How you can help in this critical moment

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“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

— Mahatma Gandhi

On July 15th, 2021, Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced the Farm System Reform Act, legislation that would put a moratorium on building new factory farms, prevent existing ones from expanding, phase the largest ones out by 2040, and provide ongoing support for farmers transitioning out of factory farming. Furthermore, the bill would make country-of-origin labeling mandatory, help independent family farmers, and crack down on agriculture monopolies.

Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives…

To solve the climate crisis, we need to ask ourselves “which industries spark joy?”

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George Carlin was a comedic Socrates, an invaluable gadfly for our modern culture. If you haven’t heard his bit about how much Americans love stuff, take five minutes to treat yourself:

“That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.”

— George Carlin

Marie Kondo’s rise to fame around 2015 points to the same truism Carlin was joking about: we’re drowning in stuff. Kondo has sold over 10 million books worldwide, including her popular The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

How elevation broadens our horizons

The Columbia River Gorge. Photo by Elena Kuchko on Unsplash

Near my house in Southwest Washington, there’s a trail that climbs a ridge overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. Emerging from a tunnel of fir and pine, you walk out onto a cliff. The view hits you all at once. You feel the bigness of sky. Eagles, falcons, hawks, and other birds of prey are circling below. The sun glints off the glassy surface of the river. In the distance, dozens of cows are like little raisins on a giant green blanket. …

How floor sitting keeps you healthy as you age

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As a home health occupational therapist, I saw patients every day whose bodies bore the marks of prolonged sitting. Retired truck drivers, secretaries and other office workers were especially prone to postural disorders. For them, chronic back and neck pain was just a part of life. And yet, for my very job, I also sat for hours in traffic and behind a computer.

I sat how I was taught in school: 90 degrees at the ankle, 90 degrees at the knees, and 100–110 degrees at the hips. Shoulders back, wrists resting flat on the desk in front of me. Good…

How a woman with multiple sclerosis embodies the teachings of Taoism

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Six years ago, Susan painted a watercolor portrait of her pug. It hung on the wall in a bright yellow frame, welcoming all who enter her magical craft room. She proceeded to give me the full tour: Christmas ornaments and puff paint sweatshirts, quilts and birthday cards, bird houses and pop-up books. The feeling in that room was one of joyous creativity, like one might get in Santa’s workshop or Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Susan was a talented and prolific artist. Furthermore, she was an artist living with multiple sclerosis. …

Reflections on meaning, meditation, and the evolutionary psychology of “doin’ it for the gram”

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If you’re barreling down the street in a car you don’t know how to drive, it’s driving you. The same goes for stories. If you’re not consciously telling them, they’re subconsciously telling you.

Stories have a way of asserting “ontological primacy” — a fancy way of saying they convince us they’re real. It’s a bizarre concept to wrap one’s head around, but most of us have an intuitive sense of it when we consider dreams. The relief we have when waking from a nightmare is an emotional recognition that the nightmare is “ontologically secondary” to waking life.

The term “ontological…

A Buddhist reflection on Stephen Jenkinson’s philosophy of death

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In the summer of 2009, I was in Bamako, Mali, learning Bambara as a Peace Corps volunteer. It was my fourth day of class. I hadn’t slept well the night before and was struggling to pay attention. Just as I was about to nod off, a man called my name. I looked up to the classroom door where he was gesturing for me to step outside. I did, and he put a phone to my ear. It was my dad. My mom had died.

On the way home for the funeral I was asleep, or half asleep, in the airport…

A reminder for hard economic times

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My friend was laid off in May because of COVID-19. Since then, he’s become deeply depressed. “I have nowhere to go now,” he told me recently. “There’s no reason to get out of bed in the morning. I’m not a contributing member of society. I’m worthless.”

This is what I said to my friend, and I’m guessing there are others out there who need to hear it, too:

Your job does not determine your worth as a person. Your title, the letters behind your name, and how much money you make do not determine your worth as a person. …

Dreams, virtual reality, and simulation theory

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In high school, I was fascinated with the “problem of evil”: if God is goodness itself, knows about every instance of evil in the world, and has the power to do something about it…how can it exist? Evil’s existence would imply that God does not, in fact, have one or more of these characteristics. In response, my Christian friends would pull off some impressive theological gymnastics. “God is all powerful but He gave humans free will, so he self-limited his power where human choice is concerned” my friend Frank would say.

“But if God is all knowing, how could He…

What Sunaura Taylor’s Analysis Means for Designers

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Most of us don’t think twice when, making our way down the sidewalk, we see a curb cut going down to the street. In the year 1948, however, not a single one existed. The first curb cut was made on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1949. Dr. Timothy Nugent, at that time a professor of rehabilitation education, advocated for it. He would go on to be called the “Father of Accessibility” for his work in founding what is today “universal design.”

According to critical disability theory, disability is not, as the medical model asserts, an…

Taylor Steelman

Creative nonfiction at the intersection of philosophy, ecology, health, and design.

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