Kenyan Quakers, Frogginess, Svetlana Alexievich, Funerals, Bad Biology

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The Future Of Quakerism Is Kenyan

Nathan Siegel | Roads And Kingdoms | 11th May 2016

Kenyan Quakers are “just getting started”. Already they account for one-third of the world’s 300,000 Quakers — and their numbers are increasing, while congregations elsewhere are shrinking. Kenyan Quakerism goes back more than a century, but in recent years it has been diverging rapidly from the Western tradition and converging with the style of other Christian denominations in Africa. Churches have bands, worship and vestments. Silence is out. “We’re noisy Quakers”

Pip, Continued

Chris Arnade | Last Word On Nothing | 13th May 2016

Lessons learned from keeping a frog as a pet — which began as “a silly hobby to pass the time and to bond with my kids”. But life calls out to life. “It was absurd, but I started worrying about Pip”. What are one’s duties to a frog? Can one make a frog happy? “I decided that the answer to one of those questions, Pip’s happiness, was to try and make his life as Froggy as possible — without the predators and the periodic starvation, the things that kill frogs. Maximize his frog existence” (1,290 words)

Second-Hand Time

Svetlana Alexievich | Times Literary Supplement | 11th May 2016

Selections from the concluding volume of Alexievich’s epic survey of the human condition in the former Soviet Union, based on 20 years of interviews. “Today, people just want to live their lives, they don’t need some great idea. This is entirely new for Russia. At heart, we’re built for war. We were always either fighting or preparing to fight. The drums were beating, the banners flying, our hearts leaping out of our chests. People didn’t recognize their own slavery – they even liked being slaves” (7,600 words)

Ashes For Ashes

Kim Willcocks | The Anthill | 13th May 2016

Notes from a Chinese funeral. “The family gathered at the death bed at five in the morning to perform a ceremony that involved breaking a pot to release Lao Lao’s soul from the room.” Even at 6.15am the crematorium is crowded. “Funeral keening is visceral and high-volume and it gets to you, even if you’re not grieving very much. When it started up my first thought was that something had gone dreadfully wrong or a fight had broken out”. The crematorium band plays Auld Lang Syne (1,170 words)

Bad Biology And Economics

Frans De Waal | Evonomics | 13th May 2016

Memes and metaphors are ripped from biology to be misused ignorantly or deliberately in other fields, especially economics. Genes are not “selfish” any more than a stormy sea is “angry”. We can see Nature as “cruel” but we can also see Nature as “kind”; it happens to be the cruelty which is more eventful and which catches our eye. If natural selection means a war of all against all, why has it endowed us with brains that share the distresses and the pleasures of our fellow human beings? (3,080 words)

Video of the day: How Far Can We Go?

What to expect:

What are the physical constraints on human exploration of the observable universe? Kurzgesagt explains (7’44”)

Thought for the day

The neurotic has problems, the psychotic has solutions
Thomas Szasz

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