The Universe is a continuous web. Touch it at any point and the whole web quivers."Stanley Kunitz
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The Universe is a continuous web. Touch it at any point and the whole web quivers.”Stanley Kunitz

-Shirley A.

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Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle. That principle is of great antiquity; it is as old as Socrates; as old as the writer who said, 'Try all things, hold fast by that which is good'; it is the foundation of the Reformation, which simply illustrated the axiom that every man should be able to give a reason for the faith that is in him, it is the great principle of Descartes; it is the fundamental axiom of modern science. Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic position, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him.The results of the working out of the agnostic principle will vary according to individual knowledge and capacity, and according to the general condition of science. That which is unproved today may be proved, by the help of new discoveries, tomorrow. The only negative fixed points will be those negations which flow from the demonstrable limitation of our faculties. And the only obligation accepted is to have the mind always open to conviction.That it is wrong for a man to say he is certain of the objective truth of a proposition unless he can provide evidence which logically justifies that certainty. This is what agnosticism asserts and in my opinion, is all that is essential to agnosticism.

-Thomas Henry

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We in the West regard the universe as a creation of God; like an invention or a product. After he created the universe, God set himself to oversee it and manage it. We see God as our boss. He created the universe, he is present in it, he manages every part of it, but he is still separate from it. It's like he installed video cameras all over the universe, so he can see everything that happens, and he can cause this or that to happen, but he is not a part of what happens. The Eastern view is very different. To the Hindu, for example, God didn't create the universe, but God became the universe. Then he forgot that he became the universe. Why would God do this? Basically, for entertainment. You create a universe, and that in itself is very exciting. But then what? Should you sit back and watch this universe of yours having all the fun? No, you should have all the fun yourself. To accomplish this, God transformed into the whole universe. God is the Universe, and everything in it. But the universe doesn't know that because that would ruin the suspense. The universe is God's great drama, and God is the stage, the actors, and the audience all at once. The title of this epic drama is "The Great Unknown Outcome." Throw in potent elements like passion, love, hate, good, evil, free will; and who knows what will happen? No one knows, and that is what keeps the universe interesting. But everyone will have a good time. And there is never really any danger, because everyone is really God, and God is really just playing around.

-Warren Sharpe

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(I know, it's a poem but oh well).Why! who makes much of a miracle? As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles, Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky, Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the water, Or stand under trees in the woods, Or talk by day with any one I love--or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love, Or sit at table at dinner with my mother, Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car, Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon, Or animals feeding in the fields, Or birds--or the wonderfulness of insects in the air, Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down--or of stars shining so quiet and bright, Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring; Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best-- mechanics, boatmen, farmers, Or among the savans--or to the soiree--or to the opera, Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery, Or behold children at their sports, Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old woman, Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial, Or my own eyes and figure in the glass; These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles, The whole referring--yet each distinct, and in its place.To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, Every cubic inch of space is a miracle, Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same, Every foot of the interior swarms with the same; Every spear of grass--the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women, and all that concerns them, All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.To me the sea is a continual miracle; The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--the ships, with men in them, What stranger miracles are there?

-Walt Whitman

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Finally there are those who saw at once that the question was a trap. There is no answer. Instead of wasting time grappling with that trap. They decide to act. They look to their childhood and look for what filled them with enthusiasm then and disregarding the advice of their elders, devote their life to it. Because enthusiasm is the sacred fire. They slowly discover, their actions are linked to a mysterious impulse beyond human knowledge. And they bow their heads as a sign of respect for that mystery and pray that they will not be diverted from a path they do not know, a path which they have chosen to travel because of the flame burning in their hearts. They use their intuition when they can and resort to discipline when intuition fails them. They seem quite mad. And sometimes they behave like mad people. But they are not mad. They have discovered true love and will. And those two things reveal the goal and the direction that they should follow. Their will is crystalline, their love is pure and their steps determined. In moments of doubt or sadness they never forget: I am an instrument, allow me to be an instrument capable of manifesting your will. They have chosen their road, and they may understand what their goal is only when they find themselves before the unwanted visitor. That is the beauty of the person who continues onward with enthusiasm and respect for the mystery of life as his only guide. His road is beautiful, and his burden light. The goal will be large or small, it can be far away or right next door. He goes in search of it with respect and honor. He knows what each step means, and how much it costs in effort and training and intuition. He focuses not just on the goal to be reached but on everything happening around him. He often has to stop because his strength fails him. At such moments, love appears and says: You think you're heading toward a specific point, but the whole justification for the goals existence lies in your love for it. Rest a little. But as soon as you can, get up and carry on. Because ever since your goal found out that you were traveling toward it, it has been running to meet you.

