Ramachandran on pain

“Pain is an opinion.”
— Ramachandran

Vilayanur Subramanian Ramachandran (born August 10, 1951) is a neuroscientist known primarily for his work in the fields of behavioral neurology and visual psychophysics. He is currently a Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Graduate Program in Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego. Wikipedia

Encore: Gender Fluidity – Is It Time To Abandon All Labels? | Under The Skin with Russell Brand & Mae Martin


Russell Brand
Published on Oct 20, 2017

Comedian Mae Martin joins me to discuss gender fluidity, breaking down barriers and the compelling statistic that 40% of people under 25 don’t identify as gay or straight. Plus, we discuss her experiences with addiction and an intriguing obsession with Bette Midler.

You can get tickets to see Mae on tour here: https://www.maemartin.net/dope-tour-d…

Unf*ck Yourself From The Modern World with my new book Recovery
Get it here in US: http://tinyurl.com/ydcwz3kd
Australia: https://t.co/Ri1XSonD2X
UK: http://tinyurl.com/ycs8gu6b

To see me on my Re:Birth tour go to https://russellbrand.seetickets.com/t…

Listen to my Under The Skin podcast here https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/u…

Do Americans Know How Much Trouble They’re In?

Why America is at a Crossroads in History — and There Might Not be Any Way Back to Normal, Sane, or Civilized–

By Umair Haque
June 4, 2018 (Medium.com)

A President who invokes absolute authority to…pardon himself. An ambassador to Germany who declares he wants to…topple the German government. Senators — the most powerful people in democracy, save the President — knocking on the door of a “detainment center”, looking for kids separated from their parents, only to be denied by guards who…laugh at them contemptuously, call the police, and have them shooed away like nobodies.

Do Americans understand how much trouble they’re now in? How grave the threat to America’s constitutional democracy, its civil society, its place in the world, and its ongoing survival is? Now. When I ask this question, you’ll protest: “Of course I do!” (or perhaps “You’re overstating it!!”, in which case the answer is already…no.) But I don’t mean you, yourself. I am asking you to ask yourself about everyone else, perhaps the mythical average American.

Here is a truth you would probably rather not hear.

America is at a crossroads. A point of no return. A democratic society cannot really survive the three assaults above, and go on being one. They may seem like just daily events in the ongoing sad saga of a troubled nation — but they are not just that. They contain great significance to history, which I feel American intellectuals are doing a poor job of interpreting and presenting to the American people. Let me take them one by one.

When a society has a leader who claims to not just be above the law — but to be the law — then such a society cannot be a democracy, or a constitutional republic, a res publica, the “public affair” of the classical Greeks. When a leader has absolute power, then rights cannot be said to exist, and there is no point to voting, representation, or legislation. If the will of the people, or their representatives, can be abrogated at any time, by a leader who can “pardon” anyone absolutely for anything, beginning with himself, then democracy ceases to matter in any way whatsoever — that is how you get to “90% of people vote for Putin!”, every single election.

Now, I am sure that you have had similar thoughts. But I want you to really understand it. When a society crosses this line, there is usually no going back. When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, Rome was finished. When the Sun King declared “l’etat, c’est moi”, “I am the state”, the French ancien regime was finished — the revolution was a foregone conclusion. And the same is true in America. If this line is crossed, there is likely to be no way back to democracy.

But the same is true of Senators who cannot “access” a “detainment center” — an altogether too-polite euphemism for a concentration camp, a place where people, children in this case, are literally concentrated, with no recourse or rights, simply vanished and disappeared into thin air, into a black hole. That is the point of a concentration camp — to create a black hole that is impossible for anyone to see into, for press, intellectuals, citizens, or even leaders.

What is really happening here? Democratic representation is being made impotent — visibly and in public, so everyone can see just how powerless it is against authoritarianism. Authoritarians are demonstrating their absolute power to destroy the daily workings of democracy. Think about it: mere nobodies, flunkies, “guards”, call the police, who tell Senators, they must leave. They are able to render the most powerful people in society — Senators — utterly, totally, laughably impotent. But the Senators are the people’s most powerful representatives, and if they cannot gain access to children hidden away in dungeons, then who can? No one. But that is precisely the point. It is a form of intimidation. Meant to create a society governed by fear, anxiety, impotence, the expectation of powerlessness — not one governed by law, order, and a democratic distribution of power.

