Archive for March, 2010

A treasury of knowledge, for the long term…


Please enjoy this treasury of podcasted seminars on long term thinking presented by the thought-provoking folks over at The Long Now Foundation. There is one talk in particular that I think you may really enjoy: the talk given by Daniel Everett on “Endangered languages, lost knowledge and the future”  (scroll down here to find Everett’s podcasted talk) –

Here’s a summary…

“Language Revolution

The Pirahã tribe in the heart of the Amazon numbers only 360, spread in small groups over 300 miles.  An exceptionally cheerful people, they live with a focus on immediacy, empiricism, and physical rigor that has shaped their unique language, claims linguist Daniel Everett.

The Pirahã language has no numbers or concept of counting (only terms for “relatively small” and “relatively large”); no kinship terms beyond immediate children and parents; no “left” and “right” (only “upriver” and “downriver”); no named distinction of past and future (only near time and far time); no creation stories or myths; and—most important for linguists—no recursion.

A recursive sentence like “The boy who was fishing owned the dog” does not occur in the Pirahã language.  They would say, “The boy was fishing” and “The boy owned the dog.”  The eminent linguist Noam Chomsky has declared that recursion is an essential part of human language and is innate.  Chomsky’s former student Everett says that the Pirahã language proves otherwise.  The resultant controversy is profound.

The Pirahã language is the simplest in the world.  Speaking it and singing it are the same, and it can be hummed or even whistled, yet it can convey enormous richness.  Among other things, the wide variety of verb forms are used to account for the directness of evidence for a statement.  Everett originally went to the Pirahã in 1977 as a Christian missionary.  They challenged him to provide evidence for the existence of Jesus, and lost interest when he couldn’t.  Eventually so did he.  The Pirahã made him an atheist.

And the through him the Pirahã revolutionized how we think about language.

Some 40 percent of the world’s 6,912 known languages are endangered, says Everett, and that endangers science.  When we lose a language, we lose a whole way of life, a whole set of solutions to problems, a whole classification system and body of knowledge about the natural world, a whole calendar system, a whole complex of myths, folktales, and songs.

Everett spelled out what it takes to preserve a living language that is endangered.  The land where the speakers live must be preserved, and their health should be protected.  The language needs to be documented in detail.  And you could do worse than make a donation to the Foundation for Endangered Languages .” (S. Brand – The Long Now Foundation)

There are many more talks where this came from, on subjects as varied as “Machines and the Breath of Time” and “The Consequences of Human Life Extension”… Click here to explore.



The Reincarnationist Q&A – Author David Toussaint

Thank you to author David Toussaint for answering this week’s Reincarnationist Q&A:

What is your most marked characteristic that you believe could be a hold over from a past life?
Talent and the need for adoration.

What is your principle defect that you believe may be inherited from a previous incarnation?
Gluttony. I’m sure I was filthy rich.

Which of your favorite heroes do you think you could have been and why?
Charles Dickens, because when I read him, I know him. I’ve never even been to England. Vincent van Gogh, because I fell in love with his paintings when I was in grade school, and my mother is a wonderful painter—my drawing talent ends at those Hangman figures. And some incredibly wonderful gorgeous Cuban gay man who had his own “harhim.” Because my lust for Latins is eternal and Divine.

What three people from history would you like to have over to dinner for a discussion about reincarnation? Marilyn Monroe, because I want to thank her, and to let her know we love her. And I’d kill to know what her personality is like when she’s not “being” Marilyn. Madeline Kahn, because we need someone that talented to grace our planet again. And Shirley MacLaine, when she does go, so she can tell me how the whole thing’s working out.

What do you think happens when we die?
I think “die” is a human phrase that doesn’t translate into the answers of life and death. We can’t understand death—nor life, for that matter—we can only try and figure it out on a human, mortal level. That’s why none of the answers people come up with make sense. All we can do is live in and for the present.

When you come back next time, who (or what!) would you like to be? Myself, only sexier, smarter, richer—in other words, Jake Gyllenhaal but with more acting talent and fuller lips.

You can find David’s book TOUSSAINT here.

“David Toussaint’s tremendous wit and sharp social commentary are genius. Fans of David Sedaris will adore Toussaint’s charm, edge, and take on life.”
— New York Times bestselling author, Lisa McMann


Radio for the soul

For your listening pleasure, here is a link to Hay House Radio (radio for your soul!) – browse the archives for an incredible amount of content that I know you’ll love.


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