23 January 2005
may be bound to causes and reasons, but joy is independent of external
- Josh Mitteldorf
As I try to apply this
principle, doubts arise: "What about squalor and
indigence? What about torture? Suppose I were a prisoner at Abu
Ghraib. Would I still be able to feel joy?"
But I am not a prisoner at
Abu Ghraib. Torture is a trick of the mind, a hypothesis put forward to
justify my present remoteness from joy. Indeed it is true: There
is nothing in my present reality that precludes the experience of joy.
Joy is within me. To
feel joyous is a gift; yet I am not without resource. I can open
myself to joy. I can seek within myself. I can take joy as my
That would take
22 January 2005
"Mysteries are those truths
that are immediately accessible through direct experience, but which cannot
be known through hearsay, theory, or rules of conduct."
from the essay Saving
21 January 2005
Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?
-Robert Frost, "Reluctance"
20 January 2005
Amid the belligerence of the Reagan/Thatcher years, a
grassroots movement for peace demanded to be heard. Against all odds,
organizations in opposition to the nuclear arms race caught the conscience
of the world, and forced the powerful military establishments in the US and
USSR to back off an
ever tenser race for missiles and bombs. Australian physician Helen
Caldicott tells some of the story in her autobiography, A
Desperate Passion. The Nobel
Peace Prize of 1985 was awarded to the International
Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
19 January 2005
live in an indivisible world where the rich may no longer ignore the poor
a new understanding at work. The last ten years have
allowed us to see the global world in which we live more clearly. We've come
to realize at least three things:
we live in an indivisible world. Up until now, rich
countries could live in ignorance of poor countries' needs. That's no longer
the idea that developing countries will stay forever in
their corner, unable to ever emerge from misery and good only for receiving
the charity of rich countries, has been replaced by the certitude that with
imaginative policies, they may become first world global players. China
provides a clear example...
in respect to security...being poor and living in a world
perceived as unfair, that mistreats you, creates a greater tolerance for
violence. Middle Eastern societies, for example, live with this perception
and we may no longer ignore it.
all these reasons, today is, in fact, a good time to seize the
Declaration and obtain a serious commitment from the international
community on these issues."
-Nobel Economist Amartya
Sen, speaking this week from the UN Forum
on Human Development in Paris.
(tr Leslie Thatcher)
18 January 2005
In the 1970’s and 80’s, Ray Kurzweil founded three companies that grew
their respective fields in computer applications. Kurzweil's computers
could (1) read a printed
page (OCR), (2) understand human speech, and (3) synthesize music. These are
mature technologies now that were once visionary.
Kurzweil is still a visionary — some would say he’s earned the right.
In a book called The
Age of Spiritual Machines, he speculates about the experiences that may
be available to our un-enhanced biological minds just a few decades down the
road. He starts with the
"The intelligence of machines—nonbiological entities—will exceed
human intelligence early in this century. By intelligence, I include all the
diverse and subtle ways in which humans are intelligent—including musical
and artistic aptitude, creativity, physically moving through the world, and
even responding to emotion. By 2019, a $1,000 computer will match the
processing power of the human brain—about 20 million billion calculations
per second. This level of processing power is a necessary but not sufficient
condition for achieving human-level intelligence in a machine. Organizing
these resources—the 'software' of intelligence—will take us to 2029, by
which time your average personal computer will be equivalent to a thousand
Like any provocative thesis, this book has spawned a rejoinder by
philosophers and scientists, called Are
we spiritual machines? Optimistic in its own way, this latter book
celebrates the mysteries of creative intelligence that is uniquely human.
17 January 2005
person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His
heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if
he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration."
love people. I love my family, my children . . . but inside myself is a
place where I live all alone and that's where you renew your springs that
never dry up."
-Pearl S. Buck