Studying the art of gratitude
2012-06-18, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Are we in the middle of a gratitude movement? Evidence suggests so. Publishers can't seem to print enough books with the words "gratitude" or "gratefulness" in the title. Scientists rake in millions of dollars in grants to study how feelings of gratitude might improve physical health and psychological well-being. And this weekend, hundreds are expected to attend a Pathways to Gratefulness conference [in San Francisco] to talk about cultivating gratefulness in their lives. Among the participants is Brother David Steindl-Rast, an 85-year-old Benedictine monk, considered the spiritual leader of the gratitude movement. The author of Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer ... and A Listening Heart ..., Steindl-Rast will be joined by an eclectic collection of writers, poets, spiritual teachers and scientists involved in the fast-growing field of gratitude research. One of those scientists, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, is director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, which controls a $5.9 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to fund a project called Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. Simon-Thomas ... said the Berkeley center is considering 60 research proposals, including many from the leading brain science laboratories in the United States. Some of the research would build on studies already conducted by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, who cites "scientific proof that when people regularly work on cultivating gratitude they experience a variety of measurable benefits - psychological, physical and social."
Note: For a profound, five-minute video on gratefulness that will brighten your day, click here. And for an excellent essay on gratitude, click here.
I believe in Tim Tebow
I've come to believe in [NFL star] Tim Tebow for what he does off a football field, which is represent the best parts of us, the parts I want to be and so rarely am. Who among us is this selfless? Every week, Tebow picks out someone who is suffering, or who is dying, or who is injured. He flies these people and their families to the Broncos game, rents them a car, puts them up in a nice hotel, buys them dinner (usually at a Dave & Buster's), gets them and their families pregame passes, visits with them just before kickoff (!), gets them 30-yard-line tickets down low, visits with them after the game (sometimes for an hour), has them walk him to his car, and sends them off with a basket of gifts. Home or road, win or lose, hero or goat. This whole thing makes no football sense, of course. Most NFL players hardly talk to teammates before a game, much less visit with the sick and dying. Isn't that a huge distraction? "Just the opposite," Tebow says. "It's by far the best thing I do to get myself ready. Here you are, about to play a game that the world says is the most important thing in the world. Win and they praise you. Lose and they crush you. And here I have a chance to talk to the coolest, most courageous people. It puts it all into perspective. The game doesn't really matter. I mean, I'll give 100 percent of my heart to win it, but in the end, the thing I most want to do is not win championships or make a lot of money, it's to invest in people's lives, to make a difference."
Sentenced to Serving the Good Life in Norway
2010-07-12, Time Magazine
On Bastoy, an island 46 miles south of Oslo,  residents live in brightly colored wooden chalets, spread over one square mile of forest and gently sloping hills. They go horseback riding and throw barbecues, and have access to a movie theater, tanning bed and, during winter, two ski jumps. Despite all its trappings, Bastoy island isn't an exclusive resort: it's a prison. Bastoy's governor ... describes it as the world's first human-ecological prison — a place where inmates learn to take responsibility for their actions by caring for the environment. Prisoners grow their own organic vegetables, turn their garbage into compost and tend to chickens, cows, horses and sheep. The prison generally emphasizes trust and self-regulation: Bastoy has no fences, the windows have no bars, and only five guards remain on the island after 3 p.m. In an age when countries from Britain to the U.S. cope with exploding prison populations by building ever larger — and, many would say, ever harsher — prisons, Bastoy seems like an unorthodox, even bizarre, departure. But Norwegians see the island as the embodiment of their country's long-standing penal philosophy: that traditional, repressive prisons do not work, and that treating prisoners humanely boosts their chances of reintegrating into society. Norway's system produces overwhelmingly positive results. Within two years of their release, 20% of Norway's prisoners end up back in jail. In the U.K. and the U.S., the figure hovers between 50% and 60%. Of course, Norway's ... prison roll lists a mere 3,300 inmates, a rate of 70 per 100,000 people, compared with 2.3 million in the U.S., or 753 per 100,000 — the highest rate in the world.
