Category Archives: Philosophical

Kurt Vonnegut’s Commencement Address

(A little gem I found in the couch cushions of my hard drive)…

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’98:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much
possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.

Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Meeting the Enemy

Instead of reading the text below you could just listen to it…

At the time of this writing (July 2020) the US of A experiences mayor racial upheaval. I am convinced that this is mostly politically motivated to discourage the population to reelect Donald Trump, but there must be some fertile grounds for this seed of discourse to flourish.

At this time mostly racial discourse is pushed and the gender questions are put on the back burner. But at one point the man vs woman question was a preferred area to create separation and establish hardened fronts.

I still have faith in the American People that they will not fall for the instigated war of the races, and the presenter of the following TED talk is one of the shining beacons that gives me that hope.

She had been a proponent of solidifying the fronts between genders, which usually is a cherished subject of politicians to create controversy. But she was fortunate to see through her self-created biases and was able to start to break down those walls.

Without further ado, here is Cassie Jaye…

Towel Day

People in the know around the world recognize today – May 25th – as the day that made clear to all the importance of carrying a towel with you at all times.

Google is certainly aware of it

Google search result for Towel Day

as is your’s truly

Merlin Silk with towel to be prepared for all possible situations
Merlin Silk prepared with towel

One thought I want to give to you on your way to life from now on. Ponder the question how you learn to fly…

… and get the mind-boggling answer: You throw yourself to the ground – – – – and miss!

Blows all your accepted reality to bits – doesn’t it?

Define Reality!

David Bohm

DAVID BOHM: “Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends on what we look for. What we look for depends on what we think. What we think depends on what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.”

The Camera

Capturing a moment and freezing time has always been fascinating for mankind. It always required a skill to turn a moment into a lasting image. Cave drawings are the first known attempts to do just that. Over the millennia many great, and not so great, artist practiced this skill.

With the invention of the camera and film the game changed. It was suddenly much easier to trap the moment and make it last. The first photographers still had to be very skilled because you could not go to a store and buy a role of film – the first photographers made their own plates for their box cameras.

But by the 50s and 60s photography had become so easy that every American tourist traveling the world took his or her camera along. And in the recent years the prevalence of digital cameras has brought picture-taking everywhere.

The main areas in which photography is used today are snapping memory shots, documenting events and facts, and artistic expression.

Probably the most pictures take are from the first category – capturing memories. Here is the camera, especially the latest very small models, which can go everywhere and that fit into your shirt pocket. As there is, beside the initial cost for the camera, no cost involved in photo-taking, many, many photos are taken, many of which might only be looked at once before they are forgotten on a hard drive or deleted.

The second use of the camera for the documentation of events, facts and objects requires a much bigger skill level of the photographer if he really wants to create an image that tells a story or shows a situation. Point and click does not work any more. The photographer has to have the ability to isolate something specific from a sea of distraction. A wide-angle shot where, way in the background, you see the dog biting the kid while there are more prevalent objects in the foreground will not document the dog attack.

Artistic use of the camera requires a total synergy of camera and photographer. Just like the painter knows exactly how the brush will apply the paint to the canvas, so does the artistic photographer know every nuance of his tool of the trade – the camera. But just as a great painter will paint a great picture with an expensive brush or a cheap pencil, so is the great photographer able to even use a cheap camera to take great pictures.

The camera, in all three fields of application, has opened up the entry into the respective area to nearly everybody. But it still remains true that to create great pictures, great skills are required. Today’s advertisement tries to make it appear that if you spend bundles of money to purchase the latest and greatest camera, you will automatically take perfect pictures. This is certainly not the case as the photographer and not the camera takes the pictures. Lowering the bar to enter the field allows many more people to get started but only the person who sticks with it and trains himself in the art will obtain stunning results.

Comprehending Engineers

TAKE ONE
Two engineering students were walking across campus when one said: “Where did you get such a great bike?” The second engineer replied: “Well, I was walking along yesterday minding my own business when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike. She threw the bike to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, ‘Take what you want.'” The second engineer nodded approvingly: “Good choice; the clothes probably wouldn’t have fit.”

TAKE TWO
To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

TAKE THREE
A pastor, a doctor and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer fumed: “What’s with these guys? We must have been waiting for
15 minutes!” The doctor chimed in: “I don’t know, but I’ve never seen such ineptitude!” The pastor said: “Hey, here comes the greens keeper. Let’s have a word with him.” “Hi, George what’s with that group ahead of us? They’re rather slow, aren’t they?” The greens keeper replied: “Oh, yes, that’s a group of blind fire fighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime.” The group was silent for a moment. The pastor said,: “That’s so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight.” The doctor said, “Good idea. And I’m going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if there’s anything he can do for them.” The engineer said, “Why can’t these guys play at night?”

TAKE FOUR
There was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for fixing all things mechanical. After serving his company loyally for over 30 years, he happily retired. Several years later the company contacted him regarding a seemingly impossible problem they were having with one of their multimillion-dollar machines. They had tried everything and everyone else to get the machine to work but to no avail. In desperation, they called on the retired engineer who had solved so many of their problems in the past. The engineer reluctantly took the challenge. He spent a day studying the huge machine. At the end of the day, he marked a small “x” in chalk on a particular component of the machine and stated: “This is where your problem is”. The part was replaced and the machine worked perfectly again. The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for his service. They demanded an itemized accounting of his charges. The engineer responded briefly: “One chalk mark: $1.00. Knowing where to put it: $49,999.00.” It was paid in full and the engineer retired again in peace.

TAKE FIVE
What is the difference between Mechanical Engineers and Civil Engineers? Mechanical Engineers build weapons, Civil Engineers build targets.

TAKE SIX
The graduate with a Science degree asks, “Why does it work?” The graduate with an Engineering degree asks, “How does it work?” The graduate with an Accounting degree asks, “How much will it cost?” The graduate with a Liberal Arts degree asks, “Do you want fries with that?”

TAKE SEVEN
Normal people … believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough Features yet.”

TAKE EIGHT
An architect, an artist and an engineer were discussing whether it was better to spend time with the wife or a mistress. The architect said he enjoyed time with his wife, building a solid foundation for an enduring relationship. The artist said he enjoyed time with his mistress, because of the passion and mystery he found there. The engineer said: “I like both.” “Both?” Engineer: “Yeah. If you have a wife and a mistress, they will each assume you are spending time with the other woman, and you can go to the lab and get some work done.”

TAKE NINE
An engineer was crossing a road one day when a frog called out to him and said: “If you kiss me I’ll turn into a beautiful princess”. He bent over, picked up the frog and put it in his pocket. The frog spoke up again and said: “If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I’ll Stay with you.” The engineer took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and returned it to the pocket. The frog then cried out: “If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I’ll stay with you and do ANYTHING you want.” Again the engineer took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket. Finally the frog asked: “What is the matter? I’ve told you I’m a beautiful princess, that I’ll stay with you and do anything you want. Why won’t you kiss me?” The engineer said: “Look I’m an engineer. I don’t have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog, now that’s cool.”

Thoughts on Reality

I ran into the following article today and just have to share it:

As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions — sights, sounds, textures, tastes — are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it — or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion — we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like…

Continue reading at The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality

It doesn’t seem like many people in neuroscience or philosophy of mind are thinking about fundamental physics. Do you think that’s been a stumbling block for those trying to understand consciousness?