Welcome to Sott.net
Fri, 14 Aug 2020
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit
Map

Books

Experimenting with Homeschooling offers an opportunity to cultivate the virtues of independence & original thinking

homeschooling
I was homeschooled for eight years, from age 11 through to college, before it was a novel way for tiger parents to show off their dynamic commitment to their children's education. Now, if millions of parents and families are suddenly going to be homeschooling their kids for the coming weeks (and, let's be honest, quite likely beyond), it's worth trying to think about how to do this in a manner as smooth, healthy and wise as possible.

Learning at home is quite different from learning at school. It requires us to reorient how we think about learning in general, and how we approach the process with our children - maybe even with ourselves, too. Historically, education has been the province of parents. But the question of how kids spend their time, and learn, and grow, is one to which society as a whole should pay more substantive attention, instead of leaving it to the professional advocates and their tired debates about charter schools, unions and uniforms.

Comment: Read more about homeschooling:


Alarm Clock

Time management: 6 techniques from the Stoic philosopher Seneca

time seneca
© Quotefancy, Youtube
True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not." ― Seneca
Locked in prison by Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV) in Shakespeare's Richard II, Richard II gives a haunting speech about his hopeless fate. One line stands out, as it captures perfectly, the reality of nearly every human being — indeed, it sounds like it was cribbed from Seneca's On The Shortness of Life. "I wasted time," Richard II says, "and now doth time waste me."

We think that time is ours to waste. We even say, "We have two hours to kill" or speak of dead time between projects. The irony! Because time is the one that's killing us. Each minute that passes is not just dead to us, it brings us closer to being dead. That's what Richard II realizes in that prison cell. Only now is he realizing that each second that ticks by is a beat of his heart that he won't get back, each ringing bell that marks the hour falls upon him like a blow.

Comment: For more on Stoicism, see:


Fire

Anger is temporary madness: A Stoic guide to anger management

Captain Ahab
© Photo by Rex Features
Rockwell Kent's illustration of Captain Ahab from the 1937 edition of Moby Dick.
People get angry for all sorts of reasons, from the trivial ones (someone cut me off on the highway) to the really serious ones (people keep dying in Syria and nobody is doing anything about it). But, mostly, anger arises for trivial reasons. That's why the American Psychological Association has a section of its website devoted to anger management. Interestingly, it reads very much like one of the oldest treatises on the subject, On Anger, written by the Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca back in the first century CE.

Seneca thought that anger is a temporary madness, and that even when justified, we should never act on the basis of it because, though 'other vices affect our judgment, anger affects our sanity: others come in mild attacks and grow unnoticed, but men's minds plunge abruptly into anger. ... Its intensity is in no way regulated by its origin: for it rises to the greatest heights from the most trivial beginnings.'

Comment: Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius - timeless stoic philosophy that is essential to the human spirit


Yoda

How to turn yourself into a Super-Learner

Whether you're taking up the oboe or finessing your Finnish, scientific research offers tips to aid learning.
Teaching
© Maskot/Getty Images
Perhaps surprisingly, one of the best ways to learn a subject is to teach it.
If your aim for 2020 was to learn a new skill, you may be at the point of giving up. Whether you are mastering a new language or a musical instrument, or taking a career-changing course, initial enthusiasm can only take you so far, and any further progress can be disappointingly slow.

From these struggles, you might assume that you simply lack a natural gift - compared to those lucky people who can learn any new skill with apparent ease.

However, it needn't be this way. Many polymaths - including Charles Darwin and the Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman - claimed not to have exceptional natural intelligence. Most of us have more than enough brainpower to master a new discipline, if we apply it correctly - and the latest neuroscience offers many strategies to do just that.

SOTT Logo Radio

MindMatters: Why We Need Leisure, or What To Do When You Have Nothing To Do

leisure
'Idle hands are the devil's workshop,' we're told. This adage sometimes informs our mad scramble to make ends meet, quite often going non-stop and mostly living to work, with hardly a moment to see who, what and where we are in the vast context of our lives. Many of us are going nowhere fast. Though taking personal responsibility is correctly connected to paying the bills, and is crucial to any kinds of individual growth, there is another type of responsibility we have to ourselves that quite often gets lost in the shuffle in any real and valuable sense.

