Saturday, June 17, 2017
Man is a rational animal - so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favor of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it, though I searched in many countries spread over three continents. On the contrary, I have seen the world plunging continually further into madness. I have seen great nations, formerly leaders of civilization, led astray by preachers of bombastic nonsense. I have seen cruelty, persecution, and superstition increasing by leaps and bounds, until we have almost reached the point where praise of rationality is held to mark a man as an old fogey regrettably surviving from a bygone era. All this is depressing, but gloom is a useless emotion. In order to escape from it, I have been driven to study the past with more attention than I had formerly given to it, and have found, as Erasmus found, that folly is perennial and yet the human race has survived. The follies of our own times are easier to bear when they are seen against the background of past follies.
-Bertrand Russell, from the essay An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish, as published in Unpopular Essays
When we condemn or justify we cannot see clearly, nor can we when our minds are endlessly chattering; then we do not observe what is; we only look at the projections we have made of ourselves. Each of us has an image of what we think we are or what we should be, and that image, that picture, entirely prevents us from seeing ourselves as we actually are.
It is one of the most difficult things in the world to look at anything simply. Because our minds are very complex we have lost the quality of simplicity. I don't mean simplicity in clothes or food, wearing only a loin cloth or breaking a record fasting or any of that immature nonsense the saints cultivate, but the simplicity that can look directly at things without fear - that can look at ourselves as we actually are without any distortion - to say we lie when we lie, not cover it up or run away from it.
-J. Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known
How did he live such a life, so hectic with public concerns, while preoccupying himself so fully with individual human beings: whose torments, never mind their singularity, he adopted as his own, with the passion that some give only to the universal? Eleanor Roosevelt, James Burnham once mused, looked on all the world as her personal slum project. Although he was at home with collectivist formulations, one had the impression of Allard Lowenstein that he might be late in aborting a Third World War - because of his absorption with the problems of one sophomore. Oh, they followed him everywhere; because we experienced in him the essence of an entirely personal dedication. Of all the partisans I have known, from the furthest steppes of the spectrum, his was the most undistracted concern, not for humanity - thought he was conversant with big-think idiom - but with human beings.
-William F. Buckley, Jr., A Torch Kept Lit: Great Lives of the Twentieth Century; Allard Lowenstein, RIP
Congressmen are not evil people, they're mostly sort of seismographs with antennae; they're waiting - they're more worried about losing their jobs than Assistant Deans of Men in the Ivy League.
-attributed to Allard K. Lowenstein
The imposter borrowed the name of Neville Manchin, an actual professor of American literature at Portland State and soon-to-be doctoral student at Stanford. In his letter, on perfectly forged college stationary, "Professor Manchin" claimed to be a budding scholar of F. Scott Fitzgerald and was keen to see the great writer's "manuscripts and papers" during a forthcoming trip to the East Coast. The letter was addressed to Dr. Jeffrey Brown, Director of Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Firestone Library, Princeton University. It arrived with a few others, was duly sorted and passed along, and eventually landed on the desk of Ed Folk, a career junior librarian whose task, among several other monotonous ones, was to verify the credentials of the person who wrote the letter.
-John Grisham, Camino Island
Friday, June 16, 2017
.....................just got home from seeing mega-talented and audience-connecting Melissa Etheridge perform at the wondrous Midland Theatre. She featured a number of songs first produced by Stax Records, including one by William Bell. Wasn't this one though:
William Bell..........................................I Forgot To Be You Lover
Feminist ideology has never dealt honestly with the role of the mother in human life. Its portrayal of history as male oppression and female victimage is a gross distortion of the facts. There was a rational division of labor from the hunter gatherer period that had its roots not in the male desire to subjugate and imprison but in the procreative burden which has fallen on women from nature. It is woman who bears most of the responsibility in the process of procreation. The male contribution to procreation is momentary, a mere pinprick, but the human female makes an enormous investment in the nine months of pregnancy, which could formerly not be forestalled or controlled as it is today. Even now, pregnancy is a risky business that can result in the death of the mother. Anything can go wrong and often does. Before modern medicine, the mortality rate in childbirth was enormous. In early history, women in advanced pregnancy or just after childbirth were extraordinarily vulnerable; they could not fend for themselves and required the protection of men. Feminist theory has been grotesquely unfair to men in refusing to acknowledge the enormous care that most men have provided to women and children. The atrocious exceptions have been used by feminist theorists to blame all men, when over the whole of human history, men have given heroically of their energy and labor and indeed their lives to benefit and protect women and children. Feminism has been very small-minded in the way it has treated male history. Feminism cannot continue with this poisoned rhetoric - it is dangerous for young women to be indoctrinated to think in that negative way about men.
