Thursday, December 27, 2007

What I Have Lived For

The Prologue to Bertrand Russell's Autobiography
Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair. I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy - ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for afew hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness--that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what--at last--I have found. With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved. Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer. This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) won the Nobel prize for literature for his History of Western Philosophy and was the co-author of Principia Mathematica.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How You Became You

Not one of your direct ancestors was squashed, eaten, stabbed or died of any dread disease before they succesfully reproduced. This was no small feat if you consider the risks involved in living prior to this century. As a result through no effort on your part you come from good solid stock. Everyone of your forbearers on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. In this quality we are alike, every one of us.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Romney on Religion

These are excerpts from Mitt Romney's remarks on the role of religion in politics and government. This may be one of the more important discussions in the current election cycle.

“There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation’s founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adam’s words: ‘We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion… Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.’
“Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.”

“When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.”

“There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church’s distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.”

“It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it’s usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.
“We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
“The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation ‘Under God’ and in God, we do indeed trust.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The (intangible) Wealth of Nations

If the value of all physical resources of a country is summed it is generally inadequate to account for or explain the country's current level of income. The unaccounted for income derives from the country's intangible wealth. This includes things like trust among the people, an efficient and fair judicial system, clear property rights and effective government. Typically more than half the wealth of a country is of this intangible type.

A World Bank study begins by defining natural capital as the sum of nonrenewable resources (including oil, natural gas, coal, and mineral resources), cropland, pastureland, forested areas, and protected areas. Produced capital is what many of us think of when we think of capital. It is the sum of machinery, equipment, and structures (including infrastructure) and urban land. The Bank then identifies intangible capital as the difference between total wealth and all produced and natural capital. Intangible capital includes raw labor; human capital, which includes the sum of the knowledge, skills, and know-how possessed by population; as well as the level of trust in a society and the quality of its formal and informal social institutions.

About 90 percent of intangible capital is accounted for by years of schooling and the rule of law. On average, the rule of law explains 57 percent of countries' intangible capital while schooling accounts for 36 percent. An economy with a very efficient judicial system, clear property rights, and an effective government will produce higher total wealth.

To create wealth and lift people from poverty establish the rule of law and educate people.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Like He Owned the Place

He was always there
Waiting just to see us
That big old smile on his face
Like he owned the place.

Boy it was a swell life.
He ran long and deep
Like a mountain river.
He pulled us together like gravity.

The day he died
He was light like a vapor.
Lord, please take care of Dad.
We miss him so.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007


Her name was Simone.
She came here from Paris at an early age.
She was the kind of girl everybody falls for.
She was a lawyer.
She read Plato.
She danced the ballet.
She played the piano and the violin.
She liked horseback riding.
She ran marathons and could swim five miles.
She practiced zen.

Inside her head she was a wild animal.
She filed her teeth,
And against her inside darkness they gleamed.
When she smiled her whole being was teeth.

She had never actually wrecked a train,
but things were about to change.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Nothing's Free

You thought that I would never see,
What came to you was meant for me.
I was distracted at the time.
Forget about yours, now what about mine.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

Warrior Haiku

Direct strong attack,
Direct bold response,
Slowly tightens the mainspring.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pros from Dover

"Trapper: [to the head nurse in a hospital] Look, mother, I want to go to work in one hour. We are the Pros from Dover and we figure to crack this kid's chest and get out to the golf course before it gets dark. So you go find the gas-passer and you have him pre-medicate this patient. Then bring me the latest pictures on him. The ones we saw must be 48 hours old by now. Then call the kitchen and have them rustle us up some lunch. Ham and eggs will be all right, steak would be even better. And then give me at least ONE nurse who knows how to work in close without getting her tits in my way.
Assistant nurse: How do you want your steak cooked?"

from Mash, the movie

Monday, September 17, 2007

John Keats

Keats did not invent his own epitaph. He remembered words from the play Philaster, or Love Lies-Ableeding, written by Beaumont and Fletcher in 1611. "All your better deeds / Shall be in water writ," one of the characters says. Keats told his friend Joseph Severn he wanted on his grave just the line, "Here lies one whose name was writ in water."

Keats tombstone reads:

at the malicious power of his enemies
desired these words to be engraved
on his tomstone"
FEB 24 1821

Apparently Severn could not follow Keats simple instruction.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I'm curious,
How did you go about building your life?
Where did you start?
What did you do?
How did you figure it out?
What does it all mean?
On second thought, skip that last question.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Words, For What?

Words, for what?

Big words,
Code words,
Heated words,
Fighting words,
Chilling words,
War of words.

Healing words,
Warm words,
Comforting words,
Persuasive words,
Words of wisdom.

Keep your word,
Break your word.

Beyond words.

Words, for what?

Words lead to deeds.
They prepare the mind for action.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My Work

The law is not an ass.
It is an axe,
And I am the axe handle.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Current Events

Dissatisfaction with one's present circumstances is not an ideology.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


On butterfly wings
the whole of human life is
powder to the touch