Bob Schwartz

Month: August, 2018

The Economist Global Liveability Index 2018: The World’s Most and Least Liveable Cities

The brilliant and essential publication The Economist has just released its annual ranking of the world’s cities based on liveability (see complete list below).

The Economist applies a complex formula to assess liveability:

Category 1: Stability (weight: 25% of total)
Prevalence of petty crime
Prevalence of violent crime
Threat of terror
Threat of military conflict
Threat of civil unrest/conflict

Category 2: Healthcare (weight: 20% of total)
Availability of private healthcare
Quality of private healthcare
Availability of public healthcare
Quality of public healthcare
Availability of over-the-counter drug
General healthcare indicators

Category 3: Culture & Environment (weight: 25% of total)
Humidity/temperature rating
Discomfort of climate to traveller
Level of corruption
Social or religious restrictions
Level of censorship
Sporting availability
Cultural availability
Food & drink
Consumer goods & services

Category 4: Education (weight: 10% of total)
Availability of private education
Quality of private education
Public education indicators

Category 5: Infrastructure (weight: 20% of total)
Quality of road network
Quality of public transport
Quality of international links
Availability of good quality housing
Quality of energy provision
Quality of water provision
Quality of telecommunications

Like all ranking of places, your weighting of factors may differ and your needs and experiences may vary. Many of us are living in, have lived in, have considered living in, or have friends who live in, one or more of these cities. Your comments are invited.

The Economist Global Liveability Index 2018

1. Vienna
2. Melbourne
3. Osaka
4. Calgary
5. Sydney
6. Vancouver
7. Tokyo
7. Toronto
9. Copenhagen
10. Adelaide
11. Zurich
12. Auckland
12. Frankfurt
14. Geneva
14. Perth
16. Helsinki
17. Amsterdam
18. Hamburg
19. Montreal
19. Paris
21. Berlin
22. Brisbane
23. Honolulu
24. Luxembourg
25. Munich
26. Wellington
27. Oslo
28. Dusseldorf
29. Brussels
30. Barcelona
30. Lyon
32. Pittsburgh
32. Stockholm
34. Budapest
35. Hong Kong
35. Manchester
37. Singapore
37. Washington DC
39. Madrid
39. Minneapolis
41. Dublin
42. Boston
43. Reykjavik
44. Chicago
44. Miami
46. Milan
46. Seattle
48. London
49. San Francisco
50. Atlanta
50. Los Angeles
52. Cleveland
53. Detroit
54. Lisbon
55. Rome
56. Houston
57. New York
58. Taipei
59. Seoul
60. Prague
61. Lexington
62. Buenos Aires
63. Santiago
64. Bratislava
65. Warsaw
66. Nouméa
67. Montevideo
68. Moscow
69. Dubai
70. St Petersburg
71. Abu Dhabi
72. Athens
73. San Jose
74. Suzhou
75. Beijing
76. Tel Aviv
77. Tianjin
78. Kuala Lumpur
79. Sofia
80. Lima
81. Shanghai
82. Belgrade
82. Bucharest
82. Shenzhen
85. Kuwait City
86. Johannesburg
87. Doha
88. Rio de Janeiro
89. San Juan
90. Dalian.
90. Muscat
92. Pretoria
93. Sao Paulo
94. Bahrain
95. Guangzhou
96. Panama City
97. Qingdao
98. Amman
98. Bangkok
100. Almaty
101. Bandar Seri Begawan
102. Asuncion
103. Manila
104. Baku
105. Quito
106. Tunis
107. Hanoi
108. Bogota
108. Istanbul
108. Riyadh
111. Mexico City
112. New Delhi
113. Jeddah
114. Guatemala City
115. Casablanca
116. Ho Chi Minh City
117. Mumbai
118. Kiev
119. Jakarta
120. Al Khobar
121. Tashkent
122. Nairobi
123. Cairo
124. Abidjan
125. Phnom Penh
126. Caracas
127. Lusaka
128. Tehran
129. Kathmandu
130. Colombo
131. Dakar
132. Algiers
133. Douala
134. Tripoli
135. Harare
136. Port Moresby
137 Karachi
138. Lagos
139. Dhaka
140. Damascus

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit Global Liveability Ranking 2018

Why Trump Is a Horror Movie and Not a Reality Show

Reality shows dramatize and exaggerate “real” human behavior and situations. People do and say bad, even horrible, things. We may be repulsed, we may find it endearing and entertaining, but when we watch reality shows, we are never scared.

