Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, January 27, 2020

Kobe Bryant


Sunday, January 26, 2020

More cosmic philosophy

TPM Philosophy Quote (@tpmquote)
Every instant of time is a pinprick of eternity. All things are petty, easily changed, vanishing away.--Marcus Aurelius

Too small

“We have a theology that is Earth-centered and involves a tiny piece of space, and when we step back, when we attain a broader cosmic perspective, some of it seems very small in scale. And in fact a general problem with much of Western theology in my view is that the God portrayed is too small. It is a god of a tiny world and not a god of a galaxy, much less of a universe...

Many religions have attempted to make statues of their gods very large, and the idea, I suppose, is to make us feel small. But if that's their purpose, they can keep their paltry icons. We need only look up if we wish to feel small...

A new concept of god: “something not very different from the sum total of the physical laws of the universe; that is, gravitation plus quantum mechanics plus grand unified field theories plus a few other things equaled god. And by that all they meant was that here were a set of exquisitely powerful physical principles that seemed to explain a great deal that was otherwise inexplicable about the universe. Laws of nature…that apply not just locally, not just in Glasgow, but far beyond: Edinburgh, Moscow…Mars…the center of the Milky Way, and out by the most distant quarters known. That the same laws of physics apply everywhere is quite remarkable. Certainly that represents a power greater than any of us...

The number of external galaxies beyond the Milky Way is at least in the thousands of millions and perhaps in the hundreds of thousands of millions, each of which contains a number of stars more or less comparable to that in our own galaxy... And this vast number of worlds, the enormous scale of the universe, in my view has been taken into account, even superficially, in virtually no religion..."
― Carl SaganThe Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God

38745914 Klein sees in a single rose the sublime interdependence of all life; a day of stormy weather points to the world’s unpredictability; a marble conjures the birth of the cosmos. As he contemplates the deepest mysteries—the nature of reality, dark matter, humanity’s place among the galaxies, and more—Klein encourages us to fall in love with the universe the way scientists do: with a grasp of the key ideas and theories of twenty-first-century physics that bring to life the wonders of, really, everything... g'r

"Over two millennia, the air Julius Caesar exhaled at the moment of his death has spread evenly over the whole Earth..." So, every liter of air including the one you just ingested contains one of those molecules.

See Sam Kean, Caesar's Last Breath

The antidote to cosmic despair:

"Nobody really worries much about what is going to happen millions of years hence. Even if they think they are worrying much about that, they are really deceiving themselves. They are worried about something much more mundane, or it may merely be a bad digestion; but nobody is really seriously rendered unhappy by the thought of something that is going to happen to this world millions of years hence. Therefore, although it is of course a gloomy view to suppose that life will die out—at least I suppose we may say so, although sometimes when I contemplate the things that people do with their lives I think it is almost a consolation—it is not such as to render life miserable. It merely makes you turn your attention to other things." Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian

National News Literacy Week

The News Literacy Project and The E.W. Scripps Company are joining forces for National News Literacy Week, Jan. 27–31, 2020. This initiative will raise awareness of news literacy as a fundamental life skill through a national public awareness campaign, and will provide educators, students and the general public with easy-to-adopt tools and tips for becoming news-literate.
Scripps’ local television stations are working with schools in their markets on student-produced news reports, and its national media brands, including Newsy and Stitcher, will publish stories and run a national advertising campaign focused on the critical need for news literacy and the important role of a free press in a healthy democracy.
During National News Literacy Week, we’ll use this page to post links to resources related to a news literacy skill that aligns with a lesson from the Checkology® virtual classroom, NLP’s signature platform for students in middle school and high school. Come back daily, starting Jan. 27.
Here is the daily schedule of themes (and their related Checkology lessons):
  • Monday, Jan. 27: Navigating the information landscape (“InfoZones”).
  • Tuesday, Jan. 28: Identifying standards-based journalism (“Practicing Quality Journalism”).
  • Wednesday, Jan. 29: Understanding bias — your own and others’ (“Understanding Bias”).
  • Thursday, Jan. 30: Celebrating the role of a free press (“Democracy’s Watchdog”).
  • Friday, Jan. 31: Recognizing misinformation (“Misinformation”).
More here...

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Do you live in a cave?

Or like to meet friends there?

