Monthly Archives: August 2015

A Note On Timelines and Measures

Different cultures have different ways of expressing common concepts. One of the most interesting aspects of this cultural relativism arises when it comes to notions of number, small sets, plurals, and so on.

Prague Astronomical Clock

Prague Astronomical Clock

For example, in English, we have the concepts of singular and plural. If there is one of something, it is singular; any more, and it is plural.

One stone; two stones.

Russian, on the other hand, includes a concept of “twoness” before moving on to the more generic plural. It is as if we had a construct like…

One stone; two stonae; three stones.

One finds other differences, especially when cultures are viewed historically: how the concept of number and measure has changed over time. As is well known, it took a long while for the concepts of zero and infinity to be invented.; Roman numerals are particularly difficult to use to do math; the mathematical community needed many years to come to grips with the notion that the square root of a negative number could in fact be a pretty useful concept (if you didn’t let its inherent weirdness bother you too much).

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Mindfulness Meditation and Detachment I

Mindfulness Meditation and Detachment I

I wonder if there isn’t a certain danger of arriving at a position of emotional and intellectual detachment if one follows the precepts of Mindfulness Meditation as outlined by its founder and chief spokesperson, Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Before saying even a single word more, I’d like to list my qualifications for making such an accusation:

I have none whatsoever.

I have never done a formal Mindfulness programme, have only read one of Kabat-Zinn’s books (the unfortunately-titled Full Catastrophe Living), and of the secondary descriptions and articles I have read – many in scientific journals — pretty much all of them have been very, sometimes wildly, favourable.

Here’s a fact about Mindfulness: It works.

Moreover, if I do have any kind of valid criticism, I am not all that sure I am justified in laying it at the feet of Kabat-Zinn himself, nor his many followers and practitioners. Quite the opposite: I am pretty sure he is not preaching detachment, or at least wouldn’t want to. But as I said in the opening paragraph, I fear that through following the programme, there is a danger of arriving at that position.

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Mindfulness Meditation and Detachment II

In the first part of this essay, I wondered whether the practice of Mindfulness runs the danger of developing into a detached position (a term I shall explain shortly) but then spent the vast majority of the remaining paragraphs describing Mindfulness in very positive terms. I related my own beneficial experience of it. I stated twice: “Mindfulness works.” Finally, I ended with the rhetorical question,

“What’s not to like?”

It is time to answer that question now.

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