Today’s Inspirational Quote:
“My ability to remember song lyrics from the 80s far exceeds my ability to remember why I walked into the kitchen.”
— Author Unknown
Today’s Inspirational Quote:
“My ability to remember song lyrics from the 80s far exceeds my ability to remember why I walked into the kitchen.”
— Author Unknown
Did you know…
… that today is the birthday of Pate de Foie Gras aux Truffes? In 1784, Jean-Joseph Clause, a French pastry chef, received a patent for his pate de foie gras aux truffes. He went on to begin his own business specializing in supplying pate to the gentry. By 1827, Strasberg was known as the goose-liver capital of the world. Now aren’t you glad you know that? 😉
Seasoned Nuts Quotable
|“For millions of people, “wealth” amounts to little more than a few weeks’ wages in a checking account or low-interest savings account, a car, and a few pieces of furniture. The inescapable reality is this: wealth is so concentrated that a large segment of society is virtually unaware of its existence, so that some people imagine that it belongs to surreal or mysterious entities. That is why it is so essential to study capital and its distribution in a methodical, systematic way.”
“At the heart of every major political upheaval lies a fiscal revolution.”
– Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Available at your local public library)
This is the Brain Pickings midweek pick-me-up: Once a week, I plunge into my 12-year archive and choose something worth resurfacing and resavoring as timeless nourishment for heart, mind, and spirit. (If you don’t yet subscribe to the standard Sunday newsletter of new pieces published each week, you can sign up here – it’s free.) If you missed last week’s edition – how Bach will save your soul: German philosopher Josef Pieper on the hidden source of music’s supreme power – you can catch up right here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – over these twelve years, I have spent tens of thousands of hours and tremendous resources on Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going. If you already donate: THANK YOU.
“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?” Elizabeth Gilbert asked in framing her catalyst for creative magic. This is among life’s most abiding questions and the history of human creativity — our art and our poetry and most empathically all of our philosophy — is the history of attempts to answer it.
Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844–August 25, 1900), who believed that embracing difficulty is essential for a fulfilling life, considered the journey of self-discovery one of the greatest and most fertile existential difficulties. In 1873, as he was approaching his thirtieth birthday, Nietzsche addressed this perennial question of how we find ourselves and bring forth our gifts in a beautiful essay titled Schopenhauer as Educator (public library), part of his Untimely Meditations.
Nietzsche, translated here by Daniel Pellerin, writes:
Any human being who does not wish to be part of the masses need only stop making things easy for himself. Let him follow his conscience, which calls out to him: “Be yourself! All that you are now doing, thinking, desiring, all that is not you.”
Every young soul hears this call by day and by night and shudders with excitement at the premonition of that degree of happiness which eternities have prepared for those who will give thought to their true liberation. There is no way to help any soul attain this happiness, however, so long as it remains shackled with the chains of opinion and fear. And how hopeless and meaningless life can become without such a liberation! There is no drearier, sorrier creature in nature than the man who has evaded his own genius and who squints now towards the right, now towards the left, now backwards, now in any direction whatever.
Echoing Picasso’s proclamation that “to know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing,” Nietzsche considers the only true antidote to this existential dreariness:
No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life. There may be countless trails and bridges and demigods who would gladly carry you across; but only at the price of pawning and forgoing yourself. There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk!
But this path to finding ourselves, Nietzsche is careful to point out, is no light stroll:
How can man know himself? It is a dark, mysterious business: if a hare has seven skins, a man may skin himself seventy times seven times without being able to say, “Now that is truly you; that is no longer your outside.” It is also an agonizing, hazardous undertaking thus to dig into oneself, to climb down toughly and directly into the tunnels of one’s being. How easy it is thereby to give oneself such injuries as no doctor can heal. Moreover, why should it even be necessary given that everything bears witness to our being — our friendships and animosities, our glances and handshakes, our memories and all that we forget, our books as well as our pens. For the most important inquiry, however, there is a method. Let the young soul survey its own life with a view of the following question: “What have you truly loved thus far? What has ever uplifted your soul, what has dominated and delighted it at the same time?” Assemble these revered objects in a row before you and perhaps they will reveal a law by their nature and their order: the fundamental law of your very self. Compare these objects, see how they complement, enlarge, outdo, transfigure one another; how they form a ladder on whose steps you have been climbing up to yourself so far; for your true self does not lie buried deep within you, but rather rises immeasurably high above you, or at least above what you commonly take to be your I.
With this, Nietzsche turns to the true role of education in the excavation of this true self — something Parker Palmer addressed a century later in his beautiful meditation on education as a spiritual journey — and writes:
Your true educators and cultivators will reveal to you the original sense and basic stuff of your being, something that is not ultimately amenable to education or cultivation by anyone else, but that is always difficult to access, something bound and immobilized; your educators cannot go beyond being your liberators. And that is the secret of all true culture: she does not present us with artificial limbs, wax-noses, bespectacled eyes — for such gifts leave us merely with a sham image of education. She is liberation instead, pulling weeds, removing rubble, chasing away the pests that would gnaw at the tender roots and shoots of the plant; she is an effusion of light and warmth, a tender trickle of nightly rain…
In a sentiment that calls to mind David Foster Wallace’s superb commencement address on the true value of education, Nietzsche concludes:
There may be other methods for finding oneself, for waking up to oneself out of the anesthesia in which we are commonly enshrouded as if in a gloomy cloud — but I know of none better than that of reflecting upon one’s educators and cultivators.
Complement the altogether fantastic Schopenhauer as Educator with Nietzsche on the power of music and his ten rules for writers, then revisit Florence King on how to find yourself and Parker Palmer on how to let your life speak.
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Ethical Alliance Daily News
Netherlands: Dutch shell firms used to pay millions in Brazilian bribes
Feb 27, 2019 08:00 pm
Brazil: Jailed former Rio governor admits he received bribes
Feb 27, 2019 07:00 pm
United States: Closing arguments begin in Long Island corruption retrial
Feb 27, 2019 06:30 pm
World: Tanzanian referee banned for life by Fifa for taking bribes
Feb 27, 2019 06:00 pm
Ukraine: Ukraine leader’s associate quits in corruption probe ahead of vote
Feb 27, 2019 05:30 pm
“The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.”
— Rabindranath Tagore
Did you know…
… that today is the birthday of the Mardi Gras in New Orleans? The first Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans was held in 1827. The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple (symbolic of justice), green (symbolic of faith) and gold (symbolic of power). Can’t make it to Mardi Gras? Celebrate by having your own party!
|“In the most dysfunctional organizations, signaling that work is being done becomes a better strategy for career advancement than actually doing work (if this describes your company, you should quit now).”
– Peter Thiel
“Any idiot can face a crisis; it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.”
– Anton Chekhov
When a person avoids backbiting and thinks more of the good points in others than of their bad points, and when he can practise supreme tolerance, and desires the good of others even at the cost of his own self, he is ready to receive the grace of the Master.
——- AVATAR MEHER BABA
[From:- DISCOURSES by Meher Baba. Copyright ©1967 by Adi K. Irani, King’s Rd., Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, India]
“Adopt the pace of Nature. Her secret is patience.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Did you know…
… that today is the birthday of the Grand Teton National Park? In 1929, President Coolidge signed the Act that created the Grand Teton National Park. Trivia buffs: The park encompasses approximately 310,000 acres of wilderness, approximately 100 miles of paved roads and nearly 200 miles of trails for hikers to enjoy. Celebrate by getting out in nature today!
When the body tires
but the brain keeps going,
like the end of day
and the eternal winding of the clock.
When I recognise you but
not what you are saying,
your words form foreign syllables
bubbling up from an unknown source.
Morning Briefing (12 Min Reading Time)
Top news & stories of the startup ecosystem from India & around the world
OYO — India’s hospitality posterchild — has been going from strength-to-strength with its international forays, the latest one being Japan, and Saudi Arabia, which were announced last week. Close on the tail of these expansions, news emerged of OYO eyeing a completely new vertical — Food.
