Saturday, October 31, 2009


I just finished reading The Englishwoman in America, which was first published in 1856. Isabella Lucy Bird describes her trip to America. How life has changed in a century and a half! She traveled by train, steamer, carriage, and clipper. She talked about the 400 daily newspapers published in the 32 states of the United States. Slavery was still legal in half the states. Neither women nor blacks had the vote. Cholera was epidemic in both Canada and the United States, taking thousands of lives. She had to dip her pen in ink to write her journal.

What would Isabella say in her blog if she suddenly appeared in 2009? The newspapers are almost extinct. We’ve been traveling by car and plane for almost a century, and we can teleconference with relatives in Europe. We have a black president. People text while commuting. We have vaccines for our latest epidemic.

What would the world be like if we were suddenly sent to 2162? Will we transport in nanoseconds? Will the United States, or even countries, exist? Will we communicate instantly with each other via implants? Will we be able to “download” programs that will instantly vaccinate us for new diseases like we do computer viruses? Will the truly amazing changes be, not in the areas of technology, but in how we think about ourselves, our fellow human, sentient beings, and the world? Sign me up, I want to know.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Virus of the Mind

I recently read Virus of the Mind by Richard Brodie which discusses the concepts of memes. “A meme is a unit of information in a mind whose existence influences events such that more copies of itself get created in other minds.” According to the book ideas replicate not because they are good or helpful but because they are good at replicating.

Since reading the book, I have found myself looking at my thoughts and beliefs. Am I thinking something because it is helpful to me or because I am just used to thinking that thought? According the Brodie:

The word pay in “pay attention” is quite apt. As conscious beings, attention is our most precious commodity. Attention is a piece of our consciousness, a slice of our human life. When we direct our attention at something, we are spending a piece of our conscious life. How many of us consciously direct our attention toward whatever is most important to us?
Brodie’s book is like Tamiflu for the consciousness.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Changing Perspective

I read The Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo last weekend.
The following was a sign that a number of the characters tried to read:

So many times in our lives all we need to do is alter our perspective a tad and everything will make sense.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Path

From The Secret Daily Teachings:
When a big change occurs in your life it forces you to change direction. Sometimes the new path may not be easy, but you can be absolutely certain that there is magnificence for you on the new path. You can be absolutely certain that the new path contains things that you could not have experienced otherwise.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Being Seen

Today I feel slightly haunted by the book, The Book of D’ni, which I finished last night. I had expected it to be a fun read when I picked it up at the library, especially since it is based on a video game. Instead I find myself mulling over the moral lesson. In the story some people of D’ni are transported to an idyllic world. Near the beginning of the story there is a cryptic scene when our protagonists meet one of the residents of Teranhee, who asks “Can I see you?” Near the end of the book we find out that this world is dependent upon millions of unseen slaves. The people that the D’ni originally met had been trained to not see these slaves.

What haunts me is that I think many, if not most, of the people in the United States are like the people of Teranhee. Most of us don’t know where are food or clothes come from. We aren’t aware of the conditions that people in other countries are working under to produce our goods. The recent high unemployment rates have made many of us painfully aware of the high cost of low priced goods produced in other countries. Last week I read that some teachers were imported from the Philippines to teach students in the US. These teachers were basically treated as indentured servants. What is that teaching children?

I was running late for church this morning as I was thinking about the book. This definitely isn’t my day to save the world. What we really need to do is sit back and think about what we need as a planet of people, especially with all the changes created by global warming. But, before we can do that we need to “see people.” We need to see the people who produce our goods, see the people around the world who are victims of genocide, see the people who have had their homes and families destroyed because of floods and earthquakes. We need to see them as people, see them as “us.”