How Can We Turn Off Autopilot?


Pay Attention to What You’re Doing and Why

We always need to remember that we’re signing up for the life we’re leading. Where you can, sign up for what is truly meaningful.

Look to uncover the significance of any activity you participate in:

  • Remember that all around you is the majesty of nature and the mystery of humanity.
  • Be conscious that you have the power to control yourself in all areas of life.
  • Treat tough times as good opportunities to advance yourself.

Be in the Present Moment

As Marcus Aurelius says in the Meditations:

Everywhere and at all times, it is up to you to rejoice piously at what is occurring at the present moment, to conduct yourself with justice towards the people who are present here and now, and to apply rules of discernment to your present representations, so that nothing slips in that is not objective.

Laugh When Things Go ‘Wrong’ and When Things Go ‘Right’

Don’t be hurt or offended when people act poorly, or upset when things don’t go your way. Instead, chuckle at the discrepancy between our human ideas and how reality plays out. For that matter, chuckle when things do — miracle of miracles — go your way.

Laughter is a good way of transcending our dependencies.

The Deepest Human Life
The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone

Scott Samuelson

Winner of the 2015 Hiett Prize in the Humanities

The book is currently being translated into Chinese and Portuguese.

Scott Samuelson
Scott Samuelson

. Scott Samuelson website
Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers (article in The Atlantic)

Scott Samuelson has a PhD in Philosophy from Emory University. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa, where he teaches philosophy at Kirkwood Community College (since 2000).

Samuelson is a volunteer teacher at Oakdale Prison, Iowa. He’s also a movie reviewer, television host, and sous chef at a French restaurant. He has two children.

Books Scott Samuelson has written:

How Philosophy Can Save Your Life – TEDx Talk – Scott Samuelson 

How Do Myth and Ritual Infuse Religion With Meaning?

Myth and Ritual Explained

The grounding (foundational) story of a religion is known as a “myth”With the grounding story in place (for example, the cosmic Christ), rituals then reinforce and proclaim it.

The myth explains the ritual, and the ritual enacts the story: actions are performed, or calendar dates marked, because the gods did this, or because the savior figure first performed it.

By reenacting the events of a myth, rituals connect members of a group to the defining moments of the movement, and so give meaning to time. By looking at the myths and rituals of a particular group within their broader context, the group’s story and practice are both seen to draw from and set up worldviews that can either reinforce the prevailing culture or set up alternatives to it.

Common Ritual Practices 

Public sacrifice was the most visible ritual performed in ancient times for what we today call both “religious” and social/civic purposes. Individuals also engaged in private rituals that both reflected their beliefs and sought to influence transcendent powers.

Ritualized dietary behaviors are common in religions cross-culturally. The same is true of calendars that divide time into sacred and profane.

For many, the performance of ritual provides a means of making the profane sacred, of connecting to the divine, of securing blessings, transformation and protection, and of reinforcing group membership. A ritualized performance can, of course, turn from a meaningful action into an obsession or a rote behavior.

New Testament: Methods and Meanings
The New Testament: Methods and Meanings
Warren Carter and Amy-Jill Levine


Warren Carter
Warren Carter

Warren Carter is professor of New Testament at Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas. Carter specializes in the Gospel of Matthew, as well as the Greek New Testament in general.

Carter has a Ph.D. (New Testament), from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a B.D., Th.M., from Melbourne College of Divinity, Australia. He was born was in New Zealand.

Carter is an ordained United Methodist Elder.

Books written by Warren Carter include:

Amy-Jill Levine
Amy-Jill Levine
born 1956

Amy-Jill Levine is E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Department of Religious Studies, and Graduate Department of Religion.

Levine is a self-described “Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Protestant divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt.” She also “combines historical-critical rigor, literary-critical sensitivity, and a frequent dash of humor with a commitment to eliminating antisemitic, sexist, and homophobic theologies.”

Levine is a member of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue.

