All Change at the Event Horizon

An event horizon is the point of no return near a black hole in space where the gravitational pull becomes so great escape is impossible.  Once you cross the event horizon – that’s it – you get pulled into the black hole – into the singularity – no argument.

But right up to the event horizon nothing is predetermined.

So.  My question is this – are there ‘event horizons’ in human actions and societies?

There do seem to be event horizons in evil.  It does seem as if once a threshold of sorts is crossed it can be difficult not to be pulled into the vortex of evil.

But if that is true then it must be true that there is also an event horizon of good.  A place that once we cross it we will be pulled – inexorably – towards goodness.

Like a physical event horizon, up to that very point it might look as if we are just wandering aimlessly in space when all the while we are working our way towards a big, important and valuable change for the better.  Inching along –

Tiny, discrete, butterfly action


Tiny, discrete, butterfly action.

The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.

William Faulkner


Learning to Live Together

Reciprocity – the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit – is widely recognised as an important feature of successful co-operation but how does reciprocity between ordinary people actually work?

Mary hits Joan.  Joan is angry so she hits Mary back – repaying her in kind.

An eye for an eye.

Tit for tat.



Positive and negative, it’s a if there is a hidden balance that must constantly be maintained.  Impulses like revenge solve nothing of course but this striving for reciprocity appears to be deeply rooted within us. It’s naturally occurring and is neither good nor bad in itself – only in its application.

If we look at our instincts as tools to help us survive and develop, rather than tie ourselves up in knots either suppressing or exalting these naturally occurring impulses, then maybe it might be easier to use them properly.

Instincts are simultaneously wonderful and problematic – like any tool. Even a humble hammer is all about application – it is enormously useful and – literally – constructive, if you want to hang a picture or build a cabinet or a wall but in other circumstances it can also be used to destroy or kill.

The solution is not to get rid of hammers but make sure we use them properly.  Just like our instincts.


To see things in the seed, that is genius. Lao-Tzu

Peace on Earth – Goodwill to Girls

Rape is used to destroy not just individuals but entire communities. Rape is so commonly used as a weapon that Major General Patrick Cammaert, a former UN force commander said –

“It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.”

In 2008 the UN declared rape, ‘ a weapon of war’.  In the resolution, the UN Security Council noted that,

“…women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.

Rape is a heinous crime, acknowledged as torture by the United Nations and yet apart from the physical, emotional and psychological scars that rape inflicts, there is another source of pain for rape victims – social exclusion.  In many countries the shame experienced by the victims after rape is as traumatic as the incident itself.  Many women kill themselves as it is seen as the only way to restore honour to their families.

How can this be true?

Surely the perpetrators of heinous crimes are the ones who should be ashamed?

And who are the people who exclude or look down on these victims?

Do these excluders and condemners include women?

If so – why?

What is it about rape that makes the victims ashamed and not the perpetrators?

When will men – and women – begin to speak out against this violation?

What sort of social conceptual framework exists to support this victimisation of victims?

If we could find it could we dismantle it?

All thoughts appreciated.



The Only Failure is Failure to Learn

David Damberger works with Engineers without Borders. In this talk he explains the importance of facing up to failure – not as an exercise in shame but in order to really be open to learn and innovate.

Convinced of this by their own experience, Engineers Without Borders Canada have begun to publish an annual report of their failures.

They have also set up a web-site – – where NGOs can go and post examples of their own failures and research and learn from the failure of others.  As it says on the site –

By hiding our failures, we are condemning ourselves to repeat them and we are stifling innovation.

Failure in the development sector is no different than failure in any arena of professional or personal life.  As long as we persist in hiding our failures and pretending they don’t exist, we will continue to really fail in reaching our objectives.


Have a listen –

The Scientific Method

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.

Winston Churchill


Photograph – Window on the world – A couple watching the world go by from their flat on York Street, Dublin.
Date: 1954  NLI Ref.: WIL e3[54]

All Bets Are Off

Josephine Green works in industry.  She is Senior Director of Trends and Strategy at Philips Design and she is making a great case for how the day of the hierarchy is over.

According to Green, we need to find new ways to be and act in the world if we are to prosper and flourish in the future.  Because of the diffusion of new technologies, ordinary people can now not only consume but also create.

In the past, the structure of the world was hierarchical – basically shaped like a Pyramid – where power, ideas, innovations etc were at the top and the inventions and ‘products’ of one kind or another, emerged at the end.

Now, though it’s messier it is also more democratic, as people are increasingly creating their own music, film, books, social networks etc.  She says that this change is mirrored in the world as people begin to see that they have the power to decide how they want to live their lives.  Which Josephine Green describes as a Pancake model of life.

As we all thinking and talk about the effects of phenomena like social media on modern life, Josephine Green’s ideas offer an interesting perspective on how we might not only adapt to the change all around us but also actually channel this change – as we cease to be merely passive consumers – to create healthier, happier and more just societies.

Have a look –

The Ethic of Reciprocity

The Ethic of Reciprocity – also known as The Golden Rule – is a simple but powerful concept and one that lies at the heart of all religions.

We all know a version of it.

  • Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself. (Bahá’í Faith)
  • This is the sum of Dharma [duty]: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you. (Brahmanism)
  • Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.(Buddhism)
  • And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.(Christianity)
  • Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence.(Confuscianism)
  • This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. (Hinduism)
  • …thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (Judaism )
  • None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself. (Islam)
  • Do not kill or injure your neighbor, for it is not him that you injure, you injure yourself. But do good to him, therefore add to his days of happiness as you add to your own. Do not wrong or hate your neighbor, for it is not him that you wrong, you wrong yourself. But love him, for Moneto loves him also as he loves you. (Shawnee Indian)
  • As thou deemest thyself, so deem others. (Sikhism)
  • Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others.(Zoroastrianism)

It’s like the story of the long spoons – (see yesterday’s post) – if instead of seeing what we can get from the world, we train ourselves to be willing to give, then we create environments of reciprocal goodness which in turn can blossom into – well – heaven on earth.


If You Saw A Child About to Fall in a Well…

Picture of the Confusian philosopher Mencius.

Mencius a fourth-century BCE Chinese thinker and disciple of Confucius, taught that human beings have within them everything they need to live together in harmony  – it’s just a question of developing these capacities in the correct way.

All men have a mind which cannot bear to see the sufferings of others.  My meaning may be illustrated this way: if men suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, they will without exception experience a feeling of alarm and distress—not so they may gain the favor of the child’s parents, nor to seek the praise of their neighbors and friends, nor from fear of a reputation of having been unmoved by such a thing.

From this case, we may perceive that the feeling of commiseration is essential to man…The feeling of commiseration is the principle of benevolence. The feeling of shame and dislike is the principle of righteousness. The feeling of modesty and complaisance is the principle of propriety. The feeling of approving and disapproving is the principle of knowledge…

Since all men had these four principles in themselves, let them know to give them their full development and completion, and the result will be like a fire which has begun to burn, or a spring which has begun flow. Let them have their complete development, and they will suffice to love and protect all. 

Modern science is tending to support Mencius’ two and a half thousand year old view – mirror neurons, oxytocin, automatic empathy – so, what are the steps we need to take in order to translate our innate capacities for peace, love and understanding into reality?_______________________________________________

The Moral Molecule

Creator(s): Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. (09/18/1947 – 02/28/1964)

Persistent URL:

Related articles