Thursday, September 29, 2011

Quote of the Day



Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!
Live the life you've imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shana Tova!


Happy Rosh Hashana!

In 2011 Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated from sundown on September 28 to nightfall on September 30. The holiday marks the beginning of the year 5772 in the Jewish calendar.

The New Year is the only Jewish holiday that is observed for two days by all Jews. It is also the only major holiday that falls on a new moon. In the Jewish oral tradition, this holiday  marks the completion of the creation of the world.

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, or Yamim Noraim (the "Days of Awe"), and is followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur, the "day of atonement." The Mishnah refers to Rosh Hashanah as the "day of judgment," and it is believed that God opens the Book of Life on this day and begins to decide who shall live and who shall die. The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are viewed as an opportunity for Jews to repent (teshuvah, in Hebrew) and ensure a good fate. 

Jews traditionally gather in synagogues for extended services that follow the liturgy of a special prayerbook, called a mahzor, that is used during the Days of Awe. At specific times throughout the service, a shofar, or ram's horn, is blown.

Traditionally, sweet foods such as apples with honey, raisin challah, honey cake, and pomegranates are eaten. These foods symbolize the good, sweet things that the new year will bring.
  
Article source here

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

River of Self-Knowledge



We seek happiness through things, through relationship, through thoughts, ideas. So things, relationship, and ideas become all-important and not happiness. When we seek happiness through something, then the thing becomes of greater value than happiness itself. When stated in this manner, the problem sounds simple and it is simple. 

We seek happiness in property, in family, in name; then property, family, idea become all-important, for then happiness is sought through a means, and then the means destroys the end. Can happiness be found through any means, through anything made by the hand or by the mind? Things, relationship, and ideas are so transparently impermanent, we are ever made unhappy by them. Things are impermanent, they wear out and are lost; relationship is constant friction and death awaits; ideas and beliefs have no stability, no permanency. 

We seek happiness in them and yet do not realize their impermanence. So sorrow becomes our constant companion and overcoming it our problem.

To find out the true meaning of happiness, we must explore the river of self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is not an end in itself. Is there a source to a stream? Every drop of water from the beginning to the end makes the river. To imagine that we will find happiness at the source is to be mistaken. It is to be found where you are on the river of self-knowledge.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti

   

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Evolutionary Enlightenment



Why being "here and now" is no longer enough - A new book by Andrew Cohen

The new spirituality is all about evolution

In his new book Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening, Cohen redefines spirituality for our contemporary world - a world characterized by exponential change and an ever-expanding appreciation for the processes of evolution. Based on 25 years of groundbreaking work as a spiritual teacher and the editor-in-chief of the award-winning Enlighten Next magazine, Cohen has synthesized an original path, practice, and philosophy focused entirely on aligning yourself with what he calls "the evolutionary impulse."

His message is simple, yet profound: Life is evolution, and enlightenment is about waking up to this fundamentally creative impulse as your own deepest, most authentic self - so that you can play an active role in creating the future.

Embracing change as your spiritual practice

Change is a constant in today's world. Technology is accelerating, globalization is making the world more and more complex, and the pace of life seems to be speeding up every day.

While many popular forms of contemporary spirituality offer ways to feel better in the face of overwhelming change - to discover greater equanimity, detachment, or compassion - Andrew Cohen says that change is not something to be avoided, or merely tolerated, but an essential aspect of reality that needs to be consciously embraced.

Through his five fundamental tenets for living an enlightened life, Cohen empowers you to wholeheartedly participate in the process of change as your own spiritual practice. In doing so, he not only makes deep sense of life today; he shows you how to play an active role in shaping the world of tomorrow.

"In Evolutionary Enlightenment, Andrew Cohen has given us a compellingly new, important, even profound work on the nature of spiritual enlightenment in today's world. More than an intellectual discussion, this is a book of practice, of actually how to realize this new Evolutionary Enlightenment. It is truly one of the most significant books on spirituality written in the postmodern world." - Ken Wilber, author of The Integral Vision

   

Friday, September 23, 2011

End of Summer



When summer gathers up her robes of glory,
And, like a dream, glides away...

Sarah Helen Whitman

The $16 Muffin Outrage!



President Barack Obama ordered federal agencies to review their expenses for conferences after an embarrassing report revealed that the Justice Department served $16 muffins at a 2009 gathering.

A report by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General said the agency spent $121 million on conferences over two years, exceeding its own budget.

