The power of stillness: how a mind shift can turn containment into a rich experience

mostly philosophy


No one likes stillness; it is unnatural, taking into consideration that movement defines us. Stillness is socially abnormal since we are constantly asked to move, to be social, to commute, to be active. Consciously or not, stillness has not a great reputation socially speaking.

Why do we fear stillness? Does it remind us of death in a way? And what is the link with containment?

Yes it reminds us of death. Life is noise and action. Stillness is the anti-life.

However, the power of stillness occurs when there is a shift in perception. Take for an example the picture above, or any picture you have; it is an action or a moment that stood still in time. Without this stillness made possible by the camera, the moment refered to wouldn’t have been immortal. We wouldn’t have seen details, often blurred by movements. Worse, we wouldn’t have concrete memories.


View original post 259 more words

Mistakes Were Made

An excellent reminder of how quickly life can change, thanks for the reminder.


Two weeks and two days ago, on March 11, 2020, I participated in an act of reckless endangerment to the public. If I did this thing today, I would rightly be held up to public scorn and possibly even reported to the authorities. By next week, the same act might well be illegal.

At the time I was aware of doing nothing wrong. It was a regular school day at the adult-education centre where I teach — our third-last school day for the 2019-2020 school year, most likely, although we didn’t know that at the time — and the middle of our Spirit Week. And as part of Spirit Week, I and another staff member, and one student, stood behind tables in the lounge with big 4L containers of ice cream, scooping up ice cream and spraying on whipped cream, encouraging everyone to dip a spoon into communal bowls of…

View original post 1,354 more words


March 25, 2020 EnergyNow Media
William Henry Gates III (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate, software developer, investor, and philanthropist. He is best known as the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of chairman, chief executive officer (CEO), president and chief software architect, while also being the largest individual shareholder until May 2014. He is one of the best-known entrepreneurs and pioneers of the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s.
I’m a strong believer that there is a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens, whether that is what we perceive as being good or being bad. As I meditate upon this, I want to share with you what I feel the Corona/ Covid-19 virus is really doing to us:
1) It is reminding us that we are all equal, regardless of our culture, religion, occupation, financial situation or how famous we are. This disease treats us all equally, perhaps we should to. If you don’t believe me, just ask Tom Hanks.
2) It is reminding us that we are all connected and something that affects one person has an effect on another. It is reminding us that the false borders that we have put up have little value as this virus does not need a passport. It is reminding us, by oppressing us for a short time, of those in this world whose whole life is spent in oppression.
3) It is reminding us of how precious our health is and how we have moved to neglect it through eating nutrient poor manufactured food and drinking water that is contaminated with chemicals upon chemicals. If we don’t look after our health, we will, of course, get sick.
4) It is reminding us of the shortness of life and of what is most important for us to do, which is to help each other, especially those who are old or sick. Our purpose is not to buy toilet roll.
5) It is reminding us of how materialistic our society has become and how, when in times of difficulty, we remember that it’s the essentials that we need (food, water, medicine) as opposed to the luxuries that we sometimes unnecessarily give value to.
6) It is reminding us of how important our family and home life is and how much we have neglected this. It is forcing us back into our houses so we can rebuild them into our home and to strengthen our family unit.
7) It is reminding us that our true work is not our job, that is what we do, not what we were created to do. Our true work is to look after each other, to protect each other and to be of benefit to one another.
8) It is reminding us to keep our egos in check. It is reminding us that no matter how great we think we are or how great others think we are, a virus can bring our world to a standstill.
9) It is reminding us that the power of freewill is in our hands. We can choose to cooperate and help each other, to share, to give, to help and to support each other or we can choose to be selfish, to hoard, to look after only our self. Indeed, it is difficulties that bring out our true colors.
10) It is reminding us that we can be patient, or we can panic. We can either understand that this type of situation has happened many times before in history and will pass, or we can panic and see it as the end of the world and, consequently, cause ourselves more harm than good.
11) It is reminding us that this can either be an end or a new beginning. This can be a time of reflection and understanding, where we learn from our mistakes, or it can be the start of a cycle which will continue until we finally learn the lesson we are meant to.
12) It is reminding us that this Earth is sick. It is reminding us that we need to look at the rate of deforestation just as urgently as we look at the speed at which toilet rolls are disappearing off of shelves. We are sick because our home is sick.
13) It is reminding us that after every difficulty, there is always ease. Life is cyclical, and this is just a phase in this great cycle. We do not need to panic; this too shall pass.
14) Whereas many see the Corona/ Covid-19 virus as a great disaster, I prefer to see it as a *great corrector* It is sent to remind us of the important lessons that we seem to have forgotten and it is up to us if we will learn them or not.


