Reason # 37 I Love Libraries

No shock that as an English teacher I tend to read a lot. Though the older I get, the less of it is in book form. In fact I'd say better than 70% of my reading happens online these days. But I still like to read myself to sleep most nights with a good old fashioned codex and my wife found this book in hardcover at our local library for just a buck. Let the late night, nightmare inducing readings begin.

The More Things Change...

“We’ve got two parties.” “No you do not. You have only the party of the banks, of the money men, and they divide it into two pieces for your voting.” ― Gregory BenfordArtifact
Currently reading Artifact by Gregory Benford. It was written in 1985. This quote could have been written yesterday.

Portland Head Light

Nubble Light used to be my favorite, but I think Portland Head just won me over.

Sophrosyne

Watching the Olympics last night we saw two divergent things that are both so typical of America. On the one hand we saw Katie Ledecky win a goal in the pool by like 7 seconds. The US often outpaces other nations re: economy, military, charitable giving. On the other hand we saw Hope Solo, the US women's soccer goalie be a complete sore loser and really disgrace herself with some inappropriate comments about the Swedish team.

This unfortunately is America too. I guess this is pretty typical of human nature really. No one is black or white, we're all shades of grey. But what's interesting is that they're only grey in the aggregate. It seems to me most people wildly vacillate between white and black. If we all hovered in grey we may be better for it. Yet another support for the ancient Greek concept of sophrosyne! (Turns out spellcheck has no idea what sophrosyne is. Ah the irony)

Note to Hollywood

We need less Purge, Saw, and Paranormal
We need more like The Witch
Slow, understated and quietly terrifying.

We Live In Interesting Times

“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe

Where Have All The Smart Ones Gone?

Half a century ago, such figures existed in America: serious Christian intellectuals who occupied a prominent place on the national stage. They are gone now. It would be worth our time to inquire why they disappeared, where they went, and whether — should such a thing be thought desirable — they might return.
From The Watchman

Skillz

I wish my notes looked this good.


On Being with Maria Popova

Finally listened to the On Being episode with Maria Popova . Brilliant stuff. I especially like her discussion of the relationship between cynicism and hope and the role critical thinking has in bridging the gap. And of course anyone who is a proponent of reading Seneca is OK in my book. If you’re going to read a classical philosopher, pass by Plato and head straight for Seneca. Many more modern application for his thoughts and ideas.
One thing that bothers me about her though is her intentional neglect of western Christian thinkers in her intellectual travels. She speaks a lot about the common human record, but then ignores a vital part of it. For instance, she talks about struggling for years to understand why flashes of insight occurred to her while showering or exercising, but a reading of St John of the Cross would have made that clear. Then she goes on about how important Thoreau is to her thinking, but doesn’t seem to realize that Thoreau is indebted to St. Augustine for many of his ideas.
Part of me wonders too if her neglect of this branch of thought has created a certain self-centeredness. I am specifically thinking of when she describes what it means to be human. While speaking eloquently about how our identity as human changes with time, she can not seem to come up with an answer that does not revolve entirely around herself. Even when she starts to talk about a relational definition of mankind, she turns it into a relationship with her past identities. I suspect she is partly right, but I also think a definition of what it means to be human that ignores community cannot be complete.
Regardless, Popova’s site is a favorite and it was cool to get a peek behind the scenes.

The Limits of Science?

I was reading an article on artificial intelligence and came across the following idea:
“ But it’s not just that a chimp can’t do what we do, it’s that his brain is unable to grasp that those worlds even exist—a chimp can become familiar with what a human is and what a skyscraper is, but he’ll never be able to understand that the skyscraper was built by humans. In his world, anything that huge is part of nature, period, and not only is it beyond him to build a skyscraper, it’s beyond him to realize that anyone can build a skyscraper. That’s the result of a small difference in intelligence quality.” 
If we take this as true, then doesn’t it stand to reason that there are things in the vastness of the universe that we, as humans, will find to simply be beyond our ability to understand? One of the central tenets of the Enlightenment is that the world is ultimately knowable to science, but perhaps it isn’t.
Does this mean scientific inquiry is wrong? No. But it does say that we should not be so vain as to think we can ever really understand it all. And, just maybe, mystery has a place at the table of human understanding after-all.