A construction industry professional with over four decades of experience, Covey Cowan serves as a construction supervisor for Upscale Construction, Inc. in San Francisco, California. Having worked with people from many different ethnic backgrounds and travelled throughout the world, Cowan has developed a strong interest in discovering the unique gifts that different cultures have to offer the larger world today.
‘History says Ancient Greece invented democracy. But the Greeks took their inspiration from the other side of the Mediterranean in Egypt. "African democracy," which is practiced to this day in villages and towns across the continent—where 70 percent of Africans live—is very different from "Western democracy." It is based on the humanist philosophy called Ubuntu, originating in southern Africa, which teaches, "I am because you are." African democracy is focused on including everyone, whereas Western democracy, with its basis in majority rule, divides people and nations.
Traditional African democracy doesn't involve organized opposition. Power is arranged like a pyramid. At the top is the king who exercises supreme authority, assisted by his council of elders and sub-chiefs. But the king or chief has no power except that which is given to him by the people. He is usually enthroned for life, but the actual duration of his reign depends on how well or poorly he performs. If he is a good king, he stays. If he is a bad king who oppresses the people, or acts against their interests and traditions, he is overthrown by the people, using the constitutional means established for the purpose.
African democracy has a lot to teach the world about decision-making. The chief or king in consultation with the council of elders makes minor day-to-day decisions. But major decisions affecting the community are made by the people—all the people. The job of the king or chief is really to implement the will of the people.
In the African system, for example, if villagers want to build a school, the chief calls the whole community together under the trees of the village square. The gathering of the villagers acts like a city council or parliament. Wide and passionate discussions are held that day on the subject of the new school. Everybody is free to voice an idea. There is no organized opposition, but opposing views are strongly and freely expressed. The chief or king is the last to speak, but that doesn't mean he has "the last word," as would be the case in Western culture. At the end of the day, a consensus is almost always reached. And—most important—the new initiative enjoys broad support, since even opponents feel heard and respected. This kind of democracy is not a struggle for power, but an organizing structure.’
To read more click, ‘At the end of the day, a consensus is almost always reached.’
Covey Cowan, San Francisco, California
Covey Cowan works as a project manager and supervisor in the San Francisco Bay Area, overseeing on-site operations and managing progress schedules and project budgets for the construction of upscale, custom residential properties. He also manages pre-construction design planning, working with the client and designers throughout project development. Mr. Cowan has always been interested the dynamics of human interaction and what we can do to develop our skills in this area.
Mindfulness practice clearly can be of great benefit. Scientific studies in recent years support what practitioners have known for millennium. But when it comes to developing our ability to empathize and communicate with other people it may not offer that much help.
The Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences recently published a study comparing different mental training practices and the affect they have on brain networks, stress hormones, and social competencies and came up with some illuminating results.
'Meditation is beneficial for our well-being. This ancient wisdom has been supported by scientific studies focusing on the practice of mindfulness. However, the words "mindfulness" and "meditation" denote a variety of mental training techniques that aim at the cultivation of various different competencies. In other words, despite growing interest in meditation research, it remains unclear which type of mental practice is particularly useful for improving either attention and mindfulness or social competencies, such as compassion and perspective-taking.
Other open questions are, for example, whether such practices can induce structural brain plasticity and alter brain networks underlying the processing of such competencies, and which training methods are most effective in reducing social stress. To answer these questions, researchers from the Department of Social Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany conducted the large-scale ReSource Project aiming at teasing apart the unique effects of different methods of mental training on the brain, body, and on social behaviour.'
To read more click, 'Mental training techniques focusing more on the "we" and social connectedness among people may be a better choice.'
Covey Cowan has worked in the construction industry for over 40 years, serving as a General Contractor, Project Manager, and Jobsite Supervisor on various residential projects in the greater San Francisco area. A long-time student of human nature, he has always been interested in understanding what it takes for people to cooperate.
A new study finds that having a reputation for cooperation may be key to getting other people to cooperate with you. ‘Human beings are among the most cooperative species on the planet. Yet it’s not always safe to cooperate with a stranger. What if they don’t have your interests at heart?
The ability to decide when to cooperate is an important skill for our survival. That’s why we’ve evolved to turn to our social groups for guidance, conforming to group norms when the situation is unclear. In fact, the pull to conform can be so strong that we will not even identify what’s right in front of us if our group says they see something different.
But group conformity is not the only force at work in the decision to cooperate. Research has found that, if strangers act cooperatively towards you or have a reputation for being cooperative, you will likely work with them, because of the expected reciprocal benefits of doing so.
So, which is more powerful in cooperation—those group norms or a reputation for reciprocity? And what happens when they happen to conflict? A new study aimed to find out.'
To read more click, “Reciprocity is an incredibly powerful tool.”
'What makes you ... you? Psychologists talk about our traits, or defined characteristics that make us who we are. But Brian Little is more interested in the moments when we transcend those traits -- sometimes because our culture demands it of us, and sometimes because we demand it of ourselves. Join Little as he dissects the surprising differences between introverts and extroverts, and explains why your personality may be more malleable than you think.'
For link to Ted Talk click, 'Who are you, really?'
‘The top line: the work of positive psychologists like Martin Seligman appears to show that the happiest people are those that have discovered their unique strengths (such as persistence and critical thinking) and virtues (such as humanity or justice) and use those strengths and virtues for a purpose that is greater than their own personal goals.
You may have had certain strengths that are so natural to you that you may not even consider them strengths. Think about an episode in your life when you were at your very best. What qualities enabled you to perform like that? While there are numerous talents and strengths that humans can possess, Character Strengths and Virtues are ones that humanity universally values. When Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson sought to discover and classify commonly held strengths and virtues across cultures, they created a classification of core virtues that humans morally value regardless of their cultural, racial, and religious differences.’
To read more click, ‘Determine your top three signature strengths’
'Earlier this year, the White House announced that Malia Obama would attend Harvard University – but not before taking a gap year. She, like countless other teenagers, decided to take some time off between graduation high school and enrolling in college.
But why should only young people take advantage of this opportunity? What about those folks middle-aged and older? Fortunately, while there are plenty of programs for students like Malia, there are alos several gap year programs that are geared for the restless, the retired or about-to-be retired.'
To read more click, ‘There are many volunteer trips abroad that tap into [older] people’s civic-mindedness, and that combine it with travel.’
'Some forms of exercise may be much more effective than others at bulking up the brain, according to a remarkable new study in rats. For the first time, scientists compared head-to-head the neurological impacts of different types of exercise: running, weight training and high-intensity interval training. The surprising results suggest that going hard may not be the best option for long-term brain health.'
To read more click, New brain cells
Beautiful video about a guy who found his way to communion with a horse.
To see the video click, Understanding the nature of the relationship
'Religions and philosophers have long praised the virtue of patience; now researchers are starting to do so as well. Recent studies have found that, sure enough, good things really do come to those who wait.'
To read more click, 'As virtues go, patience is a quiet one.'
‘The secret to living well and longer is: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure.’
An avid traveler, Covey Cowan counts trips to Nepal and India as some of his most memorable. He has helped build a youth hostel for the Hidden Villa Foundation, raised funds for a school library in a Huichol village in central Mexico, and volunteered his time at The Center for Attitudinal Healing.