Tuesday, October 17, 2017
History has shown that all species will either go extinct or evolve into another species, though with our limited time window that is hard for us to see. But we do know that what we call mankind was simply the result of DNA evolving into a new form about two hundred thousand years ago, and we know that mankind will certainly either go extinct or evolve into a higher state.
Throughout the inhabited world, in all times and under every circumstance, myths of man have flourished; and they have been the living inspiration of whatever else may have appeared out of the activities of the human body and mind. It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into the human cultural manifestation.
-Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces
Cosmologists used to think the universe was totally timeless: no beginning, no end. That might sound mind-melting, but it’s easier on the scientific brain than figuring out what a set starting point would mean, let alone when it would be.
-as opens this "What Came Before?" post
Monday, October 16, 2017
..................................it will be extraordinary:
"The economic machine that we’ve built in the United States has done extraordinary things and I can’t wait to see what we come up with in the future. "
"Of all the amazing deeds of bravery of the war, I regard MacArthur's personal landing at Atsugi as the greatest of the lot," Winston Churchill wrote afterward. The former prime minister, a connoisseur of courage, was speaking of the American general's daring flight to the heart of enemy territory at the close of the Pacific war in 1945. The Japanese emperor, following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, had called on his subjects to cease fighting, yet more than twenty divisions of soldiers, who had been prepared to give their last drop of blood to keep the Americans from securing a foothold on Japan's sacred soil, retained their weapons and their positions on the Kanto Plain. Kamikaze pilots, some having already received the rites for the dead, awaited only a word to carry out their suicide missions. Squads of young civilians, outraged at the emperor's call for surrender, stormed about Tokyo and nearby Yokohama vowing to resist to the end.
Douglas MacArthur, as the commander of the U. S. Army forces in the Pacific, would receive the formal Japanese surrender on board the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Prudence suggested he arrive with the ship, its powerful escort and the protection the vessels and their guns provided. MacArthur refused. He insisted he would enter Japan ahead of the navy, protected only by the moral force that came with righteous victory. His aides urged him to reconsider. Who knew what some bitter-ender might do? All it took was one bullet, one grenade, and the general would be a dead man. Worse, an assassination might rekindle the Japanese war spirit. If he must enter ahead of the navy, he should wait for more army troops. At the very least, he should be accompanied to Atsugi, the air base for Tokyo, by a substantial guard of well-armed soldiers.
He waved aside the worries. He declared that he would travel to Atsugi alone, with only his airplane's crew and his personal staff. His courage would be all the shield he required. He knew the Asian mind. "Years of overseas duty had schooled me well in the ways of the Orient," he later wrote. The Japanese would understand his action and be more impressed by one man alone than by any number of ships or regiments.
-H. W. Brand, The General vs. The President: MacArthur and Truman At The Brink Of Nuclear War
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Virgil thought about the woman and the daughter as he drove back. Had Mom been hitting on him, just the lightest, mildest of hits? What was the sadness in the small girl's eyes? Had she seen other men spoken to when Dad wasn't there?
The whole thing seemed less than an invitation to romance than an invitation to a story of some kind. Not journalism, a short story. Something Jim Harrison might write.
Virgil had had an interest in short stories when he was in college, but journalism seemed more immediate, something with its claws in the real world. The older he got, though, the wider he found the separation between reported facts, on one hand, and the truth of the matter on the other hand. Life and facts were so complicated that you never got more than a piece of them. Short stories, though, and novels, maybe, had at least a shot at the truth.
-John Sanford, as culled from Chapter 17 of Heat Lightning
"Most of life's greatest opportunities come out of moments of struggle; it's up to you to make the most of these tests of creativity and character."
"This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness; not health, but healing; not being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way; the process is not yet finished, but it has begun; this is not the goal, but it is the road; at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being purified."
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Friday, October 13, 2017
Thursday, October 12, 2017
A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate. The hour, some little time before sunset, and the place, the West Barricade, at the very spot where, a decade later, a proud tyrant raised an undying monument to the nation's glory and his own vanity.
-Baroness Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Watching the same things happen again and again, I began to see reality as a gorgeous perpetual motion machine, in which the causes became effects that became causes of new effects, and so on. I realized reality was, if not perfect, at least what we are given to deal with, so that any problems or frustrations I had with it were more productively directed to dealing with them effectively than complaining about them. I came to understand that my encounters were tests of my character and creativity. Over time, I came to appreciate what a tiny and short-lived part of that remarkable system I am, and how its both good for me and for the system for me to know how to interact with it well.
-Ray Dalio, Principles
Monday, October 9, 2017
........................or just more fun stuff I neglected to learn in school:
It seemed the bombing would never end. As World War II raged on, the UK was being pounded by the planes of Hitler's Luftwaffe. But the UK was developing a secret weapon that had the power to turn the tide: a new type of radar. ...
While the UK had cracked the problem of creating the tech, manufacturing it at a large enough scale and fast enough to save their country would be impossible. Under relentless Nazi bombardment, there just wasn't the capacity to produce thousands upon thousands of microwave radar devices in short order.
But there was another way. Radar technology had already benefited from collaboration between the Allied powers; maybe once again collaboration would save Great Britain. ...
The Radiation Laboratory at MIT headed up the project. (The name was deliberately made vague to conceal the purpose of their mission. It was later given the much cooler nickname of the "Rad Lab.") Thirty-five hundred people were employed at the lab, including some of the most brilliant minds of that generation. Nine would later go on to win a Nobel Prize for other work.
The advancements they made were spectacular. One of their systems would be used to direct UK antiaircraft fire and was responsible for taking out 85% of the German V-1 bombs, which had been tearing London apart. Another type of radar was so sensitive it could detect the periscope on Nazi submarines, allowing the Allies to gain the edge in naval warfare.
But before these tremendous successes would be realized on the battlefield, the Rad Lab faced one enormous problem: the damn device didn't work. At least not consistently. Testing the new radar off the Charles River in Cambridge, they kept experiencing failures. Again and again, when it seemed they knew the science in and out, when they tracked down every bug, every problem, the radar would utterly fail. It was inexplicable. It felt like God did not want them to succeed, like some great power was actively working against them.
They were right. But it wasn't God. It was Harvard.
Unbeknownst to MIT, the Radio Research Laboratory at Harvard University had received millions of dollars from the U. S. government to secretly develop radar jamming technology, which they were testing on the other side of the Charles River. ...
Luckily, before the MIT researchers had been driven absolutely insane, the presence of the unintentional "enemies" across the Charles River was made known to them, and then a new type of powerful collaboration began: a healthy rivalry.
MIT redoubled their efforts to overcome Harvard's jamming technologies and Harvard fought back with better ways of beating MIT's radar. The resulting progress from the two academic giants was stunning.
With Harvard's "help," MIT's radar became devastating:
In November 1942, U-boats claimed 117 Allied ships.
Less than a year later, in the two-month period of September
to October 1943, only 9 Allied ships were sunk, while a
total of 25 U-boats were destroyed by aircraft equipped
with ASV radars.
And with MIT's "assistance," Harvard's jamming technology drove the Nazis into a panic:
So effective was the Allies' jamming system - it reduced
German anti-aircraft efficiency by 75% - ...
Many now believe that radar was what won the war.
-Eric Barker, as culled from Barking Up The Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong
Sunday, October 8, 2017
I conducted a time-and-motion study of all my investment and management responsibilities; it showed it would take me about 165 hours a week to achieve the level of excellence that I would be satisfied with in overseeing both our investments and management.
-Ray Dalio, Principles
I just tell you, and though I don't sound like it, I've got plenty of sense, there ain't any answer, there ain't going to be any answer, there never has been any answer, that’s the answer.
Monday, October 2, 2017
Sunday, October 1, 2017
The respect for authority, the presumption in favor of those who have won intellectual reputation, is within reasonable limits, both prudent and becoming. But it should not be carried too far, and there are some things especially as to which it behooves us all to use our own judgment and to maintain free minds. For not only does the history of the world show that undue deference to authority has been the potent agency through which errors have been enthroned and superstitions perpetuated, but there are regions of thought in which the largest powers and the greatest acquirements cannot guard against aberrations or assure deeper insight. ... A man of special learning may be a fool as to common relations. And that he who passes for an intellectual prince may be a moral pauper there are examples enough to show.
..........especially about music. Any Major Dude With Half A Heart has compiled eight album length mixes of music one should not feel guilty enjoying. His latest release is here. My favorite, Mix #2 is here. Back story is here.
.............................and short attention spans. Kurt shares a truth.
No, in the end, as in the beginning, there was nothing for it for me but to become a writer, for one of the surest routes to becoming a writer, or so after some consideration I have discovered, is to be fit to do nothing else. In my case, a writer meant, specifically, an essayist, that butterfly among literary workers, flying from subject to subject, as butterflies do from flower to flower. Montaigne, William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, Max Beerbohm, H.L. Mencken, the great essayists, were, I do believe, short-attention-span men, butterflies all.
... human greatness and terribleness are not correlated with wealth or other conventional measures of success. I've also learned that judging people before really seeing things through their eyes stands in the way of understanding their circumstances - and that isn't smart. I urge you to be curious enough to want to understand how people who see things differently from you came to see them that way. You will find that interesting and invaluable, and the richer perspective you gain will help you decide what you should do.
-Ray Dalio, Principles
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Friday, September 29, 2017
One of the most influential ethical theories, developed initially by the great Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), says (among other things) that you should always treat people, including yourself, with the utmost respect, and never merely as a tool to get something you want. If you treat someone merely as a tool, according to Kant, then you fail to treat them as a reasoning, self-directed person, and that is ethically wrong. This is an ethical theory, or a proposal about what makes actions good or bad. Roughly, an action is good only when it is respectful and bad when it is disrespectful. For example, failing to pay someone for their work is bad because is fails to respect them and treats them as a mere tool.
-Nick Riggle, On Being Awesome: A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck
Despite our relatively poor investment performance, 1988 was a great year for Bridgewater, because by reflecting on and learning from our poor performance, we made systematic improvements. I have come to realize that bad times coupled with good reflections provide some of the best lessons, and not just about business but also about relationships.
-Ray Dalio, Principles
We can ask ourselves: "When was I ever trained in the techniques of emotional self-healing? When I went to school, did they teach me courses on consciousness? Did anybody ever tell me that I had the freedom to choose what went into my mind? Was I ever taught that I could refuse all of the negative programming? Did anybody ever tell me about the laws of consciousness?" If not, why beat ourselves up about having innocently believed certain things? Why not stop beating ourselves up right now?
We all did what we thought was best in the moment. "It seemed like a good idea at the time" is what we can say about our past actions and those of others. Out of our confusion, ignorance, and naiveté, we bought into the negative programs. We can choose a different direction. We can choose to become more aware, more conscious, more responsible, and more discerning. We can refuse to sit there like a blank tape recorder, taking in every program the world hands us. The world is only too willing to exploit our naiveté and play upon our smallness, with all its vanities and fears.
-David R. Hawkins, Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender
Religions rose and fell as they spread across Eurasia, fighting with each other for audiences, loyalty and moral authority. Communication with the divine was more than a matter of seeking intervention in daily life: it became a matter of salvation or damnation. The jostling became violent. The first four centuries of the first millennium, which saw Christianity explode from a small base in Palestine to sweep through the Mediterranean and across Asia, were a maelstrom of faith wars.
-Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History Of The World
... surfing a wave has a distinctive kind of value. Being adaptively attuned to a changing natural phenomenon, in part, by not needing to control it, is at once a kind of freedom, self-transcendence, and happiness. Or so I will argue in later chapters. To a surprising degree, I submit, what is valuable in human life is a matter of being adaptively attuned - a way of "surfing," in an extended sense.
To surf, in general, is to be adaptively attuned to a changing pheomenon beyond oneself, for its own sake. In a social form of adaptive attunement, you could "surf" through a conversation, a meeting at work, or a crowded street, going along with the flow of conversational or meeting dynamics, by staying attuned to other people and responding fluently in each new moment of cooperation. Whatever else you might hope to achieve, you'd do that purposefully, with a certain awareness of its intrinsic value, partly for its own sake. You'd give up seeking control, perhaps in order to keep cooperative relations sweet, for the feelings of harmonious social connection and the consequent sense of peace.
