COVID-19 and Acedia

Note: This isn’t my usual essay topic. Still, I want to put it on my blog.

Six months into the pandemic with no end in sight, many of us have been feeling a sense of unease that goes beyond anxiety or distress. It’s a nameless feeling that somehow makes it hard to go on with even the nice things we regularly do.

What’s blocking our everyday routines is not the anxiety of lockdown adjustments, or the worries about ourselves and our loved ones — real though those worries are. It isn’t even the sense that, if we’re really honest with ourselves, much of what we do is pretty self-indulgent when held up against the urgency of a global pandemic.

It is something more troubling and harder to name: an uncertainty about why we would go on doing much of what for years we’d taken for granted as inherently valuable.

What we are confronting is something many writers in the pandemic have approached from varying angles: a restless distraction that stems not just from not knowing when it will all end, but also from not knowing what that end will look like. Perhaps the sharpest insight into this feeling has come from Jonathan Zecher, a historian of religion, who linked it to the forgotten Christian term: acedia.

Acedia was a malady that apparently plagued many medieval monks. It’s a sense of no longer caring about caring, not because one had become apathetic, but because somehow the whole structure of care had become jammed up.

What could this particular form of melancholy mean in an urgent global crisis? On the face of it, all of us care very much about the health risks to those we know and don’t know. Yet lurking alongside such immediate cares is a sense of dislocation that somehow interferes with how we care.

The answer can be found in an extreme thought experiment about death. In 2013, philosopher Samuel Scheffler explored a core assumption about death. We all assume that there will be a future world that survives our particular life, a world populated by people roughly like us, including some who are related to us or known to us. Though we rarely or acknowledge it, this presumed future world is the horizon towards which everything we do in the present is oriented.

But what, Scheffler asked, if we lose that assumed future world — because, say, we are told that human life will end on a fixed date not far after our own death? Then the things we value would start to lose their value. Our sense of why things matter today is built on the presumption that they will continue to matter in the future, even when we ourselves are no longer around to value them.

Our present relations to people and things are, in this deep way, future-oriented. Symphonies are written, buildings built, children conceived in the present, but always with a future in mind. What happens to our ethical bearings when we start to lose our grip on that future?

It’s here, moving back to the particular features of the global pandemic, that we see more clearly what drives the restlessness and dislocation so many have been feeling. The source of our current acedia is not the literal loss of a future; even the most pessimistic scenarios surrounding COVID-19 have our species surviving. The dislocation is more subtle: a disruption in pretty much every future frame of reference on which just going on in the present relies.

Moving around is what we do as creatures, and for that we need horizons. COVID-19 has erased many of the spatial and temporal horizons we rely on, even if we don’t notice them very often. We don’t know how the economy will look, how social life will go on, how our home routines will be changed, how work will be organized, how universities or the arts or local commerce will survive.

What unsettles us is not only fear of change. It’s that, if we can no longer trust in the future, many things become irrelevant, retrospectively pointless. And by that we mean from the perspective of a future whose basic shape we can no longer take for granted. This fundamentally disrupts how we weigh the value of what we are doing right now. It becomes especially hard under these conditions to hold on to the value in activities that, by their very nature, are future-directed, such as education or institution-building.

That’s what many of us are feeling. That’s today’s acedia.

Naming this malaise may seem more trouble than its worth, but the opposite is true. Perhaps the worst thing about medieval acedia was that monks struggled with its dislocation in isolation. But today’s disruption of our sense of a future must be a shared challenge. Because what’s disrupted is the structure of care that sustains why we go on doing things together, and this can only be repaired through renewed solidarity.

Such solidarity, however, has one precondition: that we openly discuss the problem of acedia, and how it prevents us from facing our deepest future uncertainties. Once we have done that, we can recognize it as a problem we choose to face together — across political and cultural lines — as families, communities, nations and a global humanity. Which means doing so in acceptance of our shared vulnerability, rather than suffering each on our own.

This essay was written with Nick Couldry, and previously appeared on

Posted on October 2, 2020 at 2:15 PM168 Comments


Frank Wilhoit October 2, 2020 2:38 PM

Acedia is not a new thing. We had a lot of it back in the 1980s around the possibility of nuclear war. It took denial and sophistry (everyone in their own individual mixture) to keep going. Then between 1989 and 1991, things loosened up a little. Then starting in 1992 you had the Clinton hate (which was no less than or different from the Obama hate) and the Rwandan genocide, which was clearly also the end game for America; but no one wanted to go back into acedia mode. We spent the next 16 years, until 2008, resisting acedia — it was That Which Must Not Be Named. Then another period of hope, then another period of despair beginning in 2016 — and this time there is no alternative to acedia. Denial will not do it. Sophistry cuts no ice.

Joel October 2, 2020 2:54 PM

Relatedly, this is one of the reasons many go to such extreme lengths to overlook, ignore, and/or downplay the mass-extinction scenario we are indeed facing. The solution to the problem of global warming implies reshaping and uprooting western society as we know it, and that disrupts our sense of future and frames of reference to such degree that continuing on the path of mass-extinction seems like comfortable thing to do. Our minds work in mysterious ways.

andyinsdca October 2, 2020 3:12 PM

Mass extinction event? Something that has a survival rate of 99.5%+ (for most demographics) is not a mass extinction event. Whatever emotions people are feeling are magnified by the constant drone of the media and their daily scare totals “300 new cases in San Diego county and 2 deaths reported”
or whatever kicks off the news at the top & bottom of every hour. One of the quickest cures is to turn off the news (TV, radio, internet, etc.) and simply get on with life. It’s quite liberating and life-affirming to ignore that crap and get on with life.

Kurt Seifried October 2, 2020 3:14 PM

I feel like many people have lost a LOT of mental resiliency (if nothing else the combination of not learning, and not practicing) and our support networks are weaker, if they exist at all. The average number of close friends that someone can confide in, etc. A lot of people are also only a paycheck or two away from real problems, ironically there are social supports, but they definitely don’t support the lifestyle most people want.

I don’t know what the answer is, and I’m not saying people in the past were mentally tougher (I suspect there was a lot of mental distress swept under the rug and consequent abuse/etc.) but the reality is we’re not doomed (climate change excepted, that one was a bit of an oops), and humanity will get through this pandemic, and I’ve even bet we don’t really learn any lessons from it.

Sorry that I don’t have some good news to end this on.

andyinsdca October 2, 2020 3:34 PM

Oh wait, Joel was talking about climate change, not the COVID that the rest of the article is about.

Still worth turning off the news, though.

Sancho_P October 2, 2020 3:36 PM

“But what, Scheffler asked, if we lose that assumed future world — because, say, we are told that human life will end on a fixed date not far after our own death? Then the things we value would start to lose their value.

What a poor egocentric, narcissistic human view!
– We are not important.
We are nothing but parasites in this wonderful world.
We humans don’t contribute to anything positive in nature. We never did, on the contrary.

We shouldn’t philosophize about the future when our mind is too small to realize today.
Well, yes, but that’s not human.

¿We could try to respect our next neighbours and think of tomorrow?

SocraticGadfly October 2, 2020 3:43 PM

Bruce said:

We all assume that there will be a future world that survives our particular life, a world populated by people roughly like us, including some who are related to us or known to us.

Guess you don’t know any secularists or atheists, Bruce? Not read any Camus?

Etienne October 2, 2020 3:44 PM

I’ve been on an immunosuppressant drug for about 7 years, so I have to be careful in a thinking way. I don’t just fly by the seat of my pants since taking it. It improves my quality of life, but like getting the last few miles out of an engine is the analogy. Listen to the valves, and don’t let the clutch out too fast.

Sadly, my cousin who was a registered nurse just recently died at age 70, and she looked so healthy and trim, and yet she went down like a jet airplane in a very short hospitalization.

When I go to the Dr’s offices to do my lab work, they are smart to keep me in my car and call me when to come in. That way I zoom in, zoom out, and avoid their air conditioning system and sick people.

We now know what it was like with the 1918 flu, and it took 2 years for everyone to die-off who didn’t have the gene’s to make it.

Mother nature will murder us to save the planet, if we don’t. People need to stop breeding if they want drinking water in 10 years.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons October 2, 2020 3:46 PM

@ Joel

Our minds work in mysterious ways.

I beg to disagree, or at least say that is a fairly subjective statement. From what I am witness to, our minds only serve to control motor functions of the body as it transits space and time. Other than that, I see little evidence for a mystery.

vas pup October 2, 2020 4:05 PM

@Sancho_P • October 2, 2020 3:36 PM
You sound right and reasonable, but politically incorrect – and that is the most important evaluator (in the current world) of thoughts, people, you name.
When this political incorrectness is working more efficient to suppress real freedom of thoughts, science, common sense, logic than Inquisition in Middle Ages, Gestapo/Stasi in Germany on different historical periods, McCarthyism in US, KGB in USSR, etc. The tools are different, but target is the same.
Regarding future: our Big Brother main institution has such term as legacy token for evaluation of mass murderers. Legacy token is what left after us. Good or bad, but different from total oblivion.
So, it could be your offspring, your good or bad actions/inactions. In that sense if you don’t have kids and did not do anything substantial which affected other people, your legacy token is zero.

vas pup October 2, 2020 4:09 PM

@Sancho_P – I put comment supporting your view but Moderator deleted it.
That is political correctness at work
which will create direction to ‘Idiocracy’ – good comedy with deep sense.

bender October 2, 2020 4:25 PM

Bruce, thank you for writing this.

Add to the never-ending pandemic the ever more obvious effects of climate change, months of wildfires filling the sky with smoke so thick that the sun can’t be seen on some days, and a looming election that might be our last one… the future looks uncertain, alright.

Mr. H October 2, 2020 4:35 PM

@Mr. Schneier, @all,

Agreed. A life altering event for sure, this COVID-19. Unfortunately, it’s a permanent one I’m afraid. Believe me, there are things out there that are much worse.
What happened before, waaaaay before COVID-19 was that people in general were slowly but surely slipping into a state of shamelessness. As you know, shamelessness is a broad term that may mean/include many other negative connotations such as lack of integrity, lying, cheating, stealing, and many, many more but they all lead back to the lack of SHAME. When people have no shame, they’ll do ALL of the above, AND THEN SOME. The longer I live, the more people I meet. Regardless of the walks of life, age, gender, race, education level, etc, etc – swindlers left, right, everywhere you turn. WHY does one get more respect in the Western World, (probably in most other “places” as well) if she/he has more wealth? Why do we measure/compare one’s INTELLECT by how much wealth he/she has managed to amass in his/her lifetime? What if (and there is NO “IF” in many cases) all that wealth has been acquired by shady, dishonest, corrupt means – yet too many people are easily convinced that he/she MUST BE VERY SMART since they were able to get THAT rich. And if they earned it illegally they wouldn’t get away with it because there’s IRS, FBI, (and a bunch of others) and those guys don’t kid around. Right? RIIIIGHT. Just like there are centers for rehab (alcohol, drugs, etc), there must be centers/institutions for GREED and SHAMELESSNESS treatments because the two (when any one person is infested by either one of them, or God forbid with both) will inflict a lot of harm to many innocent people out there.

COVID-19 is NOTHING compared to shamelessness. The measuring unit for RESPECT must not be money for it can be obtained shamelessly while inflicting great deal of harm to other fellow humans. The measuring unit is FLAWED. I’m seeing more and more self-centered people and less of those that we used to have plenty of – the ones with INTEGRITY. Is this a part of some “grand plan”? Or is KARMA going to take care of everything as in “if you don’t pay decent wages to your DBAs they’ll just turn around and “administer” those databases to the highest bidder out there”? I’m trying really hard to figure out why do some people need so much wealth? You CAN’T and WON’T take it to the grave with you. Politicians don’t like the idea of term limits but they hate Google, Amazon, Facebook. They say “it’s a MONOPOLY” – but them serving limitless terms (by some complex formula/equation only known to them) is NOT A MONOPOLY?

metaschima October 2, 2020 4:46 PM

Thanks for the article. It actually does give great insight into what people are feeling. I’m a healthcare worker and initially I thought it would be a passing thing like a flu season, or like the previous SARS outbreak, but it’s definitely not anything like that. It’s obvious that it’s more like the 1918 flu. Yeah it’ll take years to blow over and millions, maybe billions will die. Not because of high fatality rate, but because the killing won’t stop for years. Unfortunately, the vaccine isn’t a magic bullet, in all likelihood masks will be more effective than the vaccine. Sadly there’s so much paranoia and general distrust on the subject, and admittedly rightfully so, that people aren’t doing what they are supposed to. Yeah, it’s sad, and more people will die as a result. The people in charge have really messed this one up badly, I mean epic fail.

Lawrence Dol October 2, 2020 4:56 PM

@Joel : A far more plausible explanation is that many people find the evidence for said “Mass Extinction Event” to be highly politicized, fraught with exposures of manipulation and fraud, and simply uncompelling. Coupled with that the suggested, again highly politicized, solutions are for the most part economically crippling.

That the climate is changing seems obvious; that it is at least partly a result of human activity seems reasonable; but that it will result in the total catastrophe that is often claimed has been falsified over and over. The track record of climate change model predictions are among the worst in the history of science.

Most of us don’t “deny” climate change, we deny the extreme catastrophism that seems to be inextricably intertwined with it. If you want a reasonable discussion, present a reasonable case. Climate collapse is like Nuclear Fusion, always just 10 years away.

Sancho_P October 2, 2020 5:15 PM

I think we shouldn’t dive too deep into self-pity, life will go on, even without some of us.
COVID-19 is a chance, call it GRETA(Thunberg)-19 and see why:
Without it we would hit a hard and dire stop in a few years, likely still in our lifetime.

I’d suggest a thought experiment:
We know that a lot of businesses (tourism, airlines, whatever follows) will go down.

What if people spend what they wanted to spend as they’ve planed without requiring any return? Buy, consume, but stay at home?
Why stop the money from flowing?

Disclaimer: I live on an island fully depending on tourism.
Without tourism we will be dead before xmas, no water, no fuel, no food.
But I have requested (and got back) about 22.000$ for cancelled vacations abroad this year. Was it nice?

Mr. H October 2, 2020 5:18 PM

Wow, your contribution is golden.
Quite brilliant. Sadly, it’s 100% on the money too.
Agree 100%. Thank you.

Faustus October 2, 2020 5:26 PM

Bruce wrote a very pertinent essay about a feeling, the feeling of losing the reference points that give us a sense of meaning. We have lost the thread of our personal narratives. Bruce prescribes vulnerability and solidarity to support each other.

The response of the readers, political posturing, finger pointing and intellectualizing, misses the whole point.

rrd October 2, 2020 5:38 PM

The vast majority of the “nice things [people] regularly do” are utterly selfish with respect to the rest of the world. Our systems are grossly wasteful. All such waste is spitting in the face of the desititute that likely live within a mile of us. People should have never been comfortable in the first place; doing so was yet another flavor of selfishly willful ignorance.

We are all in this together and no one on this blog seems the least bit concerned with the deep wisdom Elie Wiesel spoke to about indifference and concern for the oppressed. That is due to their lack of moral concern for others, even though our systems are deeply dependent upon migrant farmworkers and grocery store clerks and many other blue-collor folks.

And now people are troubled because their ability to live in selfish ignorance is being threatened. This is how the universe works. We pay a steep price for ignoring others’ well-being, though often that bill comes due after years and years of selfish inertia. Same with a 30-year smoker’s cancer diagnosis; it’s going to crush them, but it ain’t in no way unjust.

We have incredible technologies that could be used to ensure every single person on Earth has enough clean food, water, air, shelter and clothing — in other words, has a fundamental basis for a stress-free existence. But we don’t, for the simple fact that we have allowed the wealthy to dictate our societies’ sole objective as being to live in amoral physical and economic competition both within and without; and competition is the way of animals.

Humanity — what makes a person truly human by working to transcend our intrinsic animalistic nature — requires cooperation, selfless giving, selfless compassionate concern for others, and peacemaking, among many other attitudes and behaviors. Most of the world is living in animalistic competition, while utilizing all our human-only abilities — abstract thought and communication, advanced toolbuilding, scientific understanding of the world, planning, etc. — to make that competition more brutal and callous. As someone who has watched a couple-a-few hundred nature shows many times over, I’ll tell you that the animal world is no effing fun. Of course, this was true before COVID, but who, other that we Sufis, had eyes to see, ears to hear or a heart to understand and care?

You see, selfishness always causes a person to have conscience-related guilt and worry, even if the attitudes and behaviors that result in it are completely subconscious and accepted by society. Ask the post-WWII Germans.

Most of the 1st World’s folks are only concerned with their hobbies or tv fiction or hormonal pursuits or acquisitions of power and shtuff. And now that that supply chain is threatened they have no foundation of moral courage or history of selflessness to fall back on. The self they have developed has only ever cared for itself and so they are of course stressed over themselves.

My family’s years and years of deep concern for other peoples’ happiness is not why we are not troubled by all this mess; it is merely a direct effect of our deeper connection to life and love through the Abstract, Unfathomable Creator of all that ever will be. We are grounded in the strength that comes from being committed to “On Earth as it is in Heaven” as a selflessly technological possibility that we give our lives to every day.

As Trump is finding out, ignorance of our selfish disregard for others’ happiness will indeed bite us in the keister one day or another, no matter whether we believe it will or not. Morality is an integral feature of our human universe; it is the necessary bill we accrue for having this free will, mind, talents and dominion over this beautiful garden planet. No one escapes the tab we run, though the ways of karmic timing are mysterious and subtle, indeed.

But take heart! This is the universe providing a still rather gentle feedback jolt to get our collective heads and hearts out of the darkness of our selfish rumps.

Many people (especially around here) think spirituality is a bunch of bunkum (despite either never having prayed or having quit years ago), but the example of our African American brothers and sisters are due a closer look. First, look at the beauty of the last stanza of the 100 year old “Lift Every Voice and Sing”:

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

That entire population was under the iron grip of evil (and still is, but to a lesser extent), and yet produced the most brilliant and visionary American of all-time: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That same strength is alive and well to this day as evidenced in the couple whose house was shot-up and vandalized with a swastika saying, “Hate brings no good to anyone.” (Ms. Candace Hall)

You see, there is a karmic transaction that happens every time a person does wrong to another person. The magical goodness that transfers to the wronged gives a spiritual strength that is beyond the comprehension of those without any connection to our Creator’s moral dictate to love all others as our own selves. And even Clive has admitted that he gets a kind of joy from selflessly sharing his vast engineering expertise around these parts on normal days. You see, the accrual of good karma is only limited by the opportunities we have to do good for others.

The world’s privileged transfer their karma out to the disadvantaged not only every time they treat them badly or support oppressive policies; they transfer their karma with every selfish act, every wasteful act. And those chickens are coming home to roost in that they have no moral strength, no hope for the current status quo’s future that they crave so selfishly. They only have fear that their wasteful life actually matters in a court of karmic law, which it does. They feel the emptiness of their worthless, selfish lives. And it is Good, because the sole purpose of our conscience is to make our world peaceful for one and all by getting us to each stop being selfish, and it does that by torturing us a bit on the inside (and woe to those who have willed themselves to ignore our conscience’s dictates).

It is Good because we always have a chance to turn our lives around, and once we do, our past is forgiven because we will no longer look at the world and its disadvantaged without concern. Our hearts are opened up to the possibilities inherent in a world full of compassionate human beings. Our minds begin to change from selfish pursuits to selfless actions. In other words, we begin to change for the better along with our societies, if only by raising its average morality. And with that effort to change, we gain an inner peace and strength the willfully ignorant never can. I promise you, once you taste it, you never want to live any other way.

Regardless, we are all reaping what we sow. None of this surprises any Sufi because we understand how this world works. From our vantage point of a heart and mind geared towards selfless love, we can see the selfishly ignorant; we have been taught how karma works and we have heeded the warnings. We quit smoking because the doctor told us years ago that they will kill us.

I, personally, had the most sublime sense of peace come over me the other day because I explained in no uncertain terms 2 Timothy 3’s opening nine verses to my Trump-cultist mother in an effort to save her from the misery she and her clique are oh-so deserving of and actually experiencing. I tried to do it calmly and with love, telling her that we loved her and that she should read the verses and use her mind to judge Trump according to it.

It matters not that she likely refused to accept my invitation to reopen her heart to love; all that matters is that I tried, and did a decent job, and performed selfless text messaging to help get my mother get her head and heart out of the GOP’s evil keister. And I got full credit as if she made the change she needs to make (perhaps she will later), as if she accepted my invitation for me to tell her the truth and help her re-connect with the love that all the Messengers of God bring to us.

The peace that I felt (and informed by wife and daughter about, as it was so suddenly powerfully present in my being) is not available to those who refuse the Sufi Message of Love for the simple fact that one cannot spread this message without first accepting it in their own hearts. And no one will ever achieve lasting peace and happiness without accepting this message. It is the Design we all live within, as human beings, and there is no escape, only either positive integration and transcendence of negativity, or negative denial of reality and how we work.

When we gain positive karma — either by doing good of our own volition or getting treated badly by others (zero-sum game in the latter case) — we gain more power to be better, to continue on the long, narrow path that leads us to “be a rock and not to roll”. (And “there still being time to change the road you’re on” works positively and negatively. My mother was not at all awful 20 years ago.)

That is the basis of the power that Dr. King harnessed; it is where his wisdom and creativity came from. And it is up to us to turn that great, great man’s Dream into a Vision and then make an actionable plan.

Any American who refuses to even try to learn how to manifest the teachings of Dr. King or Mr. Wiesel can simply not have moral fortitude such that they escape fear and grief and confusion and all the other manifestations of our selfish Ids.

As I’ve said before, the lack of Creator-based spirituality is to be trapped in the prison of the Id: our selfish, default selves.

In order to begin the spiritually physical process of self-transformation, we must go within and make a deeply heartfelt prayer to our Creator for help to become perfectly selfless in this lifetime, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. All that matters is that it is heartfelt and asks for help to become perfect human beings. Why perfect? Because that is the direction of goodness and half-assing it just won’t do. It’s not enough to just attend some place of worship or read some Holy Book’s Wisdom from time-to-time. No! We must be fully commited in our internal battle against the forces of evil present in our own being as that Greatest Generation were on those ships and crafts on the way to France on D-Day. Fully committed means for some minutes at the beginning and end of the day, while striving to be good to others throughout it.

In the morning and evening, ask for help as your deepest wish and you will be integrated into the group of human beings the world over that are actually committed to making this world into the joyful playhouse it is meant to be, if only we’d choose that as our goal. All societies have such Sufis because we are all capable of such perfection after much hard work.

Thank you, Bruce, for hosting my ramblings here, and I apologize for my shortcomings along the way. I will address more details of your heartfelt essay in further posts, Lord Willing.

PattiM October 2, 2020 8:31 PM

I remember in the early 1980’s a colleague of mine giving a scientific presentation which started with a quotation that went something like, “It is the goal of science to use systematic observation of physical reality to ameliorate the Human Condition.” I don’t think the last generation could think this with a straight face. This century, most scientists I know are interested primarily in increasing their own carbon footprint (i.e., wealth), possibly while doing something interesting.

Ultimately, the goal of this project of civilization of the last 6,000 years or so has been amelioration of the Human Condition. But it’s certainly been a cyclical effort (Tainter, Tainter/Patzek, etc.) and we’re clearly close to failure in this latest, biggest “cycle” – the cycle of maximal resource use. So many things seemed to have been possible, but now we have to listen to pseudotechno-charlatans like musk. Groan.

JPA October 2, 2020 11:08 PM

If the self is modeled as a dynamical system with the following 6 processes which can be described as Markovian kernels:
Sympathetic Activation
Parasympathetic Activation
Response selection

then the feedback loops among these give rise to various possible attractor states, one of which is “acedia”. Other attractor states are depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, anorexia, chronic pain, etc.

In acedia the appraisal process produces chronic high unease due to the loss of a “future” that is meaningful. This is somewhat accurate as the assessment of demands is >> recourses so difficulty is high. The high difficulty and high unease increase sympathetic activation and suppress parasympathetic activation. This puts increased wear and tear on the body and reduces repair mechanisms. That leads to depleted reserves. Difficulty is assessed as more and more overwhelming, increasing unease further and leading to depletion. The high sympathetic activation causes restlessness. This can be a very powerfu attractor of the dynamical system.

