Saturday, October 8, 2016

There is always a catch................

"True freedom is impossible without a mind made free by discipline."
-Mortimer J. Adler

On continuing education..............

   So...  I came across the above Adler quote and wondered about the context in which he wrote it.  Reaching for my copy of his How To Read A Book:  The Art of Getting a Liberal Education (1940), the book naturally opened to Chapter 17 - Free Minds and Free Men.  Haven't found the exact quote yet, but did find these:

     One of his motives in starting the Honors course was to revive college life as an intellectual community.  If a group of students read the same books and met weekly for two years to discuss them, they might find a new sort of fellowship.  The great books would not only initiate them into the world of ideas but would provide the frame of reference for further communication among them.  They would know how to talk intelligently and intelligibly to one another, not only about the books, but through the books about all the problems which engage men's thought and action.
     In such a community, Erskine said, democracy would be safe, for democracy requires intelligent communication about and common participation in the solution of human problems.  That was before anyone thought that democracy would ever again be threatened.  As I remember, we did not pay much attention to Erskine's insight at the time.  But he was right.  I am sure of it now.  I am sure that a liberal education is democracy's strongest bulwark.

     I do not know what chance there is of changing the schools and colleges of this country.  They are moving in the opposite direction today, away from the three R's and literacy.  (Paradoxically enough, the current trends in education, which I have criticized, are also motivated by a devotion to democracy.)  But I do know that something can be done about adult education.  That is not yet entirely under the control of the teachers' colleges and schools of education.  You and your friends are free to make plans for yourself.  You do not have to wait for someone to come along and offer you a program.  You do not need any elaborate machinery to set up one.  You do not even need any teachers.  Get together, read the great books, and discuss them.  Just as you will learn to read by reading, so you will learn to discuss by discussing.

To save you from having to...........

.............first consult the Oracle Google, here is the Wikipedia entry on the Great Books If you scroll down, you will note that it includes Mortimer Alder's list.  Enjoy.

Friday, October 7, 2016

What's up with Google's stat thing...............

..................They believe that 10 times more French computers visited this blog than American ones today.  Come on, people.   What did I do to deserve that?

History has not been kind.................... the "elites."   Which may be why nobody seems to pay attention to history.

"I like comparing the present to the period before the Great War because the points of comparison are many, even if we live in a technological age that feels like a world away. The people in charge of the world a century ago were just as certain as today’s rulers. They clung just as hard to their modes of thought, their plans for the future and their organizational methods. They were wrong about most everything and they murdered 17 million people learning this lesson, not including what came next as a result of their errors."

- as excerpted from here

Worth pondering.................................

Maximizing shareholder value may be the dumbest financial and social concept ever created.

According to conventional wisdom (which rarely is either conventional or wisdom) guiding a company for the sole benefit of its shareholders, rather than stakeholders, will maximize shareholder return and societal contribution.  Wrong!

There are many reasons why time has proven this theory to be counterfactual; the biggest one being shareholders are the most “mobile” of all the interested parties.

In other words, shareholders can sell their shares in a millisecond.  The workers and suppliers, who tend to care the most about issues which affect the long-term health of the company, have to stick around.

-Tony Isola, as extracted from here

The law of the pack...............................

"We’re all crazy. This explains everything. I will elaborate  in hopes of joining Plato, Burke, and Hunter Thompson as lighthouses of the intellects."

-Fred Reed, as excerpted from this free 1,100 word essay

a position to judge.................

     Let us now see what that Himalayan miscalculation was.  Before one can be fit for the practice of civil disobedience one must have rendered a willing and respectful obedience to the state laws.  For the most part we obey such laws out of fear of the penalty for their breach, and this holds good particularly in respect of such laws as do not not involve a moral principle.  For instance, an honest, respectable man will not suddenly take to stealing, whether there is a law against stealing or not, but this very man will not feel any remorse for failure to observe the rule about carrying head-lights on bicycles after dark.  Indeed it is doubtful whether he would even accept advice kindly about being more careful in this respect.  But he would observe any obligatory rule of this kind, if only to escape the inconvenience of facing a prosecution for a breach of the rule.  Such compliance is not, however, the willing and spontaneous obedience that is required of a Satyagrahi.  A Satyagrahi obeys the laws of society intelligently and of his own free will, because he considers it to be his sacred duty to do so.  It is only when a person has thus obeyed the laws of society scrupulously that he is in a position to judge as to which particular rules are good and just and which unjust and iniquitous.  Only then does the right accrue to him of the civil disobedience of certain laws in well-defined circumstances.  My error lay in my failure to observe this necessary limitation.  I had called on the people to launch upon civil disobedience before they had thus qualified themselves for it, and this mistake seemed to me of Himalayan magnitude.

