There are some who call me...Tim

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2005-06-21 — 8:38 a.m.

Sagan Conversation - Part 2

Tom’s comments to my post (See Sagan Conversation Part 1)

I loved the last sentence, “We have to save ourselves, that's the long and short of it.” . And the rest of it made me lose my balance...and I was sitting down when I read it. It’s quite a fate…dark and horrific to most, but miraculous if you ask me. I mean we are part and parcel to all of it. That rock I skipped along the lake yesterday is not much different than me. We came from the same eruption of energy. It gives me a sense of connection to the everything that surrounds. Talk about equality.

You’re right; it’s not in our capacity to understand such colossal theories. I relate that capacity to our state of consciousness. Using Einstein’s all encompassing theory of relativity (which to me has larger philosophical meaning than scientific), our current state is a pinhole in the dawn of knowledge. Then again, the ape’s conclusions are vastly limited compared to that same pinhole. But really, when drawn relative to your previous story, that pinhole is meaningless.

SO all these alternate realities…the reenactment of imploding and exploding and creation from interstellar dust globbing together by gravity. Entropy. Order out of chaos. How many people think about these ideas…We’ve become a society that puts a bucket over our head and fumbles along, ingesting a hollow diet of pop culture transmitted thru TV. I’m not judging, we’re all guilty in some degree…It’s Orwellian. Look at our current state, an election won thru religion so that we can amass our empire of democracy. And is this not a religious war? The website you directed me to was an interesting read that validated some rough ideas. Oops…lost my footing there and slipped into politics.

And what of life elsewhere...more advanced life…uh oh, my ego is crumbling. Good, the sooner it crumbles the better...and I speak of our race when i say that. I mean the size of a dime, 75 ft distant...uh, I’m no statistical wonder, but the odds seem quite good that throughout this immensity there is something else. AND the first planet we looked at (mars) WE FOUND IT!

You got me to thinking with your last statement...”we have to save ourselves”…with all of this cosmic unknowing and the perspective and enlightenment that results, my thinking gravitates towards the here and now, and my own personal experience. In order for true progress to be made, the individual must be the beginning. What I mean is that with all of this incomprehensible stuff literally floating about my head; it is the moment that is all-important. My dog is my model. He lives in the moment, unencumbered by the crunchy static of swirling thought and opinion. Living within nature, through nature. This is intelligence. I’m not talking about a hippie, tree-hugging model here. It’s just, when I think about your description of the universe; it is immediately obvious that our “intelligence” is not that at all. I mean when the incomprehensible is so absolute...So, maybe the better tact is to let it go and become immersed in it. Like you said, this tiny little planet has no other purpose than its own existence. Now relate that to yourself.

I know this, whenever I’m doing something, if I am able to focus on the activity at hand and nothing else, enjoyment increases exponentially. Sure it’s few and far between that I can actually do this…if I’ve really ever done it at all. I suppose there is a nanosecond here and there when I’m playing guitar (just a couple years in, so maybe those times will increase).

Have you seen “What the bleep do we know?” really good.

You know in some ways I am opposed to email, it ruins the tactile experience of actual conversation…but then again; it invites the opportunity to gather your thoughts more clearly...this has been a great exchange.

I’m curious, what philosophy have you investigated? Emerson and Thoreau are favorites of mine and then literature is great…Conrad, Melville, Hawthorne...all of their stuff is laced with incredible philosophy…I’m not able to read all of it with an understanding, but certainly enough to be influenced by it.

My reply to Tom:

Philosophy. It's such a nebulous topic isn't it? I appreciate that you find philosophy in literature, not just in the works of the classic philosophers; I'm very much the same way. In fact, I've even found it on TV commercials. One passage in particular that always struck me as profound was from a shampoo commercial.

Don't delete the email, give me a chance to explain!

In the context it was used it was a little cheesy, but the truth of it rings SOOOOOOOO true, that I'll never forget it. I was a line from a Head & Shoulders advert, and was, of course, clever how they they used it, albeit shallow.

"You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Wow. It's obvious, but still so true!

OK, OK. I just had to get that one out of the way!

I've so many favorites that I don't even know where to begin. It all started in my AP English class in high school when I read The Stranger by Albert Camus. Existentialism really opened my eyes to a new reality. Living may not always be the best approach; sometimes simply existing allows an objective observation to take over. Seeing the world as an observer, rather than a participant, can be refreshing, since it is without the passionate belief systems that lead us into irrationality.

One of my favorite quotes by Camus is:

"It was previously a question of finding out whether or not life had to have a meaning to be lived. It now becomes clear, on the contrary, that it will be lived all the better if it has no meaning."

I've also always been a huge fan of Mark Twain. His unfettered and finely-honed honesty was always an eye-opener. For instance:

"I do not see how astronomers can help feeling exquisitely insignificant, for every new page of the Book of the Heavens they open reveals to them more and more that the world we are so proud of is to the universe of careening globes as is one mosquito to the winged and hoofed flocks and herds that darken the air and populate the plains and forests of all the earth. If you killed the mosquito would it be missed? Verily, What is Man, that he should be considered of God?"

"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."

I've also been very partial to the ancient Greeks. Aristotle and Socrates both have some doozies. My favorite quote from Aristotle I actually had to read several time before the full meaning (read here as brilliance) really sunk in. It reads:

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

And from Socrates came a wonderful attitude, which I've accepted, but religious don't get:

"The unexamined life is not worth living."

Ooh, this quote is the perfect segue into a more modern philosophy. As expressed by Richard Dawkins:

“I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.”

And another, which as an atheist, I love:

"We are all atheists, some of us just believe in fewer gods than others. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

I don't know who said that last one though.

Sorry to turn it back to the atheist view at the end there. I'm sure it's a coincidence that most of my favorite philosophers were not religious.

Would you like to read one of my favorite philosophical quotes? It's my very own. Ready?

"There's a fine line between efficiency and laziness."

Tom’s reply:

Great quotes…all gems…even the head and shoulders commercial.

I think you might like this one.

"As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation - or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown." Ayn Rand

Just got smacked in the face with this one very recently:

“We must set up the strong present tense against all the rumors of wrath, past or to come”


“Every ship is a romantic object, except that we sail in. Embark, and the romance quits our vessel, and hangs on every other sail in the horizon”
Experience: Emerson

And while we’re offering up our own:

It is in the daily action that life breathes its warm sense.

Ok, so I guess we both best get back to work so that our efficiency doesn’t dole of into laziness…you’re definitely onto something with that one…I walk that slope most days.

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