Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thinking Big

This seems like a pretty logical "big thought".

First, the best way to help someone is to enable them to help themselves.  That was also discussed in the TED talk at the bottom of this post.

Second, recognize that information is the great enabler.  People with access to information can educate themselves and think independently (and recognize when they are being fed propaganda).

And third, conclude the best way to make this happen is to provide access to the internet for those that currently don't have it.  Some would even call it a human right.

I like the bold thought and initiative you can sense in this young man and his team of idealists.

And I think they created a good short web video to explain their idea.  Check it out (above), and then follow the link to their website, where you can see a longer TEDx video that gives some more background (and a few interesting statistics).

Bravo for thinking big.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Boys with rulers

Racing Mark Spitz, Outdoor photo exhibition, Madrid, Spain, May 2002,
Sony Cybershot, Focal length 10.4mm, Exposure 1/250 sec @ f6.3, ISO 100, no flash
© Steven Crisp  [Click on the photo to enlarge]
So, how long is your telomere?  Would you like to see how it compares to the next guy?  I kinda thought so ;-)

Well, I just came across this interesting article on how exercising keeps your cells young.  And by extension, will keep you feeling and looking quite a bit younger than your sedentary counterpart.

Of course we pretty much assumed that to be true, but this study actually measured the length of four groups' telomeres (young/sedentary, young/active, old/sedentary, old/active).  

As they say, "youth is wasted on the young", and that was reinforced here where there was no real difference in cell age (i.e., telomere length) between the younger groups. But for the older groups, the sedentary folks saw their poor telomeres shrivel up by 40%, while those active seniors had only lost about 10% length.  That's a 75% difference based on your level of activity.

So go ahead, jump in the pool like Mark Spitz (does anyone remember his "gold medal" poster?  Yeah, yeah, I heard something about a kid named Phelps, but look, Spitz kept his mustache ;-)

Or maybe take up running.  Or biking.  Or nordic skiing (great exercise when its cold and snowy outside).  Just get out there on a regular basis and exercise vigorously.  It may be the closest thing there is to the fountain of youth.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Remember Your Mortality

Remember Your MortalitySchönenberg Church, Ellwangen, Germany, February 2010,
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, Focal length 12.85mm, Exposure 1/20 sec @ f3.5, ISO 1600, no flash,
© Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

"Life is tough ... What do you get at the end of it?  A death.  What's that, a bonus?  I think the life cycle is all backward. 
"You should die first, get it out of the way.  Then you live in an old-age home.  
"You get kicked out when you are too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work.  You work forty years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement.  
"You do drugs, alcohol, you party, you get ready for high school.  
"You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating -- and you finish off as an orgasm."
-- George Carlin

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Blind Faith

Blind Faith, Portion of the Old Bridge statue of Minerva, Heidelberg Germany, October 2010,
Panasonic DMC-ZS7, Focal length 10.3mm, Exposure 1/400 sec @ f4.5, ISO 80, no flash
© Steven Crisp  [Click on the photo to enlarge]

A funny thing happened during a get together with some friends/colleagues of mine.  We started talking about religion (we are a spirited group).  All were Christians; one was born again, another seemed to be asking new questions, and the third accepted those parts of the faith that felt right, and did not worry about the rest.  And if you were to ask, I am a-religious (against organized religion), but if anything, my leanings are toward Eastern and Buddhist teachings.

I asked if anyone had read Sam Harris' book, "The End of Faith."  No one had.  So I explained my recollection of his thesis that any religion that relies upon "blind faith" is problematic, and needs to be challenged.  The popular example, of course, are fundamentalist muslims, which some would say take their interpretation of the Holy Koran to an extreme, and the result is jihad against the infidels.  

But what makes Sam Harris' book so provocative is that he equally challenges the fundamentalist Christians.  And he does not stop there.  He goes on to challenge even moderate Christians, because they implicitly endorse a belief system (based solely on faith) that can lead to these extreme and fundamentalist views.

Well, this really upset a good friend of mine. The view was basically, "Hey, just because you lack faith, that's no reason to challenge mine."  A fair accusation, I suppose, although my intent was only to have each of us examine that premise.  It seems credible to me that problems may result out of what some might choose to call "blind faith".  And since we have different religions, with different holy scriptures, and each teaches they are the one and only true religion and path to God ... well, we clearly are in for some conflict, now aren't we?

So anyways, my friend and I made amends, and we took a walk the next day, up along Philosopher's Way and back into Heidelberg, Germany across the Neckar River via the Old Bridge.   That's where we noticed the base of a statue pictured above.  And immediately, we interpreted it as depicting "Blind Faith."  We both got a good laugh and perhaps a little insight out of that.

Fast forward to another friend whom I've only met on-line.  I was reading a blog of hers last night, and came across a video of John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey.  Boy, what an interesting perspective this gentleman has.  

So I offer you two options.  You can watch the video at the end of this post (which is about 45 minutes long, followed by some 30 minutes of Q&A (and I do recommend it).  I've also added another rather long lecture before that one, which is also very good.  But I realize those require a large chunk of time.

But after watching that video, I "Googled" John Shelby Spong and found some short YouTube videos.  They will give you a feeling for the messages and beliefs that Bishop Spong espouses (and the running time is shown in the title).  

Either way, I encourage you to dig in a little deeper, and mull these ideas over in your head.  I can tell you that they make a lot of sense to me, and resonate deeply.  And if really embraced, seem to put Love and God (or The Divine, if you prefer) at center stage, emanating from within each of us, if we will only wake up.

Namaste, my friends.  I hope you enjoy the perspectives below.

Beyond Theism -- John Shelby Spong (2:41)

Does Hell Exist? -- Interview segment with John Shelby Spong (3:17)

Honest Prayer, Part 1 -- John Shelby Spong (5:39)

Honest Prayer, Part 2 -- John Shelby Spong (6:21)

And here are the long ones if you have such interest (each more than an hour).  First is a lecture by Spong, that discusses rather graphically, problems caused by the some texts of the Holy Bible.  At time, it is as hard to listen to as it is to argue with.  It illustrates our tribal mentality, but also tries to show a path forward by rejecting these cultural, human, fallacies.  And, I think, it is quite lucid and insightful (and interspersed with humor and poignancy).

Burke Lecture:  John Shelby Spong (1:23:26)

And this is the one that got me digging in the first place.  Thanks Pat.  I always appreciate your insights and your pointers.

Exploring the Mystery of Life:  John Shelby Spong (1:16:41)