Questing – Here, There, and Everywhere
Consider the knowledge you already have – the things you really know you can do. They are the things you have done over and over; practiced them so often that they became second nature. Every normal person knows how to walk and talk. But he could never have acquired this knowledge without practice. For the young child can't do the things that are easy to older people without first doing them over and over and over. … Most of us quit on the first or second attempt. But the man who is really going to be educated, who intends to know, is going to stay with it until it is done. Practice!
Any normal child, at about the age of three or four, reaches the asking period, the time when that quickly developing brain is most eager for knowledge. "When?" "Where?" "How?" "What?" and "Why?" begs the child – but all too often the reply is "Keep still!" "Leave me alone!" "Don't be a pest!"
Those first bitter refusals to our honest questions of childhood all too often squelch our "Asking faculty." We grow up to be men and women, still eager for knowledge, but afraid and ashamed to ask in order to get it. … Every person possessing knowledge is more than willing to communicate what he knows to any serious, sincere person who asks. The question never makes the asker seem foolish or childish – rather, to ask is to command the respect of the other person who in the act of helping you is drawn closer to you, likes you better and will go out of his way on any future occasion to share his knowledge with you.
Ask! When you ask, you have to be humble. You have to admit you don't know! But what's so terrible about that? Everybody knows that no man knows everything, and to ask is merely to let the other know that you are honest about things pertaining to knowledge
You never learn much until you really want to learn. A million people have said: "Gee, I wish I were musical!" "If I only could do that!" or "How I wish I had a good education!" But they were only talking words – they didn't mean it. … Desire is the foundation of all learning and you can only climb up the ladder of knowledge by desiring to learn. … If you don't desire to learn you're either a numb-skull or a "know-it-all." And the world wants nothing to do with either type of individual.
4. GET IT FROM YOURSELF
You may be surprised to hear that you already know a great deal! It's all inside you – it's all there – you couldn't live as long as you have and not be full of knowledge. … Most of your knowledge, however – and this is the great difference between non-education and education – is not in shape to be used, you haven't it on the tip of your tongue. It's hidden, buried away down inside of you – and because you can't see it, you think it isn't there.
Knowledge is knowledge only when it takes a shape, when it can be put into words, or reduced to a principle – and it's now up to you to go to work on your own gold mine, to refine the crude ore.
5. WALK AROUND IT
Any time you see something new or very special, if the thing is resting on the ground, as your examination and inspection proceeds, you find that you eventually walk around it. You desire to know the thing better by looking at it from all angles. … To acquire knowledge walk around the thing studied. The thing is not only what you touch, what you see; it has many other sides, many other conditions, many other relations which you cannot know until you study it from all angles.
The narrow mind stays rooted in one spot; the broad mind is free, inquiring, unprejudiced; it seeks to learn "both sides of the story."
Don't screen off from your own consciousness the bigger side of your work. Don't be afraid you'll harm yourself if you have to change a preconceived opinion. Have a free, broad, open mind! Be fair to the thing studied as well as to yourself. When it comes up for your examination, walk around it! The short trip will bring long knowledge.
The world honors the man who is eager to plant new seeds of study today so he may harvest a fresh crop of knowledge tomorrow. The world is sick of the man who is always harking back to the past and thinks everything worth knowing has already been learned. … Respect the past, take what it offers, but don't live in it.
To learn, experiment! Try something new. See what happens. Lindbergh experimented when he flew the Atlantic. Pasteur experimented with bacteria and made cow's milk safe for the human race. Franklin experimented with a kite and introduced electricity.
The greatest experiment is nearly always a solo. The individual, seeking to learn, tries something new but only tries it on himself. If he fails, he has hurt only himself. If he succeeds he has made a discovery many people can use. Experiment only with your own time, your own money, your own labor. That's the honest, sincere type of experiment. It's rich. The cheap experiment is to use other people's money, other people's destinies, other people's bodies as if they were guinea pigs.
If you would have knowledge, knowledge sure and sound, teach. Teach your children, teach your associates, teach your friends. In the very act of teaching, you will learn far more than your best pupil. … Knowledge is relative; you possess it in degrees. You know more about reading, writing, and arithmetic than your young child. But teach that child at every opportunity; try to pass on to him all you know, and the very attempt will produce a great deal more knowledge inside your own brain.
From time immemorial it has been commonly understood that the best way to acquire knowledge was to read. That is not true. Reading is only one way to knowledge, and in the writer's opinion, not the best way. But you can surely learn from reading if you read in the proper manner.
What you read is important, but not all-important. How you read is the main consideration. For if you know how to read, there's a world of education even in the newspapers, the magazines, on a single billboard or a stray advertising dodger.
The secret of good reading is this: read critically!
Somebody wrote that stuff you're reading. It was a definite individual, working with a pen, pencil or typewriter – the writing came from his mind and his only. If you were face to face with him and listening instead of reading, you would be a great deal more critical than the average reader is. Listening, you would weigh his personality, you would form some judgment about his truthfulness, his ability. But reading, you drop all judgment, and swallow his words whole – just as if the act of printing the thing made it true! … If you must read in order to acquire knowledge, read critically. Believe nothing till it's understood, till it's clearly proven.
To know it – write it! If you're writing to explain, you're explaining it to yourself! If you're writing to inspire, you're inspiring yourself! If you're writing to record, you're recording it on your own memory. How often you have written something down in order to be sure you would have a record of it, only to find that you never needed the written record because you had learned it by heart! … The men of the best memories are those who make notes, who write things down. They just don't write to remember, they write to learn. And because they DO learn by writing, they seldom need to consult their notes, they have brilliant, amazing memories. How different from the glib, slipshod individual who is too proud or too lazy to write, who trusts everything to memory, forgets so easily, and possesses so little real knowledge. … Write! Writing, to knowledge, is a certified check. You know what you know once you have written it down!
You have a pair of ears – use them! When the other man talks, give him a chance. Pay attention. If you listen you may hear something useful to you. If you listen you may receive a warning that is worth following. If you listen, you may earn the respect of those whose respect you prize.
Pay attention to the person speaking. Contemplate the meaning of his words, the nature of his thoughts. Grasp and retain the truth.
Of all the ways to acquire knowledge, this way requires least effort on your part. You hardly have to do any work. You are bound to pick up information. It's easy, it's surefire.
Keep your eyes open. There are things happening, all around you, all the time. The scene of events is interesting, illuminating, full of news and meaning. It's a great show – an impressive parade of things worth knowing. Admission is free – keep your eyes open. … There are only two kinds of experience: the experience of ourselves and the experience of others. Our own experience is slow, labored, costly, and often hard to bear. The experience of others is a ready-made set of directions on knowledge and life. Their experience is free; we need suffer none of their hardships; we may collect on all their good deeds. All we have to do is observe!
Observe! Especially the good man, the valorous deed. Observe the winner that you yourself may strive to follow that winning example and learn the scores of different means and devices that make success possible.
Observe! Observe the loser that you may escape his mistakes, avoid the pitfalls that dragged him down.
Observe the listless, indifferent, neutral people who do nothing, know nothing, are nothing. Observe them and then differ from them.
12. PUT IN ORDER
Order is Heaven's first law. And the only good knowledge is orderly knowledge! You must put your information and your thoughts in order before you can effectively handle your own knowledge. Otherwise you will jump around in conversation like a grasshopper, your arguments will be confused and distributed, your brain will be in a dizzy whirl all the time.
A definition is a statement about a thing which includes everything the thing is and excludes everything it is not.
A definition of a chair must include every chair, whether it be kitchen chair, a high chair, a dentist's chair, or the electric chair, It must exclude everything which isn't a chair, even those things which come close, such as a stool, a bench, a sofa. … I am sorry to state that until you can so define chair or door (or a thousand other everyday familiar objects) you don't really know what these things are. You have the ability to recognize them and describe them but you can't tell what their nature is. Your knowledge is not exact.
Animals have knowledge. But only men can reason. The better you can reason the farther you separate yourself from animals.
The process by which you reason is known as logic. Logic teaches you how to derive a previously unknown truth from the facts already at hand. Logic teaches you how to be sure whether what you think is true is really true. … Logic is the supreme avenue to intellectual truth. Don't ever despair of possessing a logical mind. You don't have to study it for years, read books and digest a mountain of data. All you have to remember is one word – compare.
Compare all points in a proposition. Note the similarity – that tells you something new. Note the difference – that tells you something new. Then take the new things you've found and check them against established laws or principles.
This is logic. This is reason. This is knowledge in its highest form.
(James T. Mangan - You Can Do Anything!)
There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting. (Buddha)
Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie.
(William Shakespeare - All's Well That Ends Well)
Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. (Thomas Jefferson)
Intoxicated joy and amazement at the beauty and grandeur of the world - - - is the feeling from which true scientific research draws its spiritual sustenance. (Albert Einstein)
Reason is the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. (David Hume)
Every species of animals naturally multiplies in proportion to the means of their subsistence, and no species can ever multiply beyond it. But in civilized society it is only among the inferior ranks of people that the scantiness of subsistence can set limits to the further multiplication of the human species; and it can so in no other way than by destroying a great part of the children. (Adam Smith - An Inquiry into Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations)
Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them - never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through? (C.S. Lewis)
Zen is the integration of the spiritual and the mundane, an attempt to see the sacred in the ordinary. It is what turns one's humdrum life, a life of monotonous, uninspiring commonplaces, into one of art, full of genuine inner creativity. (Daistz T. Suzuki)
In David Bohm’s theory of the implicate order, the world we seem to live in – the world of classical objects, the world of Newtonian physics - Dave referred to as the ‘explicate order.’ He felt that what we take for reality is only one particular level or perception of order. And underneath that is what he called the ‘implicate order,’ the enfolded order, in which things are folded together and deeply interconnected, and out of which the explicate order unfolds. The explicate is only, you could say, the froth on top of the milk and the implicate order is much deeper. It includes not only matter, but consciousness; it’s only in the explicate order that we tend to break them apart, to see them as two separate things. Dave spent a great deal of time in the last decades of his life trying to find a mathematical expression for this vision of reality.
The whole universe is in some way enfolded in everything and each thing is enfolded in the whole. This implies that in some way, and to some degree, everything enfolds or ‘implicates’ everything. However, this takes place in such a manner that under typical conditions of ordinary experience, there is a great deal of relative independence of things. The whole is in a deep sense internally related to the parts. Since the whole enfolds all the parts, the parts are internally related to each other, though in a weaker way than they are related to the whole. Bohm gave examples such as:
1. Think of small region of space in front of your eye. In this region, there is a movement of electromagnetic waves that carries the information you use as the basis for constructing your visual experience. This movement somehow contains or ‘enfolds’ information about the whole room;
2. If you happen to be on top of a mountain on a clear night, watching the night sky, then the movement contains or ‘enfolds’ information about the whole universe of space and time. This enfolded information is then unfolded by the lens of your eye, and later in a very complex process by your brain, resulting, when combined with information supplied by your brain, in your visual experience of a three-dimensional world with objects in it.
Just as light waves in a small region can enfold information about the whole universe, so the waves that underlie each ‘elementary particle’ can similarly enfold information about the whole universe. (F. David Peat)
The Implicate order is not static but basically dynamic in nature, in a constant process of change and development. Its most general form is the holomovement. All things found in the unfolded, explicate order emerge from the holomovement in which they are enfolded as potentialities, and ultimately they fall back to it. They endure only for some time, and while they last, their existence is sustained in a constant process of unfoldment and re-enfoldment, which gives rise to their relatively stable and independent forms in the explicate order. (David Bohm)
The implicate order concept applies even more directly and obviously to mind than it does to matter. In the mind, there is a constant flow of evanescent thoughts, feelings, desires and impulses, which flow into and out of each other, and which in a certain sense, enfold each other [as, for example, we may say that one thought is implicit in another, noting that this word literally means ‘enfolded’]. (David Bohm)
These sectors of the doctrinal system serve to divert the unwashed masses and reinforce basic social values: passivity, submissiveness to authority, the overriding virtue of greed and personal gain, lack of concern for others, fear of real or imagined enemies, etc. The goal is to keep the bewildered herd bewildered. (Dr. Noam Chomsky)
History is fables agreed upon. (Francois Voltaire, French philosopher and author, 1694—1778)
If Sparta and Rome perished, how can any state hope to live forever? The Body Politick, like the body of a man, begins to die as soon as it is born; it contains the seeds of its own destruction. (Rousseau - Social Contract)
Theorists are converging from quite different quarters on a version of the global neuronal workspace model of consciousness … On the eve of the Decade of the Brain, Bernard Baars had already described a gathering consensus in much the same terms: consciousness, he said, is accomplished by a "distributed society of specialists that is equipped with a working memory, called a global workspace, whose contents can be broadcast to the system as a whole”. (Daniel C. Dennett)
Like other cognitive architectures, Global Workspace (GW) theory may be thought of as a theater of mental functioning. The theater metaphor is too simple, but it offers a useful first approximation. Consciousness in the metaphor resembles a bright spot on the stage of immediate memory, directed there by a spotlight of attention, under executive guidance. The rest of the theater is dark and unconscious.
This approach leads to specific neural hypotheses. For sensory consciousness the bright spot on stage is likely to require the corresponding sensory projection areas of the cortex. Sensory consciousness in different modalities may be mutually inhibitory, within approximately 100-ms time cycles. Sensory cortex can be activated internally as well as externally, resulting in the ‘internal senses’ of conscious inner speech and imagery. Once a conscious sensory content is established, it is distributed widely to a decentralized ‘audience’ of expert networks sitting in the darkened theater, presumably using corticocortical and corticothalamic fibers. This is the primary functional role of consciousness: to allow a theater architecture to operate in the brain, in order to integrate, provide access, and coordinate the functioning of very large numbers of specialized networks that otherwise operate autonomously. All the elements of GW theory have reasonable brain interpretations, allowing us to generate a set of specific, testable brain hypotheses about consciousness and its many roles in the brain….. Conscious stimuli mobilize large areas of cortex, presumably to distribute information about the stimuli. Consciousness serves to mobilize and recruit many unconscious specialized networks, to serve the active elements of mental life that always need to be conscious -- input, recall, rehearsal, inner speech, visual imagery and report – recruitment of those specific widely distributed unconscious functions is needed to carry out the conscious tasks.
Global Workspace theory suggests that consciousness enables multiple networks to cooperate and compete in solving problems, such as retrieval of specific items from immediate memory. The overall function of consciousness is to provide widespread access, which in turn may serve functions of coordination and control. Consciousness is the gateway to the brain, enabling control even of single neurons and whole neuronal populations. None of these control functions become directly conscious, of course, but conscious feedback seems required to recruit control by prefrontal networks. In the metaphor of the theater, it is as if each specialized audience member can decide locally whether or not to be driven by input from the bright spot on stage. Executive functions -- the director behind the scenes -- are also largely unconscious, often using the actor in the spotlight on the stage of working memory capacity to recruit and trigger specific functions. (Bernard Baars)
The global workspace model of consciousness has received consensus in the past two decades. Although different perspectives have yielded different frameworks, the core of the theory remains a global availability of information in the brain, provided by attentional amplification. The well-explained functional aspect of the model is contrasted by a poorly understood origin of this global workspace. In the list of some hypothetical candidates for this model, the electromagnetic field of the brain holds a special position, given its ability to explain some important aspects of this global access phenomenon. The theory remains controversial due to our inadequate understanding of the spatiotemporal patterns of the electromagnetic field of the brain. (Ravi Prakash)
The conscious electromagnetic information (cemi) field theory, claims that consciousness is that component of the brain’s electromagnetic field that is downloaded to motor neurons and is thereby capable of communicating its informational content to the outside world. The theory deals with the relationship between electromagnetic fields, information, the phenomenology of consciousness and the meaning of free will. Using cemi field theory it can be seen that awareness and information represent the same phenomenon viewed from different reference frames. (Johnjoe McFadden)
definition, democracy means "rule of the people," monarchy means
"rule by one," oligarchy means "rule of the few," and so
forth. Anarchism means only "no rule." It doesn't mean
"chaos," "disorder," or "violence." Like so many
words, its true meaning has been misappropriated and twisted. The popular
perception of an anarchist is a man dressed in a black cape skulking about with
a round bomb, fuse lit. And certainly there have been violent anarchists, just
as there have been violent Americans, violent Christians, violent parents and
violent doctors. But that's never been an essential or even an accidental characteristic
of any of them.
Paradoxically, anarchism is the gentlest of political systems. It is the political manifestation of the ancient Chinese Taoist philosophy, what philosopher Alan Watts called the "watercourse way," where everything flows unrestricted, at its own pace, to its own level. Some have suggested that I abstain from using the word anarchy because it carries so much emotional baggage and arouses atavistic fears. But ideas should speak for themselves, and semantics should be used to clarify, not obscure, their meaning.
In many ways, reality is just a creation of widely shared opinions. Nothing should be accepted just because it exists, including the state. Concepts take on lives of their own, unless someone challenges them. And the concept of the state is sorely in need of a challenge. (Doug Casey - The International Speculator, April 2006)
I think that we – humankind – are connected to everybody we think of and to all the places we are attached to through our extended minds. Our minds are vast, far-reaching, and spatially extended networks of connections in space and time – networks of immense scope in which the brains inside our heads are but a portion… It is important not to envisage this connection as some amorphous field, a kind of Universal Mind. I don’t think we should make a large leap from the concept of a contracted mind to a boundless universal mind. The extended minds are not God. In fact, for the morphic fields of the extended mind to have a mental connection I believe there has to be something that links you to the other person.
In Indian culture, the idea of what we might call ‘other realms’, the supernatural or spiritual, was simply taken for granted by practically everybody… There is a sense of another dimension to life, everywhere you looked, and everywhere you went. (Rupert Sheldrake)
If it comes to pride with a philosopher then it is a great pride. His work never refers him to a public, the applause of the masses, and the hailing chorus of contemporaries. To wander lonely along his path belongs to the nature of the philosopher. His talents are the most rare, in a certain sense the most unnatural and at the same time exclusive and hostile even to kindred talents. The wall of his self sufficiency must be of diamond, if it is not to be demolished and broken, for everything is in motion against him. His journey to immortality is more cumbersome and impeded than any other and yet nobody can believe more firmly than the philosopher that he will attain the goal by that journey. He has truth; the wheel of time may roll whither it pleases, never can it escape from truth. It is important to hear that such men have lived. (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1890)
inquire after the meaning or object of one's own existence or that of all
creatures has always seemed absurd from an objective point of view. And yet
everybody has certain ideals which determine the direction of his endeavors and
judgments. In this sense I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in
themselves – this ethical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals which
have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life
cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty and Truth. Without the sense of kinship
with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the
eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would
have seemed to me empty. The trite objects of human efforts-possessions,
outward success, luxury … have always seemed to me contemptible.
My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I am truly a 'lone traveler' and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude – feelings which increase with the years. One becomes sharply aware, but without regret, of the limits of mutual understanding and consonance with other people. No doubt, such a person loses some of his innocence and unconcern; on the other hand, he is largely independent of the opinions, habits, and judgments of his fellows and avoids the temptation to build his inner equilibrium upon such insecure foundations. (Albert Einstein - Ideas and Opinions)
When forced to summarize the general theory of relativity in one sentence: Time and space and gravitation have no separate existence from matter. (ibid)
Greek philosophy seems to begin with a preposterous fancy, with the proposition that water is the origin and mother-womb of all things. Is it really necessary to stop there and become serious? Yes, and for three reasons: firstly, because the preposition does enunciate something about the origin of things; secondly, because it does so without figure and fable; thirdly and lastly, because it contained, although only in the chrysalis state, the idea: everything is one. ..That which drove him (Thales) to this generalization was a metaphysical dogma, which had its origin in a mystic intuition and which together with the ever renewed endeavors to express it better, we find in all philosophies – the proposition: everything is one! (Friedrich Nietzsche - The Greeks)
In Indian philosophy, the main terms used by Hindus and Buddhists have dynamic connotations. The word Brahman is derived from the Sanskrit root brih - to grow - and thus suggests a reality which is dynamic and alive. The Upanishads refer to Brahman as 'this unformed, immortal, moving', thus associating it with motion even though it transcends all forms. The Rig Veda uses another term to express the dynamic character of the universe, the term Rita. This word comes from the root ri- to move. In its phenomenal aspect, the cosmic One is thus intrinsically dynamic, and the apprehension of its dynamic nature is basic to all schools of Eastern mysticism. They all emphasize that the universe has to be grasped dynamically, as it moves, vibrates and dances. ... The Eastern mystics see the universe as an inseparable web, whose interconnections are dynamic and not static. The cosmic web is alive; it moves and grows and changes continually. (Fritjof Capra - The Tao of Physics)
If we have goals and dreams and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don't want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn't to live without any regrets, the point is to not hate ourselves for having them… We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create, and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn't remind us that we did badly – it reminds us that we know we can do better. (Kathryn Schulz – TED talk)
people recover from depression via psychotherapy, their attributions about
recovery are likely to be different than those of people who have been treated
with medication. Psychotherapy is a learning experience. Improvement is not
produced by an external substance, but by changes within the person. It is like
learning to read, write or ride a bicycle. Once you have learned, the skills
stays with you. People do not become illiterate after they graduate from
school, and if they get rusty at riding a bicycle, the skill can be acquired
with relatively little practice. Furthermore, part of what a person might learn
in therapy is to expect downturns in mood and to interpret them as a normal
part of their life, rather than as an indication of an underlying disorder. This
understanding, along with the skills that the person has learned for coping
with negative moods and situations, can help to prevent a depressive relapse.
Like antidepressants, a substantial part of the benefit of psychotherapy depends on a placebo effect, or as Moerman calls it, the meaning response. At least part of the improvement that is produced by these treatments is due to the relationship between the therapist and the client and to the client's expectancy of getting better. That is a problem for antidepressant treatment. It is a problem because drugs are supposed to work because of their chemistry, not because of the psychological factors. But it is not a problem for psychotherapy. Psychotherapists are trained to provide a warm and caring environment in which therapeutic change can take place. Their intention is to replace the hopelessness of depression with a sense of hope and faith in the future. These tasks are part of the essence of psychotherapy. The fact that psychotherapy can mobilize the meaning response – and that it can do so without deception – is one of its strengths, not one of its weaknesses. Because hopelessness is a fundamental characteristic of depression, instilling hope is a specific treatment for it. Invoking the meaning response is essential for the effective treatment of depression, and the best treatments are those that can do this most effectively and that can do without deception.
For people who are depressed, and especially for those who do not receive enough benefit from medication or for whom the side effects of antidepressants are troubling, the fact that placebos can duplicate much of the effects of antidepressants should be taken as good news. It means that there are other ways of alleviating depression. As we have seen, treatments like psychotherapy and physical exercise are at least as effective as antidepressant drugs and more effective than placebos. (Irving Kirsch - The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth)
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart…
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. (Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford in 2005)
a celestial chaperon, the placebo leads us through the uncharted passageways of
mind and gives us a greater sense of infinity than if we were to spend all our
days with our eyes hypnotically glued to the giant telescope at Mt. Palomar.
What we see ultimately is that the placebo isn't really necessary and that the
mind can carry out its difficult and wondrous missions unprompted by little
pills. The placebo is only a tangible object made essential in an age that
feels uncomfortable with intangibles, an age that prefers to think that every
inner effect must have an outer cause. Since it has size and shape and can be
hand-held, the placebo satisfies the contemporary craving for visible
mechanisms and visible answers. The placebo, then, is an emissary between the
will to live and the body.
(Norman Cousins - who cured himself of the medically incurable ankylosing spondylitis)
Depression is not a brain disease, and chemicals don’t cure it. (Dr. Irving Kirsch)
The existence of the Zero Point Field implies that all matter in the universe is interconnected by quantum waves, which are spread out through time and space, and can carry on to infinity, tying one part of the universe to every other part. The idea of The Field might just offer a scientific explanation for the spiritual beliefs of many religions that there is such a thing as a life force.
Human beings, on their most fundamental level, are packets of quantum energy constantly exchanging information with this heaving energy sea. Frontier scientists have amassed evidence showing that living things emit a weak radiation, and that this may be one of the most crucial aspects of biological processes. A German physicist called Fritz-Albert Popp has discovered that humans emit highly coherent photons - the tiniest particles of light. One of the most essential sources of these are DNA, which may mean that DNA uses the wave frequencies of this 'light' to drive all the processes of the body. Other tests show that animals of the same species 'suck' up the light emitted from each other. This activity could explain the silent communication that occurs between animals, and why flocks of birds or schools of fish, for instance, are able to achieve incredible, instantaneous feats of synchronized movement.
Scientists have also discovered that the bases of all the brain's functions have to do with the interaction between the brain and the Zero Point field. New evidence shows The brain's conversations with the body might also occur on the quantum level, with waves and frequencies, rather than with chemical or electrical impulses alone. In fact, studies in America on humans and animals show that the cerebral cortex responds to certain limited bands of frequencies.
A series of studies in Texas have shown that one person's brain waves begin to synchronize with another person's during ESP, but the person with the most 'ordered' brain patterns will influence the other and nudge it to a greater degree of order. This provides a good explanation for the success of remote spiritual healing.
The Zero Point Field may provide a scientific explanation for many of the most profound human mysteries, including many phenomena that we have not been able to provide an adequate explanation for. Ordinarily, the capacity of our brains to receive information from this energy field is strictly limited – like a radio with only a certain limited bandwidth. It appears that this bandwidth expands during ESP and remote viewing or clairvoyance – allowing us the ability to 'see' things beyond ordinary distances, giving us more access to information in the Field than we would have ordinarily. (Lynne McTaggart - The Field: The Quest For The Secret Force Of The Universe)
The beautiful and imperishable comes into existence due to the suffering of individual perishable creatures who themselves are not beautiful, and must be reshaped to form a template from which the beautiful is printed (forged, extracted, converted). This is the terrible law of the universe. This is the basic law; it is a fact… Absolute suffering leads to — is the means to — absolute beauty. (Phillip K. Dick – The Exegesis)
The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, is certainly one of degree and not of kind. We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention, curiosity, imitation, reason, etc., of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals. (Charles Darwin - The Descent of Man)
The source of life — what is it? No one knows. We don’t even know what an atom is, whether it is a wave or a particle — it is both. We don’t have any idea of what these things are. That’s the reason we speak of the divine. There’s a transcendent energy source. When the physicist observes subatomic particles, he’s seeing a trace on the screen. These traces come and go, come and go, and we come and go, and all of life comes and goes. That energy is the informing energy of all things. Mythic worship is addressed to that. (Joseph Campbell – in dialogue with Bill Moyers, 1988 series The Power of Myth)
Not all can be agreed on matters of aesthetics, but we secular humanists and atheists and agnostics do not wish to deprive humanity of its wonders or consolations. Not in the least. If you will devote a little time to studying the staggering photographs taken by the Hubble telescope, you will be scrutinizing things that are far more awesome and mysterious and beautiful — and more chaotic and overwhelming and forbidding — than any creation or ‘end of days’ story. (Christopher Hitchens)
Almost anything that does not change and retain a flexible capacity to adapt itself to the ebb and flow of beliefs, revelations and new knowledge, must ultimately crystallize and shatter, losing its usefulness and effectiveness. (David V. Tansley - Radionics: Science or Magic?)
To get our universe, with all of its potential for complexities or any kind of potential for any kind of life-form, everything has to be precisely defined on this knife edge of improbability…. You have to see the hands of a creator who set the parameters to be just so because the creator was interested in something a little more complicated than random particles. (Francis Collins - geneticist and Director of the National Institutes of Health)
All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer. (Ernest Hemingway)
There isn’t any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know. (ibid)
All my life I've looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time. (ibid)
First, there must be talent, much talent. Talent such as Kipling had. Then there must be discipline. The discipline of Flaubert. Then there must be the conception of what it can be and an absolute conscience as unchanging as the standard meter in Paris, to prevent faking. Then the writer must be intelligent and disinterested and above all he must survive. Try to get all these things in one person and have him come through all the influences that press on a writer. The hardest thing, because time is so short, is for him to survive and get his work done. (ibid)
You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn't nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating. (Anne Lamott)
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. (Albert Einstein)
The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and the intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world… Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work. (Steve Jobs)
Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic, it is learned and it is the great achievement of Western civilization. In the villages of India, they never learned it. They learned something else, which is in some ways just as valuable but in other ways is not. That’s the power of intuition and experiential wisdom. (Steve Jobs)
Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. This you cannot do without temperance. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Breathe in experience, breathe out poetry. (Muriel Rukeyser)
Begin with an individual and you find that you have created a type; begin with a type and you find that you have created – nothing.
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal. (T. S. Eliot)
Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style. (Kurt Vonnegut)
Write without pay until somebody offers pay; if nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for. (Mark Twain)
You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day — it’s the one day that is given to you, today. It’s given to you, it’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life, and the very last day, then you would have spent this day very well. (Louie Schwartzberg)
Science at its highest level is ultimately the organization of, the systematic pursuit of, and the enjoyment of wonder, awe, and mystery.... Science can be the religion of the nonreligious, the poetry of the nonpoet, the art of the man who cannot paint, the humor of the serious man, and the lovemaking of the inhibited and shy man. Not only does science begin in wonder; it also ends in wonder.
(Abraham Maslow - The Psychology of Science: A Reconnaissance)
The same age which produces great philosophers and politicians, renowned generals and poets, usually abounds with skillful weavers, and ship-carpenters .... The spirit of the age affects all arts: and the minds of men, being roused from their lethargy, and put into fermentation, turn themselves on all sides, and carry improvements into every art and science. (David Hume - Writings on Economics)
David Hume's economic aphorisms, can be paraphrased as follows:
· A nation's strength lies in its productivity
· Trade benefits everyone: state and people, rich and poor
· Luxury, economic growth and refinement in the arts are compatible and complementary
· The flow of money from nation to nation is the instrument of economic evolution and progress
· The rate of interest is an indicator which, read by an experienced eye, tells of the health and growth of the economy
· Free trade is to be desired
· A country cannot become rich by beggaring its neighbors
· A government should not tax the rewards of effort lest it destroy the incentive to growth
· The public debt in the hands of judicious magistrates can have beneficial effects, but can also be dangerous
· No utopia existed in any past golden age.
Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know. (Donald Rumsfeld)
Now, of all the benefits that virtue confers upon us, the contempt of death is one of the greatest, as the means that accommodates human life with a soft and easy tranquility, and gives us a pure and pleasant taste of living, without which all other pleasure would be extinct. … The end of our race is death; ’tis the necessary object of our aim, which, if it fright us, how is it possible to advance a step without a fit of ague? The remedy the vulgar use is not to think on’t; but from what brutish stupidity can they derive so gross a blindness? They must bridle the ass by the tail:
‘Who in his folly seeks to advance backwards?’ (Lucretius)
’Tis no wonder if one be often trapped in the pitfall. They affright people with the very mention of death, and many cross themselves, as it were the name of the devil. And because the making a man’s will is in reference to dying, not a man will be persuaded to take a pen in hand to that purpose, till the physician has passed sentence upon and totally given him over, and then betwixt and terror, God knows in how fit a condition of understanding he is to do it.
… The Romans, by reason that this poor syllable death sounded so harshly to their ears and seemed so ominous, found out a way to soften and spin it out by a periphrasis, and instead of pronouncing such a one is dead, said, ‘Such a one has lived,’ or ‘Such a one has ceased to live’ … provided there was any mention of life in the case, though past, it carried yet some sound of consolation. … I make account to live, at least, as many more. In the meantime, to trouble a man’s self with the thought of a thing so far off were folly. But what? Young and old die upon the same terms; no one departs out of life otherwise than if he had but just before entered into it; neither is any man so old and decrepit, who, having heard of Methuselah, does not think he has yet twenty good years to come. Fool that thou art! Who has assured unto thee the term of life? Thou dependest upon physicians’ tales: rather consult effects and experience. According to the common course of things, ’tis long since that thou hast lived by extraordinary favor; thou hast already outlived the ordinary term of life. And that it is so, reckon up thy acquaintance, how many more have died before they arrived at thy age than have attained unto it; and of those who have ennobled their lives by their renown, take but an account, and I dare lay a wager thou wilt find more who have died before than after five-and-thirty years of age. … How many several ways has death to surprise us?
Let us learn bravely to stand our ground, and fight Death. And to begin to deprive him of the greatest advantage he has over us, let us take a way quite contrary to the common course. Let us disarm him of his novelty and strangeness, let us converse and be familiar with him, and have nothing so frequent in our thoughts as death. Upon all occasions represent him to our imagination in his every shape; at the stumbling of a horse, at the falling of a tile, at the least prick with a pin, let us presently consider, and say to ourselves, ‘Well, and what if it had been death itself?’ and, thereupon, let us encourage and fortify ourselves. Let us evermore, amidst our jollity and feasting, set the remembrance of our frail condition before our eyes, never suffering ourselves to be so far transported with our delights, but that we have some intervals of reflecting upon, and considering how many several ways this jollity of ours tends to death, and with how many dangers it threatens it. The Egyptians were wont to do after this manner, who in the height of their feasting and mirth, caused a dried skeleton of a man to be brought into the room to serve for a memento to their guests:
‘Think each day when past is thy last; the next day, as unexpected, will be the more welcome.’ (Horace – Epodes)
Where death waits for us is uncertain; let us look for him everywhere. The premeditation of death is the premeditation of liberty; he who has learned to die has unlearned to serve. There is nothing evil in life for him who rightly comprehends that the privation of life is no evil: to know, how to die delivers us from all subjection and constraint. In truth, in all things, if nature do not help a little, it is very hard for art and industry to perform anything to purpose. I am in my own nature not melancholic, but meditative; and there is nothing I have more continually entertained myself withal than imaginations of death, even in the most wanton time of my age.
We should always, as near as we can, be booted and spurred, and ready to go, and, above all things, take care, at that time, to have no business with any one but one’s self:
'Why for so short a life tease ourselves with so many projects?' (Horace – Epodes)
A man must design nothing that will require so much time to the finishing, or, at least, with no such passionate desire to see it brought to perfection. We are born to action:
'When I shall die, let it be doing that I had designed.' (Ovid)
I would always have a man to be doing, and, as much as in him lies, to extend and spin out the offices of life; and then let death take me planting my cabbages, indifferent to him, and still less of my gardens not being finished.
If I were a writer of books, I would compile a register, with a comment, of the various deaths of men: he who should teach men to die would at the same time teach them to live.
Peradventure, some one may object, that the pain and terror of dying so infinitely exceed all manner of imagination, that the best fencer will be quite out of his play when it comes to the push. Let them say what they will: to premeditate is doubtless a very great advantage; and besides, is it nothing to go so far, at least, without disturbance or alteration? Moreover, Nature herself assists and encourages us: if the death be sudden and violent, we have not leisure to fear; if otherwise, I perceive that as I engage further in my disease, I naturally enter into a certain loathing and disdain of life. I find I have much more ado to digest this resolution of dying, when I am well in health, than when languishing of a fever; and by how much I have less to do with the commodities of life, by reason that I begin to lose the use and pleasure of them, by so much I look upon death with less terror. Which makes me hope, that the further I remove from the first, and the nearer I approach to the latter, I shall the more easily exchange the one for the other.
Not only the argument of reason invites us to it — for why should we fear to lose a thing, which being lost, cannot be lamented? — but, also, seeing we are threatened by so many sorts of death, is it not infinitely worse eternally to fear them all, than once to undergo one of them? … What a ridiculous thing it is to trouble ourselves about taking the only step that is to deliver us from all trouble! As our birth brought us the birth of all things, so in our death is the death of all things included. And therefore to lament that we shall not be alive a hundred years hence, is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago. … Long life, and short, are by death made all one; for there is no long, nor short, to things that are no more.
All the whole time you live, you purloin from life and live at the expense of life itself. The perpetual work of your life is but to lay the foundation of death. You are in death, whilst you are in life, because you still are after death, when you are no more alive; or, if you had rather have it so, you are dead after life, but dying all the while you live; and death handles the dying much more rudely than the dead, and more sensibly and essentially. If you have made your profit of life, you have had enough of it; go your way satisfied.
Life in itself is neither good nor evil; it is the scene of good or evil as you make it. And, if you have lived a day, you have seen all: one day is equal and like to all other days. There is no other light, no other shade; this very sun, this moon, these very stars, this very order and disposition of things, is the same your ancestors enjoyed, and that shall also entertain your posterity.
Give place to others, as others have given place to you. Equality is the soul of equity. Who can complain of being comprehended in the same destiny, wherein all are involved?
Wherever your life ends, it is all there. The utility of living consists not in the length of days, but in the use of time; a man may have lived long, and yet lived but a little. Make use of time while it is present with you. It depends upon your will, and not upon the number of days, to have a sufficient length of life.