-Mohandas K. Gandhi,  Gandhi: An Autobiography:  The Story Of My Experiments With Truth

Almost fifty years ago................

...........the Turtles released Happy Together.  The house band at Sippican Cottage (welcome back Greg) has now YouTubeized their updated version.  Enjoy:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Will you hold it against me..........

........if I confess to not knowing who most of these folks are?

Rooting for a turn to the right............


............................for that nobleness of self.   

This may not be a "laugh out loud"......

.................................quote, but one wonders whether the authors were writing tongue in cheek:

"Therefore, the next U.S. president needs to encourage its regional partners, especially Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates, by providing policy guidance, know-how, and training to support these governments’ efforts to diversify their economies, manage retrenchment of social services, and trim unsustainable welfare programs."

-as extracted from this essay

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ah, perspective.........................

...........................There always seems to be at least a half  dozen different ways of looking at something.  Here is one perspective on human society worthy of some thought:

In the millennias-long evolution of human societies and economic systems, we find ourselves today at a pass where three systems predominate, and fitfully cohabit: democracy, capitalism, and socialism. Most countries in the world operate with large doses of all three
Given that, it might seem odd that there are so many loud and prominent political voices who talk about eradicating one or more of the three. These voices often represent these isms as mutually exclusive (they aren’t), and envision vaguely utopian nirvanas of true, complete socialism, true complete capitalism, or Platonic, non-democratic polities administered by benign, elite philosopher kings (and perhaps even queens).

All of those anti-ism-istic voices are spouting incoherent claptrap. Anti-capitalists on the left, anti-socialists on the right, and anti-democrats along their own fringe, are all simply loony.

Full post is here

And we didn't even get a "thank you" card...........

"Indeed, during Iran’s years of sanction and isolation, the country was forced to become more self-reliant—notably in auto and electronics manufacturing and agricultural production for local consumption and export markets. As a result, Iran will likely eclipse those of the Arab countries in economic complexity over the next few years."

-Jamsheed K. Choksy and Carol E. B. Choksy,  as culled from this essay on what an interesting place the Middle East is right now


So, Google is just for the impatient....?

"Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer."

-William S. Burroughs


"If we stop thinking of the poor as victims or as a burden and start recognizing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs and value-conscious consumers, a whole new world of opportunity will open up."

-CK Prahalad, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

On conscience..............................

     After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule, is not because they are the most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest.  But government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it.  Can there not be a government in which the majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience? - in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable?  Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator?  Why has every man a conscience then?  I think we should be men first and subjects afterward.  It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.  The only obligation which I have a right to assume, is to do at any time what I think right.  It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience.  Law never made man a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.

-Henry David Thoreau,  culled from his essay Civil Disobedience 

Got to love it...........................

............a representative from the Tolerance Committee visits Kurt.

One link at a time.................

"It is a mistake to look too far ahead.  Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time."

-attributed to Winston Churchill circa 1945


Certainty is no longer as certain as it once was.  When I am connected to the Screen of All Knowledge, to that billion-eyed hive of humanity woven together and mirrored on a billion pieces of glass, truth is harder to find.  For every accepted piece of knowledge I come across, there is, within easy reach, a challenge to that fact.  Every fact has its antifact.  The internet's extreme hyperlinking will highlight those antifacts as brightly as the facts.  Some antifacts are silly, some borderline, and some valid.   This is the curse of the screen:  You can't rely on experts to sort them out because for every expert there is an equal and opposite anti-expert.  Thus anything I learn is subject to erosion by these ubiquitous antifactors.
     Ironically, in an age of instant global connection, my certainty about anything has decreased.  Rather than receiving truth from an authority, I am reduced to assembling my own certainty from the liquid stream of facts flowing through the web.  Truth, with a capital T, becomes truths, plural.  I have to sort the truths not just about things I care about, but about anything I touch, including areas about which I can't possibly have any direct knowledge.  That means that in general I have to constantly question what I think I know.

-Kevin Kelly,  The Inevitable:  Understanding The 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

Looking forward.................

