The belief that suffering is necessary for economic utility
The central ideological support for the work ethic is that remuneration be tied to suffering. Everywhere one looks, there is a drive to make people suffer before they can receive
the simple means to survive
In the 1930s, it was obvious to all that the Western economy was headed toward less compensated work, more security, more fulfilling and creating activities. It
never materialized. Why?
Keynes famously argued for the same outcome, calculating that by 2030 we would all be working fifteen-hour working weeks—though it is less well known that he was simply verbalizing
what were the broadly held beliefs of the time. And Marx made the shortening of the working week central to his entire postcapitalist vision, arguing that it represented a “basic
prerequisite” to reaching “the realm of freedom.”
Changing the cultural consensus about the work ethic will mean taking actions at an everyday level, translating these medium-term goals into slogans, memes, and chants. It will
require undertaking the difficult and essential work of workplace organizing and campaigning—of mobilizing people’s passions in order to topple the dominance of the work ethic.
— read more from Nick Srnicek & Alex Williams,
Inventing the Future: Post-capitalism and a world without work
1 December 2015
William James knew about mystical connections that
today’s scientists are forbidden to mention
Out of my experience, such as it is (and it is limited enough) one fixed conclusion dogmatically emerges, and that is this, that we
with our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest. The maple and the pine may whisper to each other with their
But the trees also commingle their roots in the darkness underground, and the islands also hang together through the ocean’s
bottom. Just so there is a continuum of cosmic consciousness, against which our individuality builds but accidental fences, and into
which our several minds plunge as into a mother-sea or reservoir.
— William James
2 December 2015
The Waiting Place
for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That's not for you!
Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
— Dr Seuss
3 December 2015
All things worthwhile are difficult
Whoever looks seriously will find that neither for death, which is difficult, nor for difficult love has any clarification, any solution, any hint of a path been perceived; and for both these tasks, which we carry wrapped up and hand, on without opening, there is no general, agreed-upon rule that can be discovered. But in the same measure in which we begin to test life as individuals, these great Things will come to meet us, the individuals, with greater intimacy. The claims that the difficult work of love makes upon our development are greater than life, and we, as beginners, are not equal to them. But if we nevertheless endure and take this love upon us as burden and apprenticeship, instead of losing ourselves in the whole easy and frivolous game behind which people have hidden from the most solemn solemnity of their being, then a small advance and a lightening will perhaps be perceptible to those who come long after us. That would be much.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, born this day in 1875
4 December 2015
Listen to music of Czech romantic Vitezslav Novak, born this day in 1870.
5 December 2015
We can wonder where our physical universe comes from—in fact, how can we not wonder? But if we look within physics for an answer, we are looking in the wrong place. Physics can only tell us about what happens in space and time, and if we want an antecedent reason, an explanation for why space and time came into existence, it makes no sense to look within space and time.
One thing that is clear is that if we are looking for a cause, but not a preceding cause, we must give up our deep habit of thinking that identifies cause with “before” and effect with “after”. If there is to be any understading of why the Big Bang happened (why space and time exist), then the answer must come from outside space and time.
The anwer I am drawn to is that consciousness (or “life” or “naked awareness” or “soul” or “spirit”) created space and time for its
playground—for OUR playground.
This is an answer that sets off our alarm bells for un-scientific mumbo-jumbo, for superstition or religious dogma. And indeed we may find allegories for this kind of cosmology in many of the mythical, pagan or religious accounts of the origin of the world.
But physics has no answer to offer us. On this question, physics has spoken, and the equations clearly trace back to an instant of creation, and about anything apart from space-time (not “before”, not “outside”, just “apart), they tell us clearly that they have nothing to tell us.
There are, however, three hints, right from physics, that consciousness may be the right place to look for an origin of physical reality.
- First is the coincidence of physical constants, called the Anthropic Principle and explained in detail in Martin Rees’s book and this video, explored more broadly by Paul Davies in this book. The point is that the “recipe” for our universe contains physical laws and some numbers that tell how big things are and how strong the various forces are. It has been noted that if these laws had been just a little bit different in any way, life would be impossible. Not just “life as we know it”—the universe would be an extraordinarily dull place in one way or another.