-Aaron James, Surfing With Sartre: An Aquatic Inquiry Into A Life Of Meaning
Thursday, September 28, 2017
What follows is a truthful account, as best I am able to provide it, of my role in the British deception operation, codenamed Windfall, that was mounted against the East German Intelligence Service (Stasi) in the late nineteen fifties and early sixties, and resulted in the death of the best British secret agent I ever worked with, and of the innocent woman for whom he gave his life.
-John Le Carré, A Legacy Of Spies
Before I begin telling you what I think, I want to establish that I'm a "dumb shit" who doesn't know much relative to what I need to know. Whatever success I've had in life has had more to do with my knowing how to deal with my not knowing than anything I know. The most important thing I learned is an approach to life based on principles that helps me find out what's true and what to do about it.
Ray Dalio, from the opening paragraph to his introduction to Principles
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
-Albert Einstein, as culled from here
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
...............................................................in slow motion:
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Monday, September 25, 2017
At magic hour, when the sun has gone but the light has not, armies of flying foxes unhinge themselves from the Banyan trees in the old graveyard and drift across the city like smoke. When the bats leave, the crows come home. Not all the din of their homecoming fills the silence left by the sparrows that have gone missing, and the old white-backed vultures, custodians of the dead for more than a hundred million years, that have been wiped out. The vultures died of diclofenac poisoning. Diclofenac, cow aspirin, given to cattle as a muscle relaxant, to ease pain and increase the production of milk, works - worked - like nerve gas on white-backed vultures. Each chemically relaxed, milk-producing cow or buffalo that died became poisoned vulture bait. As cattle turned into better dairy machines, as the city ate more ice cream, butterscotch-crunch, nutty-buddy and chocolate-chip, as it drank more mango milkshake, vultures' necks began to droop as though they were tired and simply couldn't stay awake. Silver beards of saliva dripped from their beaks, and one by one they tumbled off their branches, dead.
Not many noticed the passing of the friendly old birds. There was so much else to look forward to.
-Arundhati Roy, the prelude to The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
She lived in the graveyard like a tree. At dawn she saw the crows off and welcomed the bats home. At dusk she did the opposite. Between shifts she conferred with the ghosts of vultures that loomed in her high branches. She felt the gentle grip of their talons like an ache in an amputated limb. She gathered they weren't altogether unhappy at having excused themselves and exited from the story.
-Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
...................................................of our age. Do follow the link, and, please, take the time to read Sullivan's essay. I'd call it mighty important. A few wee excerpts:
The project of American democracy — to live beyond such tribal identities, to construct a society based on the individual, to see ourselves as citizens of a people’s republic, to place religion off-limits, and even in recent years to embrace a multiracial and post-religious society — was always an extremely precarious endeavor.
Tribalism, it’s always worth remembering, is not one aspect of human experience. It’s the default human experience. It comes more naturally to us than any other way of life. For the overwhelming majority of our time on this planet, the tribe was the only form of human society.
Perhaps I’m biased because I’m an individual by default. I’m gay but Catholic, conservative but independent, a Brit but American, religious but secular. What tribe would ever have me? I may be an extreme case, but we all are nonconformist to some degree. Nurturing your difference or dissent from your own group is difficult; appreciating the individuality of those in other tribes is even harder. It takes effort and imagination, openness to dissent, even an occasional embrace of blasphemy.
And, at some point, we also need mutual forgiveness.
Sunday, September 24, 2017
Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.
The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question "Whither?"
Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?
-Robert Frost, Reluctance
Saturday, September 23, 2017
............of The Economist, I learned that Dick Gregory passed from the scene last month. Gregory was a pioneer in the stand-up comedy world, and a very funny man. Mostly, however, I remember his passion for protest and political activism, and his hunger strikes. More here.
Friday, September 22, 2017
.....................................He makes it sound both easy and scary. The veneer of civilization has never been thinner.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
While positive self-talk and optimism can definitely help us not quit, by themselves they don't guarantee we'll achieve our goals. Now, dreaming isn't inherently bad - but it's just the first step. Next comes facing that awful buzzkill called "reality" and its ever-present obstacles.
After you dream, think, What's getting in the way of my fantasy? And what will I do to overcome that? The fancy psych term is "implementation intentions." You and I call it "a plan."
-Eric Barker, Barking Up The Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong