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Posts Tagged ‘TheGuardian’

2-Jan-2016 It’s time to stop giving a damn

Saturday 2 January 2016 Leave a comment

Great article as always in the Guardian [link here]:

Drowning in commitments? It’s time to stop giving a damn
The key to beating stress is to care less – and if that means wearing your pyjamas to the corner shop, so be it.

If you’re like me, you’ve been caring too much about too many things for too long. You’re overextended and overburdened by life. Stressed out, anxious, maybe even panic-stricken about your commitments. I was almost 30 years old when I began to realise it was possible to stop caring so much, but I was nearly 40 before I figured out how to make it happen.

Little by little over the next few years, I stopped caring about small things that annoyed me. I unfriended some truly irritating people on Facebook. I refused to suffer through another reading of friends’ plays. And I stopped getting dressed up just to go to the grocery store behind my house (pyjamas are the new black). Little by little, I started feeling better. Less burdened. More peaceful. I hung up on people calling from call centres to sell me things; I said no to a weekend trip with toddlers; I stopped watching season two of True Detective after only one episode. I was becoming my true self, able to focus more on people and things that actually made me happy.

… and more at the article: [link here]

 

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4-Nov-2014 Melbourne Cup

Tuesday 4 November 2014 Leave a comment

Call me un-Australian or whatever but I don’t care about the Melbourne Cup and never have. Sorry. A large percentage of people in the city use it as an excuse to bludge off work and drink to excess and I don’t think any one really cares about the racing.

I don’t like gambling. I do take part in the office sweep where refusal offends. This year I put bought one $2 ticket – options were $2, $5 and $10. I won $10 but it won’t change my opinion.
Horse-racing is not good for the horses either – on a variety of levels – this year two horses died in the Melbourne Cup alone!
No I didn’t have any alcohol.  I had a normal lunch (plain fresh tomato soup today) and went to the gym after work. They are more my sort of people !
I love this cartoon in the Guardian (click to make it larger):

7000:

30-Oct-2014 Latest Russell Brand

Thursday 30 October 2014 Leave a comment

I know Russell Brand seems very wacky but I really really like what he says … his politics are pretty darn good and a well-needed dose of cold water over the shower of s….e that passes as the political establishment in the UK and even more so, here in Australia.

A couple of articles:

Me, mayor of London? No, there’s a comic in the job already, says Russell Brand
Comedian denies he may try to succeed Boris Johnson: ‘If you want a daft comedian running London, leave things as they are’from the guardian.

and

Russell Brand Must Be Doing Something Rightfrom the Huffington Post.

And of course this video:

2-Oct-2014 War on the living world

Thursday 2 October 2014 Leave a comment

George Monbiot is one of the best journalists around today – he writes an uncomfortable truth, well-reasoned, not necessarily shouting slogans from rooftops. Luckily he has a great platform – a prime gig on the wonderful Guardian newspaper. His stuff is linked here.

Today he posted a great article here and of course it’s best to click the link and go read it on the Guardian as you get great pictures as well.

It’s time to shout stop on this war on the living world

Our consumption is trashing a natural world infinitely more fascinating and intricate than the stuff we produce

This is a moment at which anyone with the capacity for reflection should stop and wonder what we are doing.

If the news that in the past 40 years the world has lost over 50% of its vertebrate wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) fails to tell us that there is something wrong with the way we live, it’s hard to imagine what could. Who believes that a social and economic system which has this effect is a healthy one? Who, contemplating this loss, could call it progress?

In fairness to the modern era, this is an extension of a trend that has lasted some 2 million years. The loss of much of the African megafauna – sabretooths and false sabretooths, giant hyaenas and amphicyonids (bear dogs), several species of elephant – coincided with the switch towards meat eating by hominims (ancestral humans). It’s hard to see what else could have been responsible for the peculiar pattern of extinction then.

As we spread into other continents, their megafauna almost immediately collapsed. Perhaps the most reliable way of dating the first arrival of people anywhere is the sudden loss of large animals. The habitats we see as pristine – the Amazon rainforest or coral reefs for example – are in fact almost empty: they have lost most of the great beasts that used to inhabit them, which drove crucial natural processes.

Since then we have worked our way down the foodchain, rubbing out smaller predators, medium-sized herbivores, and now, through both habitat destruction and hunting, wildlife across all classes and positions in the foodweb. There seems to be some kink in the human brain that prevents us from stopping, that drives us to carry on taking and competing and destroying, even when there is no need to do so.

But what we see now is something new: a speed of destruction that exceeds even that of the first settlement of the Americas, 14,000 years ago, when an entire hemisphere’s ecology was transformed through a firestorm of extinction within a few dozen generations, in which the majority of large vertebrate species disappeared.

Many people blame this process on human population growth, and there’s no doubt that it has been a factor. But two other trends have developed even faster and further. The first is the rise in consumption; the second is amplification by technology. Every year, new pesticides, fishing technologies, mining methods, techniques for processing trees are developed. We are waging an increasingly asymmetric war against the living world.

But why are we at war? In the rich nations, which commission much of this destruction through imports, most of our consumption has nothing to do with meeting human needs.

This is what hits me harder than anything: the disproportion between what we lose and what we gain. Economic growth in a country whose primary and secondary needs have already been met means developing ever more useless stuff to meet ever fainter desires.

For example, a vague desire to amuse friends and colleagues (especially through the Secret Santa nonsense) commissions the consumption of thousands of tonnes of metal and plastic, often confected into complex electronic novelties: toys for adults. They might provoke a snigger or two, then they are dumped in a cupboard. After a few weeks, scarcely used, they find their way into landfill.

In a society bombarded by advertising and driven by the growth imperative, pleasure is reduced to hedonism and hedonism is reduced to consumption. We use consumption as a cure for boredom, to fill the void that an affectless, grasping, atomised culture creates, to brighten the grey world we have created.

We care ever less for the possessions we buy, and dispose of them ever more quickly. Yet the extraction of the raw materials required to produce them, the pollution commissioned in their manufacturing, the infrastructure and noise and burning of fuel needed to transport them are trashing a natural world infinitely more fascinating and intricate than the stuff we produce. The loss of wildlife is a loss of wonder and enchantment, of the magic with which the living world infects our lives.

Perhaps it is misleading to suggest that “we” are doing all this. It’s being done not only by us but to us. One of the remarkable characteristics of recent growth in the rich world is how few people benefit. Almost all the gains go to a tiny number of people: one study suggests that the richest 1% in the United States capture 93% of the increase in incomes that growth delivers. Even with growth rates of 2 or 3% or more, working conditions for most people continue to deteriorate, as we find ourselves on short contracts, without full employment rights, without the security or the choice or the pensions their parents enjoyed.

Working hours rise, wages stagnate or fall, tasks become duller, more stressful and harder to fulfill, emails and texts and endless demands clatter inside our heads, shutting down the ability to think, corners are cut, services deteriorate, housing becomes almost impossible to afford, there’s ever less money for essential public services. What and whom is this growth for?

It’s for the people who run or own the banks, the hedge funds, the mining companies, the advertising firms, the lobbying companies, the weapons manufacturers, the buy-to-let portfolios, the office blocks, the country estates, the offshore accounts. The rest of us are induced to regard it as necessary and desirable through a system of marketing and framing so intensive and all-pervasive that it amounts to brainwashing.

A system that makes us less happy, less secure, that narrows and impoverishes our lives, is presented as the only possible answer to our problems. There is no alternative – we must keep marching over the cliff. Anyone who challenges it is either ignored or excoriated.

And the beneficiaries? Well they are also the biggest consumers, using their spectacular wealth to exert impacts thousands of times greater than most people achieve. Much of the natural world is destroyed so that the very rich can fit their yachts with mahogany, eat bluefin tuna sushi, scatter ground rhino horn over their food, land their private jets on airfields carved from rare grasslands, burn in one day as much fossil fuel as the average global citizen uses in a year.

Thus the Great Global Polishing proceeds, wearing down the knap of the Earth, rubbing out all that is distinctive and peculiar, in human culture as well as nature, reducing us to replaceable automata within a homogenous global workforce, inexorably transforming the riches of the natural world into a featureless monoculture.

Is this not the point at which we shout stop? At which we use the extraordinary learning and expertise we have developed to change the way we organise ourselves, to contest and reverse the trends that have governed our relationship with the living planet for the past 2m years, and that are now destroying its remaining features at astonishing speed?

Is this not the point at which we challenge the inevitability of endless growth on a finite planet? If not now, when?

13-Sep-2014 City Day Out

Saturday 13 September 2014 Leave a comment

It’s pretty obvious, to me at least, that a day out in the city is a weird thing for me to do, given I am there Monday to Friday and that I hate shopping, but it was a family thing. Chelsea was going to work and Kody was with friends at the Cronulla Spring Festival.

It was Dawn’s birthday on Monday and she wanted to get some clothes and things and Jazmin wanted to go also, so I tagged along. yawn. I really don’t like shopping. especially clothes shopping and even more especially when none of it is for me! However it was nice to be out with family, so that was good. They both got quite a few things so it was semi-worthwhile…

After we got back I went for a short run to Jibbon and along the beach and had a swim. The water is not quite as icy, but not really warm in any known description. Lots of bluebottles also but I went along the beach to the tucked on corner so missed them, thankfully.

imurderedmylibraryOn the train I started and finished reading a Kindle Singles book (ie very short, cost $3) : I Murdered My Library by Linda Grant. I found it from this article in the Guardian.

What happens when you begin to build a library in childhood and then find you have too many books? From a small collection held together by a pair of plaster of Paris horse-head bookends to books piled on stairs, and in front of each other on shelves, books cease to furnish a room and begin to overwhelm it. At the end of 2013, novelist Linda Grant moved from a rambling maisonette over four floors to a two bedroom flat with a tiny corridor-shaped study. The trauma of getting rid of thousands of books raises the question of what purpose personal libraries serve in contemporary life and the seductive lure of the Kindle. Both a memoir of a lifetime of reading and an insight into how interior décor has banished the bookcase, her account of the emotional struggle of her relationship with books asks questions about the way we live today.

I really enjoyed it and it resonated with me … I have been reading since I was about 5 years old and have had many many books, and am finally trying to part with them. I too use my Kindle a lot more now (actually the kindle app on my phone).

19-Aug-2014 Half of a Yellow Sun

Tuesday 19 August 2014 Leave a comment

book-halfyellow

As I was away for a while in England I got behind on the latest book club book “Half of a Yellow Sun” by by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I finished it today.

At first it started off like an end-of-empire book about privileged whites and Africans but it quickly dived into the history surrounding the emergence of Biafra and the war for independence in the 1960s when it broke away from Nigeria.

I don’t much about Africa really (never been to Africa) but it was a great read and I really enjoyed it. I feel quite inspired to want to go there now. One of the people at book club, Michael, lived in the area in the 1960s and really rated the book. Quite fascinating.

You can check out the book at Amazon, and a review in the Guardian – and extract here:

Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, takes its title from the emblem for Biafra, the breakaway state in eastern Nigeria that survived for only three years, and whose name became a global byword for war by starvation. Adichie’s powerful focus on war’s impact on civilian life, and the trauma beyond the trenches, earns this novel a place alongside such works as Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy and Helen Dunmore’s depiction of the Leningrad blockade, The Siege.

Adichie takes her time in reaching the privations of war. Covering the decade to the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967-70, the novel first develops its characters in a period of peace and – for some – plenty after Nigerian independence in 1960. Among the protagonists are Odenigbo, or “the Master”, a radical maths lecturer at the University of Nsukka – in what became the secessionist Igbo land – and Ugwu, the village teenager who becomes his houseboy, but whom he enrolls at the university staff school. A novel that descends into dire hunger begins with Ugwu’s devoted creativity in the kitchen, confecting pepper soup, spicy jollof rice and chicken boiled in herbs. Beer and brandy flow as he serves the Master’s friends while absorbing snippets of intellectual debate in the era of Sharpeville, de Gaulle in Algeria and the struggle for US civil rights.

Ugwu’s domain is encroached upon by Odenigbo’s lover, Olanna, the London-educated daughter of a “nouveau riche” businessman in Lagos, and the household is later disrupted by its links with Olanna’s periodically estranged twin sister Kainene and her English boyfriend, Richard.

Ethnic differences are signalled between the mainly Igbo protagonists – whose persistent switching between English and Igbo languages is wonderfully conveyed – and those such as Odenigbo’s Yoruba colleague, Miss Adebayo, and Olanna’s ex-boyfriend from the north, the Hausa prince Mohammed. These differences assume lethal significance after the ostensibly Igbo-led 1966 military coup, which becomes a pretext for anti-Igbo pogroms after the counter-coup six months later. As Olanna and others become caught up in the violence, the novel captures horror in the details of “vaguely familar clothes on headless bodies”, or corpses’ “odd skin tone – a flat, sallow grey, like a poorly wiped blackboard”.