I believe, in truth, that it is those terrible ceremonies and preparations wherewith we set it out, that more terrify us than the thing itself; a new, quite contrary way of living; the cries of mothers, wives, and children; the visits of astounded and afflicted friends; the attendance of pale and blubbering servants; a dark room, set round with burning tapers; our beds environed with physicians and divines; in sum, nothing but ghostliness and horror round about us; we seem dead and buried already. … Happy is the death that deprives us of leisure for preparing such ceremonials. (Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays)
Originally, the Zeigarnik effect was believed to be the brain's way of ensuring goals are eventually accomplished, by prodding you into urgency until they are. But recent research has shed new light on the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious in our cognitive to-do lists. It turns out that this dynamic is not, as was assumed for decades, a reminder that continues unabated until the task gets done. The persistence of distracting thoughts is not an indication that the unconscious is working to finish the task. Nor is it the unconscious nagging the conscious mind to finish the task right away. Instead, the unconscious is asking the conscious mind to make a plan. The unconscious mind apparently can't do this on its own, so it nags the conscious mind to make a plan with specifics like time, place, and opportunity. Once the plan is formed, the unconscious can stop nagging the conscious mind with reminders. (John Tierney & Roy F. Baumeister - Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength)
The amazing thing is that every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements - the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution - weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way they could get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.
(Lawrence Krauss - A Universe From Nothing)
The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt. (Paul Tillich)
Quantum theory is perhaps the prime example of the infinitely esoteric becoming the profoundly useful. Esoteric, because it describes a world in which a particle really can be in several places at once and moves from one place to another by exploring the entire Universe simultaneously. Useful, because understanding the behaviour of the smallest building blocks of the universe underpins our understanding of everything else. This claim borders on the hubristic, because the world is filled with diverse and complex phenomena. Notwithstanding this complexity, we have discovered that everything is constructed out of a handful of tiny particles that move around according to the rules of quantum theory. The rules are so simple that they can be summarized on the back of an envelope. And the fact that we do not need a whole library of books to explain the essential nature of things is one of the greatest mysteries of all. …
The picture of the universe we inhabit, as revealed by modern physics, is one of underlying simplicity; elegant phenomena dance away out of sight and the diversity of the macroscopic world emerges. This is perhaps the crowning achievement of modern science; the reduction of the tremendous complexity in the world, human beings included, to a description of the behaviour of just a handful of tiny subatomic particles and the four forces that act between them. …
Consider the world around you. You are holding a book made of paper, the crushed pulp of a tree. Trees are machines able to take a supply of atoms and molecules, break them down and rearrange them into cooperating colonies composed of many trillions of individual parts. They do this using a molecule known as chlorophyll, composed of over a hundred carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms twisted into an intricate shape with a few magnesium and nitrogen atoms bolted on. This assembly of particles is able to capture the light that has travelled the 93 million miles from our star, a nuclear furnace the volume of a million earths, and transfer that energy into the heart of cells, where it is used to build molecules from carbon dioxide and water, giving out life-enriching oxygen as it does so. It’s these molecular chains that form the superstructure of trees and all living things, the paper in your book.
You can read the book and understand the words because you have eyes that can convert the scattered light from the pages into electrical impulses that are interpreted by your brain, the most complex structure we know of in the Universe. We have discovered that all these things are nothing more than assemblies of atoms, and that the wide variety of atoms are constructed using only three particles: electrons, protons and neutrons. We have also discovered that the protons and neutrons are themselves made up of smaller entities called quarks, and that it is where things stop, as far as we can tell today. Underpinning all of this is quantum theory. …
A key feature of quantum theory is that it deals with probabilities rather than certainties, not because we lack absolute knowledge, but because some aspects of Nature are, at their very heart, governed by the laws of chance.
(Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw - The Quantum Universe: Everything That Can Happen Does Happen)
A thought transfixed me – for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set down by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart. The salvation of man is through love, and in love. (Viktor Frankl)
To maintain life requires a capacity to escape from danger. The galaxy is an evolving, intermittently violent environment. The organic colonies that inhabit certain regions within it may or may not survive depending on how fast they recognize danger and how well they adapt, modify it or escape from it. Looking out over the beautiful blue Pacific one sees tropical paradises, and on one mountain top, standing on barely cool lava, is the Earth's biggest telescope, looking out into the universe for answers. Can humankind collectively understand these answers? Can they collectively ensure their continued appreciation of the beauty of existence. (Halton C. Arp)
My own working hypothesis for gravity is that gravitons are very low mass particles with a huge De Broglie wavelength compared to photons. Since their wavelength is so long they have much less interaction with the intergalactic medium. So they far exceed the normal velocity of light in vacuum (i.e. the vacuum that light in our locality of the universe sees). In other words the photon is transmitted through the average cosmic false vacuum, material vacuum or zero point energy field – to use just a few names given to the old fashioned concept of aether. But the graviton interacts with much less of this molasses and hence moves much faster. One might speculate that there is a vast amount of matter in the universe which radiates at very long wavelengths …. Since the particles of matter in the universe grow as they age and communicate with ever more distant parts of the universe they have to receive information. In the variable mass theory, this electromagnetic communication is at the speed of light, c. The gravitons travelling much faster than the speed of light, however, must also carry information. (No one could argue that knowledge of the direction of an adjoining mass is not information). So the old relativistic shibboleth that information cannot be transmitted faster than the speed of light falls by the wayside. (Halton C. Arp)
Facts create oughts! The more clearly something is seen or known, and the more true and unmistakable something becomes, the more ought-quality it acquires. The more ‘is’ something becomes, the more ‘ought’ it becomes — the more requiredness it acquires, the louder it ‘calls for’ particular action … This is the same as saying that the facts themselves carry, within their own nature, suggestions about what ought to be done with them. … The characteristics of being are also the values of being. As revealed in peak-experiences and exemplified in the lives of self-actualizing people, these “B-values” are truth, goodness, beauty, wholeness, dichotomy-transcendence, aliveness, uniqueness, perfection, necessity, completion, justice, order, simplicity, richness, effortlessness, playfulness, self-sufficiency. (Abraham Maslow - Farther Reaches of Human Nature)
Fiery gods driving golden chariots across the skies are simpleminded comicbook fare compared to the ravishing strangeness of contemporary cosmology, and the recursive intricacies of the reproductive machinery of DNA make Bergson’s élan vital about as interesting as Superman’s dread kryptonite. When we understand consciousness – when there is no more mystery – consciousness will be different, but there will still be beauty, and more room than ever for awe. (Daniel Dennett)
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
(T.S. Eliot - Little Gidding)
Our cultural inheritance is something we take for granted today, but its invention forever altered the course of evolution and our world. This is because knowledge could accumulate as good ideas were retained, combined, and improved upon, and others were discarded. And, being able to jump from mind to mind granted the elements of culture a pace of change that stood in relation to genetical evolution something like an animal’s behavior does to the more leisurely movement of a plant …. Having culture means we are the only species that acquires the rules of its daily living from the accumulated knowledge of our ancestors rather than from the genes they pass to us. Our cultures and not our genes supply the solutions we use to survive and prosper in the society of our birth; they provide the instructions for what we eat, how we live, the gods we believe in, the tools we make and use, the language we speak, the people we cooperate with and marry, and whom we fight or even kill in a war.
Social learning is really visual theft, and in a species that has it, it would become positively advantageous for you to hide your best ideas from others, lest they steal them. This not only would bring cumulative cultural adaptation to a halt, but our societies might have collapsed as we strained under the weight of suspicion and rancor.
So, beginning about 200,000 years ago, our fledgling species, newly equipped with the capacity for social learning, had to confront two options for managing the conflicts of interest social learning would bring. One is that these new human societies could have fragmented into small family groups so that the benefits of any knowledge would flow only to one’s relatives. Had we adopted this solution we might still be living like the Neanderthals, and the world might not be so different from the way it was 40,000 years ago, when our species first entered Europe. This is because these smaller family groups would have produced fewer ideas to copy and they would have been more vulnerable to chance and bad luck.
The other option was for our species to acquire a system of cooperation that could make our knowledge available to other members of our tribe or society even though they might be people we are not closely related to — in short, to work out the rules that made it possible for us to share goods and ideas cooperatively. Taking this option would mean that a vastly greater fund of accumulated wisdom and talent would become available than any one individual or even family could ever hope to produce. That is the option we followed, and our cultural survival vehicles that we traveled around the world in were the result. (Mark Pagel - Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind)
Whatever I have accepted until now as most true has come to me through my senses. But occasionally I have found that they have deceived me, and it is unwise to trust completely those who have deceived us even once. (René Descartes)
We now know enough to know that we will never know everything. This is why we need art: it teaches us how to live with mystery. Only the artist can explore the ineffable without offering us an answer, for sometimes there is no answer. John Keats called this romantic impulse 'negative capability.' He said that certain poets, like Shakespeare, had 'the ability to remain in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.' Keats realized that just because something can’t be solved, or reduced into the laws of physics, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. When we venture beyond the edge of our knowledge, all we have is art.
But before we can get a fourth culture, our two existing cultures must modify their habits. First of all, the humanities must sincerely engage with the sciences. Henry James defined the writer as someone on whom nothing is lost; artists must heed his call and not ignore science's inspiring descriptions of reality. Every humanist should read Nature.
At the same time, the sciences must recognize that their truths are not the only truths. No knowledge has a monopoly on knowledge. That simple idea will be the starting premise of any fourth culture. As Karl Popper, an eminent defender of science, wrote, 'It is imperative that we give up the idea of ultimate sources of knowledge, and admit that all knowledge is human; that it is mixed with our errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes; that all we can do is to grope for truth even though it is beyond our reach. There is no authority beyond the reach of criticism.’ (Jonah Lehrer - Proust Was a Neuroscientist)
When I look up at the night sky and I know that, yes, we are part of this Universe, we are in this Universe, but perhaps more important than most of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up – many people feel small, because they're small, the Universe is big – but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There's a level of connectivity – that's really what you want in life. You want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant. You want to feel like you're a participant in the goings on and activities and events around you. That's precisely what we are, just by being alive.
Some of the most creative leaps ever taken by the human mind are decidedly irrational, even primal. Emotive forces are what drive the greatest artistic and inventive expressions of our species. How else could the sentence 'He's either a madman or a genius' be understood?
It's okay to be entirely rational, provided everybody else is too. But apparently this state of existence has been achieved only in fiction where societal decisions get made with efficiency and dispatch, devoid of pomp, passion, and pretense.
To govern a society shared by people of emotion, people of reason, and everybody in between – as well as people who think their actions are shaped by logic but in fact are shaped by feelings and nonempirical philosophies – you need politics. At its best, politics navigates all the minds-states for the sake of the greater good, alert to the rocky shoals of community, identity, and the economy. At its worst, politics thrives on the incomplete disclosure or misrepresentation of data required by an electorate to make informed decisions, whether arrived at logically or emotionally. (Neil DeGrasse Tyson)
One can be left cold by the doctrines of the Christian Trinity and the Buddhist Eightfold path and yet at the same time be interested in the ways in which religions deliver sermons, promote morality, engender a spirit of community, inspire travels, train minds and inspire gratitude at the beauty of spring. In a world beset by fundamentalists of both religious and secular varieties, it must be possible to balance a rejection of religious faith with a selective reverence for religious rituals and concepts. … It is when we stop believing that religions have been handed down from above or else that they are entirely daft that matters become more interesting. We can then recognize that we invented religions to serve two central needs which continue to this day and which secular society has not been able to solve with any particular skill: firstly, the need to live together in communities in harmony, despite our deeply rooted selfish and violent impulses. And secondly, the need to cope with terrifying degrees of pain which arise from our vulnerability to professional failure, to troubled relationships, to the death of loved ones and to our decay and demise. …The error of modern atheism has been to overlook how many aspects of the faiths remain relevant even after their central tenets have been dismissed. … A sermon wants to change your life, and a lecture wants to give you a bit of information. And I think we need to get back to that sermon tradition. (Alain de Botton - Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion)
At first I thought that we have dreams only in a definite state of sleep, near awakening. Later I became convinced we have dreams all the time, from the moment we fall asleep to the moment we awake, but remember only the dreams near awakening. And still later I realised that we have dreams continuously, both in sleep and in a waking state. We never cease to have dreams, though we are not aware of this. …
As the result of the above I came to the conclusion that dreams can be observed while awake. It is not at all necessary to be asleep in order to observe dreams. Dreams never stop. We do not notice them in a waking state, amidst the continuous flow of visual, auditory and other sensations, for the same reason for which we do not see stars in the light of the sun. But just as we can see the stars from the bottom of a deep well, so we can see the dreams which go on in us if, even for a short time, we isolate ourselves whether accidentally or intentionally, from the inflow of external impressions.
It is not easy to explain how this is to be done. Concentration upon one idea cannot produce this isolation. An arrest of the current of usual thoughts and mental images is necessary. It is necessary to achieve for a short period "consciousness without thought". When this consciousness comes, dream images begin slowly to emerge through the usual sensations, and with astonishment you suddenly see yourself surrounded by a strange world of shadows, moods, conversations, sounds, pictures. And you understand then that this world is always in you, that it never disappears. (Ouspensky - A New Model Of The Universe)
Language is unique among cognitive functions in the degree to which – in the best co-evolutionary tradition – it both helps and is helped by social interactions. As social animals, we revel in group play, which is what language evolves to promote and we evolve to master. Happiness and misery being the two-pronged stimulus with which evolution prods its pack animals, is it any surprise that we can be moved to tears or to laughter by a few well aimed words?
Both in language and in cognition in general, mastery comes down to the same two abilities: first, understanding the world by seeking patterns in sensorimotor activity and learning to relate them to a wider context, including your own and other people's experiences and mind processes; and second, using understanding to support foresight. The big picture is in fact even simpler than that: understanding and foresight are really two sides of the same coin, because they both hinge on knowledge of the causal structure of the world. … A persistent cluster of such conceptual knowledge as information pattern recognition accrued by a mind becomes the effective Self. … Cognitively transparent – hence peaceful – gradual self-change of the kind that promotes well-being and happiness is helped along by the accumulation of experience.
That life experience is good for your practical wisdom has been noted by philosophers; more importantly, this notion turns out to be very much along the lines of what science has learned about the role of experience in cognition.
When fishing for happiness, catch and release. (Shimon Edelman)
When we tell stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase. We neglect to mention those days when we wanted to quit, when we believed that our problem was impossible. Instead, we skip straight to the breakthrough. We tell the happy ending first.
The danger of this scenario is that the act of feeling frustrated is an essential part of the creative process. Before we can find the answer — before we can even know the question — we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced that a solution is beyond our reach. We need to have wrestled with the problem and lost. Because it’s only after we stop searching that an answer may arrive. (Jonah Lehrer)
If it is true that human minds are themselves to a very great degree the creations of memes, then we cannot sustain the polarity of vision we considered earlier; it cannot be "memes versus us," because earlier infestations of memes have already played a major role in determining who or what we are. The "independent" mind struggling to protect itself from alien and dangerous memes is a myth. There is a persisting tension between the biological imperative of our genes on the one hand and the cultural imperatives of our memes on the other, but we would be foolish to "side with" our genes; that would be to commit the most egregious error of pop sociobiology. Besides, as we have already noted, what makes us special is that we, alone among species, can rise above the imperatives of our genes— thanks to the lifting cranes of our memes. (Daniel Dennett)
Every living thing is, from the cosmic perspective, incredibly lucky simply to be alive. Most, 90 percent and more, of all the organisms that have ever lived have died without viable offspring, but not a single one of your ancestors, going back to the dawn of life on Earth, suffered that normal misfortune. You spring from an unbroken line of winners going back millions of generations, and those winners were, in every generation, the luckiest of the lucky, one out of a thousand or even a million. So however unlucky you may be on some occasion today, your presence on the planet testifies to the role luck has played in your past. (Daniel Dennett)
Not a single one of the cells that compose you knows who you are, or cares. (Daniel Dennett)
Isn't it true that whatever isn't determined by our genes must be determined by our environment? What else is there? There's Nature and there's Nurture. Is there also some X, some further contributor to what we are? There's Chance. Luck. This extra ingredient is important but doesn't have to come from the quantum bowels of our atoms or from some distant star. It is all around us in the causeless coin-flipping of our noisy world, automatically filling in the gaps of specification left unfixed by our genes, and unfixed by salient causes in our environment. (Daniel Dennett)
Philosophers' Syndrome: mistaking a failure of the imagination for an insight into necessity. (Daniel Dennett)
Science does not purvey absolute truth, science is a mechanism. It’s a way of trying to improve your knowledge of nature, it’s a system for testing your thoughts against the universe and seeing whether they match. (Isaac Asimov)
One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike -- and yet it is the most precious thing we have. (Albert Einstein)
The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious -- the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. (Albert Einstein)
Science is not formal logic -- it needs the free play of the mind in as great a degree as any other creative art. It is true that this is a gift which can hardly be taught, but its growth can be encouraged in those who already possess it. (Max Born)
The heart of the scientific method is the reduction of perceived phenomena to fundamental, testable principles. The elegance, we can fairly say the beauty, of any particular scientific generalization is measured by its simplicity relative to the number of phenomena it can explain. (E. O. Wilson)
Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers of the preceding generation. (Richard Feynman)
There are a lot of facts to be known in order to be a professional anything — lawyer, doctor, engineer, accountant, teacher. But with science there is one important difference. The facts serve mainly to access the ignorance. … Scientists don’t concentrate on what they know, which is considerable but minuscule, but rather on what they don’t know …. Science traffics in ignorance, cultivates it, and is driven by it. Mucking about in the unknown is an adventure; doing it for a living is something most scientists consider a privilege. … Working scientists don’t get bogged down in the factual swamp because they don’t care all that much for facts. It’s not that they discount or ignore them, but rather that they don’t see them as an end in themselves. They don’t stop at the facts; they begin there, right beyond the facts, where the facts run out.
Facts are selected, by a process that is a kind of controlled neglect, for the questions they create, for the ignorance they point to. … Real science is a revision in progress, always. It proceeds in fits and starts of ignorance. … Being a scientist requires having faith in uncertainty, finding pleasure in mystery, and learning to cultivate doubt. There is no surer way to screw up an experiment than to be certain of its outcome. … Science, then, is not like the onion in the often used analogy of stripping away layer after layer to get at some core, central, fundamental truth. Rather it’s like the magic well: no matter how many buckets of water you remove, there’s always another one to be had. Or even better, it’s like the widening ripples on the surface of a pond, the ever larger circumference in touch with more and more of what’s outside the circle, the unknown. This growing forefront is where science occurs. … It is a mistake to bob around in the circle of facts instead of riding the wave to the great expanse lying outside the circle. … Perhaps the most important application of ignorance is in the sphere of education, particularly of scientists… We must ask ourselves how we should educate scientists in the age of Google and whatever will supersede it… The business model of our Universities, in place now for nearly a thousand years, will need to be revised. … Instead of a system where the collection of facts is an end, where knowledge is equated with accumulation, where ignorance is rarely discussed, we will have to provide the Wiki-raised student with a taste of – and for – boundaries, the edge of the widening circle of ignorance, how the data, which are not unimportant, frames the unknown. We must teach students how to think in questions, how to manage ignorance.