One antidote is to focus attention intensely on day-to-day goals. This reduces difficulty as one is not trying to fix the long-term future, but only on surviving the next few hours. People who have survived wilderness disasters often describe this process. With the difficulty now doable, unease decreases as survival tasks are completed. Sympathetic activation decreases and parasympathetic activation increases. If the changes in these processes are sufficient to restore reserves then the cycle starts to break up. This does tend to get boring when one is not in a constant state of needing to survive, or it gets exhausting.

Another antidote is to find something to hate. Then the demand is simply to destroy the hated other and the resources to do that are usually sufficient to cause some success in that. Again with the success, unease drops etc.

Another antidote it to realize that all objects are impermanent. One’s attention becomes focused on processes that one expresses rather than acquiring objects or status etc. The spiritual traditions describe the most important process to focus on is compassion, or love. These are verbs and one identifies oneself as a verb and not a noun or set of nouns. This also breaks up the attractor state of acedia, as well as a number of others.

The model I mentioned comes from the open access paper in Frontiers in Psychiatry
ht tps://

WmG October 3, 2020 12:59 AM

in re: dim assessment of climate change models.

The funny thing about the models is that both they and the data fed into them keeps improving. So your remarks miss, because they aim at targets that have moved, and keep moving. That’s science for you.

The fundamental, yet often neglected fact about Earth’s climate is that it has long been known to be unstable. It oscillates between extremes of glaciers a mile thick that covered New York ca 20,000 years ago. Or an earlier period when Pennsylvania was covered by tropical swamps.

It is unwise to presume that increasing energy input to an unstably oscillating system would have no or only small effects.

Much time and attention has been devoted in the physical sciences and engineering to understanding instabilities in systems that exhibit oscillation and swing out of control — and prevent them.

Climate science is no doubt a long way from a high level of detailed prediction, but the big picture is pretty clear.

rrd October 3, 2020 3:53 AM

@ JP4

Another antidote is to find something to hate.

Always love. Teach to always love.
Never hate. Teach to never hate.

Hatred is always destructive. It comes from the enemy of man, who hates us, wishes to create as much misery as it can in this world, and works from within our hearts and minds to achieve its goal which is nothing less than keeping mankind from realizing “On Earth as it is in Heaven”.

Love and hatred exist at the positive and negative extents of human potential. We must always be moving towards love, as best we can.

Rj October 3, 2020 5:56 AM

“The mass-extinction event referred is not the Covid pandemic; the mass extinction event comes after…”

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(insert : in space after http to enable link)

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons October 3, 2020 8:18 AM

@ Bruce Schneier

Without a potential or possible future, when the terminus of all paths is before oneself, there is not a lot to motivate those circling about the cul-de-sac of life.

Organizational reformation, a chance to organize anew seems to be the most logical choice to imagine the next turn. With the amount of recursive genuflecting within tribal arrangements and an inability to formalize an answer to complex situations there seems to be a lot of dart throwing…

I for one tire of throwing darts for more than a few decades of minutes. Some like to throw darts where there is no board, and yet others want the darts for themselves and even manage to destroy the board. To my mind, an open source project needs to be established in the context of public policy and crisis management. Heck, how about hacking democracy for more than a few amazon bucks or game tokens.

For myself, having drafted a Public Crisis Management paper was an exercise in clearly setting issues in a frame and context that is easily mapped, quantified, and delineated removing doubt about specific circumstances or situations…especially those I don’t not directly control. Change what you can; when, where, and however (no, not the ends justifies the means).

Marco October 3, 2020 11:10 AM

I agree, the arrival of Covid-19 has forced us to reflect on everything we chase every day and which are mostly superfluous things
One of the seven deadly sins …

Singapore Noodles October 3, 2020 12:31 PM

Acedia is not human discouragement or pervading sense of hopelessness, which are natural reactions in difficulty. It is going from this to the denial or serious doubt of God’s providence. It is a deadly sin, really a version of the (original) sin of pride. With man very little is possible, but with God all things are possible. Of himself, man has nothing but a lie. It’s only by the assistance of divine grace that there is any good in this world. All benefit freely as God sends rain to the just and the unjust alike. But in the end you have a free choice to accept or not.

Danny October 3, 2020 12:42 PM

As a citizen of a former communist country which still has plenty to do to catch Western’s high quality of life I welcome you guys from West to the club. Actually is “welcome to the easier part of the club”. The full club also contains daily scares, long waiting lines to get bread and just keeping your mouth shut to get by the day. You guys still didn’t experienced this.
For me personally pandemic is something good. I’m not talking about deaths and sickness, that’s something I don’t want to anybody – yet the lockdown was wonderful life for me. Wife at home everyday, greener parks, less pollution and in general I felt better. Now with restrictions coming off it feels the good part is out and the old lesser good part is coming back. Rush of life is insidiously getting back and I don’t want it anymore.
Anybody knows a way of surviving just by breathing and not needing to work to put food on the table? I’d rather work for free and on my own terms than for clients. And I realize as a freelancer I have it better than 90% of my country folks and frankly I have it better than 50% of Western countries too. It’s just the “great pause” was sooo damn good, I want that feeling back.

lurker October 3, 2020 2:18 PM

@Etienne: Mother nature will murder us to save the planet, if we don’t.

Lovelock said this nearly fifty years ago, paraphrasing,
When Gaia is tired of the human race She will cough us up and spit us out.

Coincidence that Covid-19 involves coughing…

Clive Robinson October 3, 2020 5:18 PM

@ Etienne, lurker,

Mother nature will murder us to save the planet

To the Earth, living things from deep dwelling bacteria upwards through all the flora and fauna are nothing more than,

“A short lived skin disease”

Mankind if it tries to survive only on Earth will be a lot shorter lived than if it tries to get off and go to other places in space.

Freeman Dyson who died at the end of Feb this year had quite a number of interesting thoughts on just how mankind could survive common natural events that effect the Earth in much more likely “existential threats” than mankind for all it’s technology has even come close to.

Our biggest problem is that we are little better than animals that only think as far ahead as the next meal. Substitute “next quaters figures” and it does not take you long to realide where “Capitalism with a big C” is taking us.

Freeman Dyson’s daughter Esther Dyson is one of the board of directors of “The Long Now Foundation” an organisation that is trying to unblinker mankind from it’s temporal myopia. One of their projects can be seen on the ground floor of the Science Museum in Kensington London, it is a candidate prototype for the 10,000 year timepiece, “Clock of the long now”,

To be honest there are times when I think nobody is going to be around in the next millennium, let alone for the 10th.

However for all it’s faults mankind has so far, found ways to inovate or invent ways out of it’s difficulties. Admittedly some of the more recent ones such as the Internal Combustion Engine, and nuclear reactors have been more trouble than they have been worth, and have created problems that will still be around in the 10th millennium even if mankind is not.

But as with “eggs and baskets” mankinds future realy should not just be in one place waiting for a cosmic billiard ball to pocket the whole of mankind into an extinction event as is believed by some to have happened to the dinosaurs…

rrd October 3, 2020 8:01 PM

@ Singapore Noodles

Acedia is not human discouragement or pervading sense of hopelessness, which are natural reactions in difficulty. It is going from this to the denial or serious doubt of God’s providence. It is a deadly sin, really a version of the (original) sin of pride. With man very little is possible, but with God all things are possible. Of himself, man has nothing but a lie. It’s only by the assistance of divine grace that there is any good in this world. All benefit freely as God sends rain to the just and the unjust alike. But in the end you have a free choice to accept or not.

That is stunningly succinct and accurate. Just wow.

In the denouement of Doyle’s “Silver Blaze” (and the final episode of the Grenada tv series(es) from the 80s and 90s starring the incomparable Jeremy Brett), once Holmes reveals the solution, the idiot nobleman who hired him says:

“You take my breath away, Mr. Holmes.”


@ Mr. H

Yes, indeed, shamelessness is a fundamental problem, it being defined as our choosing to ignore the negative internal feedback that results from our misdeeds and bad attitudes, simple logic dictating that even wanting to fix them requires first that we acknowledge them as being less than best, if not downright bad.

We are each caught between a positive force and a negative force that influence us all from within, but very sutbtly — so sutble in fact that they feel like they are both a part of ourselves. The reality is that they are two different environmental sources of desire input streams [the positive entering via the Spirit/Ruh/Conscience and the negative (initially, from birth, called our “Original Sin[ning Nature]”) via the Soul/Nefs/Id] that plug right into our very being. The cartoon of a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other is quite an apt visual representation of the three entities in the system. The third is our own individual personality expressed as our cumulative moral center slash general current state of our decision logic (susceptible to fluctuations due to mood and/or diet, esp. alcohol).

Moral self-evolution involves not only improving our conscious decision-making logic (how we tend to think and behave), but also improving the negative conduit itself (our attitudes concerning which behaviors we gravitate towards and which away from) to instead only conduct the positive. The second part — the transmutation of what the Id actually encourages us to do on the spectrum of vice-oriented/selfish to virtuous/selfless — is where we need the help of our Creator. The results of the process of transformation include gaining greater clarity and accuracy in our moral discernment of both ourselves and others. “I was was blind, but now I see” and “I would be there but for the Grace of God (that allowed me to turn my head and heart toward God and do the tranformative work)”.

To shamelessly ignore the discomfort (that feeling called SHAME) we feel as our conscience attempts to turn us away from vice, is to willfully march to our own moral destruction, which results in greater selfishness, both individually and in our groups. A primary characteristic of the true oppressors of this world — including all wannabe overlords — is, indeed, their utter shamelessness in not only what they actually want to achieve in the world solely and secretly for their in-group, but in how far they’re willing to go to meet those goals. (Lying is so utterly easy for those committed to the negative pole of our moral axis for the simple reason that out-groups “don’t deserve the truth”.)

From the beginning of our adult lives, we must use our mind’s thinking ability to properly control our body well enough — according to our conscience’s dictates — that we accumulate enough positive karmic that we will choose to accept the invitation (via making the prayer referenced in my first post up above) that facilitates our passing through the gateway where we actually begin the second, transformative process (while we continue the first, of course, as now the game is truly afoot).

That is the reason why a parent’s happiness largerly lives and dies with how they raise their children, for we always directly affect our society as a direct result of how they are prepared for their own moral navigation of life, of which there are three broad categorizations (from worst to best):

Are they deliberately taught to choose the greater vices, such as to hate certain out-groups of people, or otherwise be callous to their suffering?

Are the children being unreflectively indoctrinated into the lesser vices of their societies (we are often members of more than one), including those demonstrated in modern fiction across various media?

Are they taught how to use their conscience and mind to make choices that manifest the selfless attitudes and behaviors of generosity, kindness, self-awareness, compassion, and all the other virtues — all with respect to the nature of our being vis a vis its moral development being integral to our conscious self-evolution?

The society that created the Hitler Youth existed at the extreme negative pole of these levels of societal moral indoctrination. Most modern societies (which are almost always a collection of overlapping sub-societies (with their own often conflicting traditions from any or all of the three levels) living side-by-side) simply pass on to their children the values that they, themselves, were indoctrinated into. Cultural inertias ebb and flow in their dictates over relatively short periods of time, but there is a general consistency that is passed down from generation to generation. (Clive has described this.)

The negative treatment that I receive by my family and segments of different societies is the result of my striking out on my own to find the essence of the love I was taught was the cornerstone of Jesus’s Teachings: the Great Command and those that follow from it.

“Seek and ye shall find, …” indeed. We find deeper peace, increasing moral clarity, and an increase in the only kind of power that really matters in this world: the power to be a better person who deserves the happiness that results from having actually adjusted their moral compass to point to True Goodness. Thus is the only path to perfection of our Ids, as a min/max function of our negative/positive effects on the people and environment around us.

.Tom October 4, 2020 8:28 AM

The words “we” and “us” are doing a lot of work in this article. 1) Speak for yourself. 2) Can you point to the evidence that what “we” are experiencing is as described here?

Cassandra October 4, 2020 2:12 PM

@Clive Robinson

I concur. Humankind has the looks of a brief aberration on geological timescales, and our brief lives give us very short term perspectives. Niven & Pournelle wrote interestingly in “The Mote in God’s Eye” and following novels about a civilization that left behind specially designed museums to enable the next ‘generation’ to regenerate civilization after a crash – which is difficult proposition when all easily available natural resources have been strip-mined and used up.

If humans are to have a future, we need to be collectively smarter in our resource use. The Long Now foundation is interesting, but of very little influence, which is a shame.

I am a little more aware of our brief candles as my father is on his deathbed and I am unable to be with him due to Covid-19 restrictions.

On the other hand, genes don’t care about the lifespan of individual hosts. I suspect some member of Archaea probably have the most successfully long-lived genes on the planet, as there is fossilized evidence of their existence from more than 3 billion years ago. That is a suitable long-term perspective. Human genes are highly selected to maximize their utility in a particular ecological niche (which is broader than many others due to our ‘intelligence’), but conditions suitable for our survival could well be fleeting. A nearby supernova could easily put paid to us by a Gamma Ray Burst. A twinkling little star could be our collective demise.


Clive Robinson October 4, 2020 7:17 PM

@ Cassie,

I’m sorry to hear about your father, and your inability to be where you need to be due to circumstances that should not have arisen.

Life can sadly be unfair at the best of times, I wish both of you peace in what is troubling times.

It is a little coincidental that you mention GRB’s when I first learned about them years ago the shear magnitude of the energies involved was quite a shock to me, as was later learning they are but one of many high energy events the cosmos routinely throws out as the tiniest of almost infitesimaly small sparks in comparison to the Big Bang event. Equally as scary is what we don’t always see, rocks and similar capable of shattering the planet or destroying it’s atmosphere that routinely pass within the Earth’s orbit of the sun, or as not so long ago inside the moon’s orbit of Earth. In fact it was one such event that supposadly gave us our moon, and thus the magnetic field that gives us considerable protection from “Space Weather”.

Perhaps it’s just as well the majority of people do not realy understand just how vulnerable mankind and all the other flora and fauna of Earth are. In effect we are as fragile as the finest of translucent paper thin porcelain cups, riding out a storm ridden journey from China to Europe in the 17th century. October 4, 2020 7:40 PM

Never hate. Teach to never hate.

Hate: failure to enthusiastically support the current Narrative on demand

David Leppik October 4, 2020 9:42 PM

Last time I found myself incapable of imagining the future was 2008 during the financial crisis.

I decided that the best solution was to force myself to think long term by writing letters to my descendants. It took me several years to come up with a plan, but for seven years I wrote one letter per year to a future generation.

I devised a plan for passing paper copies of the letters to my grandchildren. I put a copy of the letters online, encoded with a substitution cypher: tough enough to keep bots and curious onlookers out, easy enough for a dedicated relative to break. After a certain number of years, a button appears (assuming standard JavaScript/HTML works in 200 years) for descendants to unlock. I made sure each letter was archived at The Internet Archive.

By writing one letter per year, I had a whole year to mull it over, thinking about what might be relevant to a young person in an unimaginable future. I considered what hasn’t changed in the last 100,000 years. I considered how the first few generations may be similar to my living relatives, and how the traits distinct to my family will dilute over time. I thought about what I might want to hear from a great-great-great grandparent. I considered what message a troubled descendant might need to hear.

The last letter was written in the summer of 2016. More has changed since then than in the rest of my life combined. I’m tempted to do more letter writing, but I don’t think I’ll be ready until the world finds some new semblance of equilibrium.

I still haven’t printed the letters to all my descendants. Even assuming a modest growth rate, seven generations is a lot of people, and I saved the most repetitive part for the end. Someday I plan to print them, sign them, and seal them in a small number archival boxes, decorated to be heirlooms.

Regardless, it’s allowed me to avoid acedia in this present crisis. I’ve spent too much time in the future, a vague future but with clear and specific practicalities, to be completely blindsighted by the present perturbations.

Singapore Noodles October 4, 2020 11:29 PM

@ work1

You raise an interesting point, namely what provides the ethical starting points ?

There is no way to derive them “scientifically” from some other principles.

What one person says is good may be held as bad by another, both completely honestly and sincerely. In today’s weaponized anti-discussion world, disagreement is often seen as hate as you say.

The fact of principled disagreement does not mean ethics or morality are subjective. Where is truth?

hammar-n-nails October 5, 2020 3:54 AM

Meh. While it’s likely that my memory is corrupted with some of this, here’s my reaction. Acedia had more to do with the helplessness of salvation. Imagine, you’ve dedicated the rest of your life to a monastic vocation, so you well know that the rest of your days’ weeks are going to be spent in exactly the same manner and way as this one. Letting go of the other mentioned sins, pride, vainglory, fornication, greed, etc., is a process of relinquishing a sort of idolization of the physical world. Acedia, as I recall, is a more thorough level of relinquishing of ego. Why does this one lifetime of prayers really matter, when God created everything, and has everything, and knows everything, and foresees everything? I can’t even really know for certain whether or not free will exists, so what is it that God wants from me, other than to keep this train on the rails until God decides my time has come? Of succeeding, conceding, receding, aceding, etc., to acede can imply giving: giving of agreement that you’re right about something, giving up my notion of how one may better do whetever in favor for your way when it really seems like it’s six to one half a dozen to the other. So there’s the helplessness and powerlessness, then add to that the promise of God’s salvation. Why get excited about doing anything really when one’s vows constrain a person from all but the most basic levels of, for example, speech or ownership (or, at that time certainly, of all sexual expression), and when you’re effectively rewarded for doing less? It’s a paradox that lets impending death, actually, become the good news. ‘Tonight could be the night’ of your dying, the painting of the grim reaper (at Cluny?) reminds you at each and every meal. When the only thing you have to look forward to is reuniting with God, who ultimately is already in control of everything that could ever exist anyway, is it still necessary to do your absolute best at …the making of some liqueur for sale to some seculars?

Povl H. Pedersen October 5, 2020 4:40 AM

The world has changed. We do not know if we can travel again, if this is the end to globalization. Guess this does not mean much for americans, who rarely see the world outside its borders. But in Europe, travel is normal, everybody goes abroad for holidays at least. This is has now stopped.

But, we all know that the world will go on, maybe in a different way as it used to be. taking pause from globalization is not necessarily bad, gives us time to reflect.

Maybe it is time to revive the old proverbs from the 70ties-80ties, like:
Think global, trade local

We do not need the international travel, we can likely pull production back closer to home. This will hurt poorer countries, especially China, which might expand its borders to take focus away from a shrinking domestic economy.

We see countries trying to get rid of dictators (Belarus), countries who gets new Czars (Russia), and a large democratic country who has elected a president 4 years ago that the rest of the world thinks is mentally unstable, bordering on insanity. Europe is fearing the invasion from the Middle-East / North Africa – Poverty refugees – that do not want to fight to change their home counties – which usually has plenty of resources, but unevenly distributed.

The world is not a stable place, and CoVid-19 has given us time to put focus on these events.

People are getting more scared, like during the cold war. 50 years ago when we were talking about the new Ice Age, then it became global warming, the plastic polution.

There is always a dark abyss awaiting us in the near future. You can ignore it, and go on. History has shown it never happens, or at least there will always be survivors. The Black Death killed lots of people in Europe, but many survived, and became stronger. That was natures way to adjust the population.

Maybe Covid-19 is just another way nature adjusts the population, just like global warming will do. We must continue looking forward, and make sure we are on the surviving team.

rrd October 5, 2020 7:37 AM

@ hammar-n-nails

I can’t even really know for certain whether or not free will exists, so what is it that God wants from me, other than to keep this train on the rails until God decides my time has come?

(A) re: Free Will

In some free moments of your life, stop for a second and choose to do something. See? No one made you do anything, though your personality’s inertia will probably lead you to choose something that you’ve chosen before. You could also, however, choose to do something you’ve never done before, as perhaps suggested by someone else with information you’ve never encountered previously in your life.

(B) re: What God Wants

The Great Command is “to love God with all one’s being”.

God wants us to perfect our moral compass by spiritual practices (esp. prayer, fasting and meditation with one of God’s “Hallowed [be Thy] Names”) and therefore grow towards being kind, compassionate and generous with our fellow human beings, especially those who are disadvantaged in our societies.

The key part is that we all start off very flawed and must spiritually work our way out of our “Original Sin[ning Natue]” with Its Divine help, according to the dictates of Its Messengers of Love. (I refer to God as “It” because It is far beyond our comprehension, much less our notions of male or female; let’s just say It manifests all the traits of both a Father and a Mother, not to mention the Beyond we cannot yet grasp.)

The Great Command leads directly to “love your neighbor as yourself”, which is the entire purpose of religion: to give people who care the path to moral perfection so that they can turn outward and help achieve the same level of spiritual growth in their entire society, one person at a time.

It all starts by making a wish/prayer to seek our Lord’s “Face” with all our heart. The end of the beginning is when “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” is achieved by the person. But that’s a long, introspective and effortful road.

And, note that the Great Command is not a suggestion or option. It’s a command because:

“All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

That particularly instructive final statement on the Great Command describes how it is, indeed, the umbrella under which all the lesser/subsequent of God’s Laws ncessarily (not sleeping around, not stealing, etc.) fall under it.

As well, it — in no uncertant terms — dictates how one can judge any self-proclaimed Messenger of God: Are they leading people to total love for God and all our fellow human beings (neighbors)? Or not?

When one considers our fundamental nature as initially very flawed but capable of learning and self-evolving ourselves towards total love across the various components of our being (heart, soul, mind & strength), one understands the direction a true Messenger of God leads people.

And, remember, that this life is deeply meaningful, so those of us that choose to seek to embody God’s Love with all our being hang around off the higher branches of the Law in joyous play (and hard, selfless work). Those who choose to ignore the Great Command’s dictates hang from the Law in a different, more desultory and terminal way, as surely as Trump is now “hanging from his own petard” as we speak.

“The Way goes in.” –Rumi

rrd October 5, 2020 8:11 AM

@ Singapore Noodles

You raise an interesting point, namely what provides the ethical starting points ?

The Great Command (see my previous post).

The key to understanding which direction to orient oneself for any journey is to first know where one’s destination is.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

That means “Seeking the Lord’s Face” with all one’s heart is a core practice that moves us toward the destination commanded in the Great Command.

There is no way to derive them “scientifically” from some other principles.

Au contraire. All the Law hangs off of the Great Command and “Its Next” (love your neighbor as yourself).

What one person says is good may be held as bad by another, both completely honestly and sincerely.

When one has sought our Lord’s “Face” with all one’s heart, one then begins having “eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that understands”.

One does not gain spiritual/moral discernment (of either oneself or others) until one begins the path. Until then, “their minds are confused with confusion”. It’s every human being’s starting point, because it’s our human nature to have to make a conscious choice to ask/beg God to help us emerge from the darkness of our selfishnesses into the light of selfless service to one and all.

The fact of principled disagreement does not mean ethics or morality are subjective.

Of course, but one must use the correct principles, and that requires we first learn all we can about the spiritual path. But we must seek the truth to find it.

Where is truth?

Usually in the places that our selfish Ids don’t want us to go, for it always directs us away from the places that will lead to our Ego’s death, which is nothing less than achiving “loving God with all our soul”, the soul being the selfish Id. (Ego death being the death of the selfish vices of our soul, their having been transmuted into their corresponding virtues.)

How many excuses does your inner world give you to not read and engage with the teachings I present here? (No, I haven’t read your comments in the squid thread yet.)

I love you; being provincial with one’s knowledge is always the beginning of ignoring how to manifest the Great Command.

Do you not find it odd that you can’t argue against any of my points, yet you refuse to engage in them directly with me? What is that force inside you that denies the logic of love I present here?

And why does your Id not want you to even ask these questions of yourself?

A key understanding of the spiritual path is that we all begin life with the enemy existing within our own hearts and minds, and that we must fight with all our might to defeat the negative tendencies we have there. Only after that grueling fight can we “love our neighbor as ourselves”.

But, first, we must each ask to receive, seek to find, and then knock for the door to be opened.

I am at your service. Yes, your Id does not like the fact that I speak with confidence; it doesn’t want you to learn the truth about either its source or your path to its demise.

Brant Aples October 5, 2020 8:18 AM

My anxiety these days stems from the government ethos “never waste a crisis” and wondering what will they do next?

rrd October 5, 2020 8:34 AM

@ work1…

Hatred is a vice of the soul/heart/Id/ego. As all vices have a corresponding virtue — everything in this universe being created in pairs — which, for hatred, is love.