Image result for boulevard bar and grill

How William James encourages us to believe in the possible

by Temma Ehrenfeld

‘He was joyful, an eccentric dresser, great conversationalist, 
and a spontaneous teacher.’ William James in Brazil in 1865.

In college, I developed a mysterious illness. I experienced myself as happy, yet in the afternoons I would cry for two hours. Although the obvious interpretation was depression, to me it was all about lunch. Food exhausted me and made me sad. I tried skipping breakfast and lunch, and snacking on cottage cheese and milk chocolate bars. Then carrots.

After many afternoons like this, what philosophical 18-year-old would believe in free will? I was a digestive system, molecules. The next thought was that I would die, dissolve into molecules… while young.

Around this time, I discovered William James (1842-1910), the father of American psychology as a formal discipline. Was my problem ‘psychological’ or ‘physical’? James let me understand that it could be both. Mental phenomena, he explained, had physical roots. He created the first biology-based psychology lab at Harvard University, yet he trusted subjective experience and honoured our capacity for clear thought. I was my digestion and I had choices, too... (Aeon, continues)

Right matters...

and truth matters.

On Thursday, January 23, 2020, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) offered closing remarks after day two of the House Managers' case for the impeachment and removal from office of Donald J. Drumpf before the United States Senate.

...Mr. Schiff is ordinarily serious, composed and in control. But as he moved toward his closing comments, he grew visibly emotional as he recalled the testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the White House national security aide and Ukrainian immigrant who testified in impeachment hearings before Congress and helped Democrats build their case.

Colonel Vindman, who fled the former Soviet Union with his family when he was 3, testified that he felt deeply uncomfortable with a telephone call Mr. Trump had on July 25 with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, when Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to “do us a favor” and investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Schiff recalled how Colonel Vindman told lawmakers that unlike in the former Soviet Union, “right matters” in the United States.

“Well, let me tell you something,” Mr. Schiff went on, his forefinger jabbing the air for emphasis. “If right doesn’t matter, if right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the Constitution is. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the framers were. Doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is.” If “right doesn’t matter,” he concluded, “we’re lost.” nyt

--- Join the conversation: → https://www.schiff.house.govhttps://www.facebook.com/RepAdamSchiffhttps://www.twitter.com/RepAdamSchiffhttps://www.instagram.com/RepAdamSchiff

Friday, January 24, 2020

Peripatetics reject Wall-e World

My nightmare vision of the answer to William James's "really vital question" (What is this world going to be? What is life eventually to make of itself?):

 If able-bodied young people continue to opt for this

Image result for electric scooters

instead of this,

Image result for walking

will life eventually make this of itself?

Quiz Jan 30

Peripatetic philosophy - Gymnasiums of the Mind (see below #)... 

LISTEN- Solvitur ambulando. Traveling Afoot (an excerpt from John Finley's essay in The Joys of Walking)... Traveling Afoot conclusion ("And the moral of my whole story is that walking is not only a joy in itself, but that it gives an intimacy with the sacred things and the primal things of earth that are not revealed to those who rush by on wheels." )...Rebecca Solnit, from Wanderlust: A History of Walking ch2, "The Mind at Three Miles an Hour"...More from Solnit, on Rousseau...

1. What were Aristotle's followers called?

2. Who said his mind only worked with his legs?

3. Whose mentor called walking "gymnastics for the mind"?

4. Who had a "Sand-walk"?

5. How much does the average American walk?

6. Name a city with a "Philosophers' Walk".

FL 3-4
7. What was Sir Walter Raleigh's dream and fantasy, and what did he help invent?

8. By what has American civilization been shaped, according to historian Daniel Boorstin?

9. What English Enlightenment philosopher said humans tend to notice instances that confirm their prior superstitions and opinions but ignore ("neglect and pass by") those that do not?

