Summary of “The limits of reason: Philip Pullman on why we believe in magic”

A new exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford brings together a multitude of objects and artworks – there’s a “Poppet” or rag doll with a stiletto stuck through its face, an amulet containing a human heart, a wisp of “Ectoplasm” apparently extruded by a medium in Wales, and too many others to count – from a dark world of nonsense and superstition that we ought to have outgrown a long time ago.
In Christian countries it reached a pitch of hysterical panic between the 15th and the late 18th centuries, at a time when tensions between Protestant and Catholic powers were at their highest, and when the medieval world of faith was being challenged by the new thinking of the Enlightenment.
Everything in the exhibition testifies to a near-universal belief in the existence of an invisible, imaginary world that could affect human life and be affected in turn by those who knew how to do it; and so do millions of other objects of similar kinds collected, exhibited, studied, or uncollected, unknown, lost, throughout the world and every period of history.
Imagination is one of our highest faculties, and wherever it appears, however it “Bodies forth / The forms of things unknown”, I want to treat it with respect.
At its most intense it becomes a kind of perception, as in William Blake’s notion of “Twofold Vision”, by which he means what we see when we look “Not with but through the eye”: the state of mind in which we can “See a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower”.
On the contrary, I’d rather say that there are times when we have to keep our reason in line.
Imagination can give us an empathetic understanding of the world of magic; reason reminds us that the cast of mind that persecuted witches is still alive.
The Varieties of Magical Experience still has to be written, as far as I know; and it will only be done successfully by someone who engages the subject with both reason and imagination.

The orginal article.

Summary of “My Life and Death on Opioids”

Once you rappel down its side- ten times the height of the Statue of Liberty- the only escape is to either climb a kilometre of granite or retreat and circumnavigate the mountain over tumbling glaciers full of holes.
My gear is carefully spread at my feet, left to right: eight bright cams- stubby climbing screws- and six nuts arranged by size, five white shoulder-length slings, one red seventy-metre rope, a green belay device, orange crampons, and my favourite chalky climbing shoes.
The greatest achievements of my life have been inherently risky: from climbing to the summits of towering mountains to scrapping social norms- I lived in a van to pursue climbing.
I should have been outside climbing rocks or running under the giant cedars of the rainforest, but I had stopped all that when I began to hide from pain under the comfortable blanket of opioids.
At the base of the amphitheatre, we had climbed into a cave formed behind the champagne curtain of ice in order to melt drinking water and discuss our options.
From the little we could see of the climbing above, it looked thin and steep, with rocks poking through grey ice here and there.
Frozen snow clung to the rock rather than the strong epoxy-blue ice the climber always hopes for.
Climbing steep rock in the winter darkness of a high mountain is an act of faith, and there is nothing rational about faith.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Ode to Gray”

Ask any schoolkid to list the colors of the rainbow, and she’ll singsong you through your ROYGBIV. Seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
Then there are the eleven standard colors taught in schools, which add black, white, brown, pink, and gray.
At the center of all color, then: a mass of multicolored gray.
According to Eva Heller, in her Die wahre Geschichte von allen Farben, only 1 percent of people surveyed named gray as their favorite color.
“Grey is emotionless,” it says, “Boring, detached, and indecisive. Those who say their favorite color is grey don’t tend to have any major likes or dislikes.” Lovers of gray “Lack the passion that comes with loving a ‘real’ color.” And yet I yearn for it.
As the black-and-white photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson once said to the color photographer William Eggleston: “You know, William, color is bullshit.” In the realism of the black-and-white, gray is every color-without the tartness.
The Bauhaus painter Johannes Itten writes that gray is “Mute, but easily excited to thrilling resonances.” Infuse it with a touch of any other color and it transforms itself from “Sterile neuter.” You don’t expect to find emotion in the gray, but there it is.
Derek Jarman writes, “Grey is the sad world into which the colours fall.” But he also writes that gray is where color “Sings.” It is the perfect neutral, balanced and dignified-and yet it is so effortlessly swayed; it is the pool that takes in other colors as they bleed.

The orginal article.