"I am looking forward to having my mind changed a lot in the coming years."

-Kevin Kelly

Haiti just can't get a break............................

Mother Nature, in the form of Hurricane Matthew, has her say.

It's not a question I would have thought to ask....

Is it time for the music business to reconsider its marginalization of musicianship?

...............but then, I don't watch MTV or listen to radioIf you care about such questions, this essay is one to read.  A few snippets follow:

"If you go to a Stones concert, the audience is still using drugs, but they have substituted blood pressure medication for the LSD. I love those gray-haired old-timers, but they can’t help solve the industry’s problems, even if they still can sell albums."

"The situation in pop music today isn’t much different from the early 1950s, when the blandness and sameness of the offerings were obvious to any discerning listener. In 1953 or 1954, you might not have predicted the rise of rock ‘n’ roll, but you did know that this shallow and vapid music on the airwaves wouldn’t last forever."

 "And the next time the music revolution comes, it won’t be televised on MTV."


Affordable housing and NIMBYism...............

"In a better world, people would want to build an inclusive, economically diverse community in which everyone had access to the same services. In the real world, many people are all in favor of this -- as long as doing so does not involve sending their kids to school with poor people, especially in the crucial middle and high school years, when peer effects start to dominate parental influence. Washington’s good liberals don't say anything so crude, of course; they talk about “test scores.” But nonetheless, if you try to rezone in a way that is apt to produce a truly economically diverse school, with more than a token sprinkling of the children of disadvantage, they will fight tooth and nail to stop that from happening."

-Meghan McArdle. as excerpted from here, as was this quote:

"There’s substantial evidence that the stress of living in a dense city can make you crazy. I could be forgiven for thinking that I’m already quite crazy enough."

As with most addictions..................

.......................this one has been painful.

"We are addicted to the war on drugs."

-backstory here

Monday, October 3, 2016

Needed to try...................

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats...............I Need Never Get Old


     The first time I tasted peanut butter cookies, I was at Tassajera Zen Mountain Center in California, and I loved them!  I learned that to make peanut butter cookies, you mix the ingredients to prepare the batter, and then you put each cookie onto a cookie sheet using a spoon.  I imagined that the moment each cookie leaves the bowl of dough and is place onto the tray, it begins to think of itself as separate.  You, the creator of the cookies, know better, and you have a lot of compassion for them.  You know that they are originally all one, and that even now, the happiness of each cookie is still the happiness of all the other cookies.  But they have developed "discriminative perception," and suddenly they set up barriers between themselves.  When you put them in the oven, they begin to talk to each other"  "Get out of my way.  I want to be in the middle."  "I am brown and beautiful and you are ugly!"  "Can't you please spread a little in that direction?"  We have the tendency to behave this way also, and it causes a lot of suffering.  If we know how to touch our nondiscriminating mind, our happiness and the happiness of others will increase manifold.

     We all have the capacity of living with nondiscriminating wisdom, but we have to train ourselves to see in that way, to see that the flower is us, the mountain is us, our parents and our children are all us.  When we see that everyone and everything belongs to the same stream of life, our suffering will vanish.  Nonself is not a doctrine or a philosophy.  It is an insight that can help us live life more deeply, suffer less, and enjoy life more.  We need to live the insight of nonself.

-Thich Nhat Hanh,  The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching:  Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

Part of what makes it so difficult to keep.....

"It is a strange fact that freedom and equality, the two basic ideas of democracy, are to some extent contradictory."

-Thomas Mann

Still true..................................

"Our ignorance of history makes us libel our own times.  People have always been like this."

-Gustave Flaubert


Evil does not naturally dwell in the world, in events, or in people.  Evil is a by-product of forgetfulness, laziness, or distraction:  it arises when we lose sight of our true aim in life.
     When we remember that our aim is spiritual progress, we return to striving to be our best selves.   This is how happiness is won.


Can I get an Amen..................?

"one of the better responses to the threat of scarcity is not to try to slice our pie thinner - rather it's to figure out how to make more pies."

-Diamandis and Kotler,  Abundance:  The Future Is Better Than You Think

True in 1848, true today................

     No man with a genius for legislation has appeared in America.  They are rare in the history of the world.  There are orators, politicians, and eloquent men, by the thousands, but the speaker has not yet opened his mouth to speak, who is capable of settling the much-vexed questions of the day.  

-Henry David Thoreau, as excerpted from his essay, Civil Disobedience