Newton’s third law of motion tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The Buddhist principle of karma similarly teaches us that everything we do, every decision we make, has a consequence. Philosophical determinism suggests that we cannot escape the inherent causality of human existence, and that our actions will inevitably give rise to the effects that reflect our essential morality. Faced with the imbalances that subsequently blight much of our over-exploited, under-resourced, conflict-riddled world, the question is – how should we live?
The novelist Haruki Murakami describes himself as "a runner and a writer". The two are inextricably intertwined elements of his whole being. As a runner and a writer, I wholeheartedly agree. What is it about the physical exertion of running that is so vital for the parallel process of creative release? How do the two activities mirror each other such that the Holy Grail of "the flow" finally becomes attainable?
What is it that we’re saying when we talk of highs and lows? Why do we linguistically frame our lives this way? How have we even come to collectively associate and articulate “forwards” and “up” as signs of progress, while assuming “backwards” and “down” to be regressive?
As International Women’s Day reminds us of the battles still being fought in the seemingly interminable quest for parity in all aspects of social, cultural, political and economic life, the likes of Smith, Didion, Lorna Sage, Siri Hustvedt, Susan Sontag (the list goes on) are testament to the strength and inestimable value of the female voice.
“I’ve seen every sun rise for the last six years. The way I see it, we’re spiritual beings on a human journey. Part of that spirit relies on reconnecting with our roots.” Steve Glover is a man on a mission, and he’s determined to help people who might otherwise find themselves on the fringes of society struggling to find their purpose.
“The magic of escapist fiction is that it can actually offer you a genuine escape from a bad place and, in the process of escaping, it can furnish you with armour, with knowledge, with weapons, with tools you can take back into your life to help make it better. It’s a real escape — and when you come back, you come back better armed than when you left.” - Neil Gaiman.
Einstein called the idea that humans are separate from the world an ‘optical illusion’. A team of scientists, computer programmers, educators and artists in Bristol, UK, are hoping that their Nano Simboxwill change our perspectives, and our minds.
"You wouldn't tell a sighted person, 'oh it doesn't matter if you can't read'. It shouldn't be any different for a blind person." The ability to read braille can transform the financial and social health of blind people, of which there are 360,000 in the UK according to the RNIB. That's why an emerging group of social entrepreneurs and activists have made it their mission to reinvigorate what they call "the braille nation".
Global healthcare should be a fundamental, universal human right. And yet the reality for millions of people worldwide is that health coverage remains inaccessible and unaffordable. A new documentary explores the lived experiences of the so-called "abandoned poor" and encourages viewers to ask what it would take to achieve the World Health Organisation's goal of Universal Health Care by 2030.
How do you characterise something that since the dawn of mankind has proved excruciatingly difficult to grasp and define, by the people who simultaneously know it best and yet are also rendered incapable of understanding it?
In his final novel, Island, Aldous Huxley created a vision of utopia where the Pacific island of Pala is an “oasis of happiness and freedom,” free from the trappings of capitalism, consumerism, and technology. Some say that the Island is an example of humanity at its sanest and most admirable. Yet it ends, predictably, in sorrow, “the work of a hundred years destroyed in a single night.” So, what was Huxley’s point in creating then destroying a vision of paradise?
What does happiness mean, how can we achieve it, what will it take to fulfill our quest in life, if we even know what that is? Happiness preoccupies far too many of us for too much of the time. Madness too, although not so many of us contemplate it to an equal degree. And yet the two are so often inextricably linked, unresolved conflicts tangling us up in knots. A new book published by Penguin with the mental health charity, Mind, offers some invaluable insights.
What were the writers of Humans thinking when they penned Channel 4’s latest sci-fi thriller? And what kind of thoughts were they hoping to trigger in viewers? Not since Utopia has an imagined story been so disturbingly close to a plausible reality where you’re left contemplating everything from human rights to the limits of our compassion.
What’s the point of the news? What purpose does it serve, does it do us any good, and how can we, as information consumers, manage the flow in a purposeful way? Answers via those who have tried and suggest that cultivating purposeful ignorance might actually empower rather than overload our intellect.
All animals occupy a different niche in space and time. Bats, as the only mammal to have developed the ability of true flight, are uniquely placed to survive in the shadows of the night-time. As well as being ecologically indispensable, they are magnificent to watch. Tuning into their world is a privileged way of gaining access to this world and a poignant reminder of our place in the universal order.
What constitutes a meaningful life, what is the point of existence, how do we fulfil our potential in a single lifetime in such a way that contributes to humankind, to the planet? These are the questions that provide the subtext to virtually all human activity and thought. Only we no longer have the luxury of time to contemplate the possibilities because we've antagonised the planet to the point of bringing on our own extinction.
“Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn't matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.” The inimitable Richard Feynman, on science, beauty, truth and the philosophy of ignorance.
The late great Dostoevsky once wrote: "If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment, all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely devoid of usefulness and meaning.” Don't be that man. Or woman.