motto lotto

Friday, February 26, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

recently noted

Nice short essay on addiction (and homelessness) at Griffen Writes.

Also, I recently created a new blog about building web apps - Lack of Elegance.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In the Children's Hospital



Our doctor had called another, I never had seen him before,
but he sent a chill to my heart when I saw him come in at the door,
fresh from the surgery schools of France and of other lands -
harsh red hair, big voice, big chest, big merciless hands!
Wonderful cures he had done, oh yes, but they said too of him
he was happier using the knife than in trying to save the limb,
and that I can well believe, for he looked so coarse and so red,
I could think he was one of those who would break their jests on the dead,
and mangle the living dog that had loved him and fawned at his knee -
drench'd with the hellish oorali – that ever, such things could be!


Here was a boy – I am sure that some of our children would die
but for the voice of love, and the smile, and the comforting eye -
here was a boy in the ward, every bone seemed out of its place
caught in a mill and crushed – it was all but a hopeless case :
and he handled him gently enough; but his voice and his face were not kind,
and it was but a hopeless case, he had seen it and made up his mind,
and he said to me roughly 'The lad will need little more of your care.'
'All the more need I told him, 'to seek the Lord Jesus in prayer;
they are all his children here, and I pray for them all as my own :'
but he turned to me, 'Ay, good woman, can prayer set a broken bone?'
Then he muttered half to himself, but I know what I heard him say
'All very well – but the good Lord Jesus has had his day.'


Had? Has it come? It has only dawn'd. It will come by and by.
O how could I serve in the wards if the hope of the world were a lie?
How could I bear with the sights and the loathsome smells of disease
but that He said Ye do it to me when ye do it to these' ?


So he went. And we past to this ward where the younger children are laid :
Here is the cot of our orphan, our darling, our meek little maid;
Empty you see just now! We have lost her who loved her so much -
patient of pain tho' as quick as a sensitive plant to the touch;
hers was the prettiest prattle, it often moved me to tears,
hers was the gratefullest heart I have found in a child of her years -
nay you remember our Emmie; you used to send her the flowers;
how she would smile at 'em, play with 'em, talk to 'em hour after hours!
They that can wander at will where the works of the Lord are reveal'd
little guess what joy can be got from a cowslip out of the field;
flowers to these 'spirits in prison' are all they can know of the spring,
they freshen and sweeten the wards like the waft of an angel's wing;
and she lay with a flower in one hand and her thin hands crost on her breast -
wan, but as pretty as heart can desire, and we thought her at rest,
quietly sleeping – so quiet, our doctor said 'Poor little dear,
nurse I must do it tomorrow; she'll never live through it, I fear.'


I walked with our kindly old doctor as far as the head of the stair,
then I returned to the ward; the child didn't see I was there.


Never since I was a nurse, had I been so grieved and so vext!
Emmie had heard him. Softly she called from her cot to the next,
'He says I shall never live thro' it, O Annie, what shall I do?'
Annie consider'd. 'If I,' said the wise little Annie 'was you,
I should cry to the dear Lord Jesus to help me, for, Emmie, you see,
it's all in the picture there: Little children should come to me. '
(Meaning the print that you gave us, I find that it always can please
our children, the dear Lord Jesus with children about his knees.)
Yes, and I will,' said Emmie, 'but then if I call to the Lord,
how should he know that it's me? Such a lot of beds in the ward!'
That was a puzzle for Annie. Again she considered and said:
'Emmie, you put out your arms, and you leave 'em outside the bed -
the lord has so much to see to! But, Emmie, you tell it him plain,
it's the little girl with her arms lying out on the counterpane.'


I had sat three nights by the child – I could not watch her for four -
My brain had begun to reel – I felt I could do it no more.
That was my sleeping night, but I thought that it would never pass.
There was a thunderclap once, and a clatter of hail on the glass,
and there was a phantom cry that I heard as I tost about,
the motherless bleat of a lamb in the storm and the darkness without;
my sleep was broken besides with dreams of the dreadful knife
and fears for our delicate Emmie who scarce would escape with her life;
then in the gray of the morning it seemed she stood by me and smiled,
and the doctor came at his hour, and we went to see to the child.