The Great Command commands us to work dilligently to become consumed by love; first, for our Creator, then, as a result of that first love, for all our neighbors.

Hatred always destroys. Hatred is always the work of the enemy within, that hates us and wants us to be miserable like itself, and wants us to serve it by creating misery for those around us. Such is always the way of selfishness, from our interpersonal relationships to entire cultures to how we treat our blessed Earth.

That’s why ETTD: he is an apotheosis of the selfish Id, with all its hatred, greed, oppression, meanness, and all the other vices.

Always love, and teach to always love.
Never hate, and teach to never hate.

I find it difficult to understand how someone can question the beauty of the simplicity of that pair of dictates.

Scratch that thought, it’s actually easy to understand: very few of us really want to achieve “On Earth as it is in Heaven” for one and all, as God commands us. Most people only seek “heaven on Earth” for their mammalian pack, however their madness defines it.

Jan Doggen October 5, 2020 8:35 AM


I think you made the same misinterpretation as I initially did: Bruce was not talking about the ‘religious’ life-after-death, but the fact that humanity on this earth will still be present after the individual you or I have died.

mark October 5, 2020 11:32 AM

Let’s see, what’s the author missing?

  1. Before C-19 was a thing, I saw mainstream media articles asserting that three-quarters of all Americans were showing clinical signs of stress.

Then came C-19, and the latest articles I saw said two-thirds of all Americans were in worse shape with stress and depression.

Wonder why?

Gweihir October 5, 2020 11:58 AM

Interesting. That would explain why I am somewhere between weakly affected and not affected at all. I am not into this for some future world, I am into this for my own advancement and refinement. While I strongly believe everybody else should get that chance as well, if the world ends tomorrow, I would not really have any serious problem with that. Another death, another life to follow. (That idea is not something convenient for most religions, so they suppress and fight it….)

hammar-n-nails October 5, 2020 3:33 PM


Thank you for that teaching. Also, I was mistaken: I believe it was the Grand Trappe.

Clive Robinson October 5, 2020 3:40 PM

@ Gweihir,

Another death, another life to follow. (That idea is not something convenient for most religions, so they suppress and fight it…

Actually it’s mainly Middle East and Western Religions based on the notion of the idea of “There is but one God” and the afterlife in “Heaven”.

Take Daoism foe example,as a philosophy (道家 Daojia) and as a religion (道教 Daojiao) it has two distinct paths (Dao meaning path or journey as evidenced by the “walking man” (道).

An essential of it’s teachings is “from nothing to nothing”. Where “nothing is not the Western notion of “nothing” but the Eastetn notion of something fundemental without a human given name. In effect everything that man percieves is on a journey from nothing to nothing as a circle oe wheel.

It’s why the question “What face,did you have before you were conceived” makes sense under both the philosophical and religious paths.

The philisophical side of Daoism helped give rise to what we now know as Confucianism, the religious Buddhism, both of which in turn gave substance to Zen Buddism.

Thus your “Another death, another life to follow” makes sense in these religions and philosophies. One of wgich Confucianism is one of the longest running religions mankind has known, and in effect is practiced by more people than Western or Middle Eastern religions, the two most prominent of which are fading.

xcv October 5, 2020 4:16 PM

@Clive Robinson

Take Daoism foe example,as a philosophy (道家 Daojia) and as a religion (道教 Daojiao) it has two distinct paths (Dao meaning path or journey as evidenced by the “walking man” (道).

It makes me wonder about the religion of the “wise men” (Magi) from the East who came to visit the baby Jesus, and somehow hinted to Mary and Joseph that they’d better flee the jurisdiction of King Herod with a baby born in a horse stable without a birth certificate.

There’s an “eightfold path” — or is that Buddhism? — Which seems to suggest a correspondence to the eight beatitudes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

rrd October 5, 2020 5:20 PM

@ xcv

It makes me wonder about the religion of the “wise men” (Magi) from the East who came to visit the baby Jesus, and somehow hinted to Mary and Joseph that they’d better flee the jurisdiction of King Herod with a baby born in a horse stable without a birth certificate.

(A) religion of the “wise men”

All peoples at all times have a Messenger of God in their nation to inform the seekers of God how they should go about it. God’s Justice requires that we have access to non-adulterated conveyance (in their own language) of the Religion of Love that comes in many forms. If we don’t have access, we aren’t responsible. But we all get the Message, at one time or another.

(B) news from afar

An Owner of Wisdom is a person who has seen God’s “Face”, as in the Beatitude:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

That is the end of the beginning in religion. All that is left for such a person is to spread the wisdom of God’s Religion of Love for the rest of their life, in unending happiness and peace.

Such people have full access to our full human capabilities, not the greatest of which is to directly know where to go and what to say when we get there. Of course, those who claim such attainment is not possible, are quite correct, but only about themselves.

Remember, ol’ Lord Kelvin didn’t believe in Boltzman’s Statistical Mechanics, either. But one person’s belief has no intrinsic bearing on the truth, itself, unless their belief happens to be correct. Most people are just making crap up for whatever selfish reasons they have, or whichever idiots they glom onto.

There’s an “eightfold path” — or is that Buddhism? — Which seems to suggest a correspondence to the eight beatitudes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

That is Buddhism, but what you notice is merely a correspondence between them both having eight. Their both having eight is the end of their similarity (AFAIR).

The first beatitude is “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs shall be the Kingdom of God.”

No one who believes in the reincarnation of our soul into another physical body on this Earth for the purpose of finally “getting our karma right”, understands what the 1st Beatitude means.

And I doubt any of the Christians around here do, either. [Feel free to ask for the explanation, if you care.]

From what little I know about Buddhism, it seems to have some good ideas about living simply, but, beyond that, I’ve not seen anything revelatory from their teachings, except:

1) I was chanting with some Buddhists in Atlanta when I looked at the translation in the page footnotes and saw, “May I be granted powers to control other peoples’ minds.” That was the one and only time I went, and the acquaintance I went with was apparently fine with the connotations.

Respect for other peoples’ free will is essential to goodness, and those who attempt to interfere in another person’s free will get to tour Dante’s deepest realm.

2) I shook hands with the Dalai Lama. The peace I felt in my body didn’t last, and neither did my Buddhist acquaintenances, though what the Chinese did (and are still doing) to the Tibetans is simply evil.

rrd October 5, 2020 5:50 PM

@ Clive

I thought you said you were a humanist?

An essential of it’s teachings is “from nothing to nothing”. Where “nothing is not the Western notion of “nothing” but the Eastetn notion of something fundemental without a human given name. In effect everything that man percieves is on a journey from nothing to nothing as a circle oe wheel.

If it exists, it is not “nothing” and to claim it is “nothing” belies a lack of understanding.

If it is subtle, barely perceptible or imperceptible force in this universe, then name it as such. Of course, I don’t see how this fits into a humanist’s philosophy.

Are you saying that there’s more to this life than just what we see, or, more generally, can normally perceive?

I thought humanists denied all such supernatural existence?

It’s why the question “What face,did you have before you were conceived” makes sense under both the philosophical and religious paths.

Again, would you care to explain?

Under what teachings does a humanist think there is more than just this mortal coil?

I didn’t think such was possible. Now I’m intrigued.

Thus your “Another death, another life to follow” makes sense in these religions and philosophies. One of wgich Confucianism is one of the longest running religions mankind has known, and in effect is practiced by more people than Western or Middle Eastern religions, the two most prominent of which are fading.

I’ll await the statistics on those bold claims.

Maybe you can call the Mayor of London and ask him.

One final question:

Who believes a person’s opinion on a specific religion when that person doesn’t even believe in that specific religion, or even religion at all?

Like I said, you claimed to be a humanist. Does not your entire perspective on this topic flow from your fundamental beliefs that we are all that we need in order to make better decisions on this planet?

And now you claim to be able to claim some kind of authority on all these other religions you likely all believe are bunkum?

Ok. Please explain to me why we should listen to you. I guess I got my understanding of humanist wrong.

Don’t you believe they are all bunkum?

lurker October 6, 2020 2:19 AM

@rrd If it exists, it is not “nothing” and to claim it is “nothing” belies a lack of understanding.

If there is existence, there must have been non-existence. And if there was a time when nothing existed, then there must have been a time before that—when even nothing did not exist. Suddenly, when nothing came into existence, could one really say whether it belonged to the category of existence or of non-existence?
Zhuang-zi – Dao 2:5 trans. Herbert Giles

FA October 6, 2020 2:58 AM


Who believes a person’s opinion on a specific religion when that person doesn’t even believe in that specific religion, or even religion at all?

@Clive will reply to this himself if he cares, but here’s my view.

You are playing word games. What does ‘believing an opinion’ mean ?

You can believe (or not) certain statements about facts, meaning that you accept these statements as true (or false). An opinion is not a statement of fact.

Some people (apparently 2 percent of US Americans) believe that the earth is as flat as a pancake. I don’t. Do you suggest that therefore I can’t have an opinion on those who do ? If so, why not ?

Clive Robinson October 6, 2020 3:18 AM

@ rrd,

If it exists, it is not “nothing” and to claim it is “nothing” belies a lack of understanding.

That is your assumption under the Western view of “nothing”, and you chose to read what you wanted to read not what was written.

As I noted,

“Where “nothing is not the Western notion of “nothing” but the Eastetn notion of something fundemental without a human given name.”

If you want to know more on that aspect you will have to do a comparative study on philosophy. But be carefull the notion of “without a human given name” likewise does not mean what you might assume, think of it more as “something yet to be understood”.

Which is why you will find that the Eastern philosophical view is actually more in line with science than the Western view of “nothing” is, which arguably does not even exist (you will find that even a vaccum is not “nothing”).

Simple translation of language is never sufficient to understanding, after all what do you think is ment by a,

“Male water sheep”

But with your,

I thought you said you were a humanist?

You are again making assumptions. Go back and read what I wrote above. You will find that your,

Who believes a person’s opinion on a specific religion when that person doesn’t even believe in that specific religion, or even religion at all?

Makes a fool of you and your comment. You have claimed to be a Sufi, which others have doubted from your behavioirs, you now claim to be an expert on “humanism”… But that can not be if you actually believe what you wrote.

Because you deny for others what you claim for yourself with,

And now you claim to be able to claim some kind of authority on all these other religions you likely all believe are bunkum?

Thus what are you claiming of yourself to do the same? Could you be claiming to be a deity or Prophet?

Or maybe your whole attitude is wrong, not just here but in life, thus should we take everything you say as “bunkum”?

By the way the way to achieve understanding was once said to be, “to walk a mile in another man’s shoes” the reward for which is “may the road rise up to meet you”. Philosophy and the notion of a journy or path to knowledge, understanding thus some form of wisdom is not unique to any one culture.

To deny there are other paths or that you should not study other paths and contemplate there merits and deficiencies is to deny that others can have,

1, Knowledge you do not have,
2, Understanding you do not have,
3, Wisdom you do not have.

As history shows, failing to study history condemns you to relive it in some way, thus the wheel turns endlessly for some.

Previously others have doubted you, now what do you think they believe of you?

The Red Squid of Passion October 6, 2020 4:19 AM


It makes me wonder about the religion of the “wise men” (Magi) from the East

Most probably Zoroastrian priests from the Mesopotamian region or the Iranian hinterlands. The Man Mani wasn’t the first of that tradition to have been influenced by Jewish and Mediterranean religious traditions, though his development, Manicheanism, is remembered – mostly through its enemies’ reports. The Yazidis and the Parsis are the current inheritors of that religious tradition. For a time one of the traditions, Mithraism, seemed about to become the predominant religion of the Roman Empire.

There’s an “eightfold path” — or is that Buddhism? — Which seems to suggest a correspondence to the eight beatitudes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

You wouldn’t be the first person to notice the similarities between Buddhist teachings and the teachings of one Jesus of Nazareth. For what it’s worth, there were Buddhist monks sent by one of the Buddhist emperors on Northern India preaching and teaching in Syria-Palestine around that time. So it’s more than likely they contributed to the general religious and philosophical ferment of that time – which we know not a lot about – but which, when combined with the pre-existing religious traditions, gave us various Gnosticisms and Mystery religions.

rrd October 6, 2020 9:31 AM

@ Clive

Previously others have doubted you, now what do you think they believe of you?