The most frightening horror movies are based on a powerful premise: Within our seemingly ordinary life in our seemingly ordinary world, there is an inconceivable terror lurking. It may emerge at any time without warning. We must be always on our guard because everything that used to seem benign is now menacing. What is worst, on top of the constant uncertainty, is that we have no defense.

That is why when we watch a horror movie, no matter how prepared we think we are, we jump out of our seats anyway. That is why in America, while we long for the benign ordinary, we prepare each day for what is lurking, and still jump when it arrives. That is why Trump is a horror movie and not a reality show.

For a While

For a While

After the desert heat the dusk
with low growl whisper of thunder then
the roar and the cracked sky
emptying the rain.
Every night it will be this way
for a while.
Wall shaking and roof patter
call me out to see what the
matter it is.
Sound light and blessed water
and when I stand skin to air feel
a trickle of cool breeze streaming my way
for a while.




The border of melancholy and joy
is the color of washed out orange gray
late sunset in lingering heat.
The playlist alternates
requited longing to despair
with no choice.


Reviving the Angel of Friendship

“Everyone has a light burning for him in the world above, and everyone’s light is unique. When two friends meet, their lights above are united, and out of that union of two lights an angel is born. That angel has the strength to survive for only one year, unless its life is renewed when the friends meet again. But if they are separated for more than a year, the angel begins to languish and eventually wastes away.

“That is why a blessing over the dead is made upon meeting a friend who has not been seen for more than a year, to revive the angel. According to the Talmud two friends who have not seen each other for a year say the blessing: ‘Blessed is He who revives the dead.’”

Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism

Moses, Elijah and Jesus (Plus Four) Meet on a Mountain: The Feast of the Transfiguration

The Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated today in many Christian communities. It marks one of the most fascinating stories reported in the Gospels. From the Gospel of Matthew:

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. (Matthew 17:1-8, NRSV)

Among those Christian communities, the transfiguration has been subject to different interpretations:

The Transfiguration refers to the appearance of Jesus to his disciples in glorified form. The three synoptic Gospels record the episode: Matthew 17:1–9; Mark 9:2–10; Luke 9:28–36. Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him onto a mountain. (Tradition locates it on Mount Tabor, but many scholars prefer Mount Hermon.) He appeared there before them in a luminous form with Moses and Elijah at his side. Peter proposed that they build three tabernacles, or tents. A heavenly voice declared Jesus to be the “beloved son” and enjoined the disciples to heed him. Jesus then appeared in his usual form and commanded his disciples to keep silence.

There are various interpretations of the episode. Some view it as a misplaced account of a resurrection appearance. Others view it as a mystical experience that Jesus’ disciples had in his presence. Others as a symbolic account devised by Matthew or the tradition on which his Gospel relied. Whatever its origin, the episode of the Transfiguration serves at the very least as a literary device to place Jesus on the same level as the Law (represented by Moses) and the Prophets (represented by Elijah) and as a foreshadowing of his future glory. He is the authentic source of divine truth for those who would listen to him.

The feast of the Transfiguration originated in the East and became widely celebrated there before the end of the first Christian millennium. The feast was not celebrated in the West until a much later date. Pope Callistus III ordered its celebration in 1457 in thanksgiving for the victory over the Turks at Belgrade on July 22, 1456, news of which reached Rome on August 6. The feast is on the General Roman Calendar and is also celebrated by the Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches, the Church of England, and the Episcopal Church in the USA. (Lives of The Saints: From Mary and St. Francis of Assisi to John XXIII and Mother Teresa by Richard P. McBrien)

However you view this story as a matter of fact, faith or theology, it is a big meeting of some heavy hitters. It begins with Jesus plus three apostles, which is not by itself particularly unusual. Then Moses and Elijah arrive. This meeting now qualifies as a big deal, one of the highest-level conclaves in the Bible. But of course there’s more. God shows up—and speaks. (Note that Moses and Elijah both had experience with this: we aren’t sure what kind of voice Moses heard, but Elijah reportedly heard something still and small.)

Maybe the most fascinating detail of the story is the offer by the apostles to build three separate tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Some think this is a reference to the Feast of Tabernacles, the Jewish pilgrimage festival at which tents/booths are built. But it seems more a gesture of welcome: You guys have traveled a long way to get here for this meeting; the least we can do is give you someplace to rest and refresh. Would they have gone ahead and built those tents for Moses and Elijah if God had not interrupted? It’s a thought.

More About Compassion Toward Things

These are the creatures and objects that are spoken of as the possessions of this individual: his animals and his walls, his garden and his meadow, his tools and his food. In so far as he cultivates and enjoys them in holiness, he frees their souls. “For this reason a man must always be compassionate toward his tools and all his possessions.”
Martin Buber, The Legend of the Baal Shem Tov

I earlier wrote about the concept of compassion toward your things. Here is a bit more.

What does it mean to be compassionate toward your things, to be “feeling with” them? This is easier to conceive if the thing is something alive like a pet, or something once growing but now picked like some of the food on your plate. But a chair is just a chair; does it really need your compassion to set its soul free?

Could it be that by stretching to find compassion for those things—for all those other things, no matter how insignificant they seem—we are exercising our practice and ability to be compassionate toward everything and everyone all the time? Could it be that by stretching to find the reality of those things, we are exercising our practice and ability to understand everything and everyone all the time?

The Buddhist concept of the trichiliocosm (also known as trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu) “posits that any given thought-moment perfectly encompasses the entirety of reality both spatially and temporally…. the microcosm contains the macrocosm and temporality encompasses spatiality. Thus, whenever a single thought arises, there also arise the myriad dharmas; these two events occur simultaneously, not sequentially.” (Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism):

Trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu. In Sanskrit, literally “three-thousandfold great-thousandfold world system,” but typically translated as “trichiliocosm”; the largest possible universe, composed of (according to some interpretations of the figure) one billion world systems, each of which have a similar geography, including a central axis at Mount Sumeru, four surrounding continents, etc.

In his translation of The Diamond Sutra, Red Pine reflects on a related point:

Chapter 1: One day before noon, the Bhagavan put on his patched robe and picked up his bowl and entered the capital of Shravasti for offerings. After begging for food in the city and eating his meal of rice, he returned from his daily round in the afternoon, put his robe and bowl away, washed his feet, and sat down on the appointed seat. After crossing his legs and adjusting his body, he turned his awareness to what was before him.

In ancient India, the main staple was glutinous rice, which was eaten with the hands by forming it into balls. The term pinda occurs again at the end of the sutra in Chapter Thirty, where it includes the biggest of all lumps: a universe of a billion worlds. This is not accidental, for the practice of charity and the concept of an entity, either compounded of smaller entities or compounding a greater entity, run throughout this sutra. In the chapters that follow, the Buddha takes us through a series of synonyms for the entities of reality and compares the results of offering such things as a ball of rice, a universe of jewels, numberless existences, or a four-line poem.

The Buddha said, “Subhuti, what do you think? Are all the specks of dust in the billion-world-system of a universe many?”

The Buddha turns from this teaching to the sanctuary where this teaching was being taught, namely, the vihara outside Shravasti where both he and Subhuti were sitting. If the teaching of prajna is no teaching, what about the world in which it is taught? The Buddha begins with the smallest perceivable constituents of matter and the largest conceivable entity that they comprise.

Chapter Thirty: “Furthermore, Subhuti, if a noble son or daughter took as many worlds as there are specks of dust in a billion-world universe and by an expenditure of limitless energy ground them into a multitude of atoms, Subhuti, what do you think, would there be a great multitude of atoms?…The Buddha said, “Subhuti, attachment to an entity is inexplainable and inexpressible. For it is neither a dharma nor no dharma. Foolish people, though, are attached.”

All things big and small are locked in an endless sleight of hand in which each negates the reality of the other. And yet we all look for something to grab. Sometimes, we grab the biggest thing we can find. Sometimes, we grab the smallest. The people of Shravasti offered the Buddha balls of rice. Were the balls of rice real, or the grains of rice? The Buddha ate what he found in his bowl. So, too, do Zen masters swallow the world and all its mountains and rivers. And the reason they can do this is because mountains and rivers do not themselves exist but are simply names we give to momentary combinations of causes and conditions that are themselves momentary combinations of causes and conditions: universes made of specks of dust made of specks of dust made of specks of dust that form universes that form universes that form universes. Zen masters swallow names and concepts, while the entities they represent change. Mountains and rivers and the ten-thousand things all change. If they did not, we would be in trouble. We would have no hope of liberation. But because nothing exists as an independent, permanent entity, there are no obstructions on the path to enlightenment. Foolish people, though, refuse to walk this path. They see nothing but obstructions. Buddhas see offerings and turn these offerings into dharmas.