The Pursuit of Failure? A Rumination on Sex + Lust, Love + God. Russell’s “Ten Commandments.” Getting the News from Within

Monday, April 7, 2014 - 10:20 pm

The Pursuit of Failure? A Rumination on Sex + Lust, Love + God. Russell’s “Ten Commandments.” Getting the News from Within

Each week I write a weekly column that captures a tiny bit of what’s beautiful and intriguing in this world. If you’d like to receive it in your email inbox, subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

“Looking for Reality” (Cornelia Kopp / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).)

My goodness, the beauty of it all. Gorgeous depth and colors, and composition in this photo from Romi Burianova. The larger viewing the better.

Tim Jenison with his contraption.

In a 1951 commentary for The New York Times, Bertrand Russell once offered his version of the “Ten Commandments” as an antidote to fanaticism. The first one:

“Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.”

Each day I’ll be coupling the great British philosopher’s rules for living and learning with awesome images. Check out the first five: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

People are truly remarkable creatures, aren’t they? Tim Jenison, a man whose passion and curiosity have driven him to recreate a Vermeer painting, inspired this reflection on failure, giving up too soon, and pursuing curiosity rather than success.

A convening to commemorate Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama’s 1968 encounter with one another. (Donald Vish / Flickr)

Don’t tweet? You may be missing out on some real gems from Krista’s interviews. Like this one from her recent conversation with artist Dario Robleto, who ponders:

“How do I reunite a million-year-old raindrop with a million-year-old blossom?”

No worries. We compiled them for you in an easy-to-read (“storified”) post, something I call a Twitterscript.

“Where can I get news that is true and worth attending to?”

Our wise, elder-in-residence Parker J. Palmer posed this question in this week’s vignette. When I posted this on our Facebook page, the answers streamed back: CNN, NPR, Vice, On Being, Radio France International, and so on.

Which, I think, was part of Parker’s point. Traditional news sources are not enough. In essence, he’s asking us to consider where do we “get the news from within”? And, so, to help all of us along, he sent this tale about Thomas Merton:

“If we don’t know our own story well, in its darkness as well as its light, we cannot know the story of ‘the other’ in its fullness. And if we cannot empathize imaginatively with other people’s stories, how much can we know about the real news of the world?”

Well, after this addition, the responses changed significantly. It’s incredible how a redirect through story can offer a new way in to one’s own thinking. I’d love to read how you respond to this. I know Parker would too, as well as your fellow friends at On Being. Use it as a meditative moment and then share, non?

Longing for a bit of the ethereal? Martha Argerich’s interpretation of Haydn’s “Concerto for Piano in D Major” is effervescent and enlivening.

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share a few things I’ve been reading this week. In The American Conservative, Rod Dreher writes an absolutely mesmerizing rumination on sex and lust, love and God — all by way of Canto XXVII from Dante’s Purgatorio (which can never be bad):

“This canto is personal to me. When I was a young man, in college and right out of college, I wanted God, but only on the condition that I be able to withhold obeying Him with regard to my sexual behavior. It wasn’t that I was that much of a lothario, but to put it crudely, I wanted to keep my options open. I was willing to change in any number of ways, but that one was off-limits. It seemed an impossible demand to fulfill. Who could live that way? What late 20th century American male can live that way?”

In Scientific American, a stimulating explainer on how humans run computer-like simulations in our minds, which is contrary to the commonly held belief that we use rules-of-thumb to predict the physical world.
And, Meg Heckman’s piece in Columbia Journalism Review is a must-read. Although many women were digital media pioneers in the world of journalism, she writes that these women are underappreciated and underrepresented in the history we are telling and the the realms we are creating today:

“Alas, their efforts have not translated into gender parity in the digital media landscape. As Bell wrote for the Guardian last week (and then reiterated for CJR), the people labeled as rockstars on the frontiers of journalism are almost entirely men like Nate Silver, Ezra Klein, and Glenn Greenwald. How, Bell asks, can this kind of journalism be truly revolutionary if the key players all look like the newspaper barons of old?”

I’ll say farewell with this time-lapse video of an April snow storm from Jeff Thompson of MPR News: 18 hours collapsed into 46 seconds. Ahhh, nature!

Submit your essays and commentaries, photos, and videos. Reading and publishing your many perspectives is an absolute privilege — as you’ll see next week!

Say hello at, or via Twitter at @trentgilliss.

May the wind always be at your back.

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as publisher & editor-in-chief. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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