Some of the expenses appeared to be "extravagant and wasteful," the audit said.

According to this report the Department of Justice spent $16 on each of the 250 muffins served at an August 2009 legal conference in Washington. Other examples of wasteful extravagance included snacks at $32 per person, $10 brownies, $8 coffee, and nearly $600,000 for event planning services for five conferences. This is outrageous!

The audit focused only on ten conferences that were held during the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole said that the Justice Department took steps in 2009 to curb wasteful or excessive spending for conferences. We did not see any heads roll. If this were a private business, someone would be held responsible for such a waste of the company's resources, but the government agencies are here to enjoy all the perks that come with the unlimited flow of taxpayers' money. They go unpunished.

The $16 muffin affair is only one example of the scandalous government waste. It really hurts to see how federal agencies squander taxpayers' money with impunity. Things must change!

Vice President Joe Biden, who leads the administration's effort to cut excessive spending at federal agencies, asked Cabinet secretaries to eliminate waste.

The officials in the USA remind me more and more of the crooks that constantly rip off the people in Nigeria and other African countries. How can anyone dare to spend taxpayers' money for muffins that cost $16 a piece when more and more families in America cannot even afford to spend that much for lunch? How can anyone justify such an extravagance? How can President Obama justify his call for higher taxes and more social justice when the administration is wasting money from the very beginning of his presidency? Shouldn't social justice begin in the Department of Justice?

By Dominique Allmon ©2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Power of Music


West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in the Ramallah Concert, August 21, 2005
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in the Ramallah Concert,
August 21, 2005


By Susan Tomes

Many musicians don't like to speak about music, and as music is beyond words this often seems perfectly natural. Yet there are some who feel the urge to analyze and explain, and in the classical field most of them seem to be pianists: Artur Schnabel, Glenn Gould, Charles Rosen, Alfred Brendel, Daniel Barenboim ... Does the experience of playing the piano make them intellectual, or do they gravitate towards the piano because they're cerebral in the first place? The complex and self-sufficient nature of piano music may have something to do with it, and I've often suspected that, because the pianist's left and right hands play different music, the brain must develop unusual agility. 

Daniel Barenboim is a musician who grafts intellectual curiosity on to a brightly burning talent which has brought him acclaim in every phase of his career. Unusually for those who swap the piano for the conductor's baton, he's returned in his 60s to the piano with majestic effect, as was shown by his recent cycle of Beethoven sonatas at the Festival Hall. His friend Edward Said wrote that Barenboim never seems to practice, but "does what he does as a matter of course". Driving with him to a performance of Berg's Wozzeck which Barenboim was to conduct, Said asked if he was nervous. "No, why should I be nervous?" replied Barenboim. "Let them be nervous!" To use Saint-Saëns's delightful phrase, he seems to produce music as an apple tree produces apples.

Far from being only an instinctive musician, however, Barenboim is also determined to analyse his talent. This is lucky for us, because we have the rare opportunity to hear how a master musician thinks. In Everything is Connected he emphasises that thought and study must go hand in hand with intuition. He's impatient with musicians "who fall prey to the superstitious belief that too thorough an analysis of a piece of music will destroy the intuitive quality and the freedom of their performance, mistaking knowledge for rigidity and forgetting that rational understanding is not only possible but absolutely necessary in order for the imagination to have free rein".

The link between understanding and freedom is a key to his thinking, much influenced by reading Spinoza as a teenager, and fueled by lessons with Nadia Boulanger, who believed that "the ideal musician should think with the heart and feel with the intellect". He constantly refers to apparently opposing qualities which for him are constructive partners: choice and limitation, emotion and rationality, leading voices and subversive accompaniments. His love of opposites received further impetus from Edward Said, whom he praises for "his revelatory construct that parallels between ideas, topics and cultures can be of a paradoxical nature, not contradicting but enriching one another".