-Paulo Coelho

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{From Luther Burbank's funeral. He was loved until he revealed he was an atheist, then he began to receive death threats. He tried to amiably answer them all, leading to his death}It is impossible to estimate the wealth he has created. It has been generously given to the world. Unlike inventors, in other fields, no patent rights were given him, nor did he seek a monopoly in what he created. Had that been the case, Luther Burbank would have been perhaps the world's richest man. But the world is richer because of him. In this he found joy that no amount of money could give.And so we meet him here today, not in death, but in the only immortal life we positively know--his good deeds, his kindly, simple, life of constructive work and loving service to the whole wide world.These things cannot die. They are cumulative, and the work he has done shall be as nothing to its continuation in the only immortality this brave, unselfish man ever sought, or asked to know.As great as were his contributions to the material wealth of this planet, the ages yet to come, that shall better understand him, will give first place in judging the importance of his work to what he has done for the betterment of human plants and the strength they shall gain, through his courage, to conquer the tares, the thistles and the weeds. Then no more shall we have a mythical God that smells of brimstone and fire; that confuses hate with love; a God that binds up the minds of little children, as other heathen bind up their feet--little children equally helpless to defend their precious right to think and choose and not be chained from the dawn of childhood to the dogmas of the dead.Luther Burbank will rank with the great leaders who have driven heathenish gods back into darkness, forever from this earth.In the orthodox threat of eternal punishment for sin--which he knew was often synonymous with yielding up all liberty and freedom--and in its promise of an immortality, often held out for the sacrifice of all that was dear to life, the right to think, the right to one's mind, the right to choose, he saw nothing but cowardice. He shrank from such ways of thought as a flower from the icy blasts of death. As shown by his work in life, contributing billions of wealth to humanity, with no more return than the maintenance of his own breadline, he was too humble, too unselfish, to be cajoled with dogmatic promises of rewards as a sort of heavenly bribe for righteous conduct here. He knew that the man who fearlessly stands for the right, regardless of the threat of punishment or the promise of reward, was the real man.Rather was he willing to accept eternal sleep, in returning to the elements from whence he came, for in his lexicon change was life. Here he was content to mingle as a part of the whole, as the raindrop from the sea performs its sacred service in watering the land to which it is assigned, that two blades may grow instead of one, and then, its mission ended, goes back to the ocean from whence it came. With such service, with such a life as gardener to the lilies of the field, in his return to the bosoms of infinity, he has not lost himself. There he has found himself, is a part of the cosmic sea of eternal force, eternal energy. And thus he lived and always will live.Thomas Edison, who believes very much as Burbank, once discussed with me immortality. He pointed to the electric light, his invention, saying: 'There lives Tom Edison.' So Luther Burbank lives. He lives forever in the myriad fields of strengthened grain, in the new forms of fruits and flowers, plants, vines, and trees, and above all, the newly watered gardens of the human mind, from whence shall spring human freedom that shall drive out false and brutal gods. The gods are toppling from their thrones. They go before the laughter and the joy of the new childhood of the race, unshackled and unafraid.