Note: Why aren't other countries taking heed of Norway's excellent example? Part of the reason is that some companies make massive profits from the prison system. For more on this, click here.
Group of moms defies U.S. law in raw milk protest
2011-11-02, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
A self-described "caravan of criminal mothers" defied federal law [on November 1] by transporting raw milk across state lines from a Pennsylvania farm and drinking it in front of the Food and Drug Administration headquarters in Maryland. "It's totally natural for me as a parent to want to feed my children good food that makes them healthy," said Liz Reitzig, 31, a mother of five in Bowie, Md., who organized the protest. "In this case that is fresh, clean, raw milk from farmers we know and trust. The idea that we become criminals for engaging in that transaction is what is so appalling." The protesters, numbering about 100, ... drove in from as far away as Illinois and Kentucky to denounce government tyranny, corporate cabals and the "agricultural-industrial complex," promising more protests and civil disobedience.
The FDA considers it "perfectly safe to feed your kids Mountain Dew, Twinkies and Cocoa Puffs, but it's unsafe to feed them raw milk, compost-grown tomatoes and Aunt Matilda's pickles," said Joel Salatin, the Virginia farmer made famous by the documentary "Food, Inc.," who joined the protesters. The protest sprang from an FDA sting operation on Amish farmer Dan Allgyer's tiny dairy of three dozen cows in Kinzer, Pa., that culminated in a predawn raid on the farm last year. Allgyer had been selling milk to consumers in Maryland who had formed a buying club. None of Allgyer's milk was contaminated. His alleged crime was selling it across state lines.
Note: For a great video of the raw milk freedom riders, click here. For key reports from reliable sources on government attacks on civil liberties, click here.
100-Year-Old Man Completes Marathon
2011-10-17, NBC New York (New York City NBC affiliate)
The most impressive performance at a Toronto marathon Sunday was turned in by the man who came in last place - and is 100 years old. Fauja Singh completed the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in approximately eight hours, making him the oldest person ever to finish one of the 26.2-mile races. It was the eighth marathon for Singh, who was born India in 1911 and did not start running marathons until he was 89, after he moved to England following the death of his wife and son. He says not smoking or drinking alcohol throughout his life, combined with a vegetarian diet and up to 10 miles of walking or running per day are the secrets to his health. The Association of Road Racing Statistician already had Singh as the oldest person to complete a marathon, for one he ran seven years ago. But the Guinness Book of World Records recognized Dimitrion Yordanidis, 98, who ran in Athens in 1976. Singh recently set eight world records for his age group in one day at a special invitational meet in Toronto. He ran the 100 meters in 23.14, 200 meters in 52.23, the 400 meters in 2:13.48, the 800 meters in 5:32.18, the 1500 meters in 11:27.81, the mile in 11:53.45, the 3000 meters in 24:52.47 and the 5000 meters in 49:57.39. "I have said it before: that I will carry on running, as it is keeping me alive," Singh told the marathon website.
Note: Does anyone still believe vegetarianism can't be healthy?
'Magic Mushrooms' Can Improve Psychological Health Long Term
2011-06-16, Time Magazine
The psychedelic drug in magic mushrooms may have lasting medical and spiritual benefits, according to new research from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The mushroom-derived hallucinogen, called psilocybin, is known to trigger transformative spiritual states, but at high doses it can also result in "bad trips" marked by terror and panic. "The important point here is that we found the sweet spot where we can optimize the positive persistent effects and avoid some of the fear and anxiety that can occur and can be quite disruptive," says lead author Roland Griffiths, professor of behavioral biology at Hopkins. Giffiths' study involved 18 healthy adults, average age 46. Nearly all the volunteers were college graduates and 78% participated regularly in religious activities; all were interested in spiritual experience. Fourteen months after participating in the study, 94% of those who received the drug said the experiment was one of the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives; 39% said it was the single most meaningful experience. The participants themselves were not the only ones who saw the benefit from the insights they gained: their friends, family member and colleagues also reported that the psilocybin experience had made the participants calmer, happier and kinder.