Canada must be ready for the mayhem Trump’s about to unleash

Copied from The Globe and Mail
Gary Mason
National affairs columnist
Published 17 hours ago

You could argue that U.S. President Donald Trump’s short-sighted and bungled handling of the COVID-19 pandemic began before the virus took hold in his country.

Two years earlier, Luciana Borio, the president’s biodefense preparedness advisor, warned that a flu pandemic – not a 9/11 redux – was the country’s No. 1 health security threat. As the director of medical and biodefence preparedness at the National Security Council, Borio said the country wasn’t nearly ready to confront such a lethal outbreak if it was to occur.

What was the White House’s response? It dismantled the NSC’s global health security office shortly thereafter.

Dr. Borio, and other experts such as her, were soon out of jobs. And now, 327 million Americans have been left to suffer through a pandemic without a coherent strategy for dealing with it – even though their government saw it all coming.
U.S. President Donald Trump pressed his case on Tuesday for a reopening of the U.S. economy by mid-April despite a surge in coronavirus cases, downplaying the pandemic as he did in its early stages by comparing it to the seasonal flu. Yahaira Jacquez reports. Reuters

To make matters worse – much, much worse – the country is being led by a dangerous egomaniac who has lied to and misled Americans about the gravity of the threat they’re facing almost from the beginning. Now, he is musing about grossly inflaming a problem he had a chance to mitigate. Mr. Trump is threatening to ignore the advice of virtually every major public health officer in the U.S. – including his own White House adviser on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci – and effectively allow for a “culling of the herd” that will result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans.

Maybe the scenes we are about to witness will help Canadians isolate-in-place with even more vigilance.

The plague of Donald Trump

What is about to unfold will be horrifying, unquestionably. The situation in New York, which could become the new global epicentre of the disease, is dire. Governor Andrew Cuomo has pleaded with the White House to do more, and when the state was offered 400 ventilators, Mr. Cuomo exploded: “What are we going to do with 400 ventilators when we need 30,000?” The White House has since agreed to send 4,000 more – but the governor has predicted that more than 40,000 New Yorkers might need urgent care in the next few weeks.

There are scenes of turmoil and disarray everywhere in the U.S. In New Orleans, which survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and is now living through another disaster, doctors have reported that intensive care units are running out of basic supplies; meanwhile, residents of the city continue to ignore calls to keep a safe distance from others. This scenario is being played out across the U.S., where the coronavirus death toll on Wednesday was 791, with nearly 60,000 cases.

And now, President Chaos is promising to begin ramping down social distancing by Apr. 12, despite the pleas of doctors and nurses around the country who are begging him not to do it, as doing so would unleash scenes of pandemonium in already overwhelmed hospitals and allow the disease to spread further and faster. But it might be April 12. And just because he thinks having the churches full again on that day “would be a beautiful thing.”

This intended course of action has already caught the attention of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office, and to say there is worry there would a gross understatement. Canadians also have to be prepared for the fallout of Mr. Trump’s actions.

That means being prepared to tighten restrictions at the border even further. If the virus spreads because of a decision by the president to relax the rules around social distancing, it will undoubtedly mean that those U.S. workers coming into Canada now to transport goods will be at greater risk of carrying the disease.

That, in turn, will put Canadians at risk. And that is not right.

Canadians, for the most part, have gotten with the program and are staying inside. We can’t let our health be compromised by the idiocy of Mr. Trump and the pathetic, loyal lapdogs that make up his administration.

While we likely couldn’t shut the border completely, we may have to institute new, harsh rules about the manner in which those coming into the country are treated. I’m not sure precisely how; we’ve just put a mandatory quarantine in place for those arriving from international destinations, which is a smart move. Our medical professionals, as ever, would have a better idea of how this might be handled. But we have to be ready. We can’t let our efforts to plank the virus be compromised by the unconscionable folly of others.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Don’t take life so seriously: Montaigne’s lessons on the inner life

My dad was an unhappy man. He used to complain about the slightest thing being out of place – a pen, the honeypot, his special knife with the fattened grip. By the time his health really started failing, his arthritis so bad he could no longer get out of bed, his condition became all he complained about. ‘Dorian,’ he said, one morning over breakfast, the grapefruit cut up indeed with his special knife, ‘I hate myself.’ He was 86 years old and, I felt, nearing the end of life, so I took it upon myself to help him die as well as he could, a kind of Ars moriendi for the old man. ‘But Dad,’ I said, for the first time in our 32-year relationship. ‘I love you.’ When that didn’t help, I sent him some Montaigne.

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-92) lived a good, long life for a man in early modern France. By all accounts, it was a happy one, at least if his Essais (1570-92) – rangy discourses on varied subjects from thumbs to cannibals to the nature of ‘experience’ itself – are anything to go by. His writings, autobiographical in nature but highly argumentative, have survived him as somewhat radical (for the time) self-experiments. ‘Thus, reader, I am myself the matter of my book,’ he opens, with a letter of warning about the 1,000-plus pages that follow: ‘you would be unreasonable to spend your leisure on so frivolous and vain a subject.’ Since I took my dad to be also involved in so vain and frivolous a subject – namely, himself (right down to the urinary tract diagrams he drew for me on paper napkins at the dinner table) – I figured they’d have a lot in common.

