Monday, January 26, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens


Clear water in a brilliant bowl, 
Pink and white carnations. The light
In the room more like a snowy air, 
Reflecting snow. A newly-fallen snow
At the end of winter when afternoons return.
Pink and white carnations - one desires
So much more than that. The day itself
Is simplified: a bowl of white, 
Cold, a cold porcelain, low and round,
With nothing more than the carnations there.


Say even that this complete simplicity
Stripped one of all one's torments, concealed
The evilly compounded, vital I
And made it fresh in a world of white,
A world of clear water, brilliant-edged,
Still one would want more, one would need more,
More than a world of white and snowy scents.


There would still remain the never-resting mind,
So that one would want to escape, come back
To what had been so long composed.
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Some light reading about aliens

I've really been enjoying this article called Alien Minds by Susan Schneider, a philosophy professor at the University of Connecticut. I've often heard that it's likely that if we ever encounter aliens, they'll be postbiological-- more like superintelligent machines. Schneider sketches out this possibility, noting how humanity is getting more cyborgy already:

" the United States the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has started to develop neural implants that interface directly with the nervous system, regulating conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, arthritis, depression, and Crohn’s disease."

And then the article gets even more interesting--Schneider explores what it would be like inside the "mind" of a superintelligent alien. Would they be conscious? This reminds me of this classic piece on personal identity by Derek Parfit. Schneider casually points out:

"...even humans wishing to upload their minds will fail to transfer their consciousness. Although they may copy their memories onto a computational format, their consciousness will not transfer..."

It makes me both sad and excited to try to picture the distant future.

For further reading: The Fermi Paradox, in all its terrifying glory

source for the schneider: kottke!

Friday, January 2, 2015

internet favorites for january: love exists

In the fall my friends and I watched the documentary "112 Weddings," where a wedding videographer catches up with some of the couples he's filmed over the years, and interviews them about how their lives and relationships have gone. The documentary was almost entirely negative, lots of emphasis on how people didn't "think things through" ("what does that mean, though?" Eve wondered), and how the challenges of child-rearing can destroy everything.

So I went back to my archive of favorite things on the internet to re-read my top two articles about love and relationships.

This one, from the Huffington Post, includes an idea I just love:

“One woman in Georgia gave some pretty amazing advice. She and her husband have been married for over 60 years, and after being asked what her best relationship advice would be, she paused and said ... 'Don't be afraid to be the one who loves the most.'"

I didn't understand what that advice meant until I was in a very serious relationship, but now I think about it through every rough patch, and it helps so much.

This one, from the Atlantic, focuses on a very empowering and beautiful idea: that trying to be a good person and a good partner will make you better. I find it easy to notice what's unfair about the world, and what can't be controlled, and how often bad things happen to good people. It's nice to think that sometimes trying to do very hard things might actually work.

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”

I hope you find these helpful too!

my sister on her wedding day