-Camille Paglia, as culled from here
Besides antifragility, another theme Nassim Taleb has been stressing of late is "skin in the game": the idea that people who face the consequences of their actions are more likely both to learn and to behave responsibly, than people who are shielded from such consequences.
Of course, Taleb is smart enough and educated enough to know that this is not an entirely new idea, and that he is expanding upon the intimations of earlier thinkers here. Even so, it was interesting to see Michael Oakeshott sound this motif so clearly in "Rational Conduct":
"And politics is a field of activity peculiarly subject to the lure of this 'rational' ideal. If you start by being merely 'intelligent' about a boiler or an electrical generator you are likely to be pulled up short by an explosion: but in politics all that happens is war and chaos, which you do not immediately connect with your error."
Gene Callahan, as excerpted from here
Thursday, June 15, 2017
.................................................Mark J. Perry wants to spoil the fun:
Here’s a dirty little secret about capitalism: consumers, not corporations, run the show. If you find something about the marketplace objectionable, it would be more appropriate to blame those who actually call the shots: the ruthless, cutthroat, and disloyal American consumers.
....................."Devil's advocates". Full post here. Conclusion here:
It’s a scourge to be led by a great man, then, unless the great man is open-minded and big hearted enough to encourage others to take issue with his thinking. If not, the collective military mind closes. Doubt dissipates when it’s needed most—in the topsy-turvy realm of violent interaction among combatants determined to impose their will on one another. An institution unable or unwilling to entertain second thoughts about its assumptions or reasoning is an institution that has set itself up for failure. So it was for the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway. So it could be for today’s U.S. Navy, or any other institution.
Certitude is the bane of group decision-making. Physicist Richard Feynman beseeches researchers to “leave the door to the unknown ajar,” even when a scientific law appears settled. That’s doubly true for military and naval bureaucracies. After all, martial science is never settled. We should all be doubters—and seek out skeptics of Feynman’s ilk to poke holes in our schemes. Whether his input is right, wrong, or somewhere in between, the devil’s advocate invigorates strategic and operational discourses—subjecting proposals to penetrating scrutiny and bolstering the final product.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Too often we talk about our memories as if they were banks into which we deposit new information when it comes in, and from which we withdraw old information when we need it. But that metaphor doesn't reflect the way our memories really work. Our memories are always with us, shaping and being shaped by information flowing through our senses, in a continuous feedback loop. Everything we see, hear, and smell is inflected by all the things we've seen, heard, and smelled in the past.
-Joshua Foer, Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
..............the author of the read-worthy Coyote Blog is pondering an end to his blogging. Here's hoping he continues. An excerpt:
The world seems to be moving away from intellectualism. I say this not because Trump voters were somehow rejecting intellectualism, but because intellectuals themselves seem to be rejecting it. They act like children, they are turning universities into totalitarian monoculters, and they compete with each other to craft mindless 140-character "gotchas" on Twitter. I challenge you to even find a forum today for intellectual exchange between people who disagree with one another. In politics, Trump clearly rejects intellectualism but for whatever reasons, the Democratic opposition has as well.
..............interesting, and valuable, if the author had gone a bit more in depth and looked at what those "disproportionately burdened" by student debt majored in. When it comes to earning power, not all degrees are made equal.
...................Who is more insightful? Marginal Revolution covers the story. Don't have the answer here, but will stand by long-held Rule 27: Always bet on the optimist.
“What sweetness is left in life, if you take away friendship? Robbing life of friendship is like robbing the world of the sun. A true friend is more to be esteemed than kinsfolk."
-attributed to Cicero
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
..............................Where would we be without the "experts"?
Being a “working class white voter” does not make us inferior or intellectually stunted so much that we need to be (re)educated in liberally biased schools of doublespeak and thoughtlessness. All we want to do is work a good job that does present a modest challenge, that does feel rewarding, keeps the lights on and our bellies full and after all of that, we just want to come home, drink some beers, pet the dog and enjoy the sunset in our small suburban slice of heaven. For us, that is what life is all about. We don’t care about revolutions, microaggressions, or how many physical and economic descriptors we can apply to a sub group of a sub group of a sub group. People like Gest and Capehart are more important to themselves, like Narcissus was to his reflection; eventually, they will drown in their obsession. And when they do, they’re still gonna be at the counter of a Mom and Pop shop asking some “white working class voter” with grease on his or her face “What’s wrong with my Prius?”
