Align Center is back after a little holiday break kayak camping on the west coast. In this issue we talk organizations combating illegal fishing, the plastic straw debate, a dying language in Peru, and a love letter to Mexico from a late, great personality. Listen in to a new investigative podcast on a new age spiritual leader, and read what a media professor learned after giving a speech to the influential and super-wealthy. Then we have a new kind of oats, five things I’m digging this week, and thoughts on comparisons.
◦ selected words
In the vast waters outside national jurisdictions, a “dark fleet” of vessels switch off their tracking systems to avoid detection to fish illegally — 500 such vessels from Japan alone. In partnership with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the non-profit Global Fishing Watch has collected low light imaging data to launch a real-time map to stamp out illegal fishing.
The Guardian (3min read)
You are! Just kidding, though you’re not innocent. Though the recent movement is important for awareness, Australian scientists have estimated that all the plastic straws in the ocean account for just .03% of the 8 million metric tons of plastics entering oceans in a year. With all the interest in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, one wouldn’t know that 46% of all the plastics in the patch are from a single product: fishing nets. And this is where change starts — with the you, the consumer.
Bloomberg (3min read)
In the nation’s first World Cup appearance since 1982, Peru went on to win their first match in forty years of the competition. And in all three games, Luis Soto broadcast the play-by-play in his native language, Quechua. An oral tradition written in Spanish transliteration that’s tied to the land, water, flowers and fauna, Quechua words can differ among regions. Soto’s first challenge was finding the term for “soccer ball”, settling on “qara q’ompo”, meaning leather ball. And when the ball is kicked high into the stands, it’s said the ball is in “hanaq pacha”, or a world above. And when the team plays well, Soto conjures images of collective work like putting a roof on a neighbor’s house.
The New York Times (6min read)
We in the West are an increasingly spiritually impoverished society, suffering from isolation and yearning for community. Though conditions have never been better, as is the message in Hans Rosling’s book, Factfulness, we are more anxious, depressed, lonely and addicted than ever. This could be why we are at the cusp of a psychedelic renaissance not seen since the fifties, where social stigmas are changing and scientific research into alternative therapies is intensifying.
Vice.com (8min read)
A man who inspired us, educated so many, and did it all with a flare and honesty rare in celebrity personalities has always fought for the underappreciated working class. This was his love letter to Mexico and an indictment on the American treatment of Mexicans and their culture. From a late, great writer who will be sorely missed.
Anthony Bourdain on Tumblr (5min read)
◦ listen in
Surrounded by mountains in Costa Rica’s Central Valley lies the Philia Center, home of controversial spiritual leader Teal Swan. Her traumatic story starts when she was just five, abused and forced to participate in cult rituals for 13 years. Now Swan runs a thriving business targeting suicidal people through social media, recruiting some into taking and selling a course called the “Certified Practitioner of the Completion Process (CPCP) Training” for $2600US.
The woo gets turned on high when Swan claims she has access to the Akashic Records, meaning she can download all information, events and emotions to have ever happened, past, present or future. Her followers believe in blind faith, while others accuse her of starting a cult and practicing dangerous therapies. Gizmodo’s first investigative podcast, in the same vain as Serial.
Gizmodo’s The Gateway (6 part podcast ~40min each) also on iTunes and Spotify
◦ eat well
I was in Holland last month visiting a good friend, a holistic nutritionist, who’d received a food package from a friend. She quickly whipped up a nourishing bowl of vegan goodies, with the star being this meat-substitute called pulled oats, with a chewy texture reminiscent of soy curls (I’m thinking of you, Portland). Get ready for the oat invasion from the Nordics.
◦ read slow
Media and cultural theorist Douglas Rushkoff coined the terms viral media, digital native and social currency, so he knows a thing or two about technology. A recent paid talk to five hedge fund managers gave him a realization that these super-wealthy men did not think they could affect the future, they were only interested in how they could use technology to make money and escape from the impending doom of “The Event”. A fascinating, well-written read from the current Professor at Queens College in New York.
Douglas Rushkoff of Team Human on Medium (10min read)
◦ current read
There’s something about books with bold flashy lettering and self-help lingo that keeps me far away. But once in a while there is gold in these books, even ones that create their own acronyms. With the original “Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life… (Before 8AM)”, Hal Elrod has distilled the best practices from many self-improvement sources into a daily morning ritual. I was looking for structure and more momentum for my day, and I’ve found it with this easily digestible book.
The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs: Elevate Your SELF to Elevate Your BUSINESS by Hal Elrod (242p book)
◦ dig this
What I’m digging lately:
- Ethnopharmalogic Search for Psychoactive Drugs – Celebrating 50 years of research, Dennis McKenna’s $125 book gathers the most current research on plant medicine.
- A&W Adds Beyond Meat Burger – The first time a major fast-food franchise has picked up this well-reviewed vegan burger that bleeds (beet juice).
- U.K. Bans Gas & Diesel Sales by 2040 – The government’s ambitious climate targets may even require electric chargers in all newly built homes.
- BT Headphones for Movement – I was constantly getting entangled in headphones while stretching and doing chores, plus who wants to keep a phone in their exercise shorts? I picked up these AUKEY’s for $37CAD on Amazon (direct link, no affiliate) and now I’m free to move! And this new gen of Bluetooth devices solves all those prior connection problems.
- Open Your Shoulders in Two Weeks – Acrobatics teacher Elio Blox’s light routine to get that perfect handstand. I’m on Day 3.
◦ humble thought
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” – Anne Lamott (author of Bird by Bird)
I can’t imagine what it’s like to have grown up a digital native, growing up with Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. It’d be overwhelming, even the most self-aware, well-adjusted youth would be challenged to use these technologies intentionally and not fall into the comparison trap, scrolling through your friend’s and acquaintance’s highlight reel.
But it’s not only social media. A motto of the minimalism movement could be “thou shalt not covet”. The consumerist mentality and corporate machine depend on comparing yourself to your neighbor.
I was recently at a party and met a very driven man who went on and on about his business accomplishments (it’s usually a he, and disproportionately from the Northeast or LA). I’ve had several conversations like this, where I’ll ask a simple question.
What’s your end goal with that?
And it’s almost always money.
Then I’ll ask, what are you going to do when you have your million(s)?
And the responses span from the modest want of nicer shoes, to owning a Porsche or Tesla, and spending the rest of his days sipping margaritas on a beach.
Then I ask, “then what?”. And that’s often where the conversation stops.
But if everyone had a Tesla, then there goes the prestige. I’m a huge fan of Elon Musk and he is doing so much to change the world, but he runs public companies and sent a car to space. What purpose does that serve but cross-promotion?
It’s said that comparison is the theft joy. But what’s missing is a discussion of positive comparisons. Maybe it’s been written, I just haven’t Pocketed that article from The Times / Guardian / Atlantic / New Yorker / insert-liberal-media-here yet.
For instance, a friend of mine broke a leg and now his hips and back are failing. He’s feeling very low, seriously questioning whether he can continue his physically intensive job. He’s reached for help but has found an unresponsive environment in his small town. He’s given up on social interactions, and now fills his days with video games and movies. But what’s that going to look like a year from now?
I never did say “it could always be worse”. Being on the other side of that advice can make your problems feels small (even though they likely are, but they are YOUR problems after all). It’s like when you’re in high school and your relationship problems or that fight with your best friend becomes the most life-consuming event of the time.
But his brain is functioning 100% (from what I can tell). There are so many skills you can learn, the trick is motivating yourself, which is hard when it feels like the world has served you a shit sandwich lately. But when depression takes over, the challenges seem unsurmountable
Asking for help isn’t easy when you feel abandoned, when you feel like no one cares (probably most don’t). Everyone else is puttering around the world with their own all-consuming problems. And when’s the last time you wanted to hang out with someone who is constantly negative and doing little to improve their situation? No, people want to surround themselves with inspiring souls who are being, listening, doing.
The best thing you can do to move the bar is comparing who you are today to who you were yesterday.
It’s a simple, positive comparison. This is what makes an exercise routine work. This is how diet changes. This is how you learn a skill or a language. This is how you become a better person. And this momentum is contagious. If you don’t believe me, try it. .
And do this every day. And record your progress. Schedule a weekly, monthly and quarterly check-in. It doesn’t have to take long, just five minutes a week. You’ll have off days for sure, but do your best. But as a whole, you’ll start to build momentum. And day by day, drip by drip, real change begins.