As Biafran secession “for security” brings a refugee crisis, a retaliatory Nigerian blockade and all-out war, and the world (bar Tanzania) refuses to recognise the fledgling state, the focus is on the characters’ grief, resilience and fragmenting relationships. Tending her adopted daughter, Olanna endures the descent into one-room squalor, food-aid queues and air raids without self-pity. But there is anger at the “bleakness of bombing hungry people”, and the deadly kwashiorkor, malnutrition that afflicts children, dubbed “Harold Wilson syndrome” for the former colonial power’s complicity. While Ugwu’s forced conscription involves him in an atrocity whose legacy is lasting shame, the issue of forgiveness between the twin sisters subtly echoes that of warring political groups.

A history of colonisation is alluded to, not least in the tragicomic figure of Richard’s anglophile servant Harrison, who prides himself on serving roast beef and rhubarb crumble, but adapts in wartime to roasting lizards and bush rats “as though they were rack of lamb”. While Richard identifies with Biafra and intends to write the history of the war, it is Ugwu who takes up the pen and the mantle. As Richard concedes, “The war isn’t my story to tell really,” and Ugwu nods. “He had never thought that it was.”

There are other quiet revolutions in the novel. Odenigbo, the “revolutionary freedom fighter” with endless certainty and self-belief, succumbs to drink and despair, while the seemingly compliant Olanna draws on profound strengths. The master-servant relationship is upended, as the “houseboy” returns with fondness and irony the Master’s way of addressing him as “my good man”.

The novel’s structure, moving in chunks between the late and early 60s, is not without blips. At times I wondered how far Ugwu’s omnivorous reading was reflected in his development. But these are quibbles in a landmark novel, whose clear, undemonstrative prose can so precisely delineate nuance. There is a rare emotional truth in the sexual scenes, from Ugwu’s adolescent forays and the mature couples’ passions, to the ugliness of rape.

Literary reflections on the Biafra war have a long and distinguished history, from the most famous poet to have died in the war, Christopher Okigbo, to Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi and Flora Nwapa. Born in 1977, Adichie is part of a new generation revisiting the history that her parents survived. She brings to it a lucid intelligence and compassion, and a heartfelt plea for memory.

The author’s own website is here.

21-Apr-2014 Bad neck, shoulder, arm

Monday 21 April 2014 Leave a comment

I was up approx 10am today, and did some chores around the house,  althpugh Dawn was home so did squeeze in a coffee on the back deck after we’d moved all Jazmin’s bike parts. Although my neck, shoulder arm still hurt in bed, they are ok running. So I went running with Dawn to Maianbar and back along the spit with a wade & swim then a longer swim at Hordern’s beach. My arm was still dodgy though so didn’t swim much.

Then I made dinner for the kids tonight, had breakfat (at 3pm !) then went with Dawn to the nursery at Taren Point and on to yoga. I really couldn’t do some of the poses at all due to my injury – even laying on my back on the floor (savasana) was very painful. At home the kids had eaten dinner and barely left enough for me so I made some more including for lunch.

I read this great article in the paper ( http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/apr/19/change-your-life-stop-being-busy ):

There’s only one viable time management approach left (and even that’s only really an option for the better-off). Step one: identify what seem to be, right now, the most meaningful ways to spend your life. Step two: schedule time for those things. There is no step three. Everything else just has to fit around them – or not. Approach life like this and a lot of unimportant things won’t get done, but, crucially, a lot of important things won’t get done either. Certain friendships will be neglected; certain amazing experiences won’t be had; you won’t eat or exercise as well as you theoretically could. In an era of extreme busyness, the only conceivable way to live a meaningful life is to not do thousands of meaningful things.

“Learn to say no”: it’s such a cliche, and easy to assume it means only saying no to tedious, unfulfilling stuff. But “the biggest, trickiest lesson,” as the author Elizabeth Gilbert once put it, “is learning how to say no to things you do want to do” – stuff that matters – so that you can do a handful of things that really matter. Our only hope of beating overwhelm may be to limit, radically, what we’re willing to get whelmed by in the first place.

There is definitely more I could do on this, I keep doing extra things and the get frustrated. Days like this long weekend are perfect, not doing a lot, a run, swim, hwalthy food.

Also saw this great pic on facebook :

image

21-Feb-2014 Grabbed my attention

Friday 21 February 2014 Leave a comment

Here were 3 items that were all in the news today that I found quite significant.

1) Is Russell Brand right? Are we disenchanted by politics? [link]

Obviously I am huge fan of Russell’s so it’s no surprise I read this nor that I think it’s significant. Less than a quarter of people said they “tended to trust” the government in 2014 and there has been a significant drop in those who believe voting is the only way to have their say since the 1960s, according to a new report. Is Russell Brand right?

I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites.

2) South and North Korean relatives reunited – in pictures [Link]

North and South Korean family members separated since the 1950-53 Korean war have met in the first reunion ceremonies for three years. Reunions are being held at North Korea’s Kumgang Mountain resort. What can you really say about the indescribable anguish of being separated from your family for 60 years?

koreanreunion

Photo of relatives Lee Son-hyang, 88, left, of South Korea and Lee Yoon-geun, 72, of North Korea are reunited.

3) Prehistoric forest arises in Cardigan Bay after storms strip away sand [Link]

Skeletal trees of Borth forest, last alive 4,500 years ago and linked to lost kingdom of Cantre’r Gwaelod, appear at shoreline. I think the amazing thing about this, other than being a totally fascinating news story, is that no matter how well we think we know the world – the reality is that we know nothing, we humans have been here for just an incredibly small % of the earth’s existence, no matter how smart we think we are.

Borth forest remains, Cardigan Bay

Gales hitting the west coast of Wales have uncovered these oak, pine, birch and alder trees dating to 6,000 years ago.

13-Dec-2013 What it all means

Friday 13 December 2013 Leave a comment

I was up at 5.15am and went to Cronulla to swim with Stu & Steve again. Just perfect out swimming – weather was great – warm & sunny, sea was warm and clear. We swam from South Cronulla to North, then re-grouped then swam back the can at South before heading back in. Estimated water temp was 21-22C. Heaps of fit people running, swimming, boot-camping etc. Had a quick breakfast sitting in a cafe on a sunny corner in Cronulla. Everyone there had been doing sport of some kind, nice music playing – just feeling so lucky to be in a great place and be able to have these great experiences.

