Invictus (Undefeated)

Vuvuzela and some of its many meanings | IMG_9353
jikatu / / CC BY-SA

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

By William Ernest Henley (1875)
–Nelson Mandela recited this poem to inspire himself and his fellow prison inmates.


The Unbounded Spirit

DSC01126The Unbounded Spirit, which posts material from elsewhere, looks very good. The About page opens with:

I searched for God and found only myself. I searched for myself and found only God. ~Sufi Proverb

It then describes its purpose:

The Unbounded Spirit was created with the sole purpose of providing valuable and interesting information that will provoke its readers to get into a creative thinking process, with the aim to help them lead a better life.

T.U.S. receives over 400,000 page views every month and is followed by 85,000+ readers from all around the world

Navigating T.U.S. you will find articles related to various topics, such as health, art, philosophy, psychology, religion or technology, but all of them, though different, share something in common: they point to a better way of living.

The intention of this website is not to turn readers into believers. So please do not believe anything that you find written here as being the truth. In fact, no absolute truth can be expressed through words, so just take from the writings only what you find personally enlightening and helpful, and discard whatever does not suit your inner disposition.

May you learn and enjoy.

Who is behind The Unbounded Spirit?

sof2My name is Sofo. I hold a BSc in Psychology and an MA in Philosophy, although to me true knowledge comes only through experience and not from parrot-like learning. I deeply enjoy traveling, long walks and late-night conversations, but what I enjoy most is just being part of this wonder-full existence.

Contact: Feel free to contact me at theunboundedspirit[at]gmail[dot]com

The Archives link has a list of about ten articles per month.

The Store link has a list of recommended books, mostly in a spiritual vein.

I learned about it via a post on Facebook that included a link to this article, “We Were Made for These Times,” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, which I recommend.

How to Stop Undervaluing Your Successes (Part I)

lla-header Years ago I read The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way  (Lantern Books, 2006) by Hillary Rettig and really enjoyed it. On the book’s website, she says:

It is based on my many years’ experience as an activist and coach: work in which I learned which personal habits, thoughts and beliefs tend to help people succeed at ambitious goals, and which don’t. The Lifelong Activist encompasses all I have learned, and recasts it for use by progressive activists, organizers, educators and others. It will thus teach you how to:

• Manage Your Mission: so you can determine your authentic path and not act out of guilt, shame or obligation
• Manage Your Time: so you can create a schedule that allows you to live your mission, and to achieve the most within that mission
• Manage Your Fears: so you can follow the schedule without succumbing to procrastination, perfectionism or blocks
• Manage Your Relationship With Self: so you can be the strongest, most empowered, and most joyful person you can be. (And why that goal is fundamentally progressive.)
• Manage Your Relationship With Others: so you can leverage your energy, time, skills and other resources with those of others.

PrioritiesI subscribe to her occasional newsletter. The one I received today is particularly good. In this newsletter, How to Stop Undervaluing Your Successes (Part I), she writes:

As you evaluate your progress over the past year–or as your family attempts to evaluate it for you–one thing to keep in mind is that perfectionism often confuses success and failure. It typically recognizes just one kind of success, where you: (a) finish a monumental project, (b) do a spectacular job at it, and (c) win abundant praise and material rewards for it. Everything else is either (at best) not worth mentioning, or (at worst) a heinous failure.

However, there are many more types of success, including those where you:

• Start a new project
• Restart a lapsed project
• Make progress on a project

Most of our successes are, in fact, these kinds of “process successes.” They can seem small or even trivial compared with the monumental success we Ilya_Efimovich_Repin__1844_1930____Portrait_of_Leo_Tolstoy__1887_may be striving for: that’s okay, because when you look at your work through a process lens it becomes clear that there is really no such thing as a big success: only strings of tiny ones. Tolstoy didn’t write War and Peace: he wrote a whole bunch of sentences, paragraphs, pages, and chapters that added up to that book.

It’s also important that you recognize and celebrate “partial successes” where the work didn’t turn out as well as planned, or where it’s not received by others as well as you had hoped. Partial successes are the norm–and, by the way, a sign you’re setting laudably ambitious goals. And relying on outside validation and rewards is always dangerous, for these reasons:

• There’s a lot of randomness in how work is received. If your work isn’t fashionable, or doesn’t happen to get seen by the “right” people, it may never get the notice it deserves.
• If your work is at all edgy or controversial there will be a bias against it; and,
• There are so many perfectionist people and institutions out there that criticism often flows far more freely than praise. (This can be the case even with well-meaning people, like family members.)

Many of us hope for a big public success, and we can work toward that, but most of our validation needs to come from within, and perhaps from a small group of savvy supporters.

Avoiding Perfectionism’s “Chasm of Despair”

By recognizing and celebrating our process successes and partial successes we create an ongoing internal monologue that’s full of positiveness and encouragement. E.g.: “Great that I’m starting this again! OK, that was a strong sentence. Good word choice there—enough to get me going; I’ll fix it later. Good job!” Etc. That is the kind of internal monologue that yields enthusiasm and productivity.