Like the last line, this line too, is usually irreversible — this line is the one of delegitimizing and disempowering the mechanism of democratic representation itself. Once Senators are made impotent, they do not easily regain the power to represent the people. Who in history was famous for such a thing? Caligula, of course, who once made his horse a Senator, or a consul, depending on legend. The point wasn’t just to mock the people’s representatives — it was to demonstrate how impotent they were. To demand their servility. To say that you are no better than yoked animals to me — and that is just how powerless you remain. I can find no example of history where once representation has been delegitimized, it is suddenly made powerful and strong again. It takes decades, usually — if it happens at all.

Now let me come to the third line crossed in just this one fatal day — the ambassador who told an ally that he is out to quite literally bring down its government. What is the effect of this? It is to make America a pariah state. An international outcast, shunned, reviled, a society that civilized ones keep its distance from, lest its weakness infect them, too.

And that is precisely what authoritarians want. Do you know how abusers isolate their victims — from friends, family, colleagues, twisting the truth, telling them that they are the only ones who are looking out for them, and the ones who genuinely care for them are the ones who will hurt them? In that way, isolated, alone, the victim is weakened, afraid, hesitant — and the abuser’s job is easy. That is just what authoritarians do, too.

Why did the Soviets bring down an iron curtain? It wasn’t really to protect people from decadent capitalism — it was to isolate them and keep them dumb, ignorant, and weak. Why do China, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea block and censor the internet and outside media? It isn’t to make people virtuous — it is to keep them isolated, so that they never form bonds with anyone but their rulers.

This line too cannot be easily uncrossed. Once a society becomes a pariah state, it isn’t as if people make friends with it again overnight. Think of how Russians are regarded by the world today. They are not exactly seen as the globe’s most civilized people (sorry — let us just be honest). They are treated with suspicion, a little hostility, fear, and shame, wherever they go. That is because Russia is a pariah state, and the people of pariah states are not so easily loved or trusted again by their neighbours and peers. Bonds are broken. Friends becomes strangers and aliens to one another. Trust disintegrates. But anyone who has ever had a relationship knows: trust, once it is lost, is the hardest thing of all to repair.

So. Let me ask you again. Do you think Americans know how grave their plight is now? That they are at a crossroads? That they face all these dangers? Let me summarize them. Becoming a pariah state, shunned by the world. Becoming an authoritarian state, the rule of law shattered, in which absolute power is taken away from the people, and concentrated among the most ruthless, vicious, brutal, and inhumane (remember those flunkies, those “guards”, laughing and calling the police on Senators looking for missing kids?). And going from being an open, vibrant, optimistic society, to being something more like the Soviet Union — a place that, most troublingly of all, had no road back to being a democracy at all.

Perhaps you yourself think I overstate the case. Perhaps I do. Still, I think it would be a very foolish thing to say: “let history be the judge.” Those are famous last words. So I will leave you with this. In times like these, it is reasonable to expect the worst, and unreasonable to go on hoping against hope for the best. That is not because I am a pessimist. It is because I am an optimist to the last, even in these grim and desperate times.

(Submitted by Gwyllm Llwydd.)

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on How a Simple Human Smile Saved His Life

By Maria Popova (brainpickings.org)

exupery_lettertoahostage.jpg?w=680Though researchers since Darwin may have spent considerable effort on the science of smiles, at the heart of that simple human expression remains a metaphysical art — one captured nowhere more beautifully and grippingly than in a short account by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry(June 29, 1900–July 31, 1944), found in Letter to a Hostage (public library) — the same exquisite short memoir he began writing in December of 1940, a little more than two years before he created The Little Prince on American soil, which also gave us his poignant reflection on what the Sahara desert teaches us about the meaning of life.

In a creative sandbox for what would become Saint-Exupéry’s most famous line in The Little Prince — “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” — he writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngHow does life construct those lines of force which make us alive?

[…]

Real miracles make little noise! Essential events are so simple!

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One such essential event in Saint-Exupéry’s life had to do with the mundane miracle of a simple smile, a gift he so poetically describes as “a certain miracle of the sun, which had taken so much trouble, for so many million years, to achieve, through ourselves, that quality of a smile which was pure success.” He once again channels the spirit of his famous Little Prince line and writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe essential, most often, has no weight. The essential there, was apparently nothing but a smile. A smile is often the essential. One is paid with a smile. One is rewarded by a smile. And the quality of a smile might make one die.

