Truth and Beauty in Texas


I recently read this excerpt from “Truth and Beauty” by Robert Flynn in Trinity University Press’ Art at Our Doorstep: San Antonio Writers and Artists.

That was when I first got the notion of being a writer. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We didn’t go in much for writing at the country school I attended. We studied penmanship. But we knew what a writer was. A writer was somebody who was dead. And if he was any good he had been dead a long time. If he was real good, people killed him. They killed him with hemlock. Hemlock was the Greek word for Freshman Composition.

The country school I attended was closed, and we were bused to Chillicothe. Chillicothe, Texas is small. Chillicothe is so small there’s only one Baptist Church. Chillicothe is so small you have to go to Quanah to have a coincidence. For a good coincidence, you have to go to Vernon. Chillicothe was fairly bursting with truth and beauty, and my teacher encouraged me to write something that had an epiphany. For an epiphany, you had to go all the way to Wichita Falls.

Read the full excerpt at Robert Flynn’s website

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In praise of narcissism


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In today’s modern world where selfies and self-help books are in abundance, this needull looks at the moral dimension of narcissism.

Ours is a self-obsessed age. Modern life is an obstacle course littered with people snapping selfies at every corner. Bookshop shelves heave with self-help books.  And yet we publicly chastise the apparently vain and egotistical, outing them for their inability to conceal the self-concern of which we are all secretly guilty.  We prize modesty, humility and self-effacement.  But don’t those qualities also betray a certain discomfort with who we are, an instinct to downplay aspects of ourselves that we might otherwise cherish and seek to share?  The more images we take, the harder it seems to see ourselves as we really are.  And yet, isn’t there also something to be won in the endeavour to attend to ourselves more thoughtfully, making ourselves the subject of our probing enquiry?

The complete article

Shahida Bari — TLS

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How Rand made US selfish?


“Capitalism and altruism are incompatible….The choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequences of freedom, justice, progress and man’s happiness on earth—or the primordial morality of altruism, with its consequences of slavery, brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces.”

~Ayn Rand

You might disagree to what Ayn, one of the most controversial novelist – cum -philosopher of modern times, says but you just can’t deny the power this statement holds. Ayn Rand’s philosophy has influenced not just individuals but nations and made them successful yet selfish. In today’s eye-opening Needull, we read about a clinical psychologist’s analysis of Rand’s influence on bright and young Americans, who in turn influenced US’s policy to turn it into the ‘selfish nation’ it is today.

Only rarely in U.S. history do writers transform us to become a more caring or less caring nation. In the 1850s, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was a strong force in making the United States a more humane nation, one that would abolish slavery of African Americans. A century later, Ayn Rand (1905-1982) helped make the United States into one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world, a neo-Dickensian society where healthcare is only for those who can afford it, and where young people are coerced into huge student-loan debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

Full Article Here

Raw Story – Bruce Levine

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The Blerch


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On a wintery Sunday morning your alarm goes off. Its 6 am. You are supposed to get out of bed and go to gym(or run, or substitute anything that you do to keep yourself fit). But then you hear some voices. “You can always go to gym…. later in the day. Just sleep for now in the comfort of your bed and duvet. You have earned it…“. Lie. Deep down you know this won’t work. It had never worked. But still you give in.  Dear Readers, have you ever had that feeling ? Mathew Inman calls these voices as Blerch.

I present to you a cartoon strip from theoatmeal, The terrible & wonderful reasons why I run long distances.  I hope you enjoy it.

Mathew Inman is a very talented cartoonist who has uncanny knack of personifying these abstract ideas in a very humorous form. I will be in future, posting a lot more of his work because some of them are just epic.

 

 

Why There Is No Such Thing As A Soul Mate


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The writer explores the popular romantic concept of soul mate philosophically.

Imagine the following scene. Lovers are locked in an embrace and the Greek god Hephaestus stands over them with his mending tools, asking ‘What is it that you human beings really want from each other?’ The lovers are puzzled and he asks them a further question: ‘Is this your heart’s desire, for the two of you to become parts of the same whole and never to separate day or night? If that is your desire, I’d like to weld you together and join you into something whole, so that the two of you are made into one. Look at your love and see if this is what you desire: wouldn’t this be all that you want?’ We are invited to suppose that the copulating lovers would welcome Hephaestus’ offer and think they had found what they wanted: to fuse with their beloved so that two become one. According to this story, this is because we used to be complete wholes but were torn apart by the gods; love is the name for this pursuit of an original state of wholeness and unity.

The complete article

Dr. Frisbee Sheffield — The Critique

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Robot or ‘Electronic Person’?


T-800, Wall-E and c3PO might look great on-screen but they are still a distant reality for us. AI (Artificial Intelligence) devices, however smart or advance they are touted to be, are yet to take over human jobs or lives.

But the world has already started to think about their legal status. As per a new draft report, The European Union is considering to regard robots (of the future) as ‘electronic persons‘. Currently, this legal definition is a way to hold companies accountable for things their robots might do but sooner or later, it will stir the beginning of the debatable question of treating robots as self-aware beings, increasingly at par with humans.

If a machine can think, decide and act on its own volition, if it can be harmed or held responsible for its actions, should we stop treating it like property and start treating it more like a person with rights? What if a robot achieves true self-awareness? Should it have equal rights with us and the same protection under the law?

Today’s Needull touches this very subject as the author, a renowned lawyer and academician, discusses the legal and philosophical implications of this landmark move. I sincerely wish Asimov was here to see this.

Full Article Here

Kyle Bowyer – The Conversation

Official EU Draft Report Here

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The Pied Piper from India


Around two decades ago, when I was growing up in a boarding school run by monks of Ramakrishna Mission, January was the best month of the year. The days were no more frigid, the yellow marigold and calendulas dotted the massive school campus and there were a lot of festivals lined up; Makar Sankranti, Saraswati Puja, Netaji’s birthday and my favourite Swamiji’s Tithi Puja (oh… how I miss those mishtis).

Swamiji, or Swami Vivekananda, is more than just a Hindu monk or another ochre-robed Guru from the East. If you read his works, you will realize that he understood the true essence of Hinduism (specifically, the Advaita Vedanta stream of it) and the true potential of India (as a national as well as a spiritual entity) more than anyone else and it was no surprise that when he went to the West, he shattered myths and inspired visionaries unlike ever before. With his charismatic persona, deep knowledge & ability to influence, if there was a rockstar of religion, Swamiji would have to be it.

If 19th century was a scientific revolution, I believe that 20th century was a philosophical revolution, as the world rid itself of ‘narrow walls’ of imperialism, slavery and segregation.  Most of the leaders of these revolutions, from Gandhi to Tesla to Che, have acknowledged the influence of Swami Vivekananda even though he had already died a premature death at the wake of the century. Today’s Needull, a 2012 article from The WSJ, looks at the continued global influence of this great soul, even in this century.

Vivekananda’s genius was to simplify Vedantic thought to a few accessible teachings that Westerners found irresistible. God was not the capricious tyrant in the heavens avowed by Bible-thumpers, but rather a power that resided in the human heart.

Full Article Here

Ann Louise Bardach – The Wall Street Journal

Bonus Read: Full Speech of Swami Vivekananda at Parliament of the World Religions, Chicago, 1893

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