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The Art of Looking: What 11 Experts Teach Us about Seeing Our Familiar City Block with New Eyes

The Art of Looking: What 11 Experts Teach Us about Seeing Our Familiar City Block with New Eyes
by Maria Popova “Attention is an intentional, unapologetic discriminator. It asks what is relevant right now, and gears us up to notice only that.” “How we spend our days,” Annie Dillard wrote in her timelessly beautiful meditation on presence over productivity, “is, of course, how we spend our lives.” And nowhere do we fail at the art of presence most miserably and most tragically than in urban life — in the city, high on the cult of productivity, where we float past each other, past the buildings and trees and the little boy in the purple pants, past life itself, cut off from the breathing of the world by iPhone earbuds and solipsism. Horowitz begins by pointing our attention to the incompleteness of our experience of what we conveniently call “reality”: Right now, you are missing the vast majority of what is happening around you. The book was her answer to the disconnect, an effort to “attend to that inattention.” The perceptions of infants are remarkable. Related:  Cities

Baudelaire, Benjamin and the Birth of the Flâneur | Psychogeographic Review On voit un chiffonnier qui vient, hochant la tête,Butant, et se cognant aux murs comme un poète,Et, sans prendre souci des mouchards, ses sujets,Epanche tout son coeur en glorieux projets. Charles Baudelaire: ‘Le Vin de Chiffonniers’ (‘The Ragpicker’s Wine’) Charles Baudelaire The concept of the flâneur, the casual wanderer, observer and reporter of street-life in the modern city, was first explored, at length, in the writings of Baudelaire. Baudelaire’s flâneur, an aesthete and dandy, wandered the streets and arcades of nineteenth-century Paris looking at and listening to the kaleidoscopic manifestations of the life of a modern city. The flâneur’s method and the meaning of his activities were bound together, one with the other. the city’s modernity is most particularly defined for him by the activities of the flâneur observer, whose aim is to derive ‘l’éternel du transitoire’ (‘the eternal from the transitory’) and to see the ‘poétique dans l’historique’(‘the poetic in the historic’).

An Antidote to the Age of Anxiety: Alan Watts on Happiness and How to Live with Presence by Maria Popova Wisdom on overcoming the greatest human frustration from the pioneer of Eastern philosophy in the West. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” Annie Dillard wrote in her timeless reflection on presence over productivity — a timely antidote to the central anxiety of our productivity-obsessed age. Indeed, my own New Year’s resolution has been to stop measuring my days by degree of productivity and start experiencing them by degree of presence. But what, exactly, makes that possible? This concept of presence is rooted in Eastern notions of mindfulness — the ability to go through life with crystalline awareness and fully inhabit our experience — largely popularized in the West by British philosopher and writer Alan Watts (January 6, 1915–November 16, 1973), who also gave us this fantastic meditation on the life of purpose. If to enjoy even an enjoyable present we must have the assurance of a happy future, we are “crying for the moon.” Thanks, Ken

MICHAEL WOLF PHOTOGRAPHY Harvard Yoga Scientists Find Proof of Meditation Benefit Scientists are getting close to proving what yogis have held to be true for centuries -- yoga and meditation can ward off stress and disease. John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, is leading a five-year study on how the ancient practices affect genes and brain activity in the chronically stressed. His latest work follows a study he and others published earlier this year showing how so-called mind-body techniques can switch on and off some genes linked to stress and immune function. While hundreds of studies have been conducted on the mental health benefits of yoga and meditation, they have tended to rely on blunt tools like participant questionnaires, as well as heart rate and blood pressure monitoring. Only recently have neuro-imaging and genomics technology used in Denninger’s latest studies allowed scientists to measure physiological changes in greater detail. A man practices yoga on the waterfront at Nariman Point in Mumbai. Close Open Seinfeld, Murdoch

The Subway in Stockholm, Sweden Features Incredible Designs at Each Stop The subway in Stockholm, Sweden, is unlike any other metro system in the world. Although different subway systems throughout Europe tend to decoration their stops (like the Paris metro, for example), Stockholm’s metro system is seemingly dedicated to taking fantastical art deep beneath the city’s streets. The subway system has 100 stations, with each stop sporting a different design. Some show exposed rock, and others tile, but all of them have one thing in common: they are awesome. Many stations feature bright, eye-popping colors. It’s almost a shame to leave each stop. Others have statues carved into the rock walls. Almost every metro stop has a theme. And whether that theme is based in rock or tile, they are all incredible. If you’re ever stuck at a stop while using the Stockholm subway, don’t fear, because the vibrant station designs will soon give you a small case of Stockholm Syndrome. Source:

How Mindfulness Helps You See What's Missing (And Why You'd Want To) In Basic Mindfulness (the system of Mindfulness I teach) there’s a term called “Gone.” Gone refers to any moment of partial or complete disappearance that you happen to notice. It’s as simple as that. If you notice a bird stop chirping, if you notice an itch become less itchy, if you notice a car pass by and disappear from view, you could call these events “Gone.” The technique sensitizes you to a fundamental truth: everything is always disappearing. What I find tragically fascinating about this technique is how frequently students think they’re doing it wrong or don’t believe they can do it at all. Something happened to me the other day that gave me insight into this dilemma, and illuminated the trap our minds so easily get caught in. These minds of ours get stuck – sometimes terribly, terribly stuck. I feel so lucky to have caught the bus of that beautiful moment. The good news is that you absolutely can develop this skill! All you need to do is put in a few minutes a day.

Radical Black Cities Occupy Wall Street has provided a dramatic reminder that cities still matter as spaces of participatory democracy and engaged citizenship. Yet while Occupy was criticized for being too white, in the United States, Blackness, once synonymous with the urban, now stands in for disappearance. The migrations from north to south, the exodus from city to suburb, and the renditions from the street to prison have all worked to undermine the idea of Black cities – and the very possibility of Black people living in cities. Gentrification and urban renewal, supported by the normalization of state-sanctioned terror against people of color through stop-and-frisk campaigns (not to mention the wholesale dragnet of the Muslim community), has acted to racially cleanse urban space. David Austin’s Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal (Between the Lines) provides a good place to start. The Public Archive <> Image: David Osagie, Occupy Nigeria (2011)

How the Microbes Living in Your Gut Might Be Making You Anxious or Depressed Photo Credit: Robert Kneschke / April 17, 2014 | Like this article? Join our email list: Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email. Microbes are in the news these days. In a short period of time, bacteria, fungi and other microbes have gone from enemy to friend in the public consciousness. But in addition to the many studies finding out about the numbers and diversity of the microbes with whom we share our bodies and their roles in our nutrition and immune function, some researchers have made some surprising findings: the bugs in your gut might actually impact your emotions. The bidirectional connection between our brains and our guts is not news. What’s more, the human gut is connected to the brain by the vagus nerve. Premysl Bercik, an associate professor of gastroenterology at McMaster University, is one scientist on the forefront of researching the link between gut and emotions. Bercik was among those who wanted to know more.

Manchester is the most linguistically diverse city in Europe | UK news | The Observer It boasts City and United, Corrie, world-renowned bands and famously inclement weather. And now Manchester has another claim to fame: the city is arguably the most ethnically diverse in Europe and, possibly, second only to New York in the world. Linguists at the University of Manchester have discovered that their city boasts a population that speaks at least 153 languages, making it one of the world's most diverse places linguistically. Research conducted by Professor Yaron Matras, of the University of Manchester's Multilingual Manchester project, suggests the true figure could be even higher. "Manchester's language diversity is higher than many countries," Matras said. With a population of half a million, Manchester is a fraction of the size of London, which has some 8 million inhabitants and also scores highly in terms of linguistic diversity. The city also attracts an increasingly large number of European citizens. But the increase has prompted concerns about assimilation.

Circadian rhythms, insulin ac... [Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2014 Samba e Choro I think the cities we remember best are the ones that greet us with the utmost cruelty. I arrived in Rio after some months in Salvador de Bahia, fleeing a break-up: Europe was throwing itself into its sinister Christmas, and I thought that the summer sun of an unknown city might be a good way to dodge what was coming over me. It never stopped raining – not for a single moment – during the first week, and the city was empty. Horizontal deluges swept the desolate beach. On one of those nights, out of pure despair, I decided to go to a downtown nightclub. The taxi was leaving behind the majestic backdrop of Rio’s maritime facade. ‘My God,’ I thought, completely absorbed by my role as astronaut stranded on a hostile planet, ‘I’ll never get inside this implacable city. I don’t think I’ll ever forget my ride in that car whose destination I’d forgotten or which at least had stopped mattering to me. Of course, I ended up living there for two years. It’s no stranger to reinventing itself.