Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

On Archibald Lampman

On this coming day Archibald Lampman was born in 1861. A famous Canadian poet, one of his poems I stumbled on today moved me greatly.

Canadian Dictionary of Biography Entry for Lampman


From upland slopes I see the cows file by,
Lowing, great-chested, down the homeward trail,
By dusking fields and meadows shining pale
With moon-tipped dandelions. Flickering high,
A peevish night-hawk in the western sky
Beats up into the lucent solitudes,
Or drops with griding wing. The stilly woods
Grow dark and deep, and gloom mysteriously.
Cool night winds creep, and whisper in mine ear.
The homely cricket gossips at my feet.
From far-off pools and wastes of reeds I hear,
Clear and soft-piped, the chanting frogs break sweet
In full Pandean chorus. One by one
Shine out the stars, and the great night comes on.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Two Opposing Views of Reading

A Reader's Bill of Rights:

1. The right to not read
2. The right to skip pages
3. The right to not finish
4. The right to reread
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to escapism
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right to browse
9. The right to read out loud
10. The right to not defend your tastes

-Daniel Pennac

Here, then, is Mortimer J Adler on reading:

"The art of reading consists in the habit of asking the right questions in the right order. Let me illustrate this by giving you the four main questions you must ask about any book or, to make it more concrete, about any nonfiction book.

* What is the book as a whole about? Here you must try to discover the leading theme of the books. And how the author develops this theme in an orderly way by subdividing it into its essential subordinate topics.
* What in detail is being said, and how? Here you must try to underline for yourself -- with a pencil, perhaps, or mentally if the book is borrowed -- the main ideas, assertions, and arguments that constitute the author's message.
* Is it true, in whole or part? You cannot answer this question until you have answered the first two. You have to know what is being said -- and to do that you must know how it is being said, for you must be able to penetrate through the author's language of his mind -- before you can sit in judgment and decide whether you agree or disagree. When you do understand a point, however, you are obligated, if you are reading seriously, to make up your own mind. Knowing the author's is not enough.
* What of it? If the book has given you information, and especially if it is true, you must certainly ask about its significance. Why does the author think it is important to know these facts? If the book has not only informed you, but also enlightened you, it is still necessary to seek further enlightenment by asking what follows next, what is further implied or suggested.

These four questions summarize all the obligations of a reader. They apply to anything worth reading -- a book or an article or even an advertisement for something you may be interested in buying. Knowing these questions is, of course, not enough. You must remember to ask them as you read. The habit of doing that is the first mark of an active reader. But more than that, you must be able to answer them precisely and accurately. The trained ability to do just that is the art of reading.

This ability most of our college graduates lack today

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Latest life extension research:

Does red wine extract increase potential lifespan? It would seem the results are in today, and they are stunning results indeed - link to Reuters story.

Until now the only way to extend lifespan has been to live on a near-starvation level of calories. Scientests have been looking for a way to effectively trick the body into thinking it is on calorie restriction. It looks as if resveratol is the best way to perform that trick, at least in mice, today.

The next step is to try it on other primates and humans.

I understand that two of the longest living people, a man and a woman, on record both drank red wine often. The interesting factor is raised by David Brin - given that human lifespan is already abnormally long in relation to other primates, somewhere in our evolutionary past we must have been selected for such improvements already as are possible. So one must ask: how much longer can sapiens live?

My present answer is "Look at the evidence." The oldest folk around live well into their tenth decade, often into the 11th decade. Given that the life expectancy of most people now is about 87 in the West, this is another third on top of ones life, and not to be blinked at - especially if that third is a productive, happy, contented time of giving back and spiritual growth.

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