Whilst there I read this article in the Guardian – Let’s admit it: Britain is now a developing country

Elite economic debate boils down to this: a man in a tie stands at a dispatch box and reads out some numbers for the years ahead, along with a few micro-measures he’ll take to improve those projections. His opposite number scoffs at the forecasts and promises his tweaks would be far superior. For a few hours, perhaps even a couple of days, afterwards, commentators discuss What It All Means. Last Thursday’s autumn statement from George Osborne was merely the latest enactment of this twice-yearly ritual, and I bet you’ve already forgotten it.

Compare his forecasts and fossicking with our fundamental problems. Start with last week’s Pisa educational yardsticks, which show British teenagers trailing their Vietnamese counterparts at science, and behind the Macanese at maths. Or look at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) competitiveness survey of 148 countries, which ranks British roads below Chile’s, and our ground-transport system worse than that of Barbados.

Whether Blair or Brown or Cameron, successive prime ministers and their chancellors pretend that progress is largely a matter of trims and tweaks – of capping business rates and funding the A14 to Felixstowe. Yet those Treasury supplementary tables and fan charts are no match for the mass of inconvenient facts provided by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the WEF or simply by going for a wander. Sift through the evidence and a different picture emerges: Britain’s economy is no longer zooming along unchallenged in the fast lane, but an increasingly clapped-out motor regularly overtaken by Asian Tigers such as South Korea and Taiwan.

Gender equality? The WEF ranks us behind Nicaragua and Lesotho. Investment by business? The Economist thinks we are struggling to keep up with Mali.

Let me put it more broadly, Britain is a rich country accruing many of the stereotypical bad habits of a developing country.

… and on it goes! …

Obviously to a large degree, it’s pretty similar in Australia although the mining boom has minimised some of the worst aspects.

However it struck me that I always gravitate to reading the Guardian and now with a digital radio in my car, listening to the BBC World Service. (I know that makes me sound like a middle-aged tragic!). Of course a lot of the music I still listen to is overwhelmingly English however looking around me at this cool little spot in Cronulla, there is just no way I’d want to be living in the UK.

So what does it all mean … I have no idea, just stumbling through life trying to do my best and to keep healthy and happy and keep enjoying it.

11-Dec-2013 Materialism: a system that eats us from the inside out

Wednesday 11 December 2013 Leave a comment

I read this in the newspaper today : Buying more stuff is associated with depression, anxiety and broken relationships. It is socially destructive and self-destructive although as usual the comments are a great read too.

I so agree with it.

That they are crass, brash and trashy goes without saying. But there is something in the pictures posted on Rich Kids of Instagram (and highlighted by the Guardian last week) that inspires more than the usual revulsion towards crude displays of opulence. There is a shadow in these photos – photos of a young man wearing all four of his Rolex watches, a youth posing in front of his helicopter, endless pictures of cars, yachts, shoes, mansions, swimming pools and spoilt white boys throwing gangster poses in private jets – of something worse: something that, after you have seen a few dozen, becomes disorienting, even distressing.

The pictures are, of course, intended to incite envy. They reek instead of desperation. The young men and women seem lost in their designer clothes, dwarfed and dehumanised by their possessions, as if ownership has gone into reverse. A girl’s head barely emerges from the haul of Chanel, Dior and Hermes shopping bags she has piled on her vast bed. It’s captioned “shoppy shoppy” and “#goldrush”, but a photograph whose purpose is to illustrate plenty seems instead to depict a void. She’s alone with her bags and her image in the mirror, in a scene that seems saturated with despair.

Perhaps I’m projecting my prejudices. But an impressive body of psychological research seems to support these feelings. It suggests that materialism, a trait that can afflict both rich and poor, and which the researchers define as “a value system that is preoccupied with possessions and the social image they project“, is both socially destructive and self-destructive. It smashes the happiness and peace of mind of those who succumb to it. It’s associated with anxiety, depression and broken relationships.

There has long been a correlation observed between materialism, a lack of empathy and engagement with others, and unhappiness. But research conducted over the past few years seems to show causation. For example, a series of studies published in the journal Motivation and Emotion in July showed that as people become more materialistic, their wellbeing (good relationships, autonomy, sense of purpose and the rest) diminishes. As they become less materialistic, it rises.

In one study, the researchers tested a group of 18-year-olds, then re-tested them 12 years later. They were asked to rank the importance of different goals – jobs, money and status on one side, and self-acceptance, fellow feeling and belonging on the other. They were then given a standard diagnostic test to identify mental health problems. At the ages of both 18 and 30, materialistic people were more susceptible to disorders. But if in that period they became less materialistic, they became happier.

In another study, the psychologists followed Icelanders weathering their country’s economic collapse. Some people became more focused on materialism, in the hope of regaining lost ground. Others responded by becoming less interested in money and turning their attention to family and community life. The first group reported lower levels of wellbeing, the second group higher levels.

These studies, while suggestive, demonstrate only correlation. But the researchers then put a group of adolescents through a church programme designed to steer children away from spending and towards sharing and saving. The self-esteem of materialistic children on the programme rose significantly, while that of materialistic children in the control group fell. Those who had little interest in materialism before the programme experienced no change in self-esteem.

Another paper, published in Psychological Science, found that people in a controlled experiment who were repeatedly exposed to images of luxury goods, to messages that cast them as consumers rather than citizens and to words associated with materialism (such as buy, status, asset and expensive), experienced immediate but temporary increases in material aspirations, anxiety and depression. They also became more competitive and more selfish, had a reduced sense of social responsibility and were less inclined to join in demanding social activities. The researchers point out that, as we are repeatedly bombarded with such images through advertisements, and constantly described by the media as consumers, these temporary effects could be triggered more or less continuously.

third paper, published (paradoxically) in the Journal of Consumer Research, studied 2,500 people for six years. It found a two-way relationship between materialism and loneliness: materialism fosters social isolation; isolation fosters materialism. People who are cut off from others attach themselves to possessions. This attachment in turn crowds out social relationships.

