Wednesday Links: Stone skipping, India's rise, the UK less united, and more!
Greetings from the University of New Hampshire! Pic above is of Hewitt Hall, where my office is. We did get some snow Tuesday, but once again, not the snowpocalypse we were promised. I think we may get through this winter without one, since we are already into March. There is still time for us to get slammed, but the probabilities begin to diminish from here. It snowed all day yesterday and it was lovely. I walked to work through the woods and home again just to enjoy the snow.
I am writing this sitting by the wood stove with a fire roaring, the dog sleeping next to me, and feeling very blessed.
We had a really nice beef and barley soup which is perfect for a snowy day. I don’t do the slow-cooker for this one - I just cook it on the stove in a Dutch oven for about 90 minutes - that’s enough time for the beef to tenderize. A snowy day is a good day to go slow and appreciate things.
I also had a great chat this morning with my friend and podcast guest, Dr. Seoka Salstrom, about her latest project and personal reinvention - to launch an outdoor adventure company in the French Pyrenes with some of her friends. The company is called Athara Adventures and I hope you’ll check it out. We also talked about my next steps with the newsletter and podcast. I have been neglecting the podcast because I think it has run its course for what I need. As I wrote about this past Sunday, it doesn’t seem to be sparking joy for me the way it once did. So I’m thinking about a new podcast and some refocusing of RWL, including a name change to better reflect the direction I am heading. More about both of those things soon.
In the meantime, enjoy this week’s links! I’ll be back Sunday with an essay. As usual, willing good for all of you!
What: Outside, STONE SKIPPING IS A LOST ART. KURT STEINER WANTS THE WORLD TO FIND IT.
Why: This is a beautiful piece of writing about a man’s obsession with a trivial activity and his pursuit to be the best at it. Steiner is in some ways tragic - he was obviously never going to have a traditional life. Nevertheless, his relentless pursuit of perfection of this simple activity has given his life shape and meaning. It is the story of one man’s effort at being in the world.
You don’t have to be particularly interested in stone skipping to appreciate this story. The author does an excellent job of profiling Steiner with empathy. This piece reminded me I don’t read enough long-form journalism.
What: WSJ, As India Shakes Off Shackles, It Emerges as Global Economic Power
Why: I’ve been bullish on India for years even though China continues to eclipse it in terms of growth. The two countries are about the same population, though India’s demography is better than China’s (it has more young people). India is also the world’s largest democracy. But if you think the US has challenges with democracy, you ain’t seen nothin’ till you look at India. Yet I think it still has enormous potential and I think it will have more and more impact on the West as it becomes wealthier and gets out of its own way. India has been hampered by bad economic policy for decades, much as China was during the Maoist era. China’s explosion on to the world economic stage was mostly the result of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) getting out of the way of economic progress. Xi has hampered that progress with bad economic policy and bad foreign policy, and so the CCP is getting up to its old tricks again, trading growth potential for retaining social control. But India, like the United States, is harder to control. And that is what makes me excited about it.
What: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Monarchy (28 min)
Why: I will never understand why Americans care in the least bit about the British Royal Family, and yet many people really do. OK - I confess my wife and I are watching the 5th seasons of The Crown, so maybe I care a little bit, but mostly it’s like rubber necking at a slow-moving train wreck (see the Foreign Affairs pod in Listen below). I don’t watch John Oliver generally, so I’m not sure how I stumbled across this clip from his show, but WOW, this is a serious critique of the Royal Family from a British citizen’s perspective. It’s 28 minutes of non-stop biting ridicule based on history, some of which I was not aware (repression in 1950’s Kenya, for example). Worth a watch. It’s funny-ish, but will leave you even more happy we had that war back in 1776 to get rid of this family. Are some traditions and history better off forgotten, or put away in a museum?
What: The Foreign Affairs Interview, The United Kingdom’s Existential Crisis (44 min)
Why: Great Britain provided the cultural source code for the United States, for better or worse. With its exit from the EU, it faces serious questions about what Great Britain is and will be, and even what it means to be British. Brexit was primarily an English phenomenon, not supported by either Northern Ireland, Wales, or Scottland. Northern Ireland is a serious question since the Republic of Ireland is still in the EU. There will have to be a solution to the barriers between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and that may trigger another round of terror. It may be time for Northern Ireland to be reunited with the rest of Ireland. And a large percentage of the Scottish would like to go their own way - preferably back to the EU, but that’s not simple, either. It’s a fascinating conversation.
What: EconTalk, Sam Harris on Meditation, Mindfulness, and Morality (111 min)
Why: This is a long and ranging conversation, but it doesn’t feel like it because both Roberts and Harris are such thoughtful individuals. I’d heard of Harris, but I hadn’t followed him. They talk neuroscience, meditation, psychedelics, religion - it’s all over the place and all really interesting. I can’t encapsulate it - I just want you to listen to it. I’ve added Harris’s pod to my listening.
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