Spotify fans in India will need to wait a bit longer as the popular Swedish music streaming company has run into trouble with Warner Music Group (WMG), which has filed an injunction against Spotify in an Indian court after licensing negotiations fell apart.
Bengaluru-based food delivery unicorn Swiggy has been on a roll since 2018 — joining unicorn club, billion dollar funding round, and new partnerships and product expansions. After announcing its hyperlocal service, Swiggy Stores, last week, Swiggy is now looking to enter the ready to cook market.
A rather straightforward advice of Ma’s stuck with Odisha-based entrepreneur Ananda Mishra, the founder of a hyperlocal delivery startup Grozip which facilitates B2B and B2C deliveries in Tier 2 & 3 cities of India. Want to know what was the advice and more about Grozip? Click here…
2016 marked the launch of DigitalOcean’s India datacenter, its 12th globally ‘Hatch’ is DigitalOcean’s global startup program designed to support businesses as they launch and scale . More than 2,000 startups globally have benefitted from the Hatch program. The programme enables startups to quickly and easily iterate the concepts and ideas that they have on the cloud before going on to build full-fledged products and long-term companies.
Three people were killed when an Amazon Prime Air-branded cargo flight crashed near Houston, Texas, on Saturday afternoon. The Boeing 767-375ER, owned and flown by cargo outfit Atlas Air as flight number 5Y3591, is said to have entered an unexpected nosedive from around 6,000ft while on a scheduled cargo run between Miami Airport and Houston George Bush International.
Britain’s competition regulator cannot take a decision on whether to investigate Facebook’s role in advertising and data until it has better clarity on the timing of Brexit.
More Passwordless Logins Are Coming To Android (TechCrunch)
The FIDO Alliance and Google announced that Android with the latest version of the Google Play Services, is now FIDO2 certified. It will enable developers to write apps that use a phone’s fingerprint scanner or a FIDO security key to authenticate users without making them type in a password.
The Maker of AK-47 Rifles Just Unveiled a “Suicide Drone”
“I think of it as democratizing smart bombs.”
How I wish I could order a Government that cares for Senior Citizens in India Online.
“With every act of self-care your authentic self gets stronger, and the critical, fearful mind gets weaker. Every act of self-care is a powerful declaration: I am on my side, I am on my side, each day I am more and more on my own side.”
— Susan Weiss Berry
Daily Capsule | 25th Feb
Why are Mondays so, well, universally despised? Garfield, the fat cat we all love, hates ’em. The day is synonymous with “Monday morning blues”. And umpteen songs classify it as a day of depression and melancholy. If you disbelieve, lend an ear to Monday, Monday by the Mamas & the Papas, Rainy Days and Mondays by the Carpenters, I Don’t Like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats, and Manic Monday by the Bangles.
To most of us, it’s a day we would put off for as long as possible. But think of Monday as a state of mind. It’s a day for new doors, new ideas, and new beginnings. Use it to set a killer tone for the rest of the week.
Inspired much? Now let’s go #Monslay. But if you need more inspiration, we suggest you sift through our stream of startup stories:
Stories you shouldn’t miss
Come morning, and it’s time to wait for the milkman. But, keeping tabs on the milkman, his routes, and deliveries isn’t easy for dairies. Enter Mr Milkman, which is helping streamline dairy operations with its SaaS platform. Founded by Samarth Setia, the Gurgaon-based startup lets dairies manage daily end-to-end operations, gather data, and track performance. Clearly, a “moo” in the right direction…
Admission time = paperwork. But NoPaperForms is changing the face of college admissions in India with its SaaS-based enrolment automation solution. The Delhi-based startup, founded by Naveen Goyal and Suraj Supra, cuts paper clutter and provides easy-to-customise-and-deploy enrolment solutions for unversities, colleges, schools, and students.
