Silhouette of person pointing a flashlight up into a purple-tone night sky

The Art & Science of Searching for Meaning

DAVID BOHM ON SCIENCE, SPIRITUALITY, AND CULTURE Late in his career, acclaimed physicist David Bohm (1917–1992), was a scholar in residence at the Fetzer Institute. A student of Robert Oppenheimer and a colleague of Albert Einstein, Bohm proposed that all parts of the universe are fundamentally interconnected, forming what he called “an unbroken flowing whole.” […]

Earbud next to a drawing of a group of little heart shapes

Feel the Beat: Music, Emotion & the Rhythm of the Heart

A cardiologist, a medical historian, and a musicologist analyzed several of Beethoven’s compositions for clues of a heart condition some have speculated he had … The rhythms of certain parts of renowned works, researchers say, may in fact reflect the irregular rhythms of Beethoven’s own heart caused by cardiac arrhythmia. [S]ays lead author Zachary D. Goldberger […]

Image grid with night to day spectrum

Moments in Time: How A picture can change the way we look at time

A photograph is a physical representation of a specific moment in time. Day to Night is a photography technique developed by Stephen Wilkes that involves integrating multiple moments into a single photograph. Going right to left, left to right, or sometimes bottom to top, his images show the passing of time from day to night. […]

Animation of a molecular structure

It’s a Small World: Visualizing How Biologists See the Molecular Universe

I think biologists feel [a] sense of awe when they think about things that are happening at the molecular scale. There’s this whole universe in here, this tiny universe, that we’re just beginning to understand … I imagine biologists walking around with these movies in their heads … Creating an animation is basically trying to […]

Chalkboard style sign reading subject to technical issues

It’s Not a Flaw, It’s a Feature: Why we shouldn’t be biased about cognitive biases

Sometimes the human brain can seem really stupid. Even with all our impressive mental powers, we still have trouble accurately interpreting everything from our own perceptions to social interactions to statistical probabilities. It’s like each of us is wearing an invisible pair of eyeglasses that manipulate what we think we see by filtering out, highlighting, […]

Three examples of multistable perceptions

Look at It This Way: How our brains influence how we see the world

Whether it’s physical objects or a mental ideas, we know that there’s always more than one way to see things. Yet the brain’s job is to make sense of everything, so we often aren’t conscious of just how ambiguous the world really is. To the extent that mental conception emerges from physical perception, what and […]

Pencil and pieces of eraser

To Err is Human: Science & the Art of Finding Our Mistakes

Everybody makes mistakes. Even scientists. It’s part of being human. That’s actually why science is so invaluable — it’s a collaborative practice that requires us to continually test, share, and reevaluate the evidence upon which we’ve based our interpretations of reality. The problem researchers have uncovered is simple: the computer programs designed to sift through […]

Screenshot from language and cognition video

The Power of Words: An overview of theories of language and cognition

If you’ve ever learned another language, then you know that some words don’t translate exactly. For example, there’s a language in New Guinea that only has two words for color — mola, meaning “bright,” and milli, meaning “dark.” Now compare that to English. We have lots of words for color … But does the fact […]

Outline of human head with tree branch pattern inside

Found In Translation: How our understanding of language transcends languages

From the representation of individual words as concepts to collective words as sentences, there are patterns in the ways we understand language that transcend the organization of individual languages. One of the new insights emerging about human brain function … is that individual concepts have identifiable neural signatures … [and] that there is a high […]

A Sentence as a Story: Patterns and scales of language

Every sentence is a story. That is, the organizing principles of a sentence are very similar to those of a story. Although it isn’t clear which came first, the shared abstract structures of grammar and narrative suggest an underlying pattern that informs the organization of language (and perhaps cognition as well) at multiple scales. The […]

Dark figure pointing finger at reader

You’re the Enemy: How resisters play a supporting role in populist movements

When “We the People” becomes “You the Enemy” In his article about “how to let a populist beat you, again and again,” Andrés Miguel Rondón describes “four easy steps” to productively (and unproductively) working against a Trump-style populist movement. For many, however, those steps will seem very counterintuitive. Why is that? At least part of […]

Angel figurine partially in shadows

A psychological problem of the highest moral significance…

Bringing the shadow to consciousness is a psychological problem of the highest moral significance. It demands that the individual hold himself accountable not only for what happens to him, but also for what he projects. . . Without the conscious inclusion of the shadow in daily life there cannot be a positive relationship to other […]

Silhoutte of person waving US flag

US and Our Shadow

These are dark times. Do you know where your shadow is? With Groundhog’s Day approaching and the current state of the world, I’ve been thinking a lot about Carl Jung’s description of the shadow and the ways we project our own unconscious tendencies onto others. This video describes how the shadow, when “ignored or misunderstood,” […]

In Your Mind’s Eye: Looking at the perception and conception of body metaphors

When two people are seeing eye to eye, they’re usually not literally standing face to face and staring at each other. However, new research suggests that hearing the previous sentence would probably activate an area of your brain responsible for the visual perception of body parts. Almost as if you were actually looking at two […]

Mental Fingerprints: The brain as a form of ID

The structural connections in your brain are unique to you, say scientists, who have developed a way to “fingerprint” the human brain … “This confirms something that we’ve always assumed in neuroscience—that connectivity patterns in your brain are unique to you … This means that many of your life experiences are somehow reflected in the […]

I see what you mean: Perceiving and conceiving with the mind’s eye

[T]hinking…is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear. Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas. — Rudolf Steiner REFERENCE Goethean Science | Rudolf Steiner Although it is the brain rather than the sensory organs that perceives colors and sounds, it is […]

Reimagining the Mind: An emergent systems perspective of cognition

Just as matter emerges from different scales of physical interactions, what if mind emerges from different scales of cognitive interactions? What if our ability to perceive the physical world, make associations based on our perceptions, and conceptualize those associations as symbols represent emergent levels of cognition? How can this perspective of cognitive emergence help us […]

Finding the Third Way: A Creative Approach to Revolutionary Thinking

When trying to come up with creative strategies for approaching everyday problems, we sometimes confuse an emergent “third way” with a linear “middle way.” Unlike more linear approaches, an emergent systems perspective isn’t just about compromises or common ground. It is also about synergies and the bigger picture. To be emergent, a third way approach […]

Three ballerinas in group pose

Feeling Our Bodies: Physical, emotional, and social awareness

There’s one thing always connecting us to our physical environment, our emotional experience, and our social relationships: our bodies. But what does this mean? How does the body simultaneously inform our physical, emotional, and social awareness? The research paper entitled “The specificity of the link between alexithymia, interoception, and imitation” offers a few insights into […]

Body-Mind Alignment: Yoga and the cultivation of voice

We’ve all heard about the mind-body connection. But what about body-mind alignment? In this interview, yoga and voice instructor Jurian Hughes describes yoga as the practice of unifying or aligning our feelings, thoughts, words, and actions. This alignment is essential to what she calls our authentic voice, or the “full, deep expression of ourselves.” Her […]

Empathy in Action: Why listening speaks louder than words

The interesting thing today is that in so many ways we’re more connected than we’ve ever been, but the thing that is missing from that equation is empathy… It’s being connected, but it isn’t connecting. — Benjamin Mathes REFERENCE Who We Are: The Urban Confessional Story (video) | Urban Confessional Urban Confessional is an organization […]

Earthrise

Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside, is available – once the sheer isolation of the Earth becomes plain – a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose. — Sir Fred Hoyle REFERENCE Gaither’s Dictionary of Scientific Quotations | Carl C. Gaither • Alma E. Cavazos-Gaither I […]

Turbulent Times: The adolescence of teenagers, technology & the human tribe

REVKIN: In The Descent of Man, in 1871, Darwin wrote a passage about how we were fundamentally tribal, but that the more that humans were interrelating with each other … the more our sense of tribe would expand. Then he said, only an artificial barrier stands before we will become essentially one tribe, not just […]

Transformational Change and Revolutionary Love

TIPPETT: You’ve said … an animating question for you is “How does transformational change happen…?” ALEXANDER: I think very often people are waiting for the next great leader to emerge, not recognizing that that’s actually not how the history unfolded … Throughout history you see that when ordinary people begin to believe that their own […]

Puzzles, numbers, and the abstract functions of physical forms

We could say that cognitive development in any domain (movement, language, mathematics, etc.) is a process of literally and figuratively putting the pieces together. Different domains may involve different pieces, but perhaps the underlying patterns are really the same. Especially in the area of mathematics, should it be surprising that some of those pieces would […]

It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it: Behavior and design as communication

[O]ne cannot not behave. Now, if it is accepted that all behavior in an interactional situation has message value, i.e., is communication, it follows that … one cannot not communicate. Activity or inactivity, words or silence all have message value: they influence others and these others, in turn, cannot not respond to these communications and […]

Searching for meaning

I felt like I was digging up ancient treasure. Word archaeology. I began to see an analogy between words and computer icons. The way you can click on something and it opens up a whole world you couldn’t have imagined before you clicked. — Susan Carpenter Sims REFERENCE Found in Translation | On Being

The art of music

A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. — Leopold Stokowski REFERENCE Addressing an audience at Carnegie Hall, as quoted in The New York Times (11 May 1967) | Wikiquote Music is the color of sound. — Unknown Melissa McCracken thought everyone associated colors with music the same way she […]

Do sensory metaphors give language emotional flavor?

