27 February 2005
has crafted human nature for the facilitation of communal life. Our very
reality is socially defined. Trust is a foundation of our condition.
context establishes a perilous vulnerability. To lie for short-term
advantage is especially tempting for those in power, precisely because they
command so much trust. To fabricate an entire reality that pervades the
social consciousness is less difficult than it may seem.
history has not been kind to regimes that pursue this expedient. Oppressive
leadership may persist for centuries, as people willingly sacrifice their
personal condition for what they perceive as the social good. But regimes
built on lies self-destruct within a single generation. There is no more
powerful law of history than the tautology that reality will assert itself.
26 February 2005
as the Korean War was coming to a close, Daniel Seeger applied for an
exemption from the draft as a conscientious objector. The law
specified that purely personal convictions were not sufficient for an
exemption, but only a conviction that derives from "religious
training and belief". Nevertheless, Seeger left blank the yes/no
question about belief in a Supreme Being, and wrote,
It is our moral
responsibility to search for a way to maintain the recognition of the
dignity and worth of the individual. I cannot participate in actions
which betray the cause of freedom and humanity. War, with its
indiscriminate crushing of human personality, cannot preserve moral
values. To resort to immoral means is not to preserve or vindicate
moral values, but only to become collaborators in destroying all moral
life among men.
The lower court denied his
exemption, but the Court of Appeals held that "Today, a pervading
commitment to a moral ideal is for many the equivalent of what was
historically considered the response to divine commands. For many, the
stern and moral voice of conscience occupies that hallowed place in the
hearts and minds of men which was traditionally reserved for the
commandments of God."
In 1975, the draft was
suspended, but not abolished.
25 February 2005
Briefly It Enters, and
I am the blossom pressed in a book, found again after two hundred years. . . .
I am food on the prisoner's plate. . . .
I am water rushing to the wellhead, filling the pitcher until it spills. . . .
I am the stone step, the latch, and the working hinge. . . .
I am there in the basket of fruit presented to the widow. . . .
I am the one whose love overcomes you,
already with you when you think to call my name. . . .
- Jane Kenyon
24 February 2005
The Unity of Mathematics
All of mathematics is just as tightly connected as it can be, in the
sense that all true mathematical statements stand or fall together. An
theorem from symbolic logic tells us this:
If you could ever find a mathematical statement that is both provably
true and provably false...
then every other mathematical statement could also be proven both
true and false.
It's the ultimate house of
cards, and it's still standing.
23 February 2005
wish to free yourself of mental and emotional knots and become one with the
Tao? There are two paths available to you. The first is the path of
acceptance: Affirm everyone and everything. Freely extend your goodwill in
every direction and you embrace all things as part of the Harmonious
Oneness. The second path is that of denial: Recognize that all you see and
think is a falsehood, a veil over the truth. Peel away the veil and the Oneness
shines forth. Though these paths take you in opposite directions, yet they
will deliver you to the same place.
Remember: it isn't necessary
Lao Tse, Hua Hu Jing
translation by Brian Walker
22 February 2005
Deep thinkers inhabit a world
of their own creation; but if their thought is sufficiently powerful, it
will eventually pull us all in to join them.
"A harmless hilarity and a buoyant cheerfulness are not infrequent concomitants of genius; and we are never more deceived than when we mistake gravity for greatness, solemnity for science, and pomposity for erudition."
-Charles Caleb Colton (1730-1832)
21 February 2005
from free will are used to disprove the possibility of time travel. Suppose
you could go back to a time before you were born, so the argument goes, and
shoot your grandmother in her crib. You would prevent your subsequent birth;
but then who was it that went back and murdered your grandmother?
is a new twist to this argument, as the physics of black holes provides ways
in which it might be possible, in principle, to travel back in time. Such
schemes are very far from being practicable, but their possibility, even in
principle, bumps head-on into the grandmother paradox. Both lines of
reasoning are based on thought rather than real experiments, and they relate
to the framework with which we conceive of our world.
only way I can see to resolve this paradox is to grant that free will is an
illusion. Perhaps the contingency of the future is also merely a part of our
perception, and reality occupies a solid block of time as well as space.
all of history, past and future, laid out as a panorama of space and time.
This is all there is: no becoming, no uncertainty, no freedom. In some ways
this is a deeply comforting view of the universe. It’s a vision that
transcends death in the sense that ‘you and I will never not be’. It
elicits a sense of destiny: ‘Que sera, sera.’ But in other respects it
is terrifying. It negates all hope and it robs us of our freedom. In theory
future is as irrevocable and inflexible as yesterday."
~ Jorge Luis