Weekly Choice: on a Story, Spirituality without religion and please go on Booksurfing

Over 100 MOOCS Getting Started in September! Enroll in One Today!

MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) provides many interesting, illuminating courses in different areas.  The courses are free and also can be a smart way to procrastinate. Summer craziness is over, take your chance today! For further information take a look on MOOC list below.

http://www.mooc-list.com/?gclid=CjwKEAjwp7WgBRCRxMCLx8mMnDMSJADncxS263plTIjBvwfqKNB635tU6xdaPvj7G9DhCOjnBImE5BoCAgnw_wcB

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TED’s Best Of The Week! Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story

Chimamanda comes from a conventional, middle-class Nigerian family. In an extremely articulated talk, she speaks about generalizations. Are generalizations helpful? Can we function without them? Is that a default in the way we think and perceive the world? If this TED talk she posit on this issue in a curious and enlighten way. Thus far she manages to capture the attention of more than seven million people, who will be next?

“I left Nigeria to go to university in the United States. I was 19. My American roommate was shocked by me. She asked where I had learned to speak English so well, and was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language. She asked if she could listen to what she called my “tribal music,” and was consequently very disappointed when I produced my tape of Mariah Carey. She assumed that I did not know how to use a stove. What struck me was this: She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.”

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Legal murder. Legal abuse.

When someone would tell me to think of animals I would probably imagine a warm picture of myself cuddling my dog, giving her a bath and the good time I have with her. However, when one is removing her pink sunglasses, reality is quite different. What is happening? Humans are using animals for food, clothing, entertainment, and for scientific research.  In the US alone around 75,000 dogs (like mine and yours) and 22,000 cats dying every year from vivisection, many of them not even for a life saving medication but for shampoos, mascara and condoms. There are many accessible books and articles written on this subject, but until we witness it with our own eyes it’s all just dry and distant theory. Facebook is a great conscious buster about animal cruelty but is it enough (usually the sympathy doesn´t go beyond a short “it´s terrible” comment. We share the planet with animals, but instead of living with them we exploit, torture and abuse them in various ways, and all of that is today most gruesome Legal Murder, legal slavery, and rape.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKaCFyGdazo

If you are interested wish to learn more about this issue, here’s a link to “Earthlings”, an eye-opening documentary directed by Shaun Monson:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7cxmFugZMA

Here’s how to you too can do something about it:

– Don´t eat meat everyday

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics_of_eating_meat

– If you see an abuse report it

http://www.pet-abuse.com/database/

– Avoid buying and using testing brands

http://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-Buying-and-Using-Animal-Testing-Brands

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Waking Up: a guide to spirituality without religion

“I once participated in a twenty-three-day wilderness program in the mountains of Colorado. If the purpose of this course was to expose students to dangerous lightning and half the world’s mosquitoes, it was fulfilled on the first day. What was in essence a forced march through hundreds of miles of backcountry culminated in a ritual known as “the solo,” where we were finally permitted to rest—alone, on the outskirts of a gorgeous alpine lake—for three days of fasting and contemplation.

waking up

I had just turned sixteen, and this was my first taste of true solitude since exiting my mother’s womb. It proved a sufficient provocation. After a long nap and a glance at the icy waters of the lake, the promising young man I imagined myself to be was quickly cut down by loneliness and boredom. I filled the pages of my journal not with the insights of a budding naturalist, philosopher, or mystic but with a list of the foods on which I intended to gorge myself the instant I returned to civilization. Judging from the state of my consciousness at the time, millions of years of hominid evolution had produced nothing more transcendent than a craving for a cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake.”

This is how the new book of Sam Harris begins. To read/listen to

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/chapter-one

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Recommendation of the week, BookSurfing!

A new social experiment

 “More intimate than a book club, less process-y than group therapy, and more focused than a cocktail party! Book surfing is a unique way to get to know people, and get exposed to a lot of interesting ideas and texts.

Bring something to read to a small, intimate group (6-8 people), some of whom you don’t know.

The format has been distilled over time into 5 simple rules:

  1. Everybody present (6-8 people) reads aloud a text of their choice. (Bring two texts: if time permits there is a second round of readings).
  2. Any text is suitable: it can be Shakespeare, or your diary
  3. Texts read must not exceed 450 words. (Yes, it’s Twitter-like, but it’s proven a good length.)
  4. There has to be at least one newcomer to book surfing.
  5. There have to be some participants who don’t know each other.

booksurfing_There is a moderator who organizes and runs the meeting, and makes time available for discussion after each reading.