W. B. Yeats admonished that ‘education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.’ … Science produces ignorance, and ignorance fuels science. We have a quality scale for ignorance. We judge the value of science by the ignorance it defines. Ignorance can be big or small, tractable or challenging. Ignorance can be thought about in detail. Success in science, either doing it or understanding it, depends on developing comfort with the ignorance, something akin to Keats’ negative capability. (Stuart Firestein - Ignorance: How It Drives Science)
Just as the consciousness of an individual determines the quality of his thought and behavior, so also there exists another type of consciousness for a society as a whole; a collective consciousness for each family, city, state, or nation, having its own reality and the possibility of growth. The quality of the collective consciousness of a society is a direct and sensitive reflection of the level of consciousness of its individual members. (Maharishi)
The proposition, foisted upon us by a materialism based on classical physics - that we human beings are essentially mechanical automata, with every least action and thought fixed from the birth of the universe by microscopic clockwork-like mechanisms - has created enormous difficulties for ethical theory. These difficulties lie like the plague on Western culture, robbing its citizens of any rational basis for self-esteem or self-respect, or esteem or respect for others. Quantum physics, joined to a natural embedding ontology, brings our human minds squarely into the dynamical workings of nature. ...
It is curious that some physicists want to improve upon orthodox quantum theory by excluding 'the observer', who, by virtue of his subjective nature, must, in their opinion, be excluded from science. That stance is maintained in direct opposition to what would seem to be the most profound advance in physics in three hundred years, namely the overcoming of the most glaring failure of classical physics, its inability to accommodate us, its creators. The most salient philosophical feature of quantum theory is that the mathematics has a causal gap that, by virtue of its intrinsic form, provides a perfect place for Homo sapiens as we know and experience ourselves. …
The falseness of the classical deviation of science must be made known, and heralded, because human beings are not likely to endure in a society ruled by a conception of themselves that denies the essence of their being. (physicist Henry Stapp - Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer)
A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart, and unlimbers his typewriter. I feel no obligation to deal with politics. I do feel a responsibility to society because of going into print: a writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life. (E.B. White - interview 1969)
Nature abhors a vacuum and the same applies in your head. The trouble is, if there's nothing to replace the gap left behind when you clear out all your old rubbish then some new rubbish will come along to fill it. … So, where do the new ideas come from to fill the void left by eliminating your old ones? This question of the derivation of ideas was one that was approached by an advertising man called James Webb Young in 1939. His short book, A Technique for Producing Ideas, became the seminal book on how to get ideas, good ones, into your head… Webb Young suggests the following five-step plan to generating great ideas:
 Gather the raw material
 Digest the material
 Don't think
 Wait for the 'Ah ha!' moment to appear (and be ready when it does. Keep a notebook by your bed)
 Expose your idea to the light of day and see if it stands up to the glare.
It is the ability to spot the potential in the product of connecting things that don't ordinarily go together that marks out the person who is truly creative. … We create the new not generally through some mad moment of inspiration in fictionalized accounts of ancient Greeks in baths (though the conditions for this can be forced into existence), but by putting things together that do not normally go together; from taking disciplines (or curriculum areas) and seeing what happens when they are forced into unanticipated collision. … The mind, at its best, is a pattern-making machine, engaged in a perpetual attempt to impose order onto chaos; making links between disparate entities or ideas in order to better understand either or both. It is the ability to spot the potential in the product of connecting things that don't ordinarily go together that marks out the person (or teacher) who is truly creative. (Phil Beadle)
The universe is uncaused, like a net of jewels in which each is only the reflection of all the others in a fantastic interrelated harmony without end. … Concepts can at best only serve to negate one another, as one thorn is used to remove another, and then be thrown away. Only in deep silence do we leave concepts behind. Words and language deal only with concepts, and cannot approach Reality. (Ramesh Balsekar)
The great majority of us are required to live a life of constant, systematic duplicity. Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune. Our nervous system isn't just a fiction, it's a part of our physical body and our soul exists in space and is inside us, like the teeth in our mouth. It can't be forever violated with impunity. (Boris Pasternak)
Bertrand Russell’s Decalogue: The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, Russell should wish to promulgate:
1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong, When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief. (Frantz Fanon - Black Skin, White Masks)
Western civilization’s science and technology bring society tremendous benefit. Yet, due to highly developed technology, we also have more anxiety and more fear. I always feel that mental development and material development must be well-balanced, so that together they may make a more human world. If we lose human values and human beings become part of a machine, there is no freedom from pain and pleasure. Without freedom from pain and pleasure, it is very difficult to demarcate between right and wrong. The subjects of pain and pleasure naturally involve feeling, mind, and consciousness.
For quite some time I have had a great interest in the close relationship between Eastern philosophy, particularly Buddhism, and Western science. My basic aim as a human being is to speak always for the importance of compassion and kindness in order to build a better, healthier human society, and a brighter future. (The Dalai Lama)
What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic. (Carl Sagan)
In today’s world, most of the traditional functions of cognitive synthesis have atrophied and are ignored and neglected. What is needed is a “conceptual synthesis” to help fill the need for meaningful engagement in such a world. Conceptual synthesis performs at least five basic functions in the guidance of human affairs. They are the mystical, the cosmological, the sociological, the pedagogical or psychological, and the editorial functions. The mystical function inspires in man a sense of mystery and profound meaning related to the universe and of himself in it. The cosmological function forms images of the universe in accord with local knowledge and experience, enabling men to describe and identify the structure of the universe and the forces of nature. The sociological function validates, supports and enforces social order, representing it in accord with the nature of the universe, or as the natural or right form of social organization. The pedagogical or psychological function guides individuals through stages of life, teaching ways of understanding themselves and others and presenting desirable responses to life’s challenges and trials. Finally, the editorial function of conceptual is to define some aspects of reality as important and credible and hence to be attended to, and other aspects unworthy of serious attention. (Ervin Laszlo - A Strategy for the Future: The Systems Approach to World Order)
Together on the Porch
They sit together on the porch, the dark
Almost fallen, the house behind them dark.
Their supper done with, they have washed and dried
The dishes – only two plates now, two glasses,
Two knives, two forks, two spoons –
Small work for two.
She sits with her hands folded in her lap,
At rest. He smokes his pipe. They do not speak,
And when they speak at last it is to say
What each one knows the other knows.
They have one mind between them, now, that finally
For all its knowing will not exactly know
Which one goes first through the dark doorway, bidding
Goodnight, and which sits on a while alone.
(Wendell Berry - from A Timbered Choir)
Lower animals with no cerebrum appear to be conscious...even plants such as the sunflower that turns towards strong light may have a vague awareness of warmth and comfort. There are many degrees of consciousness and it is my contention that it is integrated at many levels like other important functions of the central nervous system. (neuropsychiatrist Stanley Cobb)
Blood ties do not necessarily create bonds between Spirits. The body comes from the body. But the Spirit does not proceed from the Spirit, since the Spirit already existed before the formation of the body. The parents do not create the Spirit of the child; they do nothing more than supply the material wrapping, although it is their duty to help the intellectual and moral development of their child, in order to further its progress.
Those incarnated in the same family, especially as close relations, are as often as not congenial Spirits linked by past relationships, which express themselves during their earthly lives by their reciprocated affections. But it can also happen that these people are complete strangers to each other, or they may be distant from each other due to past aversions which while on Earth are translated into mutual antagonisms which serve as probations. The real family ties are not those of blood then, but those of mutual sympathy and the communion of ideas which hold spirits together, before, during and after their incarnations. From this it follows that two people born of different parents may be more like brothers or sisters than if they were of the same blood. They can attract each other, search for each other and so feel happy together; whereas two blood brothers may be repelled by each other, as is frequently seen. This moral problem is one that only Spiritism can resolve through the explanation of the plurality of existences.
So, there are two kinds of families: Families through spiritual ties and families through bodily ties. In the first case these ties are durable and strengthen with purification, perpetuating in the spiritual worlds by means of the various migrations of the soul. In the second case, the ties are as fragile as the physical body itself, extinguishing with them and in many instances dissolving morally even in the actual existence.
This was what Jesus was trying to make comprehensible when He said to His disciples: "Here is my mother and my brothers by spiritual ties, because all those who do the bidding of My Father, who is in Heaven, are my brothers, my sisters and my mother."
The hostility felt by His blood brothers is clearly expressed in this narrative from Saint Mark, when it says that they had intentions of laying their hands on Jesus, under the pretext that He had lost His Spirit, or gone out of His mind. On being informed of their arrival and knowing full well the sentiments they harboured against Him it was only natural for Jesus, speaking in spiritual terms, to refer to His disciples as His brothers and sisters. Although His mother was accompanying His brothers, Jesus generalised the teachings which in no way implies He intended to declare that His mother, according to the physical body, was nothing to Him in spirit nor that she deserved only indifference, as He proved on many occasions. (Allen Kardec – The Gospel According To Spiritism)
As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.
(Max Plank, founder of quantum mechanics - In a lecture in 1944, near the end of his life looking back)
Birth is not a beginning; death is not an end.
There is existence without limitation; there is continuity without a starting-point.
Existence without limitation is Space.
Continuity without a starting point is Time.
There is birth, there is death, there is issuing forth, there is entering in.
Ethical transgressions are generally divided into two categories: the bad things we do (acts of commission) and the good things we fail to do (acts of omission). We tend to judge the former far more harshly. The origin of this imbalance remains a mystery, but it surely relates to the value we place on a person’s energy and intent.
Doing something requires energy, and most morally salient actions require conscious intent. A failure to do something can arise purely by circumstance and requires energy to rectify. The difference is important. It is one thing to reach into the till and steal $100; it is another to neglect to return $100 that one has received by mistake. We might consider both behaviors to be ethically blameworthy — but only the former amounts to a deliberate effort to steal. Needless to say, if it would cost a person more than $100 to return $100 he received by mistake, few of us would judge him for simply keeping the money. (Sam Harris – Anatomy of Lying)
At least one study suggests that 10 percent of communication between spouses is deceptive. Another has found that 38 percent of encounters among college students contain lies. However, researchers have discovered that even liars rate their deceptive interactions as less pleasant than truthful ones. This is not terribly surprising: We know that trust is deeply rewarding and that deception and suspicion are two sides of the same coin. Research suggests that all forms of lying — including white lies meant to spare the feelings of others — are associated with poorer-quality relationships. (ibid)
But what could be wrong with truly ‘white’ lies? First, they are still lies. And in telling them, we incur all the problems of being less than straightforward in our dealings with other people. Sincerity, authenticity, integrity, mutual understanding — these and other sources of moral wealth are destroyed the moment we deliberately misrepresent our beliefs, whether or not our lies are ever discovered. (ibid)
And while we imagine that we tell certain lies out of compassion for others, it is rarely difficult to spot the damage we do in the process. By lying, we deny our friends access to reality — and their resulting ignorance often harms them in ways we did not anticipate. Our friends may act on our falsehoods, or fail to solve problems that could have been solved only on the basis of good information. Rather often, to lie is to infringe upon the freedom of those we care about. … These tiny erosions of trust are especially insidious because they are almost never remedied. (ibid)
As it was in Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, and Othello, so it is in life. Most forms of private vice and public evil are kindled and sustained by lies. ... Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship. … By lying, we deny others a view of the world as it is. Our dishonesty not only influences the choices they make, it often determines the choices they can make — and in ways we cannot always predict. Every lie is a direct assault upon the autonomy of those we lie to. (ibid)
There has come a necessity for the knowledge that Spiritism brings touching the connections between the spiritual and material principals and the nature of the soul; its creation in a state of simplicity and ignorance; its union with the body; its progressive, definitive march through successive existences; and through worlds which are so many rungs of the ladder on the way to perfection; its gradual release from the influence of matter by the use of its free will; the cause of its leanings toward good or evil and of its aptitudes; the phenomena of birth and death; the state of the spirit in its erraticity, and at length its future reward for efforts made in the improvement of its condition as incentive to its perseverance in well-doing, which throw light upon every part of the spiritual Genesis.
Thanks to this light, man knows henceforth whence he comes; where he goes, why he is upon earth, and why he suffers. He knows that his future is in his own hands, and that the duration of his captivity here below depends upon himself. Genesis, which previously appeared as a mean and shallow allegory, now appears grand and majestic, worthy of the goodness and justice of the creator. Considered from this point of view, Genesis will both confound and vanquish incredibility.
(Allan Kardec - Genesis: The Miracles and Predictions)
Dreaming is a mechanism for regulating negative emotion and the relationship between REM sleep and depression. The more severe the depression, the earlier the first REM begins. Sometimes it starts as early as 45 minutes into sleep. That means these sleepers’ first cycle of NREM sleep amounts to about half the usual length of time. This early REM displaces the initial deep sleep, which is not fully recovered later in the night. This displacement of the first deep sleep is accompanied by an absence of the usual large outflow of growth hormone. The timing of the greatest release of human growth hormone (HGH) is in the first deep sleep cycle. The depressed have very little SWS [slow-wave sleep, Stages 3 and 4 of the sleep cycle] and no big pulse of HGH; and in addition to growth, HGH is related to physical repair. If we do not get enough deep sleep, our bodies take longer to heal and grow. The absence of the large spurt of HGH during the first deep sleep continues in many depressed patients even when they are no longer depressed (in remission).
The first REM sleep period not only begins too early in the night in people who are clinically depressed, it is also often abnormally long. Instead of the usual 10 minutes or so, this REM may last twice that. The eye movements too are abnormal — either too sparse or too dense. In fact, they are sometimes so frequent that they are called eye movement storms.
Brain imaging technology has helped to shed light on this mystery. Scanning depressed patients while they sleep has shown that the emotion areas of the brain, the limbic and paralimbic systems, are activated at a higher level in REM than when these patients are awake. High activity in these areas is also common in REM sleep in nondepressed sleepers, but the depressed have even higher activity in these areas than do healthy control subjects. This might be expected — after all, while in REM these individuals also show higher activity in the executive cortex areas, those associated with rational thought and decision making. Nondepressed controls do not exhibit this activity in their REM brain imaging studies. This finding has been tentatively interpreted… as perhaps a response to the excessive activity in the areas responsible for emotions.
Despite differences in terminology, all the contemporary theories of dreaming have a common thread — they all emphasize that dreams are not about prosaic themes, not about reading, writing, and arithmetic, but about emotion, or what psychologists refer to as affect. What is carried forward from waking hours into sleep are recent experiences that have an emotional component, often those that were negative in tone but not noticed at the time or not fully resolved. One proposed purpose of dreaming, of what dreaming accomplishes (known as the mood regulatory function of dreams theory) is that dreaming modulates disturbances in emotion, regulating those that are troublesome. My research, as well as that of other investigators in this country and abroad, supports this theory. Studies show that negative mood is down-regulated overnight. How this is accomplished has had less attention.
I propose that when some disturbing waking experience is reactivated in sleep and carried forward into REM, where it is matched by similarity in feeling to earlier memories, a network of older associations is stimulated and is displayed as a sequence of compound images that we experience as dreams. This melding of new and old memory fragments modifies the network of emotional self-defining memories, and thus updates the organizational picture we hold of ‘who I am and what is good for me and what is not.’ In this way, dreaming diffuses the emotional charge of the event and so prepares the sleeper to wake ready to see things in a more positive light, to make a fresh start. This does not always happen over a single night; sometimes a big reorganization of the emotional perspective of our self-concept must be made — from wife to widow or married to single, say, and this may take many nights. We must look for dream changes within the night and over time across nights to detect whether a productive change is under way. In very broad strokes, this is the definition of the mood-regulatory function of dreaming, one basic to the new model of the twenty-four hour mind I am proposing.
In good sleepers, the mind is continuously active, reviewing experience from yesterday, sorting which new information is relevant and important to save due to its emotional saliency. Dreams are not without sense, nor are they best understood to be expressions of infantile wishes. They are the result of the interconnectedness of new experience with that already stored in memory networks. But memory is never a precise duplicate of the original; instead, it is a continuing act of creation. Dream images are the product of that creation. They are formed by pattern recognition between some current emotionally valued experience matching the condensed representation of similarly toned memories. Networks of these become our familiar style of thinking, which gives our behavior continuity and us a coherent sense of who we are. Thus, dream dimensions are elements of the schemas, and both represent accumulated experience and serve to filter and evaluate the new day’s input.
Sleep is a busy time, interweaving streams of thought with emotional values attached, as they fit or challenge the organizational structure that represents our identity. One function of all this action is to regulate disturbing emotion in order to keep it from disrupting our sleep and subsequent waking functioning.
(Rosalind D. Cartwright - The Twenty-four Hour Mind: The Role of Sleep and Dreaming in Our Emotional Lives)
6 Rules For Creative Sanity:
· To stay sane in an insane world as a creative man or woman he or she must:
· Keep one’s life financially independent.
· Continue unabated to exercise one’s power of creativity in concrete, strenuous tasks, always seeking perfection as near as possible.
· Carefully cherish LOVE of a partner with full gratification, of the total emotional being if possible, of the body in a clean way if necessary.
· Keep out of the trap of confusion by the average man and woman, helping others to keep out of the trap too as best they can.
· Keep one’s structure clean like brook water through knowing and correcting every mistake, making the corrected mistake the guiding lines to new truth.
· Never yield to the expediencies of life except where it is basically harmless or where the main line of development is not impeded for the duration of one’s life.
[Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) - Where’s the Truth? Letters and Journals, 1948-1957]
[These excerpts from Bergson reflect his exploration of the fields of science and nature, lensing into an individual’s creative process and the role of intuition and its supremacy over rationality]
· We see that the intellect, so skillful in dealing with the inert, is awkward the moment it touches the living. Whether it wants to treat the life of the body or the life of the mind, it proceeds with the rigor, the stiffness and the brutality of an instrument not designed for such use. …
· The intellect is characterized by a natural inability to comprehend life. Instinct, on the contrary, is molded on the very form of life.