When A Child Moves to Nepal
2010-10-22, New York Times
It was a gorgeous Himalayan village, with a river running through it. But it was also ravaged by the war. Temples had been burned down, and the girl’s home had been converted into a rebel camp. Most children couldn’t afford school. In the cities, [Maggie Doyne] had seen them working with hammers, breaking rocks into gravel to sell. “The first little girl I met was Hema,” Doyne remembers. Then 6 or 7 years old (few children know their precise age), Hema spent her time breaking rocks and scavenging garbage and had no chance to go to school. But she was radiant and adorable and always greeted Doyne in Nepali with a warm, “Good morning, Sister!” “Maybe I saw a piece of myself in her,” said Doyne, who decided to take Hema under her wing and pay for her education: “I knew I couldn’t do anything about a million orphans, but what if I started with this girl?” So she took Hema to school and paid $7 for the girl’s school fees and another $8 for a uniform so that she could enter kindergarten. “It became addictive,” Doyne said. “I said, if I can help one girl, why not 5? Why not 10?" Doyne found a ramshackle telephone “booth” — actually, a mud hut — where she could place an international call and telephoned her parents with a strange and urgent request: Can you wire me the money in my savings account? Her parents sent her the money. Doyne has since raised hundreds of thousands more. With it she has built the Kopila Valley Children’s Home.
Note: For a slide show of Maggie's great work on the New York Times website, click here. For Maggie's inspiring website, click here.
Seeking Proof in Near-Death Claims
2010-10-25, Wall Street Journal
At least 15 million American adults say they have had a near-death experience, according to a 1997 survey -— and the number is thought to be rising with increasingly sophisticated resuscitation techniques. In addition to floating above their bodies, people often describe moving down a dark tunnel toward a bright light, feeling intense peace and joy, reviewing life events and seeing long-deceased relatives—only to be told that it's not time yet and land abruptly back in an ailing body. "There are always skeptics, but there are millions of 'experiencers' who know what happened to them, and they don't care what anybody else says," says Diane Corcoran, president of the International Association for Near-Death Studies, a nonprofit group in Durham, N.C. The organization publishes the Journal of Near-Death Studies and maintains support groups in 47 states. In his new book, Evidence of the Afterlife, Jeffrey Long, a radiation oncologist in Louisiana, analyzes 613 cases reported on the website of his Near Death Research Foundation and concludes there is only one plausible explanation: "that people have survived death and traveled to another [mode of existence]." "The self, the soul, the psyche—throughout history, we've never managed to figure out what it is and how it relates to the body," [said Sam Parnia, a critical-care physician]. "This is a very important for science and fascinating for humankind."
Note: For two of the most amazing near-death experiences ever told, click here and here.
Impact investing seeks to make money, do good
2010-10-06, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Most investors, when sizing up a company, ask a simple question: "Will this company make me money?"
But John Grafer, a principal with Satori Capital, likes to ask a question most traditional investors never think of: "Does your receptionist have an equity stake in your company?" Grafer is one of a growing breed of investors who look beyond the bottom line and ask what a company is doing to help society. It's called impact investing, and its supporters say it combines the shrewdness of the for-profit marketplace with an earnest desire to do good. "It's the opposite of a quick flip," Grafer said. "While there might not be a short-term return, you get a larger long-term return." The companies that make up Satori's $175 million fund all have to meet strict financial and social benchmarks. Grafer said he focuses on ownership, the environment, civic involvement and respectful relationships with customers. A report by Hope Consulting indicates that investors were willing to spend as much as $120 billion on companies that promise social and financial return, if the right product were available. Four social market funds are well on their way to reaching $100 million. And attendance at this year's conference was double what it was when the conference began just three years ago. Organizers say the trend toward socially conscious investing has been spurred by the downturn in the economy. "The traditional market failed," said Kevin Jones, of San Francisco's Good Capital and a conference organizer. "This kind of stuff works without creating a bubble."
