Quote from Helioscope

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The ag­nos­tics con­tend that pain has evolved blindly as a means of caus­ing us to avoid in­jury. There are two things that might be said about the the­ory: the first is that a few mo­ments’ thought will pro­duce half a dozen bet­ter ways of achiev­ing the same ob­jec­tive (one of them is in­tel­li­gence — but the more in­tel­li­gent the or­gan­ism, the more pain it is ca­pa­ble of feel­ing). The sec­ond is that by and large it does not work — hu­man be­ings jump their mo­tor­cy­cles over the foun­tain at Caesar’s Palace; dogs chase cars.

What pain does do is act as a mo­ti­va­tor in all sorts of less than ob­vi­ous ways. It is re­spon­si­ble for com­pas­sion and the hot foot; it makes peo­ple who do not be­lieve God would per­mit it think about God. It has been re­marked thou­sands of times that Christ died un­der tor­ture. Many of us have read so of­ten that he was a “hum­ble car­pen­ter” that we feel a lit­tle surge on nau­sea on see­ing the words yet again. But no one ever seems to no­tice that the in­stru­ments of tor­ture were wood, nails, and a ham­mer; that the man who ham­mered in the nails was as much a car­pen­ter as a sol­dier, as much a car­pen­ter as a tor­turer. Very few seem even to have no­ticed that al­though Christ was a “hum­ble car­pen­ter,” the only ob­ject we are specif­i­cally told he made was not a ta­ble, or a chair, but a whip.

Castle of Days; Helioscope by Gene Wolfe pp 218 – 219

Quotes from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Saturday, 29 October 2011

“A ra­tio­nal an­ar­chist be­lieves that con­cepts such as ‘state’ and ‘so­ci­ety’ and ‘gov­ern­ment’ have no ex­is­tence save as phys­i­cally ex­em­pli­fied in the acts of self-re­spon­si­ble in­di­vid­u­als. He be­lieves that it is im­pos­si­ble to shift blame, share blame, dis­trib­ute blame… as blame, guilt, re­spon­si­bil­ity are mat­ters tak­ing place in­side hu­man be­ings singly and nowhere else. But be­ing ra­tio­nal, he knows that not all in­di­vid­u­als hold his eval­u­a­tions, so he tries to live per­fectly in an im­per­fect world…aware that his ef­fort will be less than per­fect yet undis­mayed by self-knowl­edge of self-fail­ure.”

[…]

“My point is that one per­son is re­spon­si­ble. Always. […] In terms of morals there is no such thing as ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each re­spon­si­ble for his own acts.”

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein pp 84 – 85

I’m struck at how very ex­is­ten­tial­ist that quote is. Just as I’m struck at how very apro­pos the fol­low­ing quote is to the #oc­cupy move­ment.

“A man­aged democ­racy is a won­der­ful thing […] for the managers…and its great­est strength is a ‘free press’ when ‘free’ is de­fined as ‘re­spon­si­ble’ and the man­agers de­fine what is ‘ir­re­spon­si­ble.’”

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein pg 256

Advertising ver­sus Lyric Poetry

Monday, 26 September 2011

“There are only so many peo­ple ca­pa­ble of putting to­gether words that stir and move and sing. When it be­came pos­si­ble to earn a very good liv­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing by ex­er­cis­ing this ca­pa­bil­ity, lyric po­etry was left to un­tal­ented screw­balls who had to shriek for at­ten­tion and com­pete by ec­cen­tric­ity.”

Mitchell Courtenay in Frederick Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants

Old and Young and Old

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

I re­mem­ber when I was a bat­tal­ion in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer in World War II, in Northern Italy.

[…]

We were pass­ing through these lit­tle old towns. The houses weren’t big, but all the gen­er­a­tions were there. The old weren’t put out to pas­ture. They were our best means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. They were what civ­i­liza­tion is about: hu­man his­tory, work, gen­er­a­tions. Old ones, grand­par­ents, even great-grand­par­ents, talked to the lit­tle ones, and fas­ci­nated them. It was the oral tra­di­tion, gen­er­a­tion af­ter gen­er­a­tion. Instead of watch­ing tele­vi­sion, the child lis­tened to the old one, learn­ing his his­tory of dreams and won­der.

Our young haven’t lost their his­tory, it was taken from them. We’ve stuffed them into a pro­crustean bed. Remember him? Procrustes? If the guest didn’t fit, he’d cut him or stretch him. That’s what we’re do­ing to our young, mak­ing them fit.

