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“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?”
— Lawrence Durrell, Justine (The Alexandria Quartet)
“Through past experience I had become familiar with many different types and levels of silence.
There is a silence within, a silence that descends from without; a silence that stills existence and a silence that engulfs the entire universe. There is a silence of the self and its faculties of will, thought, memory, and emotions. There is a silence in which there is nothing, a silence in which there is something; and finally, there is the silence of no-self (…).
If there was any path on which I could chart my contemplative experiences, it would be this ever-expanding and deepening path of silence.”
— Bernadette Roberts, from The Experience of No-Self posted in the TAT Forum Newsletter, May 2013 (via Markings) Photo source
John Cage about silence
— John Cage was an American composer, music theorist and artist (1912-1992)
“A certain man once lost a diamond cuff-link in the wide blue sea, and twenty years later, on the exact day, a Friday apparently, he was eating a large fish - but there was no diamond inside. That’s what I like about coincidence.”
and echo upon everything that’s known;
and yet, behind the world our names enclose is
the nameless: our true archetype and home.
We grow up; but the world remains a child.
Star and flower, in silence, watch us go.
And sometimes we appear to be the final
exam they must succeed on. And they do.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
among various natures of human beings
and in the habits which arise from them
must exist in many other matters.
I can affirm—the remaining traces
of those natures which reasoning cannot
remove from us are so slight, that nothing
stops us living a life worthy of gods.
See also: ☞ How Epicurus’ ideas survived through Lucretius’ poetry, and led to toleration, Lapidarium notes
Marcelo Gleiser: Life is fundamentally asymmetric
“Look into a mirror and you’ll simultaneously see the familiar and the alien: an image of you, but with left and right reversed. Left-right inequality has significance far beyond that of mirror images, touching on the heart of existence itself. From subatomic physics to life, nature prefers asymmetry to symmetry. (…) Life is fundamentally asymmetric. (…)
Somehow, during its infancy, the cosmos selected matter over antimatter. This imperfection is the single most important factor dictating our existence. (…) It is not symmetry and perfection that should be our guiding principle, as it has been for millennia. (…)
The science we create is just that, our creation. Wonderful as it is, it is always limited, it is always constrained by what we know of the world. […] The notion that there is a well-defined hypermathematical structure that determines all there is in the cosmos is a Platonic delusion with no relationship to physical reality. (…)
The critics of this idea miss the fact that a meaningless cosmos that produced humans (and possibly other intelligences) will never be meaningless to them (or to the other intelligences). To exist in a purposeless Universe is even more meaningful than to exist as the result of some kind of mysterious cosmic plan. Why? Because it elevates the emergence of life and mind to a rare event, as opposed to a ubiquitous and premeditated one. (…)
Unified theories, life principles, and self-aware universes are all expressions of our need to find a connection between who we are and the world we live in. I do not question the extreme importance of understanding the connection between man and the cosmos. But I do question that it has to derive from unifying principles. (…)
For a clever fish, water is “just right“ for it to swim in. Had it been too cold, it would freeze; too hot, it would boil. Surely the water temperature had to be just right for the fish to exist. “I’m very important. My existence cannot be an accident,” the proud fish would conclude. Well, he is not very important. He is just a clever fish. The ocean temperature is not being controlled with the purpose of making it possible for it to exist. Quite the opposite: the fish is fragile. A sudden or gradual temperature swing would kill it, as any trout fisherman knows. We so crave for meaningful connections that we see them even when they are not there. (…) The gravest mistake we can make is to think that the cosmos has plans for us, that we are somehow special from a cosmic perspective.
“New Year’s Eve. It’s a promise of a night. Single, married or widowed, in love, loveless or lovelorn, we all leave our apartments and pick through snow in high heels, or descend subway stairs in tuxedos, lured to wherever we’re going—whether we know it or not, would deny it or not — by the kiss of a stranger.”
S. J. Gould, F. Drake, L. Nimoy, J. Cage, A. Hammer on the Meaning of Life
“The first thing I look at each morning is a picture of Albert Einstein I keep on the table right beside my bed. The personal inscription reads “A person first starts to live when he can live outside of himself.” In other words, when he can have as much regard for his fellow man as he does for himself. I believe we are here to do good. It is the responsibility, of every human being to aspire to do something worthwhile, to make this world a better place than the one he found. Life is a gift, and if we agree to accept it, we must contribute in return. When we fail to contribute, we fail to adequately answer why we are here.”
— Armand Hammer, American business manager and owner, physician (1898-1990)
“I find the question “Why are we here?” typically human. I’d suggest “Are we here?” would be the more logical choice.”
— Leonard Nimoy, American actor, film director, poet, musician and photographer
“Observations of distant galaxies have produced provocative evidence for a startling idea: Our universe was just one bubble in a great fountain of bubble universes springing from the Big Bang that created all reality. Given billions of years of evolution, sophisticated living structures have developed, including creatures conscious of their universe, able to manipulate it in massive ways. There is no doubt that life will have developed in many places in our universe. Our own significance, our ultimate potential and our ensemble of possible destinies will be understood by finding and studying the other intelligent creatures of space. Thus a prime task is to seek out other intelligent civilizations and to share knowledge with them.”
— Frank Drake, American astronomer and astrophysicist“No why. Just here.”
— John Cage, American composer, music theorist and writer (1912-1992)
“The human species has inhabited this planet for only 250,000 years or so-roughly.0015 percent of the history of life, the last inch of the cosmic mile. The world fared perfectly well without us for all but the last moment of earthly time–and this fact makes our appearance look more like an accidental afterthought than the culmination of a prefigured plan.
Moreover, the pathways that have led to our evolution are quirky, improbable, unrepeatable and utterly unpredictable. Human evolution is not random; it makes sense and can be explained after the fact. But wind back life’s tape to the dawn of time and let it play again–and you will never get humans a second time.
We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a ‘higher’ answer — but none exists. This explanation, though superficially troubling, if not terrifying, is ultimately liberating and exhilarating. We cannot read the meaning of life passively in the facts of nature. We must construct these answers ourselves — from our own wisdom and ethical sense. There is no other way.”
— Stephen Jay Gould, American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science (1941-2002)