A Brief History of the Modern World (Or, How the West Took Over)

The ridiculous story of the bloody and violent process of “globalization” and the empires that birthed our modern world.

Last week, I published an essay called ‘How it Feels to be a Young American in 2014.’ It ended up being the most controversial and heavily discussed piece that has ever appeared on this website. In it, I attempted to articulate the complex and various ways in which the sociocultural structures of the United States tend to do physical (death, disease, imprisonment, etc.) and psychological (cyclic feelings of inadequacy, guilt, anxiety, etc.) violence to the general public.

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How it Feels to be a Young American in 2014 (Or, How America Fails Us)

When “first world problems” are actually symptoms of a deeply dysfunctional culture and society.

Today a person informed me that a good friend of mine is feeling suicidal. The same person told me that said suicidal friend should “grow up and quit feeling sorry for herself.”

Textbook American answer, eh? “Be an adult.” “Grow the hell up.” “Make something of yourself.” “You need to work harder.”

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Internet-People, Meet Zen: 40 Zen Sayings & Proverbs

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing,
Spring comes and grass grows by itself.”

Zenrin Kushû

It is notoriously difficult to define Zen Buddhism. For one, Zen has been co-opted and disfigured by countless ‘new age’, ‘spirit science’ types, transformed into quasi-religious tripe. Furthermore, Zen “masters” themselves have disagreed for centuries as to the importance and validity of various Zen concepts: zazen, karma, etc. Thus there have been innumerable variations and schools of “Zen”.

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Power, Noise, & Meaning in the Internet Multiverse

“We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.”

Jean Baudrillard

I think an interesting and fruitful metaphor for the Internet is this: a man-made multiverse of information, intellect, and imagination. I say “multiverse” for no reason apart from it being more fun and mysterious and futuristic-sounding; “universe” could be inserted just the same.

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Arthur Schopenhauer on “Natural” Versus “Artificial” Education

“Instead of developing the child’s own faculties of discernment, and teaching it to judge and think for itself, the teacher uses all his energies to stuff its head full of the ready-made thoughts of other people.”

Arthur Schopenhauer, if you’re unfamiliar, was a 19th-century German philosopher and a rather cantankerous pessimist. He basically hated Hegel, his contemporary, whom he called a “clumsy charlatan”, and he thought that our reality was the “worst of all possible worlds”. He didn’t despise everyone, though, drawing much inspiration from Eastern philosophy and the transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant.

Schopenhauer had a whole slew of fascinating ideas, the most famous of which was probably his notion that the metaphysical foundation of being is something called “Will”—an aimless, irrational, impersonal urge. His philosophy would ultimately influence intellectual giants ranging from this blog’s symbolic figurehead (Friedrich Nietzsche) to Albert Einstein.

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Novelty Overload & the Peculiar Anxieties of Travel

I’ve been traveling in the Philippines and Indonesia for about twenty-five days, but it feels like much longer than that. As per usual, time curiously expands when familiarity and routine are exchanged for novelty and daily choose-your-own-adventure games.

The distinction between weekdays and weekends, one week and the next week, ceases to exist, and in that removal of partition one recognizes the loss of a certain cyclic quality. When the events of each seven-day period remain largely the same in structure from week to week, there is a sense of recurring compartments—static boxes that constitute the form of one’s actions.

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On Carl Sagan & Feeling Hopeless About the State of the World

Reflections on the “cosmic perspective” and what to remember when feeling powerless to change the world.

I finally started watching the new Cosmos series the other day. You know, the remake of Carl Sagan’s classic 1980s science documentary-show? The one about science and the universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson as intergalactic guide? Yeah, that one.

I’m a little late to the game, I know. The showed aired way back in March, but I don’t watch a whole lot of television. However, as a big fan of Carl Sagan and of the original Cosmos, I was aflutter with science-happy when a friend of mine said he had the series on his computer and we ought to watch it.

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Friedrich Nietzsche’s Guide to Overcoming Human Nature

In Nietzsche’s most popular book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he described what would become one of his most memorable theories—that of the Übermensch.

In English versions of the work of Nietzsche, “Übermensch” is translated as “Superman” or “Overman”. The term “Superman” has adopted many connotations as a result of the comic book hero in popular culture, so for most scholars today, “Overman” is the more suitable term.

“Overman” refers to Nietzsche’s conception of a person who has literally overcome himself/herself and human nature. In essence, an Overman is an extraordinary person who has superseded the bondage of the human condition and reached a liberated state of free play and creativity.

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Reality Tunnels & E-Prime: A Taste of Robert Anton Wilson

“They just have a different reality tunnel, and every reality tunnel might tell us something interesting about our world, if we are willing to listen.”

Robert Anton Wilson

Robert Anton Wilson, if you’re unaware, was something of a countercultural Gandalf, a white-haired wizard of skepticism and subversion. Wilson lived a remarkably diverse life, becoming, at various times, a novelist, essayist, philosopher, polymath, psychologist, editor, playwright, psychonaut, futurist, civil libertarian, Discordian Saint, and self-described agnostic mystic. A mouthful, I know—the man got shit done. 

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