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Category Archives: Interesting

Recently, I’ve started reading comic books. I got interested in comic books because I watched the AMC TV series Comic Book Men. CBM is a one-hour unscripted television series set inside Kevin Smith‘s comic book shop Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Red Bank, New Jersey.

What hooked me about the show was how enthusiastic and passionate everyone is about comic books.

When you come across someone who has real passion for something it transforms how you look at that thing. It rewrites your low-level understanding of it from something that exists (but you don’t particularly know or care that it exists) into something that has depth, nuance, variety and life all of its own. Everything is more alive when you find someone whose passion and knowledge brings it to life before your eyes. Someone who can convey that passion to you through the tone of their voice, the look in their eyes and the breathless catch in their throat.

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This post resonated. I know that feeling. Constantly. To overcome my self inflicted injuries is my greatest challenge. Recent events have helped me grow. I’ve learned to accept that I’m not responsible for how my colleagues act or what they say. That I’m not responsible for what my clients do. That, having satisfied myself that I have done my best, there is nothing I can do as to whether other people find that acceptable, desirable or correct.

These lessons have been bitterly earned. They were slow, burning, lessons. Taught with gnawing self-doubt, anxiety, worry, re-examination and second guessing.

I’ve slowly learned to recalibrate my sense of empathy and understanding towards all of those who undertake the great journey of birth-life-death. I’ve learned that this prisoner complex of the inner mind looking at the outer world was our common shared heritage.  That ultimately, we’re all trying to do the best we can with what we think is right.

So when I say I admire this post, you will see where it comes from. It was about everything that I aspire to achieve at this stage in my life.

Despite  that I  couldn’t shake a sense of disquiet. There was something wrong about this post at its heart. Shortly afterwards, I came across this quote:

“To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth… is potentially to have everything…”

– Joan Didion

It clicked with that sense of disquiet.  Ryan is right that we need to overcome our need for social validation. We need to overcome the self-injury we do to ourselves by grounding our sense of self-worth extrinsically.

He is wrong however, to imply that it is easy. The battle with the self is the most challenging struggle that anyone will encounter in their lives. He makes this difficult struggle over the inner nature of ourselves – ground in a thinking feeling social brain locked in a clumsy callous body- sound like an easy easy victory. A matter of re-wiring. A process of mitigation through therapy. I think that’s wrong. How can anyone else (extrinsically) tell you what your intrinsic self-worth is? How can you let them taint that value assessment?

The truth is that this challenge is a sufficient and noble challenge for any life to achieve. However, it is a struggle that we have to take alone. Others can help us struggle, against impulse, instinct and social programming but they will never have a true understanding of that battle.

I used to find it perplexing that people become so agitated when other people behaved like human beings. Haven’t we learned that this is what people are like? If we all know that this is what people are like, why do we still react so strongly when people behave like people?

959734_22089591A few weeks back, I wrote about information overload: how overwhelmed I felt by the internet because it made it easy to find brilliant ideas. Because every click took me somewhere fascinating, I lost the ability to incorporate new information with my existing knowledge.

The solution I embarked on was a diet: a diet to cut information to a manageable level.

Since then I’ve added just one new blogger to my watch list. I’ve ditched bloggers who are only occasionally brilliant. Whilst this has made some difference, I’m still not happy with my current position.

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Professor Naim makes an excellent point in his article:

It is important to acknowledge publicly, not just now but always … that Islam has been in these United States for a long time, not just among the immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia but among the African-Americans.

via | A "Browning" Of Islam In America?.

If I may, I would like to generalise that insight one step further. It is easy to forget that Islam is a diverse faith, with its adherents spread across all casts, creeds and cultures.

It is tempting to ‘arabise’ and ‘asianise’ the faith, so that only the Islam of the Middle East and the Asian sub-continent is legitimate. Within these traditions, it is tempting to focus on the visible Islam, that receives media attention  (i.e. relatively modern Saudi wahabi values distilled by purist Taliban ideologues – Asians putting into action an Arab idea).

Broad, tolerant and diverse perspectives, like the syncretic integrated Islam of an Indonesia or America have becomes details lost from sight in such a narrow world view. They are the inconvenient texture, that prevent the framing of a black and white narrative.

