The View from Tinos

On a recent trip, I visited a friend and colleague, Michael Samuels, on the island of Tinos in the Greek Mediteranean. Michael’s house is poised for flight—precipitously above a steep, terraced valley flowing down to the blue water. He built the house as a temple: donkeys carried 80 tons of sand and cement down 144 stone stairs to the site. Stones came from the land.

From Michael’s balcony, I counted 13 Venetian dovecotes. Six hundred are scattered around the island of Tinos in 41 villages. Doves are prized for meat, eggs, and fertilizer. Dovecotes must be built near water and cultivated areas—out of the wind so that baby doves can fly. They are works of art, embroidered with stone carvings. Venetians ruled Tinos for five century, from the fall of Constantinople in 1204 until 1715. Ottoman Turks ruled until 1821. Continue reading

Spiritual Biography, Robert McDermott

mcdermott heroRobert McDermott is president emeritus of the California Institute of Integral Studies. His interests include wisdom philosophy, Hindu and Buddhist spiritualities, inclusive and esoteric Christianity, higher education, and Anthroposophy. We had a wonderful day-long conversation on February 7th at Commonweal. Continue reading

Conversation with Malcolm Margolin


Malcolm Margolin was born in a Jewish neighborhood in Dorchester outside Boston in 1940. He was a dreamy child with his nose always in a book. School bored him. A piercing intelligence pushed him forward. He graduated from Harvard, married his Radcliffe girlfriend, and ultimately found himself in a VW bus he bought for $300 headed to California from his home base in New York City. After many wanderings he settled in Berkeley and began to make a living for his growing family as a writer. Continue reading

“Do It Yourself” and “Maker” Movements Bringing Hope

Do you know about the DIY Movement? The Maker Movement? The Great Re-Skilling Movement? If you are like me, these movements (DIY stands for “do it yourself”) may at best be at the edge of awareness. I’ve come to know some remarkable young people in West Marin who identify with these deeply interactive movements, which reflect critical trajectories in technology, environment, culture, and economics. Continue reading

Winter Gathering at the Whidbey Institute, WA


I write from the town of Langley on Whidbey Island north of Seattle. I just attended the Third Winter Gathering at the Whidbey Institute. The Gathering is led by my long-time friends Rick Ingrasci and Peggy Taylor. Life partners, they have led the Summer Gathering at Hollyhock on Cortez Island in British Columbia for 27 years. Continue reading

Physicist Tom Nash on M-Theory and the Cosmos

“The room was crackling with interest—did you feel it?” my friend Jan Broek asked me. I did. The occasion was a New School conversation with physicist Tom Nash about the nature of the universe. I expected an audience of ten—but forty New School friends showed up. There is a hunger for physics and cosmology at The New School. Clearly we have to do more.

Tom and I have been friends for 50 years. He has had a distinguished career in experimental physics at Fermilab. He is now a member of the California Institute of Technology group that participates in the search for direct detection of gravitational waves (some of which may even come from incredibly soon after the big bang). We talked about Stephen Hawking’s book The Grand Design and decided to do a New School conversation about the issues it raises. Continue reading

Reverence and Resilience

Some preliminary notes

A friend suggested to me the other day that reverence might be at the heart of our work. She proposed that there is a relationship between reverence and resilience. I asked what she meant by reverence. She said that she meant reverence for life. Then she said she also meant reverence for whatever each of us holds to be the organizing principle of the universe. Continue reading

The Grand Design

The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.
Albert Einstein

A unifying theory of the universe is the holy grail of modern physics. Einstein sought but did not find it. The great Cambridge mathematician Stephen Hawking and CalTech physicist Leonard Mlodinow believe they have found that unifying theory in something called M-theory. They take us on a journey I can only sketch in their elegant book The Grand Design [Bantam, 2010]. Continue reading