unrepresentative Democracy – we CAN set forth its transformation

17 11 2015

The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near zero, statistically non-significant, impact upon public policy… We have a political system that betrays the fundamental idea of a representative democracy. – Lawrence Lessig

Our epoch is a birth-time, and a period of transition. The spirit of man has broken with the old order of things hitherto prevailing, and with the old ways of thinking, and is in the mind to let them all sink into the depths of the past and to set about its own transformation. – Hegel

There’s room for everyone in this world – Pete’s Dragon

26 09 2015

When the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbours” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognise that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.  – Pope Francis

Man should not consider his material possession his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need. – Thomas Aquinas

FREEDOM in truth

12 12 2014




FREEDOM in Vienna

7 10 2014

photo 1 photo 2 Freedom in Vienna



Die Gedanken sind frei, wer kann sie erraten,
sie fliegen vorbei wie nächtliche Schatten.
Kein Mensch kann sie wissen, kein Jäger erschießen
mit Pulver und Blei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Ich denke was ich will und was mich beglücket,
doch alles in der Still’, und wie es sich schicket.
Mein Wunsch und Begehren kann niemand verwehren,
es bleibet dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Und sperrt man mich ein im finsteren Kerker,
das alles sind rein vergebliche Werke.
Denn meine Gedanken zerreißen die Schranken
und Mauern entzwei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Drum will ich auf immer den Sorgen entsagen
und will mich auch nimmer mit Grillen mehr plagen.
Man kann ja im Herzen stets lachen und scherzen
und denken dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Ich liebe den Wein, mein Mädchen vor allen,
sie tut mir allein am besten gefallen.
Ich sitz nicht alleine bei meinem Glas Weine,
mein Mädchen dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

AGAPE: Dancing a Waltz of Peace

18 09 2014

(higher) LOVE

15 09 2014



Think about it, there must be higher love
Down in the heart and in the stars above,
Without it, life is wasted time.
Look inside your heart, I’ll look inside mine

Things look so bad everywhere
In this whole world, what’s fair?
We walk blind and we try to see
Falling behind in what could be.

Bring me a higher love
Bring me a higher love,
Bring me a higher love
Where’s this higher love, I’ve been thinking of?

Worlds are turning and we’re just hanging on
Facing our fear, standing out there alone
Oh a yearning, and it’s real for me
There must be someone who’s feeling for me
Things look so bad everywhere

In this whole world, what’s fair?
We walk blind and we try to see
Falling behind in what could be

Bring me a higher love
Bring me a higher love,
Bring me a higher love
Where’s this higher love, I’ve been thinking of?

I will wait for it, I’m not too late for it
Until then, I’ll sing my song
To cheer the night along

I could light the night up with my soul on fire
I could make the sun shine from pure desire
Let me feel the love come over me
Let me feel how strong it can be

Bring me a higher love
Bring me a higher love, oh
Bring me a higher love
I could rise above for this higher love.

BEING HUMAN: The UK’s First Humanities Festival Nov 15-23, 2014

12 09 2014

institute of philosophy

What does it mean to be human? How do we understand ourselves, our relationship to others and our place in nature? For centuries the humanities have addressed these questions. Artists, writers, philosophers, theologians and historians have considered who we are, how we live and what we value most. But are these long-standing questions changing in 2014? We are more connected than ever, yet we spend more time with smart phones and computers than face to face. The world is becoming smaller, yet the digital information we can access and store, even about ourselves, is vast and growing.  Developments in science and technology are moving fast, challenging our understanding of the self and society. What sense can we make of these changes and what challenges do we face? We need the humanities more than ever to help us address these issues and provide the means to question, interpret and explain the human predicament.