Perfectionists, in contrast, have internal monologues that are profoundly negative and discouraging: “That sentence is horrible! That’s the wrong word—what’s wrong with you? This is taking too long—I’ll never get it done. And why did I ever choose this project anyway?” Etc. This monologue yields not productivity, but despair.

When I tell people to recognize and reward their process and partial successes, I typically hear two objections:

(1) “That sounds really self-indulgent. Why should I go easy on myself? If I do, I’ll never finish anything!” That’s the voice of perfectionism, and you should never give it credence, as it is not only cruel but misguided. For nearly everyone, compassionate objectivity is the only route to increased productivity.

(2) “Are you saying finishing isn’t important?” Absolutely not: it’s crucial and you should definitely acknowledge and celebrate your “finishes.” (And if they’re big, it’s okay to celebrate commensurately.) But don’t ignore or deprecate the other types of successes, which are equally crucial.

The ultimate success is a process success, by the way: getting to live your values and dreams moment by moment. I’ll discuss that in the next newsletter. Till then, below are some useful links, and for the full story on how to get more productive, read The 7 Secrets of the Prolific, now also available in Spanish and (abridged) Japanese.

How To Cope With Success-Related Losses
How To Avoid Burnout By Rewarding Yourself Frequently
Why, When Writing, Process Trumps Product
What to Do if You’re Stuck in the Middle of a Project

Big Pharma, the Budget Deal, Hillary, and Iran

handshake-with-money-006Big Pharma: Medicating Our Nation’s Capitol With Big Money
By Sanderson

…The amount pharmaceutical companies spent lobbying in 2012 was 2.6 billion dollars. This was more than was spent by combining the all of the amounts spent on lobbying activities by Big Oil, Gas, Defense, and Aerospace industries and all of their associates!…

As a direct influence of their lobbying Congress, laws have been passed which have allowed big pharmaceutical companies to monopolize the drug market on new prescription drugs for terms of up to 20 years or more….

Most of the new medications being researched and developed are occurring at the university level and being funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)…. So as we, the tax payers, pay for the R&D of new medication out of our own pockets, Big Pharm claims to have suffered the costs of R&D themselves, and then turns around and recharges those” ghost” costs to the consumer by way of charging exorbitant prices for the medication!…

In 2006, the United States Congress expanded our Medicare System to include a prescription drug benefit (Medicare Part D)…. So, not only did big pharmacy get a “huge new revenue stream from taxpayers,” but they could charge this new group whatever they wished for their brand-name drugs….

As a result of this symbiotic relationship between Big Pharma and the FDA, the common consumer is often blocked from hearing about natural food or supplements which can treat certain illnesses cheaper and with outcomes as good, if not better, than the Big Pharma drugs being patented by the FDA.


The Bipartisan Budget Deal and the Economy: The Beatings Continue
By Robert Borosage

The bipartisan budget agreement released late Tuesday is being celebrated, largely for showing that a deal is possible….

The deal was reached by give and take. Democrats defended Social Security and Medicare from cuts Republicans wanted. Republicans defended billionaires and multinationals from taxes that Democrats wanted. Democrats got some relief from short-term sequester cuts; Republicans got increased long-term deficit reductions. Democrats saved domestic programs from deeper cuts; Republicans saved military programs.

But what is the actual effect on the economy?

…Somehow Washington has failed to get the message. This deal doesn’t end the cutting; it only reduces its severity. It doesn’t generate jobs; it only cuts fewer of them. It doesn’t help the economy; it only reduces the harm to it.

Surely we can do better than that.


Lament of the Plutocrats
Why Wall Street is fed up with the White House—and Republicans too.

…Still, some say fears that Clinton will end up alienating financial sector donors the way Obama has, even if she tacks left, are overblown. “Wall Street folks are so happy about [having Clinton run] that they won’t care what she says,” says one well-placed Democrat….


Iran’s Hard-Liners Keep Their Criticism of Nuclear Pact to Themselves

For over a decade, Iran’s hard-line clerics and Revolutionary Guards … grew richer and more powerful, even as the country was increasingly impoverished by the sanctions….But if they do receive such a signal, the hard-liners have the money and means to mobilize a formidable opposition….

Inequality, Compassion, and Teamwork

Participation Inequality 90 9 1Does Rising Inequality Make Us Hardhearted?

This bifurcation – conservative in theory, liberal in practice – suggests that by using broad terms with liberal ideological connotations like “inequality,” “more widely shared” growth and “decreased mobility,” Obama risks activating voters’ “theoretical” conservatism, as opposed to a strategy that stresses specifics in non-ideological terms, a kind of practical liberalism: raising the minimum wage, raising tax rates on unearned income, job training, early education…. A switch to an ideology founded on redistribution, with economic justice as its core principle, would require a major upheaval, the likes of which we have not seen for some time.


