Divine Neutrality, Blog. Science, Philosophy


August 25th, 2012

Throw-away virtue.

excess.jpgWaste is a deliciously ambiguous notion. What is discarded and not used in the venture is waste. Food that is not digested.

But waste is also a mark of prosperity. Where much is being done there is waste. Little being done, little being scrapped. So waste is a product of achievement.

For those who acquire wealth and status, waste is the sign of prosperity. The man who leaves food on his plate is not suffering adversity. An army of media viewers devour photos and stories of excess among the rich. The world worships excess. Waste is the signature of privilege. That’s what was inscribed in the stepping stone shown. To live in carefree luxury, to be released from the care of ‘waste not’, is the fantasy of many.

That release is what allows play. Purposeless effort without concern for waste – play – is what brings us invention. As well, it may bring us destruction.

    The device is new,
    there’re precious few
    It does much more
    than done before
    It’s fragile, only new devised,
    never yet has been revised
    I take care
    to spare it wear,
    preserve it’s life of usefulness
    My son arrives.
    Right in he dives.
    With reckless use
    and bland abuse
    he finds how much it’ll do.
    And on the way he batters it
    until he finally shatters it.
    He’s cavelier.
    He gives no care,
    drives it through to uselessness.
    But he has learned, while having fun,
    what useful further can be done
    It’s waste itself, without intention
    that’s the fountain of invention.

Of what do people dream? What is the most sought-after thing? Answer: well being. Freedom from want. To live in plenty; to not worry about hoarding scraps; to have enough on the plate that you needn’t eat it all; to play instead of to work; to have leisure; to have time to waste.

People who know luxury don’t concern themselves with small matters. They are freed by wealth from attending to trivia. But though this may appall the puritans, there is, in this freedom, a hidden treasure. It spawns art and music, culture and literature and science. Because, among those who use their gift for play, there are others whose play is the passion of productiveness. They use their well being to produce works of science, engineering, music, literature and art. It is freedom from want that lets them do it. Creating demands attention; attention not spent on mere survival. In short, the tolerance of waste is precisely the engine of productivity. It is what lifts the material wealth of both rich and poor.

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Fauna of Convictions

March 22nd, 2009


Fundamentally there is no point to being alive. People live. They don’t dwell on its pointlessness.

Most fabricate a meaning for existence. They manufacture a ‘point’:  to serve God, to make music, to create art, to succor the family, to attain high speeds, to wreak vengeance … To ‘do’ something or other. The ‘doing’ is sanctified by calling it ‘the meaning of life’. But on the cosmic scale of things none of these activities qualifies as ‘meaning of life’. They’re merely expressions of human enthusiasms. Subjective passions not ultimate insight.

A few accept that the phrase “the meaning of life” has no meaning. They are the ones who delight in pointlessness.

Meaninglessness has implications. One is that there is no God. I can’t prove it. Nor can I prove that there is no Santa Claus or tooth fairy. By the time of adolescence one accrues enough experience of life to relegate these concepts to charming myth. It is experience of life – awareness of natural process – that relegates God to myth.

Is existence due to will (the will of God)? If there were a God, is he interested in the trivial foibles of human affairs? The idea of God embedded in these questions is simply too primitive for a mature, reasonably educated person to embrace.

Medieval battles were preceded by fervent appeals of the combatants to God. “May God grant me victory over my enemy.” Was the outcome determined by the appeals? Surely not.

On earth, death is the release granted terrible suffering. Can there be an afterlife of interminable suffering from which not even death can offer relief? The alternative is an afterlife in which one floats around interminably happy in the presence of God.

These are such manifestly fairy tale notions that it is difficult to understand how functioning adults could believe them. But a large number evidently do believe them. And with fervor. Lives are molded by these convictions.

How charmingly diverse are the life forms among human convictions.

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Restraint is valiant.

October 22nd, 2008

“Many would be cowards if they had courage enough.”

Thomas Fuller
restraintBefore this stepping stone suffered its blow it read:


It takes valor to hold your tongue. The common view is that to do battle is valiant. But, in truth, to refrain from battle is valianter! The reward is the husbanding of precious life’s moments, as exemplified in the following story called “Righteous indignation is a temper tantrum.”

It’s Friday. Morning. The telephone rings. I answer it.


“Marvin Chester? This is Dr. Andersen’s office.
You have an appointment at 10 am next Tuesday.
I need to cancel it.
I’ll put you down for 2 pm.
Do you have any problem with this?”

I am offended by the words and the tone of voice. I think of answering:

“Is this a command from an imperial highness? When you break an appointment, common courtesy dictates an apology. And a request for another appointment. Not a summons to appear. Not a recital of when audience will next be granted. I’d like to speak to Dr. Andersen. Please have her call me.”

That’s what went through my mind but it didn’t pass my lips. Instead I answered:

“O.K. 2 pm it is.”

On hanging up the phone I rejoice in the blessings of perspective. By restraining my outrage I bought myself perhaps hours, if not days, of precious life moments that would otherwise have been wasted in the fruitless instruction of others on how to behave.

This stepping stone once read:


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