04/06/2012

The firmament and the starry nights

Émile Chartier, who defined himself as the most philosopher among journalist and the most journalist among philosophers and lived between the 19th and 20th century, recommended to look into the distance. ‘When you look at the stars and the seaside horizon’ he said, ‘your eyes are completely relaxed. If the eyes are completely relaxed, the head is free, the step is firmer, everything relaxes and softens up your internal organs. But do not try to soften up through will, your will, exerted on you, applied on you, does everything wrong and will eventually strangle you. Do not think, look ahead’.

When Chartier elaborated this theory, there was no television, no videogames or computers, mobile telephones, e-mails. Humans then did not live sunk under the yoke of rush, noise and stress, yet his thoughts are entirely valid. Evan holidays turn up in a non-stop planes, places and sites to visit. Today, looking ahead is considered a waste of time.

W_vangogh
‘Starry night over the Rhone’, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

I recently had the opportunity to meet a Brazilian psychiatrist, Augusto Cury, whose ideas have been adapted as postgraduate courses in 15 universities. Cury has defined a new syndrome of our time, Accelerated Thinking Syndrome (PAS). According to this theory, we received a large amount of information recorded in an unconscious way which our brain processes continually reading at high speed, like crazy. The consequences are such contemporary diseases plaguing developed countries: anxiety, stress, psychosomatic illness, poor memory, depression. And no one gets rid of them; even our children increasingly suffer from attention deficit and are hyperactive due to overstimulation. Against all these ills, we have invented drugs that help us cope, but nothing heals us, nothing can stop our minds. Common sense tells us that giving drugs to a six years old’s the developing brain is at least dangerous, but again circumstances are beyond us, we work, have mortgage, training, excessive activity and no grandmother living in the countryside without television to send our son to, away from the excess of everything, so we abdicate to this world of remedies without cause that swallows everything and of which we do not know the consequences.

When adolescents seek refuge in drugs we worry, frighten, do not understand and once again seek desperate remedies. Probably their brains are crying out for a break, escape the continuous thought, from excess with more excess.

It is no coincidence that today’s philosophers are looking far, far behind, and talk to us of Socrates and Plato, Aristotle, Buddha, Confucius, how those wise me who had time to stroll and contemplate, took life. In common they had, as noted by Lou Marinoff (president and founder of the American Philosophical Practitioners Associaton, APRA) ‘the extremely important notion that the main purpose for being alive is to lead a good life here and now’ in the present moment. However, this apparent simple premise is today a difficult goal because our mind is always occupied with thoughts of desire, conquest and criticism. Nothing strange, as the consumer society invites us from our earliest childhood to own and assures us that happiness is to consume beyond measure objects, travel, information and people, and all that makes our time on an obstacle course in which forget that the great journey is not towards success but towards meaning.

A good life starts in the present moment, your future will be as your present, the quality you put into the moment will determine the next one. Worrying is almost useless; handling things is the only way and the more alert and awake, the better the result. I often like to watch animals, which in certain things are much wiser than we are. A cheetah, a lizard, a dog, a domestic cat are always on what they are and this is why they are precise, quick and effective in their actions, when hunting a fly they concentrate on the fly, when they sleep, they rest, they aren’t continuously worrying about tomorrow. Humans, however, multiply our fears and needs by thinking about them. There is only one way to battle PAS and it is to be present, with all your energy, on what you’re doing, being aware that your time is yours and the best way to live it is with quality and not with quantity. I know this can be outdated as the world today invites us to do, do and do. It’s worth trying Émile Chartier experiment: just look into the distance because your body —what it sees, smells and touches— also rules over your mind.

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Es además vocal del Comité de Bioética de Catalunya, miembro de los comités de bioética de los hospitales San Rafael y Moisés Broggi, y miembro de la comisión de seguimiento del código ético de la Federación Catalana de ONGs por el Desarrollo. Su ámbito de especialización es la ética aplicada a entornos profesionales y organizativos, tema sobre el que ha coordinado y escrito diversos libros y artículos.'It is necessary to recover the spirituality, but not focused on temples and churches, but in essence: the link with future generations and life'. PhD in philosophy, Begoña Román received the special undergraduate award and doctorate at the University of Barcelona. From 1996 to 2007 she directed the Chair of Ethics at the University Ramon Llull. She currently teaches at the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Barcelona and is a member of the consolidated group research of the Generalitat de Catalonia 'Ethics and Contemporary Philosophy'. She is also a member of the Bioethics Committee of Catalonia, a member of the bioethics committees of hospitals Moisés Broggi and San Rafael, and a member of the monitoring committee of the ethical code of the Catalan Federation of NGOs for Development. Her area of expertise is ethics applied to professional and organizational environments, an issue about she has coordinated and written several books and articles. 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Fue sometido a resonancias magnéticas nucleares y conectado a 256 sensores para detectar su nivel de estrés, irritabilidad, enfado, placer, satisfacción y multitud de sensaciones diferentes, y los resultados fueron comparados con los obtenidos en cientos de voluntarios cuya felicidad fue clasificada en niveles que iban del +0.3 —muy infeliz— a –0.3 —muy feliz—. Matthieu logró –0.45, desbordando los límites previstos en el estudio, superando todos los registros anteriores y ganándose un título que él mismo no termina de aceptar. Prefiere limitarse a resaltar que efectivamente la cantidad de 'emociones positivas' que produce su cerebro está 'muy lejos de los parámetros normales'. Matthieu es un monje budista que reside en el monasterio Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling, en Nepal. Nació en París en 1946 y es hijo de Jean-François Revel, un filósofo francés de renombre, por lo que creció rodeado de la élite intelectual francesa. Doctorado en genética molecular en el Instituto Pasteur, tras terminar su tesis doctoral en 1972 decidió abandonar la carrera científica y concentrarse en la práctica del budismo tibetano. Vivió en el Himalaya y fue discípulo de Kangyur Rinpoche, maestro de una ancestral escuela budista de la tradición Nyingma. Después se convirtió en discípulo cercano de Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche hasta su muerte en 1991, y desde entonces es asesor personal del decimocuarto Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. En esta entrevista, realizada en el canal Vision, explica cómo la felicidad es algo que puede conseguirse a través del aprendizaje y el entrenamiento, igual que leer, escribir, andar en bicicleta o tocar música de Mozart.After years of study of his brain in the affective neuroscience laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, USA, in April 2007 Matthieu Ricard was considered as 'the happiest man in the world'. He was subjected to nuclear magnetic resonance and connected to 256 sensors to detect his stress, irritability, anger, pleasure, satisfaction and many different sensations, and the results were compared with those obtained from hundreds of volunteers whose happiness was classified at levels ranged from 0.3 (very unhappy) to -0.3 (very happy). Matthieu managed to -0.45, overflowing the limits provided in the study, surpassing all previous records and earning a title that he does not accept. He prefers to highlight that effectively the amount of 'positive emotions' that produces his brain is 'far from normal parameters'. Matthieu is a Buddhist monk who resides in the Dargyeling Tennyi Shechen monastery in Nepal. He was born in Paris in 1946 and is the son of Jean-François Revel, a French philosopher of renown, so he grew up surrounded by the French intellectual elite. PhD in molecular genetics at the Pasteur Institute, after completing his doctoral thesis in 1972 decided to abandon the scientific career and concentrate on the practice of Tibetan Buddhism. He lived in the Himalayas and was a disciple of Kangyur Rinpoche, master of an ancient Buddhist school of the Nyingma tradition. Then it became a close disciple of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche until his death in 1991, and since then is personal adviser to the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. In this interview, conducted on channel Vision, he explains how happiness is something that can be achieved through learning and training, just like reading, writing, bicycling or playing music of Mozart." 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Se le conoce sobre todo por su labor como intérprete y divulgador de las filosofías asiáticas para la audiencia occidental. Escribió más de 25 libros y numerosos artículos sobre temas como la identidad personal, la verdadera naturaleza de la realidad, la elevación de la conciencia y la búsqueda de la felicidad, relacionando su experiencia con el conocimiento científico y con la enseñanza de las religiones y filosofías orientales y occidentales —budismo, taoísmo, cristianismo, hinduismo, etc—. Becado por la Universidad de Harvard y la Bollingen Foundation, obtuvo un máster en teología por el seminario teológico Sudbury-Western y un doctorado honoris causa por la Universidad de Vermont, en reconocimiento a su contribución al campo de las religiones comparadas. En este vídeo defiende la existencia de un vínculo entre todo lo que hay en el Universo y habla de la importancia de las creencias y de cómo al modificarlas se producen cambios en las emociones y en el comportamiento.Alan Watts was a British philosopher, writer, editor, lecturer, Anglican priest and expert on religion. He is known primarily for his work as an interpreter and popularizer of Asian philosophies for a Western audience. He wrote more than 25 books and numerous articles on subjects such as personal identity, the true nature of reality, consciousness raising and the pursuit of happiness, relating his experience to scientific knowledge and the teaching of religions and philosophies East and West —Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Hinduism, etc—. Grant from Harvard University and the Bollingen Foundation, obtained a masters in theology from the Sudbury-Western Theological Seminary and an honorary doctorate from the University of Vermont, in recognition of his contribution to the field of comparative religion. In this video defends the existence of a link between everything in the Universe and talks about the importance of our beliefs and how to modify them are changes in emotions and behavior." 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Lingüista, filósofo, historiador, crítico político y activista americano, es profesor emérito en el departamento de Lingüística y Filosofía del MIT —Instituto Tecnológico de Massachusetts—, donde lleva trabajando más de 50 años. Además de su impresionante labor en el campo de la lingüística, ha escrito más de 100 libros sobre guerra, política y medios de comunicación, siendo el más conocido 'Los guardianes de la libertad' —Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media—, escrito con Edward S. Herman en 1988. Según el Arts & Humanities Citation Index (A&HCI) fue el investigador vivo más citado como fuente entre 1980 y 1992, y el octavo de todos los tiempos. Está considerado una figura cultural prominente a nivel mundial y The New York Times llegó a denominarle 'el más importante de los pensadores contemporáneos'. Padre de la lingüística moderna y figura destacada en el campo de la filosofía analítica, su trabajo ha tenido influencia en sectores tan diversos como la informática, las matemáticas o la psicología. Fue autor de la Jerarquía de Chomsky, que revolucionó el estudio del lenguaje, y co-autor del Teorema de Chomsky-Schützenberger. Después de la publicación de su primer libro sobre lingüística se convirtió en un crítico feroz de la guerra de Vietnam, y desde entonces no ha dejado de publicar libros de análisis político. Es bien conocida su postura crítica con las políticas exteriores de Estados Unidos e Israel, con el capitalismo contemporáneo y con los medios de comunicación de masas. Chomsky, que desvincula completamente su actividad científica de su activismo político, se describe a sí mismo como un simpatizante del anarcosindicalismo y es miembro del sindicato IWW, Industrial Workers of the World —Trabajadores industriales del mundo—.'The future is not a pretty picture'. American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, political critic and activist, he is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT —Massachusetts Institute of Technology—, where he has worked for over 50 years. In addition to his work in linguistics he has written on war, politics and mass media, and is the author of over 100 books, including the influential 'Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media' with Edward S. Herman in 1988. According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index in 1992, Chomsky was cited as a source more often than any other living scholar from 1980 to 1992, and was the eighth most cited source overall. He has been described as a prominent cultural figure, and he was voted the 'World's top public intellectual' in a 2005 poll. Chomsky has been described as the 'father of modern linguistics' and a major figure of analytic philosophy. His work has influenced fields such as computer science, mathematics and psychology. He is credited as the creator of the Chomsky hierarchy, the universal grammar theory, and co-creator of the Chomsky-Schützenberger theorem. After the publication of his first book on linguistics, Chomsky became a prominent critic of the Vietnam War, and since then has continued to publish books of political criticism. He has become well known for his critiques of US foreign policy, state capitalism and the mainstream news media. He describes his views as 'fairly traditional anarchist ones, with origins in the Enlightenment and classical liberalism', and often identifies with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism. He is a member of the union IWW, Industrials Workers of the World." 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