Metaphorical sentences may spark increased brain activity in emotion-related regions because they allude to physical experiences … Human language frequently uses physical sensations or objects to refer to abstract domains such as time, understanding, or emotion … “You begin to realize when you look at metaphors how common they are in helping us understand abstract […]

A science of character: Defining, discovering, and developing our individual strengths

What does it mean to be a good person? Whether we understand it in terms of character or morality or virtue, this is a question about how we should address the various life challenges we face as social beings. Those challenges involve situating our personal wants and needs in relationship to the wants and needs […]

Thinking about emotion

What is cognition? What is emotion? How are they related? And why do we have so much trouble defining words which we, collectively as human beings and the creators of language, made up in the first place? The relationship between cognition and emotion has fascinated important thinkers within the Western intellectual tradition. Historically, emotion and […]

Theories, maps & territories: Navigating the worlds of science

To say something is a map is not to say it’s a hunch,” said Dr. Godfrey-Smith, a professor at the City University of New York and the University of Sydney. “It’s an attempt to represent some territory.” A theory, likewise, represents a territory of science. Instead of rivers, hills, and towns, the pieces of the […]

Body as Soul

Body and soul are not two different things, but only two different ways of perceiving the same thing. Similarly, physics and psychology are only different attempts to link our experiences together by way of systematic thought. — Albert Einstein REFERENCE Albert Einstein, The Human Side: New Glimpses From His Archives (1979) | Helen Dukas • […]

The art of perception: Seeing a poor neighborhood as a work of art

Amid Cairo’s brick buildings and heaping piles of trash is a sprawling work of art, which, at first, looks messy and incoherent. But when you stand on the nearby hillside and read the spray-painted Arabic “calligraffiti,” as its creator Tunisian-French artist eL Seed calls it, the message reads loud and clear: “If one wants to […]

Imagining the mind

Images and words used to describe the mind are also indicative of how we conceptualize the mind, its functions and purpose, and our relationship to it. They embody the connotative meanings we find in the world, rather than denotative meanings we find in a dictionary. Each visual and verbal representation offers a unique perspective of […]

The truth about reality and why we don’t see things the way they really are

| Reality, perception, and what gets lost in translation | Logic, reasoning, and scientific advancements have helped us determine that the earth is neither flat nor is it the center of the universe. Although we’d probably never know just by looking. As far as our sensory perceptions tell us, the earth is indeed a flat […]

Types of empathy: Feeling versus thinking about others’ emotions

What is the difference between affective and cognitive empathy? Of all the tools in the emotional intelligence toolbox, empathy is especially valuable in today’s world. As we continue to learn more about how much human decision-making and behavior is informed — if not driven — by emotion, being able to understand how someone else feels […]

Counterpoint and the hidden structure of choreographic knowledge

In her TEDxColumbus talk from 2009, Norah Zuniga Shaw tells the story behind Synchronous Objects, an interdisciplinary, collaborative project which involved translating choreographic elements from a dance into data that were then used to create a series of data visualizations. During the project, collaborators started using the concept of counterpoint to explore the deep layers […]

Systems perspectives as different ways of seeing, organizing, and understanding the world

| It’s not what you see. It’s how you see it. | What we see as a system, and how we understand the interactions of its parts in relationship to the whole, is a function of our own perspective. By changing our perspective, we can conceptually reorganize the same phenomenon as different types of systems […]

Connecting the dots: The organization of interaction in centralized, decentralized, and distributed networks

| Comparing types of network design | In the early 1960s, as an introduction to a series of memoranda entitled “On Distributed Communications,” Baran made the case for shifting existing communication systems from analog-based, hierarchically organized networks to an innovative, digital, distributed type of network. He maintained that the greater connectivity and localized control of […]

Systems of organization: Ladders, webs, and fractals as organizing structures

If we look carefully, we can see systems literally everywhere. But what exactly are we looking for? Why does our perspective matter? And how do different perspectives affect how we think about the world? There are all kinds of systems: physical (mechanical, infrastructure, environmental, physiological), social (political, economical, legal, health care), informational (ideological, mathematical, linguistic). […]