Monthly Archives: August 2011

Quote for the Week

The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.

                     –Bill Hicks, Revelations (1993), courtesy Wikiquotes.

I’m not a fan, not because I dislike him but because I wasn’t much aware of him when he was alive.  From what I’ve read and some short clips I’ve seen, I certainly wouldn’t agree with many of his beliefs, and in his last years he seems to have pushed edginess to the very brink of obnoxiousness, if not all the way over the brink.  Still, he had talent, and this quote is quite nice–reminiscent of the Hindu concept of līlā; and certainly a good prescription for the world.

Chávez for the Weekend

A Double Shadow V: Finale

I have finally come to the last post I want to do inspired by A Double Shadow.  I thank everyone for the indulgence they’ve shown in following a rather lengthy series which I’ve posted here, here, here, and here.  The last thing I want to discuss is the issue of the “simple life” from the point of view of an advanced society.

Over the years I’ve been a regular habitué of Rod Dreher’s blogs in their various incarnations at Beliefnet, later, for a brief time, at Big Questions Online, the website of the Templeton Foundation, and now at The American Conservative.  I was and am a fan of much of his work, and am sympathetic to the “crunchy” outlook (though I’m not a “crunchy conservative”).  Over time, though, I’ve decided that there is much that is problematic both in some of Rod’s ideas in particular and in much of ideas regarding environment, self-sufficiency, going back to the land, and so on that are prevalent both on the Left and in some segments of the Right these days.  Read the rest of this entry

Beethoven Rocks On!

Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor

Usually thought of as “creepy music”–not its original intention–the Toccata and Fugue in D minor is a favorite of mine.  It’s best heard on an organ, of course.  I’ve never much liked orchestral versions of it, such as the one at the opening of the original Fantasia.  This rendition, on a Chapman stick, though, is somehow compelling.  Enjoy Bach in a different way!

Quote for the Week

God, the Exalted, gave the angels intellect without desires, He gave the animals desires without intellect, and He gave both to the sons of Adam. So a man whose intellect prevails over his desires is better than the angels, whilst a man whose desire prevails over his intellect is worse than the animals.

                    –Ali ibn Abi Talib, Majlisi, Bihārul Anwār, vol.60, p.299, no.5

“Forgiveness”, by Peter Katz

A Double Shadow, Part IV

I’ve used a discussion of the novel A Double Shadow (which you really should read, if you have a chance) as a jumping-off point for discussing various issues in contemporary society–previous installments are herehere, and here.  In this post (the penultimate, by the way), I’d like to bring the discussion to an element of the post’s title:  postmodernism.

“Postmodernism” is one of those terms that is overused and abused, and which often becomes a bugaboo or a reflexive way of showing disapproval or even approval.  Nevertheless, I think it is a useful term, particularly in this context.  Thus, as long as we recall that the term covers a lot of (often conflicting) phenomena, I think we can give a rough definition that will guide our discussion here. Read the rest of this entry

Mozart for the Weekend


An unusual but interesting rendition of Mozart’s Turkish Rondo.

A Double Shadow, Part III

Not long ago I discussed the novel A Double Shadow, and then I discussed the moral ramifications of the ethical system described therein.  The question then arises, what is the relevance? 

To recap briefly, the novel describes a terraformed Mars over a millennium and a quarter in the future, in which human technology has made practically anything possible.  Death is strictly optional, and reversible, practically infinite resources are available, travel across space, time, and dimensions is instantly and easily possible, and no desires need go unfulfilled.  The result is a society in which there is no concept of morality.  Instead, the main values are aesthetic.  Individuals are judged not as “good” or “bad” people, but in terms of how artistic their lives are and how fully they follow their own individual aesthetic choices in living their lives.  The choices themselves are arbitrary, since there is no transcendent standard involved. 

I would submit that such an ethos is not fictional, and that it has in fact been actualized (to a much lesser degree, of course) many times right here on Earth, and still is in places and degrees.  Any class of any society that has sufficient power and resources tends to live by such values as described of the Martians in A Double Shadow.  That is, wealth and power make anything possible, within the limitations of a society’s technology, and they also shield one to a large extent from undesired consequences of one’s actions.  Members of such a class may not be able to teleport to the Andromeda Galaxy or to cheat death, but they can live their lives pretty much as they see fit.  If problems occur in the process, money and power can sweep the pieces under the rug, and life goes on. Read the rest of this entry