Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Transition Handbook, Resilience

I just started reading The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins:

"If (at that time) Hunza were to be cut off from the world and the global economy's highways of trucks packed with goods, it would have managed fine. If there were a global economic downturn, or even a collapse, it would have had little impact on the Hunza Valley. The people were resilient too, happy, healthy and with a strong sense of community.

I do not intend to romanticise or idealise it, but there was something I caught a glimpse of when I was in Hunza that resonated with a deep genetic memory somewhere within me. I grew up in England when the fossil fuel party was in full swing, in a culture ceaselessly trying to erase all traces of resilience and rubbishing the very idea at every opportunity, portraying country people as stupid, the traditional as 'old-fashioned' and growth and 'progress' as inevitable. In this remote valley I felt a yearning for something I couldn't quite put my finger on but which I now see as being resilience: a culture based on its ability to function indefinitely and to live within its limits, and able to thrive for having done so."

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tasting a Tangerine

"Often, instead of tapping in to our direct experience, we substitute concepts. An exercise we sometimes do in one of my classes at Naropa University to highlight this phenomena involves mindful eating. Many Buddhist teachers encourage their students to try this exercise on a regular basis. In class, we might take a tangerine and begin by silently looking at it. We examine the texture, color, and shape of the particular piece of fruit in front of us. We pick it up and notice what it feels like in the hand. We might hold it up to our ear and see what sounds occur as we roll it in our fingers. Slowly, we begin to peel it. We sniff and notice its aroma. When thoughts arise of past tangerines or imaginings about how this one will taste, we notice them and let them go, by coming back to this tangerine in this moment. Carefully, but not too carefully, we separate out a section, and taking our time, we bring it to our mouth. We continue the exercise by noticing the spontaneous preparations that the mouth takes as the section of tangerine approaches. Then we taste it as if we've never tasted a tangerine before--and in fact, we never have tasted this tangerine before. We continue in this way until we've eaten the entire tangerine, letting each moment be unique.
This exercise highlights not only the details of the present moment of eating a tangerine; it also reveals, often rather pointedly, how often we miss the present moment. All too often, instead of tasting the tangerine, we taste our ideas about it. For example, I "know" that I don't like tangerines. I even have good reasons for my distaste: tangerines are acidic, they sting my chapped lips in the winter, they can be messy. However, if I just do the above exercise, and taste a particular tangerine, it is quite different from my mental tangerine."
-Karen Kissel Wegela from The courage to be present: Buddhism, psychotherapy, and the awakening of natural wisdom

Monday, February 1, 2010

Teach Me

I would love it if I could go to a website, type in something I'm interested in learning- say, "19th Century Philosophy" - and then immediately be taken to a curriculum composed entirely of on-line information -- articles, full texts, videos, lectures, tables & pictures. The curriculum would start with the most basic information about the subject - and once the visitor felt like they fully understood the basics they could graduate themselves on to the next level.

Right now I spend a lot of time reading books and watching videos that contain repeated or irrelevant information, and I'd like it if there were a service that arranged relevant information in a sequential & complementary fashion so I could learn it more quickly.

The article Every Shareholder Should Read This Now contains a suggested reading list of books on investing, organized in this way: