Eric by Tom Manning

“When we are clear-eyed about the fact that what we think of as our individual self is really a hodgepodge of artifice, and not really our self, that can be both freeing and terrifying. Our ego constantly chases fleeting needs, which is why an identity based on that ego is fleeting, and happiness based on feeding that ego is fleeting. I think true happiness is probably only attained by the release of ego, which is ironically our ego’s greatest fear. In Eric, I try to capture the horror and freedom of what it might be like to actually erase your ego. It’s all in the book’s opening quote from the Beach Boys: ‘Hang on to your ego / hang on but I know that you’re gonna lose the fight.'”

—Tom Manning quoted in an interview with Sarah Heston, “Magical Los Angeles: An Interview with Tom Manning.” The Los Angeles Review of Books. September 29, 2018.

You can order Eric (or his other graphic novel Runoff) via the author’s website, or ask your local library to order or get it on loan.

Imagine a Forest: Designs and Inspirations For Enchanting Folk Art by Dinara Mirtalipova

Imagine a Forest provides a template for drawing flowers, trees, butterflies, beetles, generic birds, cats, chickens, horses, bears, foxes, firebirds, sirins, mermaids, dragons, griffins, matryoshkas, lions, and gingerbread houses in a folk art style. It also features feudal scenes from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia including feudal royalty, knights, artisans and castles. Fun book to use as a creative starting point. Recommended.

Too Much Fruit Kills The Root

“A king went riding in the forest and encountered a mango tree laden with fruit. He said to his servants, ‘Go back in the evening and collect the mangoes,’ because he wanted them for the royal dining table. The servants went back to the forest but returned to the palace empty-handed. ‘Sorry, your Majesty,’ they told the king, ‘the mangoes were all gone, there was not a single mango left on the tree.’ The king thought the servants had been too lazy to go back to the forest, so he rode out to see for himself. What he saw instead of a beautiful mango tree laden with fruit was a pitiful, bedraggled tree. Someone had broken all the branches to take the fruit. As the king rode a little further, he came across another mango tree, beautiful in all its green splendor, but without a single fruit. Nobody had wanted to go near it. It bore no fruit, so it was left in peace. The king went back to his palace, gave his royal crown and scepter to his ministers, and said, ‘You may now have the kingdom, I am going to live in a hut in the forest.'”

—Traditional Buddhist story retold in Ayya Khema. Be An Island: The Buddhist Practice of Inner Peace. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1999. Pg. 63.

Quakers have a traditional saying, “There’s no fruit without the root.” This story suggests a corollary, “Too much fruit kills the root.”

How to Be a Stoic | RadioWest

“No matter where you live or what culture you live in, the question of how to lead a good life is central. And there is no shortage of answers, from fundamentalist religion to nihilism. For his part, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci has become a Stoic. Stoicism, he says, isn’t about suppressing or hiding emotions. It’s about mindfulness and virtue. It’s about focusing your efforts only on that which you can control and understanding the truth of death. Pigliucci joins us to discuss why and how to be a Stoic.”

—Massimo Pigliucci. “How to Be a Stoic.” Interview with Doug Fabrizio. Radiowest. April 13, 2018. Rebroadcast.

Solarpunk: Against a Shitty Future

“Solarpunk is about ‘ingenuity, generativity, independence, and community’ — the last of which is of particular interest — and rightly sees ‘infrastructure as a form of resistance.’

Politically, the stories vary, but they always feature a progressive focus on race, gender, and equality of all kinds: many revolve around themes of difference, recognition, and acceptance. Non-normativity is often raised to the level of heroism by imagining a world that facilitates the accentuation of one’s abilities precisely because of their difference. In Solarpunk, there is a place for everyone (except perhaps the occasional douchy white dude whose fate it is, in today’s cultural spectrum, to stand for all the problems that the genre strives to overcome).”

—Rhys Williams. “Solarpunk: Against a Shitty Future.” LARB. March 10, 2018.

Probably as much of a summary of identity politics as it is of Solarpunk.

Also, if interested, there’s a reference guide to Solarpunk.

Why “The Culture” Wins

“Now consider Banks’s scenario. Consider the process that is generating modern hypercultures, and imagine it continuing for another three or four hundred years. The first consequence is that the culture will become entirely defunctionalized. Banks imagines a scenario in which all of the endemic problems of human society have been given essentially technological solutions (in much the same way that drones have solved the problem of criminal justice). Most importantly, he imagines that the fundamental problem of scarcity has been solved, and so there is no longer any obligation for anyone to work (although, of course, people remain free to do so if they wish). All important decisions are made by a benevolent technocracy of AIs (or the “Minds”).

And so what is left for humanity (or, more accurately, humanoids)? At the individual level, Banks imagines a life very much like the one described by Bernard Suits in The Grasshopper – everything becomes a game, and thus at some level, non-serious. But where Banks went further than Suits was in thinking about the social consequences. What happens when culture becomes freed from all functional constraints? It seems clear that, in the interplanetary competition that develops, the culture that emerges will be the most virulent, or the most contagious. In other words, “the Culture” will simply be that which is best at reproducing itself, by appealing to the sensibilities and tastes of humanoid life-forms…

…Human beings have spent much of their lives lamenting “the curse of Adam,” and yet work provides most people with their primary sense of meaning and achievement in life. So what happens when work disappears, turning everything into a hobby? A hobby is fun. Many people spend a great deal of time trying to escape work, so they can spend more time on their hobbies. But while they may be fun, hobbies are also at some level always frivolous. They cannot give meaning to a life, precisely because they are optional. You could just stop doing it, and nothing would change, it would make no difference, which is to say, it wouldn’t matter.”

—Joseph Heath, “Why the Culture Wins: An Appreciation of Iain M. Banks.” Sci Phi Journal. November 12, 2017.