The quality of nothingness

I’m not certain this painting (Painting Gurdjieff by Diane Walker) is finished. It sort of feels like it is, but I’m worried that that’s only because, with my back out, it hurts to paint, and it’s hard for the usual creativity to flow through me. So I’m just going to set it aside for now, let it be what it is. And I’ve given myself permission to do that because I think the painting is somehow a symbolic representation of this passage in Jeanne de Salzman’s book on Gurdjieff, The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff, which I read this morning:

I need to understand that by myself, without a relation with something higher, I am nothing, I can do nothing. By myself alone, I can only remain lost in this circle of interests, I have no quality that allows me to escape. I can escape only if I feel my absolute nothingness and begin to feel the need for help. I must feel the need to relate myself to something higher, to open to another quality.
Diane Walker

Quantitative poverty

IN SEPTEMBER 2000 the heads of 147 governments pledged that they would halve the proportion of people on the Earth living in the direst poverty by 2015, using the poverty rate in 1990 as a baseline. It was the first of a litany of worthy aims enshrined in the United Nations “millennium development goals” (MDGs). Many of these aims—such as cutting maternal mortality by three quarters and child mortality by two thirds—have not been met. But the goal of halving poverty has been. Indeed, it was achieved five years early.

In 1990, 43% of the population of developing countries lived in extreme poverty (then defined as subsisting on $1 a day); the absolute number was 1.9 billion people. By 2000 the proportion was down to a third. By 2010 it was 21% (or 1.2 billion; the poverty line was then $1.25, the average of the 15 poorest countries’ own poverty lines in 2005 prices, adjusted for differences in purchasing power). The global poverty rate had been cut in half in 20 years.

That raised an obvious question. If extreme poverty could be halved in the past two decades, why should the other half not be got rid of in the next two? If 21% was possible in 2010, why not 1% in 2030? The Economist

A quarter of a second

Researcher Benjamin Libet discovered that the part of the brain responsible for movement activates a quarter-second before we become aware of our intention to move. There is then another quarter-second before the movement begins. What does this mean? First, it casts an interesting light on what we call “free will”—before we make a conscious decision, our brain has already set the gears in motion! But secondly, it offers us an opportunity.

Tara Branch

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