(a) What people believe of me is of no consequence to the truth.

(b) I hope they believe that I asked you a simple question:

Don’t you believe they are all bunkum?

And that you dodged the question absolutely and entirely.

So I’ll phrase it differently:

So are you passing judgement on religions you believe are all bunkum?

What question have you asked me that I haven’t answered in full (your last post notwithstanding)?

What question have I asked you that you have answered at all?

Do you believe they are all bunkum, or not?

I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that question; that’s why I asked it. (A good debater never asks a question they don’t already know the answer to.)

Prove me wrong. Teach me about humanism, and why we should listen to anything you say about religion.

Previously others have doubted you, now what do you think they believe of you?

I hope they believe the truth: that I believe that all cultures have a path to God that includes personal moral perfection within a belief system, and that I want to learn more about them to build bridges and work together to solve the world’s problems. This is the full truth, though I certainly have much to learn in that direction. That is the very definition of a Sufi.

“There are Sufis everywhere.” –Rumi

As to what fools believe; I know what to do with what a fool believes (great Doobie Brothers song, BTW, with probably my favorite American male voice ever, Michael McDonald).

So, I can (and probably will in a separate post) address the individual points in your post, but first I’d rather give you the chance to do me the courtesy of answering the questions in my previous post that you so obviously dodged.

rrd October 6, 2020 10:41 AM

@ FA

You are playing word games.

Never, my friend.

What does ‘believing an opinion’ mean ?

If someone comes up to you and tells you their opinion of whether or not there was a Big Bang, you can either believe them or not. For a science-oriented topic, the person should explain what they have studied and why they have a certain point-of-view.

Religion, which is always viewed through the lens of our own prejudices and personal history, is the most fraught of such subjects. What I’m saying is that one must understand the foundation of their beliefs if one is to take their opinion seriously.

Like, I’m not talking physics with someone who says that the Earth was created 6000 years ago. One has to know the warning signs when a person’s views are nothing but their egocentric WAGs.

Similarly, if Clive believes, as a humanist, that all religions are bunkum (and I don’t know because he hasn’t answered the question yet), then his opinions on the merits or lack thereof of any given religion should be considered very, very carefully.

This is why the Sufi approach to religion is superior: we are always willing to listen to how someone’s religious practices/beliefs can teach us how to be better personally and in our groups. A person that believes that all religions are bunkum is existing within an already closed mind, therefore they are always looking to deny, ignore or baselessly contradict any religious person’s statement on how their understanding of religion better describes our existence and allows them to become a better world citizen.

As such, I suggest you not talk cosmology with a flat-earther, unless you think you can get the truth through to them. But if they are obstinate enough in their views, just let them and their opinions peacefully go on their way after stating how the world really is.

Do you suggest that therefore I can’t have an opinion on those who do ?

As I hope you see by now that, of course you could and you should. Science (when applicable to the topic at hand) makes it easy to throw out entire sections of any society’s opinions on certain matters (like cosmology with flat-earthers).

The key, of course, is to not let our own prejudices keep us from engaging with those who have perhaps sensible, but different, opinions to ourselves. So, we have to walk the fuzzy line between being open-minded to potentially sensible questions/theories, but not silly enough to get trapped into someone’s insanities and inanities.

Learning how to tell the difference is one of a person’s most important lifetime efforts, lest you end up with a cup of kool-aid in your hand at a Jim Jones retreat.

That’s why I have endeavored to teach my children from a young age the difference between horse-poo and bull-poo. [For our international readers: the former being the crap people fervently believe but is wrong, and the latter being purposeful lies a person puts forth to achieve some ulterior motive.]

Clive Robinson October 6, 2020 11:43 AM

@ rrd,

Prove me wrong. Teach me about humanism

Well the first thing I can teach you is not to make assumptions.

Only “Humanism” with a capitol “H” is not prefaced with another word. So you have both “Christian humanism” and “Secular humanism” which from your repeated use of “bunkum” would sugest you know to little to ask meaningful questions, because you assume that what you call humanism is anti religion.

If you are a sufi, then you might be aware of what happened to the Prince that sided with his enemies enemies.

The claims that humanism is anti religion have been put forward by those that wish humanism in the general sense be harmed.

Mostly these are proponants of the Abrahamic derived religions that claim “there is but one god” and that “life after death will be in heaven” provided you have done as the religion asks you to. Hence more slaughter of other humans has been made in the name of that god than can be counted.

Did that god ask for such slaughter?

I consider it unlikely. Any being capable of creating a universe will find that they are effectively cut off from it as they must have existed outside of what we call time. Perhaps they can look in, but we certainly can not look out. But whilst they might be able to look in they can not interact with us the basic or fundemental laws of science as we currently understand them preclude that.

If you think those fundemental laws are incorrect then you are free to dispute them. But remember you had better have supporting argument that can be independently tested.

By the way “Faith based claims” in no way constitute any kind of evidence that is why they are “faith beliefs” not “factual evidence” as measured by the rules of modern science.

Oh with regards to “humanism” go and look up “Renaissance humanism” and why it came about.

But simply Abrahamic religious teachings were found to be logically inconsistant with what was known by science. Thus the type and method of teaching in universities of the time was found wanting. Thus the need to end nearly a millenium of stagnation and find a new way was looked for. Along with it the ways of Aristotle.

But the roots of what later became the various forms of humanism were the Ionian Greeks, through the likes of Cicero, thus the notion of learning not for learnings sake but for the use of reasoned argument. It in effect gave us the saying “The Pen is mightier than the sword”.

Oh finally just one thought, do you know where “bunkum” came from and what it was about?

Well it’s comming up for it’s bi-centennial and it is a US English word for which you can blaim the poor oratory of Carolina representative Felix Walker who gave a speach in Buncombe County, North Carolina.

Thus “a load of buncombe” apparently by 1828 had become “a load of bunkum”, and refered to particularly egregiously false party political statments.

I hope that you do not mean to imply my views on religion, learning and science are “party political nonsense”?

Which I think adiquately answers your question.

rrd October 6, 2020 11:56 AM

@ Clive

Thanks for the info on humanism.

My only info on humanism comes from you:

a) You said you were a humanist (I don’t remember if you capitalized it or not.)

b) You said that you had a burr under your saddle regarding deities (and something else I don’t remember).

GOOG defines bunkum as “nonsense”, which is the precise term I am using for its meaning.

Do you believe all religions are nonsense?

MarkH October 6, 2020 1:34 PM

@rrd, Clive, et al:

Wow, what a discussion!

A good debater never asks a question they don’t already know the answer to.

I’ve heard this many times, in connection with questioning of witnesses (as in a legal proceeding).

Let me propose a related maxim:

If I would discover truth, I must focus my attention on the questions whose answers I don’t already know.

Well done to lurker, for citing a Taoist sage. I humbly offer another passage (same source and translator):

To study this is to study what cannot be learnt. To practise this is to practise what cannot be accomplished. To discuss this is to discuss what can never be proved. Let knowledge stop at the unknowable. That is perfection.

For our monotheist readers (I know you’re out there):

Everything shall perish, except his face.

And in conclusion:

If one asks about Tao, and another answers, neither of them knows it.

Clive Robinson October 6, 2020 2:34 PM

@ rrd,

Do you believe all religions are nonsense?

Do I take it correctly from that, that,

“You belive no religion is nonsense even in the smallest part?”

rrd October 6, 2020 2:34 PM

@ MarkH

Nice post!

If one asks about Tao, and another answers, neither of them knows it.

There is the unknowable and the inexpressable, yet …

We are designed to be knowers of all that is possible to be known about the Timeless, Unfathomable Tao and Its designs of this universe. And some of us know more than others; as in all knowledge pursuits, the student must seek proper sources to learn from, after which the student can gain the knowledge and experience that allows them to become a proper source of knowledge.

Knowing our limitations and past failures, we remain committed to learning not just what is possible, but which pursuits are morally best for their entire society and the Earth itself. Thus the humble servant of all demonstrates their harmonization with the Tao.

Clive Robinson October 6, 2020 2:43 PM

@ rrd,

We are designed to be knowers of all that is possible to be known

No we are not, nor can we be, simple logic tells you why that is the case.

Clive Robinson October 6, 2020 3:12 PM

@ MarkH,

“If one asks about Tao, and another answers, neither of them knows it.”

I’ve already said why that is true.

Oh and have you thought about the implications of

“To study this is to study what cannot be learnt. To practise this is to practise what cannot be accomplished. To discuss this is to discuss what can never be proved. Let knowledge stop at the unknowable. That is perfection.”

One of the more interesting ones is that “perfection can never be achievable”.

Because part of the process of learning is to “find that which is unknown” be it to you as an individual or mankind as a whole or to the universe it’s self. That is learning and research are mostly one and the same. Thus what is unknown is a movable target, because what is considered unknowable today but not proven as such, may well become known tomorrow. Which as a general case as mankind grows what is known grows with it, so bit by bit the unknowable becomes knowable then known.

Are there limits to this, yes we live in a finite universe which means that only a finite amount of knowledge can be held in it. Thus the question arises as to just how much is found and how much is lost at any point in time when it comes to what is known.

But also we can by logic show when and why some things may not be known.

The classic example of this relevent to this blogs more normal discussion topics are the likes of One Time Pads when used under the usuall constraints. The proof of security is,

“All messages of the cipher text length are equally probable.”

So each message and every message is a data point, but it is not knowledge as to if it’s a valid message or not. So producing every data point does not increase your knowledge, thus the valid message remains unknowable under the usuall constraints.

rrd October 6, 2020 4:12 PM

@ Clive

“You belive no religion is nonsense even in the smallest part?”


No, the reality of religion in 2020 demonstrates quite the opposite. The game of telephone that has been played by selfish usurpers (either intentionally or just ignorantly) of religion since time immemorial has rendered the vast majority of religious groups (with most branches having sub-groups with their own recursive twists on things) far away from the original intents and purposes of the originally-inspired founder.

And, I say without hyperbole that the single easiest, fastest and most guaranteed way to determine if a group of so-called “religious” folks is just a bunch of selfishly self-justifying fools (or worse if they preach violence) is this question:

Do they believe they are the only “saved” group?

If they believe that, then count them as merely a mammalian pack.

As well, if they preach love for only their own people (or condone violence against out-groups), then count them out as well (though they are likely to have already told on themselves with the first question).

That’s all just mammal bs, just with our higher-brain functions brought to bear to amplify the resulting horror and ignorance.

[Another way to determine followers of the non-love paths is when they say that our life means nothing anyway, so it can be thrown away until either: they get another chance at life to try, or get to say some magic words after their death to undo the karma they accrued while alive. To assume we get more than one shot here on this lovely garden planet in this wonderful body is foolish, anyway, if not insanely wishful thinking.]

Universal respect and love for all human beings’ ability to exercise their free will is the purpose of all properly-practiced religions of God. The differences in ritual are of no concern, but if any has rituals that go against the principle of universal love, then they have become diverted off the Path of Love. [And there are false religions that were never anything but a selfish figment of someone’s imagination at its base, but those are not what I’m talking about here.]

The only time we can break universal respect for all human beings is when one group or even single person is harming innocents. Then we must respect the victims more than the oppressors and actively intercede in the free wills of the oppressors to get them to effing cut it out.

This is why Elie Wiesel’s teachings on indifference and fighting for the oppressed are so near and dear to the heart of religion: because fighting for another’s freedom is one of the strongest, most selfless expressions of the love that we are commanded to all embrace, commanded to become consumed by.

Anyone can say they have piety or assume the guise of the pious (as per their culture), but if they aren’t striving for universal love (“Blessed are the peacemakers, …”), they’re just another person with bad fundamental assumptions, which always results in garbage out.

Regardless, anyone not seeking to self-evolve their heart’s vices into the corresponding virtues, is going to be a problem for all out-groups that have to deal with their selfishness. Hopefully, they’re just minor, bothersome personality defects; once people start grouping up, though, things among mammals tend to get nasty.

When those willfully ignorant to their own moral failings falsely claim to have religion, however, they are always worse in some ways than just plain old warlords. Though really, the insane excuses anyone uses to justify oppressing others don’t really need much analysis to differentiate the details, as they all must simply be treated as noise to be removed from what could and should be a harmonious cooperative system of co-respectful equals.

