My reading notes and a few pictures from the Week of May 10
This first one, the election in France. Well, this week THE FRENCH have come through for all of us. For us, and for Europe, and for the Western World. By electing Macron they have turned back a bit the recent arrivals on the world stage of England’s Brexit in the person of Theresa May and America’s Donald Trump, both of whom who would undo the closeness of Europe and the United States, both trumpeting nationalism and popularism (populism). So in this we can trust the French. Would that we become once again someone whom they can similarly trust!
The next one, a book I’m now reading: In Praise of Natural Philosoophy: A Revolution for Thought and Life, by Nicholas Maxwell.
Modern science began as natural philosophy. What today we call science and philosophy, in Newton’s time formed one integrated enterprise: to improve our knowledge and understanding of the universe. Profound discoveries were made. And then natural philosophy died. It split into science and philosophy. But the two fragments are defective shadows of the glorious unified endeavour of natural philosophy. Rigour, sheer intellectual good sense, and decisive argument demand that we put the two together again, and rediscover the immense merits of the integrated enterprise of natural philosophy. This requires an intellectual revolution, with profound consequences for how we understand the universe, do both science and philosophy, and tackle global problems.
Would that this book, all the books of Natural Philosophy would replace the religious books and texts that have mostly imprisoned and belittled us during some 10,000 years of recent history, texts like the Torah, the New Testament, the Qur’an, the Hadith, The Tripitaka, The Sutras, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads, and Taoism, to mention only some of the most well known.
People have been going to war forever, not over natural philosophy, but over religion. Why? Because people are reading and believing religious texts that are fundamentally opposed to one another, and as history is telling us, fundamentally opposed to the nature of man. People don’t go to war over science and philosophy, that is over natural philosophy. In fact, as people learn more about natural philosophy, the book of nature, they are learning more about themselves, that which most keeps them from warring with one another.
Third, just this past week I saw for the first time a PUCK drawing, this one;
I’m not sure I know what the author meant by this, the Laughter of the Gods. But I was drawn to it, wanted to post it on this Blog (hang it up on my wall). I read that Puck was the first successful humor magazine in the United States, full of colorful cartoons, caricatures and political satire of the issues of the day. It had a short life, from 1871 until 1918.
We have lost good things from the Past. Not everything we’ve gone onto has been better than what was there before. The PUCK cartoons and drawings have never been outdone. To bring back PUCK and much else of our past could be what it means to “make American great again.” Horses, are no more, beautiful creatures that we were close to, even loved. Now we don’t have horses, except at the Races, but cars, too many of them, things that for the most part we don’t love. And we no longer have the magazine, PUCK. Now in the Trump era I’d ask, oh PUCK, where are you now when we need you so much?
Compare the two drawings below, the one from PUCK, and the other from this week’s Economist, both trying to say something about the world’s powerful. Which does it best?
And then just the other day there was this going on, or we were told it was going on, in the North Korean sea. A Donald Trump task force of ships that would display our power to the world and in particular to a North Korea that was still making its “missiles to California” threats. Compare the battle group sailing to Korea with the young woman below before a mirror balancing World Power on her head. (Columbia’s Easter Bonnet, Columbia being the embodiment of the United States.)
And finally this week we meet HOMO NALEDI, a strange new cousin of ours, found in a cave in South Africa two years ago, and unlike anything paleoanthropologists had ever seen. Discovered deep in the heart of a treacherous cave system — as if they’d been placed there deliberately — were 15 ancient skeletons that showed a confusing patchwork of features. Some aspects seemed modern, almost human. But their brains were as small as a gorilla’s, suggesting Homo naledi was incredibly primitive. The new species was an enigma.
And this species, like us, would bury its dead. If Homo naledi uncovered was placing the bones in the cave for ritual reasons, that would mean the species was capable of something profound.
John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who helped lead the Rising Star expedition to South Africa, had something like this to say:
There’s a real possibility that we are looking at here some kind of rudimentary cultural practice associated with a widely shared emotion of grief, telling us that this is something that’s very deep in our history as humans. … For when you’re looking at a group that takes the body of one of its members and hides it somewhere, that’s like it were saying to the member now dead: “We’re different. And you’re one of us. And we won’t allow the leopards to eat you.”