I am, you are, we are

I think, therefore I am.
— René Descartes

‘I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am.’
John Mbiti

The philosopher is a lonely intellectual who likes to believe his thinking is independent. Many of my friends who read this column can also relate to this: we identify with our individuality.  We are disinclined to admit how much of our thought is adopted wholesale from the community of people with whom we are interacting, day to day.

Still, the Mbutu philosophy seems rather extreme.  Perhaps that is because it is not our culture; our culture is extremely individualistic.

I love irony.  It is our close identification with mainstream Western culture that makes it so hard for us to realize how much our identity, our sense of self, is dependent on the culture in which we are immersed.

Read an Aeon article by Sally Davies


‘Looking through the screen of the other’s soul, I vivify my exterior.’ — Mikhail Bakhtin

For a working hypothesis,

try the assumption that you can intuit your future, your role in a larger program, your “destiny”, if you will.

Meditate.  Dream.  Introspect.

Align yourself with the vision that (sometimes) congeals through the haze and hubbub of inner perceptions.  Accept both the resignation to fates that you would not willingly have chosen and the challenges that invite you into wider roles that might be lonelier and more conflictual than your comfort zone.

— Josh Mitteldorfwhats-my-calling-inspired-men

Kolmogorov, a eulogy

It seems likely that in every culture, there have been truths, which moreover everyone knows to be true on some level, but which are so corrosive to the culture’s moral self-conception that one can’t assert them, or even entertain them seriously, without (in the best case) being ostracized for the rest of one’s life.  In the USSR, those truths were the ones that undermined the entire communist project: for example, that humans are not blank slates; that Mendelian genetics is right; that Soviet collectivized agriculture was a humanitarian disaster.  In our own culture, those truths are—well, you didn’t expect me to say, did you? 🙂

Scott Aronson

Science dreams

Science dreams of wormholes to another world,
But dreamers tread this pathway every night.
Who does but blinker ordinary sight
Is through an open portal sweetly hurled.

Science asks, why should a synapse need to rest?
Our senses offer answers of a different kind.
Focused reasoning all day can make us blind
To primary experience with which we’re blessed.

One third of life we cordon and forget.
Connection is what every synapse seeks.
In dreams, remember what we knew at birth —
Lost truths we might acknowledge yet,
The soul of life of which no science speaks —
We are but pure awareness, clad in earth.

— Josh Mitteldorftightrope

A Moment of Expanse

“Later, he remembered certain times in which the power of this moment was already contained, as in a seed. He thought of the hour in that other southern garden when the call of a bird did not, so to speak, break off at the edge of his body, but was simultaneously outside and in his innermost being, united both into one uninterrupted space in which, mysteriously protected, only one single place of purest, deepest consciousness remained. On that occasion he had closed his eyes…and the Infinite passed into him from all sides, so intimately that he believed he could feel the stars which had in the meantime appeared, gently reposing within his breast.”

— Rilke