Archives for World in Passing


Who are the Hadza?

Location:  northern Tanzania; “About a thousand Hadza live in their traditional homeland, a broad plain encompassing shallow, salty Lake Eyasi… Genetic testing indicates that they represent one of the primary roots of the human family tree – perhaps more than 100,000 years old.”

Language: “not closely related to any other [language] that still exists”

What are the Hadza like?

Continue Reading

Proclamation of Psychological Independence

The West is in a constant war with reality: perpetually dissatisfied with what is, we are desperately trying to perfect it.

This one and only reality seems never enough and we feel ever entitled to more: bigger houses, bigger (hybrid) cars, bigger (Anime-sized) eyes, bigger market shares, bigger tax deductions, bigger incomes, bigger bonuses, bigger breasts, bigger penises, bigger egos and bigger wars. We have been culturally programmed to endlessly optimize and supersize, and to constantly perfect ourselves and everyone else around us. Our appetite for more has been kindled to the level of insatiability. No wonder we feel psychologically starved and existentially empty.

We have been taught to chase the unattainable: to be more than what we are at any given point in time. We are a culture of idealistically naive strivers unable to be content with what is if only for a moment.
Continue Reading

Summer Mindfulness Reads

Dear readers, I'd like to bring a couple of new books (that I’ve had a recent privilege to review) to your summer-time reading attention:

Mindfulness Code by Donald Altman

There are books about mindfulness as a technique for solving this or that problem. And then there are books that unpack the bigger-picture treasures of mindfulness as a worldview. The Mindfulness Code is an open-source secret of mindful living, a compassionate invitation to infuse mindfulness into every aspect of one’s life.

In offering a set of four “keys” for overcoming suffering, Altman, remains an ever skillful locksmith, narrating an innovative existential map with the help of teachings, inspirations, clinical vignettes, personal revelations, and ready-to-use techniques. 
Continue Reading

Eclipse of Expectations (Spoiler-Proof Review)

Following is a 10-point review of Eclipse by a 40-year old Twilight-cult virgin.

First a word or two of context (since any review of anything is only as useful as its phenomenological reference point). I haven't read any of the books (and was, thus, spared the distraction of comparing the movie to the book). On the rather ardent encouragement of my wife (of nearly 20 years!) I have, not without reluctance, agreed to prime myself with the first two movies on Monday and Tuesday of this week, so that on this Wednesday I could cliff-dive into this odyssey well-primed, even if not "imprinted."

We watched a noon show in a largely empty Pittsburgh movie-theater, sharing the best seats in the house next to a cluster of aging women that I believe came to see Jake, not Edward. Not that it matters, I had nachos and Goobers. They were, as per usual, good.

On to the review proper: the movie has eclipsed my modest expectations. Here's my spoiler-proof 10 point analysis of the movie that gives away nothing essential.
Continue Reading

Tinariwen Simplicity in the District of Complexity

I have been a fan of Tinariwen (a band of nomadic exile musicians of Tuareg descent) for exactly as long as I have been listening to them, i.e. for about a year. When I found out that they were going to play at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC, I saddled up my Hyundai Elantra and hopped on the Pennsylvania turnpike. I spent the Friday afternoon, with nomadic circularity of my DC visits, taxi-ing my mom (who lives in Alexandria) from a bank to the Columbia Gardens cemetery (to "check" on my dad and grandmother) to the nearby Goodwill store (that happened to have a nice Nakamichi CD player for only $29.99, that I didn't buy) and, finally, to the Harris Teeter in the Pentagon City. A few hours later, banded together with my brother and my sister-in-law, I arrived at the 9:30 Club at 8:30pm which proved to be illuminatingly too early.

As I watched my brother resist being branded with the club's ink-stamp (on the grounds that the ink is absorbed by the skin and then has to be subsequently filtered out by one's liver, a valid enough point) I watched
Continue Reading

Mind-2-Mind Potpourri

thoughts in passing | music/video/book reviews | pattern interruption

To my mind to be astonished at nothing is much more stupid than to be astonished at everything.
Fyodor Dostoevsky (Bobok)

When a thought arises just see its nature, do not conceive the water and waves to be different.
Savaripa (Collection of Songs on the Oral Mahamudra Teachings)

Every so-called fact is embedded in some kind of theoretical context.
Van Kaam (Existential Foundations of Psychology)

Tinariwen: the sound of empty places

“Formed in 1982, in strikingly unusual circumstances for a musical ensemble, Tinariwen blend ancient musical traditions with radical contemporary politics.
Continue Reading

Searching for Significance in All the Wrong Places

We search for significance… in all the wrong places.

Significance is a sign that a given manifestation (aspect) of reality equals: ______________ (your mind fills in the blank).

Indeed, significance is an equation between something outside of you and something inside you, a moment in which a particular manifestation of reality translates into a feeling of significance and a thought of significance.

Case in point: say you have a crush on a co-worker.  As you walk past her desk, she looks up.  This moment, this manifestation of outside reality translates into a feeling of significance (your heart skips its regular beat as the sympathetic nervous system revs up in response to the possibility of sympathy) and a thought of jubilation (perhaps: “she/he likes me!”).   But, of course, so far it’s just a hypothesis – but its very fact is enough to make your heart skip a beat. 
Continue Reading

The Bilbao Effect: Architecture of Pattern Interruption?

Preamble: this essay about architecture isn’t just about architecture, neither is architecture just about architecture.

I generally don’t like saying “no” to reality but in this case I’ll break my own pattern and resist a trend.  But before I get in the way of this pendulum swing, some context.  The ouroboros snake of architecture, that’s been chasing form with function and function with form, is once again shedding its skin.  In Cathleen McGuigan’s Newsweek article “Starchitecture: A Modest Proposal” we learn, from the mouth of Rob Rogers, a partner at Rogers Marvel in New York, that the profession of architecture is on an economic diet and “has to cut back, regrow, and reimagine what it is we’re all supposed to do.”

McQuigan explains that “the
Continue Reading

Psychology of Presidential Ambition?

A moment before I sat down to write this blog, I poured myself a cup of lotus tea and yelled the following into the living room where my wife was watching Cesar help another fearful dog out of its phobic bind: “Hey, babe, as a naturalized citizen, I can’t run for president, right?”

“Right!” she yelled back and asked in return, with one of those are-you-crazy chuckles: “What, you were thinking about running?!”  Hell no!  I happen to enjoy that special brand of American citizenship that comes with a fail-proof ego-check: even if, for some reason, my ego were to blow up with a manic-grade delusion of grandeur I can never – thank god! – find myself in a position of telling three hundred million people how to live their lives.
Continue Reading

Cash Relief

The July/August issue of “Discover” reports: “Hurting?  Get your hands on some cash: psychologists report that handling money diminishes the perception of physical pain.  Even just counting someone else’s bills will do the trick.”

Hmm…  This little bit of psychological “good news” is offered without...
Continue Reading