What do baby parrots have to say?
Plus, the power of rituals
“If indeed this is the last year of my life, I wanted to focus on the thing that's most important, and that is relationships with people.” – Paul Burnham
Polly wanna babble? Babies like to babble – even when those babies are parrots. Researchers set up recording devices in the nests of green-rumped parrotlets at Masaguaral Biological Station in Venezuela. They discovered that baby parrots make soft noises to themselves, just like human babies do. These sounds include soft peeps, clicks, and growls, and the parrots babble when they’re alone or their siblings are asleep. Previous research suggests stress hormones play a role in human infants’ language development, and the new study suggests this is also true for parrots. Karl Berg, a behavioral ecologist (and co-author of the study) says that, despite its bad reputation, stress plays a critical role in developing the brain. Quoting the endocrinologist Hans Selye, Berg told the CBC: “It's not stress that kills you. It's stress that keeps you alive.” In other words, our stress hormones aren’t all bad – it seems that they help us develop the skills we need in order to speak up. Berg added, “Just knowing that another lineage has this ability gives us a broader evolutionary perspective on why different species babble the way they do.” Plus, it just sounds adorable.
The power of ritual. Brush your teeth. Make your bed. Drive to work. We don’t really think much about our daily activities — and maybe we should. Philosophy professor Alan Jay Levinovitz makes the case for turning these often mundane daily tasks into thoughtful, sacred rituals. We can do this, he says, through the teachings of Confucious. “What Confucius taught was life-as-ritual, the transformation of everyday actions into sacred activity,” Levinovitz writes. “Ritual is – or can be – part of all human activity.” Turning everyday tasks into rituals might sound like overkill, but doing so can help us resist unwanted habits. For example, “I have never taken out [my phone] while teaching a class and scrolled through Twitter,” Levinovitz explains. “Why? Because doing so is ritually inappropriate, and I took that seriously.” If we treat other activities with the same respect, it might be easier to resist the urge to mindlessly scroll through our phones, for instance. “Driving a car is not a time to check my phone. Likewise for talking with my daughter and for hiking,” he continues. “As soon as I began treating those contexts with the reverence they deserved – as soon as I submitted to ritual – resisting the pull of my phone became effortless.” Levinovitz shares ideas on how to develop rituals in our everyday lives.
Money origins. What’s the point of money? The answer might seem obvious: we need it to get paid for our work and to buy the things we need. But there’s also a deeper way to look at the role of money in our lives. What if the cash and coins we carry are not just tools for transactions, but manifestations of human relationships? Listen to learn more.
ON THE HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST
June 20: If you knew you only had a week or a month to live, what would you do differently? Would you turn to hedonism? Or would you try to do all the good that was possible in the moments you had left? This week, a premonition that haunted one man for decades, and what our fear of death can tell us about a life well-lived.
ON THE MY UNSUNG HERO PODCAST
June 16: "My unsung hero didn't just show me that I wasn't alone. She helped me feel it." When Aya McMillan starts to panic during a long and painful medical procedure, she feels a calming hand on her back.
June 18: "I turned around, and a lady came out of the crowd and just held her arms out." Jeff Fister remembers the woman who calmly held his baby after a car accident twenty years ago.
Don’t forget to send us the story of your unsung hero! Record a voice memo on your phone and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What five-letter word becomes shorter when you add two letters to it?
LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE
Susan and Lisa were playing tennis against each other. They bet $1 on each game they played. Susan won three bets; Lisa won $5. How many total games did they play?
The answer: Eleven. Lisa lost three games to Susan, so she had lost $3 ($1 per game). She had to win back the $3 with three more games, then win another five games to win $5.
FROM THE TWITTERATI…
A MOMENT OF JOY
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