Local produce is scoring over imported options as awareness about food miles grows. Enter Nainital-based agritech startup Red Otter Farms, which cultivates local, fresh produce through soil-less, sustainable farming. One of the first few aquaponics commercial farms in India, the startup was founded by Anubhav Das and Srishti Mandaar.
Saleeh K and Mohammed Anees started freelancing as app developers to earn some extra bucks while studying computer engineering. Cut to six years later, and their startup, Kochi-based Appmaker, has clients from 35 countries, and aims to be Shopify for mcommerce. Appmaker allows you to create native apps for Android, iOS, and Windows phone, in seconds.
In India, milk is synonymous with good health. But every Indian knows that dairy is India is often tainted. Farm-to-table startup Happy Milk is using tech to milk demand for good, old-fashioned organic dairy products. The startup offers a range of organic dairy products, including milk, curd, ghee and paneer, sourced from cows fed on organic feed and in glass/clay packaging.
The lack of employment opportunities in smaller towns and cities often forces graduates to either move to IT hubs, or stay home and take up jobs that don’t match their skills. Reason enough for these former Wipro employees to bring jobs and business opportunities to smaller cities. NextWealth Entrepreneurs, founded by Sridhar Mitta, Anand Talwai, and Mythily Ramesh, is creating job opportunities in small cities by executing IT and BPO services at delivery centres run by local entrepreneurs.
Calling all healthtech startups! We’re organising an exclusive meetup with ecosystem experts & startups at the Dell India Small Business Solution Center to discuss opportunities, collaboration & scaling up. It’s restricted to just 12 attendees. Sign up here.
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“Life has knocked me down a few times. It showed me things I never wanted to see. I experienced sadness and failures. But one thing for sure, I always get up!”
— Author Unknown
Did you know…
… that today is Big Pig Day? In 1979, someone in Stamford, Texas, paid $42,500 for one pig (the highest price ever for a pig). Now that’s what I call pork! 😉
Love for God, love for fellow-beings, love for service and love of sacrifices; in short, love in any shape and form is the finest “give and take” in the world.
Ultimately, it is love that will bring about the much-desired universal leveling of human beings all over the world, without necessarily disturbing the inherent diversities of details about mankind.
——- AVATAR MEHER BABA
[From:- DISCOURSES by Meher Baba. Copyright ©1967 by Adi K. Irani, King’s Rd., Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, India]
We are a culture of explainers. You’ve met them and so have I—the people who think they’re more informed than the experts, always happy to share their thoughts with anyone who will listen. Such people sometimes were considered quirky, even endearing, because they meant well and were usually few and far between. However, “the public space is increasingly dominated by a loose assortment of poorly informed people,” writes Tom Nichols in his excellent book The Death of Expertise.
There is an intellectual Gresham’s Law emerging, as misinformation overtakes knowledge. But this isn’t really a new thing. The conflict between people who know and people who believe they know isn’t always so obvious, but as the gap between experts and the general citizenry grows, so too does the mistrust.
In some cases, ignorance has become hip. Consider the flat Earth movement, vaccines, or the raw milk craze of a few years ago. Rejecting the advice of experts has become a cultural symbol. Why listen to doctors about vaccines, or the Center for Disease Control about the hazards of raw milk? And don’t even get me started on the shape of the Earth.
The following essay was chosen as the winner of the Brooklyn Public Library’s 2019 Night of Philosophy Op-Ed Contest.
Ideals of greatness cut across the American political spectrum. Supporters of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and believers in Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” for instance, may find themselves at odds, but their differences lie in the vision of what constitutes greatness, not whether greatness itself is a worthy goal. In both cases — and in most any iteration of America’s idea of itself — it is.
The desire for greatness also unites the diverse philosophical camps of Western ethics. Aristotle called for practicing the highest virtue. Kant believed in an ethical rule so stringent not even he thought it was achievable by mortals. Bentham’s utilitarianism is about maximizing happiness. Marx sought the great world for all. Modern-day libertarians will stop at nothing to increase personal freedom and profit. These differences surely matter, but while the definition of greatness changes, greatness itself is sought by each in his own way.
