node created 2019/09/29
Marry, and you will regret it; don’t marry, you will also regret it; marry or don’t marry, you will regret it either way. Laugh at the world’s foolishness, you will regret it; weep over it, you will regret that too; laugh at the world’s foolishness or weep over it, you will regret both. Believe a woman, you will regret it; believe her not, you will also regret it… Hang yourself, you will regret it; do not hang yourself, and you will regret that too; hang yourself or don’t hang yourself, you’ll regret it either way; whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both. This, gentlemen, is the essence of all philosophy.
Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.
I think we can be reasonably confident that if the American population had the slightest idea of what is being done in their name, they would be utterly appalled.
Q: Why do the police always travel in threes?

A: One to do the reading, one to do the writing, and the other keeps an eye on the two intellectuals.
Then McNamara has a footnote in his book. He says, two years later, Fall had changed his mind about the efficacy of American actions and took a more pessimistic view about the prospects for an American victory. That was 1967. Look at what [Fall] wrote in 1967. He said this just before he died. He said Vietnam is literally dying under the worst attack that any country has ever suffered and it was very likely that Vietnam as a cultural and historical entity was going to become extinct under the American attack. And McNamara reads this and says [Fall] changed his mind about the efficacy of what we were doing. Not only did he write that, but every reviewer read it. Nobody comments on it. Nobody sees anything funny about it. Because if we want to destroy a country and extinguish it as a cultural and historical entity, who could object? Fall was talking about South Vietnam, notice, not North Vietnam. The killing was mostly in South Vietnam. The attack was mostly against South Vietnam.

Not only is it interesting that this happened, but also interesting is the fact that no one noticed it. I wrote about it, but I have yet to find any commentator, scholar, or anyone else, who noticed this fact about the Pentagon Papers. And you see that in the contemporary discussion. We were "defending" South Vietnam, namely the country that we were destroying. The very fact that McNamara can say that and quote Bernard Fall, who was the most knowledgeable person, who was utterly infuriated and outraged over this assault against South Vietnam, even though he was a hawk, who thought Saigon ought to rule the whole country - you can quote him and not see that that's what he's saying - that reveals a degree of moral blindness, not just in McNamara, but in the whole culture, that surpasses comment.
Millions of people have been longing for years for a chance to let certain perpetrators of jazz and alleged humor, and likewise a crooner or two know how 'rotten' their stuff is. And multitudes of fingers long have been itching to get at certain raucous-voiced ballyhooists, if not in one way then in another. Handy buttons as a part of the standard equipment of receiving sets should put many a counterfeit statesmen and professional hot air artist in his place; and, of course, they should be equally valuable as registers of sober, thoughtful public opinion. Will the public care for that sort of thing? Will they bother to use Dr. Hopkins' device if they get a chance, do you ask? Don't you like to tell 'em where to head in and get off?
A tiny electrical gadget, called the Radiovoter, may speed the time when a president of the United States may step before a microphone, ask a question of his radio listeners concerning some question of public policy and receive an immediate reply from millions. The question may be: "Do you want war?" or: "Shall we build more battleships?" Or: "Do you favor a larger appropriation for relief?" Whatever the question, every listener by means of the Radiovoter on the receiving set could flash an answer back.
The difference between real material poison and intellectual poison is that most material poison is disgusting to the taste, but intellectual poison, which takes the form of cheap newspapers or bad books, can unfortunately sometimes be attractive.
The purpose of life is not to be happy at all. It is to be useful, to be honorable. It is to be compassionate. It is to matter, to have it make some difference that you lived.
Criminals do not die by the hands of the law. They die by the hands of other men.
To be oneself, simply oneself, is so amazing and utterly unique an experience that it's hard to convince oneself so singular a thing happens to everybody.
"Prime of Life"

