It’s no surprise to anyone anymore that economics-driven enterprises worldwide have sold our long-term health for short-term gains. From a ravaged environment and a decimated biome, to toxic Franken-foods and economic injustices of all kinds, it is hard not to see human beings as wildly short-sighted, insofar as so many of our largest acts are self-destructive.
There is a silver lining.
Of all of these things, one of them is fully within our own control, as individuals, regardless of external threats to our wellbeing, in the form of massive companies and disingenuous (corrupt) governments. …
Today, there is no shortage of crises to fret over. Global politics are fanning the flames of rising extremism and terrorism. A climate crisis not only risks displacing 1.2 billion humans, but is also fueling the planet’s sixth mass extinction. We’ve already destroyed half the life on Earth; and over 100,000 additional species are following suit, right now. COVID-19 is menacing the entire planet, resulting in two million deaths and four hundred million job losses, so far, while increasing.
Our health, safety and welfare are all being attacked. Psychologically, we have become increasingly addicted to toxic digital platforms, fueling record cases of depression and suicide. Corporeally, Rampant obesity sickening more than one third of the planet is being fed by a broken food system that is only getting bigger and more effective in profiting from our…
The Austrian satirist Karl Kraus once quipped, “I had a terrible vision: I saw an encyclopedia walk up to a polymath and open him up.”
It’s only funny because of what it reveals to be one of the greatest truths about our world.
The most consequential term in Western language is also quite possibly the most forgotten, and thus the least understood. Polymaths — people described mundanely as “having learned much” — are in fact anything but ordinary.
There are other terms we now use freely to describe what is meant by a polymath: jack of all trades; renaissance man; genius; generalist; amateur. While we use these terms to imply very different things from one another, they all have polymathic origins in common, describing those given to serious experimentation and reflection, with minimal bias and maximal curiosity, without regard to the prevailing state of things. They describe, above all, people with a specific interest in the intersection of things — that is, how one sphere of our world might relate to others, outside of itself. …
Each society and era seem to have their anointed bogeymen. You know, common enemies and objects of fear around which those in power can build chilling narratives, in order to focus and galvanize a people toward fulfilling a self-amplifying agenda.
To manipulate them.
In reality, no maligned person, group or ideology is ever truly as bad as our narrative authors would have us believe. That’s because tolerance and coolly detached rationalism aren’t great tinder for warmongering, policy-peddling, or consolidating a voting bloc. …
2020 is now in our rear-view mirror. It will take some time — perhaps most of this year — to unpack just what happened, and to clarify the lessons we can take away from what will assuredly be remembered as a pivotal year.
Whether you were on the losing side of the year’s global disruptions, or escaped it largely intact, but for inconveniences of the social kind, it remains nonetheless a year worthy of honest reflection and reappraisal — a “reset year”, as I wrote less than a month ago, for An Injustice!.
But beyond politics and the pandemic, itself; beyond jobs and the economy; beyond the future of cities and the Internet; there are life lessons about our own conduct we needn’t wait to internalize as we turn the page, and consider making resolutions, as we do every year. …
My brother used to joke, “Does the noise in my head bother you?” We laughed at this often, because the absurdity of the statement pointed to two truths: we all border at least a little bit, at times, on the insane; and the reason we do so is that the hardest thing of all to do is to quiet our minds.
That is, our minds constantly react to everything we do, or are considering doing, or have done in the past.
We are all judge, jury and executioner. Or, teacher, cheerleader and best friend.
Which of these triads we embody depends largely on the mindset we bring to our lives. …
All disempowering acts — from everyday unkindness to evil atrocities — come from one place and one place alone: pain.
Why not fear? Or anger? Or any of the other emotions we typically associate with lashing out at others, whether in self-defense or pre-emptive strike?
That’s because anger is an outward manifestation of fear, while fear itself exists as the result of past pain felt.
None of us is afraid, until we learn to be — until we experience physical or psychological pain.
While physical pain can be crippling, and when chronic, can fully take over one’s emotional wellbeing, emotional pain, per se, is the most pervasive cause of suffering, and has led to countless lives ruined or lost. …
The city’s origins were humble. It was all about food. Until 13,000 years ago, for all of human existence, we lived in Dunbar-sized groups of 100–150 stable members — people we knew and trusted; and we foraged and hunted for food, like every other animal.
The most famous words in Charles Dickens’ most famous work of historical fiction, A Tale of Two Cities — the best-selling novel of all time — could have been written today. In full, it is illuminating:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” …
Without struggle, there is no gain, or transformation. Without struggle, our actions cannot coalesce, to harness the future. Without struggle, life is bland, and rudderless. Without struggle, we remain unprepared to meet the day’s — or life’s — challenges, and whatever magic we may have inside of us, it remains bottled up, untapped.
Struggle is central to our life force, and beauty. Without it, the world is a dull gray.
And yet: most of us are given to naturally avoiding struggle; or worse, spending our lives in an attempt to vanquish it, in search of peace, and ease.
Just look at all the useless sh*t we invent and buy in order to make life easier. …