Saturday, January 22, 2022
In the last few centuries, the human presence has become even more central in the natural world. We have only recently been able to have a glimpse of the millions of years that preceded us, eons during which thousands of organisms replaced one another, struggling to survive in an ever-changing landscape. And we now realize that our unique heritage—the reflective consciousness that lulled us into believing for a while that we were forever destined to be the crown of creation—brings with it an awesome responsibility. We realize that being at the cutting edge of evolution on this planet means we can either direct our life energy toward achieving growth and harmony or waste the potentials we have inherited, adding to the sway of chaos and destruction.
-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, The Evolving Self
The Great Enrichment after 1800 came from human creativity unleashed by liberty and dignity for ordinary people, through trade-tested betterment resting on a new equality in the eyes of others, and spread by the overturning of monopoly in competition.
-Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital Or Institutions Enriched The World
.........doesn't mean that they're not out to get you:
The second is size is associated with success, success is associated with hubris, and hubris is the beginning of the end of success. Some of the most enduring animals aren’t apex predators, but they’re very good at evasion, camouflage, and armor. They’re paranoid. I always come back to the time Charlie Rose asked Michael Moritz how Sequoia Capital has thrived for three decades, and he said, “We’ve always been afraid of going out of business.” Paranoia in the face of success is extremely hard but in hindsight it’s the closest thing to a secret weapon that exists.
-Morgan Housel, from this blog post
Morally, a philosopher who uses his professional competence for anything except a disinterested search for truth is guilty of kind of treachery. And when he assumes, in advance of inquiry, that certain beliefs, whether true or false, are such as to promote good behaviour, his so limiting the scope of philosophical speculation as to make philosophy trivial; the true philosopher is prepared to examine all preconceptions. When any limits are placed, consciously or unconsciously, upon the pursuit of truth, philosophy becomes paralyzed by fear, and the ground is prepared for a government censorship punishing those who utter 'dangerous thoughts'—in fact, the philosopher has already placed such a censorship over his own investigations.
-Bertrand Russell, from his essay, The Philosophy of Logical Analysis
A mind that is concentrated on a positive thought has to power to increase the likelihood that the positive thought will materialize in the world of events. The most successful people in the world are those who hold in mind the highest good of all concerned, including themselves. They know that there is a win-win solution to every problem. They are at peace with themselves, which allows them to be supportive of the potential and success of others. They do work which they love, and so they feel continually inspired and creative. They do not seek happiness; they have discovered that happiness is a by-product of doing what they love. A feeling of personal fulfillment comes naturally from their positive contribution to the lives of others, including family, friends, groups, and the world at large.
-David Hawkins, Letting Go: The Pathway Of Surrender
Friday, January 21, 2022
The number one piece of advice seniors would give to their younger selves is that they wish they'd been less hard on themselves.
-Scott Galloway, The Algebra of Happiness
I first met him in Piraeus. I wanted to take the boat for Crete and had gone down to the port. It was almost daybreak and raining. A strong sirocco was blowing the spray from the waves as far as the little cafe, whose glass doors were shut. The cafe reeked of brewing sage and human beings whose breath steamed the windows because of the cold outside. Five or six seamen, who had spent the night there, muffled in their brown goatskin reefer-jackets, were drinking coffee or sage and gazing out of the misty windows at the sea. The fish, dazed by the blows of the raging waters, had taken refuge in the depths, where they were waiting till calm was restored above. The fishermen crowding in the cafes were also waiting for the end of the storm, when the fish, reassured, would rise to the surface after the bait. Soles, hog fish and skate were returning from their nocturnal expeditions. Day was now breaking.
-Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba The Greek
You will find it less easy to unroot faults than to choke them by gaining virtues. Do not think of your faults, still less of others faults; in every person who comes near you look for what is good and strong; honor that; rejoice in it and as you can, try to imitate it; and your faults will drop off like dead leaves when their time comes.
In the last decade, as tech companies have expanded their reach into our personal lives, collecting information on choices and decisions that used to private, big data has become not just a buzzword, but also a justification for investing billions in companies/projects that have no discernible pathway to profitability, but offer access to data.
In the world forever one
With the informing Love
That gives its life to Time,
In the day of alchemy,
Come round at last, transmuting
Corruption to pollution,
Transmuting lies to blindness,
And light to dark, the known
Destroyed in our unknowing.
Under the sun that shines
Beyond evil and good,
The goldeneye alights
On the cold river. Grace
Unasked, merely allowed,
Gleams round him on the water
-Wendall Berry, Sabbaths 2000
Thursday, January 20, 2022
.......................with Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche:
In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.
The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.
Distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.
Nothing on earth consumes a man more quickly than the passion of resentment.
Love is blind. Friendship closes its eyes.
Without forgetting it is quite impossible to live at all.
