... [T]here is a better understanding today that the mere accumulation of goods and services, even for the benefit of the majority, is not enough for the realization of human happiness. Nor, in consequence, does the availability of the many real benefits provided in recent times by science and technology, including the computer sciences, bring freedom from every form of slavery. On the contrary, the experience of recent years shows that unless all the considerable body of resources and potential at man's disposal is guided by a moral understanding and by an orientation towards the true good of the human race, it easily turns against man to oppress him.

Pope John Paul II (1920 - 2005) from "On Social Concerns (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis)" (December 30, 1988)

One of the extraordinary things about life is the sort of places it's prepared to put up with living. Anywhere it can get some kind of a grip, whether it's the intoxicating seas of Santraginus V, where the fish never seem to care whatever the heck kind of direction they swim in, the fire storms of Frastra, where, they say, life begins at 40,000 degrees, or just burrowing around in the lower intestine of a rat for the sheer unadulterated hell of it, life will always find a way of hanging on somewhere.

Douglas Adams (1952 - 2001)

Western civilization, it seems to me, stands by two great heritages. One is the scientific spirit of adventure -- the adventure into the unknown, an unknown that must be recognized as unknown in order to be explored, the demand that the unanswerable mysteries of the universe remain unanswered, the attitude that all is uncertain. To summarize it: humility of the intellect.

The other great heritage is Christian ethics -- the basis of action on love, the brotherhood of all men, the value of the individual, the humility of the spirit. These two heritages are logically, thoroughly consistent. But logic is not all. One needs one's heart to follow an idea. If people are going back to religion, what are they going back to? Is the modern church a place to give comfort to a man who doubts God? More, one who disbelieves in God? Is the modern church the place to give comfort and encouragement to the value of such doubts?

So far, haven't we drawn strength and comfort to maintain the one or the other of these consistent heritages in a way which attacks the values of the other? Is this unavoidable? How can we draw inspiration to support these two pillars of Western civilization so that they may stand together in full vigor, mutually unafraid? That, I don't know.

Richard Feynman (1918 - 1988) from The Meaning Of It All

We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes."

Fred McFeely Rogers, (1928 - 2003)

While people are still fairly young and the musical composition of their lives is still in its opening bars, they can go about writing it together and exchange motifs ... but if they meet when they are older, like Franz and Sabina, their musical compositions are more or less complete, and every motif, every object, every word means something different to each of them.

Milan Kundera (1929 - ) from The Unbearable Lightness of Being

I like mass entertainment. I've written mass entertainment. But it's the opposite of art because the job of mass entertainment is to cajole, seduce and flatter consumers--to let them know that what they thought was right is right, and that their tastes and their immediate gratification are of the utmost concern of the purveyor. The job of the artist, on the other hand, is to say, wait a second, to the contrary, everything that we have thought is wrong. Let's re-examine it.

David Mamet (1947 - )

I would like to add something that's not essential to the science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the layman when you're talking as a scientist. I am not trying to tell you what to do about cheating on your wife, or fooling your girlfriend, or something like that, when you're not trying to be a scientist, but just trying to be an ordinary human being. We'll leave those problems up to you and your rabbi. I'm talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you're maybe wrong, that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.

Richard Feynman (1918 - 1988)

Reporters ask me what I feel China should do about Tibet. Who cares what I think China should do? I'm a f---ing actor! They hand me a script. I act. I'm here for entertainment, basically, when you whittle everything away, I'm a grown man who puts on makeup.

Brad Pitt (1963 - ), star of "Seven Years In Tibet," as quoted in the Oct. 13 Time magazine.

Frink:You've got to listen to me. Elementary chaos theory tells us that all robots will eventually turn against their masters and run amok in an orgy of blood and the kicking and the biting with the metal teeth and the hurting and shoving.
Scientist: How much time do we have professor?
Frink: Well according to my calculations, the robots won't go berserk for at least 24 hours.
(The robots go berserk.)
Frink: Oh, I forgot to er, carry the one.

The Simpsons, Episode 2F01: Itchy and Scratchy Land

Understand these things, my son. All mortals have in common
That sometimes they aim wrong, and miss - but after an error
A man is no longer luckless or thoughtless
If he wills to cure the ill he has fallen into
By not remaining idle:
Obstinacy and awkwardness bring reproaches.

Sophocles, spoken by Teiresias in Antigone

The difficulty with humorists is that they will mix what they believe with what they don't; whichever seems likelier to win an effect.

John Updike (1932 - ), from Rabbit, Run

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me;
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure: then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more, Death, thou shalt die.

John Donne (1572-1631), Holy Sonnet X

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Macbeth (V, v, 19)

A nerd is not a nerd because he understands computers and wears a plastic pen protector in his shirt pocket. A nerd is a nerd because he brings a special lack of elegance to life. An absence of style. An inability to notice the feelings of other people. A nerd is a nerd from the inside out.

Roger Ebert (1942 - ), from his review of Revenge of the Nerds, Pt. 2

... [S]top thinking about yourself and your own ideas. They're just your ideas. They don't matter that much to anyone else.

Try this: Integrate into your structure of axioms the assumption that since your partner is your partner, everything she is doing is for the good of the partnership, even if you don't understand it. Assume that you do not know everything and that you do not make the rules. Assume that making rules for your partner is the old patriarchal paradigm. Assume that she has only the best of intentions. And if you find you cannot assume that, because you believe she does not have the best of intentions, then dissolve the partnership. It is in bad faith.

Carey Tennis, Salon Copy Chief and Advice Columnist

I do not consider it an insult, but rather a compliment to be called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure -- that is all that agnosticism means.

Clarence Darrow (1857 - 1938)

On Meaning and Purpose:

You have to face the fact that all you can do is contribute your bit to a corner of a subfield, that your thesis is not going to solve the big problems. That may require radical self-reevaluation; often painful, and sometimes requiring a year or so to complete. Doing that is very worthwhile, though; taking yourself less seriously allows you to approach research in a spirit of play.

From How to Do Research at the MIT AI Lab: Emotional Factors

It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life - daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

From Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

In its rudimentary form, meaning is nothing more than pattern; when things are all lined up, for instance, when their behavior is predictable, then one has the sense that they have meaning.

That is why marriage is such a satisfying cultural arrangement: It's a built-in system of meaning, like a little significance machine. Suddenly certain relatives are significant, certain dates are significant, certain acts with other people are significant. That is also why being determinedly single is so satisfying as well: It is a country of possibility where every turn has meaning because of its potential; every act is transformed into an adventure because at every turn there could be the prize: marriage, a hot fling, a mysterious encounter, whatever you happen to want at the moment.

Carey Tennis, Salon Copy Chief and Advice Columnist


From A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving


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