Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye - Concepts are nonexistent phenomena

Book Eight, Part Four:
Esoteric Instructions, A Detailed Presentation of the Process of Meditation in Vajrayana
by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye,
translated by Sarah Harding


Dharma Quote of the Week

Sutras, tantras, esoteric instructions, and experiences teach
The vital point of deathlessness, awakening without meditating:
How this body of karma fully ripening
Arises as a naturally pure awareness body.
Visualize the fully ripening karmic body as the deity's form
And meditate without fixation on it.
It is itself inseparable from mind.
No essence of mind is established,
So where is something that dies?
"Death" is just a concept.
The hosts of concepts are nonexistent phenomena of samsara and nirvana.

According to this and other statements, since one's own mind in essence has no real existence whatsoever, it was always unborn. Therefore the great natural liberation of deathlessness is attained. As for this body of fully ripening karma, since it is a conglomeration of inert matter, it is not a basis on which to attribute the designations of birth or death. In fact, the body even arises as a mere appearance of mind.

When one gains confidence in the realization that the mind is unborn and undying, then the body appears as the deity's form in mahamudra and one becomes bound to basic space without erring into the path of deluded appearance. By this kind of instruction one discovers the kaya of union in this lifetime. Even just hearing it can cause one to get enlightened in the intermediate state as the sambhogakaya of the victors. Of the Five Golden Dharmas, it is said to be like the ripened fruit. (p. 248)

--from The Treasury of Knowledge, Book Eight, Part Four: Esoteric Instructions, A Detailed Presentation of the Process of Meditation in Vajrayana by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye, translated by Sarah Harding, published by Snow Lion Publications

Esoteric Instructions • Now at 5O% off
(Good through January 21st).

TED Talks - Elizabeth Lesser: Take "the Other" to lunch

From the TEDxWomen conference in December. Nice idea - wouldn't it be great if members of Congress could do this, and actually listen to each other - maybe then they might work for the people and not themselves and their funders.

Nah, what silliness . . . .

About this talk

There's an angry divisive tension in the air that threatens to make modern politics impossible. Elizabeth Lesser explores the two sides of human nature within us (call them "the mystic" and "the warrior”) that can be harnessed to elevate the way we treat each other. She shares a simple way to begin real dialogue -- by going to lunch with someone who doesn't agree with you, and asking them three questions to find out what's really in their hearts.

About Elizabeth Lesser

For more than three decades, Elizabeth Lesser has worked with leading figures in the field of healing self and society.

Why you should listen to her:

Elizabeth Lesser is the co-founder of Omega Institute, the US’ largest lifelong learning center focusing on health, wellness, spirituality, creativity and social change. She’s the author of Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow and The Seeker’s Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure. For more than 30 years Lesser has worked with leading figures in the fields of healing—healing self and healing society.

For the past ten years, Lesser has spearheaded Omega’s popular Women and Power conferences, renowned gatherings featuring women leaders, authors, activists and artists from around the world. In 2008 she helped Oprah Winfrey produce a ten-week online seminar based on Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth, viewed by more than 2 million people worldwide. Since then, she has appeared several times on the Oprah Winfrey television show and webcasts, and is an ongoing host on Oprah’s Soul Series, a weekly radio show on Sirius/XM.

Ron Garret - The Quantum Conspiracy: What Popularizers of QM Don't Want You to Know

Excellent lecture - there is so much nonsense about quantum mechanics, especially in the spirituality worlds, but even in psychology. Ron Garret debunks some of the nonsense in this video presentation at Google.

Garret is primarily debunking the Copenhagen interpretation, which fewer and fewer physicists believe in anymore, but which non-physicists (think Deepak Chopra) continue to proclaim as the way the universe works (while misunderstanding the theory in profound ways).

Here is a brief explanation of the model (the link in the video description offers a more comprehensive explanation of the model).
Copenhagen Interpretation:

  • wave-particle duality is a manifestaion of quantum entities
Wave-particle duality does not mean that a photon or subatomic particle is both a wave and particle simultaneously, but that it could manifest either a wave or a particle aspect depending on circumstances.

Complementarity, uncertainty, and the statistical interpretation of Schrdinger's wave function were all related. Together they formed a logical interpretation of the physical meaning of quantum mechanics known as the "Copenhagen interpretation.

The Copenhagen Interpretation has three primary parts:

  • The wave function is a complete description of a wave/particle. Any information that cannot be derived from the wave function does not exist. For example, a wave is spread over a broad region, therefore does not have a specific location.

  • When a measurement of the wave/particle is made, its wave function collapses. In the case of momentum, a wave packet is made of many waves each with its own momentum value. Measurement reduced the wave packet to a single wave and a single momentum.