Swimming against the tide of greatness is a counter-history of ethics embodied by schools of thought as diverse as Buddhism, Romanticism and psychoanalysis. It is by borrowing from D.W. Winnicott, an important figure in the development of psychoanalysis, that we get perhaps the best name for this other ethics: “the good-enough life.” In his book “Playing and Reality,” Winnicott wrote about what he called “the good-enough mother.” This mother is good enough not in the sense that she is adequate or average, but that she manages a difficult task: initiating the infant into a world in which he or she will feel both cared for and ready to deal with life’s endless frustrations. To fully become good enough is to grow up into a world that is itself good enough, that is as full of care and love as it is suffering and frustration.
How happy are Ageing absent!
Are you upset by how old they are?
Does it tear you apart to see the absent so senescent?
I cannot help but stop and look at the Anti-Ageing, odd omission.
Does the odd omission make you shiver?
One afternoon I said to myself,
“Why aren’t obvious omissions more nonfat?”
Obvious omissions are adipose. obvious omissions are superfatted,
obvious omissions are rounded, however.
How happy are yellow, polemical prefaces!
Down, down, down into the darkness of the polemical prefaces,
Gently they go – the old, the white-livered, the chickenhearted.
How happy are Life, little left!
Do little left make you shiver?
How happy is the Anti-Life been!
Does the been make you shiver?
“For to age is to live and to live is to age, and being anti-age is tantamount to being anti-life.” — Anne Kapf
welcome to this week’s edition of the brainpickings.org newsletter by Maria Popova. If you missed last week’s digest — Neil Gaiman’s stunning ode to the courage of speaking truth to power, Iris Murdoch on art as resistance, Melville’s electric love letters to Hawthorne — you can catch up right here. And if you are enjoying this labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – I spend innumerable hours and tremendous resources on it each week, and every little bit of support helps enormously. If you already donate: THANK YOU. (On a marginally related note, I wrote a book. If you enjoy Brain Pickings, you might enjoy it, too.)
“We made the world we’re living in and we have to make it over,” James Baldwin insisted in examining the building blocks of a juster future. “The present is not a potential past; it is the moment of choice and action,” Simone de Beauvoir wrote across the Atlantic as she was advancing the era’s other great human rights cause.
A century before Baldwin and De Beauvoir, Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817–May 6, 1862) explored this question of how the choices we make in the present liberate the future from the past and make the world over in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (public library) — his first book, published when he was only thirty-two, a disaffected public school teacher who had become one of the country’s most promising young writers with the stern yet generous guidance of his first and best editor, Margaret Fuller.
This was an era of immense cultural upheaval, in which the air of revolution was saturated with the urgencies of abolition and women’s emancipation. Ensconced in the woods of Concord, attuned to the elements that far predated and would far outlive the turmoils of the present — the trees, the rivers, the cycles of the seasons — Thoreau spent his days contemplating the most elemental questions of human existence and our civilizational conscience. It was with this widest possible perspective that he focused his precocious wisdom on the pressing issues of social change, using this long lever of insight to make the present a fulcrum for elevating the future.
Bedeviled by his disgust with slavery and the Mexican-American War, having just modeled for his country how to use civil disobedience to advance justice — a model that would come to influence Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. — he considers the tectonics of change on the scale of society and civilization:
As in geology, so in social institutions, we may discover the causes of all past change in the present invariable order of society. The greatest appreciable physical revolutions are the work of the light-footed air, the stealthy-paced water, and the subterranean fire… We are independent of the change we detect. The longer the lever the less perceptible its motion. It is the slowest pulsation which is the most vital. The hero then will know how to wait, as well as to make haste. All good abides with him who waiteth wisely.