Indeed, in a subsequent chapter, Saint-Exupéry recounts an incident that rendered a smile very much the difference between life and death — his life and death. One night during his time in Spain as a journalist reporting on the Civil War, he found himself with several revolver barrels pressed tightly into his stomach — the militia of the rebel forces had snuck up on him under the veil of the dark and captured him in “solemn silence,” staring at his tie — “such a luxury was not fashionable in an anarchist area” — rather than his face. He recounts:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMy skin tightened. I waited for the shot, for this was the time of quick trials. But there was no shot. After a complete blank of a few seconds, during which the shifts at work appeared to dance in another universe — a kind of dream ballet — my anarchists, slightly nodding their heads, bid me precede them, and we set off, without hurry, across the lines of junction. The capture had been done in perfect silence, with an extraordinary economy of movement. It was like a game of creatures of the ocean bed.

I soon descended to a basement transformed into a guard post. Badly lit by a poor oil lamp, some other militia were dozing, their guns between their legs. They exchanged a few words, in a neutral voice, with the men of my patrol. One of them searched me.

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Saint-Exupéry didn’t speak Spanish, but understood enough Catalan to gather that his identity documents were being requested. He tried to communicate to his captors that he had left them at the hotel, that he was journalist, but they merely passed around his camera, yawning and expressionless. The atmosphere, to his surprise, wasn’t what one would expect of an anarchist militia camp:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe dominant impression was that of boredom. Boredom and sleep. The power of concentration of these men seemed exhausted. I almost wished for a sign of hostility, as a human contact. But … they gazed at me without any reaction, as if they were looking at a Chinese fish in an aquarium.

(One has to wonder whether that desire for contact, whatever its nature or cost, might be a universality of the human condition — the same impulse that drives trolls to spew the venom of hostility as a desperate antidote to their own apathy and existential boredom. Aggression is, perhaps, the only form of contact of which they are capable, and yet it is contact they crave so compulsively.)

After a tortuous period of observing his captors wait for nothing in particular, Saint-Exupéry grew increasingly exasperated with a longing for contact, for the mere acknowledgement of his existence. He paints the backdrop of the miracle that would take place:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngIn order to load myself with the weight of real presence, I felt a strange need to cry out something about myself, which would impose upon them the truth of my existence — my age for instance! That is impressive, the age of a man! That summarizes all his life. This maturity of his has taken a long time to achieve. It was grown through so many obstacles conquered, so many serious illnesses cured, so many griefs appeased, so many despairs overcome, so many dangers unconsciously passed. It has grown through so many desires, so many hopes, so many regrets, so many lapses, so much love. The age of a man, that represents a good load of experience and memories. In spite of decoys, jolts, and ruts, you have continued to plod like a horse drawing a cart.

Saint-Exupéry was thirty-seven at the time.

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But what happened next had nothing to do with the achievement of age, or the gravitas of maturity, or any other willful self-assertion. Instead, it was driven by the simplest, most profound form of shared humanity:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThen the miracle happened. Oh! a very discreet miracle. I had no cigarette. As one of my guards was smoking, I asked him, by gesture, showing the vestige of a smile, if he would give me one. The man first stretched himself, slowly passed his hand across his brow, raised his eyes, no longer to my tie but to my face, and, to my great astonishment, he also attempted a smile. It was like the dawning of the day.

This miracle did not conclude the tragedy, it removed it altogether, as light does shadow. There had been no tragedy. This miracle altered nothing visible. The feeble oil lamp, the table scattered with papers, the men propped against the wall, the colors, the smell, everything remained unchanged. Yet everything was transformed in its very substance. That smile saved me. It was a sign just as final, as obvious in its future consequences, as unchangeable as the rising of the sun. It marked the beginning of a new era. Nothing had changed, everything was changed. The table scattered with papers became alive. The oil lamp became alive. The walls were alive. The boredom dripping from every lifeless thing in that cellar grew lighter as if by magic. It seemed that an invisible stream of blood had started flowing again, connecting all things in the same body, and restoring to them their significance.

The men had not moved either, but, though a minute earlier they had seemed to be farther away from me than an antediluvian species, now they grew into contemporary life. I had an extraordinary feeling of presence. That is it: of presence. And I was aware of a connection.

The boy who had smiled at me, and who, until a few minutes before, had been nothing but a function, a tool, a kind of monstrous insect, appeared now rather awkward, almost shy, of a wonderful shyness — that terrorist! He was no less a brute than any other. But the revelation of the man in him shed such a light upon his vulnerable side! We men assume haughty airs, but within the depth of our hearts, we know hesitation, doubt, grief.

