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I can think of only one word for the experience of being so swept away by something outside yourself that your inner chatter ceases, time stops, you forget who you are, where you are, or even that you are. The word is love. Whatever person or thing, sunset or cathedral, symphony or ski-slope, fills you with that kind of ecstatic self-unconsciousness is something you love. You will go to astounding lengths to defend the possibility of having that experience again — and of others having it.

And you will run up against people who wield a gun or bulldozer or government budget or some other power over that which you love. Have you ever tried to tell why you love baseball, or opera, or a sea turtle, or an old-growth forest, or your neighborhood, or your kids, to someone who is hostile to the subject? It can’t be done. It is not a matter of words. You know there is something lovable there, for anyone who will pay close attention, open to the wonder. But you can’t force that attention. You can’t cause that opening.

You may be able to touch an experience of love in another person, as the student’s turtle story touched the whale and the eagle in me. But if the person in power has no such experience, or no willingness to access it, you will be called a sentimental fool, a tree-hugger, an environmental wacko. Then power, uninformed by love, will crush beauty and mystery in the name of efficiency, economic growth, national security, racial purity, or some other loveless abstraction. It happens every day.

What to do about power uninformed by love? I wish I knew. One answer is to seek power yourself. Another answer is to respect other people’s loves, knowing that a love you don’t share is a wonder to which you have yet to learn to open. The most effective answer is to be sure that power is never entrusted to those who cannot love — though they are attracted to power like moths to a flame, because it is all they have.

from this column.

Unfortunately, an understanding of the causes of violent conflict does not, in itself, provide a sufficient basis for implementing good policies and avoiding bad ones, though scholars sometimes believe this. Theory can help us understand the process by which violent conflict escalates. Promoting understanding is the role of the scholar. But effective political leadership requires a combination of understanding, toughness, vision, empathy, courage and the ability to communicate. Political leaders need the results of our theorizing. They need our understanding and our prayers as well.

from this inspiring paper. Its ten lessons are very valuable too.

Also, by courtesy of this paper, excerpt from The Electronic Oracle: Computer Models and Social Decisions‘s “Epilogue”:

We have said that computer modeling can add five important qualities to human understanding beyond what can be achieved by the mind alone.

1. Precision
2. Comprehensiveness
3. Logic
4. Explicitness
5. Flexibility

The great problems that threaten modern social systems – poverty and hunger, armaments and terrorism, environmental destruction and resource depletion – certainly would be helped if these five qualities became regular elements in human decision-making. But we have also said that these qualities cannot be realized unless modelers become compassionate, humble, open-minded, self-insightful, and committed. If those qualities would become regular elements in human decision-making the problems of the globe would certainly be solved.

Suddenly realise that the high leverage point of sustainability is actually people’s childhood life. A happy childhood with love and care promotes care about others, willingness to share, trust, compassion and ethics. Compare a child in Norway and a child in Somalia.

Of course, more researches are needed to establish the link. For example, what kind of childhood experience promotes / hinders sustainability? How it works (the mechanism)?

In the 1930s the American art collector Albert Barnes commissioned Henri Matisse to produce a major painting for his private gallery in Merion, outside Philadelphia. Matisse was ecstatic: He rented an old cinema in Nice, where he lived at that time, and spent the entire next year completing the work, a dance triptych. He was pleased with the result. But when the piece arrived in Merion, Barnes wrote to Matisse explaining an unfortunate oversight: His collaborators had taken the wrong measurements, so the painting did not fit on the gallery wall. The difference in size was marginal, and Matisse could easily have tweaked the triptych to fit the wall, a technical fix. But instead he rented the cinema for another 12 months to complete a new painting with the right dimensions. Moreover, since he felt that mindless duplication was not real art, Matisse considerably changed the concept, effectively creating a whole new design. And in this process of reworking the piece, as he experimented with forms that would capture the dancers’ rhythmic motion, he invented the famous “cut outs” technique (gouaches découpés), what he later labeled “painting with scissors.” Whether consciously or unconsciously, Matisse turned a mistake into an opportunity for innovation. The new triptych not only pleased Barnes, but also served as the stylistic starting point for what would later become Matisse’s most admired works.

The French master’s ad hoc ingenuity captures the essence of an emerging concept known as resilience. Loosely defined, resilience is the capacity of a system—be it an individual, a forest, a city, or an economy—to deal with change and continue to develop. It is both about withstanding shocks and disturbances (like climate change or financial crisis) and using such events to catalyze renewal, novelty, and innovation. In human systems, resilience thinking emphasizes learning and social diversity. And at the level of the biosphere, it focuses on the interdependence of people and nature, the dynamic interplay of slow and gradual change. Resilience, above all, is about turning crisis into opportunity.

Don’t be too alarmed by unexpected events, be prepared for them, and make use of them to improve negative circumstances. These actions will require trust and collective effort, a theme brought into focus with the awarding of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics to Elinor Ostrom, a key player in resilience thinking.

from this article.

What’s the point of surviving without love?

World is complex, happiness is simple.