If history teaches us one thing about the origins and originators of the greatest social change — an animating question in Figuring — it is that those who ignite the profoundest revolutions are themselves often blind to their own spark. Thoreau’s contemporary and kindred revolutionary spirit Elizabeth Barrett Browning would articulate this with stunning succinctness in her groundbreaking 1956 book-length poem Aurora Leigh:
The best men, doing their best,
Know peradventure least of what they do…
The young Thoreau channels this sentiment in his own lyrical prose, suspended as always between the buoyant and the melancholy:
A man is not his hope, nor his despair, nor yet his past deed. We know not yet what we have done, still less what we are doing. Wait till evening, and other parts of our day’s work will shine than we had thought at noon, and we shall discover the real purport of our toil. As when the farmer has reached the end of the furrow and looks back, he can tell best where the pressed earth shines most.
One of Thoreau’s most countercultural yet incisive points is that true social reform has little to do with politics, for genuine cultural change operates on cycles far longer and more invisible than the perpetual churning of immediacies with which the political state and the political conscience are occupied. Rather than dueling with petty surface facts, as politics is apt to, the true revolutionary and reformer dwells in humanity’s largest truths, aiming to transfigure the deepest strata of reality. In consonance with the need for a telescopic perspective, Thoreau writes:
To one who habitually endeavors to contemplate the true state of things, the political state can hardly be said to have any existence whatever. It is unreal, incredible, and insignificant to him, and for him to endeavor to extract the truth from such lean material is like making sugar from linen rags, when sugar-cane may be had. Generally speaking, the political news, whether domestic or foreign, might be written to-day for the next ten years, with sufficient accuracy. Most revolutions in society have not power to interest, still less alarm us; but tell me that our rivers are drying up, or the genus pine dying out in the country, and I might attend. Most events recorded in history are more remarkable than important, like eclipses of the sun and moon, by which all are attracted, but whose effects no one takes the trouble to calculate.
Change, Thoreau reminds us, begins when we finally choose to critically examine and then recalibrate the ill-serving codes and conventions handed down to us, often unquestioned, by the past and its power structures. It is essentially an act of the imagination first. Long before Ursula K. Le Guin asserted that “we will not be free if we do not imagine freedom,” Thoreau calls for imagining nobler alternatives to the dicta and mindsets we have inherited:
In my short experience of human life, the outward obstacles, if there were any such, have not been living men, but the institutions of the dead. It is grateful to make one’s way through this latest generation as through dewy grass. Men are as innocent as the morning to the unsuspicious… I love man-kind, but I hate the institutions of the dead un-kind. Men execute nothing so faithfully as the wills of the dead, to the last codicil and letter. They rule this world, and the living are but their executors.
A century before Hannah Arendt considered the most extreme and gruesome manifestation of this tendency in her classic treatise on the normalization of evil, informed by the Holocaust and its incomprehensible phenomenon of ordinary people “just following orders” to murder, Thoreau writes:
Herein is the tragedy; that men doing outrage to their proper natures, even those called wise and good, lend themselves to perform the office of inferior and brutal ones. Hence come war and slavery in; and what else may not come in by this opening? But certainly there are modes by which a man may put bread into his mouth which will not prejudice him as a companion and neighbor.
Most of our errors, Thoreau observes, stem not from being unwitting of the right choice but from being unwise in the willingness or unwillingness to choose it:
Men do not fail commonly for want of knowledge, but for want of prudence to give wisdom the preference. What we need to know in any case is very simple.
To unmoor ourselves from the burdens of the past, he reminds us, we must be engaged in an act of continual and conscious self-renewal:
All men are partially buried in the grave of custom, and of some we see only the crown of the head above ground. Better are the physically dead, for they more lively rot. Even virtue is no longer such if it be stagnant. A man’s life should be constantly as fresh as this river. It should be the same channel, but a new water every instant.
A century later, Bertrand Russell — himself a humanist of the highest order and a rare seer of elemental truth — would liken the optimal human existence to a river.
Couple this particular fragment of Thoreau’s abidingly insightful A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers — which also gave us his wisdom on the difference between an artisan, an artist, and a genius — with his contemporary Frederick Douglass on art as a tool of social change, then revisit Thoreau on nature as prayer, the myth of productivity, knowing vs. seeing, and defining your own success.
