“All of which prompts a question: Is my dream of a collaborative reading experience merely that, a dream? On the many occasions when I tried to set up a shared Subtext or Readmill reading with a friend, we always ran into endless snags, from an inability to settle on a book we both found appetizing to scheduling and pacing incompatibilities like the ones I had with Liz. Apparently, and despite the ongoing popularity of book groups, we weren’t alone in being flummoxed by the logistics of reading the same book together. After all, if there were a robust demand for a complexly shared reading app, wouldn’t Subtext and Readmill have found more users?”
“Thinking without hope might sound rather bleak, but it needn’t be so. I see it rather as embracing an affirmative, even cheerful, realism. Nietzsche admired Epictetus, the former slave turned philosophy teacher, for living without hope. “Yes,” Nietzsche said, “he can smile.” We can, too.”
“Kleos lay very near the core of the Greek value system. Their value system was at least partly motivated, as perhaps all value systems are partly motivated, by the human need to feel as if our lives matter. A little perspective, which the Greeks certainly had, reveals what brief and feeble things our lives are. As the old Jewish joke has it, the food here is terrible — and such small portions! What can we do to give our lives a moreness that will help withstand the eons of time that will soon cover us over, blotting out the fact that we ever existed at all? Really, why did we bother to show up for our existence in the first place? The Greek speakers were as obsessed with this question as we are.”
“If depression is a foul miasma wreathing the brain, elegant sadness is more like a peacock’s tail, coloured in blue-gentian and rich marine greens”
“Or does it? The question that Goldstein’s book sets out to consider is what we mean by progress, and also what we mean by meaning. Her goal is to do more than prove how relevant philosophy still is. She aims to reveal how many of our most pressing questions simply aren’t better answered elsewhere. Much of what we take for progress delivers answers that miss the point, distort issues, ignore complications, and may be generated by badly formulated questions in the first place. Goldstein also wants to show us that figuring out how to live a meaningful life is something very different from understanding the meaning of special relativity or evolution. We are deluged with information; we know how to track down facts in seconds; the scientific method produces new discoveries every day. But what does all that mean for us? As the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard observed:”
“In the United States, research psychologists have shown that narcissism rates, as measured by a standard academic tool known as the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, rose rapidly from the later 1980s, which would appear to track the increases in inequality. The data all point to the fact that as larger differences in material circumstances create greater social distances, feelings of superiority and inferiority increase. In short, growing inequality makes us all more neurotic about “image management” and how we are seen by others.”
- Hiding Your Flaws People fall in love with each other’s rough edges. Paradoxically, it’s our flaws and vulnerabilities that make us unique and endearing towards others. The more we’re willing to reveal where we come up short, the more intimacy and connection we’ll generate in our personal lives, and the happier and healthier we’ll be in the long run.
“Balls and similar gatherings are wont to attract all that is bad and vicious; all the quarrels, envyings, slanders, and indiscreet tendencies of a place will be found collected in the ballroom. While people’s bodily pores are opened by the exercise of dancing, the heart’s pores will be also opened by excitement … while you were dancing, souls were groaning in hell by reason of sins committed when similarly occupied, or in consequence thereof.”
“Out of all the possible amounts of dark energy that our universe might have, the actual amount lies in the tiny sliver of the range that allows life. There is little argument on this point. It does not depend on assumptions about whether we need liquid water for life or oxygen or particular biochemistries. It depends only on the requirement of atoms. As before, one is compelled to ask the question: Why does such fine-tuning occur? And the answer many physicists now believe: the multiverse. A vast number of universes may exist, with many different values of the amount of dark energy. Our particular universe is one of the universes with a small value, permitting the emergence of life. We are here, so our universe must be such a universe. We are an accident. From the cosmic lottery hat containing zillions of universes, we happened to draw a universe that allowed life. But then again, if we had not drawn such a ticket, we would not be here to ponder the odds.”
In light of the recent discovery of gravitational waves that all but prove the Big Bang, and get us closer toward the multiverse, this is all the more appropriate. I’ve always thought we pay too little attention to the mind-boggling implications of the multiverse, which is starting to look (at least to physicists) more and more like reality.
- “The reader, the booklover, must meet his own needs without paying too much attention to what his neighbors say those needs should be.”
Teddy Roosevelt dispenses advice on reading. I find some of these, especially #4, especially refreshing. I spend so much time trying to figure out what I should read, what would make me better, that sometimes I forget to just read what I want to read.