When people see their own struggles reflected in ancient stories, something powerful happens | Bryan Doerries

2 hours ago

The Greek tragedies have something to say to us about the way we live now, and its something we desperately need to hear

The playwright Aeschylus wrote in Agamemnon that humans learn through suffering, but for many people today, seeing or reading ancient Greek tragedies feels like self-inflicted suffering with no apparent educational value.

When we hear the words Greek tragedy, our eyes glaze over, conjuring images of histrionic actors in loose fitting sheets and golden sandals, moving in unison, wailing about fate, and crying out to unseen Olympian gods.

Like artefacts on display in a museum, these ancient plays couldnt seem more removed from the concerns of men and women living in the 21st century.

However Greek tragedies have something urgent to say to us now, and its something we desperately need to hear.

We live in a cataclysmic age, our world increasingly torn by war, famine, mass migration, sectarian violence, terrorism, pestilence, and environmental disaster. In spite of the technological advances that have led to unprecedented levels of communication and interconnection across the planet, we are, in some ways, isolated by our devices.

Now, more than ever, we are in need of timeless stories, myths that bring us together in the presence of community and help us face some of the darkest aspects of our humanity.

Athenians during the fifth century BC lived through nearly 80 years of war, as well as a plague that wiped out a third of their population. By depicting the extremities of human anguish, the plays of Sophocles and his contemporaries where designed to communalise these experiences, to evenly distribute the burden of war and other traumas upon the shoulders of all citizens.

The plays were not simply entertainment, but a technology that arose from a need for the collective witness of human suffering. And, like an external hard drive, when plugged into the right audience, the ancient plays still work with startling efficiency.

Over the past seven years I have directed hundreds readings of Greek tragedies in unlikely places, such as military bases, hospitals, prisons, and drug-ravaged towns for audiences that have been visited by trauma and loss.

When people see their own private struggles reflected in 2,500-year-old stories, something powerful happens. They open up. They quote lines from the plays and relate those lines to harrowing, personal stories. In listening to these stories, I have learned more about the tragedies and what they signify today than from any other source.

In 2008, after a performance of Sophocles Ajax a play about the suicide of a great, respected warrior for an audience of Marines in San Diego, a military spouse leaned into a microphone and said, My husband went away four times to war, and each time he returned, like Ajax, dragging invisible bodies into our house. The war came home with him. And to quote from the play Our home is a slaughterhouse.

In speaking the truth of her experience of war, and by connecting it to an ancient story, she had in effect given permission to all of the other spouses in the audience to stand up and speak their truths. Following a performance of Euripides Bacchae a play about the destructive power of Dionysus, the god of wine and intoxication in a rural American town described as ground zero of the opioid epidemic, a local teenager spoke her truth before the community:

I have parents who have been on drugs and who have set a horrible example for my family, she said, her voice quavering. Im more adult than my parents. They come to me for advice. They want money from me. I am trying so hard, but

The girl leaned into the collective embrace of her high school friends and sobbed, causing many of the older members of the audience to wipe away tears. Euripides play depicts the intergenerational destruction of Dionysus, something with which the citizens of Hazard, Kentucky were all too familiar.

After a performance of Sophocles Women of Trachis a play in which the dying hero Heracles begs his teenage son to help him end his life at Harvard medical school, a hospice nurse approached a microphone and said, Forgive me I feel compelled to apologise to all of the doctors in the audience who do not get to be with their patients when they die. I have a hard job. But I witness miracles every day.

The nurse was not glamourising death. He simply wanted to acknowledge that there was more to medicine than preserving life.

The more I have listened to these audiences respond to Greek tragedies, the more convinced I am of their relevance to our lives. And what I have seen in the faces of audience members night after night is a palpable sense of relief to discover that they are not alone: not alone in their communities, not alone across the world, and not alone across time.

Bryan Doerries is the author of The Theatre of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today (Scribe, $29.99)

Read more: www.theguardian.com

How Imagining Your Own Death Can Help You Live Your Best Life

2 hours ago

I consider the inevitability of my own death a lot.

Too much, probably, for a healthy 25-year-old born into a stable, safe first-world country.

I have no reason to think that I’ll die an early death no illnesses or pre-existing health conditions, or fondnesses for particularly risky activities but that’s the thing: no one ever really has a reason to think that they’ll die “before their time.”

