Saturday, April 20, 2019
Nothing appalls me more than to hear people refer to the drinking of wine as it it were a forbidden and fascinating way of sneaking alcohol into one's system. My flesh creeps when I hear the legitimate love of the fruit of the vine treated as if it were a longer-winded way of doing what the world does with grain neutral spirits and cheap vermouth. With wine at hand, the good man concerns himself, not with getting drunk, but the drinking in all the natural delectabilities of wine; taste, color, bouquet; its manifest graces; the way it complements food and enhances conversation; and its sovereign power to turn evenings into occasions, to lift eating beyond nourishment to conviviality, and to bring the race, for a few hours at least, to that happy state where men are wise and women beautiful, and even one's children begin to look promising. If someone wants to bare effects of alcohol in his bloodstream, let him drink the nasty stuff neat, or have a physician inject it. But do not let him soil my delight with his torpedo-juice mentality.
Wine is not—let me repeat—in order to anything but itself. To consider it otherwise is to turn it into an idol, a tin god to be conjured with. Moreover, it is to miss its point completely. We were made in the image of God. We were created to delight, as He does, in the resident goodness of creation. We were not made to sit around mumbling incantations and watching our insides to see what creation will do for us. Wine does indeed have subjective effects, but they are to be received gratefully and lightly. They are not solemnly important psychophysical adjustments, but graces, super-added gifts. It was St. Thomas, again, who gave the most reasonable and relaxed of all the definitions of temperance. Wine, he said, could lawfully be drunk usque ad hilaritatem, to the point of cheerfulness. It is a happy example of the connection between sanctity and sanity.
-Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb
photo via Kelsey Knight/Unsplash
To transcend the world requires compassion and acceptance. They are the result of inner humility by which the world is surrendered to God with increased peace of mind. One of the most valuable spiritual tools about which, historically, little has been said is the great value of humor. Comedy arises as a result of the comparison that is made between perception and and essence, and the resolution is a consequence of the acceptance of the ambiguity.
Humor is quite different from ridicule or malice as it is compassionate in that it accepts human limitations and foibles as being intrinsic. It therefore assists 'wearing the world like a light garment' and illustrates that in being like the reed that bends in the wind, one survives instead of being broken by rigidity.
-David R. Hawkins, Reality, Spirituality, and Modern Man
A general Dissolution of Principles & Manners will more surely overthrow the Liberties of America than the whole Force of the Common Enemy. While the People are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their Virtue they will be ready to surrender their Liberties to the first external or internal Invader.
-Samuel Adams, from a 1779 letter to James Warren
Friday, April 19, 2019
On a refreshingly brisk, beautifully clear fall evening, Amos Decker was surrounded by dead bodies. Yet he wasn't experiencing the electric blue light sensation that he usually did when confronted with the departed.
-David Baldacci, Redemption
To the disciples' embarrassment the Master once told a bishop that religious people have a natural bent for cruelty.
"Why?" demanded the disciples after the bishop had gone.
"Because they all too easily sacrifice persons for the advancement of a purpose," said the Master.
-Anthony de Mello, One Minute Wisdom
"Your essence is changeable, like your mind. Every action you take, every thought you have, changes you, even if just a little, making you a little more elevated or a little more degraded."
-David Brooks, from his introduction to The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life
Thursday, April 18, 2019
The subject of this memoir is revered by multitudes of his countrymen as the preserver of their commonwealth. This reverence has grown with the lapse of time and the accumulation of evidence. It is blended with a peculiar affection, seldom bestowed upon the memory of statesmen. It is shared today by many who remember with no less affection how their own fathers fought against him. He died with every circumstance of tragedy, yet it is not the accident of his death but the purpose of his life that is remembered.
-Lord Charnwood, Abraham Lincoln: A Complete Biography
Understanding the limits of your own competence is very valuable. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson put it simply: "The only way you win is by knowing what you're good at and what you're not good at, and sticking to what you're good at." Munger similarly believes that investors who get outside of what he calls their circle of competence can easily find themselves in big trouble. . . .
The idea behind the circle of competence is so simple that it is arguably embarrassing to say it out loud: when you do not know what you're doing, it is riskier than when you do know what you're doing. What could be simpler?
-Tren Griffin, Charlie Munger: The Complete Investor
"The question we need to ask ourselves is whether there is any place we can stand in ourselves where we can look at all that's happening around us without freaking out, where we can be quiet enough to hear our predicament, and where we can begin to find ways of acting that are at least not contributing to further destabilization."
-Ram Dass, as quoted from here
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Ultimately, the appraisal of Grant's presidency rests upon posterity's view of Reconstruction. Grant took office when much of the South still lay under military rule; by the time he left, every southern state had been absorbed back into the Union. For a long time after the Civil War, under the influence of southern historians, Reconstruction was viewed as a catastrophic error, a period of corrupt carpetbag politicians and illiterate black legislators, presided over by the draconian rule of U. S. Grant. For more recent historians, led by Eric Foner, it has been seen as a noble experiment in equal justice for black citizens in which they made remarkable strides in voting, holding office, owning land, creating small businesses and churches, and achieving literacy. about two thousand blacks served as state legislators, tax collectors, local officials, and U. S. marshals, while fourteen served in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate. The South witnessed a civil rights movement that briefly introduced desegregation and vouchsafed a vision of a functioning biracial democracy. Since Grant was president during this period, his standing was bound to rise with this revisionist view. Even as his party and cabinet became bitterly divided over Reconstruction, he showed a deep reservoir of courage in directing the fight against the Ku Klux Klan and crushing the largest wave of domestic terrorism in American history. It was Grant who helped to weave the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments into the fabric of American Life.
-Ron Chernow, Grant
When Reconstruction was pilloried as a byword for political abuse, Grant was accused of going too far in advancing black civil rights and foisting "bayonet rule" on the South. Recent revisionist historians have sometimes swung to the other extreme, criticizing him for backtracking on Reconstruction during the last two years of his presidency, when he hesitated to sent troops to police elections in Mississippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana. They condemn him for not undertaking extensive land reforms in the South—a fine idea, but perhaps quixotic in a region dominated by the Klan and other terrorist groups. The true wonder is not that Grant finally retreated from robust federal intervention, but that he had the courage to persist for so long in his outspoken concern for black safety and civil rights, as he faced ferocious backlash from Democrats and even his own party. By the end of his second term, northern support for Reconstruction had largely disappeared. As the Indiana senator Oliver P. Morton recognized, if Reconstruction failed, it was not because of Grant, but because it had been "resisted by armed and murderous organizations, by terrorism and proscription the most wicked and cruel of the age."
Ron Chernow, Grant
Americans today know little about the terrorism that engulfed the South during Grant's presidency. It has been suppressed by a strange national amnesia. The Klan's ruthless reign is a dark, buried chapter in American history. The Civil War is far better known than its brutal aftermath. Without knowing that history, it is easy to find fault with Grant's tough, courageous actions. For Grant, Reconstruction amounted to a tremendous missed opportunity: "There has never been a moment since Lee surrendered that I would not have gone more than halfway to meet the Southern people in a spirit of conciliation. But they have never responded to it." To protect blacks, Grant had been forced to send in federal troops whose presence provoked a virulent reaction among southern whites who believed their home states had been invaded by hated Yankees, a second time. Despite Grant's best efforts at Appomattox, the breach of the Civil War never healed but became deeply embedded in American political culture.
By the end of Grant's second term, white Democrats, through the "redeemer" movement, had reclaimed control over every southern state, winning in peacetime much of the power lost in combat. They promulgated a view of the Civil War as a righteous cause that had nothing to do with slavery but only states' rights—to which an incredulous James Longstreet once replied, "I never heard of any other cause of the quarrel than slavery." In this view, Reconstruction imposed "an oppressive peace on honorable men who had laid down their arms." But the South never laid down its arms. When it came to African Americans, southern Democrats managed to re-create the status quo ante, albeit minus slavery.
Ron Chernow, Grant
Reconstruction was a fine but ultimately doomed experiment in American life. The tragedy of this intractable issue was that there was finally no way for blacks to enjoy their rights without a prolonged military presence, and that became politically impossible. Could even Abraham Lincoln have appeased the white south while simultaneously protecting its black population? It seems unlikely. Grant saw a double standard at work: the country tolerated terror by whites, but not by blacks. As he wrote after leaving office: "If a negro insurrection should arise in South Carolina, Mississippi, or Louisiana, or if the negroes of either of these states . . . should intimidate whites from going to the polls . . . there would be no division of sentiment as to the duty of the President. It does seem the rule should work both ways.
Once Reconstruction collapsed, it left southern blacks for eighty years at the mercy of Jim Crow segregation, lynchings, poll taxes, literacy tests, and other tactics designed to segregate them from whites and deny them the vote. Black sharecroppers would be degraded tot he level of debt-ridden serfs, bound to their former plantation owners. After 1877, the black community in the South steadily lost ground until a rigid apartheid separated the races completely, a terrible state of affairs that would not be fixed until the rise of the civil rights movement after World War II.
-Ron Chernow, Grant
I believe that what the machine does is the opposite of dehumanizing. It allows us to get rid of the routine. It forces us to concentrate on the kinds of things that the machine cannot do, and there will always be a great number more of these. Recall that I mentioned in mathematics as it is understood today, one can construct questions that cannot be answered within the system in which the question was formulated. No matter how the machine is constructed, there will always be situations that the machine cannot foresee. The human element, the element of invention, the element of true ingenuity and flexibility, is not apt ever to be taken over by machines.
Some of the developments I have considered in this chapter will not happen in my lifetime. They may not even occur in the lifespans of my youngest readers. But the man-machine combination is likely to transform human thinking and transform it into something much more intricate, very much more interesting and incomparably deeper than mankind has as yet encountered.
-Edward Teller, The Pursuit of Simplicity
Teller (1909-2003) had this book published in 1980. I am wondering what he would write today.
Monday, April 15, 2019
Sunday, April 14, 2019
....................................they're known as the "good old days"?
(The most popular magazine in America, for decades, was devoted to helping people figure out which one of three channels to watch).
-Seth Godin, as culled from here