Simple rules, but they seem to guarantee an interesting experience!”

If you are interested in this social experiment follow the example of Book Surfing Seattle on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/booksurfingseattle/info

Morality? Nature, Nurture or Straight from That

There is a continuous and rigorous conversation that for some reason which remains obscure to my mind is still an issue even today, and that is the question of the origin of Morals, Ethics, Valor (I deliberately clutter them together because they are being used haphazardly sometimes without distinction). Many, if not all, religious people claim special ownership on them saying it has descended from their God or gods, usually claiming them as human only gifts. Agnostics try to avoid this question but when confronted seems to be sporadically ambiguous about the issue (many relate them to higher being and the more naturalistic agnostics say it is nature depending upon their level of traditionalism). As for atheists, it is clear that Morals and Ethics are a natural system; though even with some city dwellers non-believers, it seems there is a distinction between human and animals when it comes to this issue.

I´ve been an animal lover ever since I remember. Moreover, I found the animal kingdom to be fascinating and cultivating in a way that no school can ever be able to teach. While many teenagers go through rebellious crisis and rivalries with their kin primates, I found solace talking to our dog, cats, an occasional bird, hen, snakes, spiders and every other animal I came across. I learned from their instinctive innocence about interaction and life. The truth of the matter is that although it didn´t replace human interaction, it certainly helped me a great deal understanding them.

So far throughout different past posts I was briefly mentioning human behavior and moral substance through reconnecting with nature and our fellow creatures of the earth, but what about animals as our co-habitats on this shrinking planet? I´m still amazed when I hear someone questioning the existence of emotions, morals and ethics in non-human animals. I feel even worse than that day when I first learned about the 1550-1551 Controversia de Valladolid (Valladolid debate) where Spanish scholars and represents of the church debated for quite some time whether or not Indians have soul and should be recognized as human being or as evolved apes. How long will it take for today’s common knowledge to end this self-proclaimed distinction and to cease to be wrongfully pronounced and used as an excuse to inflict upon them variety of cruelties and absurdities? Elephants, Orcas, Dolphins, Chimpanzees, Dogs, Horses, Cows, are today´s Indians, facing the abnormal egocentrism and vanity of men.

Thus, I want to clarify, this post is about the question whether or not Moral is some incredible quality exclusively for humans. For that exact reason I decided to propose a collection of short videos for your entertainment, where, as explicitly shown, and let me blunt about it, the answer is simple: It is not!

Moral is a word, invented by men to convey an idea of social conduct. As any amateur viewer of National Geographic will tell you, one does not even have to go to the wild to see that most animals maintain these principles of conduct in the most natural way; in many occasions, even far better than humans. Perhaps by the technological complexity of our life, and probably because of the sheer number of our specie, humans need a constant reminder of what all large animals already know: that empathy, social bonding, altruism and interdependence are essential for survival (just read Dawkins The Selfish Gene or any distinguished biologist and it will all make sense).

Enough talk, nothing like a living image of reality to stress a point:

Elephants are certainly the highlight of recent animal understanding, unfortunately, this fact is probably because of their rapidly diminishing numbers. This majestic large animal is not only full of emotions and care but also quite a lot of brains. In this video, we see Kandula solving some difficulties. While you watch it, ponder on the fact that human intellect also began with the food incentive.

As for cooperation, watch this next experiment:

To read the full article about the elephant, click here.

Chimps are quite strong for their size. We call Just and kind a strong man that helps a kin that tent to appear more fragile. Yet what is exactly the sense of Justice?

Humans call Just to despicable things making philosophical reasoning for a ‘Just genocide’ and other atrocities. While all creature have a sense of interaction from within the specie, only humans use there one ability: reasoning, in the stupidest way. In stead of overcoming instinctive behavior, we use our brain to excuse it.

And how moral expressed in a sense of equality? Will you mind that your unfriendly coworker make more money than you even though you are doing the exact same work? I dare say that you won´t like it. What about our fellow primates:

Emotions

Who can deny mother’s pain, either of a human mother outliving her child, or of a milking cow, separated from her calf, and much worse is of an elephant in a matriarchal structured society.