-Luther Burbank

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Conceive a world-society developed materially far beyond the wildest dreams of America. Unlimited power, derived partly from the artificial disintegration of atoms, partly from the actual annihilation of matter through the union of electrons and protons to form radiation, completely abolished the whole grotesque burden of drudgery which hitherto had seemed the inescapable price of civilization, nay of life itself. The vast economic routine of the world-community was carried on by the mere touching of appropriate buttons. Transport, mining, manufacture, and even agriculture were performed in this manner. And indeed in most cases the systematic co-ordination of these activities was itself the work of self-regulating machinery. Thus, not only was there no longer need for any human beings to spend their lives in unskilled monotonous labour, but further, much that earlier races would have regarded as highly skilled though stereotyped work, was now carried on by machinery. Only the pioneering of industry, the endless exhilarating research, invention, design and reorganization, which is incurred by an ever-changing society, still engaged the minds of men and women. And though this work was of course immense, it could not occupy the whole attention of a great world-community. Thus very much of the energy of the race was free to occupy itself with other no less difficult and exacting matters, or to seek recreation in its many admirable sports and arts. Materially every individual was a multi-millionaire, in that he had at his beck and call a great diversity of powerful mechanisms; but also he was a penniless friar, for he had no vestige of economic control over any other human being. He could fly through the upper air to the ends of the earth in an hour, or hang idle among the clouds all day long. His flying machine was no cumbersome aeroplane, but either a wingless aerial boat, or a mere suit of overalls in which he could disport himself with the freedom of a bird. Not only in the air, but in the sea also, he was free. He could stroll about the ocean bed, or gambol with the deep-sea fishes. And for habitation he could make his home, as he willed, either in a shack in the wilderness or in one of the great pylons which dwarfed the architecture even of the American age. He could possess this huge palace in loneliness and fill it with his possessions, to be automatically cared for without human service; or he could join with others and create a hive of social life. All these amenities he took for granted as the savage takes for granted the air which he breathes. And because they were as universally available as air, no one craved them in excess, and no one grudged another the use of them.

-Olaf Stapledon

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One of the secrets of life is to find joy in the journey." But Grandma, you weren't on *this* journey. It was just crazy--"Grandma held up her hand. "You have six brothers. You got to spend a whole day in the car with them. You're all healthy, well fed, happy... Someday, when you're a little older, I'll bet you'd give anything to be back in that van of yours with all of your brothers, smelly diapers and all."I mulled that over.Well what about Dad?" I pointed out. "He didn't find any joy in the journey. He was yelling at trees."Grandma sat back, "Your father and mother are masters at finding joy in the journey."I didn't understand.Grandma continued, "Do you really think your parents would have had seven kids if they couldn't find joy in the journey?... I would be willing to wager that he'll be laughing about this trip on Monday morning with his friends at work."Grandma took my hands into hers. "There are a lot of people in this life that will try to convince you that they're selling something that will bring you joy. The simple fact of the matter is that *things* don't bring you joy. You have to find joy in life experience. And if you take along somebody you love, then that journey is going to be all the more enjoyable.I can promise you right now that both good and bad things are going to happen to you in your life. Good and bad things happen to everybody. Some people are good at finding the miserable things in life, and some are good at finding the joy. No matter what happens to you, what you remember is up to you.