The passage I chose to hand him, from the essay ‘Of Solitude’, concerned Montaigne’s secret to happiness. It says, simply: these are the things we normally think will bring happiness; they’re wrong, here’s mine. ‘We should have wife, children, goods, and above all health, if we can,’ he writes; ‘but we must not bind ourselves to them so strongly that our happiness depends on them.’ In what’s become something of a trademark for his life philosophy he adds: ‘We must reserve a back shop all our own.’ A back shop – or in the original French, arriere-boutique. Of course, this is metaphor. Of course, my dad took it literally.

What is there left for us to learn from Montaigne on the subject of happiness? For one, that ‘back shop’ doesn’t mean the room behind your place of work. Increasingly confined to his bed, in the crummy 17th-floor apartment that doubled as his home office, my dad read these lines with an eyebrow raised. Granted, Montaigne himself penned them from a castle-tower eyrie, overlooking the vast estate of his château. He didn’t mean for us to take refuge there – this privileged perch was just where he did his writing (as I do mine now in the storage unit behind my house, a heavy wooden partition setting me off from the boxes and mess). No, the physical ‘back shop’ is just a writer’s den, and this misunderstanding has caused critics to huff about Montaigne’s solipsism, as if what he really said was: Go be alone and make great art. This does not lead to happiness, I assure you.

When my dad emailed back, misreading Montaigne in just this way, he nonetheless conceded that the passage I’d sent him was ‘thoughtful’. But not, he added ‘surprising’, as ‘Many writers nowadays speak of personal space, meditation, being alone at times, and so on.’ He went on to say how there was a difference between voluntary and involuntary solitude. ‘Many of us, as we age, become too much involved in that space.’ It’s not just the confinement but the loss of all able-bodied experience that they’re missing out on, and my dad (as ever) listed them: going to the market, dancing, seeing family and friends – precisely the things that Montaigne cautioned his readers not to count on for happiness.

In her book How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (2010), Sarah Bakewell acknowledges the temptation to read Montaigne as an advocate for a type of isolation (chosen or not), but she qualifies this, saying: ‘He is not writing about a selfish, introverted withdrawal from family life, so much as about the need to protect yourself from the pain that would come if you lost that family.’ It was after the death of his closest friend and confidante, Étienne de La Boétie, and then later of his father, that Montaigne retired to his private library. In Donald Frame’s translation, this period is marked by Montaigne’s fall ‘into a melancholic depression, to combat which he begins to write the first of his Essays’. The contemporary US writer and essayist Phillip Lopate ventures that, for Montaigne, ‘the reader took the place of La Boétie’. But how, exactly, did Montaigne’s attempts (the literal translation of essai) assuage grief?

Certainly, an unnamed interlocutor haunts the text, the kind we usually chalk up to self-talk. Talking to people who won’t talk back (or who can’t because they’re no longer with us) is a form of conversational intimacy we might read as an extension of Montaigne’s general affability. In life, Montaigne was known about town as a raconteur with an open-door policy for guests. Even Bakewell, who sums up his back shop as a form of ‘Stoic detachment’, notes that in another lasting dictum Montaigne cried: ‘Be convivial: live with others.’ If Montaigne’s back shop is meant to mend a broken heart, then it is not by avoiding future pain, but by coming into a different relation with it.

Montaigne was well aware that the promise of getting away from it all was a fool’s errand since, wherever you go, you take yourself with you: ‘It is not enough to have gotten away from the crowd,’ he writes, since ‘we must get away from the gregarious instincts that are inside us.’ Instead, to quote Albius Tibullus, one of the Latin poets he grew up with, ‘be to thyself a throng’. This is where I hoped my dad might take note: shut in with no one but himself for company, there might still be a chance for great companionship. ‘We have a soul that can be turned upon itself,’ writes Montaigne, ‘it has the means to attack and the means to defend, the means to receive and the means to give.’ Sadly, my dad didn’t see his own soul this way and, after falling into a depression of his own, he took his own life.

I wonder now if Montaigne’s back shop was less the writer’s saving grace, lifting him from the depths of despair, but not the act of writing from within it? ‘Here our ordinary conversation must be between us and ourselves,’ he writes – and I take it he means that the quality of the inner dialogue will determine the quality of the life.

