topic: adaptation

the experimental past

The study of the history of non-Western societies – especially those that have ‘failed’ – may be one of the most valuable resources that we have to help guide us through the coming ‘time of difficulty’ that we seem to be heading for. Watching a good BBC documentary about Tiwanaku, I was struck by how pertinent to our present climate change woes was the story of these people, not only surviving, but flourishing in an […]

cat magic

In our culture at least, cats have been associated with magic. In European tradition cats were seen as being a typical ‘familiar’ of a witch or warlock. I would like to suggest that, on the contrary, it is cats who perform magic, and that it is we who are their familiars. As in many ‘systems’ of magic, cats cast spells primarily by means of vocal utterances. They gaze at their familiar, that is their human, […]

the human virtuality

The greatest danger facing the human race seems to me to be how our collective ‘idea’ of what the world is is progressively moving away from what the world actually is. Without wanting to open up the whole can of worms that is the ‘mind-body problem‘, I think it is not too contentious to state: that the impression we have within each of us of the ‘world’ is only an approximation of that world. After […]

an argument for scottish independence

(In the Autumn of 2014, the people of Scotland are going to vote in a referendum to decide whether they wish to separate from the UK. There are all kinds of arguments that can be made for and against this separation, I would like to add one of my own.) Humanity seems unable to focus on doing what would have to be done to head off global warming of 2ÂșC – and, the way things […]

domestic katas, time and freedom

Eastern martial arts – and other ‘physical motion disciplines’, Kabuki for example – are taught through forms, or katas. These are ways to train the subconscious so that it assimilates a particular linked pattern of motion – a pattern that is a distillation of a ‘system’. If we consider T’ai Chi, a martial art I studied for years, there are a fixed number of these katas that appear to be a complex dance, performed solo […]

a bite of the cherry

policeman in front of a picture of Mao...

It seems that those of us who live in the West may need to get used to the fact that our economies are not going to return to constant growth. The belief that things are going to always continue to get better – at least in the sense of a constantly growing GDP – has always been a fantasy: constant growth of the kind we’ve experienced, that consists of consuming the Earth’s resources, presupposes that […]

digital texts: a return to aspects of an oral tradition?

storyteller...

Ebooks are the latest stage of a process that began with the invention of writing. The ability to write thoughts and stories down allowed their distribution across space and time: a storyteller no longer needed to be present for his message to be communicated. These advantages are obvious, but there is also a profound disadvantage: that a text is a fossil of the author’s message, and that, disconnected from its living source, it can no […]

on the Trans-Asia Express…

Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia interiors with exquisite Islamic calligraphy...

It was colder in Istanbul than in Scotland when I arrived, blustery and lashing rain. I spent the next day, my only day in the city, incredibly cold, but unable to return for an extra layer – I had not thought to bring warm clothes at all – because my rucksack was locked away in a cupboard in the hotel I had had to check out of. The Blue Mosque was closed for prayers – […]

buying it

Americanisms have been entering Britain for quite some time. It is natural for oldtimers like me to bemoan the language being pulled out from under us. However, I am well aware that it is inevitable that language should change constantly – and I am certainly not interested in being any kind of linguistic (proverbial) Canute. Further, I am also aware that it is an error to see American English as diverging from British English: the […]

50 in New York

ricardo in Time Square...

Something I’ve rabbited on about before is how the world is homogenising – the more I travel, the more it seems to me that everywhere is becoming the same. If this is even true for Sri Lanka, then how much more so is it for travelling between the UK and New York? But before I go into that (I think this is going to become quite a ramble, but hopefully you will forgive me, now […]