-as excerpted from here
Man has always asked the question: what is it all about? Has life any meaning, at all? He sees the enormous confusion of life, the brutalities, the revolts, the wars, the endless division of religion, ideology and nationality, and with a sense of deep abiding frustration he asks, what is one to do, what is this thing we call living, is there anything beyond it?
And not finding this nameless thing of a thousand names which he has always sought, he has cultivated faith - faith in a saviour or an ideal - and faith invariably breeds violence. ...
For centuries we have been spoon-fed by our teachers, by our authorities, by our books, by our saints. We say, "Tell me all about it - what lies beyond the hills and the mountains and the earth?" and we are satisfied with their descriptions, which means we live on words and our life is shallow and empty. We are a second-hand people. We have lived on what we have been told, either guided by our inclinations, our tendencies, or compelled to accept by circumstances and environment. We are the result of all kinds of influence and there is nothing new in us, nothing that we have discovered for ourselves; nothing original, pristine, clear.
-J. Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known
..............................................(talking technology not politics).
"Revolutions are impossible, until they're not, and then they seem totally normal."
-as extracted from here
Buzan was eager to sell me on the idea that his own memory has been improving year after year, even as he ages. "People assume that memory decline is a function of being human and therefore natural," he said. "But that is a logical error, because normal is not necessarily natural. The reason for the monitored decline in human memory performance is because we actually do anti-Olympic training. What we do to the brain is the equivalent of sitting someone down to train for the Olympics and making sure he drinks ten cans of beer a day, smokes fifty cigarettes, drives to work, and maybe does some exercise once a month that's violent and damaging, and spends the rest of the time watching television. And then we wonder why that person doesn't do well in the Olympics. That's what we've been doing with memory."
-Joshua Foer, Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
Detachment from positionalities - and especially the positionalities occasioned by labeling - leads to serenity, freedom, and security. Greater serenity arises from relating to the context of life rather than to the content, which is primarily a game board of interacting egos. This broader style of relating to life leads to greater compassion and emancipation from being at the effect of the world.
Like any limiting ego position, it is not position itself that requires relinquishment, but the emotional payoff or energy that holding on to that position provides to the ego.
-David R. Hawkins
Monday, June 12, 2017
“The reason that ‘guru’ is such a popular word is because ‘charlatan’ is so hard to spell.”
Quote above opens this Ben Carlson post, wherein Ben politely asks "legendary investors" who have called six of the last zero market crashes to please stop doing that.
“And what we students of history always learn is that the human being is a very complicated contraption and that they are not good or bad but are good and bad and the good comes out of the bad and the bad out of the good, and the devil take the hindmost.”
-Robert Penn Warren
* I got this figure of speech from Comey's testimony (which I discussed here). Comey claimed that he used an intermediary to leak his memo to the press because reporters were "camping at the end of [his] driveway," so for him to just hand them something "would be like feeding seagulls at the beach."
Sunday, June 11, 2017
I was arrested at Eno's diner. At twelve o'clock. I was eating eggs and drinking coffee. A late breakfast, not lunch. I was wet and tired after a long walk in heavy rain. All the way from the highway to the edge of town.
-Lee Child, Killing Floor
Ed. Comment: If you enjoy Child's Jack Reacher tales, this is the first one. If you buy the paperback edition it may also contain a preface from Child about the why, how, and who of Jack Reacher. You might also then share my utter disdain for whoever thought it was a good idea to cast Tom Cruise as the cinematic Reacher.
My Sweetie and I ventured to the amazing Ohio Theatre to see the show Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. If you are ever presented the opportunity, do go to this show. It was fabulous. Of course, some of us are children of the '60s, and Carole King contributed greatly to the soundtrack of our lives. Somehow I made it this far in life without every owning Tapestry. Our friends at Amazon are now busy correcting that.
One of the story lines of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical was Goffin and King's friendship and rivalry with the song writing team of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. The four of them are responsible for an amazing amount of the early 1960s music. A twofer from Weil and Mann: