Lobsang Rampa and what we choose to believe

When I was perhaps 14, I was intrigued with books by Lobsang Rampa, but I could only afford to buy very few books with my pocket money, and so I would buy another Asimov. Leafing through one of those Lobsang Rampa books, I recall reading about the mummified bodies of giants hidden under the Potala Palace in Lhasa. I don’t know whether I knew anything much about Tibet then, or whether, indeed, it was this […]

some thoughts on Herbert’s Dune

Dune by Frank Herbert has been, and still is, an inspiration to me. That it should still be read by so many people—more than fifty years after its publication—is a testament to its greatness. I would suggest that a major factor underlying this success is how skilfully Herbert plundered history. He did not, as so many writers do, merely break European Medieval history into a handful of pieces and reassemble them to make his story—instead […]

Roy Eastland on life drawing

Roy Eastland is an old friend of mine. When he put up another of his beautiful life drawings on Instagram, I asked him: “Roy, what is that you get from doing this?” I would like to share his sublime answer with you. “Good question. Hard to answer briefly and hard to know fully. Here are some thoughts off the top of my head though. I don’t exactly enjoy drawing but there is pleasure in seeing […]

the dreamtime resumes

The Invaders were here for less than eleven generations. The land—especially where it nears the ocean—is disfigured by the bleached shells of their habitations. People trek there to salvage trinkets. It’s dangerous: you have to tread carefully. Children love to burn the brightly coloured plastic—that is the only way to get rid of it. The Elders warn against the noxious smoke and say its stench is characteristic of that terrible time. The Invaders devastated the […]

Emperor Boris

We, who live in the United Kingdom, have fallen into a habit of considering our politicians as a bunch of dissolute and feckless, mostly grey, ‘servants of the people’, whom we like to mock and complain about. Westminster seems a quaint, at times almost irrelevant, institution struggling to keep up with the times. We consider the United Kingdom a middling country with a relatively small population; though there are enough people here that many of […]

the primacy of touch

I drink tea from a Japanese cup. Because it has no handle, when I pick it up, I feel how hot the tea is and will not put it to my lips too hot and scald my mouth. Eating with my fingers makes sure my food is not too hot. I feel its texture before I put it in my sensitive and subtle mouth. I pick an orange, bring it to my nose and inhale […]

why do electorates divide nearly 50:50?

Have you ever wondered why so many recent political votes divide their electorate almost 50:50? This is my attempt at a simple—perhaps obvious—explanation. The results of the referendum for Scottish Independence (No 55.3%: Yes 44.7%) and the Brexit Referendum in the UK (Leave 51.89%: Remain 48.11%) seem to me remarkably close—especially given that in one case you had 3.6 million people voting, and in the other 33.6 million. Why were these not 60:40, or even […]

a limit on human creativity?

With our creativity, we explore a space of art and culture, of science and technology, that expands outwards in all directions. By perceiving reality more clearly, we develop more sophisticated skills and tools that, in turn, deepen our perception of reality. It seems natural to believe that this virtuous circle is accelerating us towards an infinite horizon. But is this true and, if so, in what way? The further back we look, the less has […]

a bonfire of the vanities?

The Internet could be the ultimate liberation of human creativity: into the hands of anyone with access to it, it puts a printing press and a recording and film studio—all connected to a world-spanning distribution system. By volume of output, by its breadth and quality, it has brought us a New Renaissance. But this revolution casts a shadow. When one of these dotcom colossi offers social spaces where people can meet and discuss and share, […]

youth as an uncollapsed wave function

Youth is like an uncollapsed wave function. Much that is alluring in a youthful thing—a child, a young woman, the bud of a rose, even a fresh morning—is that each has the potential to become so many forms of itself; that, in a way, all those possibilities exist at that moment in superposition. We can imagine any number of futures for a young man: he can become all sorts of people, have all sorts of […]