He had brought his ghastly tools: we believed her asleep again -
her dear, long, lean, little arms lying out on the counterpane;
Say that his day is done! Ah why should we care what they say?
The Lord of the children had heard her, and Emmie had passed away.

In the Children's Hospital (1879) -Alfred Lord Tennyson

h/t Orwell How the Poor Die

Sunday, February 21, 2010

if only

fishmarket Source: wikimedia commons
If only, I feel now, if only I could be someone able to see all this as if he had no other relation with it than that of seeing it, someone able to observe everything as if he were an adult traveler newly arrived today on the surface of life! If only one had not learned, from birth onwards, to give certain accepted meanings to everything, but instead was able to see the meaning inherent in each thing rather than that imposed on it from without. If only one could know the human reality of the woman selling fish and go beyond just labeling her a fishwife and the known fact that she exists and sells fish. If only one could see the policeman as God sees him. If only one could notice everything for the first time, not apocalyptically, as if they were revelations of the Mystery, but directly as the flowerings of Reality.

Bernardo Soares The Book of Disquiet

Thursday, February 18, 2010

disquiet for the day

The wise man makes his life monotonous, for then even the tiniest incident becomes imbued with great significance. After his third lion the lion hunter loses interest in the adventure of the hunt. For my monotonous cook there is something modestly apocalyptic about every street fight he witnesses. To someone who has never been out of Lisbon the tram ride to Benfica is like a trip to the infinite and if one day he were to visit Sintra, he would feel as if he journeyed to Mars. On the other hand, the traveler who has covered the globe can find nothing new for 5,000 miles around, because he’s always seeing new things; there’s novelty and there’s the boredom of the eternally new and the latter brings about the death of the former.

The truly wise man could enjoy the whole spectacle of the work from his armchair; he wouldn’t need to talk to anyone or to know how to read, just how to make use of his five senses and a soul innocent of sadness.

One must monotonize existence in order to rid it of monotony. One must make the everyday so anodyne that the slightest incident proves entertaining. In the midst of my day-to-day work, dull, repetitive and pointless, visions of escape surface in me, vestiges of dreams of far-off islands, parties held in the avenues of gardens in some other age, different landscapes, different feelings, a different me. But, between balance sheets, I realize that if I had all that, none of it would be mine. The truth is that Senhor Vasques is worth more than any Dream Kings; the office in Rua dos Douradores is worth more than all those broad avenues in impossible gardens. Because I have Senhor Vasques I can enjoy the dreams of the Dream Kings; because I have the office in Rua Dos Douradores I can enjoy my inner visions of non-existent landscapes. But if the Dream Kings were mine, what would I have to dream about? If I possessed the impossible landscapes, what would remain of the impossible?

May I always be blessed with the monotony, the dull sameness of identical days, my indistinguishable todays and yesterdays, so that I may enjoy with an open heart the fly that distracts me, drifting randomly past my eyes, the gust of laughter that wafts volubly up from the street somewhere down below, the sense of vast freedom when the office closes for the night, and the infinite rest of my days off.

Because I am nothing, I can imagine myself to be anything. If I were somebody, I wouldn’t be able to. An assistant book-keeper can imagine himself to be a Roman emperor; the King of England can’t do that, because the King of England has lost the ability in his dreams to be any other king than the one he is. His reality limits what he can feel.

Fernando Pessoa The Book of Disquiet

This goes along well with these quotes from Dumas and Nietzsche.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

views on views

I was talking with Charlie a few days ago and, forgetting the greater value in listening than speaking, I went off for a while about the distinction between the view we operate from and the view we advocate. When we talk with other people about our worldview or answer "what's your view on X?" we've generally moved into advocate mode before beginning to speak.

