The Freedom of Being Who You Are


Why Try to Escape?

Only creatures that are as flawed and ignorant as humans can be free in the way humans are free.

We do not know how matter came to dream our world into being. We do not know what, if anything, comes when the dream ends for us and we die. We yearn for a type of knowledge that would make us other than we are — though what we would like to be, we cannot say.

Letting Go, Being Free

Accepting the fact of unknowing makes possible an inner freedom very different from that pursued by Gnostics. If you have this negative capability, you will not want a higher form of consciousness. Your ordinary mind will give you all you need.

Rather than trying to impose sense upon life, you will be content to let meaning come and go. Instead of becoming an unfaltering puppet, you will make your way in the stumbling human world.

We do not have to wait until we can fly before we can be free. Not looking to ascend into the heavens, we can find freedom in falling to earth.

Soul of the Marionette
The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Inquiry into Human Freedom
John Gray



John Gray
John Gray

born 1948

. Wikipedia
. Wikiquote

. Big Think repository
. Forget your delusions and be happy, advises John Gray (Oxford Today article)

John Gray is an English political philosopher with interests in analytic philosophy and the history of ideas. He has been a professor of politics at Oxford, a visiting professor at Harvard and Yale, and School Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Gray now writes full-time. He contributes regularly to The GuardianThe Times Literary Supplement and the New Statesman, where he is the lead book reviewer.

Books John Gray has written include:

“A Short Enquiry Into Human Freedom” – John Gray


On Man, Beliefs and Changes – John Gray



How Can We Experience Joy In Life?


Experiencing Joy in Life

Joy for human beings lies in proper human work. And proper human work consists in: acts of kindness to  other human beings, disdain for the stirrings of the senses, identifying trustworthy impressions, and contemplating the natural order and all that happens when you keep it.

Marcus Aurelius, from Meditations

When dog trainers are brought in to work with a dysfunctional or unhappy dog, they usually start with the question: “Do you take the dog for walks?” They ask because dogs were bred to do certain tasks –  to do work – and when deprived of this essential part of their nature, they suffer and act out. This is true no matter how spoiled and nice their lives might be.

The same is true for humans. When you hear the Stoics brush aside certain emotions or material luxuries, it’s not because they don’t want to enjoy them. It’s not because the Stoic life is one bereft of happiness or fun. The Stoics simply mean to help us find our essence – to experience the joy of our proper human work.

Stoicism flourished throughout the Roman and Greek world until the 3rd century AD. Stoicism is a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world.

The Daily Stoic
The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living
Ryan Holiday

Background on Marcus Aurelius

Pluto – Is it a Planet?


A Planet Lurking in the Darkness?

In the mid-1800s, astronomers began wondering if there was something out there besides Neptune – perhaps another planet – that accounted for the discrepancy in Uranus’ orbit. Astronomers were keenly interested in discovering what lurked in the darkness. And they began coming up with names for the unknown planet, including ‘Hyperion’, ‘Planet X’, and  ‘Planet O’.

Teams of astronomers spent years searching for the unknown plant. Finally, in 1930, Planet X was found by Clyde Tombaugh, who was working for the Lowell Observatory at the time. Tombaugh’s story is unusual. He was an itinerant hobbyist – he had no background in astronomy, was self-educated, and built his own telescopes.

Clyde Tombaugh

Clyde Tombaugh with His Homemade Telescope (1928)

In 1928, Clyde Tombaugh built a telescope (the one pictured above) from the crankshaft of a 1910 Buick and parts from a cream separator. He also ground his own mirrors for the reflector. He used this telescope to observe Jupiter and Mars, making drawings of what he saw. He sent his drawings to the Lowell Observatory hoping to get some professional feedback. Instead, he got a job.

Clyde Tombaugh died in 1997. He later had a rather special reward for his work. In 2006, his ashes were carried to Pluto by the NASA New Horizons mission, a space probe sent to study the planet he had discovered.

From Planet X to Pluto

Having finally found Planet X, the next question was, “What should this new-found planet be called?” A worldwide competition to name ‘Planet X’ was held in 1930, and was won by Venetia Burney, an 11-year-old English girl, who proposed the name Pluto after the Greek god of the underworld, who was able to make himself invisible. Burney was rewarded with £5 (5 pounds, UK currency).

Venetia Burney (1918-2009) was an English woman. As the winner of the planet-naming competition, Clyde Tombaugh credited Burney with first suggesting the name Pluto for the planet he discovered in 1930. At the time, she was 11 years old and lived in Oxford, England. As an adult she worked as an accountant and a teacher.

Venetia Burney -age 11-1929
Venetia Burney, age 11

Pluto Becomes a Dwarf Planet

Pluto’s reign as a planet was relatively short-lived.  In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) agreed on a formal definition for a ‘planet’ for the first time, and in the process, Pluto lost its planet status.

The IAU decreed three key requirements which must be met in order for a celestial body to be designated as a planet – Pluto passed the first two criteria, but failed on the third, that of dominating the area around its orbit, since Pluto’s orbit is cluttered with asteroids and other debris. In addition, one of Pluto’s moons, Charon, is about 1/2 the size of Pluto, which violates another standard expected of a planet.

So, having lost its status as a full-fledged planet, Pluto has become a dwarf planet, designated 134340 Pluto – now it’s just one of many large objects in the Kuiper belt. Other dwarf (minor) planets include Ceres in the asteroid belt and Eris, which lies beyond Pluto’s orbit.

How the World Works: Astronomy: From Plotting the Stars to Pulsars and Black Holes
How the World Works: Astronomy: From Plotting the Stars to Pulsars and Black Holes
Anne Rooney



Ann Rooney
Anne Rooney

. Anne Rooney website
. Royal Literary Fund (RLF)
. Scholastic Magazine

Before turning to full-time writing, Anne completed a PhD at Trinity College, Cambridge, and taught medieval English and French literature at the universities of Cambridge and York. She teaches creative writing as part of the Pembroke-King’s summer program in Cambridge. She is an RLF (Royal Literary Fund) Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge. She lives in Cambridge and has two daughters.

Anne Rooney has written extensively on modern science, technology and contemporary issues for young people. She has worked in the computer industry for about 20 years, as well as advising educational bodies on various technological matters.

Anne Rooney writes books on science, technology, engineering and the history of science for children and adults. She has published around 200 books on a variety of subjects. Before writing books full-time, she worked in the computer industry and wrote and edited educational materials, often on aspects of science and computer technology.

Books written by Anne Rooney include:

How Can We Hit The Target In Life?


Hitting the Target in Life

First tell yourself what kind of person you want to be, then do what you have to do. For in nearly every pursuit we see this to be the case. Those in athletic pursuit first choose the sport they want, and then do that work.

Epictetus, from Discourses

An archer is highly unlikely to hit the target she did not aim for. The same goes for us, whatever out target. We’re certain to miss the target if we don’t bother to draw back and fire.

Our perceptions and principles guide us in the selection of what we want – but ultimately our actions determine whether we get there or not.

Spend some time – uninterrupted time – thinking about what’s important to you, what your priorities are. Then, work toward that and forsake all the others.

It’s not enough to wish and hope…

We must act – and act right.

The Daily Stoic
The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living
Ryan Holiday

Background on Epictetus

What is Compassion?


Caring for Yourself and Others 

Compassion is the fundamental quality that allows us to stretch ourselves and to grow in our awareness, care, and love of ourselves and others. 

Practicing compassion can lead to lasting happiness for oneself and others.  

Cultivating Compassion

Compassion is cultivated through loving-kindness, in which one begins by imagining how they feel toward a loved one, then turning it toward themselves, then family and friends, then strangers, then enemies, and finally toward all beings.

The feeling of compassion is not something that can be generated quickly or halfheartedly. Compassion is not a one-time thing – striving for compassion is an all-consuming, full-time undertaking.

Compassion & Suffering 

Though compassion is extolled, compassion in and of itself, is decidedly not a happy feeling – it is explicitly and unquestionably uncomfortable.

Inherent in compassion is the recognition of universal suffering. If you are genuinely able to have compassion toward all living/feeling beings without exception, then this means that you are also able to recognize the suffering of all beings all the time.

The intensity of compassion is like a trial by fire:

The extensive and vast mind possessed of compassion for all living beings, like love starting from the present mother and extending to the limits of space, must be cultivated to such a degree that it compares to that of a tearful person who sees or remembers that his or her only child has fallen into a pit of fire.

Gorampa Sonam Senge, Buddhist teacher, 15th-century

Motivation to Act

Imagine having this intense feeling all the time, about everyone. This is universal compassion – it is something that is uncomfortable, unsettling, and incredibly difficult to comprehend. But this is why genuine compassion is so important, and why it has the potential to be so powerful.

Operating from a place of discomfort is more likely to motivate us to act. By recognizing the suffering of others and having a sincere and urgent desire to alleviate that suffering, we can learn to act compassionately in the world.

We must try to really see and understand the suffering in the world, and to lean into our own discomfort in order to work toward alleviating the suffering of all.

For a more in-depth look, see The Discomfort of Compassion, by Constance Kassor.