Every two weeks, Align Center presents a curated collection of interesting links touching on the art of living, our relationship with nature, learning, design and sustainable entrepreneurship.
In this edition we have a heartfelt love letter, a look at what makes our species unique, some politics, an interview with my new favorite podcast host and author, a veggie soup for the winter, a new food find and a glimpse at what’s on my mind of late
◦ selected words
Author Amy Rosenthal walked into the hospital suspecting a “no-biggie” case of appendicitis, but instead was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. During her last days she opens her heart in an essay that serves both as a goodbye and a love letter to her husband of 26 years, someone she describes as “an easy man to fall in love with”. In playful prose, she manages to write both a short memoir and a wish for the future that’s as tragic as it is beautiful. nytimes.com (7min read)
On the eve of International Women’s Day, a bronze sculpture was installed defiantly facing down the Charging (Wall Street) Bull. Its stated intention was to increase gender diversity on company boards. Sure, it’s good advertising authorized by a male CEO of an asset management company with a board comprised of 17% women, but learn about the women behind the girl’s creation and how they assembled an all female team to construct the piece under a tight deadline. adweek.com (10min read + 1m22s video)
Dr. David Abram – an unusual combination of anthropologist, cultural ecologist and philosopher – addresses one of life’s difficult question: What makes us unique? The author of The Spell of the Sensuous – a book I attempt to push to many of my friends with limited success – questions what differentiates us as species, suggesting it’s our ability to be interested in just about anything which makes us exceptional. humansandnature.org (8min read)
Switching gears – I don’t (and won’t) include political articles much, but I had little understanding of the Russian storyline dominating media recently. Behind the headlines and fear is an opportunity to learn what got us here, and to be aware of how important it is to practice listening, compassion and empathy in our polarized state. This starts with understanding (not to be grouped with agreement), which requires a brief dive into history and the role traditional values play in our challenging times. theatlantic.com 10min read)
Desk work by day, then a sweaty vinyasa yoga class at night, cycling through chaturangas and downdogs to fatigue. Sound familiar? For the past 3 months I’ve been working on handstands along with an AcroYoga and yoga practice, but it came to an abrupt halt one morning when I felt a pinching pain in the tip of my dominant shoulder. I’m seeing a physiotherapist now, so let this article serve as a warning that when not done properly (don’t all regular practitioners think we’re doing it well?), this type of prolonged weight-bearing can put too much strain on our shoulders. sequencewiz.com (5min read)
◦ listen in
As polarizing as he can be, Tim Ferriss lands A-list guests and has a trove of great content. He’s softening over the years, looking inwards and having genuinely stimulating conversations such as last month’s talk with Krista Tippett, author and host of the absolutely fantastic public radio show, On Being. Listening to the gentle manner she approaches complex, challenging issues of our time with nuanced language gives an indirect lesson on interviewing and listening at the same time you learn about activism, language and life.
tim.blog (2h02m podcast)
◦ eat well
The perfect savory soup for a cold winter’s day. The flavors are complex, but it only takes 25 minutes to make, so it’s a recipe I go back to often. Tweak with added cumin, a small can of coconut milk instead of the standard, and double garlic (as I do with most recipes!). abc.go.com/shows/the-chew
◦ read slow
You’re thinking, another article about the founder of Patagonia? Yes, but hear me out. Both companies have an authenticity problem – running an environmentally conscious company while selling $500 jackets that few people really need. This piece examines how the two largest outdoor brands are approaching this in very different ways, and digs into their intertwined histories to find out why. How intertwined? One of Patagonia’s first hires and ex-CEO was married to The North Face’s founder, who died in 2015 while kayaking in Chile with life-long friend, Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. And while one is California’s first B-Corp (a private company that must meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance), the other is a public company.
theguardian.com (29min read)
Two Putin articles? What does this have to do with nature and the art of living? I wasn’t born when the first Cold War started, why would I care? Pause. I’m as pissed as you on how the U.S. election could be undoing the progress we’ve made on climate change, as what happens in the United States affects the entire planet. In what could be one of the most important issue of our times, it’s important to understand the history behind the headlines and the consequences these ripples can make.
newyorker.com (66min read)
◦ current read
Stephen Cope, founder of the non-profit Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, describes the process of unlocking the unique possibilities within all of us. The book is rooted in the Bhagavad Gita – the only book Gandhi took with him to prison, and one that Henry David Thoreau took to Walden Pond. I was ready to dismiss it as another “follow your passion” entry on the feel-good shelf, but Cope writes elegantly in a way that is both inspiring and grounded. It’s a worthwhile guide to living a fuller life, no matter your experience, and reading it helped me start this newsletter. The Great Work of Your Life (306p book)
◦ dig this
Bite-sized discoveries from the past two weeks:
- Nutiva Coconut Butter – The Nutiva booth at the Wellness Show gave out samples of popcorn covered in this stuff. They’ve taken sunflower and mint and turned it into movie theater butter. It seems too good to be true, but I was sold.
- Pixar Teaches Storytelling – The studio that won an Oscar this year for the lovable winning short, Piper, teams up with Khan Academy to offer a free series on the art of storytelling. Learn how to create characters and unique worlds that are memorable and tug on our emotions.
- The New Yorker Poetry Bot – 92 days, 92 poems, by Twitter bot. It’s the world we live in.
- Bear App (bye, Evernote!) – Markdown + tags + inline photos in a slick, minimalist package, at 1/4 the price of the bloated and squeeze-you-for-every-dime Evernote. It’s Apple only, but a Web version is in the works.
◦ humble thought
“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot — it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.” – Maya Angelou
Despite being mesmerized by all three seasons of Black Mirror and shocked by the scale of privacy breaches at the centre of the Edward Snowden documentaries CitizenFour and Oliver Stone’s dramatized version, I’d never call myself a paranoid guy. But with smart TV’s the CIA can eavesdrop on, seemingly innocent teddy bears getting hacked and recordings from Amazon’s Echo’s always-on mic handed over in a murder case, I’ve began taking small steps to be more vigilant. I was in the camp of “I won’t think about it as I’ve got nothing to hide”, but now I’ve been using VPN’s on public Wi-Fi and stuck a clear post-it note over my laptop’s camera (it obscures surprisingly well).
Are you doing anything differently to protect your privacy? Or is it all for naught? I’d love to hear where you’re at with this right now.