Medium

I Feel and Think, Therefore I Am: The Head and The Tail of The Snake

I’ve had several conversations recently with friends who are taking actions that feel wrong in their gut. Literally. Whether it’s knots in their stomach from stress or new intolerances to foods. Yet, their decisions, from the outside, look rational, reasonable and prudent. We are, as a society, far too Cartesian. Remember, René Descartes (17thcentury French philosopher) and his, “I think, therefore I am”? He famously thought our bodies were mere machines.  I bet he wasn’t much fun in bed. When we ignore the knowledge that our bodies carry, by refusing to include that wisdom in our decision-making process, we intentionally deprive ourselves of useful and relevant information to guide our actions. To find insight into this puzzling behavior, we can…

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To Thrive In An Unfair World, Don’t Be A Miser: The Treasure and The Two Men

Conversation got a little heavy at the breakfast table the other day. I was telling my partner about a book I was reading by Phillippe Lançon, one of the survivors of the terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices on January 7, 2015. Next thing we knew we were revisiting the November 13, 2015 attack at the Bataclan concert venue, which we experienced from a restaurant only a few hundred meters away (and which I wrote about here: A Paris Weekend In November). Then it was Kikkan Randall’s cancer, discovered only months after she won a gold medal for cross country skiing at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Life’s randomness can terrify me over my oatmeal. Fortune toys with us.…

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Put Women Back In The Story and Power: The Lioness’ Funeral

I’m at University of Illinois this week, working with their theatre department on a play I wrote, in collaboration with some other wonderful women artists (Barbara Pitts McAdams, Lisa Chess and Jacqui Dugal). The play is a bit of an absurd fantasia featuring six historical-literary queens rewriting their stories in a spa located on a fold of time in a dark matter universe engineered by their physicist spa attendants. With women’s stories on my mind, this fable filtered to the surface of my consciousness again, but from a new angle. The moral has always seemed to be about sucking up to power, a theme that resonates in these amoral Roger Stonian times. What strikes me at this moment is the fate…

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How To Make The Most of Your Life: The Old Man and The Three Young Men

My meditation streak hit day 64 today. Without putting too much pressure on myself, I’m hoping to keep up my regular sitting until I hit 100 days. The last time I sustained such a streak was after my father died. Sitting regularly helped me breathe in the face of mortality, my father’s and my own (fewer people ahead of me in line, as if there is a proper order). Meditating on one’s death is a common practice in Buddhism. A mantra might be, I could die today. I don’t actually meditate on death often and when I do, I feel like I’m a fraud. Most days, I still don’t think I’m going to die that day, even as I’m saying…

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Will Our 5G Lives Be Better? –The Hare and The Tortoise

The fifth generation of mobile telecommunications is rushing toward us with promises of speeds somewhere between 3 and 200 times faster than the previous generation. 5G will meet our “vast needs” for transmission capability, so that we can connect everything from our toaster oven to our pet’s collar to the Internet. We are in a flat-out sprint to … where? Here’s a fable that is probably familiar to many. The surprise is how fresh the story feels.  Running is no use. You need to set off with care. The hare and the tortoise bear witness to this.  Let’s wager, said the tortoise, that you will not reach the finish line before me.  Before you? Have you given this a thought? The…

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Don’t Let Others Control Your Health and Wellness: The Doctors

Her hand on my pulse, my acupuncturist told me today that my energy was better than she’d ever seen. Did I feel more energetic? Well, now I felt a little zippier, because she’d told me I was. Was I on a new diet? No. Well, I might be eating less sugar than last month. Who isn’t eating less sugar in January than they did in holiday-riddled December? But I’m not eating no sugar. Give up chocolate? —Certainly not! So, no, diet was not the cause. Not that I don’t intermittently (okay, often) feel tempted to try any number of the new diets that come out every week, promising to change my life. The latest is eating “pegan”—that’s a combo of…

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How To Think About Gillette’s Believe Video: The Young Rooster, The Cat and The Baby Mouse

Gillette released its Believe video last weekend, stirring up much controversy. The video takes a bold stand against toxic masculinity, calling out aggression, fisticuffs, bullying, sexual harassment and other manifestations of the unhealthy boys-will-be-boys and men-will-be-men behaviours. As I was brushing away my tears and wondering if Gillette made women’s razors that I could start buying (oh, I already do but they’re called Venus, so I didn’t realize they were Gillette), there was wild pushback from men vowing to never shave with a Gillette razor again, claiming the right to be “real men” and to let the “soy boys be soy boys”. An aside: Among a certain quite large cadre of men, being vegetarian, as in, eating soy products, is considered…

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To Make Change Requires Us to Reach: The Fox and The Grapes

I feel helpless in the face of the enormous endemic problems in the world. Rampant consumerism, environmental degradation, the structural inequities of capitalism (a topic I’ve been stuck on latelysee Let The Winds of Change Topple Capitalismand The Impact of Capitalism Will Be Felt Long After It Dies). This can mean that I spend a lot of time complaining, because solving the problem feels way beyond my capability, something only a government or giant corporation can tackle. But when I do that, I’m giving away my power to make change. This is the time of year we think about change a lot, whether we are making resolutions or taking on an annual challenge (my preferred approach). And any change, even…

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Let The Winds of Change Topple Capitalism: The Oak and The Reed

Last week I suggested we get rid of capitalism (The Sooner We Start Mourning Capitalism, The Sooner We Can Move On: The Young Widow). Many of the responses I got were along these lines: It’s the only system that can work in a free society. Capitalism has become an incontrovertible, first principles, core truth in our imaginations. For an idea so young in the history of human society, capitalism towers over us. But does that mean it’s unassailable? It is particularly apt to look back for perspective, given that capitalism (and the United States, its most loyal booster) did not exist in its current form in the 17th century when Jean de La Fontaine’s was writing his fables. One day…

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The Sooner We Start Mourning Capitalism, The Sooner We Can Move On: The Young Widow

I’m in Paris for the month of December and just passed through my first weekend of the Gilets Jaunes protests. Action sparked by the fuel tax France is supposed to impose (in some form) under the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. As of last week, the fuel tax is no longer, but the protests continued this weekend, expanding the mandate to the pervasive, systemic problem of income inequality. While I am in favour of taxes, as a way to encourage fuel efficiency, the question of who pays and how for the depredations wrought on the environment is a high wire act. In our capitalist system of “intensifying inequality” (as Jonathan Beller puts it in Cabinet), the less money one has, the…

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