The Moldy Fridge of Shame

The Moldy Fridge of Shame

The Moldy Fridge of Shame


Dr. Susan Pollak | 10 Percent Happier

What can you do if you get walloped by an attack of shame? Seized by the talons of a poisonous inner critic? When you’ve had a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” as the classic children’s book puts it? There are a few of Dr. Susan Pollak’s favorite ‘tweaks’…

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Generosity, Cynicism, and the Future of Doing Good

Generosity, Cynicism, and the Future of Doing Good

Generosity, Cynicism, and the Future of Doing Good (Episode 349)

A Conversation with Chris Anderson

Sam Harris speaks with Chris Anderson about generosity in the age of the Internet. They talk about the new spirit of cynicism in tech and finance, the problems with DEI, the Coleman Hughes controversy at TED, the norm of color blindness, the science of generosity, the leverage of the Internet, the false opposition between selfishness and selflessness, mixed motives in giving, results vs reward, the importance of intentions, looking for the good in people, digital business models, the economics of TED, TEDx, wealth inequality, the ethics of billionaires, philanthropy at scale, the power of pledges, the arguments of Peter Singer, the Sam Bankman-Fried scandal, problems with Effective Altruism, how to improve our digital lives, and other topics.

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Generosity, Cynicism, and the Future of Doing Good

Finding Sanity 2024

Finding Sanity in 2024

Making Sense Podcast with Sam Harris

Powerful words of inspiration and meditative tools to help navigate towards the experience of love, compassion and gratitude as we embark on a new journey around the sun.



How to Reframe Your “Problems” as “Puzzles”

How to Reframe Your “Problems” as “Puzzles”

How to Reframe Your “Problems” as “Puzzles” | A.J. Jacobs

On this show, Dan talks with eminent meditation teachers, top scientists, and even the odd celebrity. Guests include everyone from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Brené Brown to Karamo from Queer Eye. On some episodes, Dan ventures into the deep end of the pool, covering subjects such as enlightenment and psychedelics. On other episodes, it’s science-based techniques for issues such as anxiety, productivity, and relationships. Dan’s approach is seemingly modest, but secretly radical: happiness is a skill you can train, just like working your bicep in the gym. Your progress may be incremental at first, but like any good investment, it compounds over time.

Human Senses Versus Technology

Human Senses Versus Technology

Human Senses Verses Technology |By John Bickart, Ph.D. | Science Education and Spiritual Transformation

A while ago – nearly half a millennium ago, around the 1500s – people often spoke of qualities like color, smell, sound, taste, and feel. These qualities were given a place of high importance. Back then, scientific experimentation was largely concerned with observations of the world using the senses. Scientists (called philosophers at that time) watched nature’s wildlife, plants, and physical phenomena in their native environment more than interrogating nature with specific questions in mind. But since the influence of philosopher/scientists like Descartes, Galileo, and Bacon, human senses have become secondary in importance to qualities that can be measured. Now we often talk about measurable quantities.

Then, the role of experimentation after the 1500s started to change. We started to become a little less like friends with nature and a little more like owners. Some experiments began to ask nature to perform under circumstances that were designed by the interrogator to find out specific concepts. Increasingly, the experimenter was asking a pointed question and nature was limited to the answer to that question. In some ways, nature was treated a little like a pet that is made to sit and beg and do tricks on command. Experimentation became more head based and left brain oriented, rather than the ancient, heart based, right brain orientation. In other words, scientists looked more in a mechanical, analytical way, taking things apart and assuming that nature is made of machines. Of principal importance in this type of interrogation are measurable quantities that are usually assigned a number. Therefore, while the human sense qualities became secondary, qualities like magnitude or size became primary.

Integration is the Key

 We are now integrating the ancient abilities to observe in balance with parts analysis. In other words, we are combining heart and head. What is an example of an interrogation that is pointed, analytical, and mechanical? Consider investigating a flower. The analytical scientist from the recent past would remove the flower from its native environment, stop it from growing, cut it apart, then surmise how it operates by examining the parts. This aggressive form of interrogation reduces the flower to an object. Objectifying animals, plants, and people in this period from the 1500s until now was quite common. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being asked questions about my parts, only. I am a whole person – more than my parts. So, the science course of today needs to stress to future scientists and science teachers that we are not objects.

During the left brain time, there was a movement toward measurement which, of course favored technology over the human senses. A thermometer measures temperature better than human touch, and a ruler measures length better. So, the role of experimentation became increasingly about numbers and parts, objects and measurements, and technology and machinery. On the one hand, as we shifted toward technology, away from the human senses, many aspects of science improved. But on the other hand, one might ask, “Has anything been lost? Have we thrown out the baby with the bathwater?” This essay seeks to alert us to this shift in the role of experimentation. It recommends that we embrace the incredible new ways to use technology, without throwing away some important benefits to using our human senses.

Re-Integrating Our Senses

 Our senses may not be accurate measurement devices, but they are the keys to personal growth and perhaps our greatest human power.