Nothing had yet been said. Yet everything was resolved.

thelittleprince_morgan10.jpg?w=680

One of Saint-Exupéry’s original watercolors for The Little Prince.

Saint-Exupéry ends with a reflection on the sacred universality and life-giving force of that one simple gesture, the human smile:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngCare granted to the sick, welcome offered to the banished, forgiveness itself are worth nothing without a smile enlightening the deed. We communicate in a smile beyond languages, classes, and parties. We are faithful members of the same church, you with your customs, I with mine.

Four years after he wrote Letter to a Hostage, which is a sublime read in its totality, Saint-Exupéry disappeared over the Bay of Biscay never to return. Popular legend has it that Horst Rippert, the German fighter pilot who shot down the author’s plane, broke down and wept upon hearing the news — Saint-Exupéry had been his favorite author. What a tragic form of contact, war.

Why the Way We Think is Obsolete

Or, Why Individualism, Materialism, and Competition Won’t Create the Future

Go to the profile of umair haque

When I consider about the American way of thinking about things — maybe even everything— it appears to me to boil down to three interlocking elements. Individualism. Competition. And materialism (not just as in “having more stuff” but as in “stuff is all there is” or “things we can’t see and touch, like feelings, don’t really count”). And when I think about it little more, I can’t help but observe: individualistic competitive materialism ends with Donald Trump as its perfect exemplar and ultimate apotheosis, gilded interiors, bullying, bluster, and all. But we’ll come back to that.

First, you be the judge and I’ll think out loud. Culture? Our myths and legends instill the lessons of competition, individualism, and materialism so powerfully and constantly, we don’t even notice anymore — movies and TV shows about empire-building, or brave superheroes, or the glittering lives of the super-rich, or all three. Hence, the cultural ideal is something like a Nietzschean superman — Christian Grey, a remorseless billionaire tycoon with no emotions, who’s outwitted his way to the top of the heap, and likes to punish people (smack! ooh). Isn’t that a little, well, strange? Achilles or Odysseus or Antigone — or even Oliver Twist and George Bailey — our protagonists aren’t.

Economics? The entire American economy is premised on ultra-individualistic hyper-competition, so much so that it’s become predatory, antagonistic, and brutalizing, for the lowest, most laughable kinds of material payoffs — the biggest bonus, the company AmEx, the VIP table, the car service, a shiny suit and a pair of Ferragamos. And so it’s devolved to hedge fund robots raiding pension funds that poor people worked hard for every day of their lives — that’s not illegal, abnormal, or even ethically questionable: it’s just “strategy”. But “strategies” to take from others what they have rightfully earned, and justly deserve, is precisely what competitive individualistic materialism arrives at taken to an extreme — after all, there have to be losers for there to be winners in this game.

Society? Well, there is no society to speak of, really. There is no such thing as a social contract in America — much less any red lines, norms or shared values left. There’s only the law of the jungle. If you’re poor, you die young. If you don’t want to die young, you pay whatever it is you must for healthcare, education, transport, and media — all of inferior quality. What choice is there?There is no such thing as a safety net, really — and so poor Americans, terrified of falling through the cracks, never really take vacations, time off, learn about the world (can you tell me what kind of healthcare Switzerland has? What makes Germany’s economy different and special?), or grow much as people anymore (sane people don’t elect authoritarians, my friends).

Now, already, you might be beginning to see the problem. But let me spell it out in plain English.

The American way of thinking about everything — itself, people, human life, the world — doesn’t work anymore. I think that there was a time when American thought was more than this, sure — think Thoreau, MLK, FDR, or William James — but that’s about all I see in it now. And while maybe there was a time that this way of thinking did work— that’s arguable — what seems to me to be as plain as day is that individualistic competitive materialism just doesn’t work anymore. It doesn’t work as a philosophy, a way to think about about the world and our place in it. It doesn’t work as a politics, a way to organize a society. It doesn’t work as an economy, a way to organize human possibility. And it doesn’t work as an ethics, a way to think well about what is best in us, about us, and for us.

Think about the great challenges that we face. “We,” humankind, whether as a world, or as countries, or as cities, families, and towns. Climate change. Inequality. Polarization and fracture. How to care for our elderly, who are living longer lives, or our young, who need more and better education, investment, and care than in any previous era, or our vulnerable — in other words, healthcare, social care, elderly care, education. Then there’s energy and infrastructure. How are we going to power our societies, and keep them humming along?

