On the afternoon of 31 January 1827, a new vision of literature was born. On that day, Johann Peter Eckermann, faithful secretary to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, went over to his master’s house, as he had done hundreds of times in the past three and a half years. Goethe reported that he had been reading Chinese Courtship (1824), a Chinese novel. ‘Really? That must have been rather strange!’ Eckermann exclaimed. ‘No, much less so than one thinks,’ Goethe replied.
Zozu, like any other white stork in Europe, typically flies to southern Africa for the winter. Yet when researchers at Germany’s Max Plank Institute for Ornithology tracked the bird’s path using a GPS logger in 2016, they found that he and a few others had skipped the gruelling migration across the Sahara Desert. That year, the birds stopped, instead, in cities like Madrid, Spain, and Rabat, Morocco. Apparently, they had developed a taste for junk food, in particular the stuff that piles up in landfills along the migration route.
Rushing to publish and overlooking glaring typos may have become part of the new economics of traditional publishing. But on the Web, typos sometimes come with a price. “Spelling mistakes ‘cost millions’ in lost online sales,” said a BBC headline last week. The article cited an analysis of British Web figures that suggested that a single spelling mistake on an e-commerce site can hurt credibility so much that online revenues fall by half.
As a significant proportion of the meaning of a communicative message in social interaction derives from nonverbal cues, it stands to reason that text alone—the linguistic mode—conveys only a relatively small proportion of the information we have access to, in spoken exchanges. There’s a gaping lacuna in what digital talk, alone, can convey.
In 1840, Edgar Allan Poe described the ‘mad energy’ of an ageing man who roved the streets of London from dusk till dawn. His excruciating despair could be temporarily relieved only by immersing himself in a tumultuous throng of city-dwellers. ‘He refuses to be alone,’ Poe wrote. He ‘is the type and the genius of deep crime … He is the man of the crowd.’
A birth, a death, a pilgrimage. A film about the 1,200-mile journey of a pregnant woman, a butcher who wants to atone for his sins and a rag-tag band of villagers who go on foot from their small village in Tibet to the sacred Mt. Kailash has become a surprise winner at the Chinese box office. It has also found a cult following among an unexpected audience — China’s venture capitalists and startup founders.
The sense that we are not being listened to is one of the most frustrating feelings imaginable. Toddlers scream about it, teenagers move out, couples split up, companies breakdown. One of the main reasons this breakdown in communication occurs is that listening (like reading, thinking clearly and focusing) is a skill which we rarely consider to be something requiring knowledge and practice.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, which hit store shelves on June 29, 2007. (It might be more accurate to say they grazed store shelves before landing in the hands of buyers who spent days camped outside Apple Stores.) Now, any number of statistics speak to the seismic shift the iPhone caused. Four billion people own a smartphone. The devices generate hundreds of billions in revenue each year. They gave rise to entire industries like smart homes and drones. Hell—you’re probably reading this on your phone.
The tree of knowledge has a plurality of roots, and structures of knowledge are multiply grounded in the earth: the body of knowledge is a single organic whole, no part of which is more or less dispensable than any other. ‘Stands an undying banyan tree,’ says Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gītā, ‘with roots above and boughs beneath. Its leaves are the Vedic hymns: one who knows this tree knows the Vedas.
Not all leaders want to get rich, gain sexual favours, or grab political power. But all want utter control over others. Money, sex, free labour or loyal combatants are all fringe benefits, and certainly most leaders take advantage of these, some in a big way. But absolute control over their relationships is the key.