Montaigne’s mental chatter had a buoyancy to it, as he bounced from one subject to the next, going with the current. What I couldn’t convey to my dad, evidently, was this lightness of attention, distilled in that most famous of Montaignisms: ‘Que sais-je?’ (What do I know?) In his celebratory portrait of Montaigne, Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1837 comments that: ‘His writing has no enthusiasms, no aspiration; contented, self-respecting, and keeping the middle of the road.’ Not taking life quite so seriously – the pursuit of happiness notwithstanding – might then be Montaigne’s key to dying well. After all, there might be no surer inner peace in one’s final days than not needing it so badly.Aeon counter – do not remove

Dorian Rolston

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

‘Social distancing’ is a misnomer: we should be physically distancing, but remain as social as ever.

While it is important to physically cut off from others to prevent the virus from spreading further, it is also important to stay connected with friends and family for good mental health.

Thiago Santos/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Margaret Eaton is the national CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Health authorities are calling on Canadians to practise “social distancing,” a way to mitigate transmission of the novel coronavirus. This is a term widely used in infection control, and refers to approaches for minimizing close physical contact at the individual level by keeping a two-metre distance, and at the community level through closures of public and private spaces as well as cancellations of events where large numbers of people might gather.

But while this is the right public-health approach, it has the wrong name.

The implication of the phrase “social distancing” is that we should be putting space between us socially – but we only need to be distancing ourselves physically. In other words, we should be social and participating in the community at large – just so long as it doesn’t require physical proximity.

Indeed, what people need most right now is social connection, because real connection is essential to our mental health. Studies have shown that social networks – which provide emotional support, companionship and opportunities for meaningful social engagement – have a beneficial effect on mental-health outcomes, stress reactions, psychological well-being and self-esteem. People with weak or few social connections, on the other hand, are at a higher risk for anxiety, depression, anti-social behaviour and suicidal behaviours. In fact, the World Health Organization, which has been on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19, has identified social inclusion and integration as important protective factors for mental health. Loneliness is bad for our health.

This was already the case before the coronavirus pandemic prompted an isolating response. In recent years, Western societies have been grappling with crises of loneliness, and in Canada, more people are living alone than ever before. Practically speaking, losing social connection can make it easy to also lose the motivation to eat healthy, be active or take one’s medication and research has found that loneliness can heighten risks to physical health, such as heart attacks, Alzheimer’s disease and the spread of cancer. The issue also touches lives across the age and cultural spectrum: A 2017 Vancouver Foundation survey found that nearly a third of people aged 18-24 in the bustling city said that they felt lonely, while a June poll by Angus Reid noted how loneliness was more keenly felt by people who belonged to a visible minority, who are Indigenous, who have mobility challenges, and who are LGBTQ-identifying.

Health authorities have acknowledged these consequences of social distancing, advising people to go outside to avoid this mental toll. But according to research from the Lancet, people under quarantine can experience confusion, anger and symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and that isolation coupled with the broad misnomer of “social distancing” may only increase the need for mental-health services. That’s troubling, since the supply of non-primary medical services such as therapy and support groups has become even scarcer lately as community agencies cancel or reduce programs, or work through less accessible virtual means.

If you’re in quarantine or self-isolation, it is important that you stay feeling connected. Follow the “buddy up” advice of the Public Health Agency of Canada, especially if you live alone; your “buddy” is someone who can check on you and do errands for you. Stay in close touch with your support network. The phone call may have gone out of fashion, but maybe it’s time to bring it back. If you have access to video, via FaceTime, Skype or other video technologies, you may want to turn on that camera. If you’re working remotely, hold a video conference instead of a standard conference call.

For those experiencing heightened anxiety and depression in this time of stress, online and telephone-based mental health supports can keep you connected to the help you need to cope.

This pandemic may very well be a time to reflect on how loneliness has itself become epidemic in our society. And, just as with COVID-19, we can take real action to prevent it from spreading.

So, while we go about maintaining the two-metre physical distance between ourselves and others, let’s also remember that social distancing isn’t quite the right phrase: It is only a directive to cut ourselves off in physical terms. We actually need each other more than ever, even – or especially – when we’re asked to extend the space between us.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Snapshots of our complex world using maps

Wow, some neat stats here.

Robby Robin's Journey

Here it is, Map Monday, and I thought for this week I’d steer clear of the pandemic sweeping our lives and our world. The multifaceted crisis this pandemic has unleased is challenging our healthcare systems, our economies, our education systems, and the social interactions that bind us together. But, when these trials are eventually resolved, we will still have all our previously existing characteristics, quirks, and challenges. Let’s look at a few of them today … through maps.

Population distribution. We’ve looked at a few different approaches to illustrating the astounding variation in population density through maps in past posts; here are two others, just for fun. Don’t worry, nobody is considering jamming us all together, at least not at this point in time. And definitely not in the immediate aftermath of lessons learned from pandemic spread.

Lactose intolerance. Aside from the increasing pressure on people to drink less milk…

View original post 501 more words