Now. What do all these challenges have in common? They can’t be solved by individualistic competitive materialism. Not a single one. Consider healthcare. Healthcare is cheapest — and of the highest quality — when it is provided at a social level: when societies give a national agency of some kind the power to negotiate drug prices, to share costs, to invest in hospitals, to define how much doctors are paid, and so on. The same is true for infrastructure, energy, finance, and media, too. At social scale is when the greatest scale and scope economies are reaped.

Think about this poor guy: a dentist who has a million dollars in student debt. How did he get there? Well, the poor guy is a victim of individualistic competitive materialism. He’s a tiny social atom, bouncing around, seeking the highest payoff — in competition with everybody else. Student loan rates are set not at the minimum amount he can bear, but the maximum — because the idea isn’t to support him, but to squeeze him, like any resource. He says he’d have a mental breakdown if he thought about it too much — but his stress and misery don’t count, because, remember, emotions and feelings don’t matter. All that matters is whether we pay, we perform, we produce — or how much we can bully people into doing those for us. And that’s why systems of individualistic competitive materialism end up with Donald Trumps at the top — and a poor guy with a million dollars somewhere in the collapsing middle. It’s not a coincidence.

He’s an outlier today, the million dollar in debt dentist. But he won’t be tomorrow. Things like healthcare costs and debt servicing are skyrocketing in America. They’re climbing by double digits every year. That means they double in cost every seven years or so. And that means that today’s college education, which costs easily $500k, is going to reach $1 million soon enough. Kids with a million dollars of debt, just for a basic education — think about that for a second. How are we going to produce the great scientists, innovators, artists, and writers of tomorrow — if everybody’s got to go be a middle manager, just to pay off their student debt, and they can barely afford a PhD, which doesn’t pay the bills anyways, because we don’t invest in education, so there aren’t jobs in research? You see the problem now, perhaps.

Individualistic competitive materialism is not a good match for the challenges of the 21st century. That is because those challenges are a) shared b) not just about material stuff, but about how we feel and think and grow and learn and c) about nourishing and supporting each other, not the stone age logic of having more than and depriving and beating and conquering each other.

In other words, our great challenges this decade, century, maybe even millennium, are cooperative, social, and existential. They are about investing in one another, building great institutions that endow all with the basic goods of well lived lives: whether education, finance, healthcare, energy, or information. But see the point and the idea in that. There are no winners anymore if we do not all win, only losers. The idea that if we “win” some meaningless contest for money, fame, or power, merely by dragging everyone else down, only leaves us all worse off in the end. A society that needs 21st century goods, like healthcare, education, clean energy, and research, cannot survive using the logic of the jungle and the rule of the most predatory, because those will never be able to create, distribute, or sustain such goods.

The only things that the law of the jungle can really create and sustain are a) hierarchy b) fear and rage and c) insatiable greed. I am above you, and I must keep you down. I am afraid of you, so I will obey you. I must have it all — and I will take it from you, by any means. If those are the rules, how can the advanced and sophisticated, the beautiful and generous, the shared and universal things that we need to live better lives now ever come to be? Such a society can only go backwards, and that’s why America’s doing just that.

So the old story of human history — hierarchy, competition, conquest — must give way to a new one, if human beings are to go on doing the difficult work of living side by side, prospering, and growing. The old way of thinking is obsolete because our problems have outgrown it, and it cannot provide the things that we need now — and so we must grow, too.

If you ask me, we are coming a little closer, these troubled and strange times, to the truths of human fragility. How having more stuff does not necessarily make us better people. How outdoing one another doesn’t matter one bit if the direction we are oriented in is down, not up. And how if we do not lift one another up, then we have failed one another in a profound and lasting way. The loneliness, mistrust, despair, and anger of now, the inequalities and deprivations of this age — they are the result of a way of thinking that is obsolete now. Individualistic competitive materialism. It’s age is over. That is alright. Every paradigm has its day, and no way of thinking is meant to last forever. The only question is if the countries which pioneered it will go on clinging to it, or be brave enough to outgrow it.

(Suggested by Pam Rodolph, H.W,. m.)

