To me this book was a masterful accounting of the human condition as lived out in a small community (the same as that lived out anywhere).
One gets theTo me this book was a masterful accounting of the human condition as lived out in a small community (the same as that lived out anywhere).
One gets the sense in reading a lot of David Foster Wallace works that he felt that there is a way that humans should be, and we're not it. Sometimes he even explicitly referred to "The Fall." To me the key reason we are not what we should be is self-centeredness, and Rowling superbly demonstrates that with everyone of the diverse characters in this book. An example? A man at an acquaintance's funeral visualizing himself giving an eulogy (for someone he barely knew); a woman at the same funeral picturing herself shagging a handsome guy in the other aisle, two rows up. Of course there's tons more than that, but I chose these examples to illustrate that we are almost never in a non-self-centered mode. Rowling brings this realization to bear by making her characters so lifelike, so real wordlish.
The other key point that Rowling brings out, many times, in my view, is that our actions from our pettiness, brought about by our self-centeredness, our inability to live outside our heads, often have dire unintended consequences for others.
I hope Rowling does additional work like this. She does a splendid job....more
After reading several of John Polkinghorne's books, I looked forward to reading his autobiography and was not disappointed. He is an amazing individuaAfter reading several of John Polkinghorne's books, I looked forward to reading his autobiography and was not disappointed. He is an amazing individual, having achieved fame as a theoretical quantum physicist (one of his teachers was Dirac himself), being elected Fellow of the Royal Society, designated Knight of the British Empire, president of Queen's college, ..., and let's not forget: an Anglican priest.
There are a few of Polkinghorne's 30 some-odd books that I haven't yet read, so I have ordered and received them and have started reading them. When I lost my faith after my wife died (13 years ago), Polkinghorne's books were the only books that really convinced me that the Christian faith can make sense, and I read a literal ton of books on theology. His wording and his background, and his deep knowledge of science and theology, were very convincing to me. While I still lean toward agnosticism, most of the time, I decided after reading Polkinghorne's autobiography to give faith "another chance."
I had also hoped to see what motivated Polkinghorne to become a priest at midlife, since that is a decision I considered myself five or six years ago.
Reading a biography about such a learned and dedicated individual can be very inspiring, and this autobiography certainly has been....more
My head is about to explode with all that I learned from this book.
This amazing collection of essays on the philosophy of David Foster Wallace provideMy head is about to explode with all that I learned from this book.
This amazing collection of essays on the philosophy of David Foster Wallace provides insights to David's thinking and writing which I had not seen before, and I've read a lot of DFW and DFW analysis. I learned that David was strongly influenced by Schopenhauer, which I had suspected but did not know, and I certainly didn't know the extent of the influence.
And while it is well-known that David admired Wittgenstein, it is less well-known (or was to me) that David actually misinterpreted Wittgenstein with regard to what language can do. This made me realize that, when God created the universe, the first law he put in place is that "everyone misunderstands some aspect(s) of Wittgenstein," with the second law being, of course, E=m*c*c.
I also have a much better understanding of how David fit into the "new sincerity" movement and what the real aims of that movement have been.
What amazed and pleased me the most was that every essay was presented in a way that I could actually understand it, and didn't have to go out and get a philosophy degree to do so. The writing, by every contributor, is really well-done.
I don't think I've ever read a book by an author that was more self-centered and pig-headed than the one who wrote this book. The book is ostensibly aI don't think I've ever read a book by an author that was more self-centered and pig-headed than the one who wrote this book. The book is ostensibly about the author's mystical/spiritual experiences in her youth, but discussion of this takes up only a fairly small segment of the book. Most of it is focused on her telling us every thing she did in her life and how smart she is and that anyone who believes in God/gods is an utter dumbass. Her attitude can be summed up by her own words:
"I have no patience with Goethe when he wrote, “The highest happiness of man is to have probed what is knowable, and to quietly revere what is unknowable .” Why “revere” the unknowable? Why not find out what it is?"
Does she not understand that unknowable means unknowable? That you don't find out what unknowable "is?"
It's not that I care whether she believes in God/gods or not. It's her fundamentalist atheist attitude that repulses me, just as fundamentalist anything repulses me. There is no search for truth behind this book, only a search for confirmation of the author's long-held beliefs.
There is one really well-done section in the book, about midway through, in which she goes into detail about her solipsism. It's possibly the best account of solipsism that I've read. But it wasn't worth my time and money to read the book to only find one little piece that was interesting....more
Earlier this week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's all-employee email included the following:
"We live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world. ComputingEarlier this week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's all-employee email included the following:
"We live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world. Computing is ubiquitous and experiences span devices and exhibit ambient intelligence. Billions of sensors, screens and devices - in conference rooms, living rooms, cities, cars, phones, PCs - are forming a vast network and streams of data that simply disappear into the background of our lives. This computing power will digitize nearly everything around us and will derive insights from all of the data being generated by interactions among people and between people and machines. We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it now is almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention."
So scarily true. We barely have the time to spend our attention on deciding how to spend our attention, and, rest assured, it will not get better. In fact, if you want to picture what it might be like in a hundred years, Mr. Mather's book gives one of the best predictions I've seen for our future, a future in which we have virtual selves to extend our self far beyond what is currently possible, so that those selves can explore our multiverse, looking at future possibilities and advising avoidance of the unpleasant ones, and even screening what we, the "primary self" see, so that we are not overrun with advertisements and other attention-grabbing devices. Add to that some other technological advances, such as the technology to use weather to wage war, and add in a trillionaire's complex life in the multiverse, along with the lives of other important and interesting characters, all having some sort of flaw, but all (well, almost all) likable, and you've got a helluva good book. And it is.
But, that's only half of the picture. The other half involves how the "end of time" is brought about, and this is just as fascinating, if not more so, than the technology of distributed consciousness. I have always enjoyed end-of-time scenarios, and this one takes the prize for most inventive of all.
And, I must say that I really appreciate the research that Mr. Mather puts into his work. He has clearly done his research on AI, philosophy of mind (consciousness), biology (Simon Conway Morris' "convergent evolution"), and the various myths regarding the end of times.
I also like the fact that he keeps the action going, keeping your mind engaged throughout.
I highly recommend this book and the two predecessors in this trilogy (Atopia and CyberStorm)
Note that I was provided an Advance Review Copy at no cost....more
A Severe Mercy is a very well-written book, as one might expect from an Oxford-trained writer. It was about twice the length it should have been,thougA Severe Mercy is a very well-written book, as one might expect from an Oxford-trained writer. It was about twice the length it should have been,though, mostly because the author only waited two years after his wife's death to write it, and therefore put in too much detail on every little decision they ever made. But, I must say again, the book was very well done, so reading the extra material was not painful.
The author’s correspondence with C.S. Lewis was especially good and contained a lot of insights.
Although the author talked at length about his conversion to Christianity, he did not do it in a way that seemed preachy. That is, it did not seem that the book was an attempt to convert anyone.
I highlighted several passages and expect to return to them from time to time....more