If you are using your senses to be an observer, you increase your presence. This form of personal growth always ends well. Are there any events in life that are not better if we give them more attention? And what do I mean by our greatest human power? Let me show you with an example. Have you ever been helped by a friend who just listened? They were there for you, wholly attending. Why does that work? Somehow, science will catch up with the mechanisms of this process, but meanwhile, we can recognize the power in such an exchange. Science is at the tip of an iceberg in finding that observation helps more than people. It helps flowers, animals, and even perhaps, according to quantum effects, all matter itself. We are just beginning to scientifically measure the effect we have on the world when we observe it – and this is a power.

A good science course, especially for future teachers, may want to note this historical shift toward technology – away from the human senses. Then, a good course would ask some questions such as the following.

  • Why did this shift take place?
  • What has become better since the shift?
  • What may have been lessened since the shift?



Thinking Too Much versus the Right Amount

 “The simple reason why the majority of scientists are not creative is not because they don’t know how to think;

but because they don’t know how to stop thinking.”
– Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now (2011)

How does one not think? Try this experiment right now. Pay attention to one of your senses – look, listen, smell, taste, or feel something. Do it for about half a minute. Did you notice that you suspended analytical thought as you observed what your senses reported? Did you think of tomorrow or yesterday – of somewhere other than here? If you did, that was not part of your sensing. Observing/sensing and thinking/analyzing are separate activities. They occur very closely in time, much like FMRI research has shown about electrical and visceral activity across the two lobes of the brain. The interplay is vitally important. But the act of purely observing preempts and precedes the act of thinking about what has been observed. And it happily blocks out the preoccupation with worries or anticipations about tomorrow and the laments or sentimentality about yesterday. That is why some people meditate.

Observation is the key to not thinking. And the human senses are the gateway to observation.

So, what have we learned so far? There are two things a student of science should do to move the Role of Experimentation forward while still moving our Friendship with Nature forward. One is to keep a balance between human senses and technology. A second is to use those human senses as a gateway to observation. Let’s look now at a third way – language – to establish a balance between head and heart.




Awakened Language


The role of language is a two-edged sword. If kept in balance, it is a powerful tool for society, but the two edges of this sword could end in a duality that takes us apart. We can use words to enlighten ourselves and become friends with nature, or we can get lost in a description as a representation of the genuine, then substitute that description for relationship.


The dawning of language was different from everyday use of language. At first, we were in relationship with the world. Words gave us a way to name that with which we had come to know – our new ‘friends’. But soon after that, we used words as representations of actual phenomena. We moved a primary relationship to a secondary one. The word took the place of the thing itself. Whereas the word “mother” was an all-encompassing experience of joy, it could be reduced to a cry when we get hurt or hungry.


This is very like the movement of the role of experimentation. We move from a primary relationship with nature through our human senses to a removed, representational language of names and numbers from our measurements. It is like the difference between being live and in person on a date versus having a correspondence through technology.


The trick is to continue measuring and speaking in our language, without losing actual contact – actual relationship – with the world around us.


Do you remember when you first learned language? Almost no one can. How about humankind’s first language? We can only make conjectures about the dawning of language for humankind. The first 32 symbols have been uncovered on 370 cave walls across the globe that were written roughly 30,000 years ago. Henri Bortoft investigates this conundrum by looking through Helen Keller’s eyes as she first experiences language.


“It is language which teaches us concepts as children, and hence it is language which first gives us the ability to see the world, so that the world can appear. But our first experience of language, the dawning of language, is different from our experience of language as adults. A vivid illustration of the original disclosive power of language—as distinct from the secondary representational function of language, as when it is used for conveying information—is given by the remarkable story of Helen Keller. As a very young girl, Helen Keller had a severe attack of measles, which left her deaf and blind. This happened to her before the dawning of language, and it was only due to the extraordinary work of her dedicated governess that these extreme difficulties were eventually overcome. The moment when this finally happened is described in her own words:


‘We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word “water” first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten—a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, joy, set it free!. . . I left the well-house eager to learn.


Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house each object that I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange new light that had come to me.’ (Helen Keller, The Story of My Life)


She is blind but describes herself as seeing with a new light. The word “water” does not represent or stand for water here; it is not a label to be attached to water for the purpose of communicating information. Helen Keller does not already know water, to which she then adds the word. No, in this case everything is reversed. The word “water” shows her water; it brings it to light so that she sees it.” (Bortoft, 1996)


Language sets humankind apart from the animals. Language is not just the skill of communicating information. It gives us the unique ability to be conscious of being in the world, but not of the world.


“Without language no things could be, and therefore there would be no world. So the dawning of language is the dawn of the world—as we can see so clearly here in the experience of Helen Keller. This sets her soul free because to be human is to live in the world. Only human beings have a “world”—which is entirely different from inhabiting an environment in the way that animals do. Until this experience of the dawning of language, Helen Keller had been unable to be in the world, which is proper to human beings, and had inhabited a wordless environment. A human being not able to be human—and now she is freed from the darkness of this condition to enter the light of the human world.” (Bortoft, 1996)


There are great advantages to the act of experimentation and discovery. The language of science can be like a light coming into a dark room, shining on all manner of treasures. The trick is to stay in that room and appreciate the treasures – not just visit it quickly, then use language to talk endlessly about it. Our goal for the future of science is to get back to this room of ours. This incredible world is a room full of riches. It is a garden of immeasurable variety. We must get back to the garden. We must learn to investigate her while simultaneously regaining friendship with her.




