Waiting for the Seventh Generation

The concept of “future” has always been a daunting challenge to human thinking and action. No matter how hard we try to propel ourselves into the future, it always stays a step ahead. Like Sisyphus’s persistent attempts to reach the top of the mountain, we can never get to the future, no matter hard we try. Human existence is limited to the present. These statements are not intended to deny the existence of the concepts of past, present, or future, but only to situate human existence. We are alive only in the present. The past is the record of our own previous moments and also those of collective memory. The… Read More

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Will the Center Hold?

William Butler Yeats famous line, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,” is just one piece of his poem that has been used by others in the context of questions about the stability of the times. I find it extraordinarily relevant today, just about 100 years after it was published in 1920. Here’s the first verse. Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. The… Read More

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Complexity, Conservatism, and a Few Other Things

I am still awaiting a go-ahead to publish my new book. In the meantime, I will start posting little dribs and drabs, hoping got keep you interesting. I have already posted a number of entries about the divided brain, one of the central concepts on which this work is based. I continue to belief that this model of how we think is terribly important in understanding how we have gotten into the present messes and, more importantly, how we can get back on the road to flourishing. A second element is that flourishing is the correct vision for human societies to aim at. Today, I come back to a third… Read More

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The Little Secret about Sustainability is Coming Out

From today’s Washington Post: PUERTO VARAS, Chile — “Sustainability” may be a worthy goal, but the word has become cliché, now typically deployed in its adverbial form to modify various nature-exploiting activities like “logging” and “fishing” or the catch-all “development.” So let’s quit talking about “sustainable” this or that and face the overarching question about the future: Can we create a durable civilization in which humans become good neighbors in the community of life? Where our society is embedded in a matrix of wild nature that allows all creatures — from microorganisms to blue whales — freedom to pursue happiness and raise their progeny in a secure habitat? The path… Read More

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Ethics and the Divided Brain

I am back from our trip to Morocco, and have mostly caught up with my sleep and the hundreds of emails that had accumulated. I did have my iPhone along, but needed to respond to only a couple of timely messages. The trip taught me I can hit the “unsubscribe” link without missing anything important. It was a great trip. Morocco is very interesting. An Arab country, with remnants of old cultures—Roman, Jewish, Berber—mixed into a modern setting. We went from a few days of camping in the Sahara to snow-covered mountains in only a few hours drive. Here are a few photos showing the range of cultures: A Roman… Read More

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Learning about Conservatism

I’ve just started a new course at my learning-in-retirement program on Edmund Burke and the origins and history of conservatism. Only one class in and already I am having trouble seeing anything in common with Burke and what goes for this “ism” today. While I have find myself unable to stomach virtually everything coming down the political pipeline with the label “conservative,” I am surprised by how much of Burke’s political thinking makes sense. Our first class began with a collection for the members of all sorts of characterizations of Burke. Out of the potpourri that filled the whiteboard, these resonated. Burke comes across as a pragmatist. He was very… Read More

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No More Crocodile Tears

    There is only one way to stop gun violence. Take away the guns. Anything else is pure bullshit. I won’t even bother to quote all the studies that show this is right. Nor will I enumerate the outrageous statistics on the prevalence of guns in the United States. It’s a simple matter of systems dynamics, but a very complicated matter of politics. For those not acquainted with systems dynamics, it’s a method for describing the behavior of complex systems, especially ones with human actors. The most common pattern (or archetype) is fixes-that-fail. The name tells all we need to know about it. It applies to attempts to deal… Read More

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The Importance of Truth

What do I mean by truth? The answer is not as simple as you might think. My definition is an understanding of the world as it really is out there. A corollary to this comes in the criterion for establishing that we have discovered the truth: things have turned out the way we thought they would. Having said that, this kind of truth is very hard to establish, which fact means there is always some possibility that our actions will not turn out the way they should. When we are sloppy in efforts to unearth the truth (it is always hidden), the possibility grows larger and larger. There is a… Read More

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