Note: For an excellent example of investing for social good while still make a return on your investing, check out our excellent piece on microlending at this link.
Man claims to have had no food or drink for 70 years
2010-04-28, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Indian military scientists are studying an 82-year-old who claims he has not had any food or drink for 70 years. Prahlad Jani is being held in isolation in a hospital in Ahmedabad, Gurjarat, where he is being closely monitored by India's defence research organization, who believe he may have a genuine quality which could help save lives. He has now spent six days without food or water under strict observation and doctors say his body has not yet shown any adverse effects from hunger or dehydration. Mr Jani ... is regarded as a 'breatharian' who can live on a 'spiritual life-force' alone. He believes he is sustained by a goddess who pours an 'elixir' through a hole in his palate. His claims have been supported by an Indian doctor who specializes in studies of people who claim supernatural abilities. So far, Mr Prahlad appears to be standing up to scrutiny. He has not eaten or drunk any fluids in six days, and similarly has not passed urine or a stool in that time. He remains fit and healthy and shows no sign of lethargy. According to Dr Sudhir Shah, who examined him in 2003, he went without food or water for ten days in which urine appeared to be reabsorbed by his body after forming in his bladder. Doubts were expressed about his claim after his weight fell slightly at the end of the trial.
Note: To read an intriguing BBC News article about the 2003 study of this remarkable man, click here.
Norway conquers infections by cutting use of antibiotics
2010-01-11, Miami Herald/Associated Press
At a microscopic level [Aker University Hospital] is pristine. There is no sign of a dangerous and contagious staph infection that killed tens of thousands of patients in the most sophisticated hospitals of Europe, North America and Asia last year, soaring virtually unchecked. The reason: Norwegians stopped taking so many drugs. Twenty-five years ago, Norwegians were also losing their lives to this bacteria. But Norway's public health system fought back with an aggressive program that made it the most infection-free country in the world. A key part of that program was cutting back severely on the use of antibiotics. Now a spate of new studies from around the world prove that Norway's model can be replicated with extraordinary success, and public health experts are saying these deaths -- 19,000 in the U.S. each year alone, more than from AIDS -- are unnecessary. The World Health Organization says antibiotic resistance is one of the leading public health threats on the planet. A six-month investigation by The Associated Press found overuse and misuse of medicines has led to mutations in once curable diseases like tuberculosis and malaria, making them harder and in some cases impossible to treat. Now, in Norway's simple solution, there's a glimmer of hope.'
Note: For many key reports from reliable sources on important health issues, click here.
What Could You Live Without?
2010-01-24, New York Times
It all began with a stop at a red light. Kevin Salwen, a writer ... in Atlanta, was driving his 14-year-old daughter, Hannah, back from a sleepover in 2006. While waiting at a traffic light, they saw a black Mercedes coupe on one side and a homeless man begging for food on the other. “Dad, if that man had a less nice car, that man there could have a meal,” Hannah protested. [Hannah] pestered her parents about inequity, insisting that she wanted to do something. “What do you want to do?” her mom responded. “Sell our house?” Warning! Never suggest a grand gesture to an idealistic teenager. Hannah seized upon the idea of selling the luxurious family home and donating half the proceeds to charity, while using the other half to buy a more modest replacement home. Eventually, that’s what the family did. The project — crazy, impetuous and utterly inspiring — is chronicled in a book by father and daughter: The Power of Half. Mr. Salwen and his wife, Joan, had always assumed that their kids would be better off in a bigger house. But after they downsized, there was much less space to retreat to, so the family members spent more time around each other. A smaller house unexpectedly turned out to be a more family-friendly house.“We essentially traded stuff for togetherness and connectedness,” Mr. Salwen [said], adding, “I can’t figure out why everybody wouldn’t want that deal.”
