Why a meaningful life is impossible without suffering

Pain makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. What’s puzzling is why so many of us choose to seek out painful experiences. KEY TAKEAWAYS From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that we feel pain: It trains us to avoid experiences or stimuli that harm us.  But that begs the question, why do so many people choose to pursue things that will bring them pain?  To psychologist Paul Bloom, the answer is that living a meaningful life requires that we choose to take on a reasonable amount of pain. by Stephen Johnson The writer and philosopher Alan Watts once posed a … Continue reading Why a meaningful life is impossible without suffering

How psychology can help you change someone’s mind

Changing your mind (or someone else’s) is a complex process. But understanding how your brain works can help. If you’ve ever tried to change someone’s mind but found they were completely unwilling to budge in their thinking, it can help to understand how the brain works. Changing your mind—or someone else’s—is a complex process done through assimilation or accommodation, says David McRaney, author of How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion, and Persuasion and host of the science podcast You Are Not So Smart. “When the brain is confronted with novel information that generates cognitive dissonance, we tend to assuage that … Continue reading How psychology can help you change someone’s mind

Old not Other

Here’s a puzzle: why do we neglect and disdain the one vulnerable group we all eventually will join? Beauvoir had an answer Kate Kirkpatrick is tutorial fellow in philosophy and Christian ethics at Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford. She is the author of, most recently, the biography Becoming Beauvoir (2019).  Sonia Kruks is Danforth Professor of Politics Emerita at Oberlin College in Ohio. She is the author of Simone de Beauvoir and the Politics of Ambiguity (2012). Old age is not exactly a time of life that most of us welcome, although globally speaking it is a privilege to reach it. In Western … Continue reading Old not Other

Economists assume the desire for wealth is insatiable. What if they’re wrong?

A study that got people daydreaming about winning the lottery yields hope for a more sustainable society By Sarah DeWeerdt The majority of people surveyed in 33 countries around the world say their lifestyle dreams could be fulfilled with a finite—and often relatively modest—amount of money. The findings call into question a founding principle of economics, and suggest unexpected opportunities for achieving sustainable societies. Economists generally assume that people have unlimited wants: no amount of wealth or consumption ever feels like enough, and people are hard-wired to be perpetually driven to accumulate more and more. But the new study suggests that … Continue reading Economists assume the desire for wealth is insatiable. What if they’re wrong?

Back to the source: What we gain when we cut out the middleman

Our economy is dominated by middlemen, including huge companies such as Walmart and Amazon. There are many benefits to going direct instead. KEY TAKEAWAYS Middlemen such as Amazon and Wal-Mart became powerful enough to reshape the entire economy. Returning in modest ways to an economy of more direct exchange can help us lead richer lives and build a better economy.  Middlemen are here to stay, so it is important to know how to use them and which ones to trust. Importantly, shorter intermediation chains are better.  For direct exchange to help smooth structural inequities, it has to do more than … Continue reading Back to the source: What we gain when we cut out the middleman

The Solace of Open Spaces

“There is nothing in nature that can’t be taken as a sign of both mortality and invigoration… Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are.” BY MARIA POPOVA We live amid and inside emblems of the touching longing for permanence that both defines us and defies reality: our houses, these haikus of brick and hope so easily discomposed by a tremor of the earth or a tempest of the sky; our homes, so easily hollowed by death or indifference; our bodies, these boarding houses for stardust. All along, as life keeps living itself through us, we keep casting … Continue reading The Solace of Open Spaces

Cancer etiquette: How to talk to people with a dreaded disease

We desperately need something like a real set of rules when somebody has the illness. It’s easy to recognize the wrong things to say — especially after the fact — but what are the right ones? By Steven Petrow Shortly after he died of esophageal cancer, Christopher Hitchens’s book “Mortality,” a collection of essays chronicling his ordeal with the illness, came out and I read it. At one point, the renowned journalist recounts a brief encounter with a fan at a book signing. The woman — a complete stranger, mind you — told Hitchens that her cousin had suffered from cancer, which … Continue reading Cancer etiquette: How to talk to people with a dreaded disease

The art of listening

To listen well is not only a kindness to others but also, as the psychologist Carl Rogers made clear, a gift to ourselves M M Owen is a British nonfiction author. He obtained his PhD at the University of British Columbia, and now splits his time between the UK and Portugal. Writing in Esquire magazine in 1935, Ernest Hemingway offered this advice to young writers: ‘When people talk, listen completely… Most people never listen.’ Even though Hemingway was one of my teenage heroes, the realisation crept up on me, somewhere around the age of 25: I am most people. I never listen. … Continue reading The art of listening

How to Handle Grief When Equanimity Isn’t Enough 

Our path isn’t about escaping this world, it’s about becoming more intimate with it. By David Loy It’s sometimes said that life is a precious gift, but I wonder if that’s the best metaphor. Is it better to understand one’s life as a loan? A loan that can be called in at any time, sometimes with no warning at all. We are reminded never to take it for granted. Does that make our lives even more precious? We naturally seek stability and security, but Buddhist teachings emphasize that everything is impermanent and insubstantial. The world isn’t a collection of separate things: … Continue reading How to Handle Grief When Equanimity Isn’t Enough 

Habits change your life. Here’s how to change your habits.

Willpower alone likely isn’t enough to replace a bad habit with a good one. KEY TAKEAWAYS The habits people build end up structuring their everyday lives, often without them noticing.   When people recognize a bad habit, they often try to change it through willpower alone — but that rarely works.  Here’s what research says are the most effective ways to replace bad habits with good ones. by Elizabeth Gilbert So you want to make a change in your everyday life — say, exercise more, meet all your deadlines, or develop a new skill. You make a plan, conjure your willpower, … Continue reading Habits change your life. Here’s how to change your habits.