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Old June 3rd, 2017, 05:18 PM   #81
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Everything is infinitely fine, and any opinion is somehow coarser than the texture of the real thing.
---John Updike

The following have been in my armamentarium of apophthegmata for decades :

Consciousness will always be one degree above comprehensibility.
---G. Ehrensvard

The more observers are made similar, the more they can agree upon.
The less similar observers are, the more complex and subtle must be the language in which they converse.

---Ahem! Modesty forbids!


"The behavior of One Who Wanders Beyond becomes Wu-wei : sensitive and responsive without fixed preconceptions, without artifice, responding spontaneously in accordance with the unfolding of the inter-developing factors of the environment -- of which one is an inseparable part."
---Steve Coutinho
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Old June 7th, 2017, 05:49 PM   #82
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"Beyond Religion" : The Dalai Lama's Secular Ethics

I have met the Dalai Lama, and I found him a quite admirable chap --- almost on a level with myself. The only area in which I do not find him a model to be imitated is in his fondness for sweet pastries.
People here should note this :

Quote:
These problems are not limited to the developing world. In the richer countries, too, there are many difficulties, including widespread social problems: alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, family breakdown. People are worried about their children, about their education and what the world holds in store for them. Now, too, we have to recognize the possibility that human activity is damaging our planet beyond a point of no return, a threat which creates further fear. And all the pressures of modern life bring with them stress, anxiety, depression, and, increasingly, loneliness. As a result, everywhere I go, people are complaining. Even I find myself complaining from time to time!....

By inner values I mean the qualities that we all appreciate in others, and toward which we all have a natural instinct, bequeathed by our biological nature as animals that survive and thrive only in an environment of concern, affection and warmheartedness -- or in a single word, compassion.
The essence of compassion is a desire to alleviate the suffering of others and to promote their well-being. [emphasis added] This is the spiritual principle from which all other positive inner values emerge.
Long-time members of this site should know by now that compassion is one of the many virtues which I possess to a high degree. Not to as high a degree as my wisdom, of course, but that, I suspect, is beyond the bounds of human possibility. ---

What is the chief end of man? : "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever." --- Shorter Catechism of the Anglican Church

What is the chief end of man?: "To glorify Beauty and enjoy it forever." --- yours truly

"God", from the standpoint of human conception, is much too limited a notion. "Beauty", on the other hand, is truly infinite, and is the only trustworthy guide to human thought and action --- particularly Beauty in its highest and most universal aspects.
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Last edited by numan; June 7th, 2017 at 06:32 PM.
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Old June 7th, 2017, 11:14 PM   #83
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Originally Posted by numan View Post
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"Beyond Religion" : The Dalai Lama's Secular Ethics

I have met the Dalai Lama, and I found him a quite admirable chap --- almost on a level with myself. ...snip.....
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That you feel yourself to be above the Dalai very clearly indicates you most certainly are not.
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Old June 9th, 2017, 02:08 PM   #84
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That you feel yourself to be above the Dalai very clearly indicates you most certainly are not.
Those who still think in terms of "above" and "below" are far from the Path of Wisdom.
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Old June 9th, 2017, 02:46 PM   #85
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I see....perhaps I misinterpreted this:
Quote:
I have met the Dalai Lama, and I found him a quite admirable chap --- almost on a level with myself.
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Old June 9th, 2017, 03:22 PM   #86
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I see....perhaps I misinterpreted this:
Do I need to use the same emoticon twice in the same posting? --
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Old June 9th, 2017, 03:41 PM   #87
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Julian Jaynes

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...he argued that ancient peoples were not conscious.
Jaynes wrote that ancient humans before roughly 1200 BC were not reflectively meta-conscious, and operated by means of automatic, nonconscious habit-schemas. Instead of having meta-consciousness, these humans were constituted by what Jaynes calls the "bicameral mind". For bicameral humans, when habit did not suffice to handle novel stimuli and stress rose at the moment of decision, neural activity in the "dominant" (left) hemisphere was modulated by auditory verbal hallucinations originating in the so-called "silent" (right) hemisphere (particularly the right temporal cortex), which were heard as the voice of a chieftain or god and immediately obeyed.
Jaynes wrote, "[For bicameral humans], volition came as a voice that was in the nature of a neurological command, in which the command and the action were not separated, in which to hear was to obey."
A critic of Jaynes wrote :

"His theory, in simplest terms, is that until about 3000 years ago, all of humankind basically heard voices. The voices were actually coming from the other side of the brain, but because the two hemispheres were not in communication the way they are now for most of us, the voices seemed to be coming from outside. They seemed, in fact, to be coming from God or the gods.
"So far, so good. That is certainly imaginable to most of us, because we know that schizophrenics and some others still hear voices in apparently this manner today.

