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Monday, April 11, 2016

A Revolutionary Discovery In China, by Ian Johnson, New York Review of Books

The manuscripts’ importance stems from their particular antiquity. Carbon dating places their burial at about 300 BCE. This was the height of the Warring States Period, an era of turmoil that ran from the fifth to the third centuries BCE. During this time, the Hundred Schools of Thought arose, including Confucianism, which concerns hierarchical relationships and obligations in society; Daoism (or Taoism), and its search to unify with the primordial force called Dao (or Tao); Legalism, which advocated strict adherence to laws; and Mohism, and its egalitarian ideas of impartiality. These ideas underpinned Chinese society and politics for two thousand years, and even now are touted by the government of Xi Jinping as pillars of the one-party state.2

The newly discovered texts challenge long-held certainties about this era. Chinese political thought as exemplified by Confucius allowed for meritocracy among officials, eventually leading to the famous examination system on which China’s imperial bureaucracy was founded. But the texts show that some philosophers believed that rulers should also be chosen on merit, not birth—radically different from the hereditary dynasties that came to dominate Chinese history. The texts also show a world in which magic and divination, even in the supposedly secular world of Confucius, played a much larger part than has been realized. And instead of an age in which sages neatly espoused discrete schools of philosophy, we now see a more fluid, dynamic world of vigorously competing views—the sort of robust exchange of ideas rarely prominent in subsequent eras.

The Man Who Recorded, Tamed And Then Sold Nature Sounds To America, by Cara Giaimo, Atlas Obscura

If you flip on a waterfall to fall asleep, if you keep in your bookmarks, if you associate well-being with the sound of streams and crickets or wonder why the beach never quite sounds as tranquil as you imagine, it's because of Teibel. New York's least likely media mogul was the mastermind behind Environments, a series of records he swore were "The Future of Music." From 1969 to 1979, he took the best parts of nature, turned them up to 11, engraved them on 12-inch records, and sold them back to us by the millions. He had a musician's ear, an artist's heart, and a salesman's tongue, and his work lives on in yoga studios, Skymall catalogs, and the sea-blue eyes of Brian Eno. If you haven't heard of him, it's only because he designed his own legacy to be invisible.

This is the story of a man who tried to capture the world, and really wanted us to listen.

What’s So Bad About Original Sin?, by Charles Halton, Los Angeles Review of Books

Consider this: for almost 2,000 years and counting the entirety of Western culture has been brainwashed. The fields of biology, economics, religion, and psychology are built on a lie. Even those who self-consciously reject this falsehood are subconsciously shaped by it. It’s unavoidable and all pervasive. It’s made us who we are. Indeed, it’s turning us into monsters. What is this lie exactly? It’s the assumption that humans are born bad.

What Belongs To You By Garth Greenwell Review – From Sofia With Love, by Anthony Cummins, The Guardian

“I’ve never been good at concealing anything, the whole bent of my nature is toward confession,” he tells us. Yet a certain amount of concealment adds to the novel’s rhetorical power.

How Humanity First Killed The Dodo, Then Lost It As Well, by Colin Barras, BBC

How can such an icon of human-induced extinction be so misunderstood? The answer lies in the shameful way the dodo has been treated since the last bird died about 350 years ago. Arguably, we have lost the dodo at least twice more since then.

"We have this continuous series of tragedies, forgetting the dodo over and over again," says Leon Claessens at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.