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This just in!

by Frank Forencich on November 12, 2014

Attention health and fitness consumers!

Medical scientists from Stanford University have just announced the groundbreaking discovery that there is no fountain of youth, no way to turn back the clock and no way to prevent the aging of the human body. According to research published today in the journal Nature, aging and death are an integral part of the human condition. There is no escape. In related research, athletic trainers at UCLA announced the discovery that there is no perfect formula for athletic success; management wonks from Harvard Business School announced that there is no ultimate recipe for business success, and Match.com revealed that there is no fool-proof formula for eternal love.

Scientists involved in the research agreed that in an ultimate sense, nothing really works. Nothing gives us the final sense of security that we’re after. We are fundamentally naked before the world; there is no security, no certainty, anywhere.

According to lead author of the study, Dr. William Johnson, the results were clear. “Our findings are robust,” he reported. “There are no substances you can take, no programs you can adopt. There are no seminars you can take, websites that you can visit or apps that you can run on your phone. There is nothing whatsoever that can change the fact that our existence is temporary and our lives are fundamentally inexplicable. Experts and charlatans are happy to step up and tell us otherwise, but in fact no one really knows. And that’s the beauty of it.”

The findings were echoed by Dr. James Williams of Yale School of Medicine, “This is a solid finding. We now know that there’s nothing to be done about any of it. The research is conclusive. Human life is fundamentally precarious.”

Dissenting voices were quick to contest the results however. In particular, leaders in the technology sector rejected the findings outright. “These findings are erroneous and misleading. Our research indicates that technology can in fact solve the problem of human impermanence.” Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft issued a joint statement along with a new product announcement: “Our new device eliminates the problems of human suffering, disease, stress and death. We’ve also offering a free app with many of the same features. Now available on iTunes.”

The most vigorous dissent came from experts within the marketing industry. A spokeswoman from the Marketing Alliance, a trade-industry group, was clear: “We reject these findings outright. We’ve been selling practical life solutions to our consumers for decades. Our consumers consistently report satisfaction with our products and services. There is simply no human problem that cannot be solved with more aggressive advertising.”

For their part, professors and researchers in the biological community supported the findings. Richard Dawkins spoke for many when he said, “This finding is perfectly consistent with everything we know about the natural world. The inevitable fate for every individual is death, just as the ultimate fate for every species is extinction. As far as we can tell, suffering and death is an inevitable feature of life itself: 99 percent of all species that ever lived are extinct. No one here gets out alive.”

Other voices concurred. A spokesperson for the International Affiliation of Buddhist Scholars said “Ah, yes, it looks like the Buddha had it right all along. We’ve been working with this reality for a very long time now. I think you’ll just have to get used to it. You might try meditation. Works for us.”

 

 

buddha

 

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Good news situation

by Frank Forencich on November 6, 2014

The future begins today.

Wayne Gerard Trotman

 
As the seasons change and the days get shorter, the darkness creeps in and reminds us that there’s another shadow looming over our lives, an ominous story of environmental and social apocalypse. The details are all too familiar: climate change, fresh water depletion, habitat destruction, social inequality, terrorism, inept governments and runaway technological acceleration, all converging on what looks like a breakdown of everything that we hold dear. The news feels uniformly grim; it’s almost as if the darkness itself is coursing through our veins.

This story of environmental and human destruction is real. The damage we are doing to ourselves, our habitat and one another is unprecedented and catastrophic. Things are bad and are probably going to get worse for some time; there is no question that we’re in for a lot of suffering. Still, it’s essential to remember that this is not the only story of our time. Contrary to popular opinion, there is a lot of good news.

The upbeat begins with our new understanding of the human brain and body, especially the nervous system. Now, for the first time in history, we have a solid understanding of how people learn and how to train ourselves for health, happiness and improved performance. The fatalistic doctrine of a static brain has been replaced by an exciting new story of neuro-optimism. Our brains and bodies are plastic; with smart reps and training, we can learn and become almost anything. This insight ushers in a new age of practice, an era that promises to rewrite everything we thought we knew about human performance and potential.

That’s just the beginning. Around the world, lay people and professionals alike are showing powerful new interest in the very fields and disciplines we need to reconcile our predicament. Trainers and medical professionals are digging deep into preventive health practices, including stress medicine. Educators are emphasizing non-cognitive skills such as resilience, courage, emotional intelligence and grit. Entirely new disciplines such as Paleo studies and evolutionary psychology are gaining credibility. People are actively practicing meditation, mindfulness and positive psychology. And everywhere, people are trying to get outside to reconnect with the natural world.

Even though we often feel mired in complexity and intimidating realities, a lot of people are doing great work. Millions sticking their necks out for the future, our health, our human relationships and the biosphere. People are taking risks, making discoveries and sharing ideas that will help us adapt to this mismatched world. Many of these people and their works are invisible; pro-health, pro-social and pro-environmental work doesn’t attract nearly as much media attention as mayhem, fear and conflict. Nevertheless, these people do exist; you are probably one of them.

Today we are learning from a new generation of teachers and guides. Physical trainers, coaches, physicians and other health care professionals help us care for our bodies. Meditation teachers and neuroscientists help us understand the power of attention. Biologists, ecologists and habitat experts tell us about our relationship with the land. Interpersonal neurobiologists help us understand the subtle but powerful flows of social influence across our tribes. Craftspeople and artists tell us about the nature of skill, perception and our relationship with our bodies. Indigenous and native teachers remind us of about systemic wisdom, the circle of life and our role in the cosmos.

Even better, the discoveries of social neuroscience are demonstrating conclusively that we–as individuals–have far more power than we might have imagined. Our every behavior is infectious and contagious. Our thoughts and actions ripple through social systems to affect not just our friends, but people far beyond our immediate circle. In other words, the way we live matters. It may not feel like it, but you do have power and influence.
So, while it would be folly to ignore the reality of the darkness, be sure to talk about the good news too. There is a path forward and a lot of good people are walking it. Governments may well be ineffective, corporations may well be tyrannical, and the whole world may look like it’s going insane, but you can make a difference right now, where you are.

Of course, you still have to do the work.

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Experience or catastrophe

November 2, 2014

With all the noise about the new information economy, the digital revolution and the potential of “big data,” it’s easy to assume that these things are somehow important and necessary. The media is in a feeding frenzy and venture capitalists are lining up to put money in the pockets of anyone with a new, disruptive […]

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All together now

October 14, 2014

Do you ever feel like you’re going to pieces? Disintegrated and fragmented, as if the various forces within your body are pulling your life in wildly different directions? Of course you do. We all do. This experience may feel troubling, but there’s actually a very sound reason for this internal diversity. That is, the human […]

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Embrace the mystery

October 4, 2014

This week brings another wave of books, research reports and expert interviews about our crushing epidemic of lifestyle disease; another round of mind-numbing statistics of human bodies degenerating before our eyes, another call for action in the face of what is beginning to look like a global pandemic of misery. People are dropping like flies […]

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