When Barenboim talks unscripted, as he did in his recent Reith Lectures, he doesn't always find his focus. But nearly all is well in this sequence of essays and interviews covering topics such as Sound and Thought, Listening and Hearing, Mozart, Schumann, Furtwängler and Israel. Some of the chapters are insubstantial or repetitive, but even so they're studded with unmissable insights, such as his remark that choosing the right tempo is the last decision a musician should take, not the first. Finding a tempo "requires an understanding of the relationship between space and time, or, in other words, the relationship between subject matter and speed". He also writes touchingly about the love between music and silence, for example at the opening of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde prelude where "the music does not begin with the move from the initial A to the F, but from the silence to the A". And he suggests that at the beginning of Beethoven's piano sonata opus 109, the pianist should feel that the music began earlier, "so that he creates an impression that he joins what has been in existence, albeit not in the physical world". Especially in part one, there is glorious evidence of what it's like to prepare for the performance of great music. He's inspiringly unapologetic about this, certain that spending one's life trying to illuminate the content of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart is still an important activity in the age of the fast-forward and the fundamentalist.

"The most talented musician in the world will not be able to analyze at first sight," he writes. "The first intuitive reaction was the beginning of a process, which has now become primarily rational and my main concern is to understand the anatomy of the piece, which is a condition for the ability to express its structure. I need to observe the relationships between all the different elements of the music. Having the structure in mind, though, is only part of the necessary path to a real understanding of the music. The next step is the result of knowing the material in the most detailed way, which allows me to relive the first encounter, this time, however, with a kind of conscious naïveté, which allows me to unfold the piece as if the music is being composed as I play it." Hearing this from the horse's mouth is immensely valuable.

At the heart of the book are his reflections on Israel and on the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, perhaps his most far-reaching achievement. The orchestra was founded by Barenboim and Said in 1999 with the aim of bringing young Arabs and Israelis closer together through music-making. It seems no accident that the idea came from two men so in tune with paradoxical affinities. Just assembling the members of the orchestra in one place has always presented enormous difficulties. But Barenboim has no truck with isolationism; Spinoza had explained that "belief in just one view can totally sap one's strength", and music has taught him that "there simply are no independent elements". He uses the analogy of musical structures such as fugue and sonata form to show that a voice which states a theme all by itself is never more than a transient phenomenon, always followed by counter-subjects, contrasting themes and developments, other voices with other things to say.

"Music could be a model for society," he writes. "It teaches us the importance of the interconnection between transparency, power and force." As his young Arabs and Israelis tackle great music, they discover that the Other is not a monster, but a vulnerable human being like themselves. This is no small revelation in a part of the world where opposing factions refuse to recognize one another's right to exist. To those who accuse him of being politically naive, Barenboim says, "I am not a political person ... humanity has always concerned me. In that sense I feel able and, as an artist, especially qualified to analyze the situation."

This article appeared in The Guardian, 23 August 2008

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Puzzling Truth


The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counter-intuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what’s true. - Carl Sagan

Monday, September 19, 2011

Freedom or Security?


High security prison in Alcatraz, California
High security prison in Alcatraz, California

If you want total security, go to prison. 
There you are fed, clothed, 
given medical care and so on. 
The only thing lacking... is freedom. 

Dwight D. Eisenhower


      

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Relevance of Ayn Rand in Today's America


 Call to cannibalism?

Is Ayn Rand relevant? By Yaron Brook

Ayn Rand died more than a quarter of a century ago, yet her name appears regularly in discussions of our current economic turmoil. Pundits including Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santelli urge listeners to read her books, and her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, is selling at a faster rate today than at any time during its 51-year history.

There's a reason. In "Atlas," Rand tells the story of the U.S. economy crumbling under the weight of crushing government interventions and regulations. Meanwhile, blaming greed and the free market, Washington responds with more controls that only deepen the crisis. Sounds familiar?

The novel's eerily prophetic nature is no coincidence. "If you understand the dominant philosophy of a society," Rand wrote elsewhere in "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal," "you can predict its course." Economic crises and runaway government power grabs don't just happen by themselves; they are the product of the philosophical ideas prevalent in a society - particularly its dominant moral ideas.

Why do we accept the budget-busting costs of a welfare state? Because it implements the moral ideal of self-sacrifice to the needy. Why do so few protest the endless regulatory burdens placed on businessmen? Because businessmen are pursuing their self-interest, which we have been taught is dangerous and immoral. Why did the government go on a crusade to promote "affordable housing," which meant forcing banks to make loans to unqualified home buyers? Because we believe people need to be homeowners, whether or not they can afford to pay for houses.

The message is always the same: "Selfishness is evil; sacrifice for the needs of others is good." But Rand said this message is wrong - selfishness, rather than being evil, is a virtue. By this she did not mean exploiting others à la Bernie Madoff. Selfishness - that is, concern with one's genuine, long-range interest - she wrote, required a man to think, to produce, and to prosper by trading with others voluntarily to mutual benefit.