The two varieties of materialism that have this effect – using possessions as a yardstick of success and seeking happiness through acquisition – are the varieties that seem to be on display on Rich Kids of Instagram. It was only after reading this paper that I understood why those photos distressed me: they look like a kind of social self-mutilation.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons an economic model based on perpetual growth continues on its own terms to succeed, though it may leave a trail of unpayable debts, mental illness and smashed relationships. Social atomisation may be the best sales strategy ever devised, and continuous marketing looks like an unbeatable programme for atomisation.

Materialism forces us into comparison with the possessions of others, a race both cruelly illustrated and crudely propelled by that toxic website. There is no end to it. If you have four Rolexes while another has five, you are a Rolex short of contentment. The material pursuit of self-esteem reduces your self-esteem.

I should emphasise that this is not about differences between rich and poor: the poor can be as susceptible to materialism as the rich. It is a general social affliction, visited upon us by government policy, corporate strategy, the collapse of communities and civic life, and our acquiescence in a system that is eating us from the inside out.

This is the dreadful mistake we are making: allowing ourselves to believe that having more money and more stuff enhances our wellbeing, a belief possessed not only by those poor deluded people in the pictures, but by almost every member of almost every government. Worldly ambition, material aspiration, perpetual growth: these are a formula for mass unhappiness.

11-Nov-2013 Book Club – Year of Wonders

Monday 11 November 2013 Leave a comment

year_wondersToday was my monthly book club meeting. There were 8 of us – an average number of people … thankfully I know most if the names now!

The book we were reading this month was “Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks”. This one was selected by me, even though I hadn’t read it before. I quite like “historical fiction” and have been to the village the book was about Eyam in Derbyshire when I was a kind – once with school and once with our scout troop.

However I was not overly happy with the book – I liked reading for sure, and there was nothing wrong with it at all, but I felt a bit wanting – the characters were quite flat and she seemed to rush the story from scene to scene where she could have gone into more detail. Anyway most of the other liked it and some also felt she could have fleshed it out a bit more. It reads a bit like a movie script – scene 1, scene 2 etc.

There are 2 reviews:

It begins with the scent of rotting apples and a flush that looks like rose petals blooming beneath the skin. Then the yellow-purple pustule appears, swelling to the size of a newly born piglet. Eventually it bursts, like a pea-pod splitting open, spewing pestilential pus flecked with spots of rotten skin.

This is what the villagers of Eyam, Derbyshire, condemned themselves to in 1666 when they took the heroic decision to quarantine their plague-infested village and prevent the contagion from spreading further. In 1842, William Wood, a descendent of one of the few surviving families, observed in his history of the village that: “The immortal victors of Thermopylae and Marathon have no stronger claim to the admiration of succeeding generations than the villagers of Eyam; who in a sub lime, unparalleled resolution gave up their lives – yea: doomed themselves to pestilential death to save the surrounding country”.

Some 260 villagers, an estimated four-fifths of the population, succumbed to this final and most virulent outbreak of the black death in Britain; but as most of the evidence perished with the population, established facts are hard to come by. With the popular belief that the contagion arrived in a bolt of cloth delivered from London, the situation is tailor-made for fictional adaptation: the self-sacrifice of the villagers of Eyam has appeared in novels, plays and even an opera. In her first essay into historical fiction, Geraldine Brooks approaches the situation not as a novelist, but as a war correspondent whose experience of reporting from Gaza, Somalia and Bosnia is keenly felt on every page of this chilling, forensically detailed dispatch from the frontline of the 17th century.

Most historical novelists would have difficulty imagining the near-extermination of an entire community. Brooks doesn’t have to. She is acutely aware that a litany of grisly deaths loses its impact after a while, and uses her experience as a chronicler of contemporary disasters to tell the story of those lucky – or unlucky – enough to survive. Year of Wonders is a tale of fragile hope pitted against overwhelming disaster. Like the flaring rosettes of the bubonic rash, it gets under the skin of what it means to be human.

Brooks recounts her story through the eyes of Anna Frith, a shepherdess who aided the village rector in his mission to contain the disease. Anna is a spirited, Hardy-esque heroine, uneducated but resourceful, who is taken under the wing of the rector’s wife Elinor and quickly becomes a devoted, fast-learning protégée. The relationship between Anna, Elinor and her husband forms the novel’s precarious emotional core. History remembers the real rector of Eyam, William Mompesson, as a saintly, inspirational figure who persuaded the village to accept its quarantine. Brooks’s imagined counterpart, Michael Mompellion, is a much more ambiguous and sinister character, cloaked with a charismatic power that occasionally lifts to reveal flashes of a demonic underside. Brooks develops an unsparing analysis of the mixed motives that lurk behind over-developed religious faith, and brings an unflinching eye to her depiction of Mompellion’s perverse, personal war against God.

4-Nov-2013 Talking ’bout a revolution

Monday 4 November 2013 1 comment

I saw an interesting video yesterday from the UK interviewing Russell Brand. It’s only 10mins so well worth watching. He was talking about the need for the current political system to change as it’s just not working ie greater wage inequity, just for starters. I actually read about the interview a few days back: In calling for revolution, this half-messiah has hit a nerve

Brand was challenged by host Jeremy Paxman – you want a revolution to overthrow elected governments, but what sort of government would you replace it with? ”I don’t know,” replied Brand, grinning like a wildcat. ”But I’ll tell you what it shouldn’t do. It shouldn’t destroy the planet, it shouldn’t create massive political disparity, it shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people.”

The burden of proof is not with him, he argued. It is with those with power.

The article ends with:

Be that as it may, I suspect Russell Brand is somehow speaking to the future.

Which of course is dead right: we shouldn’t destroy the planet, we shouldn’t create massive political disparity, we shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people.

I am not really political but sometimes we need to boil it down to it’s essence.

What has this got to do with us here in Australia ? well this was in the papers today and it makes me boil with rage : The lucky country? Try selfish and deluded, too – Cutting $4.5b from our foreign aid budget suggests we’re happy to live in a world of obscene disparities.