Sure, those are all cherry picking videos and they might not even represent 50% of the animal tested and filmed, but hey, how many real altruist can you sincerely say you know?  The fact that even 1 exists is already more than enough to acknowledge that something in today’s discourse is still terribly wrong.

Weekly choice, by peers

Self-Victimizing Again?

“Whether it is your weight, your emotions, your spouse, your children, your paycheck–if you continually find yourself feeling angry, resentful or upset by the events in your life, reflect on who you blame for life’s ups and downs. (…)How a person internalizes a particular point of view about control speaks volumes about their ability to live with a sense of wellbeing and contentment. If your philosophy about control is outside of your conscious awareness then you are essentially a slave to it, repeating the same negative dynamics again and again, all the while feeling at the mercy of circumstance. Over time, repeatedly reenacting the same problematic patterns of behavior causes a self-fulfilling prophesy to manifest. A person comes to believe that they truly cannot impact their own future; thereby sealing their fate as nothing more than a cog in a wheel that goes nowhere.”

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/having-sex-wanting-intimacy/201312/self-victimizing-again

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The Power of Empathy: A Quick Animated Lesson That Can Make You a Better Person

EmpathyRSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) created a series of distinctive animated shorts where heavy-hitter intellectuals presented big ideas, and a talented artist rapidly illustrated them on a whiteboard. This clip features Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, providing some quick insights into the difference between sympathy and empathy, and explaining why empathy is much more meaningful.”

http://www.openculture.com/2013/12/the-power-of-empathy.html

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High Emotional Intelligence Dramatically Improves Decision-Making

images“A new study finds that people with high emotional intelligence make smarter decisions because they aren’t swayed by their current emotional state. Yip and Côté (2013) ran two experiments to test how different people deal with spurious emotional states that are not related to the decision at hand. In one, participants were made to feel anxious by being asked to prepare an impromptu speech. Then they were asked whether they wanted to sign up to a flu clinic.

The results showed that people with higher emotional intelligence were more aware that the experimentally-induced anxiety they felt was not related to the decision about the flu clinic.

Those with high levels of emotional intelligence are more likely to ignore those emotions that have nothing to do with their decision. For those who find it problematic making sense of their emotions, the easiest solution is simply stated (although not always easy to execute): wait until later.”

http://www.spring.org.uk/2013/12/high-emotional-intelligence-dramatically-improves-decision-making.php

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TED’s best of the week

Paul Piff: Does money make you mean?

How does being rich affect the way we behave? In today’s talk, social psychologist Paul Piff provides a convincing case for the answer: not well.

“As a person’s levels of wealth increase, their feelings of compassion and empathy go down, and their feelings of entitlement, of deservingness, and their ideology of self-interest increases,” he says in his talk from TEDx Marin. Through surveys and studies, Piff and his colleagues have found that wealthier individuals are more likely to moralize greed and self-interest as favorable, less likely to be prosocial, and more likely to cheat and break laws if it behooves them.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_piff_does_money_make_you_mean.html

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Book of the week! Ulysses by James Joyce

Ulysses_(1967_film_dvd_cover)Ulysses is a  novel written by the Irish writer James Joyce. It was first serialized in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, and then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach in February 1922, in Paris. It is considered to be one of the most important works of Modernist literature, and has been called “a demonstration and summation of the entire movement”. Joyce’s devoted fans can be seen celebrating June 16th every year, Bloomsday, the day in which all of the action of Ulysses takes place in the spinning clockwork of Dublin in 1904.

The celebrated novel was banned in America until 1934 because of its “pornographic” nature, a comical artefact of the country’s prudishness. The novel was also labeled as dirty, blasphemous, and unreadable.

The two main characters, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, go about their separate business, crossing paths with a gallery of indelible Dubliners. We watch them teach, eat, stroll the streets, argue, and (in Bloom’s case) masturbate. And thanks to the books stream-of-consciousness technique–which suggests no mere stream but an impossibly deep, swift-running river–we’re privy to their thoughts, emotions, and memories. As for the result, almost every variety of human experience is crammed into the accordion folds of a single day, which makes Ulysses not just an experimental work but the very last word in realism.

“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

An interesting documentary about the author and his masterpiece:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qI7ZnHIF0Xo