Books written by Amy-Jill Levine include:

Persian Road System – The World’s Original Information Superhighway

Persian Empire Royal Road System

The ultimate basis of the Persian Empire’s greatness was not its bureaucracy, nor even its armies, but its roads the world’s original information superhighway. It’s no wonder control of such a service by Darius, the Great King, should have overawed his subjects, and struck them as the surest gauge and manifestation of Persian power.

Persia’s road system, known as the Royal Road, provided the immensity of the empire’s body with its nervous system, along which news was perpetually flowing, from synapse to synapse, to and from the brain. 

The distances were routinely annihilated by royal couriers. Every evening, after a hard day’s ride, the messenger would find a posting station waiting for him, equipped with a bed, provisions and a fresh horse for the morning.

A truly urgent message, one brought at a gallop through storms and the dead of night, might arrive in Persepolis from the Aegean in under two weeks. This was an incredible, almost magical, degree of speed. Nothing to equal it had ever been known before.

Persian Road System

Access to the Road System

Access to the road system was ferociously restricted. No one could set foot on it without a pass, a viyataka.  Mere possession of such a pass was a mark of prestige. So tightly controlled were the itineraries of travelers on the roads that those who dawdled on the way and failed to arrive at a given destination on an alloted date could expect to forfeit their rations for the night.

Those who traveled on the roads without a viyataka pass would not merely go hungry, but very quickly be hunted down and killed. Even mail if it were sent without royal approval would be destroyed. Only the most cunning could hope to evade the vigilance of the highway patrols.

Immensity of the Persian Empire

The first dynasty of the Persian Empire was created by Achaemenids, established by Cyrus the Great in 550 BCE with the conquest of the MedianLydian and Babylonian empires. It covered much of the Ancient world and controlled the largest percentage of the earth’s population in history when it was conquered by Alexander the Great.

Persian Empire
………………The Persian Empire

Darius, the Great King, ruled the Persian Empire at its peak, from 552-486 BCE (36 years), when it included a vast area, including: much of West Asia, the Caucasus, parts of the Balkans (ThraceMacedonia and Paeonia), most of the Black Sea coastal regions, parts of the North CaucasusCentral Asia, as far as the Indus Valley in the far east, and portions of north and northeast Africa including Egypt (Mudrâya), eastern Libya and coastal Sudan.

Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West
Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West
Tom Holland



Tom Holland
Tom Holland

born 1968

. Tom Holland website
. Wikipedia

Tom Holland is a British writer and popular historian. He has published several non-academic works on classical and medieval history. In addition to his writing work, he has worked with BBC, adapting Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides and Virgil for TV documentaries also focusing on history.

Holland lives in London with his wife and two daughters. He is a keen cricket fan and member of the Authors XI cricket team.

Books Tom Holland has written include:


What’s a Typical Place in the Universe Like?

Looking Into Deep Space

Take an Imaginary Journey Into Deep Space 

Imagine traveling a few hundred miles up, into the sky, from the Earth’s surface. At this point, you’d be in the slightly more typical environment of space. But, you are still being heated and illuminated by the sun, and half your view is still taken up by the Earth itself. A typical location in space has none of those features.

So, travel a few trillion miles (1 light year = 5.879 x 1012 miles = 1 trillion miles) further in the same direction. You are now so far away that the sun looks like other stars. You are at a much colder, darker and emptier place. But, it is not yet typical – you are still inside the Milky Way galaxy, and most of the places in the universe are not in any galaxy.

Continue traveling until you are clear outside the galaxy – say, a 100,000 light years from Earth. At this distance you could not glimpse the Earth even if you had the most powerful telescope that humans have built. But, the  Milky Way still fills much of your sky.

To get to a typical place in the universe, you have to imagine yourself at least a 100,000 times further out, deep into intergalactic space – finally you would have arrived in a typical location.