Rachel Carson’s Bittersweet Farewell to the World: Timeless Advice to the Next Generations from the Woman Who Catalyzed the Environmental Movement

By Maria Popova (brainpickings.org)

figuring_jacket_final.jpg?fit=320%2C486

In 1962, after pioneering a new aesthetic of poetic writing about science and the natural world, the marine biologist and author Rachel Carson (May 27, 1907–April 14, 1964) catalyzed the modern environmental movement with her epoch-making book Silent Spring — a courageous exposé of the pesticide industry, illuminating the profound interconnectedness of nature. It stunned and sobered humanity’s moral imagination, effecting a tidal wave of unprecedented citizen concern, with consequences reaching across popular culture and policy, leading to the creation of Earth Day and the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Carson had been following the science of pesticides and their grim effects on nature, meticulously glossed over by the agricultural and chemical industries, for more than a decade. Already the most esteemed science writer in the country, she used her voice and credibility to hold the government accountable for its abuses of power in the assault on nature. “Knowing what I do, there would be no future peace for me if I kept silent,” she wrote to her beloved. Fully aware that speaking out against the pesticide industry would subject her — as it invariably did — to ruthless attacks by corporate and government interests, she saw no moral choice but to defend what she held dearest by catalyzing a new kind of conscience.

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Rachel Carson

Carson’s aim with Silent Spring was threefold — to transmute hard facts into literature that stands the test of time, to awaken a public hypnotized into docility to the perils of substances so mercilessly marketed as panaceas by chemical companies, and to challenge the government to rise to its neglected responsibility in regulating these perils. She admonished against the fragmentation, commodification, and downright erasure of truth in an era when narrow silos blind specialists to the interconnected whole and market forces sacrifice truth on the altar of revenue. When citizens protest and try to challenge those forces with incontestable evidence, they are “fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth.” In a sentiment of striking resonance half a century later, Carson exhorted: “We urgently need an end to these false assurances, to the sugar coating of unpalatable facts.” Above all, she countered the pathological short-termism of commercial interests with a sobering look at “consequences remote in time and place” as poisons permeate a delicate ecosystem in which no organism is separate from any other and no moment islanded in the river of time.

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Photograph by Bill Reaves from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Documerica project (U.S. National Archives)

In June 1962, five days before the first installment of Silent Spring made its debut in The New Yorker, the terminally ill Carson summoned the remnants of her strength to take her very first cross-country jetliner flight and deliver a long-awaited commencement address at Scripps College in California, excerpted in Figuring(public library), from which this piece is adapted. She titled it “Of Man and the Stream of Time” — hers, after all, was an era when every woman, too, was “man.” It was a crystallization of Carson’s moral philosophy, a farewell to the world she so cherished, and her baton-passing of that cherishment to the next generation.

She told graduates:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngToday our whole earth has become only another shore from which we look out across the dark ocean of space, uncertain what we shall find when we sail out among the stars.

[…]

The stream of time moves forward and mankind moves with it. Your generation must come to terms with the environment. You must face realities instead of taking refuge in ignorance and evasion of truth. Yours is a grave and sobering responsibility, but it is also a shining opportunity. You go out into a world where mankind is challenged, as it has never been challenged before, to prove its maturity and its mastery — not of nature, but of itself.

Therein lies our hope and our destiny.

Couple with Carson’s contemporary and admirer Lewis Thomas on our human potential and our responsibility to the planet and to ourselves, then revisit Carson on writing and the loneliness of creative work, Neil Gaiman’s stunning tribute to her legacy, and the story of the writing of Silent Spring.

For more tastes of Figuring, savor Emily Dickinson’s love letters, Nobel-winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli on science, spirituality, and our search for meaning, trailblazing feminist Margaret Fuller on what makes a great leader, the story of how the forgotten pioneer Harriet Hosmer paved the way for women in art, Herman Melville’s passionate and heartbreaking love letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Virginia Woolf and the fate of technology, and astrophysicist Janna Levin’s beautiful reading of the Auden poem that became the book’s epigraph.

Emmanuel Macron Not Sure How To Tell Billionaires Notre Dame Repair Only Costs $200

April 22, 2019 (theonion.com)

PARIS—Following an outpouring of financial support from the nation’s wealthiest residents, French president Emmanuel Macron admitted Monday he was not sure how to tell the billionaire donors that repairs to the damaged Notre Dame cathedral would only cost the equivalent of about $200. “The generosity has been truly overwhelming, but we’re really just talking about replacing some wood here,” said Macron, who explained how damage to the iconic Paris landmark looked worse than it really was, and that even though the contractor’s quote came in at 500 euros, he had been able to save money by doing some of the work himself. “Things started looking a lot better after we vacuumed, and it turns out a lot of this soot will just buff right out. I guess we could use the rest of the billion or so euros to put in an underground parking garage or a nice upscale lounge with some sofas. But even then we’d have a couple hundred million left over.” At press time, Macron announced the repairs would be even cheaper than he had estimated after discovering an extra spire stored in the basement.

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