Your Brain on Art: Timothy Morton’s All Art is Ecological

by Leanne Ogasawara


And You May Find Yourself Living in an Age of Mass Extinction…. So begins Timothy Morton’s latest book, All Art is Ecological.

Published as part of Penguin’s new Green Ideas Series, this slim paperback sits alongside nineteen other works of environmental writing. From farmers and biologists to artists and philosophers, spanning decades, the books offer a wide range of perspectives, which Chloe Currens, the editor of the series, says serves to present an evolving ecosystem of environmental writing.

Along with classics like Masanobu Fukuoka’s The Dragonfly Will Be the Messiah and Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring; there is the work of many contemporary thinkers, such as Greta Thunberg’s No One is Too Small to Make a Difference, Amitav Ghosh’s Uncanny and Improbable Events, and George Monbiot’s This can’t be happening.

I wanted to read them all—but I started with Timothy Morton, who has been called “the philosopher prophet of the Anthropocene.” A big fan of his writing, I think Timothy Morton is pretty much the most exciting thinker alive. I was, therefore, not surprised to find myself challenged from the very first sentence.

What does this mean exactly: You MIGHT find yourself living in an age of mass extinction?

Why the subjunctive? Read more »

Waiting for the Messiah: Derrida and the Philosophy of Hospitality

by Leanne Ogasawara


The sound of thousands of clattering stainless steel plates and bowls ripple across the water, as hundreds line up to enter the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Built atop a platform in the middle of a pool of water, this is the holiest shrine of the Sikh religion. Pilgrims arrive at the floating “Abode of God” walking slowly across a very crowded covered-causeway.

Just when you think nothing can be done to repair the world, you stand in awe as thousands are fed in the great communal kitchens of the temple.

The numbers are staggering. An army of volunteers show up every morning to chop vegetables, peel garlic, and fry roti. This in preparation for feeding tens of thousands every day. Known as the Langar, this communal meal is an act of charity and love, open and free to all. And what’s more, you don’t have to travel all the way to Amritsar to experience a Langar, as it is practiced in all Sikh places of worship around the world. Sitting on the ground shoulder-to-shoulder so that all are equal, pilgrims are provided with sustenance, ensuring that none leave the temple hungry.

Anyone is welcome to eat and anyone is welcome to serve.

In her beautiful book, Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community, and the Meaning of Generosity, Priya Basil—who herself hails from a Sikh family—feels it is a shame the meaning of the word “hospitality” in English has come to be so firmly associated with the industry of hospitality, something which has conflated acts of generosity with capitalist entertainment. And she rightly asks:

“What does this say about us when a notion that long implied giving without getting any return becomes synonymous with paying for services that promise customer satisfaction or your money back?” Read more »