Note: For a treasure trove of other inspiring stories reported in the major media, click here.
Guantanamo guard reunited with ex-inmates
2010-01-12, BBC News
Why would a former Guantanamo Bay prison guard track down two of his former captives - two British men - and agree to fly to London to meet them? The last time Ruhal Ahmed met Brandon Neely, he was "behind bars, behind a cage and [Brandon] was on the other side". The location had been Camp X-Ray - the high-security detention camp run by the US in Guantanamo Bay. Mr Ahmed, originally from Tipton in the West Midlands, was among several hundred foreign terror suspects held at the centre. Mr Neely was one of his guards. The scene of this current exchange of pleasantries couldn't be more different from where they last met - a television studio in London. Also here is Shafiq Rasul, a fellow ex-Guantanamo prisoner, without whose Facebook page the reunion would never have happened. Mr Neely, 29, ... left the US military in 2005 to become a police officer and was still struggling to come to terms with his time as a guard at Guantanamo. He felt anger at a number of incidents of abuse he says he witnessed, and guilt over one in particular. "The news would always try to make Guantanamo into this great place," he says, "like 'they [prisoners] were treated so great'. No it wasn't. You know here I was basically just putting innocent people in cages."
Note: The video of this reunion at the BBC link above is quite extraordinary for what it represents. How did these innocent men end up suffering so much? For a possible answer and wake-up call, click here.
Triumph of a Dreamer
2009-11-15, New York Times
Any time anyone tells you that a dream is impossible, any time you're discouraged by impossible challenges, just mutter this mantra: Tererai Trent. Of all the people earning university degrees this year, perhaps the most remarkable story belongs to Tererai, a middle-aged woman. When you hear that foreign-aid groups just squander money or build dependency, remember [her story].
Tererai was born in a village in rural Zimbabwe, probably sometime in 1965, and attended elementary school for less than one year. Her father married her off when she was about 11 to a man who beat her regularly. A dozen years passed. Jo Luck, the head of an aid group called Heifer International, passed through the village and told the women there that they should stand up, nurture dreams, change their lives.
Inspired, Tererai ... wrote that she wanted to study abroad, and to earn a B.A., a master's and a doctorate. In 1998 she was accepted to Oklahoma State University. Heifer helped with the plane tickets, Tererai's mother sold a cow, and neighbors sold goats to help raise money. With $4,000 in cash wrapped in a stocking and tied around her waist, Tererai set off for Oklahoma. At one point the university tried to expel Tererai for falling behind on tuition payments. A university official, Ron Beer, intervened on her behalf and rallied the faculty and community behind her with donations and support. "I saw that she had enormous talent," Dr. Beer said. Tererai excelled at school, pursuing a Ph.D at Western Michigan University and writing a dissertation on AIDS prevention in Africa even as she began working for Heifer as a program evaluator.
FBI: Murder, Violent Crime Dropped in 2008
2009-09-14, New York Times/Associated Press
Murder and manslaughter dropped almost 4 percent last year, as reported crime overall fell around the country, according to new data released ... by the FBI. The 3.9 percent decline in killings reported to police was part of a nationwide drop in violent crime of 1.9 percent from 2007 to 2008. Rapes declined 1.6 percent, to the lowest national number in 20 years -- about 89,000. The statistics are based on crimes reported to police, who then forward the information to the FBI. There were 14,180 murder victims in the United States last year. ''What has been impressive has been how flat all the violent crime rates have been since 2000. To a large degree that's still the case, but the striking change this year has been murder,'' said Alfred Blumstein, a professor of criminal justice at Carnegie-Mellon University. The figures show that crime has come way down since its peak in the early 1990's. ''These are rates we haven't seen since the 1960's, even though the change from year to year has been rather small,'' said Blumstein. Property crimes declined overall, by 0.8 percent, but that was driven mostly by a 12.7 percent drop in car thefts. The other major categories of property crime -- burglaries and larceny-thefts -- both rose. Typically, crime is expected to rise during economic hard times, but Blumstein said last year's data was too early in the economic cycle to reflect that, because the most serious economic impacts came toward the end of 2008, and may not have affected teenagers -- the group most likely to turn to crime as their job prospects dwindle.