New G.M. Chief Is Company Woman, Born to It

…Ms. Barra is hardly a flamboyant figure at the company. She is known inside G.M. as a consensus builder who calls her staff together on a moment’s notice to brainstorm on pressing issues….

In a commencement speech last summer to students at her alma mater, the G.M.-sponsored Kettering University in Flint, Mich., she summarized her inclusive management style. “Problems don’t go away when you ignore them — they get bigger,” she said. “In my experience, it is much better to get the right people together, to make a plan, and to address every challenge head on.”…

Excerpts from “The Joy of the Gospel,” by Pope Francis I

Pope Francis - CaricatureFollowing are excerpts from “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pople Francis I’s first apostolic exhortation, 26 November 2013:

In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed…. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.


Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?


Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.


While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.


Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.


The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings


The dignity of the human person and the common good rank higher than the comfort of those who refuse to renounce their privileges. When these values are threatened, a prophetic voice must be raised.


Trust in the unseen can cause us to feel disoriented. It is like being plunged into the deep and not knowing what we will find. I myself have frequently experienced this. Yet there is no greater freedom than that of allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, renouncing the attempt to plan and control everything to the last detail, and instead letting him enlighten, guide and direct us, leading us wherever he wills.

The Volcker Rule Is Finally Here (plus more)

4.2.12Volcker Rule Is a Puzzle That Will Take Years to Understand
By Rana Foroohar

…What I’d love to see is not only a Volcker rule that prohibits prop trading outright, but also tougher capital holding requirements for banks. It’s a little known but important fact that in the years around the financial crisis of 1929 and the Great Depression (from 1929 to 1932), lots of small and regional banks went under, but no major New York bank did. Why? Because these market makers were holding between 15 and 20 % equity capital on their balance sheets — about ten times more than the average today. Prohibiting prop trading would go a long way toward lowering those ratios.

For more on the Volcker Rule, click here.


Celebrations of Too Big to Fail’s Demise Are Premature
By Simon Johnson

In a major speech last week, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew argued that we need to keep pushing forward with financial reform. He made some encouraging points about the need to reduce systemic risks arising from money-market mutual funds and for appropriate funding levels at the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and he spoke clearly about the need for accountability of regulators and of bank executives. But a huge misconception in his remarks threatens to swamp everything.

Lew argued that the problem of “too-big-to-fail” banks is well on its way to being fixed.


Elizabeth Warren Responds To Third Way Attack By Asking Wall Street To Disclose Ties
By DSWright, FireDogLake

Senator Elizabeth Warren is not taking the attack on her by Third Way lying down. In an open letter to the CEOs of the Too Big To Fail Wall Street banks responsible for the financial crisis of 2008, Senator Warren asks that they disclose their connections to think tanks like Third Way. That way the public will know who is paying the bill for Third Way’s attack on Warren and those asking for economic justice….


Winning the War on War
by Joshua S. Goldstein

Preeminent scholar of international relations Joshua Goldstein tears down one of the greatest myths of modern history. Despite all the hand-wringing, fearmongering, and bad-news headlines, peace is on the rise. Fewer wars are starting, more are ending, and those that remain are smaller and more localized than in past years….


Peter Higgs: I wouldn’t be productive enough for today’s academic system
By Decca Aitkenhead

Peter Higgs, the British physicist who gave his name to the Higgs boson, believes no university would employ him in today’s academic system because he would not be considered “productive” enough.

10 Simple Ways to Be Happy (plus more)

Happiness10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science
By Social Consciousness

I would love to be happier, as I’m sure most people would, so I thought it would be interesting to find some ways to become a happier person that are actually backed up by science. Here are ten of the best ones I found.


JUST SAY NO55 gentle ways to take care of yourself when you’re busy busy busy
Posted on The Freedom Experiment

We all have times in our lives when we just have too much stuff going on. There are always deadlines, exams, due dates and just too many priorities to juggle. And when everything is going wrong, the world is screaming for your attention and you just don’t have time – the last thing you need to hear is to “just take a day off”. So here are 55 gentle ways you can take care of yourself when you’re pressed for time and attention. Enjoy!


2007 Ethics in the Science Classroom (Summer Workshop)Make an Ethical Difference: Tools for Better Action
by Mark Pastin Action

Why Read It? Existing ethics books are of limited use. They generally feature one author’s opinions on very specific situations, which may well have nothing to do with the problems we’re facing. And anyway, we don’t need expert advice. Mark Pastin insists every one of us is qualified to resolve even the thorniest dilemmas ourselves, and in this profoundly practical book, he gives us the tools to do just that.

Pastin argues that we all have an innate ethical sense that enables us to make the right choice in any situation. He calls it “the ethics eye.” The problem is, we’re not aware we have it or how to develop it. So he provides practical tools we can use to open up our ethics eye so we can consistently see what is right and do it.