Other Chinese sayings regarding cyclicality:
物极必反：Extremes breed reversals (fortunes change)
乐极生悲：Extreme joy begets sorrow
剥级比复：Fortune goes from one extreme to another
A related but different concept is that of the Golden Mean (中庸):
The Master [Confucius] said, The virtue embodied in the doctrine of the Mean is of the highest order. But it has long been rare among people.
Socrates, born a mere 10 years after Confucius passed away in the 5th century BC, also taught that a man "must know how to choose the mean and avoid the extremes on either side, as far as possible."
An instructive thought given the state of political discourse in certain parts of the world today.
Most people likely have seen this famous photo of a 12-year old Afghan refugee and her haunting eyes. The person who took it, Steve McCurry, is a documentary photographer who lived near the Twin Towers and was at home on 9/11. In this video interview with Phaidon below, McCurry shares his memories of that day, as well as some photos that have not been seen before.
- Steve McCurry's memories of 9/11 (Phaidon)
From Thucydides's Melian Dialogue:
"You know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."
Athenians to the Melians, History of The Peloponnesian War (5th century BC)
When out of means, seek change. Then opportunities will come.
Parag Khanna, a Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation and Senior Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, published his second book How to Run the World: Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance earlier this year. An audacious title meant to grab attention, but there is much of interest.
In an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, Khanna shares some of his key theses and points of view, and I reproduce here an excerpt on his belief that we are entering a "postmodern Middle Ages":
The Middle Ages was that period a thousand years ago when East and West were simultaneously powerful -- when China was the world's most advanced civilization under the Song Dynasty, when the Chola Dynasty of India was a great naval power, and when the Arab and Islamic Caliphates ruled all the way from North Africa to Central Asia. Europe was weak and divided between the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Roman Empire. The fact that it was a multipolar landscape around the world is a very important attribute of the Middle Ages. As I spent a lot of time arguing in my first book, The Second World, the world is already very multipolar. We need to appreciate that it is not the first time in history.
Secondly, that was a time when not just states, but also cities, companies, mercenary armies, humanitarians and churches were very important actors in the diplomatic landscape. So, too, is that the case again today. For those two reasons, we are seeing this emergence of a postmodern Middle Ages. Now, technology and money and identity are all very much factors that also help to shape who has power and who calls the shots.
Here's a speech on the book that Khanna gave at the New America Foundation:
If this topic piques your interest, here's a TED Talk that Khanna gave back in 2009, and it's sobering to see how much of recent history is a train in slow-motion...
- Parag Khanna on 'How to Run the World' (Knowledge@Wharton)
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) recently released their 2011 ranking of the world's most (and least) liveable cities. The big news was that Vancouver has, finally, been dethroned by both Melbourne and Vienna, and the hand-wringing reaction in British Columbia was immediate. It should be pointed out that the difference between the top three scores was only one-tenth of one percent: 97.5 for Melbourne, 97.4 for Vienna and 97.3 for Vancouver. Vancouver cried foul about being penalized on infrastructure because a highway on Vancouver ISLAND experienced periodic closures (it's, facetiously, like London losing points for road problems on the Isle of Wight), but the EIU pointed out that the recent hockey riots in Vancouver hadn't been factored in. I wonder how that will affect the 2012 ranking...
Interesting (personally), Toronto was ranked #4, followed by Calgary. In fact, seven of the top 10 cities are Australian and Canadian, with Auckland in New Zealand rounding out the list. This reinforces a 2010 complaint levelled by the New York Times that "the Economist clearly equates livability with speaking English", although that advantage doesn't seem to help American or British cities…
So, is liveability is in the eye of the inhabitant? Or the statistician?