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Nov
3rd
Sun
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Everything made now is either a replica or a variant of something made a little time ago and so on back without break to the first morning of human time. This continuous connection of time must contain lesser divisions. The narrative historian always has the privilege of deciding that continuity cuts better into certain lengths than into others. He never is required to defend his cut, because history cuts anywhere with equal ease, and a good story can begin anywhere the teller chooses.
George Kubler, an American art historian and among the foremost scholars on the art of Pre-Columbian America and Ibero-American Art (1912-1996), The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962, p.2.
Nov
2nd
Sat
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Mar
27th
Wed
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Lucretius: ‘O unhappy race of men, when they ascribed actions to the gods’

image

[W]hat cause has spread divine influence
of the gods through powerful states, filling
cities with altars, and brought it about
that men set up sacred ceremonies,
rituals which today are flourishing
at important times and in great places.
(…)

— V [1161-1166], p. 229.

[People] kept observing what went on
in the sky in fixed order—various seasons
of the year returning—and could not see
the causes that made these happen. Therefore,
they found themselves a way out, by linking
all these to the gods, making everything
directed by gods’ will. And they set up
habitations and spaces for the gods
up in the sky, for they saw night and moon
moving through the heavens—moon, day, and night,
glorious nocturnal constellations,
celestial torches wandering at night,
flying fires, clouds, sun, rain, snow, and wind,
lighting, hail, swift peals and ominous sounds
of menacing thunder.

O unhappy race of men,
when they ascribed such actions to the gods
and added to them bitter rage! What sorrow
they made for themselves then, what wounds for us,
what weeping for our children yet to come!
There is no piety in being seen
time and again turning towards a stone
with one’s head covered and approaching close
to every altar, and hurling oneself
prostrate on the ground, stretching out one’s palms
before gods’ shrines, or spreading lots of blood
from four-footed beasts on altars, or piling
sacred pledges onto sacred pledges,
but rather in being able to perceive
all things with one’s mind at peace.
(…)

— V, [1160-1205], p. 230-231.

[W]hen all the earth shakes underfoot
and tottering towns fall or their collapse
is threatened and hangs in doubt, no wonder
if races of mortal men hate themselves
and make room for the amazing powers
and immense forces of gods here on earth,
so that they have control of everything.
(…)
— V, [1234-1240], p. 232.

[I]n their hearts the human race stirs up
anxious tides of worries, for the most part
with no good reason. For just as children
tremble in blinding darkness and are afraid
of everything, so sometimes in the light
we dread things which are no more to be feared
than those which during the night young people
tremble at, dreaming of what will happen.
Therefore, this terror, this darkness of mind,
must be dispelled, not by rays of sunlight
or bright arrows of the day, but by reason
and the face of nature.
(…)

— VI, [35-46], p. 241.

People say that gods, when angry, bring on
raging storms and then, when a lull occurs
in the fury] of the winds, that gods’ anger
is appeased and everything which was there
has changed back again, now that their anger
has been soothed. [I will explain] all the rest
which mortals creatures observe taking place
on earth and in the sky, when so often
they are in suspense, their minds full of dread,
things which demean their souls with fear of gods.
These weigh on them and press them to the ground.
Their ignorance of causes forces them
to assign things to the rule of deities
and to concede that gods are in control.
(…)

— VI, [55-67], p. 242.

[T]hey are carried back to old religion
and accept harsh masters, who, they believe,
in their misery, can do everything,
being ignorant of what can and cannot be,
in short, by what law each thing possesses
limited power, a deep-set boundary stone.
And therefore men lose their way even more,
carried away by their blind reasoning.

— VI, [66-73], p. 242.

See also:

How Epicurus’ ideas survived through Lucretius’ poetry, and led to toleration, Lapidarium notes
Lucretius on the infinite universe, the beginning of things and the likelihood of extraterrestrial life
Titus Lucretius Carus, a Roman poet and philosopher (ca. 99 BC – ca. 55 BC), De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), translation: Ian Johnston, Richer Resources Publications, Arlington, Virginia, 2010. (Illustration: Lucretius)
Dec
31st
Mon
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image

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” “
André Gide, a French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1947,(1869-1951), cited in Marcus Herzig, Memoirs of a Johnny’s Fanboy, 2012, p.5. 
(Illustration: André Gide, de Paul-Emile Bécat, dessin, 1919)
Oct
24th
Wed
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What was daily life like before almost everyone had cell phones? "You left the house and you were gone."