The festival is held as part of the School of Advanced Study’s 20th anniversary celebrations and draws on the success of the 2013 King’s College Festival of the Humanities. Being Human will be the UK’s first national festival of the humanities. Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, and universities, arts and cultural organisations across the UK, it will demonstrate the value, vitality and relevance of the humanities in 2014. Find out more at www.beinghumanfestival.org or follow the festival on Twitter at @BeingHumanFest.




when science sets man FREE

6 09 2014

“I’m happy. It was a rough experience… but I knew one day I was going to be blessed to get out of prison” – Henry McCollum


A Family Torn Apart

23 07 2014

“My mother is a daughter of Zion. One side of her family fled from Russian pogroms in the Pale of Settlement, the other was caught up in the rise of Nazism in the cauldron of 20th-century Europe… My father’s family belongs to the other camp. He was only a boy when the Irgun and Haganah came rolling into Jaffa on the waves of tanks and mortars… I have a daughter now who carries both bloodlines and must somehow learn to live at peace with the two sides of her heritage.” – Claire Hajaj


I LOVE Sushi: let children lead the way towards peace

20 06 2014


I LOVE Sushi


6 06 2014

Estimating the margins of sin

31 05 2014

“The critics of GDP give it too much credit. It is a painstaking attempt to measure the total production of the economy. It is not the guiding star for economic policy, public morality, or anything else.”
– Tim Harford

Question for Tim: once we include sex work and illegal drugs into the calculation of GDP do we not dis-incentivise politicians to shrink those industries?




22 04 2014
photo 2
Philomena–Mummy, where did you get this new hat?
Mummy–I bought it the other night at a bullfight.
Philomena – A BULLFIGHT? 


el billete

el billete

IMG_5089   Cuernos1






photo 2


The Colour of Easter

20 04 2014
I feel close to all men and women who, although not claiming to belong to any religious tradition, still feel themselves to be in search of truth, goodness and beauty. – Pope Francis
Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God. Go forth and set the world on fire. – Ignatius of Loyola
Historical Christianity has fallen into the error that corrupts all attempts to communicate religion. As it appears to us, and as it has appeared for ages, it is not the doctrine of the soul, but an exaggeration of the personal, the positive, the ritual. It has dwelt, it dwells, with noxious exaggeration about the person of Jesus. The soul knows no persons. It invites every man to expand to the full circle of the universe, and will have no preferences but those of spontaneous love…. The time is coming when all men will see, that the gift of God to the soul is not a vaunting, overpowering, excluding sanctity, but a sweet, natural goodness, a goodness like thine and mine, and that so invites thine and mine to be and to grow. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The colour of Easter is so beautiful, Mummy. – Philomena 
streets of SMA

LOVE is a way of earning the future

31 03 2014

An excerpt from a conversation in Shantaram.

A group of foreigners and Indians are talking about hardships they’ve been through, and how much the slumdwellers suffer all the time. The main character’s love interest (unrequited) is about to speak:

We all turned our attention to Karla. She toyed with her cup for an instant, turning it slowly in the saucer with her long index finger. “I think that we all, each one of us, we all have to earn our future.” she said slowly. “I think the future is like anything else that’s important. It has to be earned. If we don’t earn it, we don’t have a future at all. And if we don’t earn it, if we don’t deserve it, we have to live in the present, more or less forever. Or worse, we have to live in the past. I think that’s probably what love is – a way of earning the future.”

From “Offenders” to Philosophers

29 03 2014

Read about the extraordinary work that Nikki Cameron and the Low Moss Philosophy Club are doing to raise consciousness in prisons by teaching philosophy. Low Moss emphasise the Stoic idea that although we lack control over many aspects of our environment, we do have some choice over own thoughts, beliefs and actions. That although we may not control the past or the future, we can control the present. That although we cannot control what has already happened to us, we are still able to control how we respond to it.

Jules Evans (Philosophy for Life) writes about their work here:



stoicsm cheat sheet

Push the Bush

21 03 2014


a little princess–movie night with the girls

25 01 2014

A very long time ago…
… there lived a beautiful princess,
in a mystical land known as…
She was married to the
handsome Prince Rama…
… who had been banished
to the enchanted forest…
…by his jealous stepmother,
Queen Kaikeyi.
One day…
…Princess Sita saw a wounded deer
in the woods…
…and she begged Rama
to go and help it.
Rama drew a circle in the ground
and said to her:
”This is a magic circle.
So long as you stay inside it…
…no harm can come to you. ”
That night,
the princess heard a horrible cry.
Help me.
Thinking it was her beloved Rama
in danger…
… the princess ran from the circle
to answer the cry.
She soon came across
an old beggar man.
Although she had no money
to give him…
…she could not refuse his plea.
As soon as he had the bracelet…
. . .he transformed into the
He grabs her and takes her
to his palace. . .
. . .to make her his bride.
Did you ever know
a real prince, Maya?

– A Little Princess (1995) Movie Script

conversation with Philomena during the film (age 7)

– mummy, why did they just call her a princess? is she a real princess?
– because being a princess is about behaving like a princess. and she just did didn’t she?
– like thinking of others first, before yourself, right?
– yes, my love, exactly.

l am a princess.
All girls are.
Even if they live
in tiny old attics.
Even if they dress in rags.
Even if they aren’t pretty
or smart or young.
They’re still princesses.
All of us.

– A Little Princess (1995) Movie Script

had no idea alfonzo cuaron made this gorgeous film. so wonderful.


Fairytales of love

12 01 2011

When I was pregnant I vowed never to show my children certain films or read them certain fables—Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty were at the top of that list. This was simply because I never wanted them to overly romanticise love, marriage, or consider waiting “forever” for some prince to come rescue them. I also was extremely uncomfortable with the fact that all of these tales featured dead mothers and wicked step-mothers (I have recently learned that the second part of the non-Disneyfied version of Sleeping Beauty actually features a cannibalistic mother-in-law who attempts to eat all of Sleeping Beauty’s children—as if she hadn’t suffered enough from her 100 year coma!)

Still, by the time Philomena had turned 4, she had the three book versions of the stories above and had seen Sleeping Beauty a dozen times over (actually, I am embarrassed to confess just how many times she’s seen the film). So while I didn’t appreciate the lesson being taught by the fable, i.e. that with patience and through passivity, every woman’s prince would come to her rescue and marry her, or that a woman is somehow incomplete without a man, or that a woman should not dare to be curious (curiosity, represented by the spindle in which S.B. pricks her finger, led to her terrible fate), I still exposed her to it in all its glory. Upon lots of pleading, I even bought her a Sleeping Beauty dress and matching crown.

Anyway, as you might suspect, P has taken to love this story so much that we re-enact it regularly at home.

One day, P was so set on the idea that her father would play the role of “prince,” despite the fact that he had not yet come home from the office, that she lay herself down on the floor of our kitchen for 30 minutes (I kid you not!) and patiently waited until her father came home to waken her with a magic kiss. Dressed in her Sleeping Beauty gown, a pillow under her head and hands folded over her belly, she perched her lips and just waited and waited and waited for what probably felt like 100 years to her little 4 year-old self.

I tried everything to convince her to get up off the floor (it was late, we needed to eat, have a bath and get to sleep) but  she refused to EVER get up until the prince arrived. I was, of course, incredibly relieved when he finally walked through the door.

And even more overjoyed that he knew to kiss her immediately. With a gleaming smile from ear to ear, Philomena stretched out her arms to greet him and quickly pronounced them “married.” Moments later, she led her prince down the make-believe grand staircase of her castle to dance the waltz, which she hummed as loudly as possible. I, in the role of her mother, the Queen, was commanded to cry with happiness while watching them dance.

It was just about the sweetest thing in the world to observe my 4-year old wait so patiently to be kissed, held and danced with by her father-prince. But I was also unsettled by the fact that we were all celebrating the fact that my child was being influenced by 16th century values, passed down in story form by peasants around a campfire 4 centuries ago, knowing full well that these violent stories were embraced at a time when society was extremely sexually-repressed and dominated by religious conflict.