· While intelligence treats everything mechanically, instinct proceeds, so to speak, organically. If the consciousness that slumbers in it should awake, if it were wound up into knowledge instead of being wound off into action, if we could ask and it could reply, it would give up to us the most intimate secrets of life. For it only carries out further the work by which life organizes matter – so that we cannot say, as has often been shown, where organization ends and where instinct begins. When the little chick is breaking its shell with a peck of its beak, it is acting by instinct, and yet it does but carry on the movement which has borne it through embryonic life. Inversely, in the course of embryonic life itself (especially when the embryo lives freely in the form of a larva), many of the acts accomplished must be referred to instinct. The most essential of the primary instincts are really, therefore, vital processes. The potential consciousness that accompanies them is generally actualized only at the outset of the act, and leaves the rest of the process to go on by itself. It would only have to expand more widely, and then dive into its own depth completely, to be one with the generative force of life.
· It is impossible for intelligence to reabsorb instinct. That which is instinctive in instinct cannot be expressed in terms of intelligence, nor, consequently, can it be analyzed.
· A man born blind, who had lived among others born blind, could not be made to believe in the possibility of perceiving a distant object without first perceiving all the objects in between. Yet vision performs this miracle. In a certain sense the blind man is right, since vision, having its origin in the stimulation of the retina, by the vibrations of the light, is nothing else, in fact, but a retinal touch. Such is indeed the scientific explanation, for the function of science is just to express all perceptions in terms of touch. But we have shown elsewhere that the philosophical explanation of perception must be of another kind. Now instinct also is a knowledge at a distance. It has the same relation to intelligence that vision has to touch. Science cannot do otherwise than express it in terms of intelligence; but in so doing it constructs an imitation of instinct rather than penetrates within it.
[French philosopher and Nobel Prize in Literature winner Henri Bergson (1859-1941) - Creative Evolution]
I am a romantic reductionist … reductionist, because I seek quantitative explanations for consciousness in the ceaseless and ever-varied activity of billions of tiny nerve cells, each with their tens of thousands of synapses; romantic, because of my insistence that the universe has contrails of meaning that can be deciphered in the sky about us and deep within us. (Christopher Koch – Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist)
The ever-increasing complexity of organisms, evident in the fossil record, is a consequence of the unrelenting competition for survival that propels evolution. … It was accompanied by the emergence of nervous systems and the first inkling of sentience. The continuing complexification of brains, to use Teilhard de Chardin’s term, enhanced consciousness until self-consciousness emerged: awareness reflecting upon itself. This recursive process started millions of years ago in some of the more highly developed mammals. In Homo Sapiens, it has achieved its temporary pinnacle. … But complexification does not stop with individual self-awareness. It is ongoing and, indeed, speeding up. In today’s technologically sophisticated and intertwined societies, complexification is taking on a supraindividual, continent-spanning character. With the instant, worldwide communication afforded by cell phones, e-mail, and social networking, I foresee a time when humanity’s teeming billions and their computers will be interconnected in a vast matrix — a planetary Übermind. Provided mankind avoids Nightfall — a thermonuclear Armageddon or a complete environmental meltdown — there is no reason why this web of hypertrophied consciousness cannot spread to the planets and, ultimately, beyond the stellar night to the galaxy at large. (ibid)
With infinite life comes an infinite list of relatives. Grandparents never die, nor do great-grandparents, great-aunts… and so on, back through the generations, all alive and offering advice. Sons never escape from the shadows of their fathers. Nor do daughters of their mothers. No one ever comes into his own… Such is the cost of immortality. No person is whole. No person is free.
(Alan Lightman - Einstein's Dreams)
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (Leo Tolstoy - opening line of Anna Karenina)
If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that all things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied. (Richard Feynman, physicist)
Rage and rage against the dying of the light … do not go gentle into that good night. (Dylan Thomas, to his father)
Human beings as made up out of each other through their interactions, their shared language, their intense responsiveness. The social man, always outside of himself, knows only how to live in the opinions of others; and it is, so to speak, from their judgment alone that he draws the sentiment of his own existence. (Jean Jacques Rousseau - Second Discourse (1754)
There are four types of men:
who knows and knows that he knows... His horse of wisdom will reach the skies.
One who knows, but doesn't know that he knows... He is fast asleep, so you should wake him up!
One who doesn't know, but knows that he doesn't know... His limping mule will eventually get him home.
One who doesn't know and doesn't know that he doesn't know... He will be eternally lost in his hopeless oblivion!
(Ibn Yami, 13th-century Persian-Tajik poet)
Stories are powerful because they transport us into other people’s worlds but, in doing that, they change the way our brains work and potentially change our brain chemistry — and that’s what it means to be a social creature. (Paul Zak – neuroscientist)
We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone. Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never so little scar. Nothing we ever do is, in strict scientific literalness, wiped out. (William James - Habit)
Habit is thus the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance, and saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor. It alone prevents the hardest and most repulsive walks of life from being deserted by those brought up to tread therein. It keeps the fisherman and the deck-hand at sea through the winter; it holds the miner in his darkness, and nails the countryman to his log cabin and his lonely farm through all the months of snow; it protects us from invasion by the natives of the desert and the frozen zone. It dooms us all to fight out the battle of life upon the lines of our nurture or our early choice, and to make the best of a pursuit that disagrees, because there is no other for which we are fitted, and it is too late to begin again. It keeps different social strata from mixing. Already at the age of twenty-five you see the professional mannerism settling down on the young commercial traveller, on the young doctor, on the young minister, on the young counsellor-at-law. You see the little lines of cleavage running through the character, the tricks of thought, the prejudices, the ways of the 'shop,' in a word, from which the man can by-and-by no more escape than his coat-sleeve can suddenly fall into a new set of folds. On the whole, it is best he should not escape. It is well for the world that in most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again. (Ibid)
Let no youth have any anxiety about the upshot of his education, whatever the line of it may be. If he keep faithfully busy each hour of the working-day, he may safely leave the final result to itself. He can with perfect certainty count on waking up some fine morning, to find himself one of the competent ones of his generation, in whatever pursuit he may have singled out. Silently, between all the details of his business, the power of judging in all that class of matter will have built itself up within him as a possession that will never pass away. Young people should know this truth in advance. The ignorance of it has probably engendered more discouragement and faint-heartedness in youths embarking on arduous careers than all other causes put together. (Ibid)
As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
To trace something unknown back to something known is alleviating, soothing, gratifying and gives moreover a feeling of power. Danger, disquiet, anxiety attend the unknown – the first instinct is to eliminate these distressing states. First principle: any explanation is better than none… The cause-creating drive is thus conditioned and excited by the feeling of fear. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
Very few beings really seek knowledge in this world. Mortal or immortal, few really ask. On the contrary, they try to wring from the unknown the answers they have already shaped in their own minds – justifications, confirmations, forms of consolation without which they can't go on. To really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind. The answer may annihilate the question and the questioner. (Anne Rice - The Vampire Lestat)
Most people have the ridiculous notion that anything they do which produces an income is work – and that anything they do outside 'working' hours is play. There is no logic to that. … Your life is too short and too valuable to fritter away in work. If you don't get out now, you may end up like the frog that is placed in a pot of fresh water on the stove. As the temperature is gradually increased, the frog feels restless and uncomfortable, but not uncomfortable enough to jump out. Without being aware that a change is taking place, be is gradually lulled into unconsciousness. … Much the same thing happens when you take a person and put him in a job which he does not like. He gets irritable in his groove. His duties soon become a monotonous routine that slowly dulls his senses. As I walk into offices, through factories and stores, I often find myself looking into the expressionless faces of people going through mechanical motions. They are people whose minds are stunned and slowly dying.
Actually, there is only one way in this world to achieve true happiness, and that is to express yourself with all your skill and enthusiasm in a career that appeals to you more than any other. In such a career, you feel a sense of purpose, a sense of achievement. You feel you are making a contribution. It is not work. … The greatest satisfaction you can obtain from life is your pleasure in producing, in your own individual way, something of value to your fellowmen. That is creative living! …
When we consider that each of us has only one life to live, isn't it rather tragic to find men and women, with brains capable of comprehending the stars and the planets, talking about the weather; men and women, with hands capable of creating works of art, using those hands only for routine tasks; men and women, capable of independent thought, using their minds as a bowling-alley for popular ideas; men and women, capable of greatness, wallowing in mediocrity; men and women, capable of self-expression, slowly dying a mental death while they babble the confused monotone of the mob?
For you, life can be a succession of glorious adventures. Or it can be a monotonous bore. Take your choice! …
Often, success or failure turns on the question of human relations. … Any time you do not enjoy the human relations involved in any job, sooner or later that job's bound to be work, not fun.
If you were to spend an hour alone with the loud tick of a clock, or better yet, if you could spend an hour completely alone with an hour-glass, watching the sands of Time quickly slip through that vessel, and realize that 100 years from now you and i will both be gone, then you would begin to appreciate that TIME is the ONLY thing you really DO HAVE and that you alone can do anything you wish with the Time that is yours. …
'What our friends and associates think' influences us more than we realize. We like to live the life and stay in the role which others expect of us. … Each of us is somewhat like an electric light bulb, deriving its power from some central force. Just as the bulb accumulates dust and soot from the air around it until it is darkened, then blackened, so our individuality becomes dulled at first and then entirely blotted out from the accumulation of advice and interference which is superimposed upon us by family and friends. If you examine their advice, you will find that they are continually offering counsel based on their own experience in connection with a situation that is quite different from the one you are facing. … You will neither venture anything nor achieve anything if you permit yourself to be unduly influenced by others. … Remember this. Only one sound mind is needed to create an idea. (William J. Reilly - How To Avoid Work)
Take it that you have died today, and your life's story is ended; and henceforward regard what further time may be given you as an uncovenanted surplus, and live it out in harmony with nature. (Marcus Aurelius – Meditations)
We have no respectworthy evidence that the human being has morals. He is himself the only witness. Persons who do not know him value his testimony. They think he is not shallow and vain because he so despises the peacock for possessing these qualities. They are deceived into not regarding him as a beast and a brute, because he uses these terms to disapprovingly describe qualities which he possesses, yet which are not possessed by any creature but himself. On his verbal testimony they take him for every creditable thing which he particularly isn’t, and (intentionally?) refrain from examining the testimony of his acts. It is the safest way, but man did not invent it, it was the polecat. From the beginning of time the polecats have quite honestly and naively regarded themselves as representing in the animal kingdom what the rose represents in the vegetable kingdom. This is because they do not examine. …
However, moralless man, bloody and atrocious man, is high above the other animals in his one great and shining gift — intellectuality. It took him ages and ages to demonstrate the full magnitude and majesty of his gift, but he has accomplished it at last. For ages it was a mean animal indeed that was not vastly his superior in certain splendid faculties. In the beginning he had nothing but the puny strength of his unweaponed hands to protect his life with, and he was as helpless as a rabbit when the lion, the tiger, the elephant, the mastodon and the other mighty beasts came against him; in endurance he was far inferior to the other creatures; in fleetness on the land there was hardly an animal in the whole list that couldn’t shame him; in fleetness in the water every fish could excel him; his eyesight was a sarcasm: for seeing minute things it was blindness as compared to the eyesight of the insects, and the condor could see a sheep further than he could see a hotel. But by the ingenuities of his intellect he has equipped himself with all these gifts artificially and has made them unapproachably effective. His locomotive can outstrip all birds and beasts in speed and beat them all in endurance; there are no eyes in the animal world that can compete with his microscope and his telescope; the strength of the tiger and the elephant is weakness, compared with the force which he carries in his mile-range terrible gun. In the beginning he was given ‘dominion’ over the animal creation — a very handsome present, but it was mere words and represented a non-existent sovereignty. But he has turned it into an existent sovereignty, himself, and is master, of late.
In physical talents he was a pauper when he started; by grace of his intellect he is incomparably the richest of all the animals now. But he is still a pauper in morals — incomparably the poorest of the creatures in that respect. The gods value morals alone; they have paid no compliments to intellect, nor offered it a single reward. If intellect is welcome anywhere in the other world, it is in hell, not heaven. (Autobiography of Mark Twain)
We live only to discover beauty. All else is a form of waiting. (Kahlil Gibran)
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. (C.S. Lewis – The Four Loves)
Love is kind of like when you see a fog in the morning, when you wake up before the sun comes out. It’s just a little while, and then it burns away… Love is a fog that burns with the first daylight of reality. (Charles Bukowski)
People sometimes say that you must believe in feelings deep inside, otherwise you’d never be confident of things like ‘My wife loves me’. But this is a bad argument. There can be plenty of evidence that somebody loves you. All through the day when you are with somebody who loves you, you see and hear lots of little tidbits of evidence, and they all add up. It isn’t purely inside feeling, like the feeling that priests call revelation. There are outside things to back up the inside feeling: looks in the eye, tender notes in the voice, little favors and kindnesses; this is all real evidence. (Richard Dawkins)
Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage. (Ambrose Bierce - The Devil’s Dictionary)
Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. (Louis de Bernières)
Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.
When the moon paints everything silver and white in the stillness of night, when all others sleep and only we ourselves wake, and are watchful and sad, then we hear the voice of thought, and come face to face with ourselves, with the brevity of life, with the lack of all we once had and have lost; and yet, also, once we have been patient awhile and continued to listen, we come face to face with hope. (AC Grayling - The Good Book: A Humanist Bible)
A man finds himself, to his great astonishment, suddenly existing, after millions of years of non-existence: He lives for a while, and then again comes an equally long period when he exists no more. The heart rebels against this, and suffers at the thought. Of every event in life we can say only for one moment that it is; for ever after, that it was. Every evening we are poorer by a day. It makes us mad to see how rapidly our short span of time ebbs away; This might lead us to believe that the greatest wisdom is to make the enjoyment of the present the supreme object of life, because that is the only reality, all else being merely the play of thought. … Yet such a course might as well be called the greatest folly: for that which in the next moment exists no more, and vanishes utterly, like a dream, can never be worth serious consideration. (ibid)
There are no eternities other than grief while it lasts, no certainties other than that grief must come, no escape other than from life itself and what it asks us to endure. (ibid)
Do not regret having lived, but while yet living live in a way that allows you to think that you were not born in vain. And do not regret that you must die: it is what all who are wise must wish, to have life end at its proper time. For nature puts a limit to living as to everything else, and we are the sons and daughters of nature, and for us therefore the sleep of nature is nature’s final kindness. (ibid)
When the multitude hate a man, it is necessary to examine the case. When the multitude love a man, it is necessary to examine the case. For the multitude can hate what should be loved, and love what should be hated. (ibid)
They know the water best who have waded through it.
They are wrong to blame the sea who have twice survived shipwreck.
Experience is the mother of knowledge, the father of wisdom.
Who suffers, remembers. (ibid)
Observe with utmost attention all the operations of your own mind, the nature of your passions, and the various motives that determine your will; and you may, in a great degree, know all mankind. (ibid)
It is a wonderful and grand thing to be oneself and part of all, and to have the dignity of the capacity for thought. (ibid)
The good is two freedoms: freedom from certain hindrances and pains, freedom to choose and to act. The first is freedom from ignorance, fear, loneliness, folly, and the inability to master one’s emotions; the second is freedom to develop the best capacities and talents that we have, and to use them for the best. (ibid)
Though we cease as we now are, what we are never ceases. We are part of the whole, and always so. (ibid)
You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal. (E. M. Forster - A Room with a View)
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:19)
Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life. (Book of Common Prayer – 1662)
For a writer, the best way to speak is by writing. … Speech is carried off by the wind; the written word can never be obliterated. (2012 Nobel Literature Prize laureate Mo Yan of China – acceptance speech)
My mother was born in 1922 and died in 1994. We buried her in a peach orchard east of the village. Last year we were forced to move her grave farther away from the village in order to make room for a proposed rail line. When we dug up the grave, we saw that the coffin had rotted away and that her body had merged with the damp earth around it. So we dug up some of that soil, a symbolic act, and took it to the new gravesite. That was when I grasped the knowledge that my mother had become part of the earth, and that when I spoke to mother earth, I was really speaking to my mother. (Ibid)
Our Taoist master Laozi said it best: “Fortune depends on misfortune. Misfortune is hidden in fortune.” I left school as a child, often went hungry, was constantly lonely, and had no books to read. But for those reasons, like the writer of a previous generation, Shen Congwen, I had an early start on reading the great book of life. (Ibid)
Possibly because I’ve lived so much of my life in difficult circumstances, I think I have a more profound understanding of life. I know what real courage is, and I understand true compassion. I know that nebulous terrain exists in the hearts and minds of every person, terrain that cannot be adequately characterized in simple terms of right and wrong or good and bad, and this vast territory is where a writer gives free rein to his talent. So long as the work correctly and vividly describes this nebulous, massively contradictory terrain, it will inevitably transcend politics and be endowed with literary excellence. (Ibid)
One last story, one my grandfather told me many years ago: A group of eight out-of-town bricklayers took refuge from a storm in a rundown temple. Thunder rumbled outside, sending fireballs their way. They even heard what sounded like dragon shrieks. The men were terrified, their faces ashen. “Among the eight of us,” one of them said, “is someone who must have offended the heavens with a terrible deed. The guilty person ought to volunteer to step outside to accept his punishment and spare the innocent from suffering. Naturally, there were no volunteers. So one of the others came up with a proposal: Since no one is willing to go outside, let’s all fling our straw hats toward the door. Whoever’s hat flies out through the temple door is the guilty party, and we’ll ask him to go out and accept his punishment.” So they flung their hats toward the door. Seven hats were blown back inside; one went out the door. They pressured the eighth man to go out and accept his punishment, and when he balked, they picked him up and flung him out the door. I’ll bet you all know how the story ends: They had no sooner flung him out the door than the temple collapsed around them. (Ibid)
The mind gives an order to the body and is at once obeyed, but when it gives an order to itself, it is resisted.
