Category: belief


HOMO DEUS by Yuval Noah Harari (Vintage Books, 2017)
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Subtitled ‘a brief history of tomorrow’, Harari’s sobering study of where humankind is heading envisages a future in which secular sapiens are increasingly marginalised by the by now unstoppable march of technological innovation.

It is a quirk of human nature that we all like to think of ourselves as individuals. In reading this book you’ll quickly realise that we’re not as unique and irreplaceable as we’d like to imagine.

Although each of us has a unique DNA, the evidence of our online activity proves that our goals, desires and actions follow relatively rigid and wholly predictable patterns . Continue reading

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SAPIENS by Yuval Noah Harari (Vintage Books, 2014)

41mjx6yzfel-_sx324_bo1204203200_History is full of big mistakes and there’s a common notion that we should study it to avoid repeating the errors of the past.

However, Yuval Noah Harari explains one of the key problems with taking lessons from previous cultures and generations is that “History cannot be explained deterministically and it cannot be predicted because it is chaotic”.

Such a view could give credence to the belief that “History is just one damn thing after another”.

Harari’s populist approach to the subject is a breath of fresh air. He has been criticized for his lack of scholarly rigor but his non-elitist position is that historians cannot and should not assume an objective, dispassionate position. Continue reading

WALK WITH ME  directed by Max Pugh and Marc J Francis (USA, 2017)

walkwithmeThis movie shows the daily routine and rituals of monks and nuns in the secluded monastery of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village in the South West of France.

The key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment. The goal of the cinematic distribution campaign is “about turning movie theaters into meditation halls, and bringing communities together for a common goal”.

This message was lost on the woman sitting in front of me in the cinema who spent most of the time glued to her mobile phone!

The practice of mindfulness may have reached the mainstream but the number of people prepared to give up their daily distractions and possessions is still limited.  My impression is that most want a quick fix rather than a permanent lifestyle change. Continue reading

new_skin_for_the_old_ceremony As a gift to a friend of mine who is retiring soon, a group of friends and colleagues have been asked to write articles about a poem or song.

These texts will be connected by the themes of one, or more, of the four elements – fire, earth, water and air.

I have chosen to write a piece on Leonard Cohen’s Who By Fire which, as you may know or recall, goes like this:

And who by fire, who by water,
 who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
 who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
 who in your merry merry month of may,
 who by very slow decay,
 and who shall I say is calling? Continue reading 
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A strong leader stands in an un-drained swamp.

“It’s so easy to laugh,
It’s so easy to hate,
It takes guts to be gentle and kind”
Lyrics by Morrissey to ‘I Know It’s Over’ by The Smiths

A recent survey carried out by the newspaper La Repubblica  found that 80% of Italians think the country needs to be run by “un uomo forte” (a strong man). In 2006, only 55% of the populace subscribed to this view while 60% held this belief in 2010.

This rising trend is worrying and depressing on many counts. It indicates that more and more voters are willing to be represented by leaders solely on the basis that they adopt strong opinions and maintain a posture of decisiveness.

On the surface this may seem logical and uncontroversial. After all, who would want a leader to be weak and indecisive? The problem lies with what exactly is meant by the word ‘strong’. Continue reading

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