By combining responsible government with vital entrepreneurship, Curitiba has achieved measurably better levels of education,
health, human welfare, public safety, democratic participation, political integrity, environmental protection, and community
spirit than its neighbors, and some would say than most cities in the United States.
It has done so not by instituting a few economic megaprojects but by implementing hundreds of multipurpose, cheap, fast,
simple, homegrown, people-centered initiatives harnessing market mechanisms, common sense, and local skills.
It has flourished by treating all its citizens--most of all its children—not as its burden but as its most precious resource, creators of its future.—
It has succeeded not by central planning but by combining farsighted and pragmatic leadership with an integrated design process, strong public and business participation,
and a widely shared public vision that transcends partisanship.—
The lessons of Curitiba’s transformation hold promise and hope for all cities and all peoples throughout the world.
Money is “the nothing you get for something before you can get anything.”
After he had won a Nobel in Chemistry for figuring out how radioactivity transmutes one element into another,
Frederick Soddy turned his attention to banking systems and money creation.
“his disquiet about that power’s potential wartime use, combined with his revulsion at his discipline’s complicity in the mass deaths of World War I, led him to set aside chemistry for the study of political economy...
“In four books written from 1921 to 1934, Soddy carried on a quixotic campaign for a radical restructuring of global monetary relationships. He was roundly dismissed as a crank...
“Soddy criticized the prevailing belief of the economy as a perpetual motion machine, capable of generating infinite wealth — a criticism echoed by his intellectual heirs in the now emergent field of ecological economics...
“Soddy distilled his eccentric vision into five policy prescriptions, each of which was taken at the time as evidence that his theories were unworkable: The first four were to abandon the gold standard, let international exchange rates float, use federal surpluses and deficits as macroeconomic policy tools that could counter cyclical trends, and establish bureaus of economic statistics (including a consumer price index) in order to facilitate this effort. All of these are now conventional practice.”
His fifth proposal was to eliminate fractional reserve lending, which is responsible for the inverted debt pyramid that holds our economy in thrall in the present age.
It is my humble opinion that the power to create money is a public trust, and that the privatization of that power in the Federal Reserve has
led to huge distortions of our economy, as well as much corruption and even war. —JJM
2 September 2014
‘Why was thy wealth given to thee, but that thou mightest dry, if but for a day, such tears as these?’
— Charles Kingsley
3 September 2014
Listen to Locus Iste of Anton Bruckner, born this day in 1824, as sung by the University Choir of Munich.
4 September 2014
At the end of my life, I know I won’t be wishing I’d held more back, been less effusive, more often stood on ceremony, forgiven less, spent more days oblivious to the secret wishes and fears of the people around me. So what is stopping me from stepping outside my habitual crap?
— George Saunders
5 September 2014
“Everywhere the world movement seems to be in the direction of centralised economies which can be made to ‘work’
in an economic sense but which are not democratically organised and which tend to establish a caste system.
With this go the horrors of emotional nationalism and a tendency to disbelieve in the existence of objective truth
because all the facts have to fit in with the words and prophecies of some infallible fuhrer.
Already history has in a sense ceased to exist, ie. there is no such thing as a history of our own times which could be
universally accepted, and the exact sciences are endangered as soon as military necessity ceases to keep people up to the mark.
Hitler can say that the Jews started the war, and if he survives that will become official history.
He can’t say that two and two are five, because for the purposes of, say, ballistics they have to make four.
But if the sort of world that I am afraid of arrives, a world of two or three great superstates which are unable to conquer one another,
two and two could become five if the fuhrer wished it. That, so far as I can see,
is the direction in which we are actually moving, though, of course, the process is reversible.”
— George Orwell (1942)
6 September 2014
¡Practice Si — Habit No!
Meditation, to be effective, must be re-invented from season to season, from session to session, from second to second within each session. Habit is the enemy of insight, and thus we resolve continuously to see the world with new eyes. This is what Suzuki called Beginner’s Mind.
On the other hand, the idea of “practice” implies continuity. If we allow ourselves to re-define practice and make up new forms of meditation from one moment to the next, the result may be indistinguishable from daydreaming. The mind will have no discipline, and chaos looms.
