An uplifting news item, poem, thought or quotation each day.
18 July 2004

Choix humaine

In each moment, we can regard our world as ordinary, sane and orderly. We can fulfill the expectations of our community as engaged and responsible citizens.

...or we can embrace reality.

- Josh Mitteldorf

17 July 2004

During the early 1970's when I lived in Berkeley, I used to see billboards around the Bay Area with an inscription that I regarded at first as empty and banal to the point of self-parody. But sometimes, when I approached the message in the proper frame of mind, I could imagine it as the distilled essence of profundity from a fully realized being:

"Don't worry – be happy."
Meher Baba

16 July 2004

As I copy these quotes, I realize that their meaning for me derives as much from their source as from their content. Why is this? I am not a person who takes my beliefs from the weight of established authority.

But for me, Science has played the role of the ultimate grown-up, pricking my bubbles, reminding me not to succumb to superstition or wishful thinking. I can no longer embrace the mystical except as Science grants me His permission.

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science."

"The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible."

"People do not grow old no matter how long we live. We never cease to stand like curious children before the great Mystery into which we were born."

- Albert Einstein

15 July 2004

"Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them."

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

14 July 2004

In the wake of the French Revolution, a working-class playwright had a clear vision of its historical meaning for human liberation, and a premonition of women's equality yet to come.

"Woman, wake up! The powerful empire of nature is no longer surrounded by prejudice, fanaticism, superstition, and lies...Enslaved man has multiplied his strength and needs recourse to yours to break his chains. Having become free, he has become unjust to his companion... Regardless of what barriers confront you, it is in your power to free yourselves; you have only to want to."

– from Declaration of the Rights of Women, Olympe de Gouge, 1791


13 July 2004

"And I shall broadcast, saying nothing,
the starry echoes of the wave,
a breaking up of foam and quicksand,
a rustling of salt withdrawing,
the grey cry of the sea-birds on the coast.

So, through me, freedom and the sea
will make their answer to the shuttered heart."

Poet’s Obligation  

by Pablo Neruda

tr Alastair Reid

12 July 2004

As a young grad student in 1966, Lynn Margulis figured out where mitochondria came from. What was know was that mitochondria are "organelles", thousands of tiny globules inside every plant and animal cell that convert energy for the cell’s use. What Margulis figured out was that mitochondria had once been infectious bacteria, invading their host cells as a disease organism. Over evolutionary time, enemies had become friends, parasites had become endosymbionts - co-operating entities on the inside.

The first fifteen journals rejected Margulis’s article. She persisted in the face of her colleagues’ scorn because she knew her hypothesis was correct. Her hypothesis about mitochondria is taught in textbooks today as if it were received wisdom of the ages, the one and only obvious way to interpret the existence and origin of mitochondria.

"She had a way of looking at symbiosis which didn't fit into the popular theories and structure. In the minds of many people, she went around the powers that be and took her theories directly to the public, which annoyed them all. It particularly annoyed them because she turned out to be right. If it's a sin to take your theories to the public, then it is a double sin to take your theories to the public and be right."
- Danny Hillis

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