Sometime in 1989 the Native American artist Frank Howell, who commissioned the album that later became Nouveau Flamenco, said this to me:
When you stop to learn you begin to die.
It was very good advice and I thought about it quite often in the past thirty years. I would add that to learn could be replaced with to change or to adapt and the value of the advice would be undiminished.
Last year I joined Coursera, which is an online education platform featuring courses from many great universities, and other institutions, worldwide. The first course I took was about Modern Art, a course created by MoMA. It was enjoyable and I learned a lot. This year I took another course, presented by Princeton University, called Buddhism and Modern Psychology. The instructor was Robert Wright, somebody I was not familiar with. The course description does not do the content justice. I am interested in neuroscience, because I find it interesting how the view of the meditator, which is the view from the inside, is analyzed by the scientist, which is the view from the outside. The course covers more than the basic science that involves brain scans, it introduced me to Evolutionary Psychology (link to Wikipedia… not sure how useful that is), which turned out to be quite the exciting rabbit hole to dive into. I learned that Robert Wright wrote a book entitled The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Every Day Life, published in 1994, which was one of three books the Wachowski siblings gave Keanu Reeves to read to prepare for his role as Neo in the movie The Matrix. By now I am thoroughly fascinated. How did an author of a book on Evolutionary Psychology (Science, view from the outside) come to lecture about meditation and Buddhism (Meditation, view from the inside)?
I bought Robert Wright’s newest book, Why Buddhism is True – The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment and read it slowly over the last two months, savoring some of the pages and letting passages rest in my mind, like dough that needs to rest before baking… For me this book ranks up there with Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything, which I read in the Nineties and which connected a lot of dots for me.
Meditation is a revolutionary act, indeed the most revolutionary act we are capable of, because it is, perhaps, the only method we have to reject our programming. When the house is on fire (Climate Change) you don’t argue whether the house was created by a God or by evolution, you try to extinguish the fire. Similarly I would argue that it doesn’t matter whether our DNA was created by a God or by Natural Selection, the fact is that this programming is killing us as a species. Like Neo in the Matrix we are captives who do what our programming tells us to do and our programming does not want us to be happy and peaceful…
Buy the book… I have seen the paperback for as little as six dollars and change, and I myself have (so far) bought six copies that I have given to friends. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
Creativity – Questlove
A Man Called Ove – Backman
Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants – Mathias Enard
While the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue
The Janissery Tree/Yashim – Jason Goodwin
The Snakestone/Yashim – Jason Goodwin
The Tourist – Olen Steinhauer
A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles
The Nearest Exit – Olen Steinhauer (audio)
An American Spy – Olen Steinhauer (audio)
Salvation of a Saint – Keigo Higashino (audio)
The Cairo Affair- Olen Steinhauer (audio)
The Bellini Card – Jason Goodwin
Havana Fever – Leonardo Padura
Havana Blue – Leonardo Padura
The Baklava Club – Jason Goodwin
An Evil Eye – Jason Goodwin
A Rising Man – Abir Mukherjee
A Necessary Evil – Abir Mukherjee
Smoke and Ashes – Abir Mukherjee
Grab a Snake by the Tail – Leonardo Padura
Fall – Neal Stephenson
Incident at Twenty-Mile – Trevanian
The Girl from Berlin – Ronald H. Balsen
The Eiger Sanction – Trevanian (audio)
The Loo Sanction – Trevanian (audio)
Why Buddhism is True – Robert Wright
Outsider in Amsterdam – Willem Van De Wetering
Rock and Hard Places – Andrew Mueller
Tumbleweed – Willem Van de Wetering
As you can see I prefer reading to movies or TV. I might make it to 35 or even 40 books this year… :-)
I recently learned that many of the first books that were printed following the invention of the Gutenberg press were books about witchcraft. Perhaps there is hope for the internet after all.
I have read several books by Douglas Rushkoff. His observations are always smart, deep, inspiring. His latest work is called Team Human. I just started reading it.
“Survival of the fittest is a convenient way to justify the cutthroat ethos of a competitive marketplace, political landscape, and culture. But this perspective misconstrues the theories of Darwin as well as his successors. By viewing evolution though a strictly competitive lens, we miss the bigger story of our own social development and have trouble understanding humanity as one big, interconnected team.”
Excerpt From Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff
If you are still looking for presents… here is a good one. The book is only $13 and contains links to a wealth of video content in which Chris plays and explains a variety of rhythms. It’s the best book for anyone who wants to start playing the cajón or improve their cajón chops.
The Cajon Drummer
Applying Drumset Techniques and Grooves to the Cajón
• Perfect for anyone new to the cajón—from beginners to experienced drumset players
• Adapts essential, signature drumset grooves to the cajón
• Covers how to incorporate brush, shaker, and other accessory instruments
• Tips on how to play with singer/songwriters
You can also order Chris Steele’s signature cajón here. It’s the cajón you have heard him play when we are on tour and on my recent albums.
From Jaron Lanier’s latest book – read more on Wired. Here he writes about musicians, who no longer earn money from recordings and have to rely on performing:
It is one thing to sing for your supper occasionally, but to have to do so for every meal forces you into a peasant’s dilemma: The peasant’s dilemma is that there’s no buffer. A musician who is sick or old, or who has a sick kid, cannot perform and cannot earn. A few musicians, a very tiny number indeed, will do well, but even the most successful real-time-only careers can fall apart suddenly because of a spate of bad luck. Real life cannot avoid those spates, so eventually almost everyone living a real-time economic life falls on hard times.