Wednesday, May 21, 2008

some little things life has taught me...

mood: inspired depending what your personal goals are in life, some strategies work better than others...

you are not the center of the universe

  • be critical towards your cultural and religious imprintings: they could be far from ideal, and simply represent idiosyncratic artifacts from the past
  • don't take yourself too seriously: a little distance to ones own ego can work wonders (and besides, the universe existed for roughly 14 billion years before your birth, and the last discernible structure in it will probably cease to exist after 10 to the power of 23 years after your death)
  • don't expect your perception of reality to be too representative of reality itself (psychopathology, cognitive biases, psychedelic drugs)
  • don't expect your knowledge and understanding of things to give you more than a glimpse of reality: you cannot possibly know and understand everything
  • reality is perhaps more bizarre than anyone ever guessed (non-locality, quantization, measurement, duality, uncertainty, entanglement, time dilation, arrow of time, dark matter and energy, self-organization, emergence, life, death, consciousness, etc. without even mentioning multiverses and possibilities of higher dimensional space and/or time)
  • allow for the possibility, that all your opinions and points of views could be wrong
  • dogmas have never and will never work
  • the best way to appreciate the arbitrariness of your socio-religious background and respect other takes is by traveling

you are the center of your universe

  • take responsibility: don't expect others to think for you
  • learn to accept and respect yourself
  • your mind creates your experience of reality: you have total freedom in your mind
  • you can always choose your inner reactions to impulses from the outer world
  • appreciate the enigma of existence: every day you wake up in a structured and self-organizing reality, and rediscover yourself, a thinking, sentient entity full of memories from the past
  • appreciate the improbability of existence: changing the values of fundamental physical constants just a little would most probably result in unstructured mess
  • everything in the universe expresses the universe

getting into the right state of mind

  • get a sense of humor
  • once in a while, stop and think about how you are living your life, and if it's what you really want
  • happiness is a state of being/mind: your only chance of finding it is within yourself
  • modesty, honesty, sincerity can get you a long way
  • let go: you can't control everything anyway
  • be aware of your own mortality: relax and accept the only thing you can know for sure
  • open your mind to change: conservatism and paranoia about new things doesn't get you far in a universe where everything is constantly changing
  • good/bad or right/wrong are very relative attributes and often in the eye of the beholder
  • there is no absolute evil
  • assume that all people act to the best of their possibilities (even if the outcome of their decisions are disastrous), and that you would be the same, given their biography and neurochemistry
  • relax, kick back and chill out once in a while
  • dream of a better future
  • be the change you want to see in the world
  • don't be ignorant


  • respect other opinions
  • don't take stuff personal
  • it is very easy and rewarding to be nice/helpful/compassionate to other people
  • listen more, talk less
  • respect every aspect of life: from plants, to insects to animals, to human beings of other faith/race/...
  • the strong should protect the weak
  • value friendship
  • don't worry about what others think about you
  • violence is really the very last resort; and mostly, just your inner commitment to defend yourself to the very end, prevents you from having to actually do this


  • have fun
  • resist the temptation to blindly follow the masses: many people doing stupid things isn't a justification for anything
  • limit addictions
  • you don't have to be evil to make money, or be a bastard to get ahead in life
  • a more or less healthy lifestyle helps: a little movement, a somewhat balanced diet, and a (pragmatic) optimistic mindset can work wonders
  • materialism is a bad strategy if you're looking for happiness
  • as already mentioned, go travel
  • the more you spend time getting educated, the better you can approximate the big picture
  • did you know, lifestyles don't necessarily come pre-tailored: you can choose and combine elements from any pop- or subculture you like
  • ever think about ecology and sustainability, i.e., your footprint?
  • ever consider vegetarianism? (update over 7 years later: how about considering veganism? you know, from a sustainability, ethical, and health perspective?)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

the story of stuff...

mood: cynical If you don't happen to be one of the billion people living on 1 US$ a day or less, chances are that you could be one of the billion people living in an industrialized nation.

Then there is one word that describes your identity best: consumer. You live in a consumer nation.

This is the story of stuff, the stuff you consume, told by Annie Leonard, an American scholar (on international trade, development, international sustainability and environmental health issues) who has looked into this stuff for a decade.

It is a simple but enlightening look deep into the heart of our consumer lifestyle: where does stuff come from where does it go?

Watch the 20 minute feature on her website or on youtube (part 1 of 7):

Some fun facts:
  • Food at the top of food chain with highest level toxic contaminants: human breast milk; i.e., human babies are getting the highest dose of toxins on the planet.
  • In the US, 99% of stuff is thrashed in 6 months.
  • Within three decades, one third of all natural resources have been consumed.
  • 75% of global fisheries are fished at or beyond capacity.
  • 80% of the planet's original forests are gone; in the Amazon, 2'000 trees a minute are chopped.
  • There are 100'000 synthetic, i.e., man made chemicals; no tests on synergistic health impacts (i.e., what happens when these substances interact) are done; dioxin the most toxic man made substance known to science.
  • Globally, 200'000 people a day are moving from environments that have sustained them for generations into cities, looking for work.
  • US industry: 4'000'000'000 pounds of toxic chemicals a year.
  • Average US citizen consumes twice as much as 50 years ago.
  • 3'000 ads a day are seen by US citizens; this is more ads seen a year today than 50 years ago in a whole lifetime.
  • Less leisure time today, and this scarce time is mostly used to watch TV and shop.
  • In the US, each household produces twice as much garbage as in the 70s.
  • More stuff owned today than ever, but US national happiness declining since 50s.
  • Industrial design journals from the 50s: how fast can we make stuff break and still leave the consumer to have enough faith in the product to go out and buy another one.
  • The US, with its 5% of world population, consumes 30% of the worlds resources and produces 30% of the worlds waste; this scales up to 3 to 5 planets needed to sustain such a lifestyle if every person on earth would behave in this way.
  • Of the 100 largest economies 51 are corporations.
If you're interested in more such musings, see my other blog post, take the Earth Institute quiz, or, if you understand French or German, Le Monde Diplomatique's Atlas of Globalization.