An uplifting news item, poem, thought or quotation each day.
Archive of past entries

18 September 2005

The contemplative life prepares our minds for any crisis.

Then, though conviction be veiled by fear and doubt, it is the habit of conviction and the memory of conviction that carries us through.

~ Josh Mitteldorf

17 September 2005

Hail to you, great God, Lord of Justice! I have come to you, my lord, so that I may see your beauty, for I know you and I know your name, and I know the names of the forty-two gods of those who are with you in this Hall of Justice...

Truth is your name. Behold I have come to you, I have brought you truth, I have repelled falsehood for you.

I have not done falsehood against men, I have not impoverished my associates, I have done no wrong in the Place of Truth, I have not learnt that which is not, I have done no evil, I have not daily made labor in excess of what was to be done for me, my name has not reached the offices of those who control slaves, I have not deprived the orphan of his property, I have not done what the gods detest, I have not slandered a servant to his master, I have not caused pain, I have not made hungry, I have not made to weep, I have not killed, I have not turned anyone over to a killer, I have not caused anyone’s suffering...

I have not been unchaste, I have not increased nor diminished the measure...I have not added to the balance weights, I have not tempered with the plumb bob of the balance. I have not taken milk from a child’s mouth...

I have not encroached upon fields, I have not driven small cattle from their herbage, I have not stopped the flow of water in its seasons, not built a dam against flowing water, I have not quenched a fire in its time.

I am pure. I am pure. I am pure...and nothing evil shall come into being against me in this Hall of Justice.

~ Declaration of innocence, from the Egyptian Book of the Dead (1240 BC)

16 September 2005

Global Eco-engineering

Global warming seems one of the most intractable problems of our time, because it would appear to require people to subjugate their own individual interests and cooperate at an unprecedented level. Everything we in the civilized world do requires energy, and current technologies for creating usable energy are concentrated on burning coal, oil, gas and wood - all of which add CO2 to the atmosphere.

One grandly-conceived solution is energy conservation. This will certainly play a role. Another is not so obvious or so well known: marine biologists say that there is enormous potential for plankton growth in the world’s southern oceans. They say the oceans are fertile with most minerals and get lots of unused sunlight, but they lack one element: iron.

So the plan is to convert scrap iron into filings and seed the oceans on a large scale. If it works, the oceans will become more productive, pulling enough CO2 out of the atmosphere to counteract global warming, while simultaneously de-acidifying the oceans. Since plankton is at the base of the ocean’s food chain, it may become a more richly sustainable source of seafood as well.

Will it work? We don’t know yet. But I am full of admiration for those who think about grand solutions, and projects that will benefit the earth’s creatures on a vast scale.

Science Magazine articles last year.

15 September 2005

Sometimes great people produce great quotes, but sometimes people of no special achievement have a knack for capturing truth in a phrase.  The legacy of François de la Rochefoucauld, born this day in 1613, is a body of aphorisms: 

«Les querelles ne dureraient pas longtemps, si le tort n’était que d’un côté.»

"Fights would not last, if one side only were wrong"

«Il est plus honteux de se défier de ses amis que d'en être trompé»

"It is more shameful to mistrust one's friends than to be deceived by them"

«Nous sommes plus près d’aimer ceux qui nous haïssent que ceux qui nous aiment.»

"It is easier to love those who hate us than those who love us excessively."

«Nous promettons selon nos espérances, et nous tenons selon nos craintes.»

"We promise according to our hopes and perform according to our fears."

«On parle peu quand la vanité ne fait pas parler.»

"We are quiet when not moved by vanity."

Sources in French: Bibliothèque virtuelle   Jobin Gilles
Sources in English: Quote Mountain   Think-Exist

14 September 2005

'Today's Daily Inspiration is a paradox.'

We are comfortable working with statements that are either true or false.  But self-referential statements can be neither or both.  

'This statement is true.' can be both true and false, since it's true if it's true, and false if it's false.

'This statement is false.' can be neither true nor false, since it's true if it's false, and vice versa.  Hence it is a paradox.

     –> 'Today's Daily Inspiration is a paradox.' - true? false? or a paradox?


13 September 2005

I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

~Stanley Kunitz, Touch Me

12 September 2005

"One who rows a boat turns his back to the goal toward which he labours. So it is with the next day. When by the help of the eternity a man lives absorbed in today, he turns his back to the next day. The more he is eternally absorbed in today, the more decisively does he turn his back upon the next day, so that he does not see it at all. If he turns around, eternity is confused before his eyes, it becomes the next day. But if for the sake of labouring more effectively towards the goal (eternity) he turns his back, he does not see the next day at all, whereas by the help of eternity he sees quite clearly today and its task." 

Soren Kierkegaard, The Anxiety of Self-Torment

Kierkegaard was a Christian, and intended "eternity" as a reference to heaven. But the wisdom of his observation transcends this context.  His advice is sound if we interpret the word as our broadest vision, whether physical or metaphysical or religious or mystical.  Perhaps another metaphor is the sea captain with his eyes on the distant shore, not on the next wave.