Archive for January, 2008

08w04:6 Eric Hoffer

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Eric Hoffer | Ronald Gross
(excerpt from The Independent Scholar’s Handbook)
A Hoffer quote from the linked doc: “We went to work and started to build our load. On the docks it’s very simple – you build your side of the load and your partner builds his side, half and half. But that day I noticed something funny. My partner was always crossing the aisle, giving foreign aid to somebody else. He wasn’t doing his share of the work on our load, but he was helping other with theirs. There was no reason to think he disliked me. But I remember how that day I got started on a beautiful train of thought. I started to think why it was that this fellow, who couldn’t do his own duty, was so eager to do things above and beyond his duty. And the way I explained it was that if you are clumsy in doing your duty, you will be ridiculous, but that you will never be ridiculous in helping others – nobody will laugh at you. The man was trying to drift into a situation where his clumsiness would not be conspicuous, would not be blamed. And once I started to think like that, I abandoned him entirely. My head was in orbit! I started to think about avant-garde, about pioneering in art, in literature. I thought that all people without real talent, without skill, whether as writers or artists and so on, will try to drift into a situation where their clumsiness will be natural and expected. what situation will that be? Of course – innovation. Everybody expects the new to be ill-shaped, to be clumsy. I said to myself, the innovators, with a few exceptions, are probably people without real talent, and that’s why practically all avant-garde art is ugly. But these people, the innovators, have a necessary role to play because they keep things from ossifying, they keep the gates open, and then eventually a man with real talent will move in and make use of any technique. Oh, I worked and worked on this train of thought; I was excited all day long, and I have a whole aphorism that came about as a result; when I got back to my room all I had to do was write it down. It often happened to me just that way – and all on the company’s time!”
// I consider this dated but worth considering.

Eric Hoffer | Wikipedia
“Hoffer also took solace in being an outcast, believing that the outcasts have always been the pioneers of society. He did not consider himself an “intellectual”, and scorned the term as descriptive of the allegedly anti-American academics of the West. He believed academics craved power but were denied it in the democratic countries of the West (though not in totalitarian countries, which Hoffer understood to be an intellectual’s dream). Instead, Hoffer believed academics chose to bite the hand that fed them in their quest for power and influence.”

The Eric Hoffer Resource

08w03:5 Life is better in Venezuela

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Life After the Bubble Burst | Ken O. Burtch
“This is a strange economic time in Canada. While the unemployment rate is the lowest in many years (CTV), Statistics Canada reports that 2/3rds of aged 25-54 Canadians are underemployed or are working under substandard conditions (CTV). According Robert Wright (as discussed in my Linux Startup book), the post World War II generation has exploited both their parents and their children for material gain. During the time of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, Canadian families pumped over 1 trillion dollars into the next generation so they wouldn’t do without. The baby boomer generation, with its hedonistic world-view, retired on the money instead of reinvesting it in the future, leaving Generation X with high unemployment, unpaid education debt, lower income and higher cases of suicide. As more and more older people retire from the work force, the true damage to the Canadian economy is slowly being being unmasked. A friend of mine with a university degree who moved to Venezuela recently returned to Canada because he couldn’t find work in South America. After trying for two years to get a job which paid enough to support his family, he announced that things were worse in Canada than Venezuela. He return to Venezuela…the cost of living was cheaper there.”
// article date: 17 April 2006

08w03:3 A brain floating in space on a midwinter's day

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Big Brain Theory: Have Cosmologists Lost Theirs? | Dennis Overbye
“It could be the weirdest and most embarrassing prediction in the history of cosmology, if not science. If true, it would mean that you yourself reading this article are more likely to be some momentary fluctuation in a field of matter and energy out in space than a person with a real past born through billions of years of evolution in an orderly star-spangled cosmos. Your memories and the world you think you see around you are illusions.”