Psychedelics and Systems Change

Posted on Apr 19, 2016
Psychedelics and Systems Change

Originally published (in a modified form) on the MAPS Bulletin (Spring 2016) Many arguments for the legalization of cannabis and psychedelics draw on their relative harmlessness. Countering the rationale of prohibition, we can point out that compared to legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco, psychedelics are extremely safe. Given statistics comparing the annual number of […]

The Need for Venture Science

Posted on Aug 27, 2015
The Need for Venture Science

A Chinese translation of this essay can be found here. I just spent several hours down a rabbit hole. The topic was the “electric universe,” an unconventional cosmological theory that emphasizes electromagnetism rather than gravity as the primary structuring force of the universe. It offers alternative explanations of redshift, cosmic background radiation, cosmogenesis, star formation, […]

A Restorative Response to MH17

Posted on Jul 23, 2014
A Restorative Response to MH17

  Aren’t they awful? Aren’t they appalling? How could they? They must be monstrous, evil, inhuman. The only way to deal with such people is to stand up to them, destroy them, send them a message, take a stand, deter them, show them it isn’t acceptable, hold them to account. Any other response is soft, […]

Development in the Ecological Age

Posted on May 28, 2014
Development in the Ecological Age

Republished from Kosmos Journal   Do you live in a developed nation or a developing nation? If your nation has an extensive system of roads, rail and airports, if it is fully electrified, if it is mostly urban and suburban, if modern medicine is widespread, if literacy and education are near-universal, if most people are […]

Gateway drug, to what?

Posted on Apr 1, 2014
Gateway drug, to what?

  You’ve probably heard about those addiction studies with caged lab rats, in which the rats compulsively press the heroin dispensing lever again and again, even to the point of choosing it over food and starving themselves to death. These studies seemed to imply some pretty disheartening things about human nature. Our basic biology is […]

Imperialism and Ceremony in Bali

Posted on Mar 2, 2014
Imperialism and Ceremony in Bali

After participating in a fire ceremony in Ubud, Bali, I had a few conversations with local people to clarify my feelings about rituals, tourism, and cultural imperialism. On the one hand, the ceremony had an undeniable authenticity and power that affected me deeply. On the other hand, I am grieved by the conversion of traditional […]

TED: A Choice Point

Posted on Apr 11, 2013
TED: A Choice Point

Originally, the thesis of this essay was going to be that TED, contrary to its reputation for promoting innovative ideas, excludes ideas that are truly radical or disruptive, contributing instead to a slickly packaged narrative of “Gee whiz, thanks to these nifty ideas, the world is getting better all the time.” TED is, I thought, […]

2013: The Space between Stories

Posted on Dec 28, 2012
2013: The Space between Stories

A German translation, a Dutch translation, as well as a Portuguese translation of this essay are also available.   Every culture has a Story of the People to give meaning to the world. Part conscious and part unconscious, it consists of a matrix of agreements, narratives, and symbols that tell us why we are here, […]

A Review of Graeber’s Debt: The First 5000 Years

Posted on Mar 5, 2012
A Review of Graeber’s Debt: The First 5000 Years

I was immensely impressed by this book. For as long as there has been such a thing as money, morality and debt have been intimately intertwined. We see this today in discussions about the debt crisis. Do mortgage debtors, credit card debtors, and student loan borrowers have a moral obligation to pay back their debts? […]

To Bear Witness and to Speak the Truth

Posted on Nov 28, 2011

(11/28/11) One of the recurrent debates within the Occupy movement is whether it should adhere strictly to non-violent methods, or rather embrace a “diversity of tactics” (including, presumably, violent ones). This debate is futile unless it considers a deeper question: “Tactics to achieve what?” Without clarity here, the question of non-violence becomes a debate about […]

Wood, Metal, and the Story of the World

Posted on Jun 10, 2009
Wood, Metal, and the Story of the World

These were my worst subjects in Junior High, when we were forced to take them. I regarded these class periods with dread. For one thing, I was really bad at them. I regarded the big machines and power equipment with terror. To make matters worse, my classmates would exact revenge in shop class for being […]

Reuniting the Self: Autoimmunity, Obesity, and the Ecology of Health

Posted on Dec 10, 2008
Reuniting the Self: Autoimmunity, Obesity, and the Ecology of Health

This article is Part 1 of a two-part series. Read Part 2 here. Medical diseases have a cultural dimension: the ill health of the individual reveals the ways in which the surrounding culture is not whole. The twin epidemics of our time, obesity and autoimmunity, are symptoms of a deep infirmity in our civilization. They have […]

The Ubiquitous Matrix of Lies

Posted on May 10, 2007
The Ubiquitous Matrix of Lies

Let’s begin with beer. Every day I drive past a billboard for Coors Light with the slogan, “Coors rocks Harrisburg.” Now, does anybody actually believe that Coors does in fact “rock Harrisburg”? No. Does the Coors corporation itself believe it? No. Does anyone believe that Coors believes it? No. It is a lie, everyone knows […]

A 28-year Lie: The Wrong Lesson

Posted on Apr 24, 2007
A 28-year Lie: The Wrong Lesson

The New York Times reports today that M.I.T. admissions dean Marilee Jones has resigned after admitting she fabricated her educational résumé. Apparently, she did not even have an undergraduate degree. M.I.T. is, according to Chancellor Philip Clay, “taking a big lesson from this experience,” in which it made little effort to check her credentials. Hmm. […]

The Ascent of Humanity

Posted on Feb 10, 2007
The Ascent of Humanity

More than any other species, human beings are gifted with the power to manipulate their environment and the ability to accumulate and transmit knowledge across generations. The first of these gifts we call technology; the other we call culture. They are central to our humanity. Accumulating over thousands of years, culture and technology have brought […]

All Hallows’ Eve

Posted on Oct 30, 2006
All Hallows’ Eve

Once upon our time, our distant ancestors were animists who believed in the innate divinity of all things. Spirit was a property of matter, and all things possessed it: not just plants and animals  but also rocks, clouds, lakes, wind, places, and every natural thing and process. I said all things  possessed spirit, but that […]

Humanity Grows Up

Posted on May 10, 2005
Humanity Grows Up

“We have taken a monstrously wrong turn with symbolic culture and division of labor, from a place of enchantment, understanding and wholeness to the absence we find at the heart of the doctrine of progress. Empty and emptying, the logic of domestication with its demand to control everything now shows us the ruin of the […]