In the beginning there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. And then, in the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world was scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light, and they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.
Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world. It’s a very important story for our times. And this task is called tikkun olam in Hebrew. It’s the restoration of the world.
— Rachel Naomi Remen
If there is anything I have learned about men and women, it is that there is a deeper spirit of altruism than is ever evident. Just as the rivers we see are minor compared to the underground streams, so, too, the idealism that is visible is minor compared to what people carry in their hearts unreleased or scarcely released. Humankind is waiting and longing for those who can accomplish the task of untying what is knotted, and bringing these underground waters to the surface.
— Albert Schweitzer
LONG time a child, and still a child, when years
Had painted manhood on my cheek, was I,—
For yet I lived like one not born to die;
A thriftless prodigal of smiles and tears,
No hope I needed, and I knew no fears.
But sleep, though sweet, is only sleep, and waking,
I waked to sleep no more, at once o’ertaking
The vanguard of my age, with all arrears
Of duty on my back. Nor child, nor man,
Nor youth, nor sage, I find my head is grey,
For I have lost the race I never ran:
A rathe December blights my lagging May;
And still I am a child, though I be old,
Time is my debtor for my years untold.
— Hartley Coleridge, born this day in 1796,
wrote this poem at the age of 37.
Though we scientists claim to be rational seekers of truth, we’re as prone as anyone to human foibles such as prejudice, peer pressure, and herd mentality. Overcoming these shortcomings clearly takes more than talent for calculating.
— Max Tegmark
If we look on man’s whole mental life as it exists, on the life of men that lies in them apart from their learning and science, and that they inwardly and privately follow, we have to confess that the part of it of which rationalism can give an account is relatively superficial. It is the part that has the prestige undoubtedly, for it has the loquacity, it can challenge you for proofs, and chop logic, and put you down with words. But it will fail to convince or convert you all the same, if your dumb intuitions are opposed to its conclusions. If you have intuitions at all, they come from a deeper level of your nature than the loquacious level which rationalism inhabits. …The truth is that in the metaphysical and religious sphere, articulate reasons are cogent for us only when our inarticulate feelings of reality have already been impressed in favor of the same conclusion. Then, indeed, our intuitions and our reason work together, and great world-ruling systems, like that of the Buddhist or of the Catholic philosophy, may grow up. Our impulsive belief is here always what sets up the original body of truth, and our articulately verbalized philosophy is but its showy translation into formulas. The unreasoned and immediate assurance is the deep thing in us, the reasoned argument is but a surface exhibition. Instinct leads, intelligence does but follow. If a person feels the presence of a living God after the fashion shown by my quotations, your critical arguments, be they never so superior, will vainly set themselves to change his faith.
— William James
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.
— Richard Feynman
We lose more of our humanity in avoiding what we fear than we would ever suffer if our worst fears came to pass.
— Josh Mitteldorf
I was brought up as a Presbyterian; I stopped being a church-goer at about the age of eighteen, but I have had all my life a tremendously strong sense that, indeed, there is a hereafter, and the transformation of the spirit is a phenomenon with which one must reckon, and in the light of which one must attempt to live one’s life. As a consequence, I find all here-and-now philosophies repellent. On the other hand, I don’t have any objective images to build around my notion of a hereafter, and I recognize that it’s a great temptation to formulate a comforting theory of eternal life, so as to reconcile oneself to the inevitability of death. But I like to think that’s not what I’m doing. For me, it intuitively seems right; I’ve never had to work at convincing myself about the likelihood of a life hereafter. It is simply something that appears to me infinitely more plausible than its opposite, which is oblivion.
— Glen Gould