  • If two properties are related by an uncertainty relation, no measurement can simultaneously determine both properties to a precision greater than the uncertainty relation allows. So, if we measure a wave/particles position, its momentum becomes uncertain.
One of the unfortunate results of misunderstanding this model, which fell out of favor in the 1980s (despite being in common usage), is the false belief that nothing exists without a consciousness to observe it. This is the anthropic principle (and is actually a partial misinterpretation of Cophenhagen) and it is incredibly widespread in New Age beliefs, various integral spirituality groups, and in some variations of Buddhist doctrine (B Alan Wallace being a prime example).

And now, on with the show.
The Quantum Conspiracy: What Popularizers of QM Don't Want You to Know
Google Tech Talk
January 6, 2011

Presented by Ron Garret.


Richard Feynman once famously quipped that no one understands quantum mechanics, and popular accounts continue to promulgate the view that QM is an intractable mystery (probably because that helps to sell books). QM is certainly unintuitive, but the idea that no one understands it is far from the truth. In fact, QM is no more difficult to understand than relativity. The problem is that the vast majority of popular accounts of QM are simply flat-out wrong. They are based on the so-called Copenhagen interpretation of QM, which has been thoroughly discredited for decades. It turns out that if Copenhagen were true then it would be possible to communicate faster than light, and hence send signals backwards in time. This talk describes an alternative interpretation based on quantum information theory (QIT) which is consistent with current scientific knowledge. It turns out that there is a simple intuition that makes almost all quantum mysteries simply evaporate, and replaces them with an easily understood (albeit strange) insight: measurement and entanglement are the same physical phenomenon, and you don't really exist.

Slides are available here:

Link to the paper:

About the speaker:

Dr. Ron Garret was an AI and robotics researcher at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab for fifteen years before taking a year off to work at Google in June of 2000. He was the lead engineer on the first release of AdWords, and the original author of the Google Translation Console. Since leaving Google he has started a new career as an entrepreneur, angel investor and filmmaker. He has co-founded three startups, invested in a dozen others, and made a feature-length documentary about homelessness.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Free Support Group for those affected by the Tucson Tragedy

I know the therapists who are doing this - great people!

Free Support Group for those affected by the Tucson Tragedy

Saturday, January 29 · 9:30am - 11:00am
Location: Tucson Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy
2230 E. Speedway Blvd., Suite #140 * Tucson, AZ

Created By: Tucson Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy

More Info: The Tucson community was affected by the tragic incident on Saturday January 8, 2011. These support groups are intended to allow community members a safe place to share and support each other through this tough time. Each group is limited to 10 participants and are free of charge. Please help spread the the love by spreading the word.

Call to register: 520-318-4227

Please note that these are support groups facilitated by the staff at TCCP. They are not therapy groups.

Elissa Epel - The New Science of Stress and Stress Resilience

Learn how to build mental and physical resilience when managing the stress of everyday life. Series: "UCSF Mini Medical School for the Public" [1/2011] - Elissa Epel, PhD., UCSF Department of Psychiatry.

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Documentary - The Collective Evolution

Hmmmmm . . . . Interesting film.

‘The Collective Evolution’ is a documentary aimed at showing the current state of the world, why it needs to be changed, and how each and every one of us can play a role in changing it. The documentary addresses this need for change through five individual yet interrelated structures society has come to rely upon –finance, education, religion, entertainment/ media, and health/ food. Each of these structures is fully broken down to show viewers how they have come into place, and why their continued existence can no longer be supported. The documentary concludes by drawing attention to consciousness. Addressing who we truly are, what we have come on this planet to do, and most importantly how we can go about doing it.

David Carr - Marshall McLuhan: Media Savant

David Carr (who writes on business, culture and government) reviews a new biography of Marshall McLuhan (the media prophet) written by Douglas Coupland (the novelist and cultural critic). Looks like an interesting book - although Carr is NOT a McLuhan fan (he refers to Coupland as a "fanboy").

Marshall McLuhan: Media Savant

Published: January 6, 2011 Oh boy, yet another book about yet another modern thinker who suggests that “electronic inter­dependence” is the defining aspect of our time. All very ho-hum, except Marshall McLuhan, the subject of this book, figured it out 50 years before anybody ever updated his Facebook page or posted his whereabouts on Twitter.
Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!

MARSHALL MCLUHAN: You Know Nothing of My Work!
By Douglas Coupland
216 pp. Atlas & Company. $24

High-impact eccentric: Marshall McLuhan in 1966.

Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!” is an odd title for a weird book. Not weird bad, just weird in a way that makes you stop and think about what precisely the author, Douglas Coupland, is up to. Like the man it chronicles, Coupland’s book is full of unconventional angles, ricochets and resonances. Rather than offering a ­doorstop-size addition to the Great Man canon, it comes in at just over 200 pages that nonetheless sprawl and unfold to their own idiosyncratic rhythm.

This is the kind of book that will deliver major annoyance to academics who have made a career out of deconstructing McLuhan’s effort to define the modern media ecosystem. But to a reader interested in a little serious fun, a dip into someone we pretend to understand but don’t really know, “You Know Nothing of My Work!” is a welcome taunt. The book rewards by refusing to slip into the numbing vortex of academic discourse, taking a fizzy, pop-culture approach to explaining a deep thinker, one who ended up popularized almost in spite of himself.

