A Grief Observed…

I love the phrase, the title of C. S. Lewis’s complex book about his “raging” grief and anger, against God and the cosmos and anything and everything after the death of his late-in-life-discovered beloved soulmate, Joy Davidman, in 1960. He published it originally under a pseudonym, lest the millions who saw him as a man faith be disturbed. It is well worth reading and there is a wonderful film, Shadowlands (1993), with Anthony Hopkins and Deborah Winger–well worth watching.

The inaugural 2020 issue of The New Yorker (January 6, 2020) has a wonderfully complex personal reflection by V. S. Naipaul about his own coping with grief–over the loss of family, friends, and even beloved pets. It is well worth reading. There are many quotable lines and paragraphs but one in particular stood out for me:

The many anxieties I lived with helped to push grief away. I felt I had been inoculated against grief. I had drunk that bitterness to the dregs, and since human beings have limited capacity I didn’t think I would be able to do so again…It was a poor way of thinking. We are never finished with grief. It is part of the fabric of living. It is always waiting to happen. Love makes memories and life precious; the grief that comes to us is proportionate to that love and is inescapable.

Emptiness

This quotation was sent to me by someone who read about my son’s death. I found it to be true to my own experience and expectations. I know many take other approaches and views about death. This is basically mine, in thinking of those I have lost over the years–and especially this latest one.

There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it.

At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship.

Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The One Christian Doctrine with Empirical Proof…

Today is both Holocaust Remembrance Day and National Prayer Day. What a month we have had as April passes into May. What a decade. What a Century. For all of us on this Pale Blue Dot, far and near, both in time and space…Only images from El Bosco could possibly capture things. No appropriate images for this. One of my colleagues reminded me of Reinhold Niebuhr’s sage observation that total depravity is the only Christian theological doctrine for which we have empirical evidence. Sad but true. Homo Sapiens is only one designation for our species. There are others. All in Latin.

The Day the Earth Died (Almost)

Of his discovery, DePalma said, “It’s like finding the Holy Grail clutched in the bony fingers of Jimmy Hoffa, sitting on top of the Lost Ark.”

The current issue of The New Yorker (April 8, 2019 print edition) has a “grippingly sobering” article by Douglas Preston titled “The Day the Dinosaurs Died.” No matter what you know of or have heard about this “event,” if we can minimize it with such a vapid characterization, one should read Preston’s account for its sheer art of narration–not to mention the remarkable discoveries of DePalma.

For we North Americans it hits “home” in a particularly disturbing way, since we are close to “Ground Zero” for the most cataclysmic disasters in our earth’s “recent” living history–namely the Yucatán peninsula. Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” should be watched and listened to monthly if not weekly by our  homo stultus species, and yet it comes across like a peaceful wave of nostalgic longing compared to the utterly TERRIFYING cosmic violence and chaos of our Solar “System.” Freud, Norman O. Brown, Becker, and Koestler, all had it right. We desperately “long to count” in our tiny little socially constructed perceptual “worlds” projected onto a “physical” reality that seems utterly dead to our longings and dreams. And yes, frightening “things happen” outside these Gates of Eden in the Land of Nod that yields only thorns and thistles. Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return. Ah, but the Serpent me beguiled and I did eat. The Bible tells me so.

 

The Rough Ways of the Lord

Sometimes I envy the finality of death. The certainty. And I have to drive those thoughts away when I wake. We will never get used to the Lord’s rough ways Joseph.

Rosalie Quaid to Captain Joseph J. Blocker, film “Hostiles,” directed by Scott Cooper.

Can Human Brain Consciousness be Replicated?

Robert Kuhn, an old friend, colleague, and producer of the amazing PBS program “Closer to Truth,” (see my own contributions here) has a most provocative piece at LiveScience titled: “The Singularity, Virtual Immortality and the Trouble with Consciousness.” Will science replicate the human brain and thus produce the phenomenon we all experience our conscious “inner-self,”–what Plato and Freud called the “Ego”?

According to techno-futurists, the exponential development of technology in general and artificial intelligence (“AI”) in particular — including the complete digital replication of human brains — will radically transform humanity via two revolutions. The first is the “singularity,” when artificial intelligence will redesign itself recursively and progressively, such that AI will become vastly more powerful than human intelligence (“superstrong AI”). The second revolution will be “virtual immortality,” when the fullness of our mental selves can be uploaded perfectly to nonbiological media (such as silicon chips), and our mental selves will live on beyond the demise of our fleshy, physical bodies.

AI singularity and virtual immortality would mark a startling, transhuman world that techno-futurists envision as inevitable and perhaps just over the horizon. They do not question whether their vision can be actualized; they only debate when will it occur, with estimates ranging from 10 to 100 years. [Artificial Intelligence: Friendly or Frightening?]

Continue reading “Can Human Brain Consciousness be Replicated?”

What Computers Can’t Do and Will Never Do: The Passing of Hubert Dreyfus

I find myself thinking about the loss of Hubert Dreyfus quite often these days. I realize many of my readers have likely never heard of the extraordinary philosophical contributions of Professor Dreyfus–or “Bert,” as those who knew him called him. The NY Times tribute obituary: “Hubert L. Dreyfus, Philosopher of the Limits of Computers, Dies at 87” is a good place to start.

What I missed was the sweetly ironic Tweet on April 22nd, the day of his death, presumably posted by his wife Genevieve–or his ghost–but clearly orchestrated by him as he was dying with a smile:

There are a number of other thoughtful obituaries and tributes, including the NYTimes obituary linked above and this piece in Prospect, but I think that this one from the Berkeley News, where Dreyfus taught for 50 years, might capture the spirit of the man the best:

Hubert Dreyfus, preeminent philosopher and AI critic, dies at 87 _ Berkeley News

 

Robert Kuhn did some wonderful interviews with Dreyfus on his PBS series “Closer to Truth” that I use in my classes and highly recommend, see the profile and links here. Kuhn texted me that “Closer to Truth” plans a special tribute to Dreyfus and I will post the link when it is up.

Continue reading “What Computers Can’t Do and Will Never Do: The Passing of Hubert Dreyfus”

When the Deal Goes Down

When The Deal Goes Down

WRITTEN BY: BOB DYLAN
In the still of the night, in the world’s ancient light
Where wisdom grows up in strife
My bewildering brain, toils in vain
Through the darkness on the pathways of life
Each invisible prayer is like a cloud in the air
Tomorrow keeps turning around
We live and we die, we know not why
But I’ll be with you when the deal goes downWe eat and we drink, we feel and we think
Far down the street we stray
I laugh and I cry and I’m haunted by
Things I never meant nor wished to say
The midnight rain follows the train
We all wear the same thorny crown
Soul to soul, our shadows roll
And I’ll be with you when the deal goes down

The moon gives light and shines by night
I scarcely feel the glow
We learn to live and then we forgive
O’er the road we’re bound to go
More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours
That keep us so tightly bound
You come to my eyes like a vision from the skies
And I’ll be with you when the deal goes down

I picked up a rose and it poked through my clothes
I followed the winding stream
I heard a deafening noise, I felt transient joys
I know they’re not what they seem
In this earthly domain, full of disappointment and pain
You’ll never see me frown
I owe my heart to you, and that’s sayin’ it true
And I’ll be with you when the deal goes down

Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music

https://bobdylan.com/songs/when-deal-goes-down/

The Morning After Death

The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth, —

The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.

Emily Dickinson, The Poems of Emily Dickinson Edited by R.W. Franklin (Harvard University Press, 1999)