The healing power of our hands, passing stress to our offspring, and a profile of the influential musician, Sia, are the selected reads for this issue of Align Center. Don’t miss a compelling interview on addiction and our traumatized world leaders with Dr. Gabor Maté, then learn the history of the crop known as “The Mother of All Things” in an illuminating multimedia essay. Finally, find out five things I’m digging of late, followed by a monologue on “real life”, written after two weeks in the tropics.
◦ selected words
Recalling childhood memories with her grandmother cleaning pinto beans and making tortillas out of masa dough, the author’s reflections show how manual labor and the healing power of our hands has the power to act as creative changemakers.
On Being (6min read)
Posting all over social media but not getting the response you’re expecting? Maybe you’re seeing social media success as a side effect of quality, not the cause. It has the ability to amplify, the work needs to be done first to create real value. Practical advice on pursuing your goals and setting priorities, written and illustrated by a former police chief who spent 26-years in law enforcement before retiring early and became a professional artist.
John P. Weiss on Medium (8min illustrated read)
Starting with observational studies that high-stress conditions from wars and crop failures set off negative health changes in future generations, researchers at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego last week presented new evidence from experiments with mice of sperm “learning” prior trauma from their parents. These findings could have a major impact specifically among those working in the military and other high-stress environments.
Scientific American (4min read)
Concept development footwear designer Liz Ciokajlo (what a job title!) received a commission from New York’s Museum of Modern Art to create a new version of the Moon Boot, originally inspired by the Apollo 11 mission in 1972. After researching for biomaterials that can be constructed in space, the prolific artist discovered a versatile organic material perfect for the job: mycelium, the roots of fungus (mushrooms are the flower). Her innovative final design can be manufactured on board a spaceship with just human sweat and fungus. A unique project designed for a post-plastic world.
BBC Future (7min read)
Some will remember her work with downtempo group Zero 7, but Sia didn’t hit the mainstream until “Breathe Me” was featured in the final scene of HBO’s Six Feet Under in 2004. The singer-songwriter preferred to be behind-the-scenes, writing for Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Kylie Minogue, but gained fame with her hits Chandelier and Titanium with David Guetta, which was originally intended for Alicia Keys. A look at the “anti-fame” quirky Australian whose influence on the music industry spans two decades and counting.
NPR (12min read)
◦ listen in
Renowned physician and author Dr. Gabor Maté has worked for twelve years in North America’s most concentrated area of drug use, the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, establishing the continent’s first safe-injection site. His work with addiction and research linking it to childhood trauma is held in high-esteem by academics and social workers, but he’s also expanded beyond the academic bounds by leading transformational ceremonies using ayahuasca, explaining how the set and setting are everything. The Hungarian-born Canadian argues that our damaged society rewards grandiosity, explaining that our dysfunction leaders of state rose to the top because they haven’t addressed their childhood traumas. The week’s best interview by comedian turned spiritual ambassador, Russell Brand.
Russell Brand’s Under the Skin ep. 53 (94min podcast)
◦ eat well
Tea in your smoothie? It sounds like it doesn’t mix, but the gentle flavor of the South-African grown herbal tea with many health benefits and a lack of caffeine makes it an excellent alternative from the usual nut milk and over-sugared juice as a smoothie base. One company, Redespresso, has even found a way to make and market it as an espresso.
8 Rooibos Tea Smoothie recipes on South African Country Life
◦ read slow
Having been bestowed such names as “The Mother of All Things” and the “Wife of the Sun”, maize was once revered as the giver of life for ancient peoples. It remains a keystone of sustenance, existing in 70% of all processed food. However, over the course of 9000 years through modern industrial agriculture we’ve domesticated the crop and changed our relationship with it, having forgotten the meaning of the seed that was once meant only to feed us. A multimedia history of the sentience and wisdom of a crop so intertwined with peoples of the Americas that it’s left a signature in human tissue so strong that it’s easily deciphered between cultures with less corn-dominated agriculture.
Emergence Magazine (31min read or 54min narration)
◦ current read
San-Francisco native and Guggenheim Fellow Anne Lamott’s latest book will have you simultaneously laughing at the absurdity and chaos of life, while appreciating the beauty and magnificence of living in our emotional world. Lamott’s quirky yet profound observances on the everyday are delivered in her characteristic open and self-deprecating way. Reflecting a history of addiction, bulimia, alcoholism and family disfunction, many of her thoughts are also influenced by the troubled state of the country. “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you” was one of twelve truths Lamott shared that would eventually become a TED Talk (because, what doesn’t eventually?).
Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott (208p book)
◦ dig this
What I’m digging lately:
- California: A History Told in Photos – The first publication from Paste Tense, an archival storytelling project from the Times exploring history through the lens as they digitize six million photos over 100 years.
- Repair Cafe – Find a repair café, or learn how to start your own.
- Help Name General Motors’ E-Bikes – Name GM’s upcoming line of electric bicycles. Cash prizes for the top ten entries.
- The Good Place – Seeking something lighter after season two of the superb Handmaid’s Tale, I was recommended this hilarious Netflix comedy. It’s premise on the afterlife and being a better person is delivered with a dose of philosophy and ample laughs.
- First Aid Kit’s new EP – The consistently stellar Swedish folk Americana duo followed up their 2018 release Ruins with an EP, Tender Offerings. They are old souls and one of my favorite bands. (Spotify / Apple / YouTube)
◦ humble thought
“Luck is something that happens when you show up over and over and over again.”
– Barry Blitt, Illustrator for The New Yorker on the Design Matters podcast
It’s been sixteen days in Mexico and I’ve been living day by day, on an intended mini-vacation. Down here you can try to do it another way, but like water droplets drawn to stream, you’ll end up at the same speed. I’ve been focusing on self-care, recuperating a nagging shoulder injury, and finding a new equilibrium after a summer heavy in AcroYoga and work projects. A typical day starts with meeting friends for a morning surf, writing, reading, a brief email check (freelancing never stops), a yoga class, Spanish lessons, tacos and $1 fresh fruit popsicles at Wakika. This isn’t real life. At least that’s what people tell me.
In a seaside town where every other person is a yoga teacher, blessed with clear bathtub-warm waters (no Sayulita sewage stink so far), no rain, the tastiest tropical fruit and friendly locals and tourists, it is a paradise. However, the constant hum of construction and seemingly no end to the rise of rents is a reminder that this, like our society as a whole, is not sustainable.
But if this isn’t reality, what is? Hordes of people rushing to jobs manipulating finances without creating any value, posting on social media to get more likes, and working for companies selling things people don’t want but convincing them they need the newest, shiniest version of it? And then, exhausted in traffic after a hard day’s work with unpaid overtime, when all you want to do with the remainder of your day is order takeout and watch Netflix, only to do it again tomorrow. Is this why we went to school? Is this what we want to spend the best years of our life working towards, all with that fading glimmer of hope that one day you can afford that second floor box condo facing an alley?
Of course not everyone lives or thinks this way, some of these jobs are stepping stones to something greater and many are molded this way by our broken education system. But for five years in the corporate world, this is how I lived (though instead of Netflix, there was sports and video games) and these were the social circles I knew. There are many people doing great things everyday helping others, reducing suffering, adding to our global knowledge and creating products that better our lives while not harming the planet. I believe that you make your own reality, and quantum experiments back that up. But tell that to the large segment of society who have been led to careers designed to keep the machine moving, or worse, born into dire circumstances that leave them with no alternatives but to fight daily for survival.
And now I’ve spent twenty minutes trying to wrap up this long-winded rant nicely with a clever inspirational ending or quote for some wise dead person, but can’t. It’s time to get back this version of reality.