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Emperor Daltonius and the Invading Pirates

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We all have within us a center of stillness surrounded by silence.

This house, dedicated to work and debate in the service of peace, should have one room dedicated to silence in the outward sense and stillness in the inner sense.

It has been the aim to create in this small room a place where the doors may be open to the infinite lands of thought and prayer.

People of many faiths will meet here, and for that reason none of the symbols to which we are accustomed in our meditation could be used.

However, there are simple things which speak to us all with the same language. We have sought for such things and we believe that we have found them in the shaft of light striking the shimmering surface of solid rock.

So, in the middle of the room we see a symbol of how, daily, the light of the skies gives life to the earth on which we stand, a symbol to many of us of how the light of the spirit gives life to matter.

But the stone in the middle of the room has more to tell us. We may see it as an altar, empty not because there is no God, not because it is an altar to an unknown god, but because it is dedicated to the God whom man worships under many names and in many forms.

The stone in the middle of the room reminds us also of the firm and permanent in a world of movement and change. The block of iron ore has the weight and solidity of the everlasting. It is a reminder of that cornerstone of endurance and faith on which all human Endeavour must be based.

The material of the stone leads our thoughts to the necessity for choice between destruction and construction, between war and peace. Of iron man has forged his swords, of iron he has also made his ploughshares. Of iron he has constructed tanks, but of iron he has likewise built homes for man. The block of iron ore is part of the wealth we have inherited on this earth of ours. How are we to use it?

The shaft of light strikes the stone in a room of utter simplicity. There are no other symbols, there is nothing to distract our attention or to break in on the stillness within ourselves. When our eyes travel from these symbols to the front wall, they meet a simple pattern opening up the room to the harmony, freedom and balance of space.

There is an ancient saying that the sense of a vessel is not in its shell but in the void. So it is with this room. It is for those who come here to fill the void with what they find in their center of stillness.”

Statement by Dag Hammarskjold, UN Secretary-General (1953-1961) written for the dedication of the meditation room. The Meditation Room is open to the public. It is located to the right of the information desk as one enters the public area of the United Nations.

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Guns, Germs and Steel

by Jarod Diamond

For me, the gift of Diamond’s book, Guns, Germs and Steel:The Fates of Human Societies, is the fundamental question that launches his inquiry-why have we arrived at a power dynamic that favors Eurasians? From this central question, a network of theories and subsequent questions bloom in multiple directions.

Yes, his conclusions are useful, even enlightening. Guns, germs and steel each have played a role in aiding, say, the European conquest of the Americas and Africa. Diamond, however, considers these to be only proximate factors. Why did guns, germs and steel not work in favor of members of the Americas and Africa?

Diamond considers food production, that is, the deliberate planting of foods and domestication of animals to be an ultimate factor. This development in the Recent Era, beginning after the last ice age of 13,000 BCE, lead to sedentary lifestyles and allowed for a non-food producing class of people, such as chiefs, generals, scientists, inventors, etc. Those beholden to a past-time of hunting and gathering tended to be more egalitarian. Kleptocracy evolved with food production. 

Continental barriers and axes lead toward a particular diffusion of ideas and technologies. Diet also played a factor, with high protein diets stimulating the brain in ways that low protein diets could not. 

With regard to germs, contemporary developments in molecular biology show that germs developed out of the husbandry of animals. This early exposure to, say, small pox, also lead to the development of human resistance. One can easily see how this eventually benefited some while killing others en masse. (side note: one has to walk through this tour of human history with a certain dispassionate distance from the cold brutality of events. These inequities of guns, germs and steel have lead to the genocide of many groups of people)

I will not carry on any further. I recommend that you simply go to the source and read it for yourself. And thank you, Jarod Diamond, for sharing.

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Happy 2010!Experiments

 Recent trials and errors with chemistry and light- the above two images are printed on Ilford RC paper, exposed for a second (literally turning the bathroom light on and off). The light source was that of compact fluorescent bulbs, about 8 feet above the contact printing tray, development in Kodak D-76 with recommended time and temperature. Interesting results. As you can see there is an uneven development of tone over the image.

Above, exposed with a 100 watt frosted glass incandescent bulb, placed about  4 feet away from sensitized paper, in this case,  an Ilford Multigrade fiberbased paper. 1 potato exposure, #4 filter. Similar results with regard to the inconsistent tone.