The book will come in handy for those of us who parrot the phrase “The medium is the message” — the line that bore Mc­Luhan into public consciousness — without really understanding that the man who said it found the triumph of context over content to be profoundly depressing. Yes, we all know that McLuhan was a rock star, standing alongside Warhol and Leary in the ’60s pantheon (Time magazine ran a cover of him with the tag line “Canada’s Intellectual Comet”), but what in blazes was he talking about?

Coupland explains that it was Mc­Luhan’s ability to anticipate the homogenizing and dehumanizing effect of mass media when the phenomenon was in its infancy that made him remarkable. Both a prisoner and a product of academic life, McLuhan broke out because he recognized the toxic effects of media long before media became the air we all breathe. And he did it before there was any genuine understanding of how human beings process mediated information. As Coupland writes: “One must remember that Marshall arrived at these conclusions not by hanging around, say, NASA or I.B.M., but rather by studying arcane 16th-century Reformation pamphleteers, the writings of James Joyce, and Renaissance perspective drawings. He was a master of pattern recognition, the man who bangs a drum so large that it’s only beaten once every hundred years.”

Put less charitably, McLuhan was the clock that was spectacularly right once a century. What made him singular was not his precision — anybody who takes “Finnegans Wake” as an ur-text will probably have a low signal-to-noise ratio. In between the puns, the aphorisms, the digressive language that seemed to chase itself and riddle the reader, McLuhan came up with a theory of media generation and consumption so plastic and fungible that it describes the current age without breaking a sweat.

Coupland, who has written at length on and for the Internet, does not belabor just how McLuhan predicted a world that he did not live to see — he died in 1980 — but simply frames the language and lets the reader marvel retrospectively. After doing relatively straightforward content analysis of advertising in “The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man” in 1951, McLuhan began thinking about the systems that produced all that commercial rhetoric. And then beginning with “The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man” in 1962 and following up with “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” in 1964, McLuhan saw the dimensions of an emerging global village in which the means of communication began to define and overwhelm the conversation. When he wrote, “We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us,” he was describing a television and telecommunications revolution, but he was also setting out the implications of the consumer Web four decades before it blossomed. In the lexicon of McLuhan, the Web would be the ultimate “cool” medium defined by participation and a multiplicity of inputs. And he was far from romantic, even back then, about what that might mean for civil, thoughtful ­discourse.

“When people get close together, they get more and more savage, impatient with each other,” McLuhan said. “The global village is a place of very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.” Placing that in a more contemporary milieu, what happens now that everyone is a broadcaster? Ubiquitous, cheap technology (digital cameras) and a friction-free route to an audience (YouTube) means that people might broadcast images of their closeted gay roommate having sex, and that the unwitting star of their little network might subsequently, tragically, jump off a bridge.

In Coupland’s hands, McLuhan’s upbringing is a chatty, gossipy exercise, in which his encounters as a young academic with the thinking and writing of G. K. Chesterton, the English writer and so-called prince of paradox, are no more or less important than the fact that he spent endless hours arguing with (and trying to impress) a perpetually unsatisfied mother who taught elocution in the provinces of Canada. Born Herbert Marshall McLuhan in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1911, he attended the University of Manitoba, receiving a bachelor’s degree before heading off to Cambridge, where he studied under I. A. Richards and F. R. Leavis, and fell under the sway of the New Criticism. He then taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, before beginning a long series of teaching assignments at various Catholic universities, including St. Louis University and Assumption College, and ending up at St. Michael’s, a Catholic college of the University of Toronto. His growing renown eventually led to the establishment of the Center for Culture and Technology there, which would serve as his intellectual base camp.

Coupland argues persuasively that McLuhan thought differently because he was wired differently, with two arteries pumping blood to his brain. (A stroke that left him unable to speak is attributed in some aspects to this biological anomaly.) In what seems to be a bit of a trend, almost a narrative infection in biographies of high-impact eccentrics, McLuhan is also placed on the spectrum of autism, although given his sensitivity to loud noises, love of ritual, distaste for physical contact and general obliviousness, it is not much of a stretch.

McLuhan was a mash-up of remarkable incongruities: He loathed television, yet stared at it long enough to discern its ability to generate mass culture. He was more interested in Dagwood Bumstead and his deleterious effects on the modern American male than he was in the Second World War, even though he moved to England to study at Cambridge the day war was declared. He loved teaching but was oblique in the extreme and had little use for the thoughts of others unless they were written down at length and subjected to rigorous analysis. He was a paranoid scold who not only believed in hell with the fervor of a Catholic convert, but felt the world was quickly headed toward that fiery portal.