We think of ourselves as a generous people and many Australians are. But it’s a form of national psychosis when a rich, secure nation unblinkingly spends more on killing people than helping them.
In Afghanistan, our military spending has outweighed development aid by about seven to one. Now, after a deadly 12-year exercise in military hubris, Australia is withdrawing aid along with our troops. The overall aid budget will fall to 0.33 per cent of gross domestic product and the defence budget will rise to 2 per cent, in an increase 10 times as big as the aid cut.
This is an idea of security that erects defensive walls, Fortress Australia, rather than building bridges that defuse the triggers for conflict and hostility – poverty and extreme inequity. Helping others is not pure altruism if we make friends of people who might otherwise be resentful enemies.
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So how do super-fortunate people like us get so mean-spirited that we resent our money going into aid? When did ”charity” get a bad name?
It seems we can live with a world of obscene disparities, as long as we imagine our lives, careers and successes are all our own work. If others struggle, that’s their fault, their own mistakes, or lack of skills or work ethic.
We are kidding ourselves. I have never seen prosperous Australians work as long and hard as I have seen Africans toil just to survive. People living in rural Africa struggle for everything we take for granted. Fetching water and firewood can involve a long walk every day. Our essential services – running water, sanitation, power and healthcare – are unattainable luxuries.
Villagers get up before dawn and work until dark even when they are ill, which is often. Millions of Africans have to be resourceful (they make fine floors of polished dung), brave and resilient to survive in mud huts housing families with no visible means of support, save for some meagre crops and livestock if they’re lucky.

And so it goes…. all so sad.

Addendums:

14-Oct-2013 October book club : The Tiger’s Wife

Monday 14 October 2013 Leave a comment

 For book club this month the selection was The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht. To save telling the story you can read the reviews below. We had 8 people show up (only about 15 on our list in total), and we think our limit is about 10 as we only meet for an hour and that way we can each have our own say for 5 mins or so. /amazingly this was about the first book that had a range of opinions – generally like it but a few people who didn”t. All the other books were a clear “like” or “don’t like” fairly unanimous. It’s actually a really good range of people discussing and its a good evening.

For myself, I really struggled to get into it, it felt like an East European dirge but then I got going and quite enjoyed it and didn’t really want it to end. It wasn’t that hard a read and the way it entwined almost like 3 or 4 parallel stories that didn’t quite join up, did make it interesting.

From The New York Times:

A Mythic Novel of the Balkan Wars

Think back to the wars of the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia, with their profusion of names that are difficult to pronounce and acts that are painful to recall: the massacres at Brcko and Srebrenica, the bombing of bread lines in Sarajevo, the destruction of Mostar’s 400-year-old bridge.

None of these appear in Téa Obreht’s first novel, “The Tiger’s Wife,” yet in its pages she brings their historic and human context to luminous life. With fables and allegories, as well as events borrowed from the headlines, she illustrates the complexities of Balkan history, unearthing patterns of suspicion, superstition and everyday violence that pervade the region even in times of peace. Reaching back to World War II, and then to wars that came before, she reveals the continuity beneath the clangor.

A metaphor for the author’s achievement can be found in her tale of Luka, a dreamy, brooding butcher’s son from a mountain village called Galina. A decade after World War I, Luka leaves Galina and walks 300 miles to the river port of Sarobor, where he hopes to master the gusla, a single-stringed Balkan folk instrument. Arriving there, he finds that gusla music is nearly forgotten, overtaken by rollicking modern tunes played by lusty, boisterous bands. Still, he seeks out old men who know the traditional songs, falls under the spell of the “throbbing wail of their voices winding through tales remembered or invented” and acquires their art. Although his gift is for lyrics rather than music, “there are those who say that any man who heard Luka play the gusla, even in wordless melody, was immediately moved to tears.” When a woman asks why he doesn’t prefer an instrument with a greater number of strings, he responds, “Fifty strings sing one song, but this single string knows a thousand stories.”

From The Guardian:

In the surreal and yet all-too-real opening scene of Emir Kusturica’s 1995 film Underground, the Nazis bomb Belgrade zoo, causing the panicked animals to run for their lives. And it is during this same raid that the tiger of Téa Obreht’s debut novel escapes to the hills above the fictional village of Galina.

This was 60 years ago, the narrator Natalia tells us, but the complicated story of what happened to the tiger and the people of Galina lives on. It’s now rekindled by the death of Natalia’s beloved grandfather. He was a native of Galina and just a boy when the tiger appeared. The key to her grandfather’s life and death “lies between two stories: the story of the tiger’s wife, and the story of the deathless man”.

Natalia has followed in her grandfather’s steps and become a doctor in “the City”. On hearing of his death, she takes us on a labyrinthine journey to investigate. He has been her constant companion – their weekly visit to the city zoo was a ritual. A humanist schooled in the old tradition, he remained loyal to his patients even after he was expelled from the university for political reasons. He never parted with his copy of The Jungle Book, not even when a mysterious stranger dubbed “the deathless man” won it in a bet to prove his immortality to the rational doctor.

The deathless man is presented as a key piece in the puzzle, along with the bear-man, the tormented butcher-musician, his long-suffering and deaf Muslim wife who becomes the tiger’s wife for reasons too complicated to explain here, and a whole menagerie of other rural Balkan curiosities whose stories are embroidered by a collective genius of superstition. The brilliant black comedy and matryoshka-style narrative are among the novel’s great joys. But they are also one of the problems: after meeting innumerable exotic characters, it dawned on me that the back-stories stand in for a story, and style stands in for emotion.

Obreht’s imagination is seductively extravagant and prone to folkloric hyperbole, and this makes parts of the novel read like a picaresque romp through some enchanted Balkan kingdom, rife with magic, murder and mayhem. Who cares, it’s all a fable about a war – no, several wars – in some unnamed land. No real places or persons are named: Tito is “the Marshall”, Belgrade is “the City”, and we are in “a Balkan country still scarred by war”.

5-Oct-2013 Creating Routines

Saturday 5 October 2013 Leave a comment

The update on my October challenge, (to do some exercise each morning before I go to work (during the week) or before I do anything else (at the weekend). What exercise or how much of it of course doesn’t really matter – it’s really about trying to kickstart the daily habit), is that Tues (first day of October and a day off work) was easy. Weds (at work), I was too tired and didn’t do anything !

Thursday I did get up at 0630am and went for a run (out the door by about 0645) the earliest quite some considerable time, but the run was very short and I was very stiff. Friday was better and I ran to Jibbon beach.

Saturday and Sunday were better, the run was about 50mins and the swim at Jibbon beach was about 10 mins. Jibbon is one of the cleanest waters in Sydney (the annual report of all beaches proves it) and I just love the deep and clean water.

I have loved the last few days and would like to do this ongoing. In fact I would be very happy to do this. IT’s clear I need a routine as per the old days when I used to run with Bruce at 6am each morning in Berowra. We used to smash out 90mins each morning – no wonder I got so fit.

