As a lifelong Buddhist, I have often imagined the possibility of a robust, effective practice of Buddhist politics. I think there are some politicians who are Buddhist or who are sympathetic to a Buddhist world view, but if so, for the most part they are quiet about it. Even though Buddhism has been establishing itself in the Western world for more than seventy-five years, it would still be considered exotic by much of the ordinary voting public. To that point, I once went to a conference of encephalitis survivors, where a kindly, elderly woman from Ohio approached me after a … Read More
Longterm Future: Why Can’t Humans Plan?
I have been reading Justin Gregg’s If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal: What Animal Intelligence Reveals About Human Stupidity. Gregg is an expert on animal intelligence, especially dolphins, and he has a two-part thesis. First, animals are intelligent, particularly if you define intelligence as the ability to survive and prosper as a species. Second, human beings are intelligent too—in fact we excel at invention, deductive reasoning, and altering our environment—but, partly because of this inventiveness, we make drastic changes in our world without a focus on long-term consequences. This, Gregg explains, is called “prognostic myopia,” and it is a serious flaw; … Read More
Why Do I Feel Less Anxious?
It’s taken me a while to notice it. Perhaps I didn’t really acknowledge it until after the recent mid-term elections. But I’m definitely feeling less anxious than, say, 3 or 4 months ago. I’m sleeping better too. It’s a subtle thing; it’s not as though I was riddled with anxiety before. It was more like a gray mist that clouded my vision, or my mood. And now it’s mostly gone. I feel more like myself now, like the typically optimistic person that I usually am.
Part of it is the fading of Covid as a moment by moment concern. I … Read More
Death Is a fact
You may have read about it. NASA, in a test to see if we had the wherewithal to prevent an asteroid from crashing into earth and extinguishing all life, crashed a rocket into a small asteroid, Didymos. The test was successful. Didymos was nudged out of orbit. It was a small news story, swallowed by the headlines about war and politics, but to me it was quite significant. It was the first time I can remember that someone, some nation, did something to benefit not just themselves, but all humanity, indeed the entire planet. That’s really quite rare, it’s almost … Read More
The Things That Happened to Happen
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been reading William MacAskill’s What We Owe the Future. He is a Scottish moral philosopher who advocates “longterm-ism,” the moral framework that decisions we make today have tremendous consequences for future generations, and that those consequences should be deeply considered and taken into account. Almost in passing, MacAskill, in discussing the “contingencies of history,” mentions that in the early days of the United Nations there was serious discussion about having the UN take responsibility for the then-new atomic bomb technology. The idea was that all nations would surrender their bombs into … Read More
LongTerm-ism and Instant Gratification
A new book is trending among progressive altruists and tech donors: What We Owe the Future by Scottish moral philosopher William MacAskill. MacAskill preaches “long term-ism,” which in a nutshell proposes the moral position that decisions we make today should take into account the welfare not just of the current generation, but of generations to come. MacAskill actually attempts to calculate the future population of humanity under various scenarios. If the population grows exponentially as it has been, before too long there will be not billions, but trillions of human beings, all of whom will be affected by decisions we … Read More
Women Keeping Other Women’s Secrets
I have been thinking recently of a woman I knew well for several decades, a person of many accomplishments who is now no longer with us. She was an important influencer of other women, who sought her out and admired her. Most notably, though, she was a confidante to other women who shared their deep secrets with her, trusting that she would keep their secrets. And she did.
It is hard, even dangerous, to be such a woman. In my various careers as a business person, spiritual leader, and teacher, I have known several women who have played this role. … Read More
Is Overpopulation the Key to Everything?
The Dalai Lama has said, “There are too many precious human beings on this earth.” This statement, coming from a spiritual teacher with a high level of authority, ought to be emblazoned on the foreheads of everyone who is trying to solve the world’s many problems, but for some reason it is not. I don’t often see it mentioned in discussions of climate change, for example, as an obvious solution. Those discussions seem focused on political and technological fixes. I have read that some experts think that the ideal carrying capacity of planet earth is 500 million people—which was the … Read More
Cosmology and the Daily Grind
When I was a kid I used to love science fiction. Every summer my Dad would give me a list of great books he wanted me to read. Instead, I went to the local library and came home with an armload of Sci-Fi from classic authors like Robert Heinlein, Clifford Simak, and Theodore Sturgeon. I loved the way these works posited alternate realities and different universes, and created dramas amid spaceships, other planets, and other stars. When the first Star Wars movie came out, and everyone suddenly discovered the power of these spacious dreams, I wasn’t surprised. For me it … Read More
The Custom of Telling the Bees
I read that the Royal Beekeeper at Buckingham Palace told the bees in the beehives there that the Queen had died but that they had a new master who would take good care of them. The beekeeper apparently received some teasing in the Press, but it turns out that the practice of “telling the bees” about momentous occasions such as weddings, births, and deaths is an old custom, especially in England, but also throughout Europe. No one knows where or when the practice began; there is some speculation that it goes back to ancient Greece and the belief that bees … Read More