The young souls who die instantly in a car crash or freak accident, or who are killed by violence or overdose or other unnatural causes most of them never saw it coming, and depending on what you believe happens to a person after death they may never even have the chance to know about their untimely fate.

They may never have the opportunity to mourn their own early death, because well, it’ll all be over before they can even comprehend what has happened.

As you may have guessed, I don’t believe in life after death. I want to – probably more than I’ve ever wanted anything – but I just can’t.

What’s more, in many ways life after death scares me just as much as the alternative. No matter how I look at it, death is fucking terrifying.

If there’s a heaven, then that means after we die we go there and spend AN ETERNITY there. My mind can’t even begin to comprehend that quantity of time. Not a hundred years, not a thousand years, not a million or billion or a trillion years, not a trillion times a trillion yearsan eternity, with no end in sight. What is there to look forward to? What is there to be motivated by? What’s the point? Is there growth, or just endless existence?

Or if reincarnation is true, then that means in my next life I will have no memory of this life – none of my accomplishments, or friends or family, or the love of my life, or even my own name. Would I also forget my personality, my passions, my hopes and dreams? Would I fully lose myself in order to become a brand new person? And if so, how many times have I done that already, over the course of human existence? How many lives and loved ones – just as real and important as the present ones – have I forgotten? For me, the thought is as terrifying as it is heartbreaking.

If there’s some unknown “great beyond,” where souls gather and float together in the cosmos, this too scares me, because I’m far too attached to who I am here and now. I want to be ME, today, tomorrow, and always. Sure, it sounds nice in some ways, to know that my spirit will never die because it’s always a part of something greater, but that thought also makes me mourn the loss of my individuality, and the individuality of all those I’ve ever known.

And what if there is simply nothing? What if when I die, my heart simply stops beating, my blood stops flowing, my brain stops functioning, my body loses its heat, and eventually all traces of my body disappear from the earth altogether. I’ll never exist again. I won’t travel into some infinite black nothingness; I simply won’t be.

I won’t ever think, wonder, feel, love, or exist ever again. I’ll just be a dead organism, and if I’m lucky, a memory. My one chance at conscious existence will be doneforever. For eternity, for infinity. Trillions of years will pass, and my chance of returning to consciousness won’t be any greater.

All of these options scare me beyond description. It’s hard for my brain to even process the pure primal terror I feel when I allow myself to think, “I won’t exist one day, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

But more than that, its heartbreaking. Its soul-crushing to think that this could be my one and only chance to experience this beautiful, wonderful, mystifying, dazzling existence.

It truly breaks my heart into a billion tiny pieces to think that there will come a day when I will never be able to look into my sweet husbands wonderful eyes ever again, or speak to my parents or sisters. To know that I will leave behind loved ones that will mourn me, and that I’ll never have the opportunity to comfort them, or to even know about their suffering – because I won’t exist.

It quite literally hurts me at my core when I think about how badly I wish to change thingsbut I can’t. No one can. We’re all powerless against time, mortality, and death.

But then.

At other times, I think about how absolutely, incredibly fortunate I am to even have the chance to exist in the first place.

To have been born into a world where turquoise seas, airplanes, mountain ranges, chocolate brownies, Netflix and Harry Potter books exist.

To have been born into a body that grants me nearly infinite privileges.

To have found someone that I love so deeply so early in my life, to share this existence side by side with.

To have parents and sisters who love me, despite all of the crazy shit our family has been through together.

To have traveled to so many incredible places in the world, and to have seen sights in Asia, Europe, South and Central and North America that I never thought I would see.

To know what it means to feel happiness, hope, inspiration, love, gratitude, and peace.

To know what it means to feel at all.

And even the pain – the tears, the anger, the anxiety – in the end, it always serves to put the good times into perspective. The happiness only feels sweeter when it follows pain, and for that reason, I’m glad to have experienced both.

I’m glad to know the taste of wonderful foods like chocolate chip cookie dough, Thai red curry, iced caramel macchiatos, buffalo chicken dip, lobster, and fresh bread with butter.

I’m glad to know the feeling of a cool body of water on a hot day, a thick blanket on a cold night, a soft t-shirt, a meaningful hug, and a refreshing sip of water when I’m thirsty.