"But he also posits that many sophisticated civilizations were created by men and women who were all directed by these godlike voices. What is not very clearly explained (a serious gap in his theory) is how all the voices in these "bicameral civilizations," as he calls them, worked in harmony. But his theory is that ancient Greece, Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, and less ancient but similar Mayan and Incan kingdoms were all built by people who were not "conscious" in our modern sense.

"When one hears voices, whether then or now, the voices tend to be commanding and directive, and the need to obey them compelling. Free will is not possible. And so the people who built the pyramids were not self-aware as we are, did not feel self-pity, did not make plans, but simply obeyed the voices, which somehow were in agreement that the thing must be done."
[emphasis added]

I think that the criticism in bold type is not that serious. On Jaynes' view, ancient people had little in the way of conscious self awareness, but functioned on the basis of habit, and by obeying the verbal or hallucinatory directions of a semi-autonomous portion of the brain.
How did such automatons co-ordinate their activities in order to create relatively complex civilizations? One of the most striking characteristics of humans, as far back as we can see, is complex ritual. Ritual was probably indispensable in the creation and development of language, and complex ritual, common and prevalent throughout the year, probably co-ordinated all the complex activities of early civilizations.
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Old June 12th, 2017, 05:32 PM   #88
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When I was younger, I corresponded with Jaynes. In one letter from 1985 I wrote :

"I would like to suggest that the process of achieving consciousness is not complete even today, and that many people, even in technological societies, are still at a level of consciousness that is frighteningly similar to that of four thousand years ago. How else would you explain the irrational behavior of so many national leaders in the twentieth century?

"Enormous crises hang over us : why are most people so uninterested in them, and, in fact, so unaware of their existence? If an enormous tidal wave were racing to the shore, and the people on the beach did not see it coming, or even saw it coming but still went calmly strolling on, might one not be justified in considering them to be in something resembling a somnambulistic state?

"Nuclear war, environmental degradation, over-population are desperately dangerous threats to our continued existence. One would think that conscious people would consider them to be the most important facts in their lives and bend every effort to deal with them. But instead, what do we see?

"If your ideas can give some insight into the very great levels of unconsciousness in modern man, that may in fact be their greatest practical importance."

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Old June 12th, 2017, 06:27 PM   #89
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I am a determined determinist who has always found the notion of "free will" to be a remarkably confused notion.
De nihilo nihil fit : "Nothing comes from nothing" -- the basis of Leibnitz's Principle of Sufficient Reason

Quote:
In fact Leibniz opposed fatalism and had a more nuanced and characteristic version of the principle, in which the contingent was admitted on the basis of infinitary reasons, to which God had access but humans did not. He explained this while discussing the problem of future contingents :

We have said that the concept of an individual substance [Leibniz also uses the term haecceity] includes once for all everything which can ever happen to it and that in considering this concept one will be able to see everything which can truly be said concerning the individual, just as we are able to see in the nature of a circle all the properties which can be derived from it. But does it not seem that in this way the difference between contingent and necessary truths will be destroyed, that there will be no place for human liberty, and that an absolute fatality will rule as well over all our actions as over all the rest of the events of the world? To this I reply that a distinction must be made between that which is certain and that which is necessary.

Without this qualification, the principle can be seen as a description of a certain notion of closed system, in which there is no 'outside' to provide unexplained events with causes.
The notion of "infinitary causes" may be adumbrated by considering the Earth during the Age of Dinosaurs as a closed, deterministic system. Then, from outside the system, comes an unpredicted and possibly unpredictable event : an asteroid that hits the Earth and throws the predictable future history of the Earth into chaos.

Of course, in a larger frame of reference, the asteroid may be an entirely deterministic, predictable phenomenon -- but unpredictable events may intrude upon that system from a yet wider frame of reference, and so on.

Perhaps the real question is : does this chain of systems proceed to infinity, or does it somehow "curve back in on itself" in a finite system of unpredictability -- like the "Library of Babel" described in the first page of this posting ?
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Last edited by numan; June 12th, 2017 at 06:43 PM.
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Old June 14th, 2017, 06:45 PM   #90
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In the 19th century, it was realized that Euclid's ten axioms and common notions do not suffice to prove all of theorems stated in the Elements. For example, Euclid assumed implicitly that any line contains at least two points, but this assumption cannot be proved from the other axioms, and therefore must be an axiom itself.

