And these health-boosting impacts of volunteering appear to be found in all corners of the world, from Spain and Egypt to Uganda and Jamaica, according to one study based on the data from the Gallup World Poll."
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End of 2020
Ten things I’ve learned this year December 31st, 2020
Book 2020 I fell in love with Yotam Ottolenghi's SIMPLE recipes. I started at the beginning; just finished the Pasta chapter. It is a bit embarrassing to admit, but this is how I started to learn how to cook, finally.
Bubble Got ultra lucky and found myself in a pandemic lockdown bubble with two extraordinary artists, and their three year old daughter. Thank you Anke Eckardt and Marcus Schmickler for keeping me company in the weirdest of times, and trusting me with your best project so far.
Film To have a wild, almost alien creature teach you about communication, trust, and letting go seems like a huge privilege to me. I am amazed what Craig Foster experienced through his relationship with an octopus female, and that he was able to put it all into an intriguing documentary. My Octopus Teacher provided a lesson in humility for me.
Friends (1984) I don’t know why or how this song by Amii Stewart popped up in my playlist this year – so 80s... From now on it will remind me of a very unique summer in the middle of an international pandemic, including a friendly, short but energizing crush. No harm done ;-)
Lockdown After commuting with planes, buses, cars, etc. came to a shrieking halt the air pollution in my city started to improve a lot. As one of the consequences I can now experience the moon at night in 3D. Wow, I am very grateful.
Perception Children believe that everything is going to be alright, that their parents are almighty, that they themselves are almighty too (and therefore in the position to give advice), and they believe in justice. Now that I’ve grown up, I know that all four are perceptual illusions. A transformative teaching.
Quote All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks is full of important quotes. The definition of love which bell hooks uses in her book might serve this list best, but you should not hesitate to read the book in full. "Imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition. The word 'love' is most often defined as a noun, yet all the more astute theorists of love acknowledge that we would all love better if we used it as a verb. I spent years searching for a meaningful definition of the word 'love,' and was deeply relieved when I found one in psychiatrist M. Scott Peck's classic self-help book The Road Less Traveled, first published in 1978. Echoing the work Eric Fromm, he defines love as 'the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth.' Explaining further, he continues: 'Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.' Since the choice must be made to nurture growth, this definition counters the more widely accepted assumption that we love instinctually."
Spazierengehen The streets in Cologne and also the parks became too crowed to take a relaxed walk and keep the required distance to others at the same time. So, my friends and I started to meet at local cemeteries, which were still pretty abandoned – thanks to society’s denial of death, I guess. Spazierengehen became my new clubbing. The most inspiring tombstone I saw simply says: HONESTY, PURITY, UNSELFISHNESS, LOVE.
Word I know, there are still unsolved security issues, and Jitsi is the good sister. But Zoom is where I spent almost as much time as in my bed in 2020. I experienced meetings with one thousand people; that was mindblowing. To me therefore the word of the year is, to zoom.
So, here we are... And what is next?
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"Untitled (Greenwood, Mississippi)", 2001, signed William Eggleston and numbered 31/40 and also with copyright stamp on verso. Iris print, image 46 x 68 cm. From BAM Photography Portfolio II published by Serge Sorokko Gallery, San Fransisco.
Shout to the top
Does the human brain resemble the Universe? November 28th, 2020
Via Università di Bologna: "An astrophysicist of the University of Bologna and a neurosurgeon of the University of Verona compared the network of neuronal cells in the human brain with the cosmic network of galaxies, and surprising similarities emerged. […]
The human brain functions thanks to its wide neuronal network that is deemed to contain approximately 69 billion neurons. On the other hand, the observable universe can count upon a cosmic web of at least 100 billion galaxies. Within both systems, only 30% of their masses are composed of galaxies and neurons. Within both systems, galaxies and neurons arrange themselves in long filaments or nodes between the filaments. Finally, within both system, 70% of the distribution of mass or energy is composed of components playing an apparently passive role: water in the brain and dark energy in the observable Universe. […]
Probably, the connectivity within the two networks evolves following similar physical principles, despite the striking and obvious difference between the physical powers regulating galaxies and neurons."
Usagi is a careless fourteen-year-old girl with an enormous capacity for love, compassion, and understanding. Initially believing herself to be an ordinary girl, she is later revealed to be the reincarnated form of the Princess of the Moon Kingdom, and she subsequently discovers her original name, Princess Serenity.
Rereading All about love – new visions by bell hooks for one of my seminars. Again and again I find her words so empowering. What could be more important and appropriate today than considering love, again.