That’s why ol’ Pops kept singing … 😉

TL;DR: No. No. No. No. No. A significant percentage of people only join a religion for cultural group membership benefits, not the hard graft of learning how to love God with all their being and love all their neighbors as themself. Note that that’s why all such groups always get embroiled in in-fighting: the struggle to be the “alpha” (with all the benefits it confers) is the other side of the coin of strife in mammalian life.

Thank you for giving this grateful, struggling Sufi a chance to level-up by sharing this Message of Love.

Cassandra October 6, 2020 5:01 PM

@Clive Robinson

Thank-you for your kind words. His travails ended today.

I like your porcelain cup analogy. I hope you don’t mind if I appropriate it for use with some other people (not immediately).

To stay on topic for Bruce’s posting, just like some people prepare for the collapse of civilization by maintaining a shack in the woods with containers of potable water, tinned food, ammunition and weapons, we need some technologically sophisticated people with resources to build some ‘shacks’ to allow recovery after catastrophic events. Elon Musk’s ideas about sustainably populating Mars is one such approach. If there is merit in human civilization, I hope that some people can take seriously the need to provide insurance for the long-term future. The Long Now Foundation is the right kind of seed.

Now to write a valediction.


rrd October 6, 2020 5:09 PM

@ Clive

“To study this is to study what cannot be learnt.

You have said my knowledge cannot be learnt.

To practise this is to practise what cannot be accomplished.

You have implied that my accomplishments can not possibly be the result of my practices, because it seems you believe that my practices are nonsense.

To discuss this is to discuss what can never be proved.

You have said what I am explaining of reality here cannot be proven.

Let knowledge stop at the unknowable.

I have explained that the vast majority of the nature of the Creator is Unknowable and tried to move on to the practical applications of religion on conscious human moral self-evolution of both individuals and societies.

That is perfection.”

Moral perfection is the learning, realization and teaching of how to attain moral perfection as one lives, as it is the only function that minimizes Earthwide chaos/strife/suffering while maximizing order/peace/happiness. And NEVER under compulsion.

JonKnowsNothing October 6, 2020 5:21 PM

@Clive @All

People ask me, how long will it take them to learn to ride a horse?

I tell them,

  I can teach you to sit on the horse in 3 days.
  To learn to ride, will take the rest of your life.

Like many things, at some point they stop learning. They think they know all there is, so they stop. Some of them go on to make a lot of money selling CDs and Videos and giving clinics and influencing thousands of less knowledgeable horse enthusiasts. Some win huge prizes and medals and are featured in magazines and other media. But they have stopped.

People ask me why I bother to assist people that have stopped. I think it’s because somehow I am hopeful that 2 grey cells will connect and that will lead them to a better enlightenment. I cannot force them to do it, I cannot learn for them. It’s something THEY have to do for themselves.

All I can do is share the lessons from the calluses on my butt.

hammar-n-nails October 6, 2020 7:14 PM


“And all who speak too much bring on sin.”
– Avot 1:17
— prooftext: Proverbs 10:19

rrd October 6, 2020 11:10 PM

@ hammar-n-nails

Good thing I’m not talking too much! Thanks for the encouragement.

How about the very beginning of Proverbs? :

1) The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

2) for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
3) for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
doing what is right and just and fair;
4) for giving prudence to those who are simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young—
5) let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance—
6) for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.
7) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Whatever happened to “Thank you for that teaching.”?

Sarcasm, I guess. No biggie, the joy comes from the inside, not the outside, not that it wouldn’t be nice.

“not so much seek to be loved as to love” –Francis of Assisi

Clive Robinson October 7, 2020 2:46 AM

@ Cassandra

Thank-you for your kind words. His travails ended today.

I am sorry to hear that, I hope that you had a chance to say goodby.

I lost both my parents over fourty years ago, without the chance to say good by and even now I remember them on a daily basis.

The only advice I can give after all this time is think of the happy times, forgive any angry times, and try to understand any wisdom they passed along to you.

In many cultures they believe that somebodies spirit stays alive in all who can remember their names and deeds and by the passing on of their wisdom to others across the generations.

So may the sorrow of loss become the happiness of remembrance and bring you peace.

Clive Robinson October 7, 2020 3:05 AM

@ rrd,

You have said my

Actually as anyone who reads the comments will realise, I did no such thing.

The words are quoted and come from a comment by @MarkH, who noted where he had got them from.

I simply asked him if he had thought through the implications of those ancient words in the light of more modern understanding. I also gave an example of one such.

This whole subject started because I made a point in a comment to another person that you made incorrect assumptions about.

Please stop making assumptions and ascribing meanings in your head that are there only and not in the words or intent of others. At the very least it makes life difficult for others who are reading and making comment on other subjects.

rrd October 7, 2020 7:24 AM

@ Clive

At the very least it makes life difficult for others who are reading and making comment on other subjects.

The topic here is “Acedia”, which is a strictly religious topic.

You simply cannot explain the koan, but I have explained it using your own treatment of my describing the Tao. If you didn’t dismiss the Tao as “nonsense”, you would be able to learn.

We love “All the President’s Men” in our house, and we all know what a “non-denial denial” is.

Everyone reading carefully here knows there’s a certain question you have repeatedly avoided.

It’s like I’m trying to have a conversation about cosmology and then I learn the person I’m debating is a flat-earther but refuses to admit it. The longer such a conversation goes on, the more obvious the truth of each person’s perspective becomes, except to the person locked into their flawed understanding of the world. All questions and no answers, they are reduced to flailing anger and baselessly false statements, never admitting to any goodness in my points, ever trying to deflect the peanut gallery’s focus to anything but the truth of their point-of-view. And what would it matter that the flat-earthers in the audience agree with them? Not one bit, because the truth stands apart from the mistaken, no matter how they persist.

It takes a open-minded person to accept that perhaps — just perhaps — they have no logical argument because they are arguing against the truth.

And, no, my mother simply refuses to accept that DJT is evil. The true sadness is that, after a lifetime of Catholicism, she won’t even accept Bible verses that describe his vice-ridden behavior. But I am free from grief because I have done as best I could to selflessly tell her the truth.

When the Tao is pleased with one’s efforts, the person reflects that pleasure in their entire being as peace and happiness. Because to reap what we sow is as fundamental to the human universe as General Relativity is to the physical universe, but even more difficult to grasp for the layperson, and impossible for the denier of mathematical physics.

“Laughter is the way of lovers.” –Rumi

The Great Command and Its Next are about nothing but love. Our household’s laughter is raucous. It is this way for us because we love you, Clive, in the sense that we want to you to be happy, just as we wish for all human beings.

Acedia is not a problem for the selfish fools who don’t believe they even should care. Apathy is not the way of Elie Wiesel or Dr. King, whom the Tao was very, very pleased with. I care so much that I get to laugh heartily as the world around us builds to the crescendo of its denouement.

Understanding their environment, the successful navigator of the Tao avoids the pitfalls and chooses only good fruit to eat, and thus their journey is joyful.

Clive Robinson October 7, 2020 8:44 AM

@ rrd,

You simply cannot explain the koan, but I have explained it using your own treatment of my describing the Tao

Yet another weird set of assumptions and false statments, will you never cease?

Probably not it this is anything to go by,

I’m trying to have a conversation about cosmology and then I learn the person I’m debating is a flat-earther but refuses to admit it.

Again you are making stupid assumptions based on your own prejudices, and weird preconceptions, and what is degenerating well into trollish behaviour.

And for some reason unknown to me you have decided to attack me personally with them, and now surprise surprise you are all upset because I refuse to fall in with your very strange views and notions, and silly obviousky highly biased questions. Which no sane or sensible person would do.

Why you have chosen to attack me I have no real idea, but I do know one thing such behaviour is not the way of Sufi’s I know.

Thus I suggest if you are as you claim a Sufi you go and talk to your spiritual master such that he can make the appropriate healing measures towards you in private that you obviously are in need of.

This is the second time I have tried politely to rebuff your strange advances and again you have forced me to be curt in my response.

This attention you are trying to force on my is undesirable and probably unsavoury in origin, and something you appear incapable of comprehending is unacceptable.

Further keep your weird notions preconceptions and assumptions to yourself, others have warned you that your behaviour is not desirable and you appear to not be capable of understanding the hints you should stop your behaviours. Which includ but are not limited to unjustly casting aspertions on others you know nothing about and doining it in considerable verbosity.

Politeness and hospitality have limits even with the most generous of people. Further others besides myself very clearly think you have crossed them.

Thus “cease and desist”.

SpaceLifeForm October 7, 2020 5:19 PM

@ rrd, Clive

“If someone comes up to you and tells you their opinion of whether or not there was a Big Bang, you can either believe them or not. For a science-oriented topic, the person should explain what they have studied and why they have a certain point-of-view.”

I do not believe in Big Bang theory.

Yet, I’m not obligated to explain my reasoning to you.

It’s not worth your time.

Clive Robinson October 7, 2020 9:33 PM

@ SpaceLifeForm,

I do not believe in Big Bang theory.

There are several reasons as to why that might be so. After all it is in effect a singularity in reverse and that, as they said over and over “is not supposed to happen” :-/

Interestingly though is a singularity robs the universe of matter, thus something has to balance otherwise the system is not “closed” and that’s problematical to put it politely and classical physics dare not go there.

But you are right nobody is obligated to explain anything about why they might or might not believe in something[1].

That said we should all be aware of the “Magic Umbrella thinking” issue[3] which as I noted the other day unfortunately pops up a lot in AI. That is no matter how many observations we make correlation is not causation. You need to design a repeatable test to directly show causation or show the opposit (either can be hard or not possible). Importantly the test has to work “from cause to effect” not the other way (which as I’ve noted before on several occasions is a failing most forensic tests have[2]).

[1] Unless “they have presented it” as non-hearsay evidence. That is as a scientific paper or report, or as expert testimony that either does or can effect others life or liberty. Then it should always be backed by rational and chalengable argument and proofs that can be “examined” at any time[2].

[2] Sadly forensics which is mostly not science has failed too many times under real examination that for some reason judges get very squeamish about. Possibly as it can lead to a veritable Pandora’s box of wrongfull or unsafe convictions, or it is embarrising to the point of bring the legal system into disrepute in the public eye.

[3] The “magic umbrella” issue arises because people do not understand the difference between correlation and causation, especially on very limited number of observations. It is the old “I have an umbrella and it’s never rained when I’ve taken it with me, thus it must be magic” reasoning / argument. That is easily made true if I’ve never taken the umbrella with me or only once or twice on a sunny day etc… The fact I have faith the umbrella is magic does not make it either true or make the umbrella an item to be venerated or worshiped simply because I want it to be magic. Whilst you can not prove the umbrella is magic, you can prove that it is not. The way to test it is if I wait untill it is raining then take the umbrella out, if it does not stop raining then the likely hood of it being magic is gone unless I then argue it’s some kind of extra special magic… Alternatively it I carry the umbrella with me all the time and stay out doors all the time, either it will rain at some point thus disprove the theory or where I live will turn into a desert. Arguably the desert option is not proof positive of magical ability, but if I’m out with the umbrella in my hand and it does start raining, then that is proof of the fact the umbrella is not magic… Unless of course I now argue there is some extra special “rain god” magic item that over powers the simple magic of my umbrella, by which time most people would have either made their excuses and left or “called for the men in white coats”. Unfortunately we see “magic umbrella” thinking in the likes of AI systems quite a lot of the time. The way to spot it is either the deliberate selection of input data, or lots and lots of “special or extra special” rules to stop exceptions happening…

rrd October 8, 2020 12:19 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm

Yet, I’m not obligated to explain my reasoning to you.

Of course not. But if you want to have a discussion/debate, then not answering a legitimate question is an immediate forfeit. Thems the rules. 😉

If the person is willing to ask a question, they’d better be willing to take their turn entertaining one or two. If they aren’t willing to do so, they are just playing the part of bully, which is bad form, indeed, if not plain ol’ nonsense.

Some people even tell strangers on the internet what to do. How ludicrous! And obvious.

JonKnowsNothing October 8, 2020 12:40 AM

@Clive @SpaceLifeForm

re: Magic Umbrella/Thinking

Back in the old days when I had the luxury of watching high-class TV shows, there was a science program about various ways people were checking animal intelligence.