“Our world, and the worlds around and within it, is aflame with shades of brilliance we cannot fathom,” naturalist Sy Montgomery wrote in her lyrical reflection on what thirteen animals taught her about how to be a good creature. And yet, for millennia, we left this old, shimmering world unfathomed — for all but the last blink of our species’ history, non-human animals have been little more than a preying feast for the human body and fertile metaphors for the human mind. Not until Jane Goodall upended the conceit that we are the only tool-wielding animals, against enormous tides of resistance from the scientific establishment, did we slowly and reluctantly begin shunning the specter of Descartes, haunting us for centuries with the haughty dogma that we alone are in possession of minds, while other animals are mere automata — moving machines, governed by instinct alone. Our definitions of what it means to be human have always perched atop a constructed hierarchy of beings, casting the otherness of other creatures as inferior. And yet even Darwin, who radicalized our understanding of nature by demonstrating the evolutionary ladder of life, scribbled in the margins of a natural history book: “Never say higher or lower. Say more complicated.”
The beauty of that unfathomed complexity and its attendant cry for a new way of apprehending non-human animals are what Henry Beston (June 1, 1888–April 15, 1968) — one of the most lyrical nature writers our species has produced, and Rachel Carson’s greatest literary hero — examines a lovely passage from his 1928 classic The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod (public library).
In a chapter titled “Autumn, Oceans, Birds,” Beston writes:
No aspect of nature on this beach is more mysterious to me than the flights of these shorebird constellations. The constellation forms… in an instant of time, and in that same instant develops its own will. Birds which have been feeding yards away from each other, each one individually busy for his individual body’s sake, suddenly fuse into this new volition and, flying, rise as one, coast as one, tilt their dozen bodies as one, and as one wheel off on the course which the new group will has determined… By what means, by what methods of communication does this will so suffuse the living constellation that its dozen or more tiny brains know it and obey it in such an instancy of time? Are we to believe that these birds, all of them, are machina, as Descartes long ago insisted, mere mechanisms of flesh and bone so exquisitely alike that each cogwheel brain, encountering the same environmental forces, synchronously lets slip the same mechanic ratchet? or is there some psychic relation between these creatures?
From this constellating marvel bordering on magic, Beston wrests a poetic antidote to our anthropocentrism — part requiem for our misplaced millennia-old hubris, part prescient and largehearted invitation to regard the otherness of this living world as a sovereign splendor measured not against but alongside and apart from our own.
Nearly a century before the poet Mary Oliver insisted that “the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion [and] standing within this otherness — the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books — can re-dignify the worst-stung heart,” Beston writes:
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
Complement this fragment of The Outermost House— which also gave us Beston on how the beauty of night nourishes the human spirit — with poet Campbell McGrath’s stunning tribute to Jane Goodall’s revolutionary work and Christopher Hitchens on animal rights, then revisit Beston on seasonality and the human spirit, the limits of scientific knowledge, happiness, simplicity, and the sacredness of smallness, and his beautiful manifesto for relearning to be nurtured by nature.
The destruction of idols involves that of prejudices. Now, prejudices — organic fictions of a civilization — assure its duration, preserve its physiognomy. It must respect them: if not all of them, at least those which are its own and which, in the past, had the importance of a superstition, a rite. If a civilization entertains them as pure conventions, it will increasingly release itself from them without being able to replace them by its own means. And what if it has worshipped caprice, freedom, the individual? A high-class conformism, no more. Once it ceases to “conform,” caprice, freedom, and the individual will become a dead letter.
A minimum of unconsciousness is necessary if one wants to stay inside history. To act is one thing; to know one is acting is another. When lucidity invests the action, insinuates itself into it, action is undone and, with it, prejudice, whose function consists, precisely, in subordinating, in enslaving consciousness to action. The man* who unmasks his fictions renounces his own resources and, in a sense, himself. Consequently, he will accept other fictions which will deny him, since they will not have cropped up from his own depths. No man concerned with his equilibrium may exceed a certain degree of lucidity and analysis. How much more this applies to a civilization, which vacillates as soon as it exposes the errors which permitted its growth and its luster, as soon as it calls into question its own truths!