On this week's MindMatters we look at philosopher Josef Pieper's classic book Leisure: The Basis of Culture and use his ideas as a point of departure to discuss how we spend our free time (since, for the time being, we now seem to have so much more of it!). Among a wide range of issues connected to Pieper's thesis, we ask what we should be doing with ourselves when we're not "getting things done", and what place philosophy, art and any number of other things that culture offers have in our lives. Ultimately, the underlying question is: What may feed the life of the mind in a time and place that is quite often so mindless?


Running Time: 00:51:25

Download: MP3 — 47.1 MB


Cloud Lightning

Coronavirus hysteria is giving people vivid dreams - here's why

coronavirus mask
© Deirdre Barrett
Deirdre Barrett, a professor of psychology at Harvard University who studies dreams, made this photo illustration of a recent COVID-19 dream she had.
Ronald Reagan pulled up to the curb in a sleek black town car, rolled down his tinted window, and beckoned for Lance Weller, author of the novel Wilderness, to join him. The long-dead president escorted Weller to a comic book shop stocked with every title Weller had ever wanted, but before he could make a purchase, Reagan swiped his wallet and skipped out the door.

Of course, Weller was dreaming. He is one of many people around the world — including more than 600 featured in just one study — who say they are experiencing a new phenomenon: coronavirus pandemic dreams.

Science has long suggested that dream content and emotions are connected to wellbeing while we're awake. Bizarre dreams laden with symbolism allow some dreamers to overcome intense memories or everyday psychological stressors within the safety of their subconscious. Nightmares, on the other hand, can be warning signs of anxieties that we might not otherwise perceive in our waking lives.

Comment: And so a significant number of people aorund the globe are being traumatized over a 'pandemic' that never was:


Info

Origins of language pathway in brain date back 25 million years

Language Pathways
© Newcastle University
Scientists have discovered an earlier origin to the human language pathway in the brain, pushing back its evolutionary origin by at least 20 million years.

Previously, a precursor of the language pathway was thought by many scientists to have emerged more recently, about 5 million years ago, with a common ancestor of both apes and humans.

For neuroscientists, this is comparable to finding a fossil that illuminates evolutionary history. However, unlike bones, brains did not fossilize. Instead neuroscientists need to infer what the brains of common ancestors may have been like by studying brain scans of living primates and comparing them to humans.

Professor Chris Petkov from the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, UK the study lead said: "It is like finding a new fossil of a long lost ancestor. It is also exciting that there may be an older origin yet to be discovered still."

The international teams of European and US scientists carried out the brain imaging study and analysis of auditory regions and brain pathways in humans, apes and monkeys which is published in Nature Neuroscience.

They discovered a segment of this language pathway in the human brain that interconnects the auditory cortex with frontal lobe regions, important for processing speech and language. Although speech and language are unique to humans, the link via the auditory pathway in other primates suggests an evolutionary basis in auditory cognition and vocal communication.

Professor Petkov added: "We predicted but could not know for sure whether the human language pathway may have had an evolutionary basis in the auditory system of nonhuman primates. I admit we were astounded to see a similar pathway hiding in plain sight within the auditory system of nonhuman primates."

Gift

Charles Eisenstein: The Coronation

The Holy Spirit appears as a dove in Velázquez’s Coronation of the Virgin
© ALAMY
The Holy Spirit appears as a dove in Velázquez’s Coronation of the Virgin
For years, normality has been stretched nearly to its breaking point, a rope pulled tighter and tighter, waiting for a nip of the black swan's beak to snap it in two. Now that the rope has snapped, do we tie its ends back together, or shall we undo its dangling braids still further, to see what we might weave from them?

Covid-19 is showing us that when humanity is united in common cause, phenomenally rapid change is possible. None of the world's problems are technically difficult to solve; they originate in human disagreement. In coherency, humanity's creative powers are boundless. A few months ago, a proposal to halt commercial air travel would have seemed preposterous. Likewise for the radical changes we are making in our social behavior, economy, and the role of government in our lives. Covid demonstrates the power of our collective will when we agree on what is important. What else might we achieve, in coherency? What do we want to achieve, and what world shall we create? That is always the next question when anyone awakens to their power.

