Here’s Jonathan Tepperman in an excerpt from a recent World Affairs podcast:

I don’t think terrorism is an existential threat [to the United States] …because the number of Americans killed every year in terrorist attacks is vanishingly small. More Americans are hit by lightning every year than die in terrorist attacks. More Americans drown in their bathtubs every year than die in terrorist attacks. The number of Americans killed by terrorism since September 11th, 2001 is something like 100 or 150. It’s minuscule. And that’s compared to more than 40,000 Americans who have been killed in handgun incidents. And double or triple that figure who’ve been killed in car accidents. The existential threat, if it’s there, comes in overreacting, in responding the wrong way to terrorism but not in the terrorism itself.

And then there are a lot of scary trends in the world. There are a lot of countries that are behaving in scary manners today. None of these represent existential threats to the United States either. Not China. Not Russia. For the simple reason that The United States is so overwhelmingly preponderant today in terms of wealth, innovation, and in its military power, that none of these countries can offer real competition.

Now climate change. There’s a real existential threat that defines the idea of an existential threat. And political dysfunction. Gridlock. The failure of our legislative branch to legislate. That potentially represents an existential threat because until that is resolved in some fashion none of these other problems can be addressed.

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“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones”

–John Cage

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From Rebecca Solnit in this article:

“Naïve cynics shoot down possibilities, including the possibility of exploring the full complexity of any situation. They take aim at the less cynical, so that cynicism becomes a defensive posture and an avoidance of dissent. They recruit through brutality. If you set purity and perfection as your goals, you have an almost foolproof system according to which everything will necessarily fall short. But expecting perfection is naïve; failing to perceive value by using an impossible standard of measure is even more so. Cynics are often disappointed idealists and upholders of unrealistic standards. They are uncomfortable with victories, because victories are almost always temporary, incomplete, and compromised — but also because the openness of hope is dangerous, and in war, self-defense comes first. Naïve cynicism is absolutist; its practitioners assume that anything you don’t deplore you wholeheartedly endorse. But denouncing anything less than perfection as morally compromising means pursuing aggrandizement of the self, not engagement with a place or system or community, as the highest priority.”

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Hey guys! Remember this!?

This is a map of the migration of modern humans out of Africa, based on mitochondrial DNA. The colors indicate thousands years before now. WOW! Lucky you!

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Here’s joke for you guys:

I followed the breadcrumbs but I never got home
I grew old in an instant now I am all on my own

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Song of the Grass-Roof Hermitage
— By Shitou Xiqian (700-790)

I’ve built a grass hut where there’s nothing of value.
After eating, I relax and enjoy a nap.
When it was completed, fresh weeds appeared.
Now it’s been lived in – covered by weeds.

The person in the hut lives here calmly,
Not stuck to inside, outside, or in between.
Places worldly people live, he doesn’t live.
Realms worldly people love, he doesn’t love.

Though the hut is small, it includes the entire world.
In ten square feet, an old man illumines forms and their nature.
A Great Vehicle bodhisattva trusts without doubt.
The middling or lowly can’t help wondering;
Will this hut perish or not?

Perishable or not, the original master is present,
not dwelling south or north, east or west.
Firmly based on steadiness, it can’t be surpassed.
A shining window below the green pines —
Jade palaces or vermilion towers can’t compare with it.

Just sitting with head covered, all things are at rest.
Thus, this mountain monk doesn’t understand at all.
Living here he no longer works to get free.
Who would proudly arrange seats, trying to entice guests?

Turn around the light to shine within, then just return.
The vast inconceivable source can’t be faced or turned away from.
Meet the ancestral teachers, be familiar with their instruction,
Bind grasses to build a hut, and don’t give up.

Let go of hundreds of years and relax completely.
Open your hands and walk, innocent.
Thousands of words, myriad interpretations,
Are only to free you from obstructions.
If you want to know the undying person in the hut,
Don’t separate from this skin bag here and now.

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