Once you have been a monk, it is very difficult to kill a man. But sometimes it can be your duty to do so.

via The Paris Review – The Monk’s Tale.

A fascinating interview with a buddhist monk who joined the resistance movement after the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

I have serious reservations argument that you can kill to prevent another committing a serious sin, and so transfer his wrong into your wrong as a form of acceptable sacrifice. At the same time, it resonates with similar arguments in Hinduism (with which Buddhism has a shared cultural heritage) which accept that non-violence can only be satisfied by self-violence rather than violence to the dharma of others.

Suppose humans were born with magical buttons on their foreheads. When someone else pushes your button, it makes you very happy. But like tickling, it only works when someone else presses it. Imagine it’s easy to use. You just reach over, press it once, and the other person becomes wildly happy for a few minutes.

What would happen in such a world?

You could imagine that everyone in the world would be happy just about all the time. People would make agreements with each other to push each other’s buttons on a regular basis, thus guaranteeing the complete and utter happiness of all humans.

No, I can’t imagine that either.

via Scott Adams Blog: Happiness Button 04/05/2010.

Beautiful thought experiment played out by Scott Adams with some crisp insight into the human condition (and incidentally a parable about sex).

One night in the mid-1990s when I was working as a journalist in Beijing, I went out to dinner with some Chinese friends. I had just finished reading a book called “The File” by the British historian Timothy Garton Ash. It’s about what happened in East Berlin after the Berlin Wall came down and everybody could see the files the Stasi had been keeping all those years. People discovered who had been ratting on whom—in some cases neighbors and co-workers, but also lovers, spouses and even children. After I described the book to my Chinese dinner companions—a hip and artsy intellectual crowd—one friend declared: “Some day the same thing will happen in China, then I’ll know who my real friends are.”

The table went silent.

via Rebecca MacKinnon: Google Gets On the Right Side of History –

Appeasement is much harder to accomplish than it seems. It is not just a matter of saying to the stronger side, There you go, have what you want, it’s all yours, just sign on the dotted line. The appeaser much accomplish two crucial tasks.

First, the appeaser must, to the greatest extent possible, disguise the fact that he is appeasing. He must portray himself as a peacemaker, as a man who has prevented or ended a war on decent terms.

Second, the appeaser much persuade the victim to cooperate…[i]f the victim resists, the appeaser is in a bind, because euthanasia turns into murder, and, instead of being a benevolent guide, soothing the victim as it is put to sleep, the appeaser must hold down the screaming victim as the terminal injection is administered. It is a very nasty business.

From Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War by Peter Maass via the excellent Michael Totten

Abstract: The article provides a critical review of the Human Rights Committee’s views in Sayadi v. Belgium, a case dealing with United Nations Security Council (UNSC) terrorist blacklists. The case raised many complex issues of international law, most notably the question whether UNSC resolutions can prevail over human rights treaties by virtue of Art. 103 of the UN Charter. This issue – one of truly fundamental importance – has cropped up in several important recent cases which either addressed it or avoided it, including Kadi before the courts of the European Union, Al-Jedda before the UK House of Lords, and Behrami before the European Court of Human Rights. Regrettably, the Committee’s decision did not do justice to the complexity and the gravity of the matters raised before it, as it failed to tackle the norm conflict issue head on and ignored the Charter’s supremacy clause altogether. Such an approach advances neither the cause of human rights, nor the coherence of international law as a legal system.

Review: This is an interesting little article that builds out the centrality of Art 103 of the UN Charter and its increasing importance in a world where the UNSC is adopting a policing function rather than a tribunal of last resort. A raft of cases have dealt with the conflict between UN Charter obligations and IHR instruments in different ways. This article is a good overview of the case law if you’re not familiar with this particular area although Sayadi v Belgium itself contributes nothing to the jurisprudence (which is the author’s main criticism of it).

Details: Marko Milanović (Belgrade Centre for Human Rights), The Human Rights Committee’s Views in Sayadi v. Belgium: A Missed Opportunity (Goettingen Journal of International Law, Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 519, 2009).