In a blog post on the bicyclist site The Spoke and Word, blogger JHCIACB writes, “I’ll say from the get-go that I think the idea of celebrity is among the most corrosive and destructive conditions in western culture.” I have had this feeling for some time. We have always had celebrity—think of the movie stars of the thirties and forties—but now, with the internet and social media, a pop performer or web influencer can have a following of tens of millions or more, much more. When the Youtube video “Gangnam Style” by Korean pop star Psy hit the webwaves a … Read More
Do you find the ordinary act of reading the daily news depressing? I do. Every article, it seems, is about some crisis, tragedy, war, death, torture and destruction. My friends will say, don’t be so sensitive, it’s always been that way. News people have an old saying: If it bleeds, it leads. I know all that, but I seem to remember a time—and I don’t think it’s a false Pollyanna memory—when the news wasn’t this bad, when there were also stories of uplift, inspiration, and heroic upstanding behavior. I have read that some psychologists who study these things say that … Read More
Recently I came across a NY Times article about the Dutch concept of niksen, which literally means “doing nothing.” Then I found this article on Big Think on the same subject. As a long-time practitioner and teacher of Buddhism and Zen meditation, this piqued my interest, since “doing nothing” sounds, superficially at least, like meditation. When I was younger I lived and practiced for 12 years in a Zen monastery and then in a residential Buddhist retreat center, where I spent several hours every day sitting on a meditation cushion, literally “doing nothing,” so I suppose I am well-versed in … Read More
I have been reflecting recently on the many inequities of medical care—both in this country and the world at large. America is supposed to have the most advanced medical care, and it does have some of the top-rated hospitals, but the reality is that whether or not someone receives top medical care depends on geography, income, insurance, race, and gender.
I am only alive today because at one time in my life when I was critically ill, I received medical care that would probably not be available to most people. Let’s start with geography. I live in the San Francisco … Read More
These days I keep coming across articles that paint a revised and very different picture of indigenous civilizations in America than the ones we are used to or have grown up with. This latest one has to do with horses. Apparently, for centuries it has been an article of faith and historical “fact” that indigenous Americans learned about horses—how to ride them, how to raise them—from the Spanish who settled the Southwest. Now, due to a combination of high-tech analysis of horse bones combined with actually listening to the oral histories still alive and present in today’s indigenous peoples, historians … Read More
According to a recent CNN article, 1 in 6 Americans have personally witnessed gun violence, and 1 in 5 Americans have someone in their family that has been a victim of gun violence. These are unbelievable statistics. If you include the fact that witnesses or victims of gun violence will talk to everyone they know about their experience, and add the fact that every school child in America has had to participate in active shooter drills, this means that every single American has been terrorized by a gun. It is as though some foreign entity has set terrorists into our … Read More
We live in a time of sadness, even despair. There are so many things wrong with our world, so many heartbreaks and tragedies, happening now and soon to be happening. Has it always been thus? Perhaps so, but what distinguishes our world from earlier times is that because of instant media and communication we know all about it, everywhere all over the world, probably way more than our poor primate brains can tolerate. I think this is one of the many curses of social media—sometimes it brings us more sadness and doubt than we can handle.
Let’s be honest: there … Read More
I read that the U.S. Department of the Interior is transferring a few bison to the ownership of various indigenous tribes in the Midwest, to form the nucleus of what may become sizable herds. In total, indigenous peoples now own or control about 20,000 bison—not an insignificant number, unless you remember that there were once 30 to 60 million bison on the North American continent. Before people came, bison were original indigenous American creatures. I stop for a minute and think: what was that like, to have that many huge animals roaming the Great Plains of what we now call … Read More
I have written before about the tendency of billionaires, especially male ones, to use their vast resources for projects that seem unrelated to the wider welfare of humanity. To be fair, I recently saw an article about a project that actually might be useful—creating high-energy transmission plants on the moon using minerals there and beaming that energy back to earth in a clean, non-polluting way.
It turns out this idea is not new; in fact it is fifty years old. Back in the 1970s Princeton physicist Gerald K. O’Neill proposed just such a scheme, but of course back then the … Read More
For those of you who have been living in a cave without computers or smartphones for the past year, “deepfakes” are videos that have been altered through software to show something that isn’t real or doesn’t really exist. And “chatbots” are a new technology that is taking the internet by storm, that allows software to write convincing text that seems like it is authored by a real person but isn’t. Deepfakes have been around for a while, and have been used politically to, for example, show Nancy Pelosi seeming to be drunkenly slurring her words. Chatbots are new—at least the … Read More