“If you got separated from a friend at an event, you might simply never hear from them again until you were both home and called each other. At home, most phones weren’t even cordless. You had to stand within 6 feet of the wall. A popular item was super long phone cords. (…)”
— Scott Swigart

“When I was a much younger man, I spent five months backpacking around east Africa. (…) They had no idea I was coming back, and I can still remember the look on my stepdad’s face when he opened the door shortly after dawn to see me standing there, probably the worse for wear, but the better for the experiences I had had. I remember him yelling up the stairs “He’s home!!” and my Mom charging down in her bathrobe to greet me and hear about my adventures. (…) No kid today is ever going to have that experience.” — Anon User

“Actually, it was utopia. You could actually walk out the door and not be bothered by your boss, your spouse, your attorney, your kids, your parents, your siblings, your bill collectors…”
— Anthony Kevin Johnson


“If you had arranged to meet someone somewhere, you had to be punctual, because if you were delayed in transit, then unless your meeting place had a phone whose number you knew, and you could also find a phonebox, you had no way of letting the other party know you were ‘running late’. (It is interesting to see how this phrase has increased in usage since the introduction of mobile phones, and how punctuality, which used to be a matter of common courtesy, has fallen out of fashion, as people have become more relaxed, and some would say lackadaisical, about their social arrangements and time-discipline. (…)

And impromptu organization was completely out of the question. Pre-internet, if you hadn’t talked to someone in person or called them at home the previous evening, then there was little to no chance of somehow pulling them together to do something. Things had to be continually planned days in advance.”
— Steve Denton
Aug
26th
Sun
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“Our knowledge of the universe around us has increased a thousand fold and more. We learned that Homo sapiens was not forever imprisoned by the gravitational field of Earth … We’ve seen deeply into our universe and looked backward nearly to the beginning of time.” “
Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot upon the Moon. He was an American NASA astronaut, test pilot, aerospace engineer, university professor and United States Naval Aviator (1930-2012), in rare speech when NASA turns 50.
See also: ☞ July 21, 1969 on the front page of The NYT
Inspired Mankind With One Small Step, NYT, Aug 25, 2012.
Did Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin have instructions of what to do if they couldn’t take off from the moon?, Quora
Aug
25th
Sat
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James T. Kirk: "You know, coming back in time, changing history… that’s cheating.
Spock Prime: "A trick I learned from an old friend.
Jun
11th
Mon
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The world was so new that many things still lacked names, and to mention them, one had to point with a finger.
Gabriel García Márquez, Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Harper & Row, 1970.
Mar
8th
Thu
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“Even today, some opt for the comforts of mystification, preferring to believe that the wonders of the ancient world were built by Atlanteans, gods, or space travelers, instead of by thousands toiling in the sun. Such thinking robs our forerunners of their due, and us of their experience. Because then one can believe whatever one likes about the past - without having to confront the bones, potsherds, and inscriptions which tell us that people all over the world, time and again, have made similar advances and mistakes.” “
Ronald Wright, Canadian writer, historian, archeologist, A Short History of Progress, House of Anansi Press, 2004. (Illustration: The Colossus of Rhodes)
Mar
5th
Mon
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“A paradox: the same century invented History and Photography. But History is a memory fabricated according to positive formulas, a pure intellectual discourse which abolishes mythic Time; and the Photograph is a certain but fugitive testimony; so that everything, today, prepares our race for this impotence: to be no longer able to conceive duration, affectively or symbolically: the age of the Photograph is also the age of revolutions, contestations, assassinations, explosions, in short, of impatiences, of everything which denies ripening.” “
Roland Barthes, French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician (1915-1980), Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, Hill and Wang, 1994. (Illustration source)
Jan
22nd
Sun
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As soon as man began considering himself the source of the highest meaning in the world and the measure of everything, the world began to lose its human dimension, and man began to lose control of it.
Václav Havel, Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. Former President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic, (1936-2011), Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Hvizdala (English translation by Paul Wilson), 1990, Ch. 1 : Growing Up “Outside”, p. 11.
Dec
18th
Sun
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The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.
Václav Havel, Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. Former President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic, (1936-2011), International Herald Tribune, 21 February 1990
Nov
24th
Thu
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In the future, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it may be that the most important things historians will see are not technological advancements or the Internet, but the fact that for the first time a substantial and rapidly growing number of people had choices.
Peter Drucker, an influential writer, management consultant, and self-described “social ecologist” (1909-2005), cited in Esko Kilp, The competitive edge of the social business, Social Enterprise Today, Nov 22, 2011.
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Birds were what became of dinosaurs. Those mountains of flesh whose petrified bones were on display at the Museum of Natural History had done some brilliant retooling over the ages and could now be found living in the form of orioles in the sycamores across the street. As solutions to the problem of earthly existence, the dinosaurs had been pretty great, but blue-headed vireos and yellow warblers and white-throated sparrows - feather-light, hollow-boned, full of song were even greater. Birds were like dinosaurs’ better selves. They had short lives and long summers. We all should be so lucky as to leave behind such heirs.
Jonathan Franzen, American novelist and essayist, The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006
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'Life is one huge lottery where only the winning tickets are visible'