(Saint Augustine - Confessions)
My present Me is felt with warmth and intimacy. The heavy warm mass of my body is there, and the nucleus of the ‘spiritual me,’ the sense of intimate activity is there. We cannot realize our present self without simultaneously feeling one or other of these two things. (William James - Psychology: Briefer Course)
When I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception. If there is an essential “I” beneath all that, I can’t find it. Perhaps it doesn’t exist—perhaps we are not sum, only parts: nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions. (David Hume)
In all species, nature works to renew itself as it works to nourish itself, and to protect itself from danger, each by its kind and for its kind, in the great work of continuation that is evolution. In humankind the work of renewal lies in the work of affection, the bond of one to another made by desire. (AC Grayling - The Good Book: A Humanist Bible)
All things gathered into one thing: the universe of nature, in which there are many worlds: the orbs of light in an immensity of space and time, and among them their satellites, on which is a part of nature that mirrors nature in itself, and can ponder its beauty and significance, and seek to understand it: this is humankind. … All other things, in their cycles and rhythms, exist in and of themselves; but in humankind there is experience also, which is what makes good and its opposite. In both of which humankind seeks to grasp the meaning of things. (ibid)
He is the master of every other person who is able to confer or remove whatever that person wishes to either have or avoid. Whoever, then, would be free, let him not wish too earnestly for anything that depends on others. (ibid)
If you are fond of a specific cup, remind yourself that it is only a cup. Then, if it breaks, you will not be disturbed. If you kiss your child, or your wife, say that you kiss what is human, and prepare to bear the grief that is the cost of loving, should you lose them. (ibid)
The evil of our own death is not death itself; it is the fear of death that is evil. To be free of fear of ones own death is to be free indeed. The death of others is the true sorrow of death; and the remedies of sorrow are love, courage and time. (ibid)
We learn, if we are brave, the power of mind, which is the greatest thing in man; of how, though man is small before nature, his mind can encompass all nature, in thinking of it, and singing about it, searching it in science, and celebrating it in poetry. … So I think all the sages found both courage and modesty through the mind’s contact with nature, and these two things are the begetters of hope. … Is there proof that they were right to hope? Well, only consider: it is many centuries since the first sages paced their groves, and their words and thoughts are with us today, and we speak of them; Though nature conquered their bodies and their bodies are dispersed into the elements once more, the fruit of their minds is with us still. (ibid)
No laws, however stringent, can make the idle industrious, the thriftless provident, or the drunken sober. Such reforms can only be effected by means of individual action, economy, and self-denial; by better habits, rather than by greater rights.
(Samuel Smiles, 1859 – Self Help)
They say dying animals go into hiding; and I could understand that instinct. There are phases of distress when help is neither possible nor desired. It is simpler, easier, more honest to be seasick alone, and to die alone. The trouble then seems something fated, not to be questioned, like life itself; and nature is built to face it and to see it out. (George Santayana - Persons and Places)
Each generation breaks its egg-shell with the same haste and assurance as the last, pecks at the same indigestible pebbles, dreams the same dreams, or others just as absurd, and if it hears anything of what former men have learned by experience, it corrects their maxims by its first impressions, and rushes down any un-trodden path which it finds alluring, to die in its own way, or become wise too late and to no purpose. (George Santayana – Soliloquies In England and Later)
I am profoundly selfish in the sense that I resist human contagion, except provisionally, on the surface, and in matters indifferent to me. For pleasure, and convivially, I like to share the life about me, and have often done it; but never so as, at heart, to surrender my independence. On the other hand, I am not selfish in a competitive way. I don't want to snatch money or position or pleasures from other people, nor do I attempt to dominate them, as an unselfish man would say, for their own good. I sincerely wish them joy in their native ways of living, as if they were wild animals; but I decidedly refuse to hunt with them unless the probable result recommends itself to me independently. To heartlessness of this kind I am ready to plead guilty, and see clearly that it is unhuman. Sympathy with nature, however, is the source of it, and not any aggressive selfishness. (George Santayana – My Host, The World)
No doubt the spirit or energy of the world is what is acting in us, as the sea is what rises in every little wave; but it passes through us, and cry out as we may, it will move on. Our privilege is to have perceived it as it moves. Our dignity is not in what we do, but in what we understand. (George Santayana – Winds of Doctrine)
pity the humble painter. He can be lord of all things. Whatever exists in the
universe, he has first in his mind, and then in his hand. By his art, he may be
called a grandchild of God. (Leonardo
Our intuition is shaped by context, and that context is deeply informed by the world we live in. It can thus serve as a blinder — or blind spot — of sorts. … With mindfulness, however, we can strive to find a balance between fact-checking our intuitions and remaining open-minded. We can then make our best judgments, with the information we have and no more, but with, as well, the understanding that time may change the shape and color of that information. (Maria Konnikova - Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes)
As neurologist Marcus Raichle learned after decades of looking at the brain, our minds are wired to wander. Wandering is their default. Whenever our thoughts are suspended between specific, discrete, goal-directed activities, the brain reverts to a so-called baseline, ‘resting’ state — but don’t let the word fool you, because the brain isn’t at rest at all. Instead, it experiences tonic activity in what’s now known as the DMN, the default mode network: the posterior cingulate cortex, the adjacent precuneus, and the medial prefrontal cortex. This baseline activation suggests that the brain is constantly gathering information from both the external world and our internal states, and what’s more, that it is monitoring that information for signs of something that is worth its attention. And while such a state of readiness could be useful from an evolutionary standpoint, allowing us to detect potential predators, to think abstractly and make future plans, it also signifies something else: our minds are made to wander. That is their resting state. Anything more requires an act of conscious will. (Ibid)
The modern emphasis on multitasking plays into our natural tendencies quite well, often in frustrating ways. Every new input, every new demand that we place on our attention is like a possible predator: Oooh, says the brain. Maybe I should pay attention to that instead. And then along comes something else. We can feed our mind wandering ad infinitum. The result? We pay attention to everything and nothing as a matter of course. While our minds might be made to wander, they are not made to switch activities at anything approaching the speed of modern demands. We were supposed to remain ever ready to engage, but not to engage with multiple things at once, or even in rapid succession. (Ibid)
Attention is a limited resource. Paying attention to one thing necessarily comes at the expense of another. Letting your eyes get too taken in by all of the scientific equipment in the laboratory prevents you from noticing anything of significance about the man in that same room. We cannot allocate our attention to multiple things at once and expect it to function at the same level as it would were we to focus on just one activity. Two tasks cannot possibly be in the attentional foreground at the same time. One will inevitably end up being the focus, and the other — or others — more akin to irrelevant noise, something to be filtered out. Or worse still, none will have the focus and all will be, albeit slightly clearer, noise, but degrees of noise all the same. (Ibid)
Ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from. Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete description of the universe we live in. (Stephen Hawking – A Brief History Of Time)
Four key strategies for optimizing your attention:
Our vision is highly selective as is — the retina normally captures about ten billion bits per sec of visual information, but only ten thousand bits actually make it to the first layer of the visual cortex, and, to top it off, only 10 percent of the area’s synapses is dedicated to incoming visual information at all. Or, to put it differently, our brains are bombarded by something like eleven million pieces of data — that is, items in our surroundings that come at all of our senses — at once. Of that, we are able to consciously process only about forty. What that basically means is that we ‘see’ precious little of what’s around us, and what we think of as objective seeing would better be termed selective filtering — and our state of mind, our mood, our thoughts at any given moment, our motivation, and our goals can make it even more picky than it normally is. … Our minds are set [for selective attention] for a reason. It’s exhausting to have the Holmes system running on full all the time — and not very productive, at that. There’s a reason we’re prone to filter out so much of our environment: to the brain, it’s noise. If we tried to take it all in, we wouldn’t last very long. Remember what Holmes said about your brain attic? It’s precious real estate. Tread carefully and use it wisely. In other words, be selective about your attention.
At first glance, this may seem counterintuitive: after all, aren’t we trying to pay attention to more, not less? Yes, but the crucial distinction is between quantity and quality. We want to learn to pay attention better, to become superior observers, but we can’t hope to achieve this if we thoughtlessly pay attention to everything. That’s self-defeating. What we need to do is allocate our attention mindfully. And mindset is the beginning of that selectivity.
It’s psychologist Daniel Gilbert’s theory about believing what we see taken a step further: we believe what we want to see and what our mind attic decides to see, encode that belief instead of the facts in our brains, and then think that we saw an objective fact when really, what we remember seeing is only our limited perception at the time. We forget to separate the factual situation from our subjective interpretation of it. … Setting your goals beforehand will help you direct your precious attentional resources properly. It should not be an excuse to reinterpret objective facts to mesh with what you want or expect to see. Observation and deduction are two separate, distinct steps — in fact, they don’t even come one right after the other.
Attention is about every one of your senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch. It is about taking in as much as we possibly can, through all of the avenues available to us. It is about learning not to leave anything out — anything, that is, that is relevant to the goals that you’ve set. And it is about realizing that all of our senses affect us — and will affect us whether or not we are aware of the impact.
To observe fully, to be truly attentive, we must be inclusive and not let anything slide by — and we must learn how our attention may shift without our awareness, guided by a sense that we’d thought invisible.
When we are engaged in what we are doing, all sorts of things happen. We persist longer at difficult problems — and become more likely to solve them. We experience something that psychologist Tory Higgins refers to as flow, a presence of mind that not only allows us to extract more from whatever it is we are doing but also makes us feel better and happier: we derive actual, measurable hedonic value from the strength of our active involvement in and attention to an activity, even if the activity is as boring as sorting through stacks of mail. If we have a reason to do it, a reason that engages us and makes us involved, we will both do it better and feel happier as a result. The principle holds true even if we have to expand significant mental effort — say, in solving difficult puzzles. Despite the exertion, we will still feel happier, more satisfied, and more in the zone, so to speak.
What’s more, engagement and flow tend to prompt a virtuous cycle of sorts: we become more motivated and aroused overall, and, consequently, more likely to be productive and create something of value.
Psychologist Yaacov Trope argues that psychological distance may be one of the single most important steps you can take to improve thinking and decision-making. It can come in many forms: temporal, or distance in time (both future and past); spatial, or distance in space (how physically close or far you are from something); social, or distance between people (how someone else sees it); and hypothetical, or distance from reality (how things might have happened). But whatever the form, all of these distances have something in common: they all require you to transcend the immediate moment in your mind. They all require you to take a step back. (Maria Konnikova - Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes)
There is a pattern in the past of civilization after civilization wearing out its welcome from nature, overexploiting its environment, overexpanding, overpopulating. They tend to collapse quite soon after they reach their period of greatest magnificence and prosperity. That pattern holds good for a lot of societies, among them the Romans, the ancient Maya and the Sumerians of what is now southern Iraq. There are many other examples, including smaller-scale societies such as Easter Island. The very things that cause societies to prosper in the short run, especially new ways to exploit the environment such as the invention of irrigation, lead to disaster in the long run because of unforeseen complications. This is what I called in ‘A Short History of Progress’, the ‘progress trap.’ We have set in motion an industrial machine of such complexity and such dependence on expansion that we do not know how to make do with less or move to a steady state in terms of our demands on nature. We have failed to control human numbers. They have tripled in my lifetime. And the problem is made much worse by the widening gap between rich and poor, the upward concentration of wealth, which ensures there can never be enough to go around. The number of people in dire poverty today—about 2 billion—is greater than the world’s entire population in the early 1900s. That’s not progress. … If we continue to refuse to deal with things in an orderly and rational way, we will head into some sort of major catastrophe, sooner or later. If we are lucky it will be big enough to wake us up worldwide but not big enough to wipe us out. That is the best we can hope for. We must transcend our evolutionary history. We’re Ice Age hunters with a shave and a suit. We are not good long-term thinkers. We would much rather gorge ourselves on dead mammoths by driving a herd over a cliff than figure out how to conserve the herd so it can feed us and our children forever. That is the transition our civilization has to make. And we’re not doing that.
(Ronald Wright, in conversation with Chris Hedges, 2013)
In other pleasures, it is said, we gratify our senses and passions; in the contemplation of beauty we are raised above ourselves, the passions are silenced and we are happy in the recognition of a good that we do not seek to possess.
(George Santayana - The Sense of Beauty: Being an Outline of Aesthetic Theory)
Beauty is a value; it cannot be conceived as an independent existence which affects our senses and which we consequently perceive. It exists in perception, and cannot exist otherwise. A beauty not perceived is a pleasure not felt, and a contradiction. (Ibid)
Unless human nature suffers an inconceivable change, the chief intellectual and aesthetic value of our ideas will always come from the creative action of the imagination. (Ibid)
Our practical and intellectual nature is deeply interested in truth. What describes fact appeals to us for that reason; it has an inalienable interest. However unpleasant truth may prove, we long to know it, partly perhaps because experience has shown us the prudence of this kind of intellectual courage, and chiefly because the consciousness of ignorance and the dread of the unknown is more tormenting than any possible discovery. A primitive instinct makes us turn the eyes full on any object that appears in the dim borderland of our field of vision - and this all the more quickly, the more terrible that object threatens to be. (Ibid)
When a man knows that his life is over, he can look back upon it from a universal standpoint. He has nothing more to live for, but if the energy of his mind remains unimpaired, he will still wish to live, and, being cut off from his personal ambitions, he will impute to himself a kind of vicarious immortality by identifying himself with what is eternal. He speaks of himself as he is, or rather as he was. He sums himself up, and points to his achievement. This I have been, says he, this I have done. (Ibid)
This is the attitude of all minds to which breadth of interest or length of years has brought balance and dignity. The sacerdotal quality of old age comes from this same sympathy in disinterestedness. Old men full of hurry and passion appear as fools, because we understand that their experience has not left enough mark upon their brain to qualify with the memory of other goods any object that may be now presented. We cannot venerate any one in whom appreciation is not divorced from desire. And this elevation and detachment of the heart need not follow upon any great disappointment; it is finest and sweetest where it is the gradual fruit of many affections now merged and mellowed into a natural piety. (Ibid)
Our consciousness of the ideal becomes distinct in proportion as we advance in virtue and in proportion to the vigor and definiteness with which our faculties work. When the vital harmony is complete, when the act is pure, faith in perfection passes into vision. That man is unhappy indeed, who in all his life has had no glimpse of perfection, who in the ecstasy of love, or in the delight of contemplation, has never been able to say: It is attained. Such moments of inspiration are the source of the arts, which have no higher function than to renew them. (Ibid)
Satisfaction of our reason, due to the harmony between our nature and our experience, is partially realized already. The sense of beauty is its realization. Beauty is a pledge of the possible conformity between the soul and nature, and consequently a ground of faith in the supremacy of the good. (Ibid)
For this is the journey that men make; to find themselves. It doesn't matter what else they find, fame, fortune, many loves, revenge, when the tickets are collected at the end of the ride, they are tossed in the bin marked failure. … But if a man happens to find himself; the extent of his courage, the limit of his dedication, the position in life from which he can no longer retreat, he has found a mansion he can inhabit with dignity all the days of his life. (James A. Michener - The Fires of Spring)
Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good. (Soren Kierkegaard)
In addition to my other numerous acquaintances, I have one more intimate confidant. My depression is the most faithful mistress I have known -- no wonder, then, that I return the love. (Ibid)
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. (Ibid)
People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. (Ibid)
Life has its own hidden forces which you can only discover by living. (Ibid)
A man who as a physical being is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him. (Ibid)
I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations - one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it - you will regret both. (Ibid)
Listen to the cry of a woman in labor at the hour of giving birth - look at the dying man's struggle at his last extremity, and then tell me whether something that begins and ends thus could be intended for enjoyment. (Ibid)
Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further. (Ibid)
The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins. (Ibid)
Just as in earthly life lovers long for the moment when they are able to breathe forth their love for each other, to let their souls blend in a soft whisper, so the mystic longs for the moment when in prayer he can, as it were, creep into God. (Ibid)
Because of its tremendous solemnity death is the light in which great passions, both good and bad, become transparent, no longer limited by outward appearences. (Ibid)
The more a man can forget, the
greater the number of metamorphoses which his life can undergo; the more he can
remember, the more divine his life becomes. (Ibid)
Not just in commerce but in the world of ideas too our age is putting on a veritable clearance sale. Everything can be had so dirt cheap that one begins to wonder whether in the end anyone will want to make a bid. (Ibid)
There are, as is known, insects that die in the moment of fertilization. So it is with all joy: life's highest, most splendid moment of enjoyment is accompanied by death. (Ibid)
An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, ask questions and be skeptical. (Bill Moyers)
Love would seem to belong to the person who feels it. Defining love as positivity resonance challenges this view. Love unfolds and reverberates between and among people — within interpersonal transactions — and thereby belong to all parties involved, and to the metaphorical connective tissue that binds them together, albeit temporarily. … More than any other positive emotion, then, love belongs not to one person, but to pairs or groups of people. It resides within connections. … Love’s second precondition is connection, true sensory and temporal connection with another living being. You no doubt try to ‘stay connected’ when physical distance keeps you and your loved ones apart. You use the phone, e-mail, and increasingly texts or Facebook, and it’s important to do so. Yet your body, sculpted by the forces of natural selection over millennia, was not designed for the abstractions of long-distance love, the XOXs and LOLs. Your body hungers for more. … True connection is one of love’s bedrock prerequisites, a prime reason that love is not unconditional, but instead requires a particular stance. Neither abstract nor mediated, true connection is physical and unfolds in real time. It requires sensory and temporal co-presence of bodies .The main mode of sensory connection, scientists contend, is eye contact. Other forms of real-time sensory contact — through touch, voice, or mirrored body postures and gestures — no doubt connect people as well and at times can substitute for eye contact. Nevertheless, eye contact may well be the most potent trigger for connection and oneness. … Physical presence is key to love, to positivity resonance. (Barbara Fredrickson)
Nature abounds in… antitheses, What are our ugliness or beauty, our cleanliness or dirt to her? Out of filth she creates a flower; from a little manure, she extracts the thrice-blessed grain of wheat. Notwithstanding their disgusting occupation, the Dung-beetles are of a very respectable standing. (Jean-Henri Fabre)
Art always serves beauty, and beauty is the joy of possessing form, and form is the key to organic life since no living thing can exist without it. (Boris Pasternak - Doctor Zhivago)
Resurrection. In the crude form in which it is preached to console the weak, it is alien to me. I have always understood Christ's words about the living and the dead in a different sense. Where could you find room for all these hordes of people accumulated over thousands of years? The universe isn't big enough for them; God, the good, and meaningful purpose would be crowded out. They'd be crushed by these throngs greedy merely for the animal life. … But all the time, life, one, immense, identical throughout its innumerable combinations and transformations, fills the universe and is continually reborn. You are anxious about whether you will rise from the dead or not, but you rose from the dead when you were born and you didn't notice it. (Ibid)
The great majority of us are required to live a life of constant, systematic duplicity. Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune. (Ibid)
He realized, more vividly than ever before, that art had two constant, two unending preoccupations: it is always meditating upon death and it is always thereby creating life. (Ibid)
Even so, one step from my grave,
I believe that cruelty, spite,
The powers of darkness will in time
Be crushed by the spirit of light.
What is laid down, ordered, factual is never enough to embrace the whole truth: life always spills over the rim of every cup. (Ibid)
It’s a good thing when a man is different from your image of him. It shows he isn’t a type. If he were, it would be the end of him as a man. But if you can’t place him in a category, it means that at least a part of him is what a human being ought to be. He has risen above himself, he has a grain of immortality. (Ibid)
And now listen carefully. You in others - this is your soul. This is what you are. This is what your consciousness has breathed and lived on and enjoyed throughout your life - your soul, your immortality, your life in others. And what now? You have always been in others and you will remain in others. And what does it matter to you if later on that is called your memory? This will be you - the you that enters the future and becomes a part of it. (Ibid)
Progress in science is governed by the laws of repulsion, every step forward is made by refutation of prevalent errors and false theories. Forward steps in art are governed by the law of attraction, are the result of imitation of and admiration for beloved predecessors.
An old Russian folk song is like water held back by a dam. It looks as if it were still and were no longer flowing, but in its depths it is ceaselessly rushing through the sluice gates and the stillness of its surface is deceptive. By every possible means, by repetitions and similes, the song slows down the gradual unfolding of its theme. Then at some point it suddenly reveals itself and astounds us. That is how the song's sorrowing spirit comes to expression. The song is an insane attempt to stop time by means of its words.
If it is so painful to love and to be charged with this electric current, how much more painful must it be to a woman and to be the current, and to inspire love. (Ibid)
Life was all treachery and ambiguity. Any single thread was as fragile as a cobweb, but just try to pull yourself out of the net! It only held you tighter. Even the strong are ruled by the treacherous and weak. (Ibid)
What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. (Unknown Blackfoot warrior – 1890)
AMERIND WISDOM SAYINGS (collected by Guy A. Zona - The Soul Would Have No Rainbow if the Eyes Had No Tears)
· It is less a problem to be poor than to be dishonest. (ANISHINABE)
· We will be forever known by the tracks we leave. (DAKOTA)
· Do not wrong or hate your neighbor, for it is not he that you wrong but yourself. (PIMA)
· I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy - myself. (PUEBLO)
· He who is present at a wrongdoing and does not lift a hand to prevent it is as guilty as the wrongdoers. (OMAHA)
· Always look at your moccasin tracks first before you speak of another's faults. (SAUK)
· Before eating, always take a little time to thank the food. (ARAPAHO)
· Seek the ways of the eagle, not the wren. (OMAHA)
· One has to face fear or forever run from it. (CROW)
· Wishing cannot bring autumn glory nor cause winter to cease. (KIOWA)
· When a man prays one day and steals six, the Great Spirit thunders and the Evil One laughs. (OKLAHOMA)
· Seek wisdom, not knowledge. Knowledge is the past; wisdom is the future. (LUMBEE)
· Work hard, keep the ceremonies, live peaceably, and unite your hearts. (HOPI)
· Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Walk beside me that we may be as one.
Our stories us a sense of identity and, most importantly, serve to integrate the feelings of our right brain with the language of our left. … We are primed to use stories. Part of our survival as a species depended upon listening to the stories of our tribal elders as they shared parables and passed down their experience and the wisdom of those who went before. As we get older it is our short-term memory that fades rather than our long-term memory. Perhaps we have evolved like this so that we are able to tell the younger generation about the stories and experiences that have formed us which may be important to subsequent generations if they are to thrive.
Be careful which stories you expose yourself to. The meanings you find, and the stories you hear, will have an impact on how optimistic you are: it's how we evolved. … If you do not know how to draw positive meaning from what happens in life, the neural pathways you need to appreciate good news will never fire up. … The trouble is, if we do not have a mind that is used to hearing good news, we do not have the neural pathways to process such news.
Optimism does not mean continual happiness, glazed eyes and a fixed grin. When I talk about the desirability of optimism I do not mean that we should delude ourselves about reality. But practicing optimism does mean focusing more on the positive fall-out of an event than on the negative, and on being optimistic enough to sow some seeds in the hope that some of them will germinate and grow into flowers. … If we practice detachment from our thoughts we learn to observe them as though we are taking a bird's eye view of our own thinking. When we do this, we might find that our thinking belongs to an older, and different, story to the one we are now living. … We need to look at the repetitions in the stories we tell ourselves, and at the process of the stories rather than merely their surface content. Then we can begin to experiment with changing the filter through which we look at the world, start to edit the story and thus regain flexibility where we have been getting stuck. (Philippa Perry - How To Stay Sane)
Be careful to leave your sons well instructed, rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant. (Epictetus)
The core of the belief in progress is that human values and goals converge in parallel with our increasing knowledge. The twentieth century shows the contrary. Human beings use the power of scientific knowledge to assert and defend the values and goals they already have. New technologies can be used to alleviate suffering and enhance freedom. They can, and will, also be used to wage war and strengthen tyranny. Science made possible the technologies that powered the industrial revolution. In the twentieth century, these technologies were used to implement state terror and genocide on an unprecedented scale. Ethics and politics do not advance in line with the growth of knowledge – not even in the long run. (John Gray – Heresies)
The most pitiless warriors against drugs have always been militant progressives. In China, the most savage attack on drug use occurred when the country was convulsed by a modern western doctrine of universal emancipation – Maoism. It is no accident that the crusade against drugs is led today by a country wedded to the pursuit of happiness – the United States. For the corollary of that improbable quest is a puritan war on pleasure. (John Gray – Straw Dogs)
What could be more natural for a species that has exterminated its animal kin than to look into a mirror and find that it is not alone?
(John Gray – Straw Dogs)
People need to believe that order can be glimpsed in the chaos of events. (John Gray – Heresies)
From its humble beginnings as a means of stocktaking and tallying debts, writing gave humans the power to preserve their thoughts and experiences from time. At the same time it has allowed them to invent a world of abstract entities and mistake them for reality. The development of writing has enabled them to construct philosophies in which they no longer belong in the natural world. … In comparison with the Genesis myth, the modern myth in which humanity is marching to a better future is mere superstition. As the Genesis story teaches, knowledge cannot save us from ourselves. If we know more than before, it means only that we have greater scope to enact our madness. But – as the Genesis myth also teaches – there is no way we can rid ourselves of what we know . . . The message of Genesis is that in the most vital areas of human life there can be no progress, only an unending struggle with our nature. … Godless mysticism cannot escape the finality of tragedy, or make beauty eternal. It does not dissolve inner conflict into the false quietude of oceanic calm. All it offers is mere being. There is no redemption from being human. But no redemption is needed.
(John Gray - The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths)
The roles of both individual and group selection are indelibly stamped (to borrow a phrase from Charles Darwin) upon our social behavior. As expected, we are intensely interested in the minutiae of behavior of those around us. Gossip is a prevailing subject of conversation, everywhere from hunter-gatherer campsites to royal courts. The mind is a kaleidoscopically shifting map of others, each of whom is drawn emotionally in shades of trust, love, hatred, suspicion, admiration, envy and sociability. We are compulsively driven to create and belong to groups, variously nested, overlapping or separate, and large or small. Almost all groups compete with those of similar kind in some manner or other. We tend to think of our own as superior, and we find our identity within them.
(Edward O. Wilson)
Time has a funny way of collapsing when you go back to a place you once loved. You find yourself thinking, I was kissed in that building, I climbed up that tree. This place hasn’t changed so terribly much, and so by an extension of logic I must not have changed much, either. … Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected, how one decision leads you to another, how one twist of fate, good or bad, brings you to a door that later takes you to another door, which aided by several detours — long hallways and unforeseen stairwells — eventually puts you in the place you are now. Every choice lays down a trail of bread crumbs, so that when you look behind you there appears to be a very clear path that points straight to the place where you now stand. But when you look ahead there isn’t a bread crumb in sight — there are just a few shrubs, a bunch of trees, a handful of skittish woodland creatures. You glance from left to right and find no indication of which way you’re supposed to go. And so you stand there, sniffing at the wind, looking for directional clues in the growth patterns of moss, and you think, What now? … Sometimes not having any idea where we’re going works out better than we could possibly have imagined. (Ann Patchett – What Now?)
From James Webb Young - A Technique for Producing Ideas
The production of ideas is just as definite a process as the production of Fords; the production of ideas, too, runs on an assembly line; that in this production the mind follows an operative technique which can be learned and controlled; and that its effective use is just as much a matter of practice in the technique as is the effective use of any tool. … In learning any art the important things to learn are, first, Principles, and second, Method. This is true of the art of producing ideas. Particular bits of knowledge are nothing, because they are made up of so-called rapidly aging facts. Principles and method are everything. So with the art of producing ideas. What is most valuable to know is not where to look for a particular idea, but how to train the mind in the method by which all ideas are produced and how to grasp the principles which are at the source of all ideas. … The first principle is that an idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements. … The second important principle involved is that the capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships. Here, I suspect, is where minds differ to the greatest degree when it comes to the production of ideas. To some minds each fact is a separate bit of knowledge. To others it is a link in a chain of knowledge. It has relationships and similarities. It is not so much a fact as it is an illustration of a general law applying to a whole series of facts. … Consequently the habit of mind which leads to a search for relationships between facts becomes of the highest importance in the production of ideas.
STEP 1: GATHERING RAW MATERIAL
Gathering raw material in a real way is not as simple as it sounds. It is such a terrible chore that we are constantly trying to dodge it. The time that ought to be spent in material gathering is spent in wool gathering. Instead of working systematically at the job of gathering raw material we sit around hoping for inspiration to strike us. When we do that we are trying to get the mind to take the fourth step in the idea-producing process while we dodge the preceding steps. … Every really good creative person whom I have ever known has always had two noticeable characteristics. First, there was no subject under the sun in which he could not easily get interested — from, say, Egyptian burial customs to modern art. Every facet of life had fascination for him. Second, he was an extensive browser in all sorts of fields of information. For it is with the advertising man as with the cow: no browsing, no milk. … The process is something like that which takes place in the kaleidoscope. The kaleidoscope, as you know, is an instrument which designers sometimes use in searching for new patterns. It has little pieces of colored glass in it, and when these are viewed through a prism they reveal all sorts of geometrical designs. Every turn of its crank shifts these bits of glass into a new relationship and reveals a new pattern. The mathematical possibilities of such new combinations in the kaleidoscope are enormous, and the greater the number of pieces of glass in it the greater become the possibilities for new and striking combinations.
STEP 2: DIGESTING THE MATERIAL
What you do is to take the different bits of material which you have gathered and feel them all over, as it were, with the tentacles of the mind. You take one fact, turn it this way and that, look at it in different lights, and feel for the meaning of it. You bring two facts together and see how they fit. What you are seeking now is the relationship, a synthesis where everything will come together in a neat combination, like a jig-saw puzzle.
STEP 3: UNCONSCIOUS PROCESSING
It is important to realize that this is just as definite and just as necessary a stage in the process as the two preceding ones. What you have to do at this time, apparently, is to turn the problem over to your unconscious mind and let it work while you sleep. When you reach this third stage in the production of an idea, drop the problem completely and turn to whatever stimulates your imagination and emotions. Listen to music, go to the theater or movies, read poetry or a detective story.
STEP 4: THE A-HA MOMENT
Out of nowhere the Idea will appear. … It will come to you when you are least expecting it — while shaving, or bathing, or most often when you are half awake in the morning. It may waken you in the middle of the night.
STEP 5: IDEA MEETS REALITY
It requires a deal of patient working over to make most ideas fit the exact conditions, or the practical exigencies, under which they must work. And here is where many good ideas are lost. The idea man, like the inventor, is often not patient enough or practical enough to go through with this adapting part of the process. But it has to be done if you are to put ideas to work in a work-a-day world.
Do not make the mistake of holding your idea close to your chest at this stage. Submit it to the criticism of the judicious.
When you do, a surprising thing will happen. You will find that a good idea has, as it were, self-expanding qualities. It stimulates those who see it to add to it. Thus possibilities in it which you have overlooked will come to light.
POSTSCRIPT (YEARS LATER)
From my own further experience in advertising, government, and public affairs I find no essential points which I would modify in the idea-producing process. There is one, however, on which I would put greater emphasis. This is as to the store of general materials in the idea-producer’s reservoir. … I am convinced, however, that you gather this vicarious experience best, not when you are boning up on it for an immediate purpose, but when you are pursuing it as an end in itself.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me, I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. (Thomas Merton - Thoughts in Solitude)
What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous. (Thomas Merton - The Wisdom of the Present)
Science offers a rational splendor that explains everything, a charismatic leader or succession of leaders who are highly visible and beyond criticism, a series of canonical texts which are somehow outside the usual arena of scientific criticism, certain gestures of ideas and rituals of interpretation, and a requirement of total commitment. In return the adherent receives what the religions had once given him more universally: a world view, a hierarchy of importances, and an auguring place where he may find out what to do and think, in short, a total explanation of man. And this totality is obtained not by actually explaining everything, but by an encasement of its activity, a severe and absolute restriction of attention, such that everything that is not explained is not in view.
(Julian Janes - The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind)
I have no answer to the question: what is the meaning of life. Words have meaning, not life or persons or the universe itself. Our search for certainty rests in our attempts at understanding the history of all individual selves and all civilizations. Beyond that, there is only awe.
(in lecture, Julian Janes – author of The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind)
Madness is rare in individuals - but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some.... Those to whom the system brings windfalls, become “profiteers” who are the object of the hatred.The process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.
Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose. (John Keynes – 1919)
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
Until, in our own despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.
(Aeschylus - Agamemnon)
The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great importance, I think. When a scientist doesn’t know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty darn sure of what the result is going to be, he is in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress we must recognize the ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty– some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain. … We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. There are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions and pass them on. It is our responsibility to leave the men of the future a free hand. In the impetuous youth of humanity, we can make grave errors that can stunt our growth for a long time. This we will do if we say we have the answers now, so young and ignorant; if we suppress all discussion, all criticism, saying, 'This is it, boys, man is saved!' and thus doom man for a long time to the chains of authority, confined to the limits of our present imagination. It has been done so many times before. … It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress and great value of a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress that is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom, to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed, and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations. (Richard Feynman)
Be still. Listen. Like you, the Earth breathes. Your breath is alive with the promise of flowers. Each time you blow a kiss to the world, you spread pollen that might grow to be a new plant. (Elin Kelsey & Soyeon Kim - You Are Stardust)
The sun is new every day, the ancient philosopher Heraclitus said. The sun of poetry is new every day, too, because it is seen in different ways by different people who have lived under it, lived with it, responded to it. Their lives are different from yours, but by means of the special spell that poetry brings to the fact of the sun – everybody's sun; yours, too – you can come into possession of many suns: as many as men and women have ever been able to imagine. Poetry makes possible the deepest kind of personal possession of the world. … Part of the spell of poetry is the rhythm of language, used by poets who understand how powerful a factor rhythm can be, how compelling and unforgettable. Almost anything put into rhyme is more memorable than the same thing in prose. Why this is, no one knows completely, though the answer is surely rooted far down in the biology by means of which we exist; in the circulation of the blood that goes forth from the heart and comes back, and in the repetition of breathing. (James Dickey)
A scholar knows many books; a well-educated person has knowledge and skills; an enlightened person understands the meaning and purpose of his life. … Ignorance in itself is neither shameful nor harmful. Nobody can know everything. But pretending that you know what you actually do not know is both shameful and harmful. … There are two very clear indications of real science and real art: the first inner sign is that a scholar or an artist works not for profit, but for sacrifice, for his calling; the second, outer sign is that his works are understandable to all people. Real science studies and makes accessible that knowledge which people at that period of history think important, and real art transfers this truth from the domain of knowledge to the domain of feelings.
The emotions of the animals which are called irrational…only differ from man’s emotions to the extent that brute nature differs from human nature. Horse and man are alike carried away by the desire of procreation, but the desire of the former is equine, the desire of the latter is human…Thus, although each individual lives content and rejoices in that nature belonging to him wherein he has his being, yet the life, wherein each is content and rejoices, is nothing else but the idea, or soul, of the said individual…It follows from the foregoing proposition that there is no small difference between the joy which actuates, say, a drunkard, and the joy possessed by a philosopher.
I do not know if it has ever been noted before that one of the main characteristics of life is discreteness. Unless a film of flesh envelops us, we die. Man exists only insofar as he is separated from his surroundings. The cranium is a space-traveler's helmet. Stay inside or you perish. Death is divestment, death is communion. It may be wonderful to mix with the landscape, but to do so is the end of the tender ego. (Vladimir Nabokov – Pnin)
So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one, in the end -- not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman's second glance, a child's apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words 'I have something to tell you,' a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother's papery ancient hand in a thicket of your hair, the memory of your father's voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children. (Bryan Doyle - Joyas Voladoras)
Scientists can account for the organization of the physical universe. They can trace how the individual things and forces within it causally interact. They can shed light on how the universe has, in the course of history, evolved from one state to another. But when it comes to the ultimate origin of reality, they have nothing to say. This is an enigma best left to metaphysics, or to theology, or to poetic wonderment, or to silence. (Jim Holt - Why Does the World Exist?)
What are we here for if not to enjoy life eternal, solve what problems we can, give light, peace and joy to our fellow-man, and leave this dear fucked-up planet a little healthier than when we were born. … No matter what you touch and you wish to know about, you end up in a sea of mystery. You see there's no beginning or end, you can go back as far as you want, forward as far as you want, but you never got to it, it's like the essence, it's that right, it remains. This is the greatest damn thing about the universe. That we can know so much, recognize so much, dissect, do everything, and we can't grasp it. And it's meant to be that way, do y'know. And there's where our reverence should come in. Before everything, the littlest thing as well as the greatest. The tiniest, the horseshit, as well as the angels, do y'know what I mean. It's all mystery. All impenetrable, as it were, right? (Henry Miller)
The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred 'Yes.' For the game of creation, my brothers, a sacred 'Yes' is needed: the spirit now wills his own will. (Nietzsche - Thus Spake Zarathustra)
The key factors of success? Perseverance is the chief; but perseverance must have some practical end, or it does not avail the man possessing it. A person without a practical end in view becomes a crank or an idiot. Such persons fill our insane asylums. The same perseverance that they show in some idiotic idea, if exercised in the accomplishment of something practicable, would no doubt bring success. Perseverance is first, but practicability is chief. The success of the Americans as a nation is due to their great practicability. … I am a believer in unconscious cerebration. The brain is working all the time, though we do not know it. At night, it follows up what we think in the daytime. When I have worked a long time on one thing, I make it a point to bring all the facts regarding it together before I retire; and I have often been surprised at the results. Have you not noticed that, often, what was dark and perplexing to you the night before, is found to be perfectly solved the next morning? We are thinking all the time; it is impossible not to think.. …I believe it to be a primary principle of success; ‘mens sana in corpora sano’ — a sound mind in a sound body. The mind in a weak body produces weak ideas; a strong body gives strength to the thought of the mind. Ill health is due to man’s artificiality of living. He lives indoors. He becomes, as it were, a hothouse plant. Such a plant is never as successful as a hardy garden plant is. An outdoor life is necessary to health and success, especially in a youth. (Alexander Graham Bell)
Of the dark past
A child is born;
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.
Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!
Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.
A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!
["Ecce Puer" – meaning "Behold the Boy-child," was written in 1932, by James Joyce, soon after his father died and his grandson Stephen was born, and contains that same unguarded honesty of his earlier poems. It shows a man in transition from a son to a grandfather and torn between "joy and grief," finally realizing his need for reconciliation – and forgiveness.
Real wisdom is not the knowledge of everything, but the knowledge of which things in life are necessary, which are less necessary, and which are completely unnecessary to know. Among the most necessary knowledge is the knowledge of how to live well, that is, how to produce the least possible evil and the greatest goodness in one’s life. At present, people study useless sciences, but forget to study this, the most important knowledge. (Jean Jaques Rousseau)
Excerpts from Cambridge University philosopher Stephen Cave – (Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization)
On the one hand, our powerful intellects come inexorably to the conclusion that we – like all other living things around us – must one day die. Yet on the other, the one thing that these minds cannot imagine is the very state of nonexistence; it is literally inconceivable. Death therefore presents itself as both inevitable and impossible. … Both halves of this paradox arise from the same set of impressive cognitive faculties. Since the advent some two and a half million years ago of the genus Homo, the immediate ancestors of modern humans, our brain size has tripled. This has come with a series of crucial conceptual innovations: First, we are aware of ourselves as distinct individuals, a trait limited only to a handful of large-brained species and considered to be essential for sophisticated social interaction. Second, we have an intricate idea of the future, allowing us to premeditate and vary our plans – also an ability unseen in the vast majority of other species. And third, we can imagine different scenarios, playing with possibilities and generalizing from what we have seen, enabling us to learn, reason and extrapolate.
… If you have an idea of yourself and of the future and can extrapolate and generalize from what you see around you, then if you see your comrade killed by a lion, you realize that you too could be killed by a lion. This is useful if it causes you to sharpen your spear in readiness, but it also brings anxiety – it summons the future possibility of death in the present. The next day you might see a different comrade killed by a snake, another by disease and yet another by fire. You see that there are countless ways in which you could be killed, and they could strike at any time: prepare as you will, death’s onslaught is relentless. …
We are therefore blessed with powerful minds yet at the same time cursed, not only to die, but to know that we must. … This is the central theme of philosophy, poetry and myth; it is what defines us as mortal. … Since we attained self-awareness, as Michel de Montaigne wrote, ‘death has us by the scruff of the neck at every moment.’ No matter what we do, no matter how hard we strive, we know that the Reaper will one day take us. Life is a constant war we are doomed to lose. … The fact is, whenever we try to imagine the reality of our deaths we stumble. We simply cannot envision actually not existing. … We therefore cannot make death real to ourselves as thinking subjects. Our powerful imaginative faculties malfunction: it is not possible for the one doing the imagining to actively imagine the absence of the one doing the imagining.
Modern cognitive psychology gives a scientific account of this ancient intuition. Our acceptance of new facts or possibilities depends upon our ability to imagine them – we accept, for example, that playing with matches could cause our house to burn down because this is something we can easily picture. But when our minds come across an obstacle to imagining a certain scenario, then we find it much more difficult to accept. Our own death is just such a scenario, as it involves the end of consciousness, and we cannot consciously simulate what it is like to not be conscious.
And thus we have a paradox: When we peer into the future we find our wish to live forever fulfilled, as it seems inconceivable that we might one day cease to be. Thus we believe in our own immortality. Yet at the same time we are painfully aware of the countless possible threats to our being. … And thus we believe in our own mortality. Our very same overblown intellectual faculties seem to be telling us both that we are eternal and that we are not, both that death is a fact and that it is impossible. … The paradox stems from two different ways of viewing ourselves — on the one hand, objectively, or from the outside, as it were, and on the other hand, subjectively, or from the inside. When we deploy reason to view ourselves as we do other living things around us, then we realize that we, like them, will fail, die and rot. From this outside, objective perspective, we are mortals. But when we switch to our own perspective and try to make sense of what this means subjectively, then we encounter the imaginative obstacle – the inability to accept the prospect of annihilation. Our introspection tells us we are imperishable as the angels, indivisible and everlasting; yet when we look in the mirror we see ourselves as others see us … an imperfect and impermanent creature fated to a brief existence.
It is indeed impossible to imagine our own death; and whenever we attempt to do so we can perceive that we are in fact still present as spectators. … Therefore, at bottom no one believes in his own death … for in the unconscious every one of us is convinced of his own immortality. (Freud)
To lament that we shall not be alive a hundred years hence, is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago.
(Michel de Montaigne)
All phenomena are metaphysical, wherefore … life is but a dream. (Buckminster Fuller)
The aim of life is to live. . . . No why or wherefore… (Henry Miller)
It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds. … The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living. Yet it is possible to practice the art of living even in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. … Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.
If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete. … The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not. … Such men are not only in concentration camps. Everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering. … Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost. The typical reply with which such a man rejected all encouraging arguments was, “I have nothing to expect from life any more.” What sort of answer can one give to that? … What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.
Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run – in the long run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it. (Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search For Meaning)
All is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis. (Henry Miller)
Now is life very solid or very shifting? I am haunted by the two contradictions. This has gone on forever; goes down to the bottom of the world — this moment I stand on. Also it is transitory, flying, diaphanous. I shall pass like a cloud on the waves. Perhaps it may be that though we change, one flying after another, so quick, so quick, yet we are somehow successive and continuous we human beings, and show the light through. But what is the light? (Virginia Woolf’s last entry in her diary)
Maps and memories are bound together, a little as songs and love affairs are. The artifact envelops the emotion, and then the emotion stores away in the artifact: We hear 'All the Things You Are' or 'Hey There Delilah' just by chance while we're in love, and then the love is forever after stored in the song. … This attachment requires no particular creative energy. It just happens. … Maps, especially schematic ones, are the places where memories go not to die, or be pinned, but to live forever. … Cognitive science now insists that our minds make maps before they take snapshots, storing in schematic form the information we need to navigate and make sense of the world. Maps are our first mental language, not our latest. The photographic sketch, with its optical hesitations, is a thing we force from history; the map, with its neat certainties and foggy edges, looks like the way we think. … A remembered relation of spaces, a hole, a circle, a shaded area – and a whole life comes alive. The real appeal of the map, perhaps, is not so much that it stores our past as that it forces our emotions to be pressed into their most parsimonious essence – and, as every poet knows, it is emotion under the force of limits, emotion pressed down and held down to strict formal constraints, that makes for the purest expression. These maps are street haiku, whose emotions, whether made by the well known or the anonymous, are more moving for being so stylized. … Each diagrams the one thing we most want a map to show us, and that is a way home. (Adam Gopnik)
The wise man will live as long as he ought, not as long as he can. (Seneca)
Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.
The important thing is not to stop questioning… Never lose holy curiosity. (Albert Einstein)
For the Greeks, curiosity was not even a clearly articulated concept. To the extent that it was acknowledged at all, it stands in contrast to its mercurial sibling, wonder. Aristotle believed that all humans naturally desire knowledge, but he felt that curiosity (periergia) had little role to play in philosophy. It was a kind of aimless, witless tendency to pry into things that didn’t concern us. Wonder (thauma) was far more significant, the true root of enquiry: ‘It is owing to their wonder,’ he wrote, ‘that men both now begin and at first began to philosophize.’ … Until the seventeenth century, wonder was esteemed while curiosity was reviled. … That some knowledge was forbidden to humankind is of course central to the Christian Creation myth: this is the basis of the Fall. ‘When you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God’, the serpent tells Eve of the fruit on the tree of knowledge. The transgressive aspect of curiosity is an insistent theme in Christian theology. Time and again the student of the Bible is warned to respect the limits of enquiry and to be wary of too much learning. ‘The secret things belong to the Lord our God’, proclaims Deuteronomy. Solomon (if it was he who wrote Ecclesiastes) cautions that ‘with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more grief’ Or, as the King James version has it ‘Be not curious in unnecessary matters: For more things are shewed unto thee than men understand’. St Paul was considered to have echoed this sentiment in the admonition ‘Seek not to know high things.’ The fact that he did not actually write this at all speaks volumes in itself, suggesting that the mistranslation fitted with prevailing prejudice. … ‘Do not take pride in the arts or sciences,’ wrote Thomas à Kempis in the fifteenth century, ‘rather, fear what has been told to you.’
[Wonder, on the other hand, had an element of unquestioning submission that resonated with the religious tradition]
The central problem with curiosity was that it was thought to be motivated by excessive pride. The accumulation of pointless learning ran the risk not that one would become another Lucifer but that one would primp and preen rather than bow one’s head before the Lord. ‘O curiosity! O vanity!’, cried the late twelfth-century theologian Alexander Neckam. ‘O vain curiosity! O curious vanity!' … The imperative of pious humility was what commended wonder to Augustine at the same time as it indicted curiosity. There was nothing frivolous or hedonistic about wonder. It instilled awe, reminding us of our powerlessness and insignificance before the glory of God. That is why wonder in the face of nature’s splendor was seen as the educated response, and a willingness to believe in marvels and prodigies was not only praiseworthy but virtually a religious duty. Curiosity, like scepticism, was a sign that you lacked devotion and faith.
(Philip Ball - Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything)
The essence of ‘nowness’ runs like fire along the fuse of time. (George Santayana - Realms of Being)
According to conventional wisdom, highly successful people have three things in common: motivation, ability, and opportunity. If we want to succeed, we need a combination of hard work, talent, and luck. But there is a fourth ingredient, one that’s critical but often neglected: success depends heavily on how we approach our interactions with other people. Every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return? … Takers have a distinctive signature: they like to get more than they give. They tilt reciprocity in their own favor, putting their own interests ahead of others’ needs. Takers believe that the world is a competitive, dog-eat-dog place. They feel that to succeed, they need to be better than others. To prove their competence, they self-promote and make sure they get plenty of credit for their efforts. Garden-variety takers aren’t cruel or cutthroat; they’re just cautious and self-protective.
… In the workplace, givers are a relatively rare breed. They tilt reciprocity in the other direction, preferring to give more than they get. Whereas takers tend to be self-focused, evaluating what other people can offer them, givers are other-focused, paying more attention to what other people need from them. These preferences aren’t about money: givers and takers aren’t distinguished by how much they donate to charity or the compensation that they command from their employers. Rather, givers and takers differ in their attitudes and actions toward other people.
If you’re a taker, you help others strategically, when the benefits to you outweigh the personal costs. If you’re a giver, you might use a different cost-benefit analysis: you help whenever the benefits to others exceed the personal costs. Alternatively, you might not think about the personal costs at all, helping others without expecting anything in return. If you’re a giver at work, you simply strive to be generous in sharing your time, energy, knowledge, skills, ideas, and connections with other people who can benefit from them. … Outside the workplace, most of us are givers in close relationships like marriages and friendships, contributing without preoccupation with keeping score.
In the workplace, however, few of us are purely givers or takers – rather, what dominates is a third style: We become matchers, striving to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting. Matchers operate on the principle of fairness: when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity. If you’re a matcher, you believe in tit for tat, and your relationships are governed by even exchanges of favors. … Giving, taking, and matching are three fundamental styles of social interaction, but the lines between them aren’t hard and fast. You might find that you shift from one reciprocity style to another as you travel across different work roles and relationships. It wouldn’t be surprising if you act like a taker when negotiating your salary, a giver when mentoring someone with less experience than you, and a matcher when sharing expertise with a colleague.
Evidence shows that at work, the vast majority of people develop a primary reciprocity style, which captures how they approach most of the people most of the time. And this primary style can play as much of a role in our success as hard work, talent, and luck.
So who, then, is at the bottom of the success ladder? … The worst performers and the best performers are givers; takers and matchers are more likely to land in the middle. … Givers dominate the bottom and the top of the success ladder. Across occupations, if you examine the link between reciprocity styles and success, the givers are more likely to become champs – not only chumps. … The answer is less about raw talent or aptitude, and more about the strategies givers use and the choices they make. … We all have goals for our own individual achievements, and it turns out that successful givers are every bit as ambitious as takers and matchers. They simply have a different way of pursuing their goals.
Givers, takers, and matchers all can – and do – achieve success. But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades. When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. In contrast, when givers win, people are rooting for them and supporting them, rather than gunning for them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them. You’ll see that the difference lies in how giver success creates value, instead of just claiming it.
(Adam Grant - Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success)
We may want to believe that we are still concerned, as our eyes drift from a news anchor announcing the latest atrocity to the NBA scores and stock market quotes streaming across the bottom of the screen. But the ceaseless bombardment of image and verbiage makes us impervious to caring. (Kathleen Norris)
What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.
If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. (Camus)
The idea of the ‘passage of time’ captures our sense of the loss of the past and of the implacability of change that propels us from birth to death, in respect of which we seem like logs on a river surging towards a cataract. Ridding ourselves of spatialised time, and quasi-spatial notions requires constant vigilance against long-established habits. (Raymond Tallis – UK naturalist philosopher)
Given that I was born a few months after Auschwitz was liberated, it is hardly surprising that I have a strong sense of the evil that humans – individually and collectively – do. My position is that of cautious and chastened optimism, a belief that, if we are ourselves well-treated by others, we will usually treat others reasonably well. (Raymond Tallis)
A man is always a teller of stories, he lives surrounded by his own stories and those of other people, he sees everything that happens to him in terms of these stories and he tries to live his life as if he were recounting it. (Sartre)
There are things so horrible and tragic, that nothing that subsequently happens can diminish the tragedy or the horror … the attempt to put an otherworldly frame around such things, so they seem not to be the tragedies or the horrors that they manifestly are, borders on the childish and the obscene. These tragic defects are overcome, rather, by salvation: Salvation is not making it all better; it is the grace of finding a way to live that keeps faith with the importance of goodness and love even in the face of everything that can happen to you … Salvation, understood as the goal of religious or spiritual life, is a new orientation that authentically addresses the large-scale defects of human life, and thereby provides a reservoir of energy otherwise dissipated in denial of, and resistance to, necessary suffering. (Princeton Professor Mark Johnston)
It is necessary that we face up to the ‘large-scale structural defects in human life’, for instance arbitrary and meaningless suffering, the decay of ageing, untimely death, our profound ignorance of our condition, the destructiveness produced by our tendency to demand premium treatment for ourselves, and the vulnerability of everything we cherish to chance and to the massed power of states and other institutions. A truly religious or redeemed life is one in which these large-scale defects are somehow finally healed or addressed or overcome or rendered irrelevant. Theodicy is an unsurpassably disgusting practice which seeks to show that everything is ultimately for the best. Genuine belief in an omniscient, wholly benevolent and omnipotent God is profoundly immoral: it shows contempt for the reality of human suffering, or indeed any intense suffering. (Galen Strawson - British Analytic philosopher and literary critic)
The duty to seek God's face survives his non-existence. To follow it is to seek God's face because "the beauty of being" (as Spinoza observed) is the correct name for "God". … An artist may be driven by ambition, by a violent desire for fame, self-glory, unalloyed self-expression. But if the gift is there, the self burns away in the act of art. There's really nothing one can do about it. The self dissolves in the beauty of being. (Galen Strawson)
When one has lived a long time alone,
and the hermit thrush calls and there is an answer,
and the bullfrog head half out of water utters
the cantillations he sang in his first spring,
and the snake lowers himself over the threshold
and creeps away among the stones, one sees
they all live to mate with their kind, and one knows,
after a long time of solitude, after the many steps taken
away from one's kind, toward these other kingdoms,
the hard prayer inside one's own singing
is to come back, if one can, to one's own,
a world almost lost, in the exile that deepens,
when one has lived a long time alone.
As to the question of loneliness, I already know that only the old words would do: death, grief, sorrow, sadness, heartbreak. Nothing modernly evasive or medicalising. Grief is a human, not a medical, condition. … You put together two people who have not been put together before – Then, at some point, sooner or later, for this reason or that, one of them is taken away. And what is taken away is greater than the sum of what was there. This may not be mathematically possible; but it is emotionally possible. … We live on the flat, on the level, and yet – and so – we aspire . . . Some soar with art, others with religion; most with love. But when we soar, we can also crash . . . Every love story is a potential grief story. … Anger at the reactions of others is noted: Since the griefstruck rarely know what they need or want, only what they don’t, offence-giving and offence-taking are common. Some friends are as scared of grief as they are of death; they avoid you as if they fear infection. Some, without knowing it, half expect you to do their mourning for them. (Julian Barnes - Levels of Life)
To trace something unknown back to something known is alleviating, soothing, gratifying, and gives moreover a feeling of power. Danger, disquiet, anxiety attend the unknown – the first instinct is to eliminate these distressing states. First principle: any explanation is better than none…. The cause-creating drive is thus conditioned and excited by the feeling of fear…. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment, all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning. (Dostoevsky)
Specialization may be all well very well if you happen to have skills particularly suited to these jobs, or if you are passionate a niche area of work, and of course there is also the benefit of feeling pride in being considered an expert. But there is equally the danger of becoming dissatisfied by the repetition inherent in many specialist professions. … Moreover, our culture of specialization conflicts with something most of us intuitively recognize, but which career advisers are only beginning to understand: we each have multiple selves. … We have complex, multi-faceted experiences, interests, values and talents, which might mean that we could also find fulfillment as a web designer, or a community police officer, or running an organic cafe.
This is a potentially liberating idea with radical implications. It raises the possibility that we might discover career fulfillment by escaping the confines of specialization and cultivating ourselves as wide achievers … allowing the various petals of our identity to fully unfold. (Roman Krznaric)
What man actually needs is not some tension-less state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. (Victor Frankl)
A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both. (François-René de Chateaubriand)
Without work, all life goes rotten, but when work is soulless, life stifles and dies. (Albert Camus)
[in commenting on the science vs religion debate] There can be alternatives that are not always religious. That's an interesting false dichotomy that's often set up: If it's not this, it must be religious. No: If it's not this, it could be other stuff you haven't thought of yet. You can't assert an answer just because it's not something else. That's a false argument that's been made throughout time, and the better scientists that move forward never assume anything just because one thing is wrong. (physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson)
Without Contraries is no progression.
Attraction and Repulsion,
Reason and Energy,
Love and Hate,
are necessary to Human existence.
(William Blake - The Marriage of Heaven and Hell)