As I am trying to get into the running habit and writing habit, it was great to read this article in the Guardian. It has some great tips and is endlessly fascinating (and just shows the great articles coming from that great media company).

10-Sept-2013 Book club – Casual vacancy

Tuesday 10 September 2013 Leave a comment

As I had today off work, and was a little sore after the weekend’s Coastal Classic 29km run, it was good to have run and swim in a more casual manner ie not getting up early and rushing! and still have time to go to the monthly book club meeting.

This month was The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling who wrote the Harry Potter books, although I haven’t read them and probably won’t as I am not really a fan of sci-fi or fantasy. No real reason other than I like more realistic books, non-fiction, biographies, historical fiction etc.

Unsurprisingly the other people at the book club were not overly impressed with the book, and neither was I.

Although it was quite an easy read, it felt like the author was just spinning a yarn and padding it out with lots of characters, maybe a modern version of what she did with the Harry Potter books, and the end result was a feeling of “so what?”. The storyline wasn’t bad in itself, but with so many characters it felt that not a lot of time was spent padding them out and so they felt a bit wooden, in my opinion.

Book club meetings are quite good, I like the diversity of people and opinions. They all take books pretty seriously. We get about 10 each time which is a good number.

There is also a review from the Guardian here:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/sep/28/casual-vacancy-jk-rowling-review

9-Aug-2013 Money – Scourge of the rich

Friday 9 August 2013 Leave a comment

There was a great great article in the Guardian a few weeks back that I only just read today. It’s written by George Monbiot one of the smartest journos around today (there is a lot of dross of course).

Why the politics of envy are keenest among the very rich

Snippet here:

Essential public services are cut in order that the wealthy may pay less tax. But even their baubles don’t make them happy.

But this mindless, meaningless accumulation cannot satisfy even its beneficiaries, except perhaps – and temporarily – the man wobbling on the very top of the pile.

The same applies to collective growth. Governments today have no vision but endless economic growth. They are judged not by the number of people in employment – let alone by the number of people in satisfying, pleasurable jobs – and not by the happiness of the population or the protection of the natural world. Job-free, world-eating growth is fine, as long as it’s growth. There are no ends any more, just means.

In their interesting but curiously incomplete book, How Much is Enough?, Robert and Edward Skidelsky note that “Capitalism rests precisely on this endless expansion of wants. That is why, for all its success, it remains so unloved. It has given us wealth beyond measure, but has taken away the chief benefit of wealth: the consciousness of having enough … The vanishing of all intrinsic ends leaves us with only two options: to be ahead or to be behind. Positional struggle is our fate.

5-Jul-2013 Guardian Reading Group

Friday 5 July 2013 Leave a comment

Because I quite like the Bundeena Book Club, it struck me as weird that I had never thought of joining a book club before even though I really love reading. I thought I would look for like an online book club and then saw that the Guardian newspaper has a reading group.

You don’t actually need to sign up – you just look at the website for that month’s book, and then read it (or not) and add your own comments (or not).

June 2013 was D.H. Lawrence’s Sons & Lovers which I finished today (I had an e-copy of and read on my phone via the Kindle app for Android). I liked the book although it got quite a bad wrap on the book group comments. I liked the depiction of old English family life and the psychology of the key players.

July 2013 is To Kill A Mocking bird by Harper Lee which I have an e-copy of to read on my phone. I first read it at high school, and to be honest would not in a thousand years, pick it to resf again. I will start it next week or so. I guess that is why I like the idea of these working groups: to challenge myself to read stuff I would not nornally read.

21-May-2013 Recent books read

Tuesday 21 May 2013 Leave a comment

This year has been a weird year for reading books – I haven’t read as many as I was away for 4 weeks, and since January I have been getting the Guardian Weekly which takes a while to read, and I have also been reading the guardian app offline on the train each day.

Anyway the books I have been reading, and finished are as follows :

The Life & Times of Bhakta Jim [link]

Amazon says : “In the last years of the 1970’s I was involved with the Hare Krishna movement. If for some reason you weren’t, this is the book that will tell you what you missed. After leaving the movement I wrote a memoir about it which I put in a box in my closet and mostly forgot. The Life And Times Of Bhakta Jim is based on that old manuscript, with new commentary that tries to look back on those days with understanding and humour. If you ever wondered what Eat, Pray, Love would be like if it was written by a man be advised that this is NOT THAT BOOK.

I loved this book. I am not involved with the Hare Krishnas but have an element where I am very interested in them. I mainly bought it for the picture on the covers!

What the most successful people do before breakfast [link]

I was a bit disappointed by this book, one of the first that I had bought from the Kindle store (for about $2). It was quite short and to be honest – a bit obvious. Mornings, if you get up before the family, are a great time to do sport, reading or writing etc. mmm obvious. However it was a good wake up call.

Running Beyond the Marathon by Grahak Cunningham [link]

It’s called running beyond the marathon but it’s really about Grahak’s 3 or 4 attempts at the 3100 mile race in New York. A great book by a great (West Australian) bloke. It really makes me want to do that run!!

Mother Teresa by Navin Chawla [link]

I bought this book in Calcutta. I am not a Christian and so doubted if I’d be interested but it’s really a great read. There is a lot of bad press about Mother Teresa but in context she has done the world a massive favour. She is (or was) what she was and I truly believe she is the best she could be.

The Progressive Patriot by Billy Bragg [link]

Amazon says “What does it mean to be English? What does it mean to be British? Does the rise in popularity of the St. George’s flag represent a new beginning or symbolize the return of the far right? Is the Union Jack too soaked in the blood of empire to be the emblem of a modern multicultural state? In a country in which everyone is born under two flags, what does it mean to be a patriot? In 2006, Billy Bragg saw his home town become the front line in the debate over who does and does not belong in 21st century Britain—an apparent reaction to the July 2005 terror attacks on London, when four British citizens from the immigrant community killed 52 innocent people and injured many more. This book is an urgent, eloquent and passionate response to these events. Reflecting on his family history and revisiting the music that inspired him, Billy Bragg pits his own values against those of traditional Britishness in a search for a sense of belonging that is accessible to all and in so doing, offers positive hope to a nation no longer sure of its own identity.

I think that Billy Bragg is a diamond geezer, and have an interest in immigrant communities (I myself am a first generation immigrant!!) so I thought it would be a good book, Halfway through I felt it was just twaddle, meandering around all over the place – a bit of history, a bit of Billy’s politics and a bit auto-biographical, however by the finish I had changed my mind and think it was well-written and it all linked up to make a good read. OK I am probably biased.