Covid-19 is like a rehab intervention that breaks the addictive hold of normality. To interrupt a habit is to make it visible; it is to turn it from a compulsion to a choice. When the crisis subsides, we might have occasion to ask whether we want to return to normal, or whether there might be something we've seen during this break in the routines that we want to bring into the future. We might ask, after so many have lost their jobs, whether all of them are the jobs the world most needs, and whether our labor and creativity would be better applied elsewhere. We might ask, having done without it for a while, whether we really need so much air travel, Disneyworld vacations, or trade shows. What parts of the economy will we want to restore, and what parts might we choose to let go of? Covid has interrupted what looked to be like a military regime-change operation in Venezuela - perhaps imperialist wars are also one of those things we might relinquish in a future of global cooperation. And on a darker note, what among the things that are being taken away right now - civil liberties, freedom of assembly, sovereignty over our bodies, in-person gatherings, hugs, handshakes, and public life - might we need to exert intentional political and personal will to restore?

For most of my life, I have had the feeling that humanity was nearing a crossroads. Always, the crisis, the collapse, the break was imminent, just around the bend, but it didn't come and it didn't come. Imagine walking a road, and up ahead you see it, you see the crossroads. It's just over the hill, around the bend, past the woods. Cresting the hill, you see you were mistaken, it was a mirage, it was farther away than you thought. You keep walking. Sometimes it comes into view, sometimes it disappears from sight and it seems like this road goes on forever. Maybe there isn't a crossroads. No, there it is again! Always it is almost here. Never is it here.

Now, all of a sudden, we go around a bend and here it is. We stop, hardly able to believe that now it is happening, hardly able to believe, after years of confinement to the road of our predecessors, that now we finally have a choice. We are right to stop, stunned at the newness of our situation. Of the hundred paths that radiate out in front of us, some lead in the same direction we've already been headed. Some lead to hell on earth. And some lead to a world more healed and more beautiful than we ever dared believe to be possible.

I write these words with the aim of standing here with you - bewildered, scared maybe, yet also with a sense of new possibility - at this point of diverging paths. Let us gaze down some of them and see where they lead.

Clipboard

14 Ways to improve mental health during the world's biggest psychological experiment

Mental Health
Try to stay mindful, fully present in the here-and-now, and enjoy the silence. For this, too, will pass.

What we were warned about but turned a blind eye to and did not expect in the Western world to this extent, happened: we found ourselves in the midst of a pandemic.

Social distancing, quarantine and hygienic practices are essential behavioural methods in such times to reduce spreading of the new virus and mortality. But these precautionary measures, whether imposed or consciously chosen to protect ourselves and the persons at risk against the coronavirus, could be challenging for us humans as we are social beings. They can be particularly tough to those who are prone to anxiety and depression.


Comment: No, the above are not "essential behavioural methods" given what we now know about Covid-19 - and the hype that surrounds it. But as long as we are compelled, for various reasons, to stay home most of the time, the following suggestions can ameliorate whatever strain one is experiencing greatly...


Still, solitude should not mean loneliness and has also its positive sides. Here is some practical advice on how to cope with the challenges we may face during quarantine or a lockdown and what we can proactively do for our mental health. In the present distress, some of these things we used to take for granted might sink into oblivion.

Comment: And a few more suggestions:

Éiriú Eolas - The revolutionary breathing and meditation program


As well as:

Welcome these hard times like a Stoic

The healing power of an attitude of gratitude


Books

What I learned from Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow"

Thinking Fast and Slow
© mudamasters.com
I recently finished reading Thinking Fast and Slow, a book on behavioral psychology and decision-making by Daniel Kahneman. This book contains some profoundly important concepts around how people make decisions. It will help you understand why humans sometimes make errors in judgement, and how to look for signs that you yourself may be about to make a System 1 error. Here are some of the most important take-aways from the book.

We have a Two System way of thinking — System 1 (Thinking Fast), and System 2 (Thinking Slow).

System 1 is the intuitive, "gut reaction" way of thinking and making decisions. System 2 is the analytical, "critical thinking" way of making decisions. System 1 forms "first impressions" and often is the reason why we jump to conclusions. System 2 does reflection, problem-solving, and analysis.

We spend most of our time in System 1.

Most of us identify with System 2 thinking. We consider ourselves rational, analytical human beings. Thus, we think we spend most of our time engaged in System 2 thinking.

Comment: See also: Two brains running: Thinking fast and slow