I’m glad to know what it’s like to play a video game, read a book, climb a mountain, ride a rollercoaster, scuba dive, laugh, smile, and remember.

I’m glad to know what it’s like to love and be loved.

And as I reflect on the things that I’m grateful for, the thought comes to me: How can I say it’s unfair for me to live and die in this body, this life, when so many people who have lived on this earth only had a fraction of the opportunities to experience the wonders and beauty of the world as me?

How can I say that my one shot at conscious existence is unfair, when I close my eyes and imagine a girl my age living a world away in a third world country, who truly knows what it means to be hungry or afraid, and who hasn’t experienced even a third of the luxuries that I have?

How can I say that my one shot at conscious existence is unfairwhen I think about all of the billions of humans who existed in time periods long before me – time periods without cars and restaurants and TV and medicine and the basic comforts I take for granted?

If I’m forced to cease my conscious existence one day, against my will, then so is every other person who has ever lived and who will ever live.

It’s one of the core things that all human beings – all biological beings, actually – have in common.

We will all die, just as we were all born. My experience, my terror, my reluctance for it to all be over – it’s not unique to me. I share it with every human that will ever exist. I share it with Abraham Lincoln, Cleopatra, Barack Obama, Beyonc, the cast of my favorite TV shows, the people driving the cars that I see outside my apartment window. We all share mortality; we all share temporary existence.

And as far as temporary existence goes, I have to admit that I feel quite blessed to have ended up with the existence that I have. In fact, these days this very thought is at the core of all my thoughts and decisions and experiences. Everything I do, I do with that knowledge in mind.

And that means that I strive to forgive, to trust, to take chances, to understand, to learn, to love, and most of all to spend as much time as I can feeling happy – because centuries from now, it won’t matter a spec whether I was happy or sad or angry – it only matters to me, here and now, while I’m still around to make that choice and experience it.

So, happy it is.

Its clich, but it’s true – our time on earth is a blessing and a gift. Maybe what makes it so sweet and special is the fact that no matter what we do, it can’t and won’t last forever. It deserves to be savored and cherished and appreciated.

I love being alive.

I love thinking and feeling and wondering and experiencing, and I wish – down to my core – that I could continue thinking and feeling and wondering and experiencing for eternity. And above all, I wish I could know right now whether or not my wish has a chance of coming true.

But I can’t know. I’m not any more special than any other soul that has ever existed, and none of us can know.

It’s the greatest mystery of all time.

But I do know this.

I have experienced heaven. Heaven is Sunday morning, under the covers, with nothing to do and nowhere to go, looking into my husbands eyes and seeing his love shining back at me, feeling my own love exploding out of my heart, and knowing that we can lie there all day if we so choose.

I have experienced rebirth. Rebirth is living a life darkened by depression, anxiety, fear, anger, and substance abuse, slowly but surely turning things around, and coming out the other side as a happy, whole person.

And I have experienced non-existence. I experienced it for approximately 13.7 billion years before I was born.

I don’t know how much time I have on earth, or how that time will come to an end, or what will happen to my soul – if such a thing even exists – after that. But none of that is for me to decide or worry about.

As someone very wise once said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

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Stanford sexual assault: records show judge’s logic behind light sentence

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Judge who oversaw Brock Turners case says positive character reference, absence of criminal convictions and media scrutiny swayed his decision

The judge who sentenced Brock Turner, the former Stanford swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, said at the sentencing hearing that a positive character reference submitted by Turners childhood friend just rings true, according to a newly released court transcript.

Specifically, Judge Aaron Persky drew attention to the character letter from Leslie Rasmussen, a classmate of Turners since elementary school, whom he quoted as saying, If I had to choose one kid I graduated with to be in the position Brock is, it would never have been him.

Perskey added: To me, that just rings true as to it sort of corroborates the evidence of his character up until the night of this incident, which has been positive.

The transcript provides the most comprehensive view yet of the reasoning of Persky, who has come under intense scrutiny and criticism as a result of his lenient ruling in the wake of the publication of the victims personal impact statement.

Rasmussens letter, which she has since apologized for, was widely criticized for seeming to place the blame for the sexual assault on the victim. But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses arent always because people are rapists, she wrote.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Buddha was a data scientist

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Editors note:Tara Cottrell is a writer and digital strategist, and works as the web content manager at Stanford Universitys Graduate School of Business. Dan Zigmond is a writer, data scientist and Zen priest, and is director of analytics for Facebook. They are the authors of the book Buddhas Diet.