#92 The First Great Play




At first, there was a great play named “The Lila”. It was created by Gods and acted out the story of how the Earth grew for as long as their stories remembered. You might say that if you saw The Lila that you were privy to the story of stories. It portrayed how the rocks and plants and animals and of course, the peoples of the Earth came to be.


Finally, the great play was ready to be presented. It was decided it would be acted out in two cities, once on the near side of the mountain, and once on the far side. Audiences were invited with the proviso that they give The Lila their utmost respect and that they attend with particularly keen observation. You see, the actors in the great play were the actual elemental beings of earth, water, air and fire. So, if the audiences did not receive them well, the actors might retreat. Then, they would not be able to perform their role in running nature, herself.


In the near city, members of the audience were scientifically curious to learn how to control the elements. They asked many questions of the actors to try to understand just how the rocks and plants worked, so that they could have the power to master them. In their zeal, they tested the actors rigorously, taking every bit of the elements’ stories apart. They thought that their curiosity would be a compliment to the great play, but the actors left the near city feeling tortured and tired.


In the far city, the audience fell silent in awe of the beauty and majesty of The Lila. They marveled at the relationships between rocks and plants and animals. They let the natural elements speak for themselves. They felt profound gratitude for the role that people were given in the great play. So deep was their observation of the play, that they found themselves watching parts of it over and over in their minds.


The following years found the near city bringing storms and blight upon itself, while the far city dwelled in peace.


Learn to Return

Learn to Return

By John Bickart, Phd | 20 Opportunities to Transform Yourself While Teaching | “Revitalizing Your Ability to Lead”

“Time is always against us” (The Matrix)

In 1971, I tried to learn to return to the here and now. I went to India where I was meditating for 25 days in an ashram in Haridwar, India, right at the base of the Himalayas, on the Ganges River. It was a beautiful place. I would meditate every day for hours. You come to the here and now. Here is a space. Now is a time. Spacetime. This played on my mind for years and years. Now, I’m 70 years old and I’m just realizing that for the spiritual world – I’ve heard this and I’m just realizing it – time is space. If we give up our time, we go to the spiritual world to a place of here. And, for them (the spiritual beings) – they can’t have a meeting place unless we do that. So, I wrote a story about it. It’s fable #23 in my book, Bickart’s Just-in-Time Fables (2020), which carries a right to copy (which means that they may be copied as a whole or in part and shared in print or any electronic media as long as they are not sold or used to carry advertising).

The Fairy Gate

There was a fairy who lived in the water at the base of a cliff. She lived behind a gate. The gate was in the spiritual world, so if you went there and looked only with your physical eyes, you would not see it. On the gate, inscribed in lettering that had remained forever and ever was this poem.


Forever is a time
And also a place.
To be here now
Creates a space.

Everywhere is anywhere
Enter without fear.
Just find the door;
It’s always here.

When will I find Eternity?
When will I learn how?
When will I realize?
The time is now.

The fairy longed for the princess who lived in the castle on the cliff to let go of time, so that they could be together. Often, the princess would dream that she had a friend who was a fairy. But alas, day after day, the princess’s parents, the king and queen, insisted that she keep a schedule. Every day she rose, had a first meal, played in the nursery, had reading time, a second meal, play time in the yard, helped with dinner chores, dinner, helped with clean up, then story time and bed. If the princess was allowed to walk in the woods or swim in the lake, it was done so under supervision, for a designated amount of time. Her parents had inadvertently taught her to lose herself in her schedule. She always knew where she should be. And she always knew when. But in being so adept at WHERE AND WHEN – she had lost HERE AND NOW. Now, there was a further problem. Since the princess never forgot about time, she left no room for the fairy to approach her. To the fairy this was a literal fact. You see, for the fairy, a room or space – a meeting place – could only be created if the princess forgot to have a schedule. TIME for the princess was SPACE for the fairy.

One day, the princess woke from another dream about the fairy. The fairy was pleading with the princess, “Please bring me a present.” “Sure,” said the princess, “what would you like?” “I would love to have your free time,” replied the fairy. “How do I give you time?” asked the princess. “Ask your mother, the queen, for the afternoon, promising to be home for dinner,” explained the fairy. “Come to the weeping willow tree at the edge of the lake with no thought of your schedule. I will meet you there. And I will tell you when it is time to go home for dinner. This will form a place into which I can come to you and we can meet.” “Oh how lovely!”, cried the princess. “How will I know you are there?” The fairy simply replied, “You will feel like you are passing through a gate, and you will see me as if you are in a dream.”

The princess asked her mother for the afternoon and passed through the fairy gate to begin a most beautiful and lasting friendship with the fairy. And from that day forward, the princess knew how to leave the where and when, and pass through the gate to the here and now.




Bickart, J. (2020). Bickart’s Just-in-Time Fables (Vol. 1). Asheville, NC: Red Shirt Interactive Group.