Coupland has no pretension to having written the definitive biography of Mc­Luhan. “You Know Nothing of My Work!” is a sketch of someone who coined a meme — “the global village” — rendered by another who did some coining of his own: Coupland wrote “Generation X.” The biography’s subtitle is a nod to just how misunderstood McLuhan was (he was frequently dismissed as an evangelist for rather than a chronicler of modern media) and a signal that the book is not about to take itself too seriously; it derives from a snatch of dialogue from a McLuhan cameo in “Annie Hall.”

Coupland, a Canadian who has his own struggles with noise and is something of a polymath (an accomplished designer and artist who is also a novelist, journalist and documentarian), sees himself as a kindred spirit and shares his subject’s taste for finding meaning in marginalia. The main text of the book is interrupted with found scraps from the Web, a test for autism and lists that may or may not illuminate the adjacent pages. I found some of this puzzling, but began to think that puzzling out what was in front of me was part of the conversation Coupland was trying to have with the reader, all through the prism of a biography of a man who loved puns and riddles.

In addition to his role as seer, Mc­Luhan was an undisputed crank, and as both fame and infirmity began to overtake him, he lapsed into parody that suggested he had grown intoxicated with his self-referential prose. For someone thought of as the first modern media savant, he was capable of incredibly archaic, hermetic thinking. In Coupland’s rendering, it was clear that McLuhan thought of women as accessories to men. He never took a side during World War II, and in his later years failed to understand there were revolutions taking place beyond media. In 1967, something of a golden age for black literature and a time of rising black consciousness, he wrote as if he were describing an alien life form: “The Negro is turned on by electricity. The old literacy never turned him on because it rejected and degraded the Negro, but electricity turns him on and accepts him totally as an integral human being.” Where to begin with that one?

Like many of McLuhan’s fanboys, Coupland acknowledges, but then looks past the quirks and wrinkles on the way to placing him in the pantheon, writing: “Had Marshall not been born, there would have been a hole in the world. There would have been a hole in the sky; a hole in heaven.”

Much of what McLuhan wrote and some of what Coupland relates are beyond my ken, but I don’t know about that “hole in heaven” stuff. It’s hyperbole, a passage written in purple, but there is something so good-natured in the telling, so unpretentious in its unalloyed admiration for an incredibly complicated thinker, that the reader will be inclined to let Coupland get away with it. McLuhan may not have approved — his taste in literature tended toward far more punishing tutorials — but no doubt he would have understood. “Art is anything you can get away with,” he wrote.

David Carr, the author of the memoir “The Night of the Gun,” is a culture reporter at The Times and writes the paper’s Media Equation column.

Upaya Dharma Podcasts - The Flow of Mindfulness and Compassion Series

Excellent 2-part teaching from Upaya Zen Center.

The Flow of Mindfulness and Compassion Series: All 2 Parts

Recorded: Sunday Dec 12, 2010

The 2 part The Flow of Mindfulness and Compassion Series is now published. You can access the desired part of the series by clicking on its link below:

Speaker: Sensei Beate Genko Stolte
Recorded: Sunday Nov 21, 2010

This retreat will be dedicated to the “Four Foundations of Mindfulness,” the fundamental Buddhist teaching for cultivating insight. The four foundations of mindfulness are very basic and profound Buddhist teachings. During these practice days we will study mindfulness through Buddhist texts, the practice of zazen (sitting meditation), kinhin (walking meditation), chanting services and one hour per day of samu (work practice). Dharma-talks and dokusan (private interviews) with Sensei Beate Genko Stolte. We will prepare a delicious “Thanksgiving Dinner” (with turkey) and will celebrate “Thanksgiving” with Upaya’s local sangha in the spirit of gratefulness, compassion and joy. Saturday, the 27th, the last full day of our practice and study days, we will have a daylong meditation. The writer and long time practitioner of Zen, Natalie Goldberg will join us for the day. Sensei Beate will give a dharma-talk in the afternoon. We will end on Sunday with a final council. This retreat is well suited for beginners and more advanced practitioners.

To access the entire series, please click on the link below:
The Flow of Mindfulness and Compassion Series: All 2 Parts

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Barack Obama's Speech in Tucson Last Night


Full text here -and here is the video for those (like me) who did not/could not see it last night. It was certainly one of his best speeches - as one commenter below noted, he matched and easily transcended the speeches given by Reagan (the Challenger disaster) and Clinton (Oklahoma City bombing).

Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish collected responses to Obama's speech, which is far as I can tell have been largely favorable, even from conservatives - here is what he posted earlier this morning.

Adam Serwer tweets:

This speech reminds me that the criticism I find most incomprehensible is the idea that the president does not love his country.


The standard comparisons of the past four days have been to Ronald Reagan after the Challenger disaster and Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City. [Yesterday's] speech matched those as a demonstration of "head of state" presence, and far exceeded them as oratory -- while being completely different in tone and nature. They, in retrospect, were mainly -- and effectively -- designed to note tragic loss. Obama turned this into a celebration -- of the people who were killed, of the values they lived by, and of the way their example could bring out the better in all of us and in our country.

First Read:

While Obama tried to uplift, Palin tried to settle scores. While the president called for more civility, the former Alaska governor talked about duels and 'blood libel.' And while Obama's message was, well, presidential, Palin's was not. We'll say this: If Palin has ambitions for the White House -- and we're still not sure she does -- then her tone, message, and timing from her eight-minute video was a serious miscalculation.

Amy Davidson:

We do need civility, and one hopes we get more of that, and less scorn. We also need politics. And true civility can be disruptive—it is not civil, for example, to abandon the unpopular or unfairly treated. There are times when smiling blandly is far more cynical than raising one’s voice would be—when politeness is uncivil—just as there are times when cheering at a memorial is a profound act of mourning.


Note the rhetorical move at the end: Civil rhetoric may be a virtue but that doesn’t mean it’s a lesson of the shooting. He’s obviously aiming this at the left, although naturally they’ll conclude that that can’t possibly be the case. Ace heard a different speech than I did, I guess, but for what it’s worth, this is playing remarkably well thus far among righties on Twitter: Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg, Jim Geraghty, Andy Levy, S.E. Cupp, Philip Klein, and Ace’s own co-bloggers Drew and Gabe all thought it was rock solid.

Jonathan Bernstein:

It's an easy speech because everyone watching wants the president to succeed. It's an easy speech because that's how representation works, at its best. He's not only Barack Obama speaking; he's speaking on behalf of the American people.

Noam Scheiber:

I found myself reacting well to the speech emotionally even if it didn’t always hang together for me intellectually. Still, by nodding at the ways the Tucson tragedy might nudge us toward self-improvement, then not following through, Obama’s otherwise eloquent speech left me a bit unsatisfied.

Josh Green:

My own impression is that he provided what had so far been missing from this tragedy: a response that dignified the memories of the victims and properly placed them at the forefront of public attention.

Ed Morrissey:

Some of my friends may criticize Obama for not defending Palin specifically, or for waiting until the memorial to have rebuked those attempting to exploit the deaths for political gain. On the first point, though, this was a memorial service and it wouldn’t have been appropriate to name other names than the dead, the wounded, and the heros who helped save lives. The second point may be germane criticism of the previous couple of days, but even if it came late, Obama stepped up and led last night.

David Brooks - Social Animal: How the new sciences of human nature can help make sense of a life

New York Times editorialist David Brooks has an article in the current issue of The New Yorker. He is waxing optimistic about how geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, and others are beginning to better understand the human mind, and offering:
a better grasp of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, predispositions, character traits, and social bonding, precisely those things about which our culture has least to say. Brain science helps fill the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy.
Brooks has been writing about these topics off an on over the years - he has even interviewed Antonio Damasio (and others, I assume) about the ways neuroscience can enlighten our understanding of human beings.

It's a long article, so here is a lengthy taste.

Social Animal

How the new sciences of human nature can help make sense of a life.

by David Brooks January 17, 2011

Researchers have made strides in understanding the human mind, filling the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy.

Researchers have made strides in understanding the human mind, filling the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy.

* * * * *

We are living in the middle of a revolution in consciousness. Over the past few decades, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, and others have made great strides in understanding the inner working of the human mind. Far from being dryly materialistic, their work illuminates the rich underwater world where character is formed and wisdom grows. They are giving us a better grasp of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, predispositions, character traits, and social bonding, precisely those things about which our culture has least to say. Brain science helps fill the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy.

A core finding of this work is that we are not primarily the products of our conscious thinking. The conscious mind gives us one way of making sense of our environment. But the unconscious mind gives us other, more supple ways. The cognitive revolution of the past thirty years provides a different perspective on our lives, one that emphasizes the relative importance of emotion over pure reason, social connections over individual choice, moral intuition over abstract logic, perceptiveness over I.Q. It allows us to tell a different sort of success story, an inner story to go along with the conventional surface one.

To give a sense of how this inner story goes, let’s consider a young member of the Composure Class, though of course the lessons apply to members of all classes. I’ll call him Harold. His inner-mind training began before birth. Even when he was in the womb, Harold was listening for his mother’s voice, and being molded by it. French babies cry differently from babies who’ve heard German in the womb, because they’ve absorbed French intonations before birth. Fetuses who have been read “The Cat in the Hat” while in the womb suck rhythmically when they hear it again after birth, because they recognize the rhythm of the poetry.

As a newborn, Harold, like all babies, was connecting with his mother. He gazed at her. He mimicked. His brain was wired by her love (the more a rat pup is licked and groomed by its mother, the more synaptic connections it has). Harold’s mother, in return, read his moods. A conversation developed between them, based on touch, gaze, smell, rhythm, and imitation. When Harold was about eleven months old, his mother realized that she knew him better than she’d ever known anybody, even though they’d never exchanged a word.

Harold soon developed models in his head of how to communicate with people and how to use others as tools for his own learning. Thanks to his mom’s attunement, he became confident that if he sent a signal it would be received. Later in life, his sense of security enabled him to go out and explore the world. Researchers at the University of Minnesota can look at attachment patterns of children at forty-two months, and predict with seventy-seven-per-cent accuracy who will graduate from high school. People who were securely attached as infants tend to have more friends at school and at summer camp. They tend to be more truthful through life, feeling less need to puff themselves up in others’ eyes. According to work by Pascal Vrticka, of the University of Geneva, people with what scientists call “avoidant attachment patterns” show less activation in the reward areas of the brain during social interaction. Men who had unhappy childhoods are three times as likely to be solitary at age seventy. Early experiences don’t determine a life, but they set pathways, which can be changed or reinforced by later experiences.

For several months when he was four, Harold insisted that he was a tiger who had been born on the sun. His parents tried to get him to concede that he was a little boy born in a hospital, but he would become grave and refuse. This formulation, “I’m a tiger,” may seem like an easy thing, but no computer could blend the complicated concept “I” with the complicated concept “tiger” into a single entity. As Harold grew, he was able to use his imagination to blend disparate ideas, in the same sort of way that Picasso, at the height of his creative powers, could combine the concept “Western portraiture” with the concept “African masks.”

Throughout his life, Harold had a superior ability to feel what others were feeling. He didn’t dazzle his teachers with academic brilliance, but, even in kindergarten, he could tell you who in his class was friends with whom; he was aware of social networks. Scientists used to think that we understand each other by observing each other and building hypotheses from the accumulated data. Now it seems more likely that we are, essentially, method actors who understand others by simulating the responses we see in them. When Harold was in high school, he could walk around the cafeteria and fall in with the unique social patterns that prevailed in each clique. He could tell which clique tolerated drug use or country-music listening and which didn’t. He could tell how many guys a girl could hook up with and not be stigmatized. In some groups, the number was three; in others seven. Most people assume that the groups they don’t belong to are more homogeneous than the groups they do belong to. Harold could see groups from the inside. When he sat down with, say, the Model U.N. kids, he could guess which one of them wanted to migrate from the Geeks and join the Honors/Athletes. He could sense who was the leader of any group, who was the jester, who played the role of peacemaker, daredevil, organizer, or self-effacing audience member.

One of Harold’s key skills in school was his ability to bond with teachers. We’ve spent a generation trying to reorganize schools to make them better, but the truth is that people learn from the people they love. In eleventh grade, Harold developed a crush on his history teacher, Ms. Taylor. What mattered most was not the substance of the course so much as the way she thought, the style of learning she fostered. For instance, Ms. Taylor constantly told the class how little she knew. Human beings are overconfidence machines. Paul J. H. Schoemaker and J. Edward Russo gave questionnaires to more than two thousand executives in order to measure how much they knew about their industries. Managers in the advertising industry gave answers that they were ninety-per-cent confident were correct. In fact, their answers were wrong sixty-one per cent of the time. People in the computer industry gave answers they thought had a ninety-five per cent chance of being right; in fact, eighty per cent of them were wrong. Ninety-nine per cent of the respondents overestimated their success.

Ms. Taylor was always reminding the class of how limited her grasp of any situation was. “Sorry, I get distracted easily,” she’d say, or, “Sorry, sometimes I jump to conclusions too quickly.” In this way, she communicated the distinction between mental strength (the processing power of the brain) and mental character (the mental virtues that lead to practical wisdom). She stressed the importance of collecting conflicting information before making up one’s mind, of calibrating one’s certainty level to the strength of the evidence, of enduring uncertainty for long stretches as an answer became clear, of correcting for one’s biases. As Keith E. Stanovich, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, writes in his book “What Intelligence Tests Miss” (2009), these “thinking dispositions” correlate weakly or not at all with I.Q. But, because Ms. Taylor put such emphasis on these virtues and because Harold admired her so much, he absorbed and copied her way of being.

By the time Harold was in his mid-twenties, he was well on his way toward a happy and fulfilling life, and the building blocks of his happiness had little to do with the lines on his résumé. There’s a debate in our culture about what really makes us happy, which is summarized by, on the one hand, the book “On the Road” and, on the other, the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The former celebrates the life of freedom and adventure. The latter celebrates roots and connections. Research over the past thirty years makes it clear that what the inner mind really wants is connection. “It’s a Wonderful Life” was right. Joining a group that meets just once a month produces the same increase in happiness as doubling your income. According to research by Daniel Kahneman, Alan B. Krueger, and others, the daily activities most closely associated with happiness are social—having sex, socializing after work, and having dinner with friends. Many of the professions that correlate most closely with happiness are also social—a corporate manager, a hairdresser.

Young American men are not exactly famous for being in touch with their emotions. But Harold sensed that he was a social animal, not a laboring animal or a rational animal, and one day he went on a blind date with the woman—let’s call her Erica—who would someday be his wife. Given the stakes, we might pause over this incident, to show in slightly more detail how the inner processes of the mind interact with the conscious ones.

Read the whole article.

Tucson Recovers - Upcoming Events

As Tucson and its people begin to recover from last week's tragic events, the community is coming together in various events - I will post some of them as I become aware of them - if you know of events that I have missed, please drop me a note.

There are still people gathering and leaving candles, prayers, pictures, offerings and tears at University Medical Center and at Gabriel Giffords' office. The above picture is from UMC.

In an effort to avoid negative impact on private funerals, the Tucson Memorial Project and Wingspan (the LGBT support and community group) have organized this first event - today at 12-2 pm.
Peace and Solidarity Gathering

If you don't want to fight traffic, parking, shuttles, and deal with crowds, there is an alternative venue that is gathering. We highly encourage that everyone considers attending alternate venues to alleviate the impact of the funeral on the community, area businesses, and residences. See below for more information. Thank you, and please spread the word.

Time: Thursday, January 13 · 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Location: Demeester Band Shell - Reid Park, Country Club and 22nd St.
Tucson, AZ

Created By: Wingspan

More Info: In collaboration with the "Angel Project," Wingspan AVP has organized a peace and solidarity gathering for community members to come together and promote non-violence and healing.

Please join friends and neighbors as we challenge acts of violence with kindness and community.

Bring messages of hope and well wishes to the families of those affected by this week's tragedy.

Gain strength and mend hearts through kinship.

If you are interested in helping with the event as a peacekeeper, please contact Oscar Jimenez at
For the Buddhist community here (and anyone else who like to attend), which is quite large and diverse, the Tucson Shambhala Meditation Group is offering a tonglen and loving-kindness event on Saturday.
Tonglen & Loving-Kindness Practice Opportunity For Sangha and Friends

When: Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 10:00 A.M.

Tucson Shambhala Meditation Group would like to invite everyone who is interested to gather at the Center this coming Saturday at 10:00 a.m. for the opportunity to practice tonglen and loving-kindness together for all those people involved with and connected to this week's sad events in our city.

There will also be a chance to practice tonglen on Sunday at the regular 9:00 a.m. practice period, which will be followed at 10:00 a.m. by a Community Meeting as previously announced.

Tucson Shambhala Meditation Group
3250 N. Tucson Blvd.
Tucson, AZ 85716

Chuni Lobsang Jinpa Rinpoche & Lama Phuntsho - Generating a Tranquil Mind in the Midst of Daily Life Problems

This is an old Tech Talk, but it's always a good topic.

Generating a Tranquil Mind in the Midst of Daily Life Problems

GoogleTechTalks | January 06, 2011

Presented by Chuni Lobsang Jinpa Rinpoche, and Lama Phuntsho, Gaden Shartse Monastery


A group of monks from the Gaden Shartse Monastery on US tour ( ) visited Google on March 2 2006. In addition to touring the campus, they led a meditation session and their master, Chuni Lobsang Jinpa Rinpoche, talked about "Generating a Tranquil Mind in the Midst of Daily Life Problems."

Rinpoche is one of a triplet of brothers born on July 7, 1936. The King of Tibet granted each the title of "Tulku", meaning recincarnated High Lama. He studied at the Great Gaden Monastery until 1959 and fled to asylum in India after the Chinese invasion of Tibet.

Under the guidance of H. H. Dalai Lama, Rinpoche continued to train in Buddhist studies and Tibetan literature, and helping to restore the lost sacred scriptures. He was asked to run the Phuntsok Ling school in Orissa and achieved the Geshe degree of Lharampa (PhD).

Since his retirement, Rinpoche has dedicated most of his time to austere spiritual practice. He is fully devoted to guiding and training young monks and masters on spiritual and ritual performance at Gaden Shartse Monastery.

Ven Lama Phuntsho, translator, became a monk in Bhutan in 1987. He enrolled in the Gaden Shartse Monastery and became assistant to H. E. Khensure Rinpoche Jampa Yeshe, with whom he traveled to Europe, Singapore, Malaysia, and the US.

Phuntsho also helped coordinate and acted as translator on the 8th world tour "Sacred Earth and Healing Arts of Tibet". He is currently involved in the development of the Pokang Khangtsen.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Barack Obama's Memorial in Tucson

Full text here - here is a piece that moved me.

barack obama
We are grateful for Daniel Hernandez, a volunteer in Gabby's office who ran through the chaos to minister to his boss, tending to her wounds to keep her alive. We are grateful for the men who tackled the gunman as he stopped to reload. We are grateful for a petite 61 year-old, Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer's ammunition, undoubtedly saving some lives. And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and emergency medics who worked wonders to heal those who'd been hurt.

These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned - as it was on Saturday morning.

Their actions, their selflessness, also pose a challenge to each of us. It raises the question of what, beyond the prayers and expressions of concern, is required of us going forward. How can we honor the fallen? How can we be true to their memory?