Euclidean geometry remains as consistent as it ever was, but this consistency is not quite perfect. Mathematicians have long been aware that Euclid's systemization contains many small flaws --- uses of vaguely defined terms and hidden propositions that had not yet been proven. In 1899, the famous mathematician David Hilbert set out to correct these gaps with a more complete system of axioms; his system has the defect, however, that it has many axioms and is very complex, making the proofs of even the simplest propositions extremely cumbersome.

One of the little-known pieces of dirty linen in mathematics concerns the complexity of attempts to make Euclidean geometry really rigorous, and (dare I say it !!) the profound disagreement among mathematicians about just what is really required to make everything right.
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Old June 16th, 2017, 05:11 PM   #91
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Why do the axioms of Euclidean geometry need to be so complex?
Perhaps it is the rage to over-simplify which makes things complex !
A mathematician friend of mine thinks that he can reduce the axioms of geometry down to three !! I cannot reveal too much of his thinking, because he has not yet published, but his ideas involve bringing notions of motion and dynamism into the foundations of geometry.
Geometry carries historical baggage of being a study of the timeless, unchanging nature of space -- but it ain't necessarily so!! It seems that that if we take a step away from abstractness and toward an aspect of the concrete world (dynamism) we can make things simpler, not more complex !!

I suspect that here is a key to an understanding of great philosophical depth. I suspect that reality is a kind of continuum between extreme abstraction (as in all previous views of geometry) and the extreme concreteness of Deep Reality. As we slide back and forth along this continuum, there is a kind of trade-off between simplicity and complexity. As we approach the extreme of abstraction, it seems that our foundations must become more and more complex, in order to make sense ; and as we approach the extreme of a Concreteness which encompasses the totality of reality, our foundations become simpler and simpler, and more all-encompassing.
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Old June 17th, 2017, 05:08 PM   #92
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There is a type of magic which one might call "objective magic," wonders which exist in objective reality, which we may understand to a considerable extent, but which stun us with their beauty, majesty, subtlety, and harmony.

I refer to such things as the incredible fine tuning of the fundamental constants of physics, which were in force in the first few instants of the Big Bang, and which, if they had been ever so slightly different, would have made the universe as we know it impossible.

Mathematics, as it is understood by real mathematicians, is an infinite texture of similar wonders: I think of the sum of the reciprocals of the natural numbers, and the sum of the reciprocals of the prime numbers, and their relation to log(x) and log(log(x)), respectively. On a more sensory level, one thinks of the Mandelbrot Set, a mathematical structure created by the repeated iteration of an exceedingly simple formula, but which is literally an infinite object, incredibly subtle and structured. Modern computers give us the ability to see details of the Mandelbrot Set which, if they corresponded in size to an atom in our universe, would make the entire Mandelbrot Set vastly greater than the observable universe!

Mandelbrot Set Video

Before Darwin, the awe inspiring subtleties and harmonies of the world around us were considered a proof of God's existence. Now we see how many of these harmonies could have arisen by blind, dumb chance.

Ironically, at this very moment, the incredible balance and harmony of the fundamental constants of physics have made some very hard-headed physicists wonder if they were not the product of a Divine Mind at the instant of Creation!

Of course, the fundamental constants might have arisen on a scale vastly greater than our observable universe, in unimaginable circumstances, before our "little" universe was born. Perhaps they arose by blind, dumb chance, by some form of evolution analogous to Darwinian evolution.

It is a nice point of philosophy whether, on such cyclopean and unimaginable scales, there is a real difference between a Divine Mind and blind, dumb evolution! ---

Wonder is what the philosopher experiences most; for there is no other beginning of philosophy than this.
--- Plato

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
--- Isaac Newton

The most beautiful thing which we are able to experience is Mystery. It is the foundation which stands at the cradle of true Art and Science.
--- Albert Einstein

Everything is infinitely fine, and any opinion is somehow coarser than the texture of the real thing.
--- John Updike

The wise man is astonished by anything.
--- André Gide
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Last edited by numan; June 17th, 2017 at 05:22 PM.
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Old June 18th, 2017, 01:45 PM   #93
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aufgeblassen View Post
This thread is long overdo for the
And yet, Auffie, you can't resist extending it.

