“There are years that ask questions and years that answer,” wrote the African-American folklorist Zora Neale Hurston.
2020 was a year posing the most profound of questions. Who are we? What do we want? What is normal? Do we want to go back? What lies ahead? Where are we going? And not forgetting, wait, where’s your damned mask?
It was the year of pandemic, of fire, floods and storms. It was a difficult year, a year of profound loss and sadness; a year of enforced confinement, of many lonely struggles and many lonely ends.
It was a year where the act of breathing itself was a question for far too many. It was the year of George Floyd and many hundreds of thousands more. …
As the impact of the Covid-19 crisis spreads from the biological, to the social and the economic, many universities are confronting the realities of living in a world characterized by complexity. What are the implications for universities? How do we need to change our approach to education?
My early academic life was a slow moving train wreck running perfectly on schedule. My school reports all ended up repeating the same three words, “can do better,” while leaving out the words, “but won’t.”
In my freewheeling reading, I ended up travelling wherever my curiosity took me. My train specialised in jumping the tracks at every opportunity, screeching off in a shower of sparks towards the nearest horizon, the adults giving half-hearted chase. …
Hi Everyone! I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be writing an occasional, personal newsletter, titled “Your Funda Is Weak.”
This will be a place for personal news from me, articles, quotes, book reviews; a place to test early writing ideas and other pre-publication pieces.
The word “funda” is an Indian contraction of the word “fundamental.” Go figure.
It’ll be a lot less formal than a published, polished place for my writing and a not as informal as random social media. In general I’m going to not be putting things out on social media and will use the newsletter as a channel for communicating directly with all of you.
I’ll be sending the inaugural post before too long…
So what don’t we know about Covid 19?
Let’s take a moment to remember where we are.
As politicians and their various advisors struggle with figuring out how to best tackle the Covid-19 pandemic it’s worth remembering some of the things we don’t yet know.
There are, of course, working hypotheses and assumptions about all the questions below. We need to remember that we do not currently have the data nor the evidence to know conclusively the answer to these questions.
Experts are paid, to some extent, to come up with informed best-guess answers to help drive decision-making. The problem with this is that we are forcing experts to make pronouncements about issues where the data and evidence simply do not yet exist. …
“Birds fly, fish swim, people learn.”
– John Holt
It’s funny how the choice many parents feel Covid-19 has left them with is either confronting the horrors of home-schooling or just letting kids watch tv, play Fortnite and eat carbs.
The video of one Israeli mum going on a breathless rant about the expectations being foisted on her by teachers sending assignments home sort of sums it up.
There is another option though.
It doesn’t involve “schooling” your kids, but rather letting them learn for themselves.
Here’s something my 10 year old son and I designed. …
This is written in light of the UK governments supposed strategy to let the virus sweep through the population.
It also assumes that people are following advice from health care professionals in terms of self-isolating as much as possible and generally doing their best to keep safe/healthy.
It’s important to not read any of these steps as prescriptions that have to be followed. These are just suggestions.
Ultimately each of us has to decide what we are comfortable doing and not doing, what we are willing to share and what not. Do what you feel is right for you.
It makes some other assumptions…
The truth about planting trees as a response to the climate crisis
“As long as Death keeps himself out of sight in our hot dark future, we need not face facts.” – William T. Vollmann, Carbon Ideologies Vol 2
As the climate crisis bites, we find ourselves confronting dire scenes of devastation. In the face of them, many of us are rightly wondering, what’s the best thing to do?
“Plant trees,” is one increasingly popular answer.
Given that the climate crisis feels like an intractable and apocalyptic global challenge, “planting trees” is a very appealing answer. It is both easily understood and actionable. …
If enough people believe that something exists then does it? If enough people believe something is true does that make it a fact?
In the Middle Ages many Europeans believed that the Earth was at the centre of the Universe. Galileo taught them that this wasn’t so. Einstein later taught all of us that such distinctions were meaningless.
The movement from geocentric to heliocentric to relativist thinking might suggest that the truth is a rather slippery thing to get a grip on. Post-modernist thinking certainly strives to convince us that truth is relative.
Truth, however, is not relative. It never has been. On the contrary, it’s transcendent, clear and shines as brightly as the sun. …
Written 19 years ago in Sofia, Bulgaria
The man casually smoking under the no smoking sign told me that I would like this place.
Sophia is post-modern and post-apocalyptic, the landscape is covered with ravaged concrete tower blocks, crumbling and peeling in the wind. It is a pure distilled twentieth century city, as true a creation of our times as possible.
I wonder, can you disown your own?
Looking across the panorama, across the reality, you can see the odd polished shapes of unreality, they are yellow and made of plastic, mostly Shell and McDonalds logos.
They stand like unexploded bombs, tail fins pointing into the polluted sky while Captains of Industry fly back West having delivered their dysfunctional cargo. …
Better Living Through Perception-Altering Tools
Reading David Cayley’s “Ivan Illich in Conversation” these last few days has been an extraordinary experience.
I’ve been reading the book in between the bustle of London, on the tube heading into work.
As I read I often look up at the particular reality that I inhabit, that surrounds me and permeates me. At every glance up from the page, the world looks different, somehow altered. I can feel it in my body.
The ideas are strange to my head and yet my body reacts to them. I’m a little alarmed by this experience.
I sit on the tube, book held limply in my hand, looking on as the world rushes by in the darkened tunnels. I understand things. …