More than two millennia ago, wandering the footpaths of ancient India, preaching in village huts and forest glens, Buddhawas biohacking his health. He tried holding his breath so long his ears exploded, and even the gods assumed he was dead. (He wasnt.) He then tried extreme fasting, reducing down his daily meals until he was living on just a few drops of soup each day. He got so thin his arms looked like withered branches and the skin of his belly rested on his spine.

Buddha was trying to do what were all trying to do on some level improve ourselves and stop suffering so much, sometimes by employing pretty far-fetched techniques. But in the end, he rejected all these crazy extremes not because they were too hard, but because they just didnt work.

Buddha believed in data. Every time he tried something new, he paid attention. He collected evidence. He figured out what worked and what didnt. And if something didnt work, he rejected it and moved on. A good scientist knows when to quit.

When Buddha started teaching, he advised his students to do the same. He didnt ask anyone to take his instructions on faith. He explained that the way most other teachers insisted you believe everything they said was like following a procession of blind men: the first one does not see, the middle one does not see, and the last one does not see.Buddha didnt want us to trust he wanted us to see. Our beliefs should be based on data.

He applied this same thinking to food. Most religions include some sort of dietary restriction: Islam prohibits pork. Orthodox Jews refrain from mixing milk and meat. Catholics avoid certain foods during Lent. Some devout Hindus wont eat anything stale or overripe or with the wrong flavors or texture. Usually these rules are presented as divine commandments. Asking why we should eat this way is beside the point. There isnt necessarily a reason for the commandment the commandment is the reason.

Buddha took a different approach: His rules were grounded in his own experience. Like a lot of us, he tried some crazy diets. But what worked for him was very simple. He gave little advice about what his monks should eat, but he was very particular about when they should eat it. His followers were basically free to eat anything they were given even meat but only between the hours of dawn and noon.

Like any good data scientist, Buddha learned to ignore the outliers.

Buddha didnt give a mystical or supernatural explanation for this odd time restriction. But he was pretty sure it would improve their health. He had tested it on himself. Because I avoid eating in the evening, I am in good health, light, energetic, and live comfortably, he explained. You, too, monks, avoid eating in the evening, and you will have good health.

If Buddha were alive today, hed be surprised to see so many Silicon Valley techies and Brooklyn hipsters embracing intermittent fasting as a new craze. But hed be gratified to see the evidence mounting for the health benefits he claimed for time-restricted eating. We now have numerous scientific studies confirming the original data Buddhacollected.

In 2014, for example, Dr. Satchidananda Panda and his team of researchers at the prestigious Salk Institute for Biological Sciences outside San Diego published a study on obesity in mice. They took one group of mice and instead of their normal food, offered them a diet of high-fat, high-calorie foods and let them eat as much as they wanted. The results would surprise no one: The mice got fat.

Then they took another group of mice and offered them exactly the same seemingly unhealthy diet, but this time they only let the mice eat for nine to 12 hours each day. During the rest of the day and at night, the mice got only water. In other words, these mice had the same all-you-can-eat buffet of tasty, fattening treats. The one rule was that they could only stuff themselves during some of their waking hours.

This time, the results were a surprise: None of these mice got fat. Something about matching their eating to their natural circadian rhythms seemed to protect the mice against all that otherwise fattening food. It didnt matter if they loaded up with sugars and fats and other junk. It didnt seem to matter what the mice ate, or even how much of it, only when they ate it.

In other words, the data backed up Buddha.

Other scientists have produced similar results. Dr. Pandas team even tried fattening up the mice by starting them on that first any-time diet, and then switched them to the time-restricted version. These mice didnt just stop gaining they started to lose that excess weight.

Every day becomes a balance, with a time for eating and a time for fasting.

And it doesnt stop with mice. Researchers have asked men and women to restrict their eating to certain hours each day, and those people lose weight, too.

Some of the best researchers studying food and health have been confirming Buddhas original rules. Whether you call it intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating, Buddhas ancient biohacking wasnt an anomaly. The data he collected on himself has now been replicated by countless others.