This is the central tension of meditation practice. Our practice is a habit, but to the extent that we approach it as trying again, repeating what we did yesterday, it is without value. Our commitment is to freshness. With consciousness of the paradox, we cultivate a habit of liberating our mind-state from habit.
I hope that despite all the censorship, that new music can go on being dangerous to the political establishment. — from the Changing Face of New Music
Max Davies is 80 years old today.
8 September 2014
To say nothing of God.
That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange,
the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter.
That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done life endless harm;
the experiences that are called "visions," the whole so-called "spirit-world," death,
all those things that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life
that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied. To say nothing of God.
9 September 2014
In the opinion of your host at DI, guaranteed income is a revolutionary idea. It represents (at last) the end of feudalism. People can devote
themselves to the work that they find most meaningful, and live frugally (‘on surprise’ as Alice Walker says),
or they can live more traditionally and earn a middle class life style. One advantage not discussed is that it will lower the crime rate dramatically, and obviate
a whole host of anti-poverty programs and their associated bureaucracies. Another advantage is that it eliminates the stigma of welfare, which has led to bitterness,
alienation, and hostility. And third, it will make possible life as an artist or musician or writer or medieval scholar or whatever people might imagine or dream of
once they are free of worry about being turned out to live on the street.
I see no cost estimates in this article, because (I presume) it is difficult to estimate how many people would participate.
My guess is that it would cost nothing, because of the social benefits: lower rates of crime, incarceration, police, courts, security, drugs, social work,
and a lot of things I haven’t thought of. —JJM
Philippe Van Parijs, in his book Real Freedom for All and other writings, argues that a basic income is necessary as a matter of freedom.
To be truly free, Van Parijs argues, people have to have ‘access to the means that people need for doing what they might want to do.’ Providing a basic income for everyone provides those means.
Pete Frase, an editor at Jacobin and influential leftist writer on economics, makes a similar argument. A basic income, he argues, ‘directly addresses one of the most fundamental objectionable things about capitalism,
namely the fact that it makes almost everyone dependent on performing wage labor in order to survive.’
It is important to distinguish paid work from useful work. Much useful work is unpaid, and some paid work is not very useful.–Philippe van Parijs
10 September 2014
Beginning by peeling back layers of deceit
I can’t foresee the path by which our country will get back on course, but I know that it must begin with an acknowledgment
of reality. I know that ever since the Kennedy assassinations of the 1960s, the news as reported has diverged progressively from
the reality of who holds the reins in this country, what they are doing with their power, and what are their motives.
In this context, the successes of NYC-CAN have the potential to be revolutionary. This is a group that has worked for three
years to put a measure on the New York City ballot by which the people might vote to authorize an independent investigation of what
happened on 9/11. The authorized history was based on deception and withheld information, as is obvious to anyone reading it,
and as admitted by John Farmer, who penned the 9/11 Commission Report,
and hinted by Hamilton and Keane themselves.
Savvy organizers of NYC-CAN have framed the issue modestly in terms of supporting building safety by investigating the cause of collapse
of high rise buildings. Well they know that steel-framed buildings don’t collapse in a fire, and that the investigation will inevitably
reveal that the three World Trade towers were pre-wired by insiders weeks in advance of 9/11/01
Pulling gently and consistently on the thread of 9/11 truth will gradually unravel the vast corruption and deceit of those who
have led our country into hatred, war, genocide, addiction, and theft on a vast scale, on the pretext of ‘keeping us safe’.
— (opinions of JJM)
11 September 2014
Dialog between Rupert Sheldrake and Richard Dawkins
Can they find anything to say to one another? Dolors over at Cracking the Nutshell imagines what it would be.
Is psychic research credible? This is a serious subject where, as Dolors says, the two sides
aren’t talking to one another.
How would it change your take on the world to think that telepathy and precognition are real, if not wholly reliable, abilities?
12 September 2014
That’s why they call it ‘realism’.
“Realism, whether it be socialist or not, falls short of reality. It shrinks it, attenuates it, falsifies it; it does not take into account our basic truths and our fundamental obsessions: love, death, astonishment. It presents man in a reduced and estranged perspective. Truth is in our dreams, in the imagination. Each moment of our lives affirms this.”
«Le réalisme, socialiste ou pas, est en deçà de la réalité. Il la rétrécit, l’atténue, la fausse, il ne tient pas compte de nos vérités et obsessions fondamentales: l’amour, la mort, l’étonnement. Il présente l’homme dans une perspective réduite, aliénée ; notre vérité est dans nos rêves, dans l’imagination; tout, à chaque instant, confirme cette affirmation.»
Logical Positivists of the 20th Century started by rejecting religious texts as meaningless abstraction with no foundation in fact. I’m with them all the way.
But this movement progressed into a species of physicalism that asserts the reality of physical particles and their motions through space and denies the validity of everything else. In particular, our sense of self, our conscious perceptions, our feelings are assumed to be correlates of nerve signals, or another way of looking at electrical activity in the brain, with no separate reality.
Many people who call themselves scientists believe this adamantly, and they are dissuaded by neither (1) their primary experience of being able to control their nervous activity and physical movement of their bodies through the action of pure thought, nor (2) the essential participation of the observer in creating reality that is forced upon us by quantum mechanics, nor (3) experiments in which Robert Jahn (explicitly) and many others (implicitly) demonstrate that what we call ‘thought’ can bias what is usually regarded as quantum randomness.
The frustrating thing is that this kind of thinking comes from people who identify as empiricists, and yet it is pure ideology, pure dogma. It is embraced at such a fundamental level that no observations, let alone reasoning, can shake the faith of ‘physical realists’.
For me, the startling message of 20th century science (QM and Ev Bio in particular) is that following the theory meticulously to its logical conclusions leads to paradox, with tantalizing pointers in the direction of mysticism.
— Josh Mitteldorf
14 September 2014
As if it were the last evening before a long, long journey:
You have the ticket in your pocket and finally everything is packed.
sense how all is in all, both its end and its beginning,
sense that here and now is both your departure and return
sense how death and life are as strong as wine inside you!
Yes, to be one with the night, one with yourself, with the candle’s flame
which looks you in the eye still, unfathomable and still,
one with the Aspen that trembles and whispers,
one with the crowds of flowers leaning out of darkness to listen
to something you had on your tongue but never said,
something you wouldn’t reveal even if you could.
And from within, it murmurs of purest happiness!
And the flame rises … It is as though the flowers crowded nearer,
nearer and nearer the light in a rainbow of shimmering points.
The Aspen trembles and plays, the evening red passes
and all that was inexpressible and distant is inexpressible and near.
I sing of the only thing that reconciles,
only of what is practical, for all alike.
15 September 2014
What will our children do in the morning
if they do not see us fly?
—Daniel Ladinsky, channeling Rumi
16 September 2014
Disassembling the invisible
has its own mathematics, different rules apply,
the process has its special calculus
because the unseen is huge and impudent,
powerful and odd
When we were dumb and ignorant
the spirit wind would startle us, would frighten us,
shatter shelters, split the sky with light
—unseen, but real, we called it God
The invisible has popular cachet,
being as it is among us
in the interstices of the known
It seeps through everything
It colors the fabric of our thoughts
as ultraviolet works to build our bones
and ultrasonic whistles through the atmosphere
it fills the trellis of our oughts
persuading us we’re not alone.
— Jim Culleny
17 September 2014
We are the outliers
Western (esp American) psychological researchers have long studied ‘us’, presuming they were
studying human nature. Turns out that a lot of what we thought was human nature is really very culturally relative.
Nothing underscores this more than when they started doing fMRIs, and realized that the way our brains are wired is a response to culture.
In the end they titled their paper “The Weirdest People in the World?”.
By “weird” they meant both unusual and Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic.
It is not just our Western habits and cultural preferences that are different from the rest of the world,
it appears. The very way we think about ourselves and others—and even the way we perceive reality—makes us
distinct from other humans on the planet, not to mention from the vast majority of our ancestors.
Among Westerners, the data showed that Americans were often the most unusual, leading the researchers to conclude that “American participants
are exceptional even within the unusual population of Westerners—outliers among outliers.”
“Language fits over experience like a straitjacket.”
— William Golding, born this day in 1911
19 September 2014
The pull is so strong we will not believe
the drawing tide is meant for us,
I mean the gift, the sea,
the place where all the rivers meet.
Easy to forget,
how the great receiving depth
untamed by what we need
needs only what will flow its way.
Easy to feel so far away
and the body so old
it might not even stand the touch.
But what would that be like
feeling the tide rise
out of the numbness inside
toward the place to which we go
washing over our worries of money,
the illusion of being ahead,
the grief of being behind,
our limbs young
rising from such a depth?
What would that be like
even in this century
driving toward work with the others,
moving down the roads
among the thousands swimming upstream,
as if growing toward arrival,
feeling the currents of the great desire,
carrying time toward tomorrow?
Tomorrow seen today, for itself,
the sea where all the rivers meet, unbound,
unbroken for a thousand miles, the surface
of a great silence, the movement of a moment
left completely to itself, to find ourselves adrift,
safe in our unknowing, our very own,
our great tide, our great receiving, our
wordless, fiery, unspoken,
hardly remembered, gift of true longing.
— David Whyte
20 September 2014
Photo and poem courtesy of Joe Riley’s Panhala, which has lost its web host and is available only via
Relating 4 great scientific mysteries
This week, I was visited with an idea that may seed my scientific activities for many years to come.
Three of the biggest mysteries in science are
1. “The Measurement Problem” Quantum mechanics has a truly weird property that the world is made not of energy or matter but of probability waves that go about their business, projecting themselves from one moment into the next according to known equations...except when a measurement is made, suddenly the probability waves crystalize into a single instance, one possibility is chosen among many. That instantly changes all probability waves everywhere, but once you turn your back, they go back to following the same smooth equations.
So what does it mean to make a measurement? And how can our physics expand its scope to encompass the measurement apparatus as well as the probability wave?
2. “The Mind/Body Problem” aka “The Hard Problem” Just by thinking about it, I can control neurons in my head. Of course, the neurons in my head can control motions of my body, which may move other objects as well, and on and on. But what is the relationship between my will (or my consciousness, if you will) and the protoplasm that comprises my brain?
3. “Evolvability” Darwin’s theory gives us a framework for understanding how living things acquire capabilities and become more complex, but many of us find it baffling just how efficient evolution has managed to be. In this space, I’m fond of recounting biological wonders, and maybe you’ve got some favorites of your own. Creationists speak of “irreducible complexity”, meaning that there are systems that work marvelously well that consist of many interrelated parts, and each of the parts has no survival value on its own. The origin of life itself may be the clearest example of such an evolutionary leap. It strains credibility to think that complex systems could have appeared as random mutations. The creationists have a point (though I don’t think they have a resolution).
My insight this week is that maybe these three great mysteries are related. Maybe life has found ways to harness quantum mechanics that physicists have not yet dreamed of. Maybe the measurement process that plays such an enigmatic role in QM is an essentially biological function.
There’s a fourth mystery as well that may be related:
4. “The Arrow of Time” Past causes future. Things spontaneously spread out and mix, but don’t spontaneously separate themselves out or collect themselves together. The fudamental physical laws that govern particles are innocent of any direction of time*, and yet our everyday world, which we presume to be governed by those laws, has a clear direction of progression, and is never seen to go backward.
* This is true in QM as well as in classical mechanics, with a caveat. The equations that govern the probability wave work forwards or backwards in exactly the same way. But the rule about what happens when a measurement takes place is always interpreted in one direction only. Perhaps this is a hint that quantum measurement is related to the arrow of time.
— Josh Mitteldorf
From one stage of our being to the next
We pass unconscious o'er a slender bridge,
The momentary work of unseen hands,
Which crumbles down behind us; looking back,
We see the other shore, the gulf between,
And, marvelling how we won to where we stand,
Content ourselves to call the builder Chance. —James Russell Lowell
21 September 2014
Listen to Martha Argerich play the third movement of Sonatine by Ravel.
22 September 2014
O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live
That nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest—
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:—
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise;
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings;
Blank misgivings of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realized,
High instincts before which our mortal Nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never:
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
Hence in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.
23 September 2014
Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he isn’t. A sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is.