Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Why do we dream? As a chronic insomniac, I like to pretend that our dreams are meaningless narratives, a series of bad B-movies invented by the mind. I find solace in the theory that all those inexplicable plot twists are just random noise from the brain stem, an arbitrary montage of images and characters and anxieties. This suggests that I'm not missing anything when I lie awake at night -- there are no insights to be wrung from our R.E.M. reveries.

While we're fast asleep, the mind is sifting through the helter-skelter of the day, trying to figure out what we need to remember and what we can afford to forget.

Unfortunately for me, there's increasing evidence that our dreams are not neural babble, but are instead layered with significance and substance. The narratives that seem so incomprehensible why was I running through the airport in my underwear? -- are actually careful distillations of experience, a regurgitation of all the new ideas and insights we encounter during the day."

--Jonah Lehrer, from his blog The Frontal Cortex

It's That Time of Year Again

Today's my birthday. I won't say how old I am. The older I get, the less inclined I am to say how old that is. Not that I'm likely to be saying it to anyone but myself here. Who else reads this blog anymore or has any reason to, if they ever did?

But whether I'm writing this only to myself or also to some anonymous reader or two "out there," I'm writing to maintain a tradition. I think I've posted an entry on my birthday ever since I started this blog God knows how long ago. Why stop now? Why stop until I can't write anymore because I'm either too debilitated or just plain dead?

Every year this time, I think it may be the last March 24 I'll ever see. One of these March 24th's will be the last one for me. Perhaps it's this one. Or maybe I'll see ten, twenty, or even more. In the cosmic scheme of things, it hardly matters. In my personal scheme of things, it probably doesn't matter as much as it should. Or should the personal and the cosmic schemes of things coincide? Should I take my continuation any more seriously than the universe takes it? "Under the aspect of eternity" is how Spinoza expressed it in equivalent Latin.

If I do have a next birthday and I'm willing and able to write about it here, I hope I have more positive things to say about the preceding year than I have now. Not that it's been really bad year, mind you. But it would have been nice had it been better than it was. Yet, the only way I think it can be better is if I make it better. And so far I haven't found an effective way to do that.

In the meantime, I've apparently lost a friend or, perhaps more accurately, discovered that he probably wasn't a true friend to begin with; I've become more skeptical about so-called "spirituality;" and I've started to follow my bliss, even if it will likely lead nowhere except, perhaps, to bliss or the closest thing to it that I'm capable of knowing at this point.

I guess you could say that I'm like a lot of people on their birthday. I wish I'd never been born but grateful to be alive. I wish I'd done better with my life but relieved that I haven't done even worse. I'm not thrilled to see another year pass but hopeful that I'll see at least several more and be able to share them with my loving and lovely wife and our two feline boys.

Happy birthday to me.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Quote of the Day

"In a sensible country, people would see Obama as a president trying to define a modern brand of moderate progressivism. In a sensible country, Obama would be able to clearly define this project without fear of offending the people he needs to get legislation passed. But we don’t live in that country. We live in a country in which many people live in information cocoons in which they only talk to members of their own party and read blogs of their own sect. They come away with perceptions fundamentally at odds with reality, fundamentally misunderstanding the man in the Oval Office."
--David Brooks