It is a Fact: We are Wrong About the World

Which of these statements best represents your view of the world today?

A. For most people, the quality of life is declining.

B. The quality of life is not changing much for most people.

C. The quality of life has vastly improved in modern times.

Swedish author Hans Rosling begins Factfulness: Ten Reasons Why We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think with a story from a circus, then tests readers’ views of the world with 13 multiple-choice questions. After you find out your (probably failing) score, he explains that chimpanzees probably would do better on his test than most humans by randomly choosing answers.

Every doomsayer should read this book. Every optimist should read this book. Maybe everyone should read this book; it will change your view of the world–past, present and future.

Rosling uses compelling statistical evidence in his battle against simple views of the world that are based on generalizations that we cling to because they fit our world vision. The facts are presented in vivid charts and graphs that are illustrated by compelling human stories from around the world.

He explains how our instincts affect our impressions about poverty, child mortality rates, life expectancy, deaths from natural disasters, climate change, child vaccination, and more.

If you are a TED talk fan, chances are that you are familiar with the international health professor. Sadly, pancreatic cancer claimed his life in 2017, the year before Factfulness was published. His son, Ola Rosling, and daughter-in-law Anna Rosling Rönnlund, who both worked with the author for years, completed the project.

Blimey! Look What Arrived in the Post

I haven’t been so excited about a delivery since the births of my three sons. My heart raced as the DHL driver climbed the steps to my home and rang the doorbell.

I peeled open the envelope and pulled out the wallet-sized booklet with a firm cover and back.

“I am a Brit!” I refrained–barely–from yelling my excitement to the neighborhood.

Earlier this year, I discovered that I was (and always have been) a British citizen due to my father’s birth in Birmingham, England. But I wanted to be able to prove it.

So, I sent my dad’s birth certificate, my parents’ marriage certificate, my birth certificate and my American passport to Her Majesty’s passport office. Oh, and I also sent a passport photograph of a stern-looking old man (me, that is).

If only my parents had lived to see me join them as British citizens.

Brexit may devalue my British passport as a vehicle for travel and living in the European Union, but nothing can diminish my new passport’s place in my heart.

Dalai Lama: How to Practice

How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life is a brief guidebook to Buddhist thought and practice.

Are you interested in a quick look at His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s philosophy? Or are you hoping to pick up some meditation tips? Or are you devoted to attaining enlightenment? This book has value for all three quests.

For 10 years, I have been puzzled about possible conflicting values from Buddhist teachings and reality. The exiled leader of Tibet promotes liberation from wants, not just for monastics, but lay people too. That means no expensive clothing and other high-cost material goods. But, during a 2009 visit to a Buddhist monastery in China, I saw monks with top-of-the-line cell phones and even one who drove a BMW.

“I thought Buddhist monks were to live a simple life and avoid attachment to material belongings,” I said to a woman guiding a group as one monk talked on his cell phone.

She quickly answered. “This is modern Buddhism. Some monks even drive expensive cars.”

What do you think?

I wonder what the Dalai Lama would say. He flies mostly on chartered planes and, on the rare occasion that he joins a commercial flight, I hear he is upgraded (free) to business or first class. Is this consistent with his philosophy?

Nonetheless, the Dalai Lama has devoted his life to his teachings around the world, urging followers to do no harm and to help others. He writes specifics about these two virtuous actions in this book.

Not a Buddhist? Or are you non-religious? I don’t think it matters because in this book you will discover wisdom for any life that looks for morality, calm, and selflessness.