How We Can Begin to Rebuild the American Community
The Dalai Lama suggests the anger tearing apart nations is a feeling many have of not being needed any more.
The Dalai Lama recently co-authored (with Arthur C. Brooks) an Opinion piece in the New York Times that presents a compelling reason for the anger that drove the 2016 presidential election: A feeling among many that the world no longer has any use for them. (The choice of messenger is a separate issue.) And it's not just an issue in America — it's the cause of a simmering discontent throughout many of the world's wealthier nations.
For those of us who've watched in horror as the American sense of community was blown to bits on the campaign trail, it's reasonable to wonder how we can ever put the pieces back together again. The Dalai Lama's insight offers us a bridge to understanding, and maybe even reconciliation.
“We all need to be needed," he says in the Times, citing a 13th-century Buddhist aphorism: “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one's own way."
It's a very human, and humane, perspective. Most of us have at one time or another had the feeling of being superfluous, as if our disappearance from the face of the earth would scarcely be noticed. It's a horrible feeling of isolation and hopelessness, and one's heart can't help but go out to anyone feeling this way. And that empathy can be a start.
The huge career dislocations caused by the 2008 recession stole from many the source of their sense of value to their families and themselves: their jobs and incomes. It's a shock to the spirit from which many haven't recovered, and it's safe to say that few U.S. workers feel more secure after that financial cataclysm laid bare a system so heavily stacked against them. The story is much the same everywhere in the world. Is it any wonder when a strongman arrives with vague promises of a fix — and dark hints of retribution against, well, someone — and is embraced, whether that's the U.S., Britain, Russia, or the Philippines?
The Dalai Lama notes that one of the things religions agree on is the importance of service to a happy life. Studies support the idea that feeling useful helps alleviate depression, and the Times piece mentions a recent study that found people who feel needed live longer. For anyone, the sense of self-worth derived from helping others paradoxically makes being selfless one of the most effective — not to mention positive and productive — ways to be selfish.
So what can we do? The Dalai Lama suggests two approaches.
The first is personal. “We should start each day by consciously asking ourselves, 'What can I do today to appreciate the gifts that others offer me?' … Each of us has the responsibility to make this a habit." Put in simpler terms, we need to more consciously and regularly let others around us know how much we value them, especially when they may doubt it themselves.
On a systemic level, the Dalai Lama calls for a “compassionate society" in which there are “a wealth of opportunities for meaningful work, so that everyone who is capable of contributing can do so. A compassionate society must provide children with education and training that enriches their lives, both with greater ethical understanding and with practical skills that can lead to economic security and inner peace. A compassionate society must protect the vulnerable while ensuring that these policies do not trap people in misery and dependence."
One outcome of the upward redistribution of wealth in the U.S that's occurred since the 1970s is that those who haven't benefited from it are reduced to fighting among themselves for what's left over. It's a deadly formula for an inevitable escalation of anger and conflict among the less privileged. This means that the justification for a compassionate society isn't just moral. It's the only practical solution to an unsustainable and cruel cycle of anger and despair.
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.
Scientists discover the inner workings of an effect that will lead to a new generation of devices.
- Researchers discover a method of extracting previously unavailable information from superconductors.
- The study builds on a 19th-century discovery by physicist Edward Hall.
- The research promises to lead to a new generation of semiconductor materials and devices.
Credit: Gunawan/Nature magazine
The number of people with dementia is expected to triple by 2060.
The images and our best computer models don't agree.
A trio of intriguing galaxy clusters<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzNDA0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTkzNzUyOH0.0IRzkzvKsmPEHV-v1dqM1JIPhgE2W-UHx0COuB0qQnA/img.jpg?width=980" id="d69be" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2d2664d9174369e0a06540cb3a3a9079" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The three galaxy clusters imaged for the study
Mapping dark matter<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d904b585c806752f261e1215014691a6"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fO0jO_a9uLA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The assumption has been that the greater the lensing effect, the higher the concentration of dark matter.</p><p>As scientists analyzed the clusters' large-scale lensing — the massive arc and elongation visual effects produced by dark matter — they noticed areas of smaller-scale lensing within that larger distortion. The scientists interpret these as concentrations of dark matter within individual galaxies inside the clusters.</p><p>The researchers used spectrographic data from the VLT to determine the mass of these smaller lenses. <a href="https://www.oas.inaf.it/en/user/pietro.bergamini/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Pietro Bergamini</a> of the INAF-Observatory of Astrophysics and Space Science in Bologna, Italy explains, "The speed of the stars gave us an estimate of each individual galaxy's mass, including the amount of dark matter." The leader of the spectrographic aspect of the study was <a href="http://docente.unife.it/docenti-en/piero.rosati1/curriculum?set_language=en" target="_blank">Piero Rosati</a> of the Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Italy who recalls, "the data from Hubble and the VLT provided excellent synergy. We were able to associate the galaxies with each cluster and estimate their distances." </p><p>This work allowed the team to develop a thoroughly calibrated, high-resolution map of dark matter concentrations throughout the three clusters.</p>
But the models say...<p>However, when the researchers compared their map to the concentrations of dark matter computer models predicted for galaxies bearing the same general characteristics, something was <em>way</em> off. Some small-scale areas of the map had 10 times the amount of lensing — and presumably 10 times the amount of dark matter — than the model predicted.</p><p>"The results of these analyses further demonstrate how observations and numerical simulations go hand in hand," notes one team member, <a href="https://nena12276.wixsite.com/elenarasia" target="_blank">Elena Rasia</a> of the INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Trieste, Italy. Another, <a href="http://adlibitum.oats.inaf.it/borgani/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Stefano Borgani</a> of the Università degli Studi di Trieste, Italy, adds that "with advanced cosmological simulations, we can match the quality of observations analyzed in our paper, permitting detailed comparisons like never before."</p><p>"We have done a lot of testing of the data in this study," Meneghetti says, "and we are sure that this mismatch indicates that some physical ingredient is missing either from the simulations or from our understanding of the nature of dark matter." <a href="https://physics.yale.edu/people/priyamvada-natarajan" target="_blank">Priyamvada Natarajan</a> of Yale University in Connecticut agrees: "There's a feature of the real Universe that we are simply not capturing in our current theoretical models."</p><p>Given that any theory in science lasts only until a better one comes along, Natarajan views the discrepancy as an opportunity, saying, "this could signal a gap in our current understanding of the nature of dark matter and its properties, as these exquisite data have permitted us to probe the detailed distribution of dark matter on the smallest scales."</p><p>At this point, it's unclear exactly what the conflict signifies. Do these smaller areas have unexpectedly high concentrations of dark matter? Or can dark matter, under certain currently unknown conditions, produce a tenfold increase in lensing beyond what we've been expecting, breaking the assumption that more lensing means more dark matter?</p><p>Obviously, the scientific community has barely begun to understand this mystery.</p>
Scientists have found evidence of hot springs near sites where ancient hominids settled, long before the control of fire.