- Second is the hint from quantum mechanics that the observer co-creates reality. It took 40 years after the inception of quantum theory for physicists finally to reconcile to the fact that subjectivity is an essential feature of quantum theory. Reality “comes into existence” as it is observed, based on pre-existing probabilities (wave functions) but also on the choices made by the observer (“the measurement problem”). Read more here and here. Various physicists and philoeophers disagree about what constitutes a “measurement” but it seems compelling to me that a measurement has to be something outside the nuts and bolts of physics, something like conscious perception.
- Third is that our awareness is primary, and everything else is constructed from the senses. If we are being logical (and very honest), we must ascribe primary existence to our consciousness, and regard physical reality is a conceptual construct with which we order our sense experiences. My favorite source on this subject is here.
For more than a century, the advocates of “physicalism”—the claim that particles and energies in space-time are all that exists—have claimed the high ground in philosophy, because (they claimed) they have objectivity of science behind them. But the science on which they have built their philosophy is 19th Century science. If you follow 20th Century science to its logical end, it deposits you on the threshold of mysticism.
— Josh Mitteldorf
6 December 2015
Instructions for Life as a Human
1. Assume bodily form.
2. Assume existence.
3. Learn to feel.
4. Learn to play.
5. Begin to speak.
6. Begin to understand.
7. Become conscious.
8. Become self-conscious.
9. Fear uniqueness.
10. Seek commonality.
11. Learn to speak.
12. Learn to be understood.
13. Begin to see.
14. Begin to correlate.
15. Fear commonality.
16. Seek uniqueness.
17. Find love/faith.
18. Lose love/faith.
19. Undergo crisis.
20. Overdo reaction.
23. Repeat steps 3-6.
24. Relinquish vanity.
25. Accept modesty.
26. Harbor grandiosity.
27. Present equilibrium.
28. Repeat steps 17-22.
29. Fear life.
30. Seek death.
31. Repeat steps 19-22.
32. Remember having played.
33. Remember having felt.
34. Remember having seen.
35. Remember having understood.
36. Repeat step 23.
37. Learn to teach.
38. Fear death.
39. Seek life.
— Timothy McSweeney
7 December 2015
In praise of the fabled ESOP
David Ellerman has for years made an argument as startling as it is hard to refute: “the labor theory of property.” It’s that employees should own the firms they work for because
of very simple logic: If they’re responsible for the consequences of their actions while on the job — committing a crime, say — how can it be that they’re not responsible for the
positive things they do, such as making money?
Ellerman’s writing on “the labor theory of property” has mostly been for a technical audience. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind trying to make his argument in a more popular way for
the Making Sen$e page.
— Read Ellerman’s response (at PBS News Hour)
8 December 2015
“I will not deny but that the best apology against false accusers is silence and sufferance, and honest deeds set against dishonest words.”
— John Milton, blind poet, was born this day in 1608.
The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
9 December 2015
«Oraison» is a prayer
Listen to Oraison pour Thérémin of Olivier Messiaen (1937), born this day in 1908.
Imagine spending enough time with a theremin to have the exquisite sensitivity to make it beautiful.
Here is a lecture-demonstration by Pamelia Kurstin
about the history of the theremin, and how to play it.
10 December 2015
UTTER no whisper of thy human speech,
But in celestial silence let us tell
Of the great waves of God that through us swell,
Revealing what no tongue could ever teach;
Break not the omnipotent calm, even by a prayer,
Filled with Infinite, seek no lesser boon:
But with these pines, and with the all-loving moon,
Asking naught, yield thee to the Only Fair;
So shall these moments so divine and rare,
These passing moments of the soul’s high noon,
Be of thy day the first pale blush of morn;
Clad in white raiment of God’s newly born,
Thyself shalt see when the great world is made
That flows forever from a Love unstayed.
— Charles Anderson Dana
11 December 2015
The New Child who lives where I live
Gives one hand to me
And the other to everything that exists,
And so the three of us go along whatever road we find,
Leaping and singing and laughing
And enjoying our shared secret
Of knowing that in all the world
There is no mystery
And that everything is worthwhile.
— Fernando Pessoa,
(fr collected poems, “A Little Larger than the Entire Universe”)
12 December 2015
Cogito ergo sum
Cessation of thinking is doom.
I am because I think,
who am I when I blink?
awareness perforce precedes thought,
doesn’t that mean that I ought
regard my cognition less real
this naked awareness I feel?
there’s something more firm than sensation,
I pursue it in my meditation?
who will I be when I’m dead,
my being depends on my head?
this body and brain serve me well,
perhaps they are only my shell,
the crux of all fear and all pain
defense of this flesh and this brain.
body may bid me preserve it,
I do not exist just to serve it.
