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Bryan Cranston
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Liv Boeree
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Amaryllis Fox
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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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Life Is Short, But It Doesn’t Have to Be Shallow—How to Capture Deep Hope

Capitalism has hijacked our emotions and rewired us for instant gratification—but we can reclaim our lives by practicing deep hope.

Andre C. Willis: When one thinks about deep hope, what one thinks about first is avoiding superficial hopes like, “I hope that my Domino’s pizza will arrive on time,” or even the ambitious hopes, “I hope that my career is successful.” These things portend to a future realizable desire. And they situate that desire as probable.

When we think about deep hope we’re thinking about something that’s not linked to a desire, to the future, to an ambition or to probability. We’re thinking about a relationship to the present in a particular kind of discipline as one faces the present. Because when one faces the present one realizes things like: 'Life is short. Even though I’d like to live long I have no idea whether or not I will. My friends, my animals are all in very contingent relationships to life itself, and to me, in that we walk not on concrete but in quicksand.' So when you face those real facts about what life is and you say, “How do I relate to these facts?” The answer, I think, that comes out of the work I study, is that one faces these facts with a deep hope that is not an aspiration, it’s not a probability, it’s not a future orientation. It’s a grounded-ness in the present facts of existence.

Unfortunately our culture has emphasized the trivial hopes because those are hopes that link to markets and to achievements, which are always sort of market-linked, because markets are about growth, they’re about ambition, they’re about accomplishment, they’re about expansion.
So therefore, our culture really generates a propensity to trivial and superficial hopes, right? It counters and has made a deep hope, kind of—we’re famished when it comes to deep hope. There’s a sort of anorexia when it comes to deep hope. We've massaged and accentuated this idea of ourselves as consumers, as participants in the market that venerates instant gratification and the satisfaction of our desires in immediate kinds of ways.

To generate the deep hope, the kind of hope that I think comes out of the traditions I study, one has to really slow down and face a different set of facts. And those facts are about the fundamentals of the experience of life. That is to say, life is tragic. One’s promises will never be completely fulfilled and one’s desires can never ultimately be met. That is just what life is.

So how do we cultivate a deep hope in the face of a culture which wants to accentuate instant gratification and overstimulation? Well I say it requires us to take some steps back. To step out of the market culture. To step away from the interests of global capital which are about accomplishment, achievement, expansion and growth, and to do more work around a sense of quietude, do more interior work and do more work in communities that affirm togetherness in a collective sense of what can go on outside of markets. So things like gentleness and compassion. There’s marvelous work that’s being done in schools and community centers and in art workshops, artist workshops, where people come together and engage in—they don’t talk about hope, they just sort of quietly face the present with a sense of being there.

Deep hope comes from a rich engagement in those kinds of rooted tasks, that kind of groundedness that we get from community and collectives and relationships that have little to do with market values but are more about a more organic connectedness and fundamental linkages with the true facts of life and one another.

There are two kinds of hope, and between them is a world of difference, says Andre C. Willis. The one we use and speak about most often is what he calls trivial hope, which has superficial aims like, "I hope that my Domino’s pizza will arrive on time," or, "I hope that my career is successful." What makes these superficial is that they relate to probable futures, and are underpinned by the heavy hand of market capitalism, which increasingly tells us what we desire and what our ambitions are. How can we overcome that emotional hijacking? Willis contends that the second kind of hope, 'deep hope', is the antidote to the shallow living Western culture is up against. Deep hope is not based on measurable rewards or future desires, but is a way to face the true facts of life. What are those? Willis explains above, and fills us in on why we need a special toolkit to relate to the present without delusions. This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism.

Remote learning vs. online instruction: How COVID-19 woke America up to the difference

Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.

Credit: Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
  • Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
  • In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
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White dwarfs hold key to life in the universe, suggests study

New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.

NASA and H. Richer (University of British Columbia)
Surprising Science
  • White dwarf stars create carbon atoms in the Milky Way galaxy, shows new study.
  • Carbon is an essential component of life.
  • White dwarfs make carbon in their hot insides before the stars die.
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"Forced empathy" is a powerful negotiation tool. Here's how to do it.

Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
  • The key is starting a sentence with "What" or "How," causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
  • What appears to signal weakness is turned into a strength when using this tactic.
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Octopus-like creatures inhabit Jupiter’s moon, claims space scientist

A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
Surprising Science
  • A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
  • Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
  • The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
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How to catch a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE before it’s gone

Unless you plan to try again in 6,800 years, this week is your shot.

Image source: Sven Brandsma/Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Comet NEOWISE will be most visible in the U.S. during the evenings from July 14-19, 2020.
  • After July 23rd, NEOWISE will be visible only through good binoculars and telescopes.
  • Look in the northwestern sky below the Big Dipper after dusk while there's a chance.

UPDATE: NASA is broadcasting a NASA Science Live episode highlighting Comet NEOWISE. NASA experts will discuss and answer public questions beginning at 3PM EST on Wednesday, July 15. Tune in via the agency's website, Facebook Live, YouTube, Periscope, LinkedIn, Twitch, or USTREAM.

Before last evening, July 14, 2020, the easiest way to see Comet NEOWISE — the brightest comet to zoom past Earth since 1977's Comet Hale-Bopp — from the United States was to catch it about an hour before sunrise. Now, however, you can see it in the evening, where it will remain for until the 19th. This is a definite don't-miss event — NEOWISE won't be coming back our way for another 6,800 years. It's the first major comet of the millennium, and by all accounts, it's unforgettable.

NEOWISE just got back from the Sun

Comet NEOWISE is named after the NASA infrared space telescope that first spotted it on March 27th. Its official moniker is C/2020 F3. It's estimated that the icy comet is about three miles across, not counting its tail.

NEOWISE is now heading away from our Sun, having made it closet approach, 27.4 million miles, to our star on July 3. The heat from that encounter is what's given NEOWISE its tail: It caused gas and dust to be released from the icy object, creating the tail of debris that looks so magical from here.

As NEOWISE moves closer to Earth, paradoxically, it will be less and less visible. By about July 23rd, you'll need binoculars or a telescope to see it at all. All of which makes this week prime time.

An evening delight

star constellation in sky

Image source: Allexxandar/Shutterstock/Big Think

First, find an unobstructed view of the northwest sky, free of streetlights, car headlights, apartment lights, and so on. And then, according to Sky & Telescope:

"Start looking about one hour after sunset, when you'll find it just over the northwestern horizon as the last of twilight fades into darkness."

It should be easy to spot since it's near to one of the most recognizable constellations up there, the Big Dipper. "Look about three fists below the bottom of the Big Dipper, which is hanging down by its handle high above, and from there perhaps a little to the right." Et voilà: Comet NEOWISE.

Says Sky & Telescope's Diana Hannikainen, "Look for a faint, fuzzy little 'star' with a fainter, fuzzier little tail extending upward from it."

The comet should be visible with the naked eye, though binoculars and a simple telescope may reveal more detail.

You may also be able to snap a photo of this special visitor, though you'll need the right gear to do so. A dedicated camera is more likely to capture a good shot than a telephone, but in either case, you'll need a tripod or some other means of holding the camera dead still as it takes a timed exposure of several seconds (not all phones can do this).

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