An Illustrated ORIGIN OF SPECIES (my 2009 review)


David Quammen’s sumptuous illustrated edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species appeared in time to celebrate the 150 years since the publication of this world-shattering book. The wide range of portraits, paintings, photos, engravings, press coverage, botanical and zoological specimens also give insight into Darwin’s life and times, and quiet but relentlessly inquiring mind.

My 2009 review of this book is attached (click link).

Getting older – all in the mind?

Many people as they age simply imagine that they can’t, or shouldn’t, do certain things because they are too old. They are meeting expectations.
What they should do, in Buddhist philosophy, is to have as one of their goals this:
to remain at the “most youthful level of functioning possible”.

Our Japan trip 2013: Takayama to Nagano

We could have travelled by fast train to Nagoya, but chose the more picturesque route using local trains. This took us through the Hida, the Japanese Alps, rather than through the flat lands with wall to wall residential. We went Minoota-Tajimi, then Shinanano Express with large viewing windows to Nagano. This express was disappointingly one minute late, arriving at 16.55 pm (someone would have their knuckles rapped!).
We passed incredibly beautiful scenery – wild gorges, rivers, waterfalls, steep forested hillsides, towering mountains, hydro-electric dams, tiny villages clinging to patches of land, with all available ground covered in rice paddies, vegetable gardens and fruit orchards; small shrines and temples, groves of Japanese cedar trees, family graveyards, workers in the fields, older villages with architectural features that kept houses as warm as possible during the long winter months.
We descended into Nagano down into a valley, again with great views and landscapes. Nagano has a well planned railway station, the legacy of the Winter Olympics in 1998, and wide modern streets. It is the centre of soba noodle production, because the buckwheat that is used to make this noodle flourishes here.
More on Nagano next…..

Original Sin – How True Is It?

G.K.Chesterton believed that “the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved” was original sin. He ran against the currents of his age, which disparaged the whole idea of original sin, by saying that it was obvious: we only had to look around.
He wrote that the doctrine of original sin, “the permanent possibility of selfishness” arising “from the mere fact of having a self” should be the first thing to be believed in. Original sin was really original: “Whatever else humans have believed in, they have all believed that there is something the matter with mankind. This sense of sin has made it impossible to be natural and have no clothes, just as it has made it impossible to be natural and have no laws”[The Everlasting Man].
This might be compared with Buddhist thought, which posits that “I am loved and I am love”, that we are essentially good at our deepest, most spiritual level. But is this a real contrast?
It could be argued that in both cases the real origin of sin is the self, and the path to virtue is to subdue (even eliminate) self. What do you think?
Any theologians around?

The Biosphere and the Noosphere

Julian Huxley was one of the first to popularise the term biosphere. In 1969 he and Max Nicholson publicly stated:
“…the earth supports a realm of living creatures, plant and animal, which is gradually becoming known as the ‘biosphere’. Emerging from that living layer, the human species has quite lately begun to create, as Teilhard de Chardin pointed out, an intangible but even more significant ‘noosphere’, or realm of human feelings and ideas. This agency of psychological change is steadily evolving toward greater universality and continuity all the time”[“Times”, 7.10.1969].

Julian Huxley on the Cosmos

Julian Huxley wrote this:
“It is part of man’s destiny to be the necessary agent of the cosmos in understanding more of itself, in bearing witness to its wonder, beauty, and interest, in creating new aids to and mechanisms for existence, in experiencing itself, and so introducing the cosmos to more new and valuable experiences”
[New Bottles for New Wine, 1957, p.121].