Tag Archives: Culture

We were putting together some training material for social enterprise development at the office, doing the day job, and rediscovered this Ted Talk by Jason Fried, founder of  37 Signals and the author of Rework.

It’s been a useful tool in the past to get groups to think about the nature of work, their place in it and how to react to the pressure of meetings and interruptions.

Fried makes some telling points about the quality of the interrupted process when we gather in the office. It is, of course, a gentle trumpet for the remote worker and the internet connected working life.

None the less, the argument about how offices are ‘factories for interruption’ and only real work takes place when individuals are ‘remote’ is telling. He also looks at the need for creatives – authors, designers, engineers etc., to access quiet space. As well as debunking the old management myth ‘…if I can’t see you, you can’t be working‘. More often sounded in the 21st Century than you might think.

We like his summary points at the end. Go on, cancel that meeting today!

(Check out our Productive Paradigms page for more articles on the world of work…Ed).

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Spirituality, a report - pdf versionThe RSA has recently published a report, called Spiritualise – Revitalising Spirituality to address 21st Century Challenges, compiled by Dr Jonathan Rowson, Director of the Social Brain Centre, RSA.

(You can discover the action research pages of the Centre here at the RSA. ‘The RSA’s Social Brain Centre seeks to improve public awareness of how prevailing understandings of human nature, need and aspiration shape practice and policy’).

pdfIcon4 View, print or download a copy of this RSA report here…

Below the Reverend Sue Martin, FRSA briefly reflects upon the theme…

“…this is an interesting report of some depth and brings spirituality into the open for all groups of people; faith and non faith, intellectual and pragmatic. Encompassing a multitude of dimensions the report draws on cultural psychology, embodied cognition, the divided brain and neural plasticity. If you venture into these chapters of the report you will find profound research and questioning.

(Jonathan Rowson gives due credit to The RSA for provision of the important institutional framework to allow the research to proceed, and provides details of the contributions of the many philosophers, psychologists and cultural specialists et al whose workshop activities informed the research conversation).

Before you get too deeply into the exacting mental science behind ‘spirtualising’, take a moment to dwell on what is spirituality, how do we know if we have it, and what should we do with it, if and when we get it?

And the following questions, seemingly simple, pose thoughts for us even if there are, annoyingly, no immediate direct answers;

  • Is there something more than just this time and place?
  • What happens to us when we see or hear something that makes us have ‘goosebumps’?
  • When was the last time you found yourself thinking about those you love?
  • If we spend all our time in gaining material goods and wealth, how do we know when to stop, and when is enough, enough?

Dr Rawson tackles many areas of spiritualising and in section three of the report addresses belonging or being, from love and death, from self and soul. “ Love, death, self and soul were selected, not as an exhaustive or exclusive map, but to illustrate why the spiritual is not fringe or niche but right at the heart of our lives.” (Spiritualise – Revitalising Spirituality p.56). This is followed by a number of illuminated pathways to personal, social and political transformation, including a section from happiness to meaning and back again.

In a Christian dimension, happiness and blessing are much the same thing and we look here in the report beyond the straightforward aspect of being happy, which can be rendered  over simply, to see  it can be a constituent of a deep and fulfilling spirituality.

The Dalai Lama in his book The Art of Happiness, links happiness to a quest for learning;
We don’t need more money, we don’t need greater success or fame, we don’t need the perfect body or even the the perfect mate… at this very moment, we have a mind, which is all the basic equipment we need to achieve complete happiness.

The Himalayas
A Himalayan view…

Spirituality is like the tip of an iceberg, or rather a view from the top of a mountain. We think we know it all because we believe what we see is all that there is. Yet beneath lies a volume of intellectual matter and reflection that deeply conditions our existence.

Dr Rawson has produced an excellent research report and I wonder if this is something that  RSA Fellows in the East can pursue in further discussion and reflection; not seeking the ‘answers’ but in seeking meaning and understanding”.

Reverend Sue Martin FRSA, Diocese of Norwich



(Is there potential for a regional group to combine, reflect and look to create a project that can carry forward the theme of spirituality, social change and the human condition? Respond to Sue Martin’s rallying call using our ‘contact us’ service above and we’ll post a project proposal on these web pages to help the idea coalesce…Ed.)

Photo credit: Nepal and the mountains – courtesy of Sue Martin.



‘Each of us narrates our lives as it suits us…’ says Elena Ferrante in her novel Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. it is possible to recognise the great truth in this reflection. We strive to become what it is we want to be, even sometimes presenting a face to the world that we do not, in truth, cleave to inside us.

Now technology can map our journey from beginning to end. The humble laptop or mobile device can show this life track to the casual visitor. The wonder of the novel is it’s ability to draw us into the individual life, to be able to join the sole reflection of the journey.

The visual displayed below shows the power of aggregation. Making moving pictures of the lives of many. From their birth to the place of their death. In the aggregation comes another story.

It is an informative, broad brush canvas about the creation of communities, cities and centres of culture. It is also, to our mind, both art and science.

See the movie on YouTube You can see the original film on YouTube here…

Researchers at The University of Texas, Dallas have tracked the beginning and end of life of notable figures in history from 600BC to the present day.

The database of notables was drawn from Freebase, a Google owned data service, and the skills and enterprise of the individuals is seen as a proxy for the spread of culture across the globe.

It is a ‘western’ view of cultural dissemination. It omits much influence drawn from the movement of Asian and African peoples through time. One of the most stunning sequences in the film is the movement of people from the east coast of the USA to the west.

It does visualise the rising importance of the West Coast, particularly in the Twentieth Century. Showing how inevitable the collapse of Native American culture had become.

On balance, a great presentation that shows the cultural spread of European ideas, over space and time.

Useful links:

interneticon You can find a thoughtful reflection on the novel by Elena Ferranti here. It is written by Rohan Maitzen.

interneticon The original research was featured in the journal Nature: see Schich, M. et al. Science 345, 558–562 (2014).

interneticon  Freebase data is available for use under open license. Explore the contents here, you can see how to use the data more explicitly here.



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News Desk image by Markus Winkler, Creative Commons, Unsplash...