Settled Unsettling

Leave taking I have always wondered why the Buddha left his wife and child and went into the forest. The usual explanations are pretty patriarchal aren’t they, e.g., – that he was escaping from the bonds that tie us to this earthly life. – Attachment brings suffering. etc. Here’s how that story is told: A […]

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A Good Death

D One of my college classmates was an excellent hockey player and a true sportsman. The cricket grounds where I spent my evenings abutted the hockey field. D* and I spent many hours chatting on the sidelines and in the evenings after practice. One evening as we were musing about the purpose of life, D […]

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Smelly Science

Photographer: Tadeusz Lakota | Source: Unsplash Philosophy has a vision bias. The Sanskrit name for philosophical activity, ‘Darsana’ means ‘vision.’ Intriguingly, across Indo-European cultures, knowledge at a distance is closely related to blindness. Homer was supposedly blind and the great war in the Mahabharata was relayed to a blind king by an assistant given divine vision […]

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The Skin of the World

Photographer: David Clode | Source: Unsplash I am taking a step back from writing about contentious topics — authoritarian politics, climate change, approaching extinction and animal rights. Not for ever, but for a few weeks. It feels like every conversation about those topics increases the fear and anxiety of everyone in the room and tilts the scales in […]

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Navigating Higher Education

Note: this is the first post in a series that looks at how higher education needs to change in response to the wicked problems we face in the 21st century. Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash I think a lot about my daughter’s prospects. Her generation will inherit some of the greatest challenges that humanity has ever […]

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Many Mes

Photographer: Andrew Seaman | Source: Unsplash MeMe and YouMe The Buddha, peace be unto him, is famous for declaring there’s no self. Strictly speaking, he denied the existence of an abiding, permanent self, especially the metaphysical Atman of Brahmanical Hinduism. We are born, we grow into adulthood and then we pass away. Some think we restart that […]

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Subversive Intelligence

Photographer: James Lee | Source: Unsplash If you read or watch any mainstream media source that deals with facts instead of imaginary threats, you will notice the constant invocation of two civilizational threats: automation and climate change. This is mainstream media btw, not leftie radical sources; you know we are in a genuine crisis when hunks […]

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The Great Unsettling

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jayjayrobertson/5724336908 Introduction I have written a few hundred essays over the last five years, with a year and a half in the middle being devoted to a single text, the Mahabharata. I might start the Jayary again this fall, prompted by a seminar I am organizing this semester. The Mahabharata is unique in that it […]

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Startup Thinking

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash Startup Thinking I have a firm leg in the doom and gloom camp. My friends alternate between sending images of the burning Amazon and pictures of Amazon — the company, not the lungs of the planet — replacing all jobs with robots. Not that I mind; all that misery gives my optimist brain something […]

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The Failing State

Photographer: Jason Leung | Source: Unsplash The nation state is the most successful and important social institution in the world. Anything larger — the EU for example — tends to be a technocratic exercise without emotional pull. Anything smaller lives at the mercy of the nation; Kashmir being this week’s illustration of that general principle. For most of us, a […]

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