I must, if I want to be whole,
to integrate body and soul.
— Josh Mitteldorf
13 December 2015
I was listening to a child shed the last vestiges of submission. They cried of the inequalities, the invariances
of the system that flattened them into numbers. And on the cusp of desperation, I saw what was true, if the world
were not weighty, thorny and cruel? Where would the wine of our expression seep into the ground, the wide welcoming
ground, the accepting jewel of the Earth?
Our mistake is the belief that our task is to stand indomitable and fast. Our mistake is the insistence that we
will not be overwhelmed, that we must contain our Wine. Break the casket of Wine that is the essence of your breath!
Break the cask of wine that you protect so doggedly! This wine is not yours! You are not the vintner!
The flowing of your desperation over the cup of your secret places is not yours to manage.
You are the rent cloth of the Beloved’s wine press breaking open and leaking floods of the music of your heartstrings
in your quivering ecstasy. You are not meant to be whole! You are meant to be fully broken open and gushing your
essence into the unsafe, bewildering void.
— Sam Roberts
I am not this human cage. I am not this human reaching.
I am not this effort to gain security.
14 December 2015
Who is allowed to print money?
As the world economy grows, new money must be introduced each year to keep the wheels turning and avoid deflation. How are
those dollars introduced, and who is the first one to spend them? Since the
Fed Reserve Act of 1913, dollars are created by a consortium of US banks (that are now international banks). (
and no, this
is not the Constitutionally-mandated system of money creation.) Since the
Bretton Woods agreement of 1944, the US dollar has been the primary exchange vehicle for international trade.
This is a ginormous privatization of public wealth. The arrangement has worked well for the bankers, but less well for the rest of us.
The good news is that sovereign governments around the world are working to break the monopoly of the US dollar and the monopoly
of the banks. The most recent hero is Ecuador.
Ecuador doesn’t maintain the facade of an independent currency—they use US dollars directly. That’s what circulates
in Ecuador. With the tightening of US trade and the funneling of money into banks that has occurred since 2008, Ecuador’s economy
is suffering for lack of lubrication. The country needs more dollars.
This year, Ecuador has begun making its own dollars. They don’t actually print them—they don’t need to. In fact, the vast
majority of money created in the US is created as ledger entries in banks, without need for physical dollar bills. The government of
Ecuador has become the first public entity in the world to do what private banks have done for a century: they are creating ledger entries
that are exchangable one-for-one with US dollars.
read more from Ellen Brown at Truthdig
15 December 2015
Happy Birthday, Ludwig
There is no such thing as “the unknown Beethoven”. Perhaps I can’t introduce you to
Beethoven you’ve never heard before, but I can post a personal favorite, young Beethoven at his most playful.
Listen to Elena Kolesnichenko play the last movement,
Scherzo from Sonata #10 in G.
16 December 2015
Still fighting, 200 years after the enemy’s defeat
“We’re still recovering from the enlightenment. In the 1600s, Newton gave us a true description of the universe,
and science finally got out from under the thumb of the church. We won the war, but we forgot to stop fighting.
Science today is still suspicious of anything that looks mystical or smacks of religion.”
—Russell Targ (Interview by Kenneth Bok)
17 December 2015
What drives us
In the 1940s, the American psychologist Abraham Maslow developed the concept of a hierarchy of human needs. He started with the
most primitive and urgent demands, and ended with the most lofty and advanced. At the bottom of the pyramid are physical needs for survival, like food
and water. Next up is safety. Higher up is love and belonging, then self-esteem. The highest of Maslow’s proposed needs, self-actualization, is the
desire to get the most out of ourselves, to be the best we can be. I would suggest adding one more category at the very top of the pyramid, above even
self-actualization: imagination and exploration. Wasn’t that the need that propelled Marco Polo and Vasco da Gama and Einstein? The need to imagine
new possibilities, the need to reach out beyond ourselves and understand the world around us.
—Alan Lightman, writing for Harpers
18 December 2015
Fasting Augments Brainpower
Fasting and exercise both promote growth of new neurons. Ketones are good for neurons. BDNF increases, supporting growth of new
mitochondria, that provide energy for neurons.
—Mark Mattson of NIA at TEDx Baltimore
19 December 2015
— If you can come up with a Sunday Inispiration, I’ll Eat my Hat.