I guess all the thousands of viewers of this thread come only to view your brilliant offerings.
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Old June 18th, 2017, 05:12 PM   #94
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Whilst perusing this article in the Guardian,

Trillion Dollar Catastrophe: Iraq War

I noticed a link to this article by Paul Davies:

Stephen Hawking's Big Bang Gap

As usual, he makes his trenchant points elegantly and concisely.
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Old June 18th, 2017, 05:29 PM   #95
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As Schiller wrote: "Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens"

Against stupidity the Gods Themselves contend in vain

"Here is something that the psychologists have so far neglected: the love of ugliness for its own sake, the lust to make the world intolerable. Its habitat is the United States. Out of the melting pot emerges a race which hates beauty as it hates truth."
---H. L. Mencken

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Old June 24th, 2017, 04:02 PM   #96
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"The rich get richer and use the government to keep that ball a'rollin'."

Alas, this is downfall of all societies and governments ever since so-called "civilization" began, some ten thousand years ago.

And, of course, it is the downfall of the United States as it presently exists.

Scum floats. The cheaters, the chiselers, the creeps always seem to worm their way up to the top of any organization, given enough time.

Is this preventable, or is it just a part of the human condition which must be endured?

It has never yet been prevented, but I think it is possible to prevent, or, at least, greatly mitigate.

Some ancient Indian philosophers thought that there were three grounds for valid knowledge: induction, deduction, and divine revelation.

I think that there are three grounds for a decent human society: the carrot, the stick, and the Beauty of Harmony.

Order the Beauty even of Beauty is,
It is the Rule of Bliss,
The very Life and Form and Cause of Pleasure;
Which if we do not understand,
Ten thousand Heaps of vain confuséd Treasure
Will but oppress the Land.
In Blessedness itself we that shall miss
Being Blind which is the Cause of Bliss.

--- Thomas Traherne

But I guess that is just my "hive mind" at work again. ---

Contrary to the wisdom of political leaders, economists, and Ayn Rand, I just can't help feeling that:

It is better to serve in Heaven, than reign in Hell. ---
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Old September 18th, 2017, 06:24 PM   #97
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You should seriously consider taking NOTHING into serious consideration. You might feel better that way!
Oh, I long ago took Nothing into serious consideration.

Cantor proved that there are an infinite hierarchy of infinities, each "larger" (in a carefully defined mathematical sense) than the one before it.

Similarly, I have studied the ways in which there can be an infinite hierarchy of Nothings, each more vacuous than the one before it.

The vastness of "nothing" can never be exhausted! ---
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Old October 17th, 2017, 05:40 PM   #98
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I lived quite near Cal Tech (California Institute of Technology) as a kid. Every Friday evening there were free public lectures there, and I usually bicycled over to the campus to attend them. (Ah! those golden days when notable intellectuals would actually do something free for the public!) I heard people like Linus Pauling, Richard Feynman, Fred Hoyle. I fondly remember Fred Hoyle's lecture on Special Relativity. He explained it so deftly, by using light-clocks, that even a bright high school student (like me) could understand it clearly.

I met Richard Feynman several times. My high school had a special relationship with Cal Tech, since it loaned a field to Cal Tech geneticists in order to grow maize (corn) which had been irradiated. As a result, interesting people often came over to give talks to my high school science club. Richard Feynman was one of these. He played the bongo drums for us and told us several amusing stories, some of which may possibly have contained some truth.

He told us the story of his induction into the U.S. military as a draftee. He had received his draft notice and went down to the induction centre in a belligerent and foul mood, since he had no desire to waste his time in the military. He went through one examination after another, which did nothing to improve his temper. Finally came the psychological examination. The bureaucrat who was called the psychologist told him very curtly, "Put out your hands." So Feynman held out his hands, one hand palm up, the other hand palm down. The psychologist objected: "No, no! Turn them over!" So Feynman turned the palm-up hand palm down, and the palm-down hand palm up! Feynman was declared 4-F: unfit for military service.

Naturally, this result pleased him very much. But then he began to worry that he might get into trouble later, since he might be charged with playing a trick. So he sent a letter to his draft board saying that a terrible mistake had been made, and demanding to be inducted into the military. The draft board sent back a letter saying that their decision was final, and under no circumstances would he be permitted to serve.