Summary of “100 under-the-radar islands everyone should visit in their lifetime”

“The magical archipelago of Madeira has been a well-kept secret until recently, a tropical getaway just a 90-minute flight from Lisbon,” Leggat said.
“Hard not to fall for Madeira’s charm while you take a dip in black lava pools, browse colorful markets, or sip wine from a local vineyard. Go before the secret’s out!”.
“Also a fan of Madeira, Eljas added:”It’s got a bit of everything here – you can go hiking, sailing or spend a lazier time at the beach or at one of the many vineyards.
Go to Cabo Giro for spectacular views – this is one of the highest sea cliffs in the world.
“For sheer silliness, you’ve got to try the Monte Toboggan run in Funchal. You’re basically taken back down a hill in a wicker toboggan by chaps in straw hats. It sounds like a tourist trap, well it is a bit, but where else in the world are you going to do it.”
“When people first land in Madeira, they often comment that they don’t feel like they are in Europe,” Silvia Dias, Strategy and Marketing Manager for Discover Madeira, added.
“The subtropical archipelago is on the same latitude as Morocco, with all year round warmth and some of the most fertile growing conditions in the world – this makes the landscape incredibly lush.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “Yuval Noah Harari on what 2050 has in store for humankind”

How can we prepare ourselves and our children for a world of such unprecedented transformations and radical uncertainties? A baby born today will be thirty-something in 2050.
What should we teach that baby that will help him or her survive and flourish in the world of 2050 or of the 22nd century? What kind of skills will he or she need in order to get a job, understand what is happening around them and navigate the maze of life?
Since nobody knows how the world will look in 2050 – not to mention 2100 – we don’t know the answer to these questions.
If you lived, say, in a small provincial town in Mexico in 1800, it was difficult for you to know much about the wider world.
People all over the world are but a click away from the latest accounts of the bombardment of Aleppo or of melting ice caps in the Arctic, but there are so many contradictory accounts that it is hard to know what to believe.
Since we have no idea how the world and the job market will look in 2050, we don’t really know what particular skills people will need.
If you try to hold on to some stable identity, job or world view, you risk being left behind as the world flies by you with a whooooosh.
In the past, it was a relatively safe bet to follow the adults, because they knew the world quite well, and the world changed slowly.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Reading Horror Can Arm Us Against A Horrifying World”

Reading Horror Can Arm Us Against A Horrifying World Why read horror stories when the real world is scary enough on its own? Because horror does more than scare us – it teaches us how to live with being scared, and how to fight back against evil.
To quote another favorite entertainer, Neil Gaiman, “Fairy tales are more than true: Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Horror, descended from those tales, tells us about more monsters – and more strategies for beating them.
The banal evils of the world – children shot, neighbors exiled, selves reframed in an instant as inhuman threats – these are horrible, but they aren’t horror.
Horror spins everyday evil to show its fantastical face, literalizing its corroded heart into something more dramatic, something easier to imagine facing down.
Horror helps us name the original sins out of which horrible things are born.
All of which gives horror the opportunity to be radically empowering, and to condemn these evils in the starkest of terms.
How much modern horror still draws frissons of fear from disabled villains, or the threat of “Madness,” or whatever Other happens to be convenient? How many can only imagine threats as violations of white-picket-fence comfort, overcome when the monster’s defeat allows a return to that comfort for those who had it in the first place?
Horror as a genre is built around one truth: that the world is full of fearful things.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Japanese ghost stories dwell in the spirit of their times”

Their unpacified spirits might return to the world of the living in search of satisfaction.
A famous work of Japanese literature, The Tale of Genji, features another sort of ghost altogether: an ikiryō, a living or wandering spirit, propelled by anger and jealousy from the body of a living person to torment and wreak bloody vengeance on enemies.
The dead were being called upon to pacify the spirits of the living, rescuing them from life’s uncertainties.
By the time that Fukuji’s tale was re-told by Yanagita for early 20th-century urbanites, this was starting to change: Japanese ghost stories had begun to reflect the disorientation that comes with rapid change.
Japan’s sense of the supernatural seemed to be shifting: from the living working to pacify the spirits of the dead, to the dead being called upon to pacify the spirits of the living, rescuing them from the uncertainties – and misplaced certainties – of modern life, and recalling them to older, more natural and fulfilling ways of perceiving and living in the world.
Whereas the festival of Obon is a celebration of business successfully concluded – the living and the dead doing right by one another, in a reasonably settled relationship – the 2011 tsunami created sudden ruptures that were very hard to heal.
Are the ghosts of Japan now firmly embarked on a one-way journey out of the land of the living – banished not to some other world, but into an oblivion of consumption, irony and eventual indifference?
Had Fukuji really seen what he thought he had on the seashore? If so what might happen next? Herein lay some of the truth and value of Fukuji’s ghost story: an experience of life’s deep indeterminacy and lack of resolution, which we would be all the poorer for trying to live without.

The orginal article.

Summary of “”Write a Sentence as Clean as a Bone” And Other Advice from James Baldwin”

Ninety-four years after his birth James Baldwin remains an intellectual, moral, and creative touchstone for many Americans-whether writers, critics, or simply people trying to live well in the world.
Baldwin was an accomplished novelist, a legendary essayist, and an important civil rights activist-and most importantly for our purposes here, the man knew how to write a great sentence.
The story of what can happen to an American Negro writer in Europe simply illustrates, in some relief, what can happen to any American writer there.
If there is no moral question, there is no reason to write.
I’m an old‐fashioned writer and, despite the odds, I want to change the world.
I don’t try to be prophetic, as I don’t sit down to write literature.
The bottom line is this: You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world.
If you are going to be a writer there is nothing I can say to stop you; if you’re not going to be a writer nothing I can say will help you.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Ravenous for Meat, China Faces a Climate Quandary”

As the Chinese appetite for meat expands, the booming nation is faced with a quandary: How to satisfy the surging demand for meat without undermining the country’s commitment to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and combating global warming – goals that have been expressly incorporated into national economic, social development, and long-term planning under the Xi Jinping administration.
Experts at the advocacy group WildAid say that average annual meat consumption in China is on track to increase by another 60 pounds by 2030.
“One could argue that Chinese just want to enjoy the kind of life Westerners have for years. In the end, per capita meat consumption in China is still half that of the United States,” said Pan Genxing, director of the Institute of Resources, Environment, and Ecosystem of Agriculture at Nanjing Agricultural University.
One thing is for sure: how China will deal with soaring demand for meat is of paramount importance to both the nation and the rest of the world.
“These calculations do not include land-use change,” Richard Waite, an associate at the World Resources Institute’s Food Program, told me by telephone from Washington, “But since meat production – especially beef production – takes up a significant amount of land, growing demand for meat in China would make for more forests converted to agriculture or pasture and also increase pressure on forests elsewhere.”
The Chinese have also been importing meat from Australia, Brazil, Uruguay, Russia, and other countries, making China the world’s single largest market for meat.
For a country where older generations “Still vividly remember not even being able to afford meat a few decades ago,” he said, “Meals featuring high amounts of meat are seen as a very good thing.”
Now, Haft said, China needs to mount a similar effort to reduce meat consumption.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Identity Trap: How to Be Less Wrong”

They’re representations of different moral systems - or more broadly, identity systems - that people use to understand the world around them.
The difference is that some people can recognize the fact that having and maintaining a systematic identity is an illusion, one that leads to frequent missteps, and as a result, they can then correct course before it occurs.
What we call an identity is mostly a product of memory, and memory - as both science and history have consistently shown - is incredibly hazy and questionable.
The world around you exists independently of the opinions of right and wrong that you enforce on it.
In an increasingly chaotic reality, one that is becoming more and more difficult for us to comprehend, the solution isn’t to enforce more static interpretations on it; it’s to deal with it how it is asking to be dealt with - in a fluid way.
If there is anything that the 21st century is going to demand, it’s the ability to tighten that feedback loop between self and other so new information is openly evaluated and so that errors and mistakes are viewed beyond the confines of a biased, subjective identity defined by these same plans and frameworks.
We can still respect our identity systems and our values, but we also have to develop the capacity to step outside of them when circumstances demand.
The TakeawayWhen we really break this down, the ability to correct mistakes and to be less wrong over time comes down to one thing: the capacity to embrace and understand the contradictions that arise in the world when they do.

The orginal article.