10. Is America's founding mythology, the first nonnative new Americans who mattered were who?

11. What did the early Puritans predict was immanent?

Discussion questions (post comments on as many of these as you'd care to, and claim a base for each... And remember, you also get a base for each DQ suggestion you post or comment on before class... also for each alternative quiz question, relevant comment, link, etc.):

  • Have you ever taken an "imaginary walk"  like John Finley? Have you experienced "the joy of walking in the free air"?
  • Have you ever had a new thought or sudden insight while walking? Have you "walked yourself into your best thoughts"? Or hiked, or biked, or swam... ?
  • Do you have a favorite place to walk in Murfreesboro or in your home town?
  • Does it seem strange to you that so many able-bodied, strong-limbed young persons prefer skateboards, electric scooters etc. to walking 5 or 10 minutes to class? Or that they'll wait far longer for a bus than it would take to walk the distance of the bus ride?
  • Are we "enslaved by wheels"?
  • Have you ever had a "long walk" that you found to be good "medicine"?
  • What does "solvitur ambulando" ("it is solved by walking") mean to you?
  • If you've looked at Wanderlust: A History of Walking or A Philosophy of Walking (see below), do you have a comment on them?
  • COMMENT: “all truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Nietzsche
  • Do you agree with Jefferson that walking is the best exercise?
  • What do we lose, by not heeding Thoreau's advice to walk in the "fields and woods"  and not just "gardens and malls"?
  • Would you like to have attended Aristotle's school, Plato's, neither, or both? Why?
  • Do you consider yourself an active or a sedentary person, by preference? (If given a choice, on a lovely Fall day, would you rather stay in and play video games or go out for a walk/hike/run/bikeride/swim/etc.?)
  • What's the most memorable outdoor experience you've ever had?
  • Have you ever attempted to share your beliefs, convictions, core principles (etc.) in public? (Ifyes, would you say you did it in a spirit of evangelism and proselytizing, or in a philosophical way? What's the difference? And if no, why not?)
  • Are you a good listener? (Do you try to understand the points of view of those who disagree with your beliefs, or do you simply dismiss them as just wrong?)
  • Do you agree that we live in a time of intolerance and incivility, when it comes to dissenting points of view?
  • Are Americans especially prone to be gullible when confronted with false claims and "advertizing"?
  • Post your own suggested discussion questions...

And while we're in the comics section (check out panel 3):


The Gymnasiums of the Mind

Christopher Orlet wanders down literary paths merrily swinging his arms and pondering the happy connection between philosophy and a good brisk walk.

If there is one idea intellectuals can agree upon it is that the act of ambulation – or as we say in the midwest, walking – often serves as a catalyst to creative contemplation and thought. It is a belief as old as the dust that powders the Acropolis, and no less fine. Followers of the Greek Aristotle were known as peripatetics because they passed their days strolling and mind-wrestling through the groves of the Academe. The Romans’ equally high opinion of walking was summed up pithily in the Latin proverb: “It is solved by walking.”

Nearly every philosopher-poet worth his salt has voiced similar sentiments. Erasmus recommended a little walk before supper and “after supper do the same.” Thomas Hobbes had an inkwell built into his walking stick to more easily jot down his brainstorms during his rambles. Jean- Jacques Rousseau claimed he could only meditate when walking: “When I stop, I cease to think,” he said. “My mind only works with my legs.” Søren Kierkegaard believed he’d walked himself into his best thoughts. In his brief life Henry David Thoreau walked an estimated 250,000 miles, or ten times the circumference of earth. “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits,” wrote Thoreau, “unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absolutely free from worldly engagements.” Thoreau’s landlord and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson characterized walking as “gymnastics for the mind.”

In order that he might remain one of the fittest, Charles Darwin planted a 1.5 acre strip of land with hazel, birch, privet, and dogwood, and ordered a wide gravel path built around the edge. Called Sand-walk, this became Darwin’s ‘thinking path’ where he roamed every morning and afternoon with his white fox-terrier. Of Bertrand Russell, long-time friend Miles Malleson has written: “Every morning Bertie would go for an hour’s walk by himself, composing and thinking out his work for that day. He would then come back and write for the rest of the morning, smoothly, easily and without a single correction.”

None of these laggards, however, could touch Friedrich Nietzsche, who held that "all truly great thoughts are conceived while walking." Rising at dawn, Nietzsche would stalk through the countryside till 11 a.m. Then, after a short break, he would set out on a two-hour hike through the forest to Lake Sils. After lunch he was off again, parasol in hand, returning home at four or five o’clock, to commence the day’s writing.

Not surprisingly, the romantic poets were walkers extraordinaire. William Wordsworth traipsed fourteen or so miles a day through the Lake District, while Coleridge and Shelley were almost equally energetic. According to biographer Leslie Stephen, “The (English) literary movement at the end of the 18th century was…due in great part, if not mainly, to the renewed practice of walking.”

Armed with such insights, one must wonder whether the recent decline in walking hasn’t led to a corresponding decline in thinking. Walking, as both a mode of transportation and a recreational activity, began to fall off noticeably with the rise of the automobile, and took a major nosedive in the 1950s. Fifty plus years of automobile-centric design has reduced the number of sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly spaces to a bare minimum (particularly in the American west). All of the benefits of walking: contemplation, social intercourse, exercise, have been willingly exchanged for the dubious advantages of speed and convenience, although the automobile alone cannot be blamed for the maddening acceleration of everyday life. The modern condition is one of hurry, a perpetual rush hour that leaves little time for meditation. No wonder then that in her history of walking, Rebecca Solnit mused that “modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought, or thoughtfulness,” which seems the antithesis of Wittgenstein’s observation that in the race of philosophy, the prize goes to the slowest.

If we were to compare the quantity and quality of thinkers of the early 20th century with those of today, one cannot help but notice the dearth of Einsteins, William Jameses, Eliots and Pounds, Freuds, Jungs, Keynes, Picassos, Stravinskys, Wittgensteins, Sartres, Deweys, Yeats and Joyces. But it would be foolish to suggest that we have no contemporaries equal to Freud, et al. That would be doing an injustice to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Edward O. Wilson, James D. Watson, and the recently departed Stephen J. Gould. But as to their walking habits, they varied. Gould, a soft, flabby man, made light of his lack of exercise. Edward O. Wilson writes that he “walks as much as (his) body allows,” and used to jog up until his forties. Watson, the discoverer of the DNA molecule, frequently haunts the grounds of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, particularly on weekends, and is said to be both a nature-lover and bird-watcher.

There seems no scientific basis to link the disparate acts of walking and thinking, though that didn’t stop Mark Twain from speculating that “walking is good to time the movement of the tongue by, and to keep the blood and the brain stirred up and active.” Others have concluded that walking’s two-point rhythm clears the mind for creative study and reflection. Though not every man of letters bought into this. Max Beerbohm, in his essay ‘Going Out for a Walk,’ found walking to have quite the opposite effect:

“My objection to it is that it stops the brain. Many a man has professed to me that his brain never works so well as when he is swinging along the high road or over hill and dale. This boast is not confirmed by my memory of anybody who on a Sunday morning has forced me to partake of his adventure. Experience teaches me that whatever a fellow-guest may have of power to instruct or to amuse when he is sitting on a chair, or standing on a hearth-rug, quickly leaves him when he takes one out for a walk.”

And while Einstein may have been a devoted pedestrian (daily hoofing the mile-and-a-half walk between his little frame house at 112 Mercer Street and his office at Princeton’s Fuld Hall), the inability to walk has not much cramped Stephen Hawking’s intellectual style.

There is also reason to suspect that creative contemplation in the solitude of one’s automobile may be as beneficial as a walk in the woods, though considerably more hazardous. J. Robert Oppenheimer was known to think so intensely while driving that he would occasionally become a danger to motorists, pedestrians and himself. He once awakened from a deep academic reverie to find himself and his car resting at the top of the steps of the local courthouse.

While the intellectual advantages of walking remain open to debate, the health benefits are beyond doubt, though you would never know it by the deserted American streets. Here, where the average citizen walks a measly 350 yards a day, it is not surprising that half the population is diagnosed as obese or overweight. Despite such obscene girth, I have sat through planning commission meetings and heard civil engineers complain that it would be a waste of money to lay down sidewalks since no one walks anyway. No one thought to ask if perhaps we do not walk because there are no sidewalks. Even today, the typical urban planner continues to regard the pedestrian as “the largest single obstacle to free traffic movement.”

To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, walking remains for me the best “of all exercises.” Even so, I am full of excuses to stay put. My neighborhood has no sidewalks and it is downright dangerous to stroll the streets at night; if the threat does not come directly from thugs, then from drunken teens in speeding cars. There are certainly no Philosophers’ Walks in my hometown, as there are near the universities of Toronto, Heidelberg, and Kyoto. Nor are there any woods, forests, mountains or glens. “When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and the woods,” said Thoreau. “What would become of us, if we only walked in a garden or a mall?” I suppose I am what becomes of us, Henry.