11-May-2013 Good news ! Human Development Report

Saturday 11 May 2013 Leave a comment

I have always been a voracious reader. of all things but in particular the news and in particular world news.

Well today in a very rare occasion indeed, I actually read some good news!

Don’t get me wrong, the world is still a big  ‘ole place with lots of bad stuff occurring daily, but lets celebrate some some improvements.

for all the seemingly bad news around the world, we are actually living in a golden age of global development. Today, millions of people around the world are living longer, healthier, freer, safer and more prosperous lives than ever before in human history – and we have the data to prove it.

Earlier this month, to little fanfare, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) released its annual Human Development Report (HDR)and the results are both surprising and encouraging. According to the UNDP, over the past decade not some but, in fact, “all countries” have “accelerated their achievements” in education, health, and income. Not a single country for which data was available scored lower on the UNDP’s human development index than they had 12 years earlier.

According to the HDR, these improvements are disproportionately happening in the global south, “home to the vast majority of the world’s people” – most of whom are on the lower end of the income spectrum. Middle-range countries like Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey have seen some of the most rapid advances. But significant progress is also occurring in places like Bangladesh, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda and Tunisia.

In fact, according to the HDR, the combined economic output of the developing world’s three largest economies (Brazil, China and India) will, by the end of decade, match that of the Canada, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States. The good news from the UNDP matches reams of existing data on the extraordinary advances in human progress that have been made in the past two decades.

For example, violent conflicts are on the decline and freedom (in the form of electoral democracies) is on the march. Indeed, inter-state war has largely disappeared from the global system; and when conflicts do occur,they tend to be far less violent.

In addition, there were just under 70 electoral democracies at the end of the cold war. Today, there are 117 (pdf).

But as the HDR makes clear, the advance on public health, poverty reduction and social progress are, in some respects, even more impressive.

Thirty years ago, half the people living in the developing world survived on less than $1.25 a day; today, that proportion is about one-sixth – and the average worldwide income is around $10,000, a significant increase from just a decade ago.

That means more and more people around the world are entering the middle class. In fact, according to the HDR, there will by the end of the decade be approximately 3.25 billion members of the middle class, a dramatic leap from the 1.8 billion of just 4 years ago.

More people around the world can read and write; more go to school, more attend college and more women are getting an education than ever before. The latter point is of critical importance because we know that female education is one of the single most important development tools and actually more critical to child survival than either household income or wealth.

Speaking of child survival, child mortality rate continue to decline thanks to expanded access to healthcare, proper sanitation, and vaccinations. In 1970, the global child mortality rate (deaths of children under five per 1,000) was 141; in 2010, it was 57. From 2000 to 2008 alone, mortality rates among children fell by 17%. And when those kids grow up, they are living longer and healthier lives. Since 1970, the average person is living 11 years longer, to the ripe age of 70. Americans are doing even better, living close to 80 years.

These numbers are the result, in part, of extraordinary advances in public health. Aids-related deaths, while still too high, have dramatically declined. Tuberculosis is finally on the decline; so, too, are mortality rates due to malaria, which have dropped by 25% since 2000.

All of this good news hasn’t happened by accident. As the HDR makes clear (pdf), they are the direct result of governmental policies on economic, trade and public investment, including a particular focus on investments in health and education. To the latter point, one of the more telling findings of the report (pdf) is a side-by-side comparison between South Korea and India in regard to education policies. In South Korea, young women are among the best-educated women in the world, which will result in both a healthier and smaller population (since better-educated women tend to have fewer children). In India, a less broad-based commitment to education means the country’s population will continue to grow, curtailing what should be even higher levels of economic growth and productivity.

In addition, countries that have succeeded the best are ones that have focused on tapping into global markets, maintaining robust trade policies and even enhancing internet usage. In short, success is not the result of “cutting taxes for job creators”, or enacting austerity policies, but rather consistent and deliberate government interventions.

More here from the Guardian.

24-Apr-2013 We don’t have a dishwasher

Wednesday 24 April 2013 1 comment

We don’t have a dishwasher, not now, not ever. Generally washing up is my job and I kinda like it. I usually put on an incense stick and daydream or plan, or put on some music. With laptops and wifi I can now watch TED talks or other videos on Youtube. Maybe I am a cheapskate, or maybe it’s because we have a small kitchen, but I don’t think I am going to change.

I usually do the washing up late after everyone is in bed, although often I am lazy and get up first thing in the morning to do it. Whenever its gets done is immaterial, it gets done by hand!

I could probably develop this theme into “Are our household appliances getting too complicated?” as per this article in the Guardian:

Are our household appliances getting too complicated?
Who needs a kettle with four heat settings? A washing machine with a ‘freshen up’ function? A toaster with six browning modes? What happened to the good old days of the on/off switch?

As always someone elsewhere has written up the whole philosophy just so much better than I could ever express. Read it here. A good extract is below :

A friend of mine (let’s call her “Lily”) positively loves washing dishes by hand. She finds it so gratifying that she feels cheated when houseguests try to help by doing some themselves.

A few weeks ago, as I was turning on the dishwasher before we left my place, she said something like, “Dishwashers are what’s wrong with the world.” Something about that sounded right. I asked her to explain.

“Life is composed of primarily mundane moments,” she says. “If we don’t learn to love these moments, we live a life of frustration and avoidance, always seeking ways to escape the mundane. Washing the dishes with patience and attention is a perfect opportunity to develop a love affair with simply existing. You might say it is the perfect mindfulness practice. To me, the dishwasher is the embodiment of our insatiable need, as a culture, to keep on running, running, running, trying to find something that was inside of us all along.”

We used to have to spend a lot more time and attention maintaining our basic possessions. Dishes had to be washed by hand, stoves had to be stoked, clothes had to be mended, and meals had to be prepared from scratch.

Little was automated or outsourced. All of these routine labors demanded our time, and also our presence and attention. It was normal to have to zoom in and slow down for much of our waking day. We had no choice but to respect that certain daily tasks could not be done without a willing, real-time investment of attention.

My sickness led me to being reactive and mindless and so I’m going to reclaim a little bit of it back by un-automating one thing. I’m not going to use my dishwasher for a month. I’ll do all dishes by hand. Dishes have to be done, and so every day I’ll need to bring my immediate attention to bear on the soapy water and white plates.