Rand also noted that only an ethic of rational selfishness can justify the pursuit of profit that is the basis of capitalism - and that so long as self-interest is tainted by moral suspicion, the profit motive will continue to take the rap for every imaginable (or imagined) social ill and economic disaster. Just look how our present crisis has been attributed to the free market instead of government intervention - and how proposed solutions inevitably involve yet more government intervention to rein in the pursuit of self-interest.

Rand offered us a way out - to fight for a morality of rational self-interest, and for capitalism, the system which is its expression. And that is the source of her relevance today.

Dr. Brook is president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute.

Article source here

      

Friday, September 16, 2011

Attack Watch - The New Ministry of Truth?


Public humiliation of an intellectual during the Cultural Revolution in China
 Public humiliation of an intellectual
during the Cultural Revolution in China

We will be watching you!

Something strange is happening in the USA right now. There is a new website that was set up to single out and intimidate the "enemies" of the President Obama. The website is called Attack Watch and is paid for by "Obama for America" unit.

It is really quite shocking to me that in a country that actually invented the free speech as constitutional right of its citizens such things are even possible.

The "race card" does not work anymore, so the Obama supporters had to refine their tactics and devise new ways to handle their "enemies".

The reader might remember that it was President Obama himself who first called his Republican opponents "our enemies" during the mid-term elections of 2010. This was unprecedented and came as a shock to the Republicans, but was ignored by the Liberals. Just imagine Reagan or Bush calling the Democrats "our enemies"! These two presidents, however, not only had some sense of decorum, they understood where the real enemies were.

The Attack Watch website appears in colors favored by the German and the South African Nazis: black, white and red. Nice design, really. You can report an attack, learn the "truth" and donate money to fight the attacks on President Obama.

Any critic will be brand-marked and displayed as an "attacker" and hopefully destroyed, discredited or at least silenced.

A picture of an "attacker" and his slanderous statements would appear on the left; the "truth" on the right. Dextra et sinistra! Right and wrong! The good and the evil?

The whole set-up is not as innocuous as one may think. And it isn't really funny, although jokes about it are already circulating in the Internet. This is an implementation of the Saul Alinsky's rule number 13: pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

There are many parallels in the history and even Orwell wrote about it. The whole thing reminds me reminds me of the brown shirts who would mercilessly intimidate German citizens in the 1930s.

It reminds me of the Bolsheviks who had their own ways in post-czarist Russia and of Stalin's cleansing campaign.

It has some similarities with the East German StaSi and the denunciation practices in the former East Germany: see something, say something.

It calls to mind Mao's Revolutionary Guards who protected the cult of Mao with the utmost violence. Anyone who would even dare to criticize their beloved Chairman was beaten and publicly displayed. If he survived the abuse, he was sent to a labor camp for re-education.

It reeks of the Big Brother's Ministry of Information. Every form of dissent, free thinking or a critique is at first discouraged, then prohibited. There is no place for dissent and only one line of thought is permitted. Those who dare to say something against the tyrant or the system are publicly humiliated or worse.

The history repeats itself over and over. And things never happen over night, but spread like a poisonous mist, slowly but surely. Once the thought control system is established in the society, the way to violence is wide open.

The masses always love their leader. To them he is the savior, the benevolent father who makes sure that they are fed, clad and taken care of. They would follow him and execute any order he might give them, no matter how cruel or absurd. They love him blindly and would do everything to protect him from critics, dissenters, and "enemies". But their leader is not an infallible figure. He is a megalomaniac with a deep seated inferiority complex. He needs the personality cult if he wants to survive politically. The failures of his ideology are blamed on others and others are usually punished for his own mistakes...

Although the Attack Watch is a ridiculous attempt to intimidate critics and whistle blowers, those who wish to protect their constitutional right to free speech must be vigilant. This is only a beginning.

By Dominique Allmon © 2011

P.S. 

Now, only few months before election Attack watch is run by the truth team. The whole design has changed. If you visited the site before, you ended up in an Orwellian black-red page. Now it looks "friendly". Check it out here

Dominique, July 11, 2012

      

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!


Empire State Building construction workers
Empire State Building construction workers

While on vacation on the upscale Martha's Vineyard in August, President Obama announced that he would present a unique solution to the ailing economy when he comes back to Washington. He kept the entire nation in anticipation and many Americans wondered why they had to wait till September to hear what the President, who would have enjoyed his vacation a bit longer if it were not for the hurricane Irene, had to say.