"Hence the truism: Love is letting go of fear. Our hearts connect with lots of folks in a lifetime but most of us will go to our graves with no experience of true love. This is in no way tragic, as most of us run the other way when true love comes near. Since true love sheds light on those aspects of ourselves we may wish to deny or hide, enabling us to see ourselves clearly and without shame, it is not surprising that so many individuals who say they want to know love turn away when such love beckons. " (p.186, All about love – new visions by bell hooks, HarperCollins Publishers, 2001)
"We are all capable of changing our attitudes about falling in love. We can acknowledge the click we feel when we meet someone new as just that – a mysterious sense of connection that may or may not have anything to do with love. However it could or could not be the primal connection while simultaneously acknowledging that it will lead us to love. How different things might be if, rather than saying 'I think I'm in love,' we were saying 'I've connected with someone in a way that makes me think I'm on the way to knowing love.' Or if instead of saying 'I am in love' we said 'I am loving' or 'I will love.' Our patterns around romantic love are unlikely to change if we do not change our language." (p.177, All about love – new visions by bell hooks, HarperCollins Publishers, 2001)
About a year ago Svenja Doeinck asked me to join her in the process to define the identity for a program, which offers outstanding musicians from North Rhine-Westphalia working in the field of jazz and contemporary music a platform for artistic profiling and professionalisation of their careers.
In our first sessions Svenja introduced me to Pannonica de Koenigswarter’s book Three Wishes: an Intimate Look at Jazz Greats. "Compiled between 1961 and 1966, it is a book of interviews with 300 musicians who told her what their three wishes would be, and is accompanied by her Polaroid photographs. The book was edited for publication by Nadine de Koenigswarter, whom Nica always introduced to people as her granddaughter but who was in fact her great-niece." (Wikipedia)
Svenja Doeinck and I explored the biography of Pannonica (shortened to "Nica" as a nickname), and quickly became obsessed with her character and legacy. It was obvious to us and felt inevitable that we had to name the artist development program, which was led by Svenja Doeinck and funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, after Pannonica "Nica" de Koenigswarter because she was the most fabulous and glamorous jazz patron of all times.
The NICA program started with four amazing musicians, and I am so delighted to now support three of them. In our sessions we work on exploring their ideas concerning a public and visual communication strategy with their enchanted fans.
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Pan Tau was able to change his appearance into a puppet, to conjure up miscellaneous objects or to do other magic.
Via my all-time favorite blog the New Shelton wet/dry: "A large empirical literature has debated the existence of a U-shaped happiness-age curve. This paper re-examines the relationship between various measures of well-being and age in 145 countries. […] The U-shape of the curve is forcefully confirmed, with an age minimum, or nadir, in midlife around age 50 in separate analyses for developing and advanced countries as well as for the continent of Africa. The happiness curve seems to be everywhere." Continue reading Here: Journal of Population Economics
Via Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization: "I examine the relationship between unhappiness and age using data from eight well-being data files on nearly 14 million respondents across forty European countries and the United States and 168 countries from the Gallup World Poll. […] Unhappiness is hill-shaped in age and the average age where the maximum occurs is 49 with or without controls."
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This might be the most important talk of your life.
Via Wikipedia: "Nonviolent Communication (abbreviated NVC, also called Compassionate Communication or Collaborative Communication) is an approach to nonviolent living developed by Marshall Rosenberg beginning in the 1960s. NVC is based on the assumption that all human beings have capacity for compassion and empathy and that people only resort to violence or behavior harmful to others when they do not recognize more effective strategies for meeting needs.
NVC theory supposes that all human behavior stems from attempts to meet universal human needs, and that these needs are never in conflict; rather, conflict arises when strategies for meeting needs clash. NVC proposes that people should identify shared needs, which are revealed by the thoughts and feelings surrounding these needs, and then they should collaborate to develop strategies and make requests of each other to meet each other's needs. The goal is interpersonal harmony and learning for future cooperation. [...]
Rosenberg invites NVC practitioners to focus attention on four components:
• Observation: the facts (what we are seeing, hearing, or touching) as distinct from our evaluation of meaning and significance. NVC discourages static generalizations. It is said that When we combine observation with evaluation others are apt to hear criticism and resist what we are saying. Instead, a focus on observations specific to time and context is recommended.
• Feelings: emotions or sensations, free of thought and story. These are to be distinguished from thoughts (e.g., 'I feel I didn't get a fair deal') and from words colloquially used as feelings but which convey what we think we are (e.g., inadequate), how we think others are evaluating us (e.g., unimportant), or what we think others are doing to us (e.g., misunderstood, ignored). Feelings are said to reflect whether we are experiencing our needs as met or unmet. Identifying feelings is said to allow us to more easily connect with one another, and Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable by expressing our feelings can help resolve conflicts.
• Needs: universal human needs, as distinct from particular strategies for meeting needs. It is posited that Everything we do is in service of our needs.
• Request: request for a specific action, free of demand. Requests are distinguished from demands in that one is open to hearing a response of no without this triggering an attempt to force the matter. If one makes a request and receives a no it is recommended not that one give up, but that one empathize with what is preventing the other person from saying yes, before deciding how to continue the conversation. It is recommended that requests use clear, positive, concrete action language."
The Nonviolent Communicator is "an online tool to help you create a communication that honors the NVC structure, and helps you identify the emotions you are feeling. Based on the The 4-Part Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Process model developed by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D."
Via In Pursuit of Venus: "In Neoclassical France, entrepreneur Joseph Dufour used the latest printing innovations to produce Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique (1804), a sophisticated twenty panel scenic wallpaper. Mirroring a widespread fascination with the Pacific voyages undertaken by Captain Cook, de Bougainville and de la Perouse, the wallpaper’s exotic themes referenced popular illustrations of that time. Two hundred years later, Maori artist Lisa Reihana employs twenty-first century digital technologies to animate Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique. Enlivened with the sights and sounds of dance and cultural ceremonies, a vast video panorama is populated by a myriad of people drawn from across New Zealand and the Pacific.
Separated by two centuries, both the wallpaper and video are set against an utopian Tahitian landscape. While Dufour’s work models Enlightenment beliefs and ideas of harmony amongst mankind, Reihana’s reading of the past is darker and more nuanced. The artist foregrounds the complexities of cultural identity and colonisation by including scenes of encounter between Europeans and Polynesians."
Music can boost your immune system August 18th, 2020
Via Jean Gabriel: "Studies have been conducted that display evidence of music enhancing the amount of antibodies in your system. The presence of antibodies can be determined by measuring the level of cytokines in your blood. Cytokines are a critical component as their purpose is to allow communication between the cells that make up your immune system. Subjects during this study were asked to simply sing for a period of one hour. Their cytokine levels were measured both before and after the duration of the music activity. Levels were shown to have increased after the hour of belting out your favorite songs, which means that the overall effectiveness of the immune system may have increased."
Via Wikipedia: "Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore came out of a discussion between Gavin Brown, Martin McGeown and Mark Leckey. They were at a gallery private view in London, and Emma Dexter, then a curator at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), talked to Leckey. He argued that the most exciting art form of the time was the music video, and intrigued, Dexter invited him to make a work demonstrating it. It was later first screened at the ICA. The title, Leckey said, was about the notion that 'something as trite and throwaway and exploitative as a jeans manufacturer (Fiorucci) can be taken by a group of people and made into something totemic, and powerful, and life-affirming'."
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While reading the interview with Bruno Latour consider listening to Ellen Arkbro. Fabulous and mind blowing composer from Sweden.
Lovelock locked us in! While Galileo used a telescope to reveal that the Earth is part of an infinite universe, Lovelock used his electron capture detector to reveal that the Earth is completely different from any other planet because it has life. He and [Lynn] Margulis spotted Gaia. Lovelock from space, taking the question as globally as possible; Margulis from bacteria, taking the question from the other end, both realising that Life, capital L, has managed to engineer its own conditions of existence. For me that is the greatest discovery of this period, though it is still not very much accepted by mainstream science. This may be because we do not yet have the tools to receive it.
Why do you think scientists are still wary?
That such an important concept is still so marginal in the history of science is extraordinary. I have done everything I can to make it accepted. But scientists are reflexively cautious. The cosmological shift from Aristotle to Galileo is the same as that from Galileo to Gaia. With Galileo, our understanding moved outwards to an infinite universe. Grasping that took a century and a half and faced resistance. Gaia is not just one more concept. It is not just about physics and energy. It is Life.
Your work has often challenged the objective, God’s-eye view of science. You argue convincingly that humanity cannot be so detached. But the political right have twisted this approach to undermine all expert knowledge on the climate and nature crises. Any regrets?
A critique of how science is produced is very different from the post-truth argument that there are alternative truths that you can choose from. Post-truth is a defensive posture. If you have to defend yourself against climate change, economic change, coronavirus change, then you grab at any alternative. If those alternatives are fed to you by thousands of fake news farms in Siberia, they are hard to resist, especially if they look vaguely empirical. If you have enough of them and they are contradictory enough, they allow you to stick to your old beliefs. But this should not be confused with rational scepticism.
Has the Covid-19 crisis affected our belief in science?
The virus has revealed the number of things you need to know to decide what is factual and what’s not. The public are learning a great deal about the difficulty of statistics, about experiment, about epidemiology. In everyday life, people are talking about degrees of confidence and margin of error. I think that’s good. If you want people to have some grasp of science, you must show how it is produced."