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

22 January 2006

The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

It is manifestly true that we all “should” be happy because the very existence and nature of our world is so incomprehensibly wondrous.  Yet few of us find that our prevailing mood from day to day is suffused with the awe and fervent wonder that the bountiful miracles of creation might easily inspire.  Stevenson himself suffered from major depression.

It is a perverse psychological fact that for many of us, being counseled that we should be happy is, at best, ineffective, and frequently a source of irritation.  But though we disdain these reminders, don't we also count on them?  The hope persists that someone will find a way to help us see our way clear to appropriate bliss.

More effective than exhortation is surprise.  We may be caught off-guard and delighted by some expression or observation, some unexpected juxtaposition of incongruities.  We are delivered into the realm of mystery, and sometimes the glow lingers.  This is the highest function of art.

21 January 2006

“Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame.”

~ Alexander Pope    

20 January 2006

“A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.”

Patricia Neal began her life in the same dissipated, short-sighted style that tragically overtakes many Hollywood actresses who attract fame and admiration for shallow reasons.  She found her depth only after a personal tragedy: she suffered three massive strokes at age 39.  Her comeback from paralysis and aphasia is a subject for the medical record book, and a tribute to her determination and the dedication of husband Roald Dahl, the dark children’s author.

Patricia Neal is 80 years old today.

"They call me a dumb blonde, but really I'm not that blonde."

19 January 2006

Quantum field theory and the theory of general relativity have such superb power that no experiment yet has shown a crack in either of them, even though they both predict wildly counterintuitive properties in physical reality. And yet the two theories seem to be deeply at odds with each other, which suggests that there must be some other as-yet-unknown theory that incorporates them both in a consistent way, a theory of quantum gravity. It is fervently sought. The mainstream, and extremely cocky, school of thought is that string theory or M theory is inevitably going to be accepted as this unifying theory.

~ Jaron Lanier, from a book review of The Road to Reality, a huge book on the foundations of science 
by a huge man, Roger Penros
e, which culminates in his personal candidate for a Theory of Everything

18 January 2006

Wherefore their soul in me, or mine,    
hrough self-forgetfulness divine,  
n them, that song aloft maintains,
To fill the sky and thrill the plains    
With showerings drawn from human stores,   
As he to silence nearer soars,     
Extends the world at wings and dome,        
More spacious making more our home,
Till lost upon his aërial rings   
In light, and then the fancy sings.

from The Lark Ascending, by George Meredith 

hear The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams
(violin solo
by Hilary Hahn)

17 January 2006

He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.

Quick-witted, far-seeing and multitalented, Benjamin Franklin saw the deep value of humility, not just as a social posture, but for the wellbeing of the soul.  He struggled with this virtue, and when he set himself the project of re-forming habits for self-improvement, humility was prominently the last on his list.

To be humble to superiors is duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors nobleness.
- Poor Richard, 1735

To Benjamin Franklin, best wishes for long life and a happy 300th birthday.

16 January 2006

Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Roman playwright, born 4 BC