Mindfulness According to Jeffrey Sachs

I read the 2011 hardback version. A new, updated, paperback version came out in 2012.

I read the 2011 hardback version. A new, updated, paperback version came out in 2012.

I just finished reading The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity by economist Jeffrey D. Sachs. It was a New York Times Bestseller in 2011. If you want to learn about the complexities of how American society is and came to be, this is a fantastic place to start. I skimmed through some chapters but that’s only because I like reading non-fiction about “society” (a term I was never allowed to use in any high school English class). Sachs has a way of blending what you know to be true with facts and figures of what is true. The book covers politics, economics, social psychology, and the natural environment.

 

My favorite part of the book was chapter 9: The Mindful Society. This is the chapter where Sachs takes a good look at the social psychology of making choices, health, productivity, leisure, and my favorite- ethics.

 

“We will need, in short, to achieve a new mindfulness regarding our needs as individuals and as a society, to find a more solid path to well-being. Mindfulness, taught by Buddha, is one of the eight steps on the way to self-awakening. It means an alertness and quiet contemplation of our circumstances, putting aside greed and distress. Through sustained effort, mindfulness leads to insight and to an escape from our useless cravings.”

He proceeded to write a list of “dimensions” crucial in our lives:

  • “Mindfulness of self: personal moderation to escape mass consumerism
  • Mindfulness of work: the balancing of work and leisure
  • Mindfulness of knowledge: the cultivation of education
  • Mindfulness of others: the exercise of compassion and cooperation
  • Mindfulness of nature: the conservation of the world’s ecosystems
  • Mindfulness of the future: the responsibility to save for the future
  • Mindfulness of politics: the cultivation of public deliberation and shared values for collective action through political institutions
  • Mindfulness of the world: the acceptance of diversity as a path to peace” (p165)

I think these ideas capture the feel of the book. It is unapologetically complex yet clear. These ideas aren’t new to me but the way he writes it is too good not to be shared. Moderation and not participating in mass consumerism? Check. Balancing work and leisure? Hello, #lifeofleisure. Work hard, play hard. Acceptance of diversity to reach a more peaceful planet? Ding ding ding! I’m there.

What do you think? Is there anything missing? Did something go too far?

November’s Trip to Seattle

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I finally went to Seattle. And I finally got around to writing this blog post! I visited my college roommate and she showed me all the best stuff around town. My first day there, it was pouring rain. All day. But that didn’t matter because I assumed that it would rain while I was there. I traveled via the Link Light Rail from Sea-Tac towards the city then transferred onto a regular city bus to my friend’s apartment in Capitol Hill. Google Maps is great for dealing with public transportation in major cities. After I dropped off my stuff, I walked towards the central tourist attraction: the Public Market. It was about a mile, mile and a half walk. But again, it was raining so I had to drop into a store for an umbrella. I took some good pictures.
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Then I stopped at Rachel’s Ginger Beer and oh my god it was so good. I love ginger beer. Its refreshing and healthy. It was the perfect refreshment after walking around for several hours. The shop was right next to the Public Market and had a super hip feel- lots of deep, hard bench tables and a large high-top table down the middle with stools. I highly recommend stopping in here for some ginger beer on tap.
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I met up with my friend and we checked out the other sites I “needed” to see. We even had a sunny day on Sunday!

Drinking beer at Elysian:

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Watching the locks fill up:
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We shopped in Fremont. This is a display in front of a salon (they do lots of waxes haha).
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Saw the planetary installations around town…
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Walked next to the dinosaur bushes…
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Saw the Fremont Troll under the bridge…
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And even visited Stalin!
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We went to the water and had seafood. We walked around and saw some great views too.
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It was sad to leave but all good things must come to an end I suppose.
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Comedians Now Write Books

female comedians book covers

An exchange on Twitter recently got me thinking. The discussion was about books written by comedians and whether or not their audio books were much different from the written format. I find it amazing that books written by comedians are so in demand at all. To me, audio books are a medium similar to podcasts- they’re all about performance and have small, yet captive, audiences. These audio formats should be where comedians excel not necessarily in the book format.

First on the books: Even though show business is all about performance, having show biz folks write books means big money for the publisher and the comedian. I’m surprised that so many comedians get paid to write full length books yet it seems like most big comedians have a book deal. My main hang-up is that a great performer is not necessarily a great writer. I’ve heard that a lot of them will work with a ghost writer or rely heavily on an editor to complete their books. Comedians often complain about how hard it is to write a book within their books too. But hey, if someone is offering you a five or six figure advance to write a book, you’re going to make it work. Out of the 10 or so books I’ve read by comedians, I’ve never thought “oh that wasn’t interesting at all.”

Next on the audio: The audio versions of those books sell well too. I don’t know the statistics about how many people digitally steal audio books but I bet that the majority of people pay for audio books. So not only are publishers making money by selling real hardcover books and e-books, they’re also making money with the audio book format. I think that most listeners buy the audio version of a book because they enjoy listening to the performance of the storytelling.

How this relates to podcasts: Comedic audio books and podcasts are popular of course because people want to be aurally entertained by the writer/comic (I’ve written more about podcasts here and here). I think the rate of people listening to podcasts and the rate of people listening to audio books must have a positive correlation. It seems like more and more people are listening to podcasts, creating podcasts, and appearing on podcasts. What was once thought to be almost a dead medium in the early 2000s has gotten a lot more popular and has revitalized its often more-well-thought-out big brother the audio book. The options available now in both podcasts and audio books are just amazing. I feel like every book gets an audio version now. And every comedian you like is featured on at least one or several podcasts each year. Overall it’s creating a smorgasbord of new media to digest (or binge-listen) and I’m okay with that.

Podcasts Are Back

Days like this require some audio-distraction

Days like this require some audio-distraction

New York Magazine just wrote a piece on why podcasts are getting more popular: “What’s Behind the Great Podcast Renaissance?” Through the various podcasts I listen to, I’ve heard hosts and guests say similar things “it seems like everyone has/needs a podcast now.” It doesn’t surprise me at all that podcasts are getting more popular. I’m surprised it took so long to happen in the first place! They are easy to produce, people have time to listen to them, and there is a sort of safety in podcasts.

I think its because podcasts are free and easy to produce. They’re also excellent for talkers (vs. writers or readers). A lot of show business people are in the talking business. Their ability to deliver a punch line or riff or deadpan remark is their livelihood.

Of course, as the listener, a podcast can be a wonderful distraction from traffic, the other people on the subway, or to finally get all of your housework done. I’ve also heard that people exercise listening to podcasts but that’s not something I think I will ever do- I’m strictly a music person. I also listen to them while travelling when the sounds around me won’t enhance my experience.

Podcasts give you the same kind of platform as blogs or Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr except there’s a key difference with podcasts: they’re in audio format. The audio format makes it harder for your words to be held against you. If I disagree with something someone says on a podcast and I want to quote them, it takes a lot more effort on my part to find the exact spot and type up the quote vs. finding the quote in something written and then copy & paste it. It’s also important to note that very few people would have the know-how to capture the audio clip to replay for someone else to judge too. With this key difference, podcasts feel a little more private, a little more safe. For performers, it can be scary to try out new material or to accidentally say something that will get them in trouble later which is why podcasts are a great option for them. Performers can try out new material to a captive audience without the same threat of backlash from written audience.

I wrote a blog post about the podcasts I’ve been listening to recently, not-so-creatively named Podcasts, Podcasts, Podcasts.

Upcoming Trip to Seattle

I was feeling a bit restless. I couldn’t quite pinpoint the reason. But then it dawned on me that I hadn’t left Colorado since the end of July. That’s 3 months of staying put! I did spend a weekend in Aspen for Tough Mudder at the beginning of September but that doesn’t feel like enough of an escape from the ordinary. In order to remedy this without spending an arm and a leg, I started to look for domestic cities that I want to visit. Seattle was at the top of my list. It has been on the top of the list for a while. A few years ago I went to Vancouver, British Columbia and a few years prior to that I went to Portland, Oregon. The Northwest is what’s up. I love the style. Vancouver has such an international, cosmopolitan air to it. I loved walked around that city (actually, accidentally walked clear across it several times). Portland is all about bikes, beer, and keeping it real. I loved it.

Vintage Trolley

 

Everyone said I needed to go to Seattle if I liked Portland. Well everyone, I’m going! I booked a flight on Alaska Airlines which happens to be one of the only domestic airlines I haven’t flown with before. Anyone have any good or bad experiences with them? While in Seattle, I’ll check out the Space Needle, Pike’s Place Market, and the original Starbucks. I want to see other random stuff like the hidden waterfall garden and the underground tour. Thankfully my college roommate is from Seattle so I’m going to meet up with her. She is kind of a foodie so I have no doubt she’ll point me in the right direction of amazing restaurants.

Has anyone been to Seattle? What’s a good place to visit?

I better be ready to walk the hills

I better be ready to walk the hills

Vancouver 2012

I never wrote a post about my trip to Vancouver in the fall of 2012! I just realized it. It was a fantastic trip. I arrived Thursday night then stayed at a cheap but clean hotel. On Friday morning, I walked all around VanCity. The city is pretty narrow and long. I walked from the one side to the other side a few times. It was rainy but beautiful. The leaves were changing colors. I was there with CISV for Train the Trainers Training (TTT). I met up with the group on Friday evening. It was really nice to see some old friends from CISV and make some new friends who I have thankfully been able to see again over the past few years. Several of the people there are now in charge of large parts of CISV International. We finished the training with a grand night of karaoke. The trip was filled with ups and downs even though I was only there for 6 days. Overall it was fantastic. I’d love to go back again!

Here are some of the pictures I took: Flickr Link

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What a beautiful city!

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