22 October 2006

You come to this page looking for a dose of meaning and hope, for spiritual nourishment that sustains you.  Others will look to you today for just this same kind of support.  We thrive on each others’ encouragement and appreciation, to be sure; but simply knowing that others are well, that they feel hopeful and find reasons to express joy – this, too is sustaining.

Pass it on.

–Josh Mitteldorf

21 October 2006

It has become a guiding myth in the Western world, most egregiously in Britain and especially America, that a compassionate economy is an inefficient economy.  We have been told that social safety nets and antipoverty programs undermine the self-esteem of the people they pretend to serve, and cripple the productive economy.

In November's Scientific American, Jeffrey Sachs confronts these lies head-on, with cross-cultural economic statistics.  Nations that embrace democratic socialism are the most prosperous.  Nations with the most productive economies have oversized government-sponsored research programs and under-sized military organizations.  He concludes that

In strong and vibrant democracies, a generous social-welfare state is not a road to serfdom but rather to fairness, economic equality and international competitiveness.

20 October 2006

“What is faith? Is faith necessarily a matter of belief in God, or in religious doctrines? Is faith by necessity in contrast to, or divorced from, reason and rational thinking? Even to begin to understand the problem of faith one must differentiate between rational and irrational faith. By irrational faith I understand the belief (in a person or an idea) which is based on one’s submission to irrational authority. In contrast, rational faith is a conviction which is rooted in one’s own experience of thought or feeling. Rational faith is not primarily belief in something, but the quality of certainty and firmness which our convictions have. Faith is a character trait pervading the whole personality, rather than a specific belief. Rational faith is rooted in productive intellectual and emotional activity. In rational thinking (in which faith is supposed to have no place) rational faith is an important component... The history of science is replete with examples of faith in reason, and visions of truth.”

~ from The Art of Loving, by Erich Fromm

19 October 2006

Each experiment sticks a finger deep in the pie,
dares existence, blows a horn in the ear
of belief, lets the nasty and difficult brats
of real questions into the still air
of the desiccated parlor of stasis.
What we all know to be true, constant,
melts like frost landscapes on a window
in a jet of steam. How many last words
in how many dead languages would translate into,
But what happens if I, and Whoops!

– from Applesauce for Eve, by Marge Piercy

18 October 2006

The greatest surprise of my life is that I am tangible

Maddy Ballard, born this day in 1989

17 October 2006

Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.

~ Shinichi Suzuki, born this day in 1898

16 October 2006

Is the Universe already teeming with intelligent life?  Or is the emergence of life a rare event?  Or is life quite common across the Universe, but generally content to remain in single-celled forms?  Martin Rees, a senior astronomer at Cambridge, is fond of contemplating the consequence if this planet is the unique place in our vast universe where intelligent life has evolved. 

“More time lies ahead than has elapsed in the entire course of biological evolution. In those aeons, Earth could be the ‘seed’ from which post-human life spreads through the galaxy. The fate of humanity could then have an importance that is truly cosmic: what happens here might conceivably make the difference between a near eternity filled with ever more complex and subtle forms of life and one filled with nothing but base matter.”
~ Martin Rees, from a reprinted article in New Scientist, offering a balanced answer to the question ‘How good are the prospects for success of SETI, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence?’

Ever since the Copernican Revolution, mans place in the Universe has seemed small and peripheral.  But Rees also sees the opposite possibility: if human life has the unique opportunity to colonize space, then the fate of our civilization in the 21st century could have cosmic significance.

“Once the threshold is crossed when there is a self-sustaining level of life in space, then life’s long-range future will be secure irrespective of any of the risks on Earth (with the single exception of the catastrophic destruction of space itself). Will this happen before our technical civilisation disintegrates, leaving this as a might-have-been? Will the self-sustaining space communities be established before a catastrophe sets back the prospect of any such enterprise, perhaps foreclosing it forever? We live at what could be a defining moment for the cosmos, not just for our Earth.” 
~ Our Final Century by Martin Rees