Like any good data scientist, Buddha learned to ignore the outliers. He realized early on that the truth is rarely found in the extremes. He practiced instead the middle way, a philosophy of perpetual compromise and moderation. Modern time-restricted diets follow this same sane path not quite dieting, but not quite eating anything any time either. Every day becomes a balance, with a time for eating and a time for fasting.

These days, we can all do what Buddha did: Become your bodys own data scientist;observe yourself as you eat to see what works for you and what doesnt. We werent designed to eat at all hours, an unfortunate luxury we have with all the cheap and readily available food in first-world countries. Buddha discovered this long ago. Now we know it too.

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Painting in the Dark: The Struggle for Art in a World Obsessed with Popularity

2 hours ago

“Painting in the Dark: The Struggle for Art in A World Obsessed with Popularity” is the long overdue follow up to the Long Game Parts 1 & 2 which looked at the creative ups and downs of Leonardo da Vinci.

In this new video essay, Delve.tv takes a look at the forgotten difficult years of another celebrated artist and wonders what it means for creative people working today.

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There’s a Bisexual Wage Gap, Too

2 hours ago

It’s long been known that groups facing discrimination outside the workplacewomen, gay men, blacks, and latinostend to get paid less. Now there’s evidence of a bisexual pay gap as well, according to the findings of a new study from the American Sociological Review. And, unlike other pay gaps, parts of which can be explained away by factors such as working fewer hours or having kids, this one isn’t as easy to explain. 

Drawing from two nationally representative samples of over 10,000 people1 , the study found a 7 percent to 28 percent wage gap for bisexual women and an 11 percent to 19 percent wage gap for bisexual men, when compared to their heterosexual counterparts. “The findings are suggestive of discrimination,” said Trenton D. Mize, a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University, the study’s author. “Because I’ve accounted for all the reasonable explanations for why we have that gap.”

Previous studies have identified wage gaps for gay men. Some studies put it at 5 percent, others (PDF) at 10 percent. Similar studies have found that lesbians, on the other hand, make more than heterosexual women.

Like the gender wage gap, these pay discrepancies aren’t due solely to discrimination. Take occupation choice, for example. Gay workers are nearly twice as likely to hold a bachelors degree as are straight workers and are therefore overrepresented in the top 15 highest-paying professions. But within the world of high-paying jobs, they get paid less. One study found that gay people choose professions that are “atypical of their gender.” Since female-dominated fields tend to pay less, that may account for why gay men earn less. The opposite holds true for lesbian workers, who select into “male,” and therefore better-paid, fields.

Wage discrimination is also more likely within those higher paying fields, where pay is dependent on merit and performance, and people’s biases can play a strong role in evaluating and determining salaries. Gay men may get passed over for bonuses or pay bumps for the same reasons that women don’t get raises.

Parenting choices are an even bigger factor. The “fatherhood bonus” boosts men’s earnings more than 6 percent when they have a child, research has found. Gay men are less likely to have children, so fewer receive the bonus. Lesbian women are similarly affected. The “motherhood penalty” costs women 4 percent in wages for each child they have, the same research found. Since lesbian women are less likely to have children, they won’t necessarily face the same motherhood penalty as straight women with families do.

Mize, in his research, found that these bumps and penalties account for most of the gay wage gap: “After including the effects of motherhood and marriage in the modelhighly significant predictors of wagesthe wage gap between lesbian and heterosexual women becomes insignificant.” He found the same for gay men: Once accounting for fatherhood, the gap went away.

However, that didn’t hold true for bisexual workers. “I found that marriage and parenthood explained little if any of the wage gaps for either bisexual men or bisexual women,” he said. 

Mize contends that this leaves one explanation: stereotyping and discrimination. In previous research2, he has found that bisexual men and women are viewed as more immature and dishonest and less capable and competent than straight or gay people. 

In the U.S., no federal law bans discrimination based on sexual orientation3. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a federal bill that would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual identity, is not likely to pass any time soon. Mike Pence, the Vice President-elect has voted against the law, saying it “wages war on freedom of religion in the workplace.”

President-elect Donald Trump has also said that if Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, a bill that would allow businesses to legally discriminate against gay Americans based on religious beliefs, he will sign it.

“I’m pessimistic at this point,” said Mize about the possibility of federal protections for bisexual workers. “The tone is not promising.” 

Corrects chart to show that men and women earned different amounts of money.

Read more: www.bloomberg.com









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