A Typical Place in the Universe is Dark, Cold, and Empty

Deep Space

The sky would be pitch blackThe nearest star would be so far away that if it were to explode into a supernova, and you were looking directly at it when its light reached you, you would not even see a glimmer. That is how big and dark the universe is.

It’s cold. The temperature is 2.7 kelvin, which means 2.7 degrees above the coldest possible temperature, absolute zero, or about 270 degrees Celcius (518 degrees Fahrenheit) colder than the freezing point of water. That’s cold enough to freeze every known substance except helium, which is believed to remain liquid right down to absolute zero, unless highly pressurized.

It’s empty. The density of atoms out there is below 1 per cubic meter. That’s a million times sparser than atoms in the space between stars, and those atoms themselves are sparser than in the best vacuum that human technology has yet achieved.

Almost all the atoms in intergalactic space are hydrogen or helium, so there is no chemistry. No life could have evolved there, nor any intelligence. Nothing changes there. Nothing happens.

That’s the unimaginably desolate environment which is typical of the universe – it’s a measure of how untypical the Earth and its chemical soup are, in a straightforward physical sense.

The Beginning of Infinity
The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

David Deutsch



David Deutsch
David Deutsch

Born 1953

. David Deutsch website
. Wikipedia
The Infinite Optimism of Physicist David Deutsch (Scientific American interview)

David Deutsch, FSR (Fellow of the Royal Society) is an Israeli-born British physicist at the University of Oxford. He is a Visiting Professor in the Department of Atomic and Laser Physics at the Centre for Quantum Computation (CQC) in the Clarendon Laboratory of the University of Oxford.

Deutsch pioneered the field of quantum computation by formulating a description for a quantum Turing machine, as well as specifying an algorithm designed to run on a quantum computer. He is a proponent of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Books David Deutsch has written:

David Deutsch Interview – Which Laws of Nature Are Fundamental?


Winnie-the-Pooh and The Art of ‘Being’

Winnie the Pooh - Jumping

Winnie-the-Pooh Effortlessly Moves Through Life 

Winnie-the-Pooh is never in a hurry and simply does what he wants to do. Paradoxically, although Pooh never exerts himself particularly hard, he does manage to make his wishes come true, and he has many adventures – Pooh finds the North Pole, helps Eeyore find his tail, makes up poems, and flies with the help of a balloon.

The Wu Wei Principle

The Chinese call this principle Wu Wei.  Wu means ‘without’ and Wei means ‘effort’ – the main idea of this Taoist principle is that we need to know when to act and when to let things just happen. And even when we act, we should go about it effortlessly, the way trees grow or waves roll. The best rendition of this principle in English might be ‘creative quietude’.

Winnie-the-Pooh Enjoys Just ‘Being’

In our day and age, most of us spend our time ‘doing’ and devote little time to just ‘being’. Pooh exemplifies the essential quality of ‘being’, and clearly enjoys himself greatly.

The art of ‘being’ entails a fundamental balancing act: while we work and create, which is our very essence and the purpose of our existence in this world, we must find time to enjoy our mere presence, our ‘being’ here, and relish it.

Happiness and Other Small Things of Absolute Importance
Happiness and Other Small Things of Absolute Importance

Haim Shapira



Haim Shapira
Haim Shapira
born 1963

. Wikipedia

Haim Shapira is an Israeli mathematician, pianist, speaker, philosopher and game theorist. He is one of the most sought-after lecturers in Israel, and was also a keynote speaker at TEDxJaffa on game theory and strategy.

Shapira is currently a senior lecturer at The College of Management Academic Studies in Rishon LeZion, Israel. He is Head of the Excellent Students Program and lecturer at the School of Economics and at the School of Behavioral Sciences. His main research areas are game theory and philosophy.

Shapira writes in Hebrew, and his books have been translated into English, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian and Korean. His first two books in English are Happiness and Other Small Things of Absolute Importance, and Gladiators, Pirates and Games of Trust.