What is Success?

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

The good life has to be a happy life. I am much in favor of Bertrand Russell’s view on the good life: “The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life. I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy – I mean that if you are happy you will be good.” The good life also has to be the successful life. But what is a successful life? The definition must vary from person to person. I like the simplicity of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s operational definition:  Continue reading

The Pale Blue Dot

Carl Sagan was a man of extraordinary vision — and what is more, a man who helped others to see more clearly. Here’s Sagan’s meditation on that little speck seen in this image taken from a distance of 6.4 billion kms from earth, the place we call home. The image was taken by Voyager 1 (launched 1977) in 1990 on its way out of the solar system. It shows earth as if it were a “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” Sagan had persuaded NASA to command the spacecraft to capture this image. He explained the significance of that picture in his 1994 book, The Pale Blue Dot. See below for a reading of that bit by Sagan.
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Out of the Ruts of Ordinary Perception

“To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large — this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual.” Continue reading

On Failure and Imagination

Without having read a single word of the Harry Potter novels, I guessed that JK Rowling must be an extraordinary person. The possessor of an imagination so remarkable that it captures the hearts of hundreds of millions cannot but be extraordinarily talented.

But I am wary of objects of popular fascination — whether they be religions, politicians, movie stars, cult leaders, popular movements, fads and fashion. I have never been one to judge anyone good merely because millions of people hold him or her in high regard. I am extremely suspicious of the “wisdom of the crowds.” Indeed, whenever I come across a highly regarded public figure, my default assumption is that all cannot be quite right with the person. I admit that I am a cynic.

So while I guessed that Rowling was extraordinarily talented, I did not have an opinion on whether she was good. I am delighted to conclude that she is a good person. The evidence? Her Harvard University commencement address. Here, for the record, are some excerpts: Continue reading

Alan Watts Teaches Meditation

I was listening to a lecture “Alan Watts Teaches Meditation” (mp3 format) and I thought that I would share a bit of what he said on this blog. I enjoy listening to Alan Watts. Thankfully, there is a lot of great recordings of his available on the web. While in Berkeley, I used to listen to these dharma talks of his on a local public radio station. Anyway, I took the time to transcribe a few minutes of the talk. If anyone is interested in the audio files, let me know and I will tell you how to get them.
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