So what exactly do I mean "the view we operate from"? What I mean, I suppose, is something like the view from consciousness. I don't intend to digress here into some sort of phenomenology or a full blown description of consciousness but there are some characteristics that are important to the larger discussion (and you'll have to pardon me if your consciousness doesn't resemble my own). When we're not under duress or anything in our day to day existence our "view" is primarily characterized by the loudest subset of two groups of voices: recent events and what we repeat to ourselves. I also tend to take a behavioristic approach to what "the view we operate from" is. So where this perspective from consciousness starts to feel too subjective I switch frames to see what sort of behaviors myself and others exhibit and derive "the view we operate from" from that.

From there the question arises "where do worldviews or the views we advocate fit into the view we operate from?". Well, they're some of the voices we repeat to ourselves. I would argue our cultural/linguistic story, the historical time and place we're set in is generally the loudest voice of those we repeat to ourselves and the other views are perceived within the context of that louder voice. When we advocate Christianity or scientific materialism (to ourselves) I take it we're often trying to get an accurate view of the world to help us better predict and prepare for the future. I prefer to advocate a form of perspectivism in the service of both accuracy and sanity. I often repeat to myself these words of Jesus:

[D]o not be anxious for what you shall eat and drink, and wherewith you shall be clothed. Life is more wonderful than food and clothing, and God gave it you.

Look at God's creatures, the birds. They do not sow, reap, or harvest, but God feeds them. In God's sight, man is not worse than the bird. If God gave man life, He will be able to feed him too. But you yourselves know that, however much you strive, you can do nothing for yourselves. You cannot lengthen your life by an hour. And why should you care about clothing? The flowers of the field do not work and do not spin, but are dressed as Solomon in all his glory never was. Well, then, if God has so adorned the grass, which to-day grows and to-morrow is mown, will he not clothe you?

Do not trouble and worry yourselves; do not say that you must think of what you will eat and how you will be clothed. This every one needs, and God knows this need of yours. And so, do not care about the future. Live in the present day. Take care to be in the will of the Father. Wish for that which alone is important, and the rest will all come of itself. Strive only to be in the will of the Father. And so, do not trouble about the future. When the future comes, then it will be time to do so. There is enough evil in the present.

Tolstoy The Gospel in Brief p.83-84

I don't necessarily believe in the accuracy of the statements but I understand the sentiment and can thereby adopt the corresponding attitude if the voice of one of life's situations requires it. When I'm concerned with predictive accuracy or trying to make something work I use a scientific approach. Once again not because it's more accurate ultimately but because it lends itself to the type of need I'm trying to meet.

Of course this isn't enough for most people, they want Truth (because this is how they've been conditioned?).

One more bone to pick. C.S. Lewis states at the end of Is Theology Poetry "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." For the reasons I've specified above I think this is utter nonsense. One's personal view of the world is never solely informed by one worldview. It's informed to various degrees by a multiplicity of views. It is incorrect to imply that a person can undergo a worldview in a totalitarian way; nor would we wish such a thing. When we come near to this we usually call it brainwashing. We don't generally undergo a worldview but we do undergo processes that have an impact on the view we operate from. Our personal view of the world is generally formed by various processes -- acculturation, socialization (upbringing/parenting), experiences of all sorts.

Unfortunately I think Lewis' sort of naïve nonsensical characterization of worldviews has found its way into the thinking of many a non-Christian as well.

Wow, that was convoluted. It is however the type of crap that I think about when you say "I'm a scientific materialist" or "I'm a Christian". No, you're not. If you're like me then you're a ball of snakes who advocates.

Monday, February 8, 2010

one of Bilbo's old bath songs

Sing hey! For the bath at close of day
that washes the weary mud away
A loon is he that will not sing
O! Water Hot is a noble thing!

O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain,
and the brook that leaps from hill to plain;
but better than rain or rippling streams
is Water Hot that smokes and steams.

O! Water cold we may pour at need
down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed
but better is beer if drink we lack,
and Water Hot poured down the back.

O! Water is fair that leaps on high
in a fountain white beneath the sky;
but never did fountain sound so sweet
as splashing Hot Water with my feet!