Here is a child, born with a sense of won­der, ready to ad­mire and love what is seen and ex­pe­ri­enced. We say, “Watch it now, a lit­tle bit less, cool it, cool it,” un­til this ex­tra­or­di­nary sense of won­der is re­duced to noth­ing.

[…]

If the old per­son can’t lis­ten any­more, he per­pet­u­ates the er­rors of his an­ces­tors. You don’t need him. You need to say, “All right, Grandpa, when did you last change your mind about any­thing? When did you last get a new idea? Can I help you change your mind while you help me change mine?”

David Brower, as quoted by Studs Terkel in his book of oral his­tory, Coming of Age

If by Rudyard Kipling

Sunday, 27 February 2011

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are los­ing theirs and blam­ing it on you;
If you can trust your­self when all men doubt you,
But make al­lowance for their doubt­ing too;
If you can wait and not be tired by wait­ing,
Or, be­ing lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, be­ing hated, don’t give way to hat­ing,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream — and not make dreams your mas­ter;
If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with tri­umph and dis­as­ter
And treat those two im­posters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spo­ken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to bro­ken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your win­nings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your be­gin­nings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long af­ter they are gone,
And so hold on when there is noth­ing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings — nor lose the com­mon touch;
If nei­ther foes nor lov­ing friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the un­for­giv­ing min­ute
With sixty sec­onds’ worth of dis­tance run -
Yours is the Earth and every­thing that’s in it,
And — which is more — you’ll be a Man my son! 

Rudyard Kipling

My mom gave me a framed ver­sion of this poem on my 16th birth­day. I wasn’t a man then, so I didn’t re­ally un­der­stand it. Later, when I thought I un­der­stood it, I dis­agreed with it on all points. It sat in the closet in my old room un­til I turned 30, at which time my mom gave it to me again. I flipped it over and on the back was the note she’d writ­ten my for my 16th birth­day, the note she’d writ­ten for my 30th, and the hand­writ­ten poem my Grandma wrote for me on my 16th. Reading “If” at 30 is yet again a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence. Now I feel like I un­der­stand it; now I strive for these listed virtues. 

Now it hangs in my son’s room, and I hope as he grows that he will feel the same ways I’ve felt about it over the years.

Amor fati

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

My for­mula for great­ness in a hu­man be­ing is amor fati: that one wants noth­ing to be dif­fer­ent, not for­ward, not back­ward, not in all eter­nity. Not merely bear what is nec­es­sary, still less con­ceal it — all ide­al­ism is men­da­cious­ness in the face of what is nec­es­sary — but love it.

Ecce Homo — Friedrich Nietzsche

Duel

Thursday, 4 November 2010

I think there is some­thing not right about [psy­chother­apy]. It doesn’t do any good to any­one. I have a metaphor: If you il­lu­mi­nate your house with strong lights to the very last cor­ner, the house be­comes un­in­hab­it­able. And it’s the same thing if you try to il­lu­mi­nate a hu­man be­ing to the last crevices of his or her soul — these hu­man be­ings be­come un­in­hab­it­able. I do not want to deal with it. It’s a lit­tle bit like — of the same mag­ni­tude as — the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition didn’t do much good, and it was a sim­i­lar quest. It was a quest to search and to il­lu­mi­nate the last lit­tle cor­ner and crevice of your faith — scru­ti­niz­ing all the depth of your faith, whether you were within the doc­trine of faith or not. It didn’t do much good. So I think psy­cho­analy­sis is a mis­take of the same mag­ni­tude.

Werner Herzog, “Mad Bavarian Duke: Werner Herzog” STOPSMILING Issue 25

One very ba­sic think that you learn as a psy­chol­o­gist is a re­spect for sci­ence, and al­ways test­ing out what you think is a con­clu­sion. You never come to a con­clu­sion un­til you have full ev­i­dence for it. When you’re mak­ing a doc­u­men­tary, it’s im­por­tant you don’t come to a judg­ment on peo­ple, but you go through an open-minded dis­cov­ery process. People al­ways say, “Are you ob­jec­tive? Are you sub­jec­tive?” Those two ex­tremes come to­gether with em­pa­thy and love. It’s not cold sci­en­tific re­port­ing, but there’s an ob­jec­tiv­ity there. At the same time you’re deal­ing with hu­man emo­tions that re­quire that the cam­era per­son have heart-to-heart con­tact. I be­lieve that’s pos­si­ble.

Albert Maysles, “Shooting From the Heart: Albert Maysles” STOPSMILING Issue 25