of suns among the clouds.
Music’s mystery, too, has softs and louds –
My awareness, more fragmented than it seems.

Every babe creates the concept ‘mother’
Abstract from interrupted smells and touch.
Perhaps our precious selves, another such
construction; also separation from ‘the other’?

Our isolation and the dread of death:
not the human fate, but mere illusion.
The goals we set ourselves in such profusion:
each a meditation on the breath.

If so, is it strained to imagine
that bridging deaths, we wake in different skin?

— Josh Mitteldorf 

3 June 2012

Solar-powered aircraft

Batteries are heavy. Collecting sunlight takes a huge surface area. The barriers to building a solar-powered airplane are daunting, and one that can store enough power to keep running at night - well, that sounds like too big a stretch.

But a Swiss team has been flying the giant, ultra-light, single-passenger Solar Impulse for a few of years now.  Two years ago, they charged their batteries enough to fly all night.  This week, they’re ready for a 1500-mile flight from Europe to Africa.

4 June 2012


Flamboyant, brilliant Argentine pianist Martha Argerich turns 71 today.  Consider that before she even gets to the point where audiences can appreciate her passionate artistry, she has memorized hundreds of thousands of notes

Listen to Ondine, the first movement of Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit.  If you’re not in the right mood for the haunting delicacy of the beginning, then sample the explosion of the last minute.

Listen to Jeux d’eau, the piano piece that launched the career of 18-year-old Maurice Ravel. 

Perfect Happiness, by Robert Schumann.     Tocatta Op. 11 by Prokofiev

5 June 2012

It’ll do

Habit is Heaven’s own redress
It takes the place of happiness.

Alexander Pushkin, born this day in 1799

Custom is despot of mankind

6 June 2012


We were put here as witnesses to the miracle of life. We see the stars, and we want them. We are beholden to give back to the universe.


— Ray Bradbury

Mysteries abound where most we seek for answers.

7 June 2012

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

[W]e believe that to attain sustainability, a right to local self-government must be asserted that places decisions affecting communities in the hands of those closest to the impacts.   That right to local self-government must enable communities to reject unsustainable economic and environmental policies set by state and federal governments, and must enable communities to construct legal frameworks for charting a future towards sustainable energy production, sustainable land development, and sustainable water use, among others.  In doing so, communities must challenge and overturn legal doctrines that have been concocted to eliminate their right to self-government, including the doctrines of corporate constitutional rights, preemption, and limitations on local legislative authority. Inseparable from the right to local self government - and its sole limitation - are the rights of human and natural communities; they are the implicit and enumerated premises on which local self government must be built.

from the Mission Statement

8 June 2012

Bertha von Suttner

Born this day in 1843, Bertha von Suttner was a radical pacifist whose fiction and lecture tours shocked the public with graphic descriptions of the horrors of war.  Her 1889 novel, Die Waffen nieder (Lay Down Your Arms) launched her career.  In 1905, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

‘Ich habe es zu früh erkannt, daß der Schlachteneifer nichts Übermenschliches, sondern – Untermenschliches ist; keine mystische Offenbarung aus dem Reiche Luzifers, sondern eine Reminiscenz aus dem Reiche der Tierheit — ein Wiedererwachen der Bestialität.’

‘Too early, I realized that the zeal of battle is not a stretch toward the superhuman, but an atavism, not a mystical revelation from the kingdom of Lucifer, but a reminiscence from the realm of bestiality.’

9 June 2012

Passionate as I am about seeking truth — learning about the physical world, the biosphere, evolution, and the community of man and where we’re headed — it can’t be an anxious or a desperate search.  A vast Not Knowing is my destiny, even as I delight in each new glimmer of discovery.

– Josh Mitteldorf

10 June 2012

You’ve never been here before

Some people have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.

– Abraham Maslow

I’ve seen it even in dementia.

11 June 2012

Poverty, the prison system, the educational system...all of these phenomena arise from the same root, and not just on the collective level but on the personal level, too...The feeling of helplessness to live a life that’s meaningful, the powerlessness, the wrongness that invades life. It’s no mystery: it’s separation...The revolution that’s necessary is a revolution in how we conceive ourselves, and how we relate to the world.
—Charles Eisenstein

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
—Albert Einstein

12 June 2012

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dreams
for the adventure of being alive.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your
fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
be careful
be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand on the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

13 June 2012

Mind controls computer directly

In the last few years a small piece of science-fiction has become science-fact. In a recent study a woman, paralysed from the neck down, was able to move a robotic arm using only the power of her mind. Through this robotic appendage she was able to do something she hadn’t done for many years: pick up a cup of coffee and drink from it out without help.
This life changing feat was achieved through the surgical implantation of a computer chip within her motor cortex (the area of your brain which activates when you initiate a movement). The chip detected activity within this region of the brain, forming what is known as a ‘neural interface’. This chip was then connected to a computer which controlled the robotic arm. After some practice, the participant’s brain adapted to the neural interface allowing her to control the arm. What makes this amazing is that despite being paralysed for 15 years, only 20 minutes of adaptation was needed to manipulate the arm adequately.

Read more at ScienceBlog

14 June 2012

Biology ≠ destiny

“Human biology is actually far more complicated than we imagine. Everybody talks about the genes that they received from their mother and father, for this trait or the other. But in reality, those genes have very little impact on life outcomes. Our biology is way too complicated for that and deals with hundreds of thousands of independent factors. Genes are absolutely not our fate. They can give us useful information about the increased risk of a disease, but in most cases they will not determine the actual cause of the disease, or the actual incidence of somebody getting it. Most biology will come from the complex interaction of all the proteins and cells working with environmental factors, not driven directly by the genetic code” 
Craig Venter

Lifestyle changes can prevent more than 90% of present cancers.  The “lifestyle factors include cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity. The evidence indicates that of all cancer-related deaths, almost 25–30% are due to tobacco, as many as 30–35% are linked to diet, about 15–20% are due to infections, and the remaining percentage are due to other factors like radiation, stress, physical activity, environmental pollutants etc.”
Bharat Aggarwal 

An anti-inflammatory diet may be the easiest (and tastiest) measure we can take.  “The broadlist of natural anti-NF Kappa B inhibitors was revealed in 2006 and posted online at major news sources. Some of the more prominent NF Kappa B inhibitors are vitamin D, resveratrol from grapes, curcumin from turmeric spice, thymoquinone from black cumin, allicin from garlic, quercetin from red onions, EGCG from green tea, tocotrienols from palm oil and annatto bean, eugenol from cloves, IP6 phytate from rice bran, sulphoraphane from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, berberin from Oregon grape, gingerol from ginger, and ellagic acid from pomegranates.”
Bill Sardi

15 June 2012

A Night-Piece

——The sky is overcast 
With a continuous cloud of texture close, 
Heavy and wan, all whitened by the Moon, 
Which through that veil is indistinctly seen, 
A dull, contracted circle, yielding light 
So feebly spread, that not a shadow falls, 
Chequering the ground—from rock, plant, tree, or tower. 
At length a pleasant instantaneous gleam 
Startles the pensive traveller while he treads 
His lonesome path, with unobserving eye 
Bent earthwards; he looks up—the clouds are split 
Asunder,—and above his head he sees 
The clear Moon, and the glory of the heavens. 
There, in a black-blue vault she sails along, 
Followed by multitudes of stars, that, small 
And sharp, and bright, along the dark abyss 
Drive as she drives: how fast they wheel away, 
Yet vanish not!—the wind is in the tree, 
But they are silent;--still they roll along 
Immeasurably distant; and the vault, 
Built round by those white clouds, enormous clouds, 
Still deepens its unfathomable depth. 
At length the Vision closes; and the mind, 
Not undisturbed by the delight it feels, 
Which slowly settles into peaceful calm, 
Is left to muse upon the solemn scene. 

— William Wordsworth

16 June 2012

Traveling light

The story is told of a man who found a key in the street, and picked it up thinking it might be useful some time, and soon after was arrested by a gendarme for vagrancy, and taken to a dungeon, where he shared a cell with an old beggar. When nightfall came, the man offered his key to the beggar, who used it to unlock the cell, and both were free. In gratitude, the beggar offered the man his begging bowl, and, though he could see no use for it, the man accepted it graciously and went upon his way...until he came upon a poor girl crying desperately over her dog who had run all this way, and was very thirsty, but there lacked a bowl from which he might drink. The man gave his bowl to the girl, who immediately watered her dog. Dog and girl were so grateful that they came to his house the next evening with an Afghan which she had woven just for him. The man carried the Afghan with him, until he came upon a hobo sleeping in the street, and he silently covered the sleeping man. Shortly thereafter, the hobo received word that his father had died and left him a horse, for which he had no use himself, so he decided to give it to the man who had offered his Afghan. The man rode his new horse into the stately, dark forest and there he came upon the King’s messenger, carrying a missive from the King about his ailing daughter. The messenger was on foot, having exhausted his horse in the haste of his journey. The man gave the messenger his horse, and the messenger galloped forth again, but before leaving, he picked a mushroom from the ground and gave it to the man. As the man continued into the Capital, he heard nothing but news about the King’s daughter and her incurable illness. Arriving in town, the man went straight to the King’s palace and offered his mushroom as a treatment for the princess. Indeed, the princess recovered miraculously, and the King’s guards came to seek out the man and offer him anything he desired as reward. Invited to the palace, the man bowed before the King, and asked for a thousand pieces of gold. Happy for the opportunity to reward the savior of his daughter, the King opened his treasury, and the man bowed once more to accept the gold. Walking back through the city, he gave a piece of gold to every peasant he encountered, and with his burden of wealth wholly dispersed, went once more upon his way, carrying only the clothes on his back.

— Josh Mitteldorf

17 June 2012

Man vs Beast - an unfair match, but every once in a while...

In a Montana slaughterhouse some years ago, a black Angus cow awaiting execution suddenly went berserk, jumped a five-foot fence, and escaped. She ran though the streets for hours, dodging cops, animal control officers, cars, trucks, and a train. Cornered near the Missouri river, the frightened animal jumped into its icy waters and made it across, where a tranquilizer gun brought her down. Her "daring escape" stole the hearts of the locals, some of whom had even cheered her on. The story got international media coverage. Telephone polls were held, calls demanding her freedom poured into local TV stations. Sensing the public mood, the slaughterhouse manager ‘granted clemency’ to the ‘brave cow’. Now called Molly, she was sent to a nearby farm to live out her days grazing under open skies—which warmed the cockles of many a heart.

Cattle trying to escape slaughterhouses are not uncommon...

read the rest by Namit Arora at 3QuarksDaily
     (warning: graphic vegetarian advocacy)

The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force has kept files on activists who expose animal
welfare abuses on factory farms and recommended prosecuting them as terrorists.

18 June 2012

Wisdom from the great sages

“Those who prepare for all the emergencies of life beforehand may equip themselves at the expense of joy.”
E. M. Forster

Don’t worry.  Be happy.
Meher Baba

If it’s not fun, why do it?
Jerry Greenfield

Don’t worry.  Be happy.
Bobbie McFerrin

Whatever you do, do it in a spirit of playfulness.
— Josh Mitteldorf

19 June 2012

Brahms Volkslieder

Brahms intended that these gems should be his last published compositions.  He did not assign an opus number, as if they were too trifling to count.

(A few years later, seduced by the sound of  Richard Mühlfeld’s clarinet, he returned to composition and wrote a series of chamber pieces for him.)

Listen to Es steht ein’ Lind’ in jenem Tal, #41 from 49 Volkslieder
Listen to In Stiller Nacht, #42
(both sung by Edith Mathis, accompanied by Peter Schreir on piano)

20 June 2012


Open wide great jaws of time where laughter swallows gods divine
Blow your tune through trumpet stems and daffodil delirium
Drink the day in draughts that say the green has come to stay
Never hear the magpies squall behind the walls of hay
In penumbra veiled the colony failed to roll their Sisyphean rock
Past the meat-locker feast, that bipedal beast that slanders the afternoon clock

And crystal consonants don’t translate to capture the afternoon’s magnetic haze
Nor do vowels of earthenware and syntax candles the mystery erase
The background hum of metal made from piston paragraph
Waits at traffic lights to skin the rubber from the road
The octopus that inks this song on summer skyline scarf
Knows full well the consequence of doing things by half

Half made lies and half-life ties that knot the neck like noose
Half baked pies and half moon smiles the gap-toothed night let loose
Half a mile of bad road tiled with yellow-brick amnesia
Half a brain to wonder why we swallow this anaesthesia

Pisces Iscariot

21 June 2012

I are an ecology

Each of us lives with a community of bacteria, fungi, and even viruses that are essential to our health, and poorly appreciated until recently.  Thousands of species in our mouths alone, and many more on our skin, in our intestines, our hair, and elsewhere. The greatest medical triumphs of the 20th Century had to do with broad-spectrum antibiotics.  Now we’re going to have to learn how to manage microbiomes.
— my paraphrase from Carl Zimmer’s article in the Science Times

Captivating. Awe-inspiring. In a number of ways, a refreshing and humbling departure from our anthropocentric worldview. These and other phrases can be applied to the exploding area of basic and applied research devoted to the human gut microbiome that is presented, dissected, and critiqued in these companion issues of Science.

The ecosystem is managed by our immune systems, that tolerate some kinds of bacteria and eliminate others.  Disruption of our relationship to the micriobiota can result in malnutrition, infection, auto-immunity, obesity, or any number of other yet-to-be-identified diseases.
Another Science article

...and don’t forget the eyelash mites.

22 June 2012

Unmanageably romantic

Looking back on the past six months, Margaret realized the chaotic nature of our daily life, and its difference from the orderly sequence that has been fabricated by historians. Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere. With infinite effort we nerve ourselves for a crisis that never comes. The most successful career must show a waste of strength that might have removed mountains, and the most unsuccessful is not that of the man who is taken unprepared, but of him who has prepared and is never taken. On a tragedy of that kind our national morality is duly silent. It assumes that preparation against danger is in itself a good, and that men, like nations, are the better for staggering through life fully armed. The tragedy of preparedness has scarcely been handled, save by the Greeks. Life is indeed dangerous, but not in the way morality would have us believe. It is indeed unmanageable, but the essence of it is not a battle. It is unmanageable because it is a romance, and its essence is romantic beauty.

— E. M. Forster  (fr Howard’s End)

23 June 2012

Me, myself, and J. Alfred

Me: Why don’t I experience the world as the miracle I know it to be?

   I:  Because you are afraid to give up the illusion of control.

Me: It’s not entirely an illusion. I do have a modicum of control.

   I:  Then which do you want, control or the cosmic experience?

Me: Both.

   I: In your dreams, you have known awareness of the All.

Me: But I don’t remember when I wake up!

  I: Because it doesn’t fit in your narrow world of words and concepts.

Me: Frankly, I was hoping for something that I could blog for today’s DI.

   I:  Ineffable.

Me: You mean, I won’t be able to tell anyone about it?

  I:  Ineffable.

Me: Lonely.

  I:  Let us go then, you and I.

— Josh Mitteldorf

24 June 2012

Recent breakthroughs in science show we have just the capacities we need to face our planet’s challenges. We’re “soft-wired” for cooperation, empathy, fairness, along with a deep need to “make a dent,” as social philosopher Erich Fromm put it. My hunch is that one reason depression is a global pandemic is that the dominant mental map denies so many of us expression of these deep needs and capacities.

— Frances Moore Lappe

25 June 2012

The Ball

As long as nothing can be known for sure
(no signals have been picked up yet),
as long as Earth is still unlike
the nearer and more distant planets,

as long as there’s neither hide nor hair
of other grasses graced by other winds,
of other treetops bearing other crowns,
other animals as well-grounded as our own,

as long as only the local echo
has been known to speak in syllables,

as long as we still haven’t heard word
of better or worse mozarts,
platos, edisons somewhere,

as long as our inhuman crimes
are still committed only between humans,

as long as our kindness
is still incomparable,
peerless even in its imperfection,

as long as our heads packed with illusions
still pass for the only heads so packed,

as long as the roofs of our mouths alone
still raise voices to high heavens--

let’s act like very special guests of honor
at the district-firemen’s ball
dance to the beat of the local oompah band,
and pretend that it’s the ball
to end all balls.

I can’t speak for others--
for me this is
misery and happiness enough:

just this sleepy backwater
where even the stars have time to burn
while winking at us

— Wislawa Szymborska
from Monologue of a Dog: New Poems
tr C. Cavanagh and S. Baranczak

26 June 2012

with grateful credit to Panhala

Love and Revolution:  sustainable activism for the 21st century

All over the world, local groups are struggling, as we are in Detroit, to keep our communities, our environment, and our humanity from being destroyed by corporate globalization...This movement has no central leadership and is not bound together by any ism...But they are joined at the heart by their commitment to achieving social justice, establishing new forms of more democratic governance, and creating new ways of living at the local level that will reconnect us with the Earth and with one another. Above all, they are linked by their indomitable faith in our ability to create the world anew.

Grace Lee Boggs, who celebrates her 97th birthday today

When I became a radical nearly seventy years ago, we ran the ‘risk of seeming ridiculous,’ as Che Guevara put it, if we thought Love had anything to do with Revolution.

27 June 2012

Bon anniversaire, Jean-Jacques

Le premier qui, ayant enclos un terrain, s’avisa de dire: Ceci est à moi, et trouva des gens assez simples pour le croire, fut le vrai fondateur de la société civile. Que de crimes, de guerres, de meurtres, que de misères et d’horreurs n’eût point épargnés au genre humain celui qui, arrachant les pieux ou comblant le fossé, eût crié à ses semblables: Gardez-vous d’écouter cet imposteur; vous êtes perdus, si vous oubliez que les fruits sont à tous, et que la terre n’est à personne.

The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying ‘This is mine,’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: ‘Beware of listening to this imposter; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.’

— from Discourse on Inequality (1754)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau celebrates his 300th birthday today

British philosophers of Rousseau’s era pictured humans as brutish and selfish, and wrote of the need for strict governments to keep the peace and rein them in. But for Rousseau, man in the state of nature was peaceful and content with the abundance and the beauty round about him.  All depravity was the product of civilization.

Rousseau wrote scores and libretti for 7 operas.  Listen to Menuet et Allemande from Le Devin du Village

28 June 2012

Precept #10 of Thich Nhat Hahn

Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party. A religious community, however, should take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.

— #10 from the 14 Precepts of Thich Nhat Hahn

For many, Buddhism is a voyage of self-discovery and a path to inner peace and clear seeing. Others add an ethic of blamelessness in action.  But Thich is asking more of his followers: a commitment to social action.  He has sought with his own life to demonstrate to us how to take a political stand without abandoning the personal quest and without being drawn into any of mankind’s tribal struggles.

29 June 2012

On Prayer 

You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.
All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge
And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard,
Above landscapes the color of ripe gold
Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.
That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal
Where everything is just the opposite and the word ‘is’
Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.
Notice: I say we; there, every one, separately,
Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh
And knows that if there is no other shore
We will walk that aerial bridge all the same.

~ Czeslaw Milosz

30 June 2012

with grateful credit to Panhala

Queen of Hearts — Archive of past entries. Bullfrog Design