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

13 November 2005

The Poet and the Philosopher

The eye perceives, the heart grants not, and thus the mind declines to see
The pocks that mar a vision otherwise as perfect as a scene can be.
What loss, if then an ideal reigns and loveliness suffuse a soul?

Just this: that truth constitutes the basis for all common understanding, and authenticity is prerequisite to deep contact between sentient beings, without which no love can endure.

What mortal man with eyes unglazed would deign adopt a lover’s role?
And not just love – were’t not for romance, would man strive toward any goal?
There is no object world on which, our eyes once clear, we’d all agree!

And yet we must strive to purify our vision, using introspection to separate subject from object, if ever we wish to establish a basis for harmonious co-existence, let alone intimate communion.

A heart to heart directly speaks without the need for word nor act.
Poetic truth can stand apart from logic or noetic fact.
’Tis matter keeps our bodies fed, and science measures history,
But art illumines – nay defines – our place in nature’s mystery.

~ Josh Mitteldorf

12 November 2005

"Ideas came with explosive immediacy, like an instant birth."

~ Eugene Field 

11 November 2005

It has been said by many scientists: the pursuit of reasoned understanding, ending in ultimate mystery, gives the scientific world view a spiritual grandeur that is at least as powerful as religious philosophies based on received wisdom and faith alone.  Here is the way Darwin ended the 1865 edition of his most famous classic, The Origin of Species:

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Another fascinating bit of history: We learn in school that Lamarck's mistake was to imagine that evolution required the inheritance of acquired traits, and that Darwin's triumphant insight was in realizing that blind variation and natural selection were a sufficient explanation.  We learn that twentieth century science vindicated Darwin, and left Lamarck as a historic footnote.  But both the history and the science are more complex.  Contemporary scientists convinced Darwin that all variation would collapse without inheritance of acquired traits; hence, in this late edition of the Origin, he adds this language about "indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse."  This is Lamarck's giraffe, who stretches his neck to reach the high branches, and then passes along his extended neck length to his offspring!  And in microbial genetic labs of the 21st century, we begin to hear of exceptions to the rule that only the received genome can be passed to offspring.

10 November 2005

"You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips."
Oliver Goldsmith, born this day in 1728 or 1730

Goldsmith was an author, widely-read in his day, and famous for living a life of petty jealousies and vindictiveness, lacking in practice the folk wisdom that he expressed so eloquently in his fiction and his poetry.

"Despite the disintegration of his personality, the foolishness of his actions, his excessive drunkenness and incurable extravagance, Goldsmith was, and is, a great man — a man of rare talents that bordered on genius, one of the finest natural writers in the English language. This reputation is based on, and justified by, some half a dozen books, essays, plays, poems, and one novel, The Vicar Of Wakefield." 
- biography, from Notable Names Database

9 November 2005

"The world wants its great men to measure their lives by its puny foot-rule.  But no rule has yet been devised which will take their full height, for such men, if they are really worth the name, derive their greatness, not from themselves but from another source. And that source stretches far away into the Infinite. Hidden here and there in stray corners of Asia and Africa, a few Seers have preserved the traditions of an ancient wisdom. They live like angels as they guard their treasure. They live outwardly apart, this celestial race, keeping alive the divine secrets, which life and fate have conspired to confide in their care."

Paul Brunton, The Secret Path

8 November 2005

Mukhtaran Bibi is a new kind of choice for Glamour Magazine's Woman of the Year.  After becoming the victim of a rape, she refused to be a rape victim, and bounced back, instead, to bring her attackers to justice, and to win a civil judgment against them.  In her native Pakistan, this victory was unprecedented.

"After prosecuting the rapists, Mukhtaran used the compensation money of $8,300 to start schools in her village because she thinks that education is the best way to overcome feudal attitudes. Girls from surrounding areas hike up to two hours each way to attend the school," writes Nicholas Kristof.

Chronology of the incident (in 2002) from Wikipedia.

7 November 2005

"I am among those who think that science has great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: he is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale...All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child."

~ Marie Curie, born this day in 1867