The President wanted to unveil his jobs' proposal before the joint session of Congress on September 7 - the day of the GOP primary debate in the Reagan Library in California. This request was declined by the Speaker of the House because the White House did not follow the scheduling protocol. A concurrent vote is required by both chambers of the Congress, but the White House simply ignored this rule. We also learned that the President had no intention to divert the attention from the Republican primaries. Of course not! Who would accuse the President of such a thing?! It was "pure" coincidence. 

It must also be mentioned here that the joined sessions of Congress  are held on special occasions such as the State of the Union Address, presidential inauguration, or a declaration of war. A President does not tell the Congress to meet. He places a request. Mr Obama who is an expert in Constitutional law should have known that.

The congressional address was postponed to the next day, September 8 - the opening day of the NFL season. The Green Bay Packers were to take on the New Orleans Saints. 

It might seem ridiculous, but football is the number one sport in the USA and more people are expected to watch the opening game on NBC than any presidential speech televised  across all the TV networks taken together. Much passion and and even much more money is involved here, but the White House appeared to be oblivious of the fact. Suddenly, the jobs' proposal had unexpected urgency. It was so urgent that it could not be proposed in August while the President was vacationing, but it could not possibly wait another day in September.

The much anticipated job proposal turned out to be yet another speech - a badly written, uninspiring, repetitive campaign speech in which the President was trying to save at least one job - his own. 

The speech could have been delivered from the Oval Office, but if it were, it would have lacked all the ego-stimulating applause that the President received from the Democrats who appeared to be completely mesmerized by the "pass this plan" refrain. 

President Obama assured the Congress that his proposal contained elements that were attractive to the Congress members on both sides of the aisle and was fully paid for. The Republicans were more than happy to hear that the President wanted to help war veterans to find jobs after they return to their civilian lives.

The President did not elucidate, however, how exactly he was going to pay for the bill, but we can expect that the  money will be either borrowed, printed, or taken away from the millionaires and billionaires.

The entire package that includes tax breaks for individuals and small businesses will cost $447 billion. And all this after the Congress spent months negotiating government spending cuts.

While some economists believe that the plan, if enacted, would stimulate the economic growth by 2% and create some two million additional jobs, others are skeptical as the proposal does not include any structural changes. Jobs are badly needed in the USA, but the temporary tax rebates do not really stimulate the economic growth. A thorough tax reform is needed, but the Democrats prefer to impose higher taxes on the wealthy. Not a smart move in today's economy.

Obama's sincerity may be tested against the treatment the real job creators receive on daily basis. Simply take an example of an American icon, the Boeing company, who is prohibited from opening its new assembly line in South Carolina. How about the red tape and over-regulation in the oil drilling industry? How about mistreatment of companies such as Gibson Guitar that "sympathize" with the Republican Party? How about the raw milk industry? 

Since many people were watching the NFL season opening game, most missed the greatest hypocrisy of all, namely the presence of Mr Jeffrey Immelt, the chairman of GE and head of the President's Jobs Council, in the first lady's box in the House chamber during the President's address. Many people in America are probably unaware of the fact that Mr Immelt moved the GE X-ray division together with thousands of American jobs to China and came up with an ingenious plan to invest two billion dollars across that Asian country. A real American job creator! It is absolutely scandalous that this man is even allowed to preside over the Jobs Council.

The Congress did not even see the bill and yet, the President made it clear that he wanted his proposal passed. He warned the Republicans that they would be blamed for the misery of countless unemployed Americans if they refused to pass his American jobs agenda. He warned that he would be taking this matter to the American people. A desperate move for a President whose job approval ratings fell below 40 percent while he was playing golf on Martha's Vineyard.

Although the ideological gap between the Republicans and the Democrats is ever widening, the Republicans announced their willingness to work with the President. Few even admitted that some of the presented ideas merit consideration, but they collectively refused to accept another ruinous stimulus. 

Meanwhile, the unemployment remains exceptionally high and the economy is stagnating. The President who accuses the Republicans, but never the Democrats, of intransigence, is fighting for his political survival. However, the post-World War II history shows that the American people never re-elected presidents when the unemployment rate exceeded 7,2% during their first term.

Mr Obama is frantic and his urgency was clearly detectable in the speech he delivered before the Congress. His speech left the careful listener with an uneasy feeling that the only job the President really cared for was his own.

By Dominique Allmon © 2011

P.S.


We all remember "Yes we can" and "Pass this bill" is still reverberating in our ears. Now we have the "if you love me you will help me pass this bill" - slogan... I simply can't believe it! But this in not a funny matter. It reminds me of the Chairman Mao's China and the Cultural Revolution. Personality cult is a dangerous terrain. Every now and then a person with a grand ego emerges and believes that he or she has all the wisdom to change the trajectory of history. The Americans still feel protected by their Constitution. But for how long? The vicious attacks on the constitutional-rights-protecting Tea Party are just unbelievable. It looks like someone is trying to discredit and vilify a movement of concerned patriots. With the new Attack Watch, all critics of the President will be shut up in the Big Brother style. This is first step to undermine the free speech... - September 15

P.S. 

More than three weeks have passed... We now have Nation wide protest marches and the Occupy Wall Street Soros' sponsored farce! Republicans will not vote to pass the bill. Some Democrats in Senate also refused to vote for it. This will come to the president's advantage. He can simply go on whining on his campaign trail that the economy is bad and the unemployment high because of the Republican intransigence. The country cannot afford another financial experiment. But if the bill were passed and failed to stimulate the economy, no one could blame the Republicans and Obama would have had to take the responsibility for his incompetence... - October 11

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chronestesia


Paul Citroën holding the painted portrait of Nico Jesse 1953
 Paul Citroën holding the painted portrait of Nico Jesse
1953

The ability to remember the past and imagine the future can significantly affect a person’s decisions in life. Scientists refer to the brain’s ability to think about the past, present, and future as “chronesthesia,” or mental time travel, although little is known about which parts of the brain are responsible for these conscious experiences. In a new study, researchers have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural correlates of mental time travel and better understand the nature of the mental time in which the metaphorical “travel” occurs.

Mental time travel consists of two independent sets of processes:

1. those that determine the contents of any act of such ‘travel’: what happens, who are the ‘actors,’ where does the action occur; it is similar to the contents of watching a movie - everything that you see on the screen;

2. those that determine the subjective moment of time in which the action takes place - past, present, or future.

In cognitive neuroscience, we know quite a bit (relatively speaking) about perceived, remembered, known, and imagined space. We know essentially nothing about perceived, remembered, known, and imagined time. When you remember something that you did last night, you are consciously aware not only that the event happened and that you were ‘there,’ as an observer or participant (‘episodic memory’), but also that it happened yesterday, that is, at a time that is no more. The question we are asking is, how do you know that it happened at a time other than ‘now’?

In their study, the researchers asked several well-trained subjects to repeatedly think about taking a short walk in a familiar environment in either the imagined past, the real past, the present, or the imagined future. By keeping the content the same and changing only the mental time in which it occurs, the researchers could identify which areas of the brain are correlated with thinking about the same event at different times.

The results showed that certain regions in the left lateral parietal cortex, left frontal cortex, and cerebellum, as well as the thalamus, were activated differently when the subjects thought about the past and future compared with the present. Notably, brain activity was very similar for thinking about all of the non-present times (the imagined past, real past, and imagined future).

Because mental time is a product of the human brain and differs from the external time that is measured by clocks and calendars, scientists also call this time “subjective time.” Chronesthesia, by definition, is a form of consciousness that allows people to think about this subjective time and to mentally travel in it.

Some previous research has questioned whether the concept of subjective time is actually necessary for understanding similarities in brain activity during past and future thinking compared with thinking about the present. A few past studies have suggested that the brain’s ability for scene construction, and not subjective time, can account for the ability to think about past and future events. However, since scene construction was held constant in this study, the new results suggest that the brain’s ability to conceive of a subjective time is in fact necessary to explain how we think about the past and future.

Until now, the processes that determine contents and the processes that determine time have not been separated in functional neuroimaging studies of chronesthesia; especially, there have been no studies in which brain regions involved in time alone, rather than time together with action, have been identified. 

The concept of ‘chronesthesia’ is essentially brand new. Therefore, the most important result of the study is the novel finding that there seem to exist brain regions that are more active in the (imagined) past and the (imagined) future than they are in the (imagined) present. That is, some evidence for chronesthesia has been found.

At this stage of the game, it is too early to talk about potential implications or applications of understanding how the brain thinks about the past, present, and future.

This study is the first swallow of the spring, and others will follow. The findings are promising, but they have to be replicated, checked for validity and reliability, and, above all, extended to other conditions and situations, before the scientists can even begin thinking about their implications and practical applications.

More information on the subject: Lars Nyberg, et al. “Consciousness of subjective time in the brain.” PNAS Early Edition.

      

Monday, September 12, 2011

Quote of the Day

 

The sheer nihilistic irrationality of terrorism strains and tests our own beliefs like nothing else can. Yet the terrorist blows inflicted on New York, London, and Madrid over the past decade have not shaken Western democracies. Our societies are more resilient, open, and diverse than ever. - Radek Sikorski, Foreign Minister of Poland

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 - The Day the Earth Stood Still



"Heal, remember and never forget." - Liza Juliette DeCamp, a New Yorker

Ten years ago, on September 11, 2001, nineteen islamic terrorists associated with the terrorist organization al-qaeda hijacked four commercial airliners and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Another one hit the Pentagon building in Arlington, VA. The fourth one,  presumably on its way to Washington, DC, crashed in the field near Shanksville, PA, killing all the passengers and the crew as well as the hijackers.

At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower, followed by United Airlines Flight 175, which hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. United Airlines Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m.

Nearly three thousand people perished in this barbaric assault on the American way of life  and the Western civilization itself.

For those who witnessed the attacks and the following collapse of the Twin Towers, the earth stood still. The devastation was simply beyond comprehension. The loss of life - inconsolable.

The attacks that were born out of deep seated hatred for America and its values, changed our lives forever. Nothing will ever be the same. Ten years later, this hatred is still prevalent while countless fanatics are still plotting new attacks.

Today, on the tenth anniversary of this despicable act of savagery, commemorative ceremonies will take place at the locations of the attacks: The National 9/11 Memorial in New York City, the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA, and the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, VA. 

Once again, people in the United States and around the world will reflect on the events that took place on that fateful day in September. The victims whose lives were tragically interrupted, will be remembered forever.

We will never forget!

By Dominique Allmon ©2011

On September 11, 2001, I was preparing my luggage for a short trip to New York City that was scheduled for the next day. My TV was on and I watched CNN while ironing my shirts.

I saw the shocking news item about the plane that crashed into one of the Towers only moments earlier. At this point everyone speculated what might have gone wrong up there. No one suspected a terrorist attack at this point.

Minutes later I witnessed "live" the other plane crashing into the WTC. I knew right away what that meant.

My flight was canceled, of course, and I spent the next hours completely glued to the TV set.

I will never forget the avalanche of emotions: sadness, anger, contempt for the perpetrators, consternation, incomprehension, rage... The images of that day will remain etched in my consciousness forever.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Quote of the Day



Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. 

Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there. 

Henry Miller


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Myth of Innovation


"For centuries before Google, MIT, and IDEO, modern hotbeds of innovation, we struggled to explain any kind of creation, from the universe itself to the multitudes of ideas around us. While we can make atomic bombs, and dry-clean silk ties, we still don’t have satisfying answers for simple questions like: Where do songs come from? Are there an infinite variety of possible kinds of cheese? How did Shakespeare and Stephen King invent so much, while we’re satisfied watching sitcom reruns? Our popular answers have been unconvincing, enabling misleading, fantasy-laden myths to grow strong." - Scott Berkun
How do we know if a hot new technology will succeed or fail? Most of us, even experts, get it wrong all the time. We depend more than we realize on wishful thinking and romanticized ideas of history.

In his fascinating book The Myth of Innovation the bestselling author Scott Berkun pulls the best lessons from the history of innovation, including the recent software and web age, to reveal powerful and surprising truths about how ideas become successful innovations - truths people can easily apply to the challenges of today.

Through his entertaining and insightful explanations of the inherent patterns in how Einstein’s discovered E=mc2 or Tim Berner Lee’s developed the idea of the world wide web, you will see how to develop existing knowledge into new innovations.

Each entertaining chapter centers on breaking apart a powerful myth, popular in the business world despite it's lack of substance. Through Berkun's extensive research into the truth about innovations in technology, business and science, you’ll learn lessons from the expensive failures and dramatic successes of innovations past, and understand how innovators achieved what they did - and what you need to do to be an innovator yourself.

You will discover:
  • Why problems are more important than solutions
  • How the good innovation is the enemy of the great
  • Why children are more creative than your co-workers
  • Why epiphanies and breakthroughs always take time
  • How all stories of innovations are distorted by the history effect
  • How to overcome people’s resistance to new ideas
  • Why the best idea doesn’t often win

About the author:

Scott Berkun is the best selling author of Making Things Happen, The Myths of Innovation and Confessions of a Public Speaker. His work has appeared in the The Washington Post, The New York Times, Wired Magazine, Fast Company, The Economist, Forbes Magazine, and other media. He has taught creative thinking at the University of Washington and has been a regular commentator on CNBC, MSNBC and National Public Radio. His many popular essays and entertaining lectures can be found for free on his blog at www.scottberkun.com.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

To a Cat



For the most wonderful cats in the universe - the dignified Madame M. and the mercurial Agent Orange

Mirrors are not more silent
nor the creeping dawn more secretive;
in the moonlight, you are that panther
we catch sight of from afar.
By the inexplicable workings of a divine law,
we look for you in vain;
More remote, even, than the Ganges or the setting sun,
yours is the solitude, yours the secret.
Your haunch allows the lingering
caress of my hand. You have accepted,
since that long forgotten past,
the love of the distrustful hand.
You belong to another time. You are lord
of a place bounded like a dream.

By Jorge Luis Borges



Image by Linda Goodman

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Quote of the Day


It is never too late to have a happy childhood...

An adult is one who had lost the grace, the freshness, the innocence of the child, who is no longer capable of feeling pure joy, who makes everything complicated, who spreads suffering everywhere, who is afraid of being happy, and who, because it is easier to bear, has gone back to sleep. The wise man is a happy child. - Arnaud Desjardins

Friday, September 2, 2011

Liberty and Lemonade



What do you do when life hands you lemons? If your answer is “make lemonade and sell it," please make sure that you have a permit first or you might get an unpleasant visit from the authorities.

Lemonade stand is an almost legendary American institution. From the early years children are learning how to run a business. This is a character forming experience. By any means, not a trivial matter.

By Robert Fernandes

Not too long ago, I saw a news report about a group of kids who had their lemonade stand shut down by local law enforcement agents because the kids who were operating the stand didn’t have the proper licenses and permits “required” by law. I was shocked to see this and I really though it was just a random case of some overzealous cops who decided to leave their better judgment at home that day. But now I realize that I was wrong. That incident was not a rare case. It is happening all the time. I am now hearing more and more cases of kids’ lemonade stands being shut down by law enforcement and other government officials. You can see just a handful of the many cases on this site alone.

This disgusts me and saddens me to no end. I remember when I was a kid, every summer, the kids in the neighborhood used to open lemonade stands. We would set up shop right in front of our homes. Passers by would stop and support the local lemonade stands. The kids running the stands would make a few bucks and the consumers were treated to a refreshing cup of lemonade. Selling lemonade is a great learning experience for kids. They are being productive members of society. They are learning about money and running a small business. They are learning about supply and demand. The learning opportunities are endless.

Instead of allowing kids to learn valuable lessons by selling lemonade, the officials are shutting them down. There are so many laws on the books that have been written to supposedly protect the children. Are these laws really helping them? Or are they hurting them? Do we want to send the children a message that they cannot be productive members of society? Do we want to tell them that they can’t participate in society? That they should just shut down their dreams and their ambitions and instead they should just go in the house and play video games? IS this the message we want to send to them? The children of today are the future generation. They need to be included in society, and not pushed away from it. They have every right to participate in free and voluntary trade with willing participants.

This is why we have to stand up for them now. We can’t allow these ridiculous laws push our kids away into seclusion. I want to remind everyone this very important message. Just because something is legal it doesn’t mean it is right. And just because something is illegal, it doesn’t make it wrong. Selling lemonade is not a crime.

P.S.

The countless regulations are definitely killing the business instinct and spontaneity in kids. On the other hand, the very regulations are set to protect the young entrepreneurs and their customers, like in any other business. With a little assistance from a parent, children are able to obtain the necessary permit and conduct their business on the safe side of the municipal law. However, the rough crack downs on these little businesses by the local police are rather discouraging if not traumatizing to the young entrepreneurs.

To visit Robert's page please click here

      

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Journey



One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice -
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do -
determined to save
the only life you could save.
 
By Mary Oliver

Image by Norman Parkinson
Image source here