A while back I read ‘The Uses of Enchantment’ by Bruno Bettelheim to get a better understanding of the value of such fairy tales–it was actually the reading of this book that made me lighten up a bit about exposing my children to all these old methods of story telling. Bettelheim won the US Critic’s Choice Prize (1976) and the National Book Award for Contemporary Thought (1977) for his analysis and support of these fairy tales, which he believed ultimately helped children to deal with their own inner darkness, fear of abandonment and sense of purpose–his logic was framed in terms of Freudian psychology. All in all, what I took away most from Bettelheim’s book was his message that a parent should not to alter or offer explanations of the plot or characters of the fables. He believed that children would come away after each reading of the fable with a deeper understanding of them; to soften or alter the stories could potentially cause more confusion and harm to the child.

Charles Perrault, who first published ‘The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood’ in 1697, made some changes to the century old fable to appeal to the aristocracy of Louis XIV by making the characters more opulent, but he made sure to leave  the original fable to speak for itself. Well I read Perrault’s story today and was amazed to discover that I had been completely wrong about my understanding of the story. It was actually good old Walt Disney, who altered the fable in the 50s, pumping some 6 million dollars into its adaptation, which was VERY different from the original story, as an attempt to expel his own Christian narrative and patriarchal values.

How ironic is it that I find the original fable easier to embrace than the one updated in the 1950s—the version embraced by my parents generation?!  How ironic is it that those 16th Century peasants weren’t nearly as sexually repressed as Disney?!

Perrault’s original text  actually tells a story of a prince, who waited 100 years for the love of a princess. It tells of an extremely devoted and emotional man who was “more at a loss than she.”  It tells a story of a marriage sealed in secret, unbeknownst to the King and Queen, and of sleepless nights of divine love-making. It tells the story of a son afraid of his strong and powerful mother who eventually begins to suspect that he is married and reacts with jealousy and vengeance.  Lastly, it tells the story of a humble servant who stands up to the angry Queen to protect the love between the prince, the princess and their children.

This is much more my kind of story.

See for yourself below:

“At last he came into a chamber all gilded with gold, where he saw upon a bed, the curtains of which were all open, the finest sight was ever beheld — a princess, who appeared to be about fifteen or sixteen years of age, and whose bright and, in a manner, resplendent beauty, had somewhat in it divine. He approached with trembling and admiration, and fell down before her upon his knees. And now, as the enchantment was at an end, the princess awaked, and looking on him with eyes more tender than the first view might seem to admit of. “Is it you, my prince?” said she to him. “You have waited a long while.” The prince, charmed with these words, and much more with the manner in which they were spoken, knew not how to show his joy and gratitude; he assured her that he loved her better than he did himself; their discourse was not well connected, they did weep more than talk, little eloquence, a great deal of love. He was more at a loss than she.”

…after supper, without losing any time, the lord almoner married them in the chapel of the castle, and the chief lady of honor drew the curtains. They had but very little sleep.

…the prince left her next morning to return to the city, where his father must needs have been in pain for him. The prince told him that he lost his way in the forest as he was hunting.

The king, his father, who was a good man, believed him; but his mother could not be persuaded it was true; and she began to suspect that he was married…

The queen spoke several times to her son, to inform herself after what manner he did pass his time, and that in this he ought in duty to satisfy her. But he never dared to trust her with his secret; he feared her, though he loved her, for she was of the race of the ogres, and the king would never have married her had it not been for her vast riches; it was even whispered about the court that she had ogreish inclinations, and that, whenever she saw little children passing by, she had all the difficulty in the world to avoid falling upon them. And so the prince would never tell her one word.

But when the king was dead, which happened about two years afterward, and he saw himself lord and master, he openly declared his marriage; and he went in great ceremony to conduct his queen to the palace. They made a magnificent entry into the capital city, she riding between her two children….

for the complete story see: http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0410.html#nights


6 01 2011

A conversation between P and her granny, Mama-miel:

P- Where is your mummy?

M- She lives in heaven.

P- That’s a long way away, heaven.

M- Yes.

P- I haven’t been there yet.

M- I haven’t either.