How to be a human 怎样做人:

  • Moral / Ethics (based on innate Love / Conscience / care about others but with reasoning) – determine goal that good for society
  • Critical thinking / Judge conflicting information to make decision / how to think (use your brain) – determine the right way to reach the goal

I began to suspect sustainability (to avoid the very likely collapse, based on the solid model and numerous symptoms) has to do with ethics (or moral, value) when I asked myself a question, “Is it rational for a self-interested person choose to act in a way that promote the collapse, even he/she agreed on the assumptions of Limits to Growth and so the collapse?”

Imagine I am the self-interested person (I don’t even care about my future generations) who buy the Limits to Growth scenarios, what will I do? I know that all are interconnected (interdependence). An attack to Nigeria oil fields can trigger a rise in global oil price, which can affect people far away from Nigeria who even have no idea where Nigeria is. Besides distant in space like previous example, I also know that cause and effect can be distant in time. The lowering of interest rates has contributed to the housing bubble. So the collapse may lead to world (nuclear?) war, international terrorism, epidemics, which can affect my personal interest negatively.

To be rational, I will weight the risk of unsustainablility on me (highlighted because self-interested person only put effect on himself into consideration, not even effect on his children, so the rational calculation is based on a person’s value) and the benefit I gain from not doing it (e.g. immediate gratification by unnecessary consumption). I found that it is totally rational for me to defer sustainable decisions until the risk of unsustainablility on me exceeds the benefit I can gain from not choosing it.

In other words, unsustainable business as usual becomes less attractive when collapse becomes more obvious. Of course there is uncertainty because we cannot know exactly when the risk of unsustainablility exceeds the benefit (bounded rationality), and the perception of risk vary from person to person. But it is no doubt that when I perceive the collapse has larger negative effect on me (e.g. a nuclear war involving the country I am living in), even I, an extreme self-interested person, will start act to avoid it.

Do we need to wait until that time when the collapse might have reduced significant world population? Fortunately no. Evolutionary psychology research has found that people are not born to be pure self-interested, but also component of altruism, to keep their kin, race, species, earth’s life or even living things in the universe survives. The distribution might be normal between these two extremes, but I suspect education (especially during the early childhood) can influence the degree of altruism. To avoid collapse, majority of people just need to be altruism on (care about) the species level (humanity), because human society is the concern of collapse. Earth will heal itself and some species will be able to live through the great change of Anthropocene and might overtake human.

Therefore, ethics is very important for sustainability (another is the understanding of dynamics). Since its importance is diminishing when we see more and more symptoms of collapse, it is possible to convince more self-interested people to act for sustainability. Relying on altruism need to fight with strong self-interestedness part of human, which is difficult.

Lastly I would like to share a nice (not only its message, but also the way it presents) visual:

The second point concerns the question of why Limits hit such a sensitive nerve everywhere, and a short story may shed some light on this question. During the acrimonious days of preparing the summary for Global 2000, a relatively senior government official said to me “Global 2000 cannot suggest that developing countries face challenges any more difficult than those faced by the United States.”

For me, the central message of Limits is a moral message. For many decades, people have been observing that a very small fraction of the human population in high-income countries are enjoying a very large slice of the world resource/economic pie and asking if this picture does not raise a moral issue. Until Limits, the wealthy could and did answer: “No. There’s no moral issue here. If people in the low-income countries stop being lazy and work as hard as we rich have, their slice of the global pie—in fact the whole global pie—can be as big as they want.” Limits—and to a degree Global 2000 also—destroys this moral dodge. It shows that there are limits to the size of the global pie. I think the reason that Limits so unnerved people is not the prospect of overshoot and collapse. Rather it is our nagging sense that post-Limits, we cannot avoid a profound moral dilemma that we did not expect and do not know how to address. It is the fear we all have now of looking in the eye of a person from Bangladesh, or Malawi, or Czechia, or Ghana (as I have) and being told: “I and my family would like to like to live as well as you do, but we can’t. We are too late. If we and everyone else tried to live as well as you do, it would destroy Earth.” Now, limits on economic throughput that can be sustained without unacceptable environmental damage force us to face unavoidable equity and distributional issues. This moral challenge, I think, is the reason so many people could not read Limits with an open mind, and why we could not publish a Government study suggesting that the challenge to developing countries is greater than the challenge to the United States.

from this article.

It reminds me of Copenhagen meeting December last year.

We have been used to a more benign environment and a more hospitable planet.

from this post.

I would recommend readers who are interested read his other posts. Interestingly, the man who is spiritual like this (from my understanding of his posts there) also wrote financial commentaries.

… because it helps survival of the species. It looks irrational in individual level, but makes sense in higher level. This dilemma of locally optimal vs holistic optimal is well known – see Deming’s The New Economics pg 82-87 for an example on how local optimized departments has poorer result to the company. The question of rationality depends on perspective.

There is a Chinese saying, 人人为我,我为人人. Strong sense of (global) community helps survival of the (global) community. If not, selection of sub-group will intensify when changes of the environment become abrupt enough.

Cancer, e.g., occurs when individual cells in the body mutate and develop the ability to proliferate without the restraints normally in place that serve the interests of the individual organism.

from Wikipedia. There is always a conflict, the question is how to balance it. This is also an idea of Multilevel Selection Theory.

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