Feynman was quite bright. His work analyzing the quantum vacuum, and his work with Wheeler on advanced waves in the theory of electro-magnetism came really close to the truths which have been revealed to me. Unfortunately, he was a child of his times (always very dangerous), and could not free himself from the Bohr-inspired positivism which was the intellectual fad of the time.
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Old October 19th, 2017, 07:15 AM   #99
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.LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived with her mother in a little cottage on the edge of a large, dark forest. This little girl often wore a little cloak, with a pretty little red hood, and for this reason people called her Little Red Riding Hood.
One morning, Red Riding Hood's mother called her and said: "Little Red Riding Hood, Here is a little basket, with some bread-and-butter and sugar cookies.
Take this little basket to the cottage of your grand-mother who lives on the other side of the forest.
Shake a leg! Don't stop along the road; and under no circumstances, don't stop to talk with strangers."
"Okay, mother," responded Little Red Riding Hood, and took the little basket and started off.
On the road to the cottage of her grand-mother, Little Red Riding Hood met an enormous wolf.
"Well, well, well," said this wicked wolf, "If it isn't Little Red Riding Hood! Where's our pretty little girl going with her little basket?"
"I'm going to my grand-mother's," replied the little girl.
"Grand-ma's sick in bed. I'm taking her some bread-and-butter and sugar cookies."
"Oh, ho! Have a pleasant walk," said the wicked wolf, but he thought to himself, "I'll take a short-cut to the cottage of her grand-mother. I'll catch up with her later, and then ---- Oh, boy!"
So the wicked wolf took a short-cut, and when he reached the cottage of the grand-mother, he peeked in the window and saw that the poor old woman was lying in her bed. In a flash, this abominable wolf leaped on her bed and ate her up.
Then he pulled on the grand-mother's night-cap and night-gown, and he curled up in her bed.
In a little while, Little Red Riding Hood arrived at the cottage and rang the door-bell.
"Come in, sweet-heart," said the wicked wolf, disguising his voice.
Little Red Riding Hood entered the bed room and stood by her grand-mother's bed.
"Oh, Grand-ma!" cried the little girl, "What big eyes you've got! I never saw such big eyes!"
"Better to look at you with, darling," whispered this wretched wolf, with a wicked smile.
"Oh, Grand-ma! What a big nose! I never saw such an enormous proboscis!"
"Better to smell you with," answered the wolf, and his mouth was watering.
"Oh, Grand-ma! What a big mouth you've got! I never saw such a big mouth!"
These were the unfortunate girl's last words. All of a sudden, throwing off the covers and springing out of bed, this cruel and blood-thirsty wolf seized Little Red Riding Hood and gobbled her up.
Moral: Under no circumstances should little girls stop to talk with strangers.


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Thanks - I get the impression that writing systems are extremely restrictive of understanding, since I think I could understand the spoken version, It is a bit like languages - I can make nothing of most European languages written, whereas when I hear them spoken I catch all sorts of connexions and clues. When I lived in Bristol I couldn't understand anyone for two months, then they suddenly started making sense, whereas written Bristolian, if it existed, would have me baffled. The way the English, who have only been next door for fifteen hundred years or so, can't possibly pronounce our place-names properly says a lot about history and grovelling, but also about different spelling systems. With French I started with reading, and I'm never very confident, whereas I picked up bits of Italian just as it came, and use those bits quite confidently. At one time I could speak Chinese (Gwo Yeu) fairly confidently, and I think that's because I can't read it. Our Latin teacher is currently trying to show us how to pronounce the language 'properly': I find it weird.

Sorry - I'm rambling. I find what you say very interesting and will see what I make of the rest when I have polished my attention-span a bit!
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Old October 19th, 2017, 04:24 PM   #100
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As a child, I was puzzled by the inconsistencies between religion and science.
As an adolescent, I was a complete atheist---in the simple-minded way that many non-religious people are.
In my twenties, I began to understand that things were not so simple, and made a serious study of phenomenology, epistemology and ontology.
In my late twenties, I finally understood that there is lot more to Platonism than most people can conceive.
In my thirties, I decided to take the notions of Beauty, Truth and Harmony seriously, and develop my ideas in accordance with Platonic Reality, and only secondarily with sequential logic. In my view, this program was spectacularly successful.
By my forties, I had made interesting discoveries in number theory, and had found deep relations between quantum mechanics and cosmology related to the "Large Number Coincidences."
By my fifties, I understood the deeply spiritual nature of existence and was comfortable with "going with the flow."
In my sixties, I am delightedly astonished by everything.

You might be interested in comparing people's evolution with how Confucius described his path:

The Master said:
By the time I was fifteen, my ambition was settled on study;
by the age of thirty, I was established;
by the age of forty, I was no longer confused or doubtful;
by the age of fifty, I understood what heaven and nature ordained;
by the age of sixty, my ear easily followed the flow of things;
by the age of seventy, I could do whatever I wanted, and would not over-step the bounds of reason and harmony.

---Analects 2:4
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