Detection of the first B-mode polarization signal in the cosmic microwave background buttresses the landmark Big Bang theory, and specifically cosmic inflation, which explains how the Universe expanded so quickly and uniformly the instant after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. Above: The South Pole Telescope.


It appears that nationalistic hope has won out over economic fear in the question of Russia claiming the Crimea.

Vladimir Putin has decided that restoring a piece of the soul of Russia is worth the price he’s going to have to pay.

It’s a historic decision and it appears to have widespread and passionate support from the Russian people. They partied late in Red Square Tuesday night.

Putin famously said that the break up the of Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” It certainly was for greater Russia. Of the countries in the Soviet sphere prior to the break-down, here’s who they’ve lost: East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, and now most of Ukraine.

So now what? Will Putin go after more of Ukraine? How big a price will the West make him pay? Are we entering a “cool war?” Can I hurt you without hurting myself? These are medium range questions and Russian/Western relations have undoubtedly been set back for years by the situation with the Crimea.

But in the longer range the end is assured: everybody keeps developing. Given the choice between the orange/green values of the West and the amber/red values of Putinism, which are people going to choose over time?

  • A country with a backward economy and diminished civil liberties, or a country that is free and prosperous?
  • An industrial infrastructure that turns out the Lada, or one that turns out the BMW?
  • A culture that imprisons Pussy Riot, or a culture that brings them to the Women in the World Summit with Hillary Clinton in New York next month?

My guess is that modernity will be able to absorb this red regression, provided Putin doesn’t push it further. We’ll find it in our hearts to understand that losing the Crimea was just too much for Mother Russia to bear (Putin said as much in Tuesday’s speech). Russia will have to be punished to discourage further aggression, and if Putin goes further into Ukraine his isolation will continue.

But modernizing people don’t tolerate lose-lose relationships for long.

There’s a new word that reveals interesting territory in human relations: frenemy.

It’s someone you do things with, you help each other out, you might even enjoy each other — but there’s also a deep competition that includes wishing each other ill. (Aren’t we humans something?)  Everything considered, of course, having a frenemy is far more fruitful than having an enemy. We’re in the process of finding out which kind of relationship we’ll be having with Russia in the upcoming time.

I’m hoping that Orange will trump Amber, that Putin will stop at the Crimea, that whatever sanctions the West imposes on Russia will be quietly ignored over time, and together we’ll continue on the project of building a better world. Not sure I’m betting on it, though.


Who says we don’t have collective experiences anymore? This perfect storm of a mystery has captivated the world. Why the fascination and wall-to-wall media coverage? I think my friend and DE listener Jennifer Johnson put it beautifully:

It’s fascinating how enthralled we are about the missing Malaysian plane. What an astonishing magic act in an era in which we imagine that we can see and be seen in minute detail 24/7. It’s a koan for our times. Can’t solve it, and can’t stop trying.

Can you imagine what’s going on in the corridors of power in Malaysia? What agonies born of damaged honor and pride are being visited on various officials by their superiors, who seem to be determined to restore their honor by solving it themselves?

I love how the course of karma is unfathomable.

I share some thoughts of my own on the call …


Listen to an excerpt here:

I was impressed by an essay published in this the current issue of Baffler magazine, What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun? by David Graeber, an anthropologist from the London School of Economics. It’s a broadside against the extreme materialism (right-hand quadrant reduction) that characterizes so much of the scientific thought about the nature of life, which holds that all aspects of life and mind can be explained in terms of “the same means/end calculations that one would apply to economic transactions.”

The epitome of this line of thought came with militant atheist Richard Dawkins’s book The Selfish Gene – a work that insisted all biological entities were best conceived of as “lumbering robots” programmed by genetic codes that, for some reason no one could quite explain, acted like “successful Chicago gangsters” ruthlessly expanding their territory in an endless desire to propagate themselves…The new-Darwinists assumed not just a struggle for survival, but a universe of rational calculation driven by an apparently irrational imperative to unlimited growth.

He makes the case that what we see as play in animals, and even the choice and creativity we see in humans, can be seen in all the preceding evolutionary structures right down to subatomic particles.

 I would just insist that such a perspective is at least as plausible as the weirdly inconsistent speculations that currently pass for orthodoxy, in which a mindless, robotic universe suddenly produces poets and philosophers out of nowhere.

He counters this materialism with … more materialism, unfortunately. But still, he’s doing as well as anyone can to explain intentionality and creativity in ways that go beyond hard reductionism but don’t scare off the secular reader.

It’s an evolutionary appropriate conveyor belt out of orthodox rationality into a more flexible view that begins to see interiority as a unique dimension of reality that banged into being the same time exteriority (stuff) did.

He tries to go there without going there:

Something has to be there already, on every level of material existence, even that of subatomic particles—something, however minimal and embryonic, that does some of the things we are used to thinking of life (and even mind) as doing—in order for that something to be organized on more and more complex levels to eventually produce self-conscious beings. That “something” might be very minimal indeed: some very rudimentary sense of responsiveness to one’s environment, something like anticipation, something like memory. However rudimentary, it would have to exist for self-organizing systems like atoms or molecules to self-organize in the first place.

If the particles which make up our brains jump around randomly, one would still have to imagine some immaterial, metaphysical entity (“mind“) that intervenes to guide the neurons in nonrandom directions. But that would be circular: you need to already have a mind to make your brain act like a mind.

 If those motions are not random, in contrast, you can at least begin to think about a material explanation. And the presence of endless forms of self-organization in nature—structures maintaining themselves in equilibrium within their environments, from electromagnetic fields to processes of crystallization—does give panpsychists [those who argue that something like mind exists at all levels] a great deal of material to work with. True, they argue, you can insist that all these entities must either simply be “obeying” natural laws (laws whose existence does not itself need to be explained) or just moving completely randomly . . . but if you do, it’s really only because you’ve decided that’s the only way you are willing to look at it.  And it leaves the fact that you have a mind capable of making such decisions an utter mystery.

It is indeed a mystery, possibly an endless one. But if it were true that the universe is conscious as well as manifest, then another big part of the mystery would be solved. This is what an integral view has to offer.

Millennials inventing a new, extended adolescence.

Millennials inventing a new, extended adolescence.


In last week’s post I took a look at the Pew Research study on the millennial generation, our newest adults, ages 18 to 33. This week I noted a column, The Age of Individualism, by one of my favorite young conservatives, Ross Douthat, in the the New York Times. Conservatives are wired to conserve and preserve the existing structures of humanity that have been hard won. He frets (of course) that the individualism of the Millennials may lead to bad places if not tempered by effective forms of community. Who could argue with that?

Till next week, keep it integral!

Listen to an excerpt here. The full audio is on Integral Life.

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