To learn to see- to accustom the eye to calmness, to patience, and to allow things to come up to it; to defer judgment, and to acquire the habit of approaching and grasping an individual case from all sides. This is the first preparatory schooling of intellectuality. One must not respond immediately to a stimulus; one must acquire a command of the obstructing and isolating instincts.
Love, too, has to be learned.
.............will be much easier than the second and third:
We need to eliminate the Federal Reserve, and cause Congress and the Executive Branch to take responsibility for their failed policies.
-David Merkel, from this post
.........from President Biden's inaugural address:
We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury, no progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America. . . .
We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we're willing to stand in the other person's shoes, as my mom would say. Just for a moment, stand in their shoes. . . .
And together we will write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity not division, of light not darkness. A story of decency and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness. May this be the story that guides us. The story that inspires us. And the story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history, we met the moment. Democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrive.
London Sept. 19. 1772
In the Affair of so much Importance to you, wherein you ask my Advice, I cannot for want of sufficient Premises, advise you what to determine, but if you please I will tell you how.
When these difficult Cases occur, they are difficult chiefly because while we have them under Consideration all the Reasons pro and con are not present to the Mind at the same time; but sometimes one Set present themselves, and at other times another, the first being out of Sight. Hence the various Purposes or Inclinations that alternately prevail, and the Uncertainty that perplexes us.
To get over this, my Way is, to divide half a Sheet of Paper by a Line into two Columns, writing over the one Pro, and over the other Con. Then during three or four Days Consideration I put down under the different Heads short Hints of the different Motives that at different Times occur to me for or against the Measure. When I have thus got them all together in one View, I endeavour to estimate their respective Weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out: If I find a Reason pro equal to some two Reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two Reasons con equal to some three Reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the Ballance lies; and if after a Day or two of farther Consideration nothing new that is of Importance occurs on either side, I come to a Determination accordingly.
And tho’ the Weight of Reasons cannot be taken with the Precision of Algebraic Quantities, yet when each is thus considered separately and comparatively, and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better, and am less likely to make a rash Step; and in fact I have found great Advantage from this kind of Equation, in what may be called Moral or Prudential Algebra. Wishing sincerely that you may determine for the best, I am ever, my dear Friend, Yours most affectionately.
Wednesday, January 19, 2022
......................with John Dewey:
Such happiness as life is capable of comes from the full participation of all our powers in the endeavor to wrest from each changing situations of experience its own full and unique meaning.
Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked.
A problem well put is half solved.
The democratic faith in human equality is belief that every human being, independent of the quantity or range of his personal endowment, has the right to equal opportunity with every other person for development of whatever gifts he has.
We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.
Education is a social process; education is growth; education is not preparation for life but is life itself.
Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.
The only freedom that is of enduring importance is the freedom of intelligence, that is to say, freedom of observation and of judgment, exercised in behalf of purposes that are intrinsically worthwhile. The commonest mistake made about freedom is, I think, to identify it with freedom of movement, or, with the external or physical side of activity.
To me, faith means not worrying.
............................Trouble brewing for nascent field of "behavioral economics"?
When the two biggest scientists in your field are accused of "systemic misrepresentation", you know you've got a serious problem. . . .
Which leads me to the final point I'd like to make: rules and generalizations are overrated.
The reason that fields like behavioral economics are so seductive is because they promise people easy, cookie-cutter solutions to complicated problems. . . .
This is because almost every lab-based study omits one key variable, which I'll call "situational fit". In a sense that's the point of the scientific process: to control for every variable except for the one you're interested in—to find effects that generalize across contexts. However, humans are not billiard balls or hydrogen atoms. We're remarkably complex and will react to the same stimuli in quite different ways depending on the circumstances. This is one of the fundamental flaws of lab based behavioral science research. It puts humans in bizarre contexts and assumes that their behavior in an unnatural setting will generalize to complex, natural settings. This happens to (almost) never be the case. Just because people are affected one way in a lab at UC Berkeley doesn't mean they'll be impacted the same way when sitting at home on the couch or while chatting with friends at the bar.
Fortunately, some are born with spiritual immune systems that sooner or later give rejection to the illusory worldview grafted upon them from birth through social conditioning. They begin sensing that something is amiss, and start looking for answers. Inner knowledge and anomalous outer experiences show them a side of reality others are oblivious to, and so begins their journey of awakening. Each step of the journey is made by following the heart instead of following the crowd and by choosing knowledge over the veils of ignorance.
Tuesday, January 18, 2022
“The aim of human polity is human happiness...There is no obligation on us to be richer, or busier, or more efficient, or more productive, or more progressive, or in any way worldlier or wealthier, if it does not make us happier. Mankind has as much right to scrap its machinery and live on the land, if he really likes it better, as any man has to sell his old bicycle and go for a walk, if he likes that better. It is obvious that the walk will be slower; but he has no duty to be fast.”
-Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Outline of Sanity
.......................with Carlos Castaneda:
For me the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable; my interest has been to convince you that you must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvelous world, in this marvelous desert, in this marvelous time. I want to convince you that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while, in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it
.......................from Tanmay Vora:
5. . Growth often involves taking a step back. In our careers, sometimes the best way to move forward is to step back or sideways from our current path. When you step back, you can slingshot forward.
Renias stops and turns to me, "Come, buti, it's your turn now," he says.
He brings me to the front of the line and offers me the trail. My job now will be to follow, and as we are close, Renias and Alex will look over the top of me into the brush ahead so that we don't come upon the lions without seeing them. At the head of the trail, I feel the natural pressure of being thrown the ball in front of people I admire.
Suddenly, I feel an old friend who has walked with me for years arise. Each of us has these friends, mine is called self-doubt. I have learned rather than to resist him, to invite him in, welcoming him as a teacher of humility. Together we continue. The first track, and then the next first track.
-Boyd Varty, The Lion Tracker's Guide To Life
1. Curate your information diet to be rich and diverse. Follow people who think differently than you. Read old books. Remember that what you put into your mind today is the raw material you have to work with tomorrow.
-Shane Parrish, more lessons here
Monday, January 17, 2022
I know that one of the great dangers of my life would be to live without danger. In our encounters with the edges, we come to know ourselves more deeply. Neurosis is a substitute for real suffering. Fearfulness is the most common state in a life that asks for no real courage.
-Boyd Varty, The Lion Tracker's Guide To Life
Optimism is a helluva drug. People believe things that aren’t true, are only loosely true, true but improbable, or true but lacking important context. To do otherwise hurts too much. They tell themselves stories, find statistics, and surround themselves with incentives to make their beliefs seem as real as possible.
Whenever you make a mistake or get knocked down by life, don't look back at it too long. Mistakes are life's way of teaching you. Your capacity for occasional blunders is inseparable from your capacity to reach your goals. No one wins them all, and your failures, when they happen, are just part of your growth. Shake off your blunders. How will you know your limits without an occasional failure? Never quit. Your turn will come.
We must practice living deeply, loving, and acting with charity if we wish to truly honor Jesus. The way is Jesus Himself and not just some idea of him. A true teaching is not static. It is not mere words but the reality of life. Many who have neither the way nor the life try to impose on others what they believe to be the way. But those are only words that have no connection with real life or a real way. When we understand and practice deeply the life and teachings of Buddha or the life and teachings of Jesus, we penetrate the door and enter the abode of the living Buddha and the living Christ, and life eternal presents itself to us.
-Thich Nhat Hahn, Living Buddha, Living Christ
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.
-Martin Luther King, Jr., as excerpted from his 1963 Letter From Birmingham Jail
Sunday, January 16, 2022
...........paragraphs I've read this month:
Impressment arose in part because the age of exploration created a demand for labor at sea that could not be met through normal financial incentives. But it also arose because of changes on land. The shift from late feudalism to early agrarian capitalism, the great disruption that would fuel the growth of the metropolitan centers in the coming centuries, had disgorged a whole class of society—small, commons-based cottage laborers—and turned them into itinerant free agents. By the late 1500s, the explosion of vagabonds made them public enemy number one, triggering one of the first true moral panics of the post-Gutenberg era. Everywhere there were wanderers, whole families lost in the changing economic landscape. Serfs once grounded in a coherent, if oppressive, feudal system found themselves flotsam on the twisting stream of early capitalism. To everyone sitting on the banks above that stream, the change must have seemed something like the modern fantasies of zombie invasions: you wake up one day and realize that the streets are filled with people who not only lack homes, but also suffer from some other, more existential form of homelessness—not even knowing what kind of home they should be seeking.
The sudden rearmament that followed Napoleon's escape from Elba had done little to thin the ranks of unemployed sea-officers by the early spring of 1815. A man-of-war stripped, dismantled and laid up cannot be manned, equipped and made ready for sea in a matter of weeks; and the best vantage-points in Gibraltar were now crowded with gentlemen on half-pay who with others had gathered to watch the long-expected arrival of Commodore Aubrey's squadron from Madeira, a squadron that would do something to refurnish the great bare stretch of water inside the mole - an extraordinary nakedness emphasized by the presence of a few hulks, the Royal Sovereign wearing the flag of the Commander-in-Chief, and a couple of lonely seventy-fours: no stream of liberty-boats plying to and fro, almost no appearance of true wartime life.
-Patrick O'Brian, The Hundred Days
Down by the lake rosy reflections of celestial vapor appeared, and I said "God, I love you" and looked up to the sky and really meant it. "I have fallen in love with you God. Take care of us all, one way or another."
-Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
He was emerged from his struggles with a large sympathy for the machinery of the universe. With his new eyes, he could see that the secret and open blows which were being dealt about the world with such heavenly lavishness were in truth blessings. It was a deity laying about him with the bludgeon of correction.
-Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage