Isaac Asimov was known as a bit of an egoist but this was something that he openly acknowledged. He called these “charming Asimovian immodesties” and later referred to his attitude as “cheerful self-appreciation.” However, once in a while, he could come across as brilliantly modest. For instance, this quote from him which I read a few days back. I think it is especially applicable today, when the Internet acts as a gigantic megaphone-without-filters and we see follies magnified all around us, from those within and without the spotlight.
It is always a little difficult for me to laugh freely at the follies of mankind. If I look closely enough, I find that I share them all.
Would that we could all take this attitude from time-to-time before making dumb decisions.
I just finished reading Robert Heinlein’s “Logic of Empire” in the March 1941 Astounding* and there were two quotes that jumped out at me as particularly apropos to current events in the Federal government today.
“I suppose you’re a radical now?”
Doc’s eyebrows lifted slightly. “Not at all. Radical and conservative are terms for emotional attitudes, not sociological opinions.”
And the second quote, from toward the end of the story:
“…sweet reasonableness won’t get you anywhere in this [political] racket. To make yourself heard you have to be a demagogue, or a rabble-rousing political preacher like this fellow Nehemiah Schudder. We’re going merrily to hell, and it won’t stop until it winds up in a crash.”
“But–Oh, the devil! What can we do about it?”
“Nothing. Things are bound to get a whole lot worse before they can get any better.”
It’s eerie how we sometimes read seventy-year-old science fiction stories that are near perfect reflections of today. I guess some things never change.
(*I’ll have more to say about “Logic of Empire” in Episode 21 of my Vacation in the Golden Age, coming on August 8.)
Those of you with little kids will probably get an extra special kick out of the logic behind Ken Jenning’s son’s question that Ken posted on his blog today. It’s very Michael Scott-esque.
I was browsing through William Gibson’s website licking my fingers in anticipation of his latest book, Spook Country, when I came across this gem of insight on how he is able to write so much:
I suspect I have spent just about exactly as much time actually writing as the average person my age has spent watching television, and that, as much as anything, may be the real secret here.
Elsewhere, he says,
Today I probably spend as much time [on the Internet] as I do anywhere, although the really peculiar thing about me, demographically, is that I probably watch less than twelve hours of television in a given year, and have watched that little since age fifteen. (An individual who watches no television is still a scarcer beast than one who doesn’t have an email address.) I have no idea how that happened. It wasn’t a decision.
I really need to drum up the courage to get rid of my TV because I can’t seem to drum up the discipline to stop watching it.
UPDATE: Just ignore me. As kevnyc points out in his comment, I’m just being repetitive.
I remembered this this morning from one of my bus tours of London:
Nancy Astor: Mr. Churchill, if you were my husband I’d poison your coffee!
Winston Churchill: Ms. Astor, if I was your husband I’d drink it!
What I wouldn’t give for that kind of quick wit!
For some reason, I took to glancing at a favorite quote of mine that I haven’t looked at in a very long time. It was refreshing to do so.
The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject… And so this knowledge will be unfolded through long successive ages. There will come time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them… Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced. Our universe is a sorry little affair unless it has in it something for every age to investigate… Nature does not reveal her mysteries once and for all.
It comes from Seneca‘s Natural Questions, Book 7, back in the first century.
The thing I love about this quote is that, 2,000 years later, it still applies today. As it will 2,000 years hence.
“Thank you. Good night. Whoo-hoo!”
strausmouse will know where that comes from.
I was thinking about elections earlier and that led me to think about ethics (something which always seems to come up when discussing politics). It made me think in turn about a quote I once read on ethics and ethical behavior. I couldn’t remember the quote word for word, but I did some digging and here is what I came up with:
“Ethical people often choose to do less than the maximally allowable, and more than the minimally acceptable.”
I like it because of it’s simple parallelism. It is particularly useful in looking at “what the law allows”. People and politicians often justify their behavior by saying that “it’s legal”. The false assumption is that if something is legal, it is ipso facto ethical. Jury duty is a good example. I know a lot of people who complain about jury duty and try to arrange so that they have t serve the absolute minimally acceptable amount of time. But jury duty is a civic responsibility and it seems to me it is a good opportunity to go beyond the minimally acceptable. (I have performed jury duty 3 times and served on a jury once. For some reason, I have never been called to jury duty in Maryland.)
The real test of our ethics is whether we are willing to do the right thing even when it is not in our self-interest. Do you tell the clerk at the grocery store when you have been under-charged, even though it is not in your self-interest? Do you report all of your tips on your income taxes, even though you could probably get away without reporting them?
As the election approaches, it is a good time to look at our own ethical behavior before we start criticizing the ethical behavior of our representatives. After all, if we can’t be ethical, how can we expect our representatives to be when they are merely a reflection of ourselves?
Great quote I came across in my recent reading:
It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it.
From Edmund Way Teale’s 1950 book Circle of the Seasons.
This was underneath the bottle cap to the Nantucket Nectars apple juice I am having with my lunch today:
The first bank on Nantucket was established in 1795. The first bank robbery was that same year.
For some reason, that made me laugh.
I heard a cool quote this weekend. I believe it is Greek in origin, but don’t know it’s attribution beyond that. It has to do with time, and it goes something like this:
Seconds are arrows, the last one of which is fatal.
I’ve done some quick cursory searches online and haven’t found the source, but if anyone out there knows it, please share it.