There Will Come Soft Rains

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground, 
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone. 
July 1918
I know that life is a doorway to eternity, and yet my heart so often gets lost in petty anxieties. It forgets the great way home that lies before it. Unprepared, given over to childish trivialities, it could be taken by surprise when the great hour comes and find that, for the sake of piffling pleasures, the one great joy has been missed. I am aware of this, but my heart is not. It seems unteachable; it continues its dreaming... always wavering between joy and depression.
The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any.
In his stunning 2010 book, “The Death of the Liberal Class”, the seminary-trained journalist, Chris Hedges observes that for the most part, the institutions which have been pillars of liberalism, including the media, the university, the arts, the unions, the Democratic party, and the mainline churches have bought into the neoliberal ideology of corporate-capitalism, which revolves around the mythology of growth at the expense of human and nonhuman wellbeing, thriving, and increasingly, life itself.

In a word, political liberals talk a good talk but (just like political conservatives) have sold out people at the bottom and the planet. A splintering of “causes” and the reduction of politics to “issues” has left the liberal class “obsolete” and clinging “to its positions of privilege within liberal institutions.” And “[l]iberal religious institutions,” writes Hedges, “which should concern themselves with justice, embrace a cloying personal piety… and small, self-righteous acts of publicly conspicuous charity.”

If Hedges is correct, then Douthat is also correct about one thing: the Church should split from the secular liberal class. We should split from those who talk a good game but make peace with all manner of corporations whose time has frankly come.

We might start by challenging the power of coal, oil, and gas industries and the big banks that fund them, as has been prophetically suggested by Bill McKibben, a lay-Methodist, in this disturbing new piece in Rolling Stone. Thankfully, resistance of this sort is now official church policy since Resolution B023 on climate justice was adopted by this year’s General Convention.

In theological terms, we are tasked with affirming life in this moment of planetary exhaustion and pervasive social death. Ours are the works of resistance and restoration, of resurrection and reconciliation. Such works require us, always, to undertake some risk.
Deep doubts, deep wisdom; small doubts, little wisdom.
An obedient population is extremely vulnerable to authority figures. The whole point of democracy is to create stability by removing that single point of failure, by involving so many people in everything that crazy or malicious individuals can not easily gain excessive power, and democracy is under no circumstances compatible with obedience: Either you think critically and vote in your own interest, or you are obedient and vote how the dictator tells you to. It's impossible to have a population that critically evaluates candidates and selects the best one and that also follows orders without regard to their own evaluation of that order.
If, in Récoltes et Semailles I'm addressing anyone besides myself, it isn't what's called a "public". Rather I'm addressing that someone who is prepared to read me as a person, and as a solitary person. It's to that being inside of you who knows how to be alone, it is to this infant that I wish to speak, and no-one else. I'm well aware that this infant has been considerably estranged. It's been through some hard times, and more than once over a long period. It's been dropped off Lord knows where, and it can be very difficult to reach. One swears that it died ages ago, or that it never existed - and yet I am certain it's always there, and very much alive.
"The Life of a Mathematician - Reflections and Bearing Witness" (1986)
[..] intellectual freedom is a deep-rooted tradition without which our characteristic western culture could only doubtfully exist. From that tradition many of our intellectuals are visibly turning away. They have accepted the principle that a book should be published or suppressed, praised or damned, not on its merits but according to political expediency. And others who do not actually hold this view assent to it from sheer cowardice.
For the idea of humanity, when purged of all sentimentality, has the very serious consequence that in one form or another men must assume responsibility for all crimes committed by men and that all nations share the onus of evil committed by all others. Shame at being a human being is the purely individual and still non-political expression of this insight.
"Organized Guilt and Universal Responsibility"
If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.
"A Farewell to Arms"
[Q: can you conceive of any form in which you might support American military action taken, like the President's justification, in anticipation of an imminent and dangerous threat?]

Why don't you generalize it, and say, can you conceive of any action which any state might take? Sure, you can imagine such things. Let's say you're in Iran right now. [audience laughter] It's under attack by the world's superpower, with embargoes... It's surrounded by states either occupied by its superpower enemy, or having nuclear weapons. Little way down the road is the regional superpower, which has hundreds of nuclear weapons, and other WMDs, and is essentially an offshore US military base. And has a bigger and more advanced air force than any NATO power, outside the United States. And in the past year has been supplied by the global superpower with 100 advanced jet bombers, openly advertised as able to fly to Iran and back to bomb it. And also provided with what the Hebrew press calls special weaponry, nobody knows what that means, but if you're an Iranian intelligence analyst you gonna give a worst case analysis, of course. And has actually been publicly provided with smart bombs, and deep penetration weapons... They have a terrific justification for anticipatory self defense, better than any other case I can think of.

But would I approve of their bombing Israel, or carrying out terrorist acts in Washington? No, even though they have a pretty strong case, better than anything I can think of here. Just as the Japanese had a much better case than any that I can think of here, but I don't approve of Pearl Harbor. So yeah, we can conceive of cases, and in fact some of them are right in front of our eyes, but none of us approve of them. None of us.

So if we don't approve of them in real cases, why discuss hypothetical cases that don't exist? We can do that in some philosophy seminar, but in the real world there're real cases that ought to concern us.
Remember that your path will be difficult, at times unbearably so. All your loved ones will die. All your plans will go awry. You will be betrayed and abandoned. And you cannot escape death. Life is suffering. Accept it. But once you accept it, once you accept the inevitability of suffering, you must still accept your cross and follow your dream, because otherwise things will only get worse. Be an example, be someone on whom others can depend. Do not obey despots, fight for the freedom of body and soul, and build a country in which your children can be happy.
The Screen and the Job have displaced almost everything else is our lives. Loneliness is just a primary symptom.

The Screen, whether it’s TV, computer, or phone, has supplanted almost all social interactions. This manifests itself in things like SitComs on TV (just a bunch of friends or family hanging out) or Social Media on phones. It’s very easy to fill the social needs of right now with a Screen. But under even a minuscule amount of self reflection these are revealed as hollow substitutes for real human interaction.

The Job has completely taken over as a driving force in evaluating choices. The average person has to consider all options in the light of both the current employer and the specter of tomorrow’s. Moving across the country for a high paying job? Great! Moving to be closer to friends? That’s a career killer.

No wonder we are lonely. We make choices in the short term that optimize happiness, often at the expense of our relationships. Ghosting is not just for dates now. Then turn around and make choices in the long term that optimize employability at the expense of all else.
I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.
Facebook is special in this regard, because its outward claims toward "connecting people" are so poetically at odds with its actual business of extracting value and attention from them at all costs. Facebook is like a kindergarten run by child molesters.
Stand up for what you believe in even if you are standing alone.
Everyone has an internal eye. It always watching. It has been slowly constructed by society at large and by your friends and family, and it checks you for unacceptable behaviour. If you have had it around for long enough, you actually start to believe that the eye is you, and that you’re “being reasonable” or some other rationalization.

But the eye isn’t you at all. It is a prison, and you have justified its existence by obeying it. It’s strong because you let it be strong.

But the secret, the part that’s amazing, is that it can’t do anything to stop you, even if it wanted to. It’s an eye. It can only watch. The rest of you is free to act as you wish.
You don't write those books because you hope those things will happen. You write those books because you think they might happen.. but you'd rather they didn't.
Sure, torturing Uyghurs is kind of sucky. But do you realize the depth of the pain of the Chinese people, who even now, 70 years after the Communists took over, still nurse all the psychological wounds that came from 100 years of humiliation? Look, China has had a glorious 5000 years of history as a civilization. So this means that when you hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, you're wounding them to the core of their very beings, because that history runs so deep. That might make them seem a bit more sensitive, almost like cry-babies to your eyes, but that's only because you don't understand their pain. Whatever torture the Uyghurs are experiencing is nothing like the pain the Chinese people feel when a soccer player besmirches the moral character of the CCP.
Since no one really knows anything about God, those who think they do are just troublemakers.