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Understanding Nature

Victor Peñaranda – The Philippines

Act of Naming

 

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The melodious singing of a bird woke me up one morning. I quickly got up to survey the garden hoping to spot the singer. It was a Pied Fantail (Maria Kapra) perched on top of the tall trunk of a dying Ilang-ilang tree that was hit by lightning several months ago.

I proceeded to take a morning walk around the neighborhood and noticed that the Bee-eaters have returned. A small flock of Chestnut Munia (Mayang Pula) was feeding on grass seeds. Egrets and Terns were probing the freshly-plowed fields. Two farmers were reinforcing with mud the elevated pathways in between paddies. With rain showers pouring almost regularly in the afternoon, the farmers might start planting the rice seedlings in a week or so.

 I grew up in places where I learned to name birds, trees, rivers and streams. It was an unspoken tradition among the farming and fishing families to name the life forms in their natural environment. I lived near the neighborhood of these families in my childhood. During one dry season, my childhood friends and I strolled along the banks of a stream near our home. We went exploring and, like most children, searching for the unexpected. Someone in the group said that the stream had no name. Another companion remarked, “It’s but right that we give it a name.” We finally agreed to call it “Sapang Bayawak” since it was here we once saw a large monitor lizard sunning on a boulder near the waters.  

Naming is an act of recognition.  I consider it important and respectful to know the names of particular trees, flowers, birds, mountains or streams, especially when you live among them. Knowing their names establishes their identity. It means taking time to learn more about the surrounding natural environment. I would search from google or pore over reference books. In the process, a closer relationship emerges between me and the source of interest. When I address a Champaca flower, fragrance accompanies its name. A sense of familiarity is kindled as I quietly approach Mount Malindang. It looms like legend to my eyes while crossing Panguil Bay in a ferry.

Once the relationship is established -- my attention awakens. I become aware of it. And with frequent encounters with the subject of attention, awareness grows. You don’t only see white Jasmine blooming, you can easily tell its distinct scent. You know the presence of the bright-yellow Oriole simply by hearing its distinctive call at particular times of the day; the Banaba tree with its bright, purple flowers in the heat of dry season. With each living encounter with nature, my affinity with it is like friendship made memorable.

Read more: Understanding Nature

UN pressure grows on Myanmar human rights conditions

Rene Wadlow – USA

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Mae La camp for Burmese refugees, Tak, Thailand. (Photo by Mikhail Esteves)

On Friday 24 March 2017, the 47-member UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution without a vote (a consensus-type procedure) to create an international independent commission to study the human rights situation in Myanmar (Burma). The representatives of the Russian Federation and China, who do not like independent investigations anywhere, indicated that had there been a vote they would have voted against but that they would not block a consensus motion. The Ambassador of Myanmar, Hlin Lynn, indicated before the adoption that such a commission was not necessary and that his government would not cooperate. The resolution had been proposed by the members of the Council from the European Union who often have difficulty in reaching agreement among themselves. The fact of their joint action indicates that awareness of the dangerous situation in Myanmar has been growing in the past months.

The creation of an independent commission is the strongest form of pressure that the Human Rights Council has and is rarely used. The most noteworthy commission created concerned the armed conflict and resulting human rights violations in Darfur, Sudan. The government of Sudan did not let the members of the commission into Sudan, but interviews with refugees in Ethiopia and Geneva confirmed the information which representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had been providing the Commission on Human Rights, the ancestor of the Human Rights Council. As I had been the first NGO representative to raise the Darfur situation in 2004 in the Commission on the basis of information from sources that I trusted but without myself having been on the ground, it was a satisfaction to have the Darfur Commission confirm what I had been saying.

Read more: UN pressure grows on Myanmar human rights conditions

The human sense of smell: It's stronger than we think

Researcher debunks 19th century myth that animals are better at sniffing out scents

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When it comes to our sense of smell, we have been led to believe that animals win out over humans: No way can we compete with dogs and rodents, some of the best sniffers in the animal kingdom.

But guess what? It’s a big myth. One that has survived for the last 150 years with no scientific proof, according to Rutgers University-New Brunswick neuroscientist John McGann, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, School of Arts and Sciences, in a paper published on May 12 in Science.

Read more: The human sense of smell: It's stronger than we think

Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 19

Leo Babauta – USA

A simple system for getting amazing things done

Medley Focus 2 robert-henri

“Do whatever you do intensely.”

Robert Henri

If all of the chapters and tips in this book overwhelm you, don’t worry. You can read this chapter alone and it’ll be sufficient. This chapter outlines my current way of working, and it’s a simple system for Getting Amazing Things Done. In fact, it’s three simple steps. It can’t get any easier.

Read more: Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 19

Answers to how our brains make meaning, with the help of a little LSD

 

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We all have particular experiences or particular things – a favorite song, for example – that mean much more to us than others. Now, researchers who've studied how perceptions of meaning change when people take the psychedelic drug known as LSD have traced that sense of meaningfulness to particular neurochemicals and receptors in the brain. The findings are reported in Current Biology on January 26.

The findings add to our fundamental understanding of the human experience. They also point to potentially new targets for drugs to treat psychiatric illnesses or phobias, which come with abnormalities in the attribution of personal relevance to particular sensory experiences or cues, the researchers say.

Read more: Answers to how our brains make meaning, with the help of a little LSD

Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 18

Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 18

Leo Babauta -USA

Finding simplicity

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing

more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Medley Focus 2 Antoine etc

 Antoine de Saint-Exupe

For years now I have been working on living a simpler life — in my personal, family and work life. It’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done, in many ways:

  • A simple life is less stressful, more sane, happier.
  • Simpler living is less expensive, which helped me to get out of debt.
  • I’m able to focus better when I work, leading to a more successful career than ever (by far).
  • I free up time for my family, and for the things I love most.
  • I’ve rid my life of things I didn’t like doing.
  • I have fewer possessions, leading to a less cluttered home and workspace, which I love.

And those are just a few of the benefits. When it comes to finding focus, simplifying is a great place to start. When you simplify, you remove the extraneous and allow yourself to focus. You might say that simplifying is a necessary part of finding focus.

This is a short guide to finding simplicity.

Read more: Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 18

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