Note: What this report completely fails to report is that violent crime is down over 50% since 1994! Why does the major media consistently fail to report this awesome news? For verifiable information on this, click here.
The City that Ended Hunger
2009-03-20, Yes! Magazine
A city in Brazil recruited local farmers to help do something U.S. cities have yet to do: end hunger. More than 10 years ago, Brazil’s fourth-largest city, Belo Horizonte, declared that food was a right of citizenship and started working to make good food available to all. One of its programs puts local farm produce into school meals. This and other projects cost the city less than 2 percent of its budget. Belo, a city of 2.5 million people, once had 11 percent of its population living in absolute poverty, and almost 20 percent of its children going hungry. Then in 1993, a newly elected administration declared food a right of citizenship. The new mayor, Patrus Ananias—now leader of the federal anti-hunger effort—began by creating a city agency, which included assembling a 20-member council of citizen, labor, business, and church representatives to advise in the design and implementation of a new food system. The city already involved regular citizens directly in allocating municipal resources—the “participatory budgeting” that started in the 1970s and has since spread across Brazil. During the first six years of Belo’s food-as-a-right policy, perhaps in response to the new emphasis on food security, the number of citizens engaging in the city’s participatory budgeting process doubled to more than 31,000. The city agency developed dozens of innovations to assure everyone the right to food, especially by weaving together the interests of farmers and consumers.
Note: Why not take this movement to each of our states and provinces? Are you willing to make a difference? To contact your local and national media and political representatives, click here.
Video star can't stop dancing
2008-06-29, Chicago Tribune
The new Web video from Matt Harding, accidental professional dancer, is up, and it is spectacular, a cry of life and brotherhood and joy. As Harding toured the world ... filming the third installment in his "Where the Hell Is Matt?" video series, you might have thought that the trick would have played itself out. An ordinary guy doing a kind of running-in-place dance at 69 earthly locales with an ethereal song as soundtrack shouldn't be endlessly endearing and deeply inspiring. But this music-video-length wonder works in surprising ways, especially amid the predominantly crass environment of YouTube. Part of the charm of the video (also at Harding's own wherethehellismatt.com) is his new twist for it. At each stop on his latest set of travels, Harding invited locals to come dance with him. In Chicago, that meant more than 100 people bobbed up and down in front of The Bean sculpture. In Poria, Papua New Guinea, it was a handful of people in full tribal garb accompanying Harding. The collection of disparate peoples doing essentially the same pointless yet joyful thing is a reminder of what's universal in humankind. The teasing glimpse of so many gorgeous spots is a goad to renew your own passport and get moving. Part of the charm comes from the unadorned simplicity of Harding himself—he just looks damned happy to be wherever he is—and the delight that is his story. A video game designer disaffected by the industry's trend toward violence, he quit his job in early 2003 and began traveling. At the suggestion of a friend, he used the video function of a point-and-shoot digital camera and taped himself dancing at all his stops.
Note: Don't miss Matt's inspiring five-minute video available here. For a New York Times article on this fun piece, click here.
Superfast internet may replace world wide web
2008-04-09, The Telegraph (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
The internet could soon be made obsolete by a new "grid" system which is 10,000 times faster than broadband connections. Scientists in Switzerland have developed a lightning-fast replacement to the internet that would allow feature films and music catalogues to be downloaded within seconds. The latest spin-off from CERN, the particle physics centre that created the internet, the grid could also provide the power needed to send sophisticated images; allow instant online gaming with hundreds of thousands of players; and offer high-definition video telephony for the price of a local call. David Britton, professor of physics at Glasgow University and a leading figure in the grid project, believes grid technology could change society. He said: "With this kind of computing power, future generations will have the ability to collaborate and communicate in ways older people like me cannot even imagine." The power of the grid will be unlocked this summer with the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a new particle accelerator designed to investigate how the universe began. The grid will be turned on at the same time to store the information it generates, after scientists at CERN, based near Geneva, realised the internet would not have the capacity to capture such huge volumes of data. The grid has been built with fibre optic cables and modern routing centres, meaning there are no outdated components to slow the deluge of data, unlike the internet. There are 55,000 grid servers already installed, a figure which is expected to rise to 200,000 within the next two years. Britain has 8,000 servers on the grid system, meaning access could be available to universities as early as this autumn.