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations - to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we've seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized - at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do - it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, "when I looked for light, then came darkness." Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind. - David Sloan Wilson: Evolving the City

Cool video - David Sloan Wilson: Evolving the City

Distinguished New York biologist and anthropologist, Professor David Sloan Wilson, has founded the world's first evolutionary think tank, the Evolution Institute. It uses evolutionary theory to address policy issues such as childhood education, risky adolescent behaviour, and the regulation of large-scale human social interactions.

"The most distressing fact about public awareness of evolution," Professor Wilson says, "is not that roughly 50 percent of Americans don't believe the theory but that nearly 100 percent of people worldwide don't appreciate its tremendous relevance to human affairs."

He wants to show how evolutionary theory can help to solve the problems of everyday life, from the quality of life in our cities to rethinking the fundamentals of economic theory and policy. This can be done by incorporating the most accurate conception of human nature possible based on current scientific knowledge.

And, unlike many American evolutionists, Wilson doesn't see evolution and religion at loggerheads. He suggests religion is itself a product of evolution acting at group-level. It's part of his "multi-level selection theory", which argues that natural selection can act on groups as well as individuals.

~ David Sloan Wilson uses evolutionary theory to explain all aspects of humanity in addition to the rest of life, as he recounts for a general audience in Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives (Bantam 2007). He is a distinguished professor of biology and anthropology at Binghamton University, part of the State University of New York.

He publishes in anthropology, psychology, and philosophy journals in addition to his mainstream biological research. His academic books include Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (with Elliott Sober, Harvard 1998), Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society (Chicago, 2002), and The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative (co-edited with Jonathan Gottschall, Northwestern 2005). Wilson also directs EvoS, a campus-wide program that uses evolutionary theory as a common language for the unification of knowledge.
More info:

Joel Kovel - No Greater Responsibility for Intellectuals

From Adbusters, a call to critical thinking and action. The status quo is not the only option . . .

No Greater Responsibility for Intellectuals

Joel Kovel | 28 Dec 2010

There is No Greater Responsibility for Intellectuals

Audio version read by George Atherton – Right-click to download

Beaten down by the great defeats of utopian and social ideals, few today even bother to think about the kinds of society that could replace the present one, and most of that speculation is within a green paradigm limited by an insufficient appreciation of the regime of capital and of the depths needed for real change. Instead, Greens tend to imagine an orderly extension of community accompanied by the use of instruments that have been specifically created to keep the present system going, such as parliamentary elections and various tax policies. Such measures make transformative sense, however, only if seen as prefigurations of something more radical – something by definition not immediately on the horizon.

The first two steps on that path are clearly laid out and are within the reach of every conscientious person. These are that people ruthlessly criticize the capitalist system “from top to bottom,” and that they include in this a consistent attack on the widespread belief that there can be no alternative to it. If one believes that capital is not only basically unjust but radically unsustainable as well, the prime obligation is to spread news.

The belief that there can be no alternative to capital is ubiquitous – and no wonder, given how wonderfully convenient the idea is to the ruling ideology. That, however, does not keep it from being nonsense and a failure of vision and political will. Nothing lasts forever and what is humanly made can theoretically be unmade. Of course it could be the case that the job of changing it is too hard and capital is as far as humanity can go, in which instance we must simply accept our fate stoically and try to palliate the results. But we don’t know this and cannot know this. There is no proving it one way or the other and only inertia, fear of change or opportunism can explain the belief in so shabby an idea as that there can be no alternative to capital for organizing society.

At some point the realization will dawn that all the sound ideas for, say, regulating the chemical industries or preserving forest ecosystems or doing something serious about species-extinctions or global warming or whatever point of ecosystem disintegration is of concern are not going to be realized by appealing to local changes in themselves or to the Democratic Party, to the Environmental Protection Agency, to the courts, to the foundations, to ecophilosophies or to changes in consciousness. For the overriding reason is that we are living under a regime that controls both the state and the economy and that regime will have to be overcome at its root if we are to save the future.

Relentless criticism can delegitimize the system and release people into struggle. And as struggle develops, victories that are no more than incremental on their own terms – stopping a meeting of the IMF, stirring hopes with a campaign such as Ralph Nader’s in 2000 – can have a symbolic effect far greater than their external result and can constitute points of rupture with capital. This rupture is not a set of facts added to our knowledge of the world but a change in our relation to the world. Its effects are dynamic, not incremental, and like all genuine insights it changes the balance of forces and can propagate very swiftly. Thus the release from inertia can trigger a rapid cascade of changes, so that it could be said that the forces pressing toward radical change need not be linear and incremental, but can be exponential. In this way, conscientious and radical criticism of the given, even in advance of blueprints for an alternative, can be a material force because it can seize the mind of the masses of the people. There is no greater responsibility for intellectuals.

From Joel Kovel’s Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World? Joel Kovel is the editor of Capitalism Nature Socialism, a journal of ecosocialism.