   “Thirteen forty-nine,” was the first thing [he] said.
   “The Black Death,” I replied. I had a pretty good knowledge of history, but I had no idea what the Black Death had to do with coincidences.
   ”Okay,” he said, and off he went. “You probably know that half Norway’s population was wiped out during that great plague. But there’s a connection here I haven’t told you about. Did you know that you had thousands of ancestors at that time?” he continued.
   I shook my head in dispair. How could that possibly be?
   ”You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great grandparents — and so on. If you work it out, right back to 1349 — there are quite a lot.
  “Then came the bubonic plague. Death spread from neighborhood to neighborhood, and the children were hit worst. Whole families died, sometimes one or two family members survived. A lot of your ancestors were children at this time, Hans Thomas. But none of them kicked the bucket.”
  “How can you be so sure about that?” I asked on amazement.
   He took a long drag on his cigarette and said, “Because you’re sitting here  looking out over the Adriatic.

  “The chances of of single ancestor of yours not dying while growing up is one in several billion. Because it isn’t just about the Black Death, you know. Actually all of your ancestors have grown up and had children — even during the worst natural disasters, even when the child mortality rate was enormous. Of course, a lot of them have suffered from illness, but they’ve always pulled through. In a way, you have been a millimeter from death billions of times, Hans Thomas.

Your life on this planet has been threatned by insects, wild animals, meteorites, lightning, sickness, war, flods, fires, poisoning, and attempted murders. In the battle of Stikelstad alone you were injured hundreds of times. Because you must have had ancestors on both sides — yes, really you were fighting against yourself and your chances of being born a thousand years later. You know, the same goes for the last world war. If Grandpa had been shot by good Norwegians during the occupation, then neither you nor I would have been born. The point is, this happened billions of times through history. Each time an arrow rained through the air, your chances of being born have been reduced to the minimum.”

   He continued: “I am talking about one long chain of coincidences. In fact, that chain goes right back to the first living cell, which divided in two, and from there gave birth to everything growing and sprouting on this planet today. The chance of my chain not being broken at one time or another duirng three or four billion years is so little it is almost inconceivable. But I have pulled through, you know. Damned right, I have. In return, I appreciate how fantastically lucky I am to be able to experience this planet this planet together with you. I realize how lucky every single little crawling insect on this planet is.”

   "What about the unlucky ones?" I asked.
   ”They don’t exist! They were never born. Life is one huge lottery where only the winning tickets are visible.”

Jostein Gaarder, Norwegian intellectual and writer, The Orange Girl, Orion Publishing, 2004. See also:
Are You Totally Improbable Or Totally Inevitable? The chances of anyone existing are one in 102,685,000