The Language of Autism
2008-02-28, New York Times
Are people with autism trapped in their own world? Or are the rest of us just trapped in ours? After seeing 27-year-old Amanda Baggs ... you may rethink your views of the so-called "normal" world. Ms. Baggs, who lives in Burlington, Vt., is autistic and doesn’t speak. But she has become an Internet sensation as a result of an unusual video she created called "In My Language." For the first three minutes of the video, she rocks, flaps her hands, waves a piece of paper, buries her face in a book and runs her fingers repeatedly across a computer keyboard, all while humming a haunting two-note tune. Then, the words "A Translation" appear on the screen. Although Ms. Baggs doesn’t speak, she types 120 words a minute. Using a synthesized voice generated by a software application, Ms. Baggs types out what is going on inside her head. The movement, the noise, the repetitive behaviors are all part of Ms. Baggs’ own "native" language, she says via her computerized voice. It’s a language that allows her to have a "constant conversation" with her surroundings. "My language is not about designing words or even visual symbols for people to interpret. It is about being in a constant conversation with every aspect of my environment, reacting physically to all parts of my surroundings. Far from being purposeless, the way that I move is an ongoing response to what is around me. The way I naturally think and respond to things looks and feels so different from standard concepts or even visualization that some people do not consider it thought at all. But it is a way of thinking in its own right." [Ms. Baggs'] video is a clarion call on behalf of people with cognitive disabilities whose way of communicating isn’t understood by the rest of the world.
Note: If you want to expand your understanding of people and our world, don't miss the most amazing eight-minute video clip at the link above, or click here to view it now.
Eighth wonder of the world?
2007-11-22, Daily Mail (Britain's second largest circulation daily newspaper)
Nestling in the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy ... lies the valley of Valchiusella. Weaving their way underneath the hillside are nine ornate temples, on five levels, whose scale and opulence take the breath away.
They are linked by hundreds of metres of richly decorated tunnels. The 'Temples of Damanhur' are ... the work of ... 57-year-old [Oberto Airaudi] who, inspired by a childhood vision, began digging into the rock. From an early age, he claims to have experienced visions of what he believed to be a past life, in which there were amazing temples. Around these he [saw] there lived a highly evolved community who enjoyed an idyllic existence in which all the people worked for the common good. Oberto appeared to have ... the gift of "remote viewing" - the ability to travel in his mind's eye. Oberto - who prefers to use the name 'Falco' ... selected a remote hillside where he felt the hard rock would sustain the structures he had in mind. A house was built on the hillside and Falco moved in with several friends who shared his vision. Using hammers and picks, they began their dig to create the temples of Damanhur ... in August 1978. Volunteers, who flocked from around the world, worked ... for the next 16 years with no formal plans other than Falco's sketches and visions. By 1991, several of the nine chambers were almost complete with stunning murals, mosaics, statues, secret doors and stained glass windows. Esperide Ananas ... has written a new book called Damanhur, Temples Of Humankind. Today the 'Damanhurians' even have their own university, schools, organic supermarkets, vineyards, farms, bakeries and award-winning eco homes. They do not worship a spiritual leader, though their temples have become the focus for group meditation. 'They are to remind people that we are all capable of much more than we realise and that hidden treasures can be found within every one of us once you know how to access them,' says Falco.
Note: Click on the article link above to see many exquisite color photos of the amazing interiors of the Damanhur temples.