-Matthew Buckley

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It is already the fashion to diminish Eliot by calling him derivative, the mouthpiece of Pound, and so forth; and yet if one wanted to understand the apocalypse of early modernism in its true complexity it would be Eliot, I fancy, who would demand one's closest attention. He was ready to rewrite the history of all that interested him in order to have past and present conform; he was a poet of apocalypse, of the last days and the renovation, the destruction of the earthly city as a chastisement of human presumption, but also of empire. Tradition, a word we especially associate with this modernist, is for him the continuity of imperial deposits; hence the importance in his thought of Virgil and Dante. He saw his age as a long transition through which the elect must live, redeeming the time. He had his demonic host, too; the word 'Jew' remained in lower case through all the editions of the poems until the last of his lifetime, the seventy-fifth birthday edition of 1963. He had a persistent nostalgia for closed, immobile hierarchical societies. If tradition is, as he said in After Strange Gods--though the work was suppressed--'the habitual actions, habits and customs' which represent the kinship 'of the same people living in the same place' it is clear that Jews do not have it, but also that practically nobody now does. It is a fiction, a fiction cousin to a myth which had its effect in more practical politics. In extenuation it might be said that these writers felt, as Sartre felt later, that in a choice between Terror and Slavery one chooses Terror, 'not for its own sake, but because, in this era of flux, it upholds the exigencies proper to the aesthetics of Art.'The fictions of modernist literature were revolutionary, new, though affirming a relation of complementarity with the past. These fictions were, I think it is clear, related to others, which helped to shape the disastrous history of our time. Fictions, notably the fiction of apocalypse, turn easily into myths; people will live by that which was designed only to know by. Lawrence would be the writer to discuss here, if there were time; apocalypse works in Woman in Love, and perhaps even in Lady Chatterley's Lover, but not n Apocalypse, which is failed myth. It is hard to restore the fictive status of what has become mythical; that, I take it, is what Mr. Saul Bellow is talking about in his assaults on wastelandism, the cant of alienation. In speaking of the great men of early modernism we have to make very subtle distinctions between the work itself, in which the fictions are properly employed, and obiter dicta in which they are not, being either myths or dangerous pragmatic assertions. When the fictions are thus transformed there is not only danger but a leak, as it were, of reality; and what we feel about. all these men at times is perhaps that they retreated inso some paradigm, into a timeless and unreal vacuum from which all reality had been pumped. Joyce, who was a realist, was admired by Eliot because he modernized myth, and attacked by Lewis because he concerned himself with mess, the disorders of common perception. But Ulysses ,alone of these great works studies and develops the tension between paradigm and reality, asserts the resistance of fact to fiction, human freedom and unpredictability against plot. Joyce chooses a Day; it is a crisis ironically treated. The day is full of randomness. There are coincidences, meetings that have point, and coincidences which do not. We might ask whether one of the merits of the book is not its lack of mythologizing; compare Joyce on coincidence with the Jungians and their solemn concordmyth, the Principle of Synchronicity. From Joyce you cannot even extract a myth of Negative Concord; he shows us fiction fitting where it touches. And Joyce, who probably knew more about it than any of the others, was not at tracted by the intellectual opportunities or the formal elegance of fascism.

-Frank Kermode

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The approach to digital culture I abhor would indeed turn all the world's books into one book, just as Kevin (Kelly) suggested. It might start to happen in the next decade or so. Google and other companies are scanning library books into the cloud in a massive Manhattan Project of cultural digitization. What happens next is what's important. If the books in the cloud are accessed via user interfaces that encourage mashups of fragments that obscure the context and authorship of each fragment, there will be only one book. This is what happens today with a lot of content; often you don't know where a quoted fragment from a news story came from, who wrote a comment, or who shot a video. A continuation of the present trend will make us like various medieval religious empires, or like North Korea, a society with a single book.The Bible can serve as a prototypical example. Like Wikipedia, the Bible's authorship was shared, largely anonymous, and cumulative, and the obscurity of the individual authors served to create an oracle-like ambience for the document as "the literal word of God." If we take a non-metaphysical view of the Bible, it serves as a link to our ancestors, a window. The ethereal, digital replacement technology for the printing press happens to have come of age in a time when the unfortunate ideology I'm criticizing dominates technological culture. Authorship - the very idea of the individual point of view - is not a priority of the new ideology. The digital flattening of expression into a global mush is not presently enforced from the top down, as it is in the case of a North Korean printing press. Instead, the design of software builds the ideology into those actions that are the easiest to perform on the software designs that are becoming ubiquitous. It is true that by using these tools, individuals can author books or blogs or whatever, but people are encouraged by the economics of free content, crowd dynamics, and lord aggregators to serve up fragments instead of considered whole expressions or arguments. The efforts of authors are appreciated in a manner that erases the boundaries between them.The one collective book will absolutely not be the same thing as the library of books by individuals it is bankrupting. Some believe it will be better; others, including me, believe it will be disastrously worse. As the famous line goes from Inherit the Wind: 'The Bible is a book... but it is not the only book' Any singular, exclusive book, even the collective one accumulating in the cloud, will become a cruel book if it is the only one available.

-Jaron Lanier

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