Studies of Life

Learning by doing.

Category Archives for: Philosophy

The pitfalls of Evernote or how to use Evernote properly

15 November 2017 by Jim

Evernote is a great service, and after trying several others, including Google Keep and plain text, I have gravitated back to it as the most versatile option and also the one most likely to persist for the coming decade. Why? It is an entire company, which means it is less likely to disappear on a whim (looking at you, Google Wave), and it has (controversial) paid plans which suggest that it’s sustainable and making money with an actual business model. That’s not obvious these days.

So Evernote seems like a solid choice, but it is not without its problems. If you want to learn to properly use it and get the most from it, a few pieces of advice are in order. And what I will say is not the typical advice you might see on the Internet. What I will say over the following paragraphs boils down to: use it smartly, use it consciously, use it less. (more…)

Have some tea, take a walk: daily rituals

02 October 2017 by Jim

Tea drinking (or coffee, if you prefer) and walking are incredibly simple activities, but have something deeply ritualistic.

When you drink tea, you have a series of steps to follow, an algorithm if you like, that involve boiling water – in itself a multi-step process – using some form of tea leaves, in a teabag, or loose-leaf in a metal or ceramic filter, and combing them to transform these initial ingredients into a product that is like a cake, like something you cooked or baked.

Of course, using loose-leaf tea, a pretty cup, or even a ceramic teapot makes the process more ceremonious than a microwaved plastic cup with a cheap tea bag in it. But in any case, it’s a ritual. And so is walking for 20 minutes or so, for the purpose of walking. Not the kind between your desk and the toilet, which is utilitarian in nature, but longer walks that you could reasonably cover with other forms of transportation, yet choose to cover with your feet. That, again, is a ritual where you become aware of what you are doing and do it for its own sake. You don’t walk to arrive from A to B as quickly as possible. The car can do that better than your feet. And you don’t drink tea because you’re thirsty (a glass of water would do) or in the mood for really nice taste (there’s coke in the fridge). (more…)

Présidentielles 2017: Au-delà de la colère – la vérité sur les riches, la globalisation, et l’immigration

06 May 2017 by Jim

For obvious reasons, this post is written in French. For an English translation of this article, click here.

Photo by fractal00 (Flickr)

Dans la lignée des plébiscites ayant conduit au Brexit et à l’élection de Trump, l’élection présidentielle en France fait des vagues. À l’approche du second tour avec des candidats tous les deux critiqués, l’un pour son approche jugée trop libérale et son appartenance au fameux “système”, l’autre pour sa vision supposément irréaliste et idéologique d’un retour à un passé glorieux désormais inaccessible. Lequel des deux deviendra président(e) n’est pas le sujet de cet article, puisque ce n’est qu’une question de détail, et la spéculation ne sert à rien. La question de fond est celle-ci : quelles tendances sous-jacentes caractérisent le débat politique actuel ? Comment les historiens futurs comprendront-ils la psyché des pays occidentaux en général, et de la France en particulier, en l’an 2017 ?  (more…)

Applied Buddhism – The Milan Awakening for the Solo Traveler

01 May 2017 by Jim

Thinks you see while walking through Milan.

From April 26 to 28, I was in Milan, on my own, to see the city and take a break from day-to-day life. It was not my first solo travel experience – I’ve been to Paris, Sao Paulo, New York, Berlin on my own – but it was certainly a new kind of travel experience for me.

My mindset is what set this one apart from the previous journeys.

Previously, solo travel has been a somewhat tortuous process for me. Despite the fact that I appreciated each experience in hindsight and found it well worth doing, in the moment of travelling, alone and often bored, confronted with expectations of what solo travel should look like and how enjoyable it should be, I was often quite frustrated. (more…)

Choice is your enemy and ideas are like fast food

11 April 2017 by Jim

Freedom of choice is a foundational value of capitalism, and of democracies. While it has benefits in the context of those two collective systems, I believe it is a destructive force in many people’s personal lives.

Choices are necessary, and I am not suggesting you run from them – on the contrary – but it is important to master them and not let them possess you. Something as fundamental as a choice might be something we encounter often in life, but that does not mean we have learned how to master it. (more…)

Don’t Panic! On Trump, Le Pen, and Brexit.

02 March 2017 by Jim

Stormy. Photo by Luke Gray.

Someone recently said to me over dinner: ‘Why are people so racist and voting for Trump or Le Pen?’ A lively discussion ensued, which made some ideas clearer to me and highlighted some common views of the world that I think are not accurate. For that reason, I want to talk about them here.

To the liberal metropolitan people that I and most of my friends feel like we belong, what’s been going on in terms of Trump’s election, Brexit and Le Pen’s good poll numbers is frightening and mysterious. Why do people make such obviously wrong decisions? (more…)

Would an old Indian marvel at the sight of an elephant?

19 January 2017 by Jim

Photo by Toshihiro Gamo.

Rob Siltanen, the creative director of an ad agency famous for working with Apple in its early days, wrote in an ad campaign:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things.” (more…)

Burning the bridge to the past and the future

07 December 2016 by Jim

I have already written about Buddhist thought on this blog, and part of Buddhist meditation is about being fully present. This is extremely important and shows that Buddhism has a deep understanding of how we experience reality.

What does that mean?

Well, have you ever experienced flow? Have you ever been so absorbed in what you were doing, be it dancing, working, drawing, running, or even a good discussion with a friend? That is a moment where you were present, and fully in the present, without your mind being drawn away from that moment to other places and times. If you’ve ever experienced this, you know it makes you profoundly happy. (more…)

Buddhist meditation as blueprint for an enjoyable life

28 October 2016 by Jim

 (Photo by Wonderlane)

After years of dabbling in meditation, and after having been inspired by the wonderful books of Daniel M. Ingram, Alan Watts, D.T. Suzuki and Culadasa, I’ve been getting more serious about it and meditating almost every day for close to three months. That might not sound like much, but to my personal life it has already made an enormous difference. I feel blessed to have discovered how powerful it is, and that is why I want to share my thoughts to inspire others.

What is so powerful about meditation? (more…)

Chinese modernity and its idiosyncracies

25 October 2016 by Jim

As Martin Jacques suggests in his book When China rules the World, further development will not lead to China becoming like the West. Instead, Chinese modernity carries its own cultural idiosyncrasies, as Japanese modernity does: even though Japan is at least as developed as Europe and Northern America, it is very different in even the most basic features of its society, including its social relationships and the role of its institutions.

This in itself is a lesson in humility. China will develop in its own interesting way, so we do not have a blueprint for how things work out. Indeed, it might be suggested that instead of all countries converging on Western liberal market democracy as the ultimate form of the state, developing countries might well get inspiration from other, well-functioning and fast-growing countries like China, which enjoy a lot of social peace despite not having the same kinds of freedoms as the West does. (more…)

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