At noon, if the weather cooperates, I may join a few other nameless office drudges on a stroll through the riverfront park. My noon walk is a brief burst of freedom in an otherwise long, dreary servitude. Though I try to reserve these solitary walks for philosophical ruminations, my subconscious doesn’t always cooperate. Often I find my thoughts to be pedestrian and worrisome in nature. I fret over money problems, or unfinished office work and my attempts to brush these thoughts away as unworthy are rarely successful. Then, again, in the evenings I sometimes take my two dachshunds for a stroll. For a dog, going for a walk is the ultimate feelgood experience. Mention the word ‘walkies’ to a wiener dog, and he is immediately transported into new dimensions of bliss. I couldn’t produce a similar reaction in my wife if I proposed that we take the Concorde to Paris for the weekend. Rather than suffer a walk, my son would prefer to have his teeth drilled.

In no way am I suggesting that all of society’s ills can be cured by a renaissance of walking. But maybe – just maybe – a renewed interest in walking may spur some fresh scientific discoveries, a unique literary movement, a new vein of philosophy. If nothing else it will certainly improve our health both physically and mentally. Of course that would mean getting out from behind the desk at noon and getting some fresh air. That would mean shutting down the television in the evenings and breathing in the Great Outdoors. And, ultimately, it would involve a change in thinking and a shift in behavior, as opposed to a change of channels and a shift into third.

Christopher Orlet is an essayist and book critic. His work appears often in The American Spectator, the London Guardian, and Salon.com. Visit his homepage at www.christopherorlet.net.


“Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors...disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.” 

"I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought or thoughtfulness.” 

“Perhaps walking is best imagined as an 'indicator species,' to use an ecologist's term. An indicator species signifies the health of an ecosystem, and its endangerment or diminishment can be an early warning sign of systemic trouble. Walking is an indicator species for various kinds of freedom and pleasures: free time, free and alluring space, and unhindered bodies.” 

"Exploring the world is one the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.”

“Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented society, and doing nothing is hard to do. It's best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking.” 

“In a sense the car has become a prosthetic, and though prosthetics are usually for injured or missing limbs, the auto-prosthetic is for a conceptually impaired body or a body impaired by the creation of a world that is no longer human in scale.”  g'reads 

“By walking, you escape from the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history. Being someone is all very well for smart parties where everyone is telling their story, it's all very well for psychologists' consulting rooms. But isn't being someone also a social obligation which trails in its wake – for one has to be faithful to the self-portrait – a stupid and burdensome fiction? The freedom in walking lies in not being anyone; for the walking body has no history, it is just an eddy in the stream of immemorial life.” 

“Days of slow walking are very long: they make you live longer, because you have allowed every hour, every minute, every second to breathe, to deepen, instead of filling them up by straining the joints…”

“The Native Americans, whose wisdom Thoreau admired, regarded the Earth itself as a sacred source of energy. To stretch out on it brought repose, to sit on the ground ensured greater wisdom in councils, to walk in contact with its gravity gave strength and endurance. The Earth was an inexhaustible well of strength: because it was the original Mother, the feeder, but also because it enclosed in its bosom all the dead ancestors. It was the element in which transmission took place. Thus, instead of stretching their hands skyward to implore the mercy of celestial divinities, American Indians preferred to walk barefoot on the Earth..."

“Think while walking, walk while thinking, and let writing be but the light pause, as the body on a walk rests in contemplation of wide open spaces.” 

“Joy is not the satisfied contemplation of an accomplished result, the emotion of victory, the satisfaction of having succeeded. It is the sign of an energy that is deftly deployed, it is a free affirmation: everything comes easy. Joy is an activity: executing with ease something difficult that has taken time to master, asserting the faculties of the mind and the body. Joys of thought when it finds and discovers, joys of the body when it achieves without effort. That is why joy, unlike pleasure, increases with repetition, and is enriched. When you are walking, joy is a basso continuo..."

“In the history of walking, many experts considering him (Wordsworth) the authentic originator of the long expedition. He was the first – at a time (the late eighteenth century) when walking was the lot of the poor, vagabonds and highwaymen, not to mention travelling showmen and pedlars – to conceive of the walk as a poetic act, a communion with Nature, fulfilment of the body, contemplation of the landscape. Christopher Morley wrote of him that he was ‘one of the first to use his legs in the service of philosophy’.” g'reads