— Well, you can turn up the brim, because Baseball has never seen a team like the Magnificent Seven.
— I’m not convinced.
— That’s because when oysters are young, their pearls are very small. But you’ll see. Just wait six more years and
there will be no more doubt that you were right all along.
— I told you so!
— Did I say otherwise?
— You SAID that only a superior man could be trusted in this position, and that your niece…
— You’re not listening.
— You’re the one with big teeth, Grandmama.
— If I should ever say otherwise, bury me at Wounded Knee.
— Merrily we roll and butter.
20 December 2015
Psalm for the Psolstice
I’ve come at behest
of the night, as her guest,
I am succored, caressed
By the dark, in this nest.
I’ve been buffeted, stressed—
Now the night soothes me, lest
I forget I am blessed.
I’ll continue my quest
but not without rest.
When I have acquiesced,
It has been from suppressed
better not to contest
what’s forgone; I suggest
that’s why I’ve been depressed.
Now I shed and divest
All I’ve won or possessed
(‘Things’ were never my best.)
But I’ve often confessed
that without this bequest
I would not have progressed,
not divined that I’m blessed.
I would never have guessed
this elation, this zest
that was never addressed,
though alive in my breast,
was my true treasure chest,
my divine manifest—
By such boon to be blessed!
’Til my heart beats arrest,
while there’s breath in my chest,
this be my mortal quest:
To engage at the crest—
but not without rest.
All’s a jest, just a jest—
Nonetheless, I am blessed.
— Josh Mitteldorf
21 December 2015
Green Eggs & Ham
Robert Kapilow, born this day in 1952, is best known to us for his contagious love of music.
In addition to role as impressario, he is a serious composer in his own right.
Listen to Kapilow’s Grand opera.
22 December 2015
Gratitude to Old Teachers
When we stride or stroll across the frozen lake,
We place our feet where they have never been.
We walk upon the unwalked. But we are uneasy.
Who is down there but our old teachers?
Water that once could take no human weight—
We were students then—holds up our feet,
And goes on ahead of us for a mile.
Beneath us the teachers, and around us the stillness
Robert Bly is 89 years old today.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message larger than anything you’ve ever heard
23 December 2015
Playful teacher, fount of music and wordplay,
David Tasgal would have been 73 today.
Listen to his Nocturne for string orchestra.
24 December 2015
to the Hodie of Ralph Vaughan-Williams
25 December 2015
I prepare so that the spontaneous can happen.
— Nathan Alling Long
26 December 2015
To stay conscious and alive, day in and day out
This is what the real, no-bull- value of your liberal-arts education is supposed to be about: How to keep from going through your
comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default-setting of being uniquely,
completely, imperially alone, day in and day out.
If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is and who and what is really
important — if you want to operate on your default-setting — then you, like me, will not consider possibilities that aren't pointless and
annoying. But if you've really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be
within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same
force that lit the stars — compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things.
The really important kind of 7 freedom involves attention,
and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad
petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race” — the
constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.
It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in
and day out.
— David Foster Wallace
Read the whole commencement speech or
Watch and listen
28 December 2015
Objects close to the eye shut out much larger objects on the horizon; and splendors born only of the earth eclipse the stars.
So a man sometimes covers up the entire disk of eternity with a dollar, and quenches transcendent glories with a little shining dust.
Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.
— Edwin Hubbell Chapin, born this day in 1814
29 December 2015
Everyone has a right to live
The Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) is back in the news. The Finns are considering implementing it, as are the Swiss, replacing all means tested
benefits with a simple grant to every citizen, giving everyone enough money to survive. Unlike most current benefits programmes, it is not contingent on
being worthy or deserving or even poor. Everybody gets it, you, me, Rupert Murdoch, the homeless man sleeping under a bridge. Last seriously proposed by
Richard Nixon in 1969, more and more economists and bloggers aresuggesting that the Basic Income Guarantee may ultimately be the salvation of capitalism.
The BIG will eliminate poverty, lessen inequality, and vastly improve the lives of the most vulnerable among us. But that is not why we need it.
It may seem impractical, even utopian: but I am convinced the BIG will be instituted within the next few decades because it solves modern capitalism’s
most fundamental problem, lack of demand.
— Read more from Tom Streithorst
30 December 2015
We may be in the Universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries, seeing the books and hearing the conversation,
but having no inkling of the meaning of it all.
— William James (1908)
31 December 2015