America stands before the world as an impetuous void, a fatality without substance. Nothing prepared her for hegemony; yet she tends toward it, not without a certain hesitation. Unlike the other nations which have had to pass through a series of humiliations and defeats, she has known till now only the sterility of an uninterrupted good fortune. If, in the future, everything should continue to go as well, her appearance on the scene will have been an accident without influence. Those who preside over her destiny, those who take her interests to heart, should prepare for bad times; in order to cease being a superficial monster, she requires an ordeal of major scope. Having lived, hitherto, outside hell, she is preparing to descend into it. If she seeks a destiny for herself, she will find it only on the ruins of all that was her raison d’etre.
The masking tape that bounds my feet to the ground,
To feel nothing but solidarity in its sound,
I fought for movement,
Waves and change,
To shake me from bonds,
Unlawful by mounds,
It all was allowed by the world that needs nothing from me.
Belonging to the sea,
Belonging to earth,
Belonging to the sea of ink,
All is to be of a life worth changes.
A voice to a void,
Blackness and might still strong —
I feel nothing but its compulsion,
To hold form,
To be unbroken.
To walk from being born to be one thing,
To run from a human destiny —
I hold my breath and bound into the sea,
A friend who would float me free.
To still have a place to go,
For a friend and same of who to think to breathe,
It was for the world wanted to me lean,
I have a mind and soul,
Late but there to have my claim —
Having to speak away my chains into a sea,
Absolving my emptied debt.
I would be of no claim,
Only to a life that I live with,
A strength of what absolved me,
With the voice that spoken for me,
I would be but the wave,
I would be but the sway that gave way.
The closest look yet at Chinese economic engagement in Africa
by Sam Parker
“How was your weekend?” the banker asked me.
“Very nice,” I said. “And yours?”
“Not long enough,” she said.
(so much mediocrity … so little time)
I looked around to see if anyone I knew might be watching. I thought maybe they staged it as a joke to watch the springs pop out of my head.
I understand not everyone enjoys their work. I understand small talk clichés.
But no one should complain about work to their customer or suggest to a customer that they’d like to be doing anything other than helping them. Ever. (customer = whoever makes it possible for you to eat)
Why does it happen?
I think it’s more a lack of preparation and thought than anything else.
If you lead a team of people, invest some time with them (involve them) and develop replacement statements for those small talk moments… statements that help everyone say something useful or thought-provoking rather than something a Gomo or D-grunt might say (what are Gomos and D-grunts?)
Then, remember to remind people often to use those replacement statements (the need for solid and ongoing reinforcement never … ever, ever, ever … ends). Other typical statements to avoid are below. See how many you’ve heard before.
If you lead only yourself, remember that you want more choices (more choices = more fun… and more choices come from better work and better results).
Never say these sad talk things and be sure not to post your countdown to the weekend on your Facebook, Twitter, or other outlet to the world. Unless of course, you’d prefer less choices (which isn’t the case because you’re likely a 212er or a Smover if you’ve read this far).
More sad talk to avoid with your customers…
I’m so ready for the weekend.
Thank God it’s Friday.
I’ve got a bad case of the Mondays.
Only a few more hours…
I’m ready for this day to be over.
Can’t wait to be off.
I’ll be better when my shift/ this day is over/ I get my coffee.
Hump Day! Only two days ’till Friday!
It’s too hot/ cold/ warm/ wet/ rainy/ sunny/ snowy.
And remember … no signs out for your customers that say other than something positive (unlike the sign to the right … an actual message seen by one of our team members at a place they frequent).
The picture above … I was posting something to Instagram and tagging the location. I chose InspireYourPeople.com and noticed the sad little place someone created on their own … another bad idea.