"When an old and distinguished person speaks to you, listen to him carefully and with respect – but do not believe him. Never put your trust in anything but your own intellect. Your elder, no matter whether he has gray hair or lost his hair, no matter whether he is a Nobel Laureate, may be wrong... So you must always be skeptical – always think for yourself." --Linus Pauling


The Sacred And The Profane

A conversation I had tonight with Jeremy:

Jack: A question: Do you think people who cannot appreciate the profane in the world (i.e. the clever use of profanity, expression of ideas that might be considered dirty, etc.) also have a corresponding lack of appreciation of the sacred?

Jeremy: I believe that the more simplistic view of the world you have, the weaker your soul. So, yes.

Jack: You know, I don't know what I like and am impressed by more: My question, or your answer.

Jeremy: (Laughs) Hint: It's your question.

Jack: Ah, but your answer to the question was sublime.

Jeremy: I've got to stop putting this essay off. Seems you've worked your way into my theme.

Jack: Excellent! My fifteen minutes of fame is assured! Now I can focus all my energy on achieving another gratuitous fifteen that I wasn't even allotted!

Jeremy: You've heard of the Turing test, of course.

Jack: Yeah.

Jeremy: No program has been able to pass it yet. The reason is because of a lack of nuance. There simply aren't enough programmers in the world to put that much character into an intelligent system.

So the point is, since I always approach these things obliquely for some damn reason, and also because you're currently fascinated by Dawkins & the complexity of nature, it's become clear to me that simplistic views, ones that summarize (as in racism or stereotypes), or are absolute (with us or against us), or are a work of accounting (health of a child is worth some dollar value) are the exact forms of thought that steal our souls.

Jack: Interesting. You know, we had a conversation about this kind of thing a few months ago.

Jeremy: Really?

Jack: Yeah. It was expressed differently, though. We were talking about the American Revolution and came to the conclusion that if you looked back at the great figures of history... (Benjamin Franklin, Marie Curie, Victoria Woodhull, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, etc.) what you notice is that the greater the subject, the more complex as people they were.

Jeremy: Oh yes, I remember that conversation. They were Shakespearian in stature, with flaws as great as their presence.

Jack: Right. And your real fucking bastards were simplistic in comparison. Everything was an either/or, black & white proposition with them.

Jeremy: E.g., In religio-fanatic world, everything is a summarizing symbol. "Cross", "tit on the TV", "Flag on the Floor," "Muslim/Christian": It all strives to simplify.

Jack: You know what I find really cool?

Jeremy: What? Redheads?

Jack: I notice that when all ideas of 'Fate' or 'Destiny' or 'Religion' are expunged from my worldview (but not the possibilities of same), when everything I am becomes my sole responsiblity...

I suddenly feel capable of anything.

Jeremy: Perhaps it's comforting to know it's all a playground anyway.