All posts tagged: Culture

Content exploring culture.

Dulal Baje Nepal

Do You Understand? A Story from Nepal

A friend recently introduced me to Humans of New York, a photoblog with an enormous following on social media. Ranging from the mundane to the profound, these portraits and snippets offer brief but intimate glimpses into the worlds of others. They feed our collective craving for stories, personal tales, to hear and to share them. Not long after I came across an offshoot project called Stories of Nepal. As visitors to Ekostories might know, I’ve written a few pieces on my trip there in 2012, and even though I was in the country for all too brief a time, the people of that land have remained dear to me. Reading through some of their stories, one in particular resonated with me during this tail-end of the holiday season and calendar year. With the permission of photographer and translator Jay Poudyal, I would like to share it with you a passage by a farmer named Dulal Baje: “There was no animosity during our times. We were farmers. We were strong communities. We were families. No politics. Do you understand? …

Hong Kong Cityscape

Place and Memory: Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

I’m not sure how to describe Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. It isn’t traditional fiction on a structural level, having no story arc or a defined ending. Nor is it conventional fantasy, doing away with the worlds it creates almost as soon as it forms them. Even the broadest definitions of historical fiction and magical realism don’t quite fit, as Calvino blends real and imagined details into a concoction of seemingly irreverent tales. Invisible Cities is a travelogue to places that do not exist. It is a work that brushes aside conventions of form and narrative to ruminate on ideas of memory and place, touching on everything from trajectory of civilizations to the limits of communication. At times delightfully whimsical and intensely melancholic, Invisible Cities is a testament to the power of an author at the height of his powers to provoke, enthrall, and connect.

Indian Rhino Bardia National Park

Nepal Revisited: Adventures in Royal Bardia Park

Recently, I had the opportunity to contribute to Beatler.com, a local blog that covers food, entertainment, travel, lifestyle and technology. Drawn to one writer’s reflections on his trip to Belize, a place that I explored almost a decade ago, I felt inspired to revisit old journeys by working on a travel piece, this time around my adventures at Royal National Bardia Park in Nepal. Returning to Nepal in mind and spirit was interesting. When I wrote the Reflection of Nepal series right after my trip, I had felt compelled to get everything down, cramming together flavours, ideas, and lessons learned lest the vivid intensity of experience fade forever from memory. But now a year and a half removed, I found myself revisiting past events with no great hurry, having the time to mull over my notes and the patience to let scenes breathe and develop naturally. The entire four-part series, complete with the customary themes of nature and culture befitting an Ekostory, has recently been posted online. You can read them here: Part 1: Bardia …

Star Trek TNG Darmok

Of Myths and Metaphors: Star Trek TNG’s Darmok

Several weeks past, I attended a workshop on the use of storytelling for effective social engagement. Sitting at my table was a doctoral student interested in better ways to communicate concepts of ecological economics to the public. As we chatted about the various metaphors embedded within conventional economics, particularly around growth and development, I started thinking about stories that focus on the challenge of communication and the power of metaphor. Searching my mind for examples, I found myself returning once more to the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation for inspiration, this time to an episode titled Darmok.

Tao Today Part 1

Tao Today: A Sage’s Take on Modern Society, Part 2

In response to the predicament of his times, Lao Tzu ruminated on the essence of human nature and asked: What can be done to stop the injustice, violence, and greed that inevitably corrupts the core of civilization? According to Welch, the old sage came to the conclusion that a radical operation must be performed on human nature before these systemic issues could be resolved: “First he cuts out desire for superfluous material goods (they only keep their owner awake at night), then desire for praise and fear of blame (both drive men mad), then desire for power (the only successful ruler is one who suffers as his kingdom suffers). But this is not enough. Morality is frequently used to justify violence. Morality must go. Violence frequently starts with a fixed difference of opinion. Fixed opinion must go. But without desire, morality, and opinion, what is left for a man to occupy his time? The best things of all: physical enjoyment and cultivation of the inner life. Once a man knows these, success in competition will …

Tao Today Part 1

Tao Today: A Sage’s Take on Modern Society, Part 1

If you follow Ekostories on a regular basis, you would know that one of my chief influences is author Ursula K. Le Guin. It was through her work that I first became intrigued by Taoism as a philosophy. Growing up in Hong Kong, my first encounters with Daoism came from ancient tales of whiskery old hermits who sought immortality and strangely robed priests who conducted rituals for the dead. In my adult life, I see bits and pieces of it incorporated haphazardly in the New Age movement. Neither experience was grounded in any context, and as such were bereft of personal meaning and value. For me, Taoism existed as a series of bizarre and disconnected ideas, frequently esoteric and utterly incomprehensible. Le Guin’s stories changed that. A lifelong student of the Tao Te Ching, she wove its ideas into her writing in a way that made the philosophy tangible, relevant, and meaningful. Her own interpretation of the ancient text is by no means the most accurate, complete, or definitive, but what it lacks in faithfulness it …

Avatar Four Elements by Ebelin

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Forces for Change

One of the most well executed aspects of Avatar: The Last Airbender is its depiction of the four elemental nations of its fictional world. The depth and care taken to create the Water Tribes, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads contributed enormously to the richness of the show, creating a world of diverse cultures and perspectives.  This helps to separate Avatar from many contemporary and more derivative works of fantasy. Embedded within the fictional world of Avatar is the idea that each society and its people reflect the tendencies of their  element.  But after a century-long absence of the Avatar, the nations have become stagnant, unbalanced, dysfunctional, and in need of serious reform. In this entry, I’ll explore how the protagonists of Avatar serve as agents of change in the world by embodying the best qualities of their respective elements.