Generally there are two schools of thought on the subject (similar to Herd Immunity Policy arguments)

  * One pole is that animals are dumb, stupid and here for the entertainment and consumption of humans.
  * The other pole is that animals are super magical creatures that have ESP and think, feel, related exactly like humans but with fur.

There is a spectrum in between.

This one program showed a researcher who worked with Tamarin monkeys. He had 3 feeding tubes that emptied into a food bin inside an acrylic box. On the outside there was a drop funnel where the monkey could see which bin the food would fall into. Between the top and the bottom there was a black out screen so the monkey could not see the connecting tubes.

At first they dropped the food into each top bin and it funneled directly to the bin below it. After the monkey got that idea, the monkey would always go the correct output bin.

Then came the 3-2 change up.

When the monkey was not in the box, they rerouted the tube from top bin 1 to food bin 3. Then the monkey came in the box, they put the food in the top bin 1 and watched how the monkey reacted when the food fell into bin 3.

The monkey looked in bin 1 and looked a bin 3 and sat down.

Monkeys may not know all the rules of physics but they know gravity does not go sideways.

Humans are much more gullible in this regard.

ht tps://
(url fractured to prevent autorun)

Janus Reflection October 8, 2020 3:52 PM

rrd: “It’s a good thing we’re above that nonsense around here, right?”

Go look in a mirror, and see what others see of you. Hard as you try, you ain’t going to make it as a ‘cable TV talking head’ that’s for sure.

rrd October 8, 2020 6:32 PM

@ Hugh

Go look in a mirror, and see what others see of you.

I did. That’s the meaning of the koan.

Hard as you try, you ain’t going to make it as a ‘cable TV talking head’ that’s for sure.

Thanks. That’s actually the point.

Ismar October 9, 2020 5:27 PM

As always, the article reflects the beauty of Bruce’s soul (or for those less spiritually inclined beauty of his intellect). Not judging and judgmental and not there for arguing sake and assuming to know all and thinking that endless arguing can change someone else’s mind.
IMHO, the future of the survival of the humankind is assured by statistics . However, that is not the point here- more important is the question weather the remaining individuals will learn anything from the history and what the remaining societies will value the most.
For me at this point in time the most worrying is the realisation that most of us have lost the urge for the quest for the meaning- this quest has been the engine of all of the positive developments we as humans have achieved so far. As such, we may continue as a species but our progress will be limited to less spiritual endeavours

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons October 9, 2020 7:12 PM

@ Moderator — CLOSE TO ON TOPIC — Not to drown the squid
29 JUL 2020 — U.S. State Department, Office of International Religious Freedom
Excerpts from the Congressional Research Service @ FAS.ORG, data from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) within the yearly report.
Note: To appear on the CPC requires egregious, systemic, and ongoing violations.

From the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC)
Number of appearances on the 15 lists to date:
15 Burma
15 China
15 Iran
14 Sudan
13 North Korea
11 Eritrea
11 Saudi Arabia

CPC status during 2019, waivers issued replacing existing sanctions for the following countries:
Saudi Arabia

What is interesting, how many times or when were the countries on and off sanctions and for what period of time. For example, of the 15 reports, Saudi Arabia is listed 11 times and North Korea 13 times; what changed in these countries and when? Or if what is inferred, a political weapon using the cover of religious freedom as a leveraging tool to appease or punish so called “violators”. Have yet to determine if the stated conditions for a change in status is coincidential to actual changes on the ground. And, has this effort replaced any accorded human with religious rights?

Once again, the U.S. is engaged in dubious list keeping–the “You’ve been naughty” department is busily at work. I guess the evolution in human social governance will peak when the Office of Rumor, Innuendo, and Speculation gets staffed.

SpaceLifeForm October 10, 2020 2:47 AM

@ rrd

It was a rhetorical point.

@ rrd, Clive

As I said, I do not believe in Big Bang theory.

The TL;DR is this:

Numbers are infinite.

I can uniquely map them into Space.

Therefore, Space must be infinite.

Clive Robinson October 10, 2020 4:04 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm,

I can uniquely map them into Space.

Let’s apply a little logic :-S

Any number can be mapped into a space where there are enough “bits of freedom” to map them.

Therefore an infinite space can hold an infinite number.

However an infinite space can hold only one infinite number.

Maths does not recognize such physical constraints, thus an infinity of infinities makes sense in theory.

Or look at it another way the instantanious state of the universe requires a state space at least as large as the universe. Therefore as the state of the universe changes as it does, the old state is replaced by the new state, thus some information has to be lost for an equal amount of information to be gained.

Hence my point above,

Interestingly though is a singularity robs the universe of matter, thus something has to balance otherwise the system is not “closed” and that’s problematical to put it politely and classical physics dare not go there.

If you rob the universe of matter, then the state size decreases, thus the ability to store information decreases proportionatly as well.

That breaks way to many fundementals of classical physics unless there is a balance…

What that balance even might be is a matter of suggestion, not even conjecture, let alone a hypothosis based on observation. If and when we get to that point, then testing it’s going to prove fun.

That is how do you know you’ve lost information, when it’s gone as though it never existed?

In theoey any test that knows something is missing, can be walked backwards to show what is missing. But the implication of that is the information is not truly missing just “coded as data shadows” in some way.

This notion of reversability is fundementaly axiomatic to the way clasical physics works…

Loosing one piece no matter how small is like unknotting a thread, fairly quickly the whole cloth unravels and falls apart.

It’s also why the notion of some God’s falls apart. If a god created the universe then they existed before time, energy, and matter existed. For our universe to be closed no information can leave or enter. Thus the existance or not of such a god is entirely unknowable and to pretend that there are such gods a form of fraud or delusion.

It’s why I say,

“God made man in his image” is the wrong way around

If any such god would like to come around and prove they are actually such a god then I’ll put the kettle on, because we will both need a cup of tea long before that conversation concludes.

rrd October 10, 2020 5:23 AM

@ Clive & SpaceLifeForm

Human beings have the ability to learn and humbly accept the truth of reality.

Human beings also have the ability to deny reality and are talented enough to find many ways to do so.

Thus is the depth of our ability to choose, which is deeply tied to the complexity of the informatic universe we have our existence within.

We can lift our fellow brothers and sisters up from their difficulties, or we can pick their gold fillings out of the crematoria. Morality requires us to strip the latter of their ability to selfishly harm others.

Numbers are measurable, but so is my great love for you.

For our universe to be closed no information can leave or enter. Thus the existance or not of such a god is entirely unknowable and to pretend that there are such gods a form of fraud or delusion.

Erroneous assumptions lead to flawed results. Every single time.

We have been given the ability to learn a wee bit about our Creator, and a lot about the subtle, awesome universe It created, of which we are an integral, yet infinitesimal, part.

Thus what is unknown is a movable target, because what is considered unknowable today but not proven as such, may well become known tomorrow. Which as a general case as mankind grows what is known grows with it, so bit by bit the unknowable becomes knowable then known.

No, sir. The unknowable is forever unknowable. Heisenberg defines one such case. No matter how you twist and dance, you can’t know both a particle’s position and velocity. What you are describing in this paragraph is the “unlearnable”, which is a moving target over time due to technological advances.

To study this is to study what cannot be learnt.
To practice this is to practice what cannot be accomplished.
To discuss this is to discuss what can never be proved.
Let knowledge stop at the unknowable.
That is perfection.

No one who wants to learn this love is denied.
No one who denies this love can learn.
This is as certain as Heisenberg’s uncertainty.

And as certain as your inability to explain the Placebo Effect.

But how can a person without faith explain the power of faith?

15%. Time after time after time.

The error is to assume it is merely a sugar pill after the patient receives it. Transformation is fundamental to this universe of various conservation laws. Likewise is the power of faith, which is a power fundamental to human existence.

And if you believe the sugar pill is only a sugar pill, then that’s true, too.

Feynman knew that truth is undefeatable. Other scientists told Boltzman that his statistical mechanics was nonsense.

Thank you for this opportunity to serve you. It brings me great joy.

The wise never cease with their questions, but who are full of certainty?

rrd October 10, 2020 10:36 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm

Numbers are infinite.

No, they’re not. Nothing in this universe is infinite, not even human stupidity.

The infinity symbol represents an ever-increasing function, not a number, because the act of dividing by zero never ends.

Everything in this universe is finite, but — as a whole — the universe is vast.

Garbage in garbage out.

lurker October 10, 2020 11:20 AM


… and to pretend that there are such gods a form of fraud or delusion.

The english word often used is faith, but that also covers cases where proof exists of something, but the believer is unaware of the proof.

rrd October 10, 2020 11:27 AM

@ lurker

The english word often used is faith

That’s why words have specific meanings, and must be used properly. Otherwise, there can be no substantial debate.

And your explanation of the Placebo Effect?

Clive Robinson October 10, 2020 2:22 PM

@ lurker,

The english word often used is faith

Yes, if you ask people about “faith” and “belief” they often think they mean the same thing…

In essence faith originates entirely within your own head as your own proposition, belief is in effect blind acceptance of some one elses proposition.

That is in your own mind you have faith in someone elses abilities based on your observations etc. Belief in someone is based on what you’ve been told about them by others.

Young children for instance are quite capable of belief (Santa Claus etc) but they do not have the ability to have faith as they have not developed the intellectual mechanisms required to deal with “trust” and the issues that arise from it.

Interestingly the views on what is required belief / faith varies amongst the abrahamic religions.

Christianity requires belief in the young (christening), as only adults can have the intellectual capacity for faith (confirmation).

Various versions of the Muslim faith demand eternal belief from the moment it is whispered in your ear at birth. There is no way out you become apostate and that is punishable by death.

As with all Abrahanic religions there is a great del of “mysticism” for which there is no explanation or rationality, you are expected to take it on faith. That is you have to build some cognative ability to turn a belief into a faith. Generally this is done by getting into a “suggestable state” which then fixes your faith beyond any rational or reason.

It’s not just religion where this happens, you can see it occure on the fringes of most political beliefs. No matter how much factual evidence you provide their intellect has become irrationaly polarised thus their responses become irrational which can often lead to vilonce as a relief for the cognative dissonance build up.

This has been known for several centuries hence we have warnings such as “Never discusse religion or politics with an XXX” where XXX is any one of a number who “think with their fists” types. Likewise the various “YYY needs religion/politics like a fish needs a bicycle”.

Futurama once did an episode where the notion of fishes and bicycles were used as a plot arc about a “Reverse Scuba Suit” invention to highlight the notion of uselessness but cleaver ideas in academia that win awards and prizes and other accolades (though a similar minor story arc ended up becoming an academic paper on combinatorics).

SpaceLifeForm October 10, 2020 4:45 PM

@ Clive

rrd wrote in regard to my point: "Numbers are infinite"

"No, they’re not. Nothing in this universe is infinite, not even human stupidity."


Clive Robinson October 11, 2020 12:37 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm,

rrd wrote in regard to my point: “Numbers are infinite”

When you write something correctly, and somebody complains incorrectly you are misquoting them… and they have previously done similar to others, to try to gain advantage…

Then that gives rise to others questioning either their abilities to communicate, or their desire to do so honestly.

I could be nice and assume they are tripping, over their assumptions and preconceptions yet again.

But I could be wrong… After all if they try to be Shakespeare’s Hamlet to sciences Horatio[1]… Then their failure can be abject, and the “fate they chose” for themselves the same.

Even Sophocles in his play “King Oedipus” knew about self destruction[2]. That is some men believe in Gods and fate and ascribe a God’s will to what is realy just random events.

Their failure to comprehend “coincidence is not causation” thus their inability to learn the underlying cause has probability, means they force themselves by their own free will, into a fate of their own making. That they created in their faith in the gods they created to explain away what they failed to learn about thus comprehend[3]…

As you say that “which was to be demonstrated” (Quod Erat Demonstrandum) has so been done.



[3] The tragady of “free will” is it alows people to believe and have faith in the notion of “preordained” which is about as valid as “Wishing on a star” and other mysticism. The real skill to life is predicting the probable and planing ahead whilst also mitigating for the more likely improbable, which does happen from time to time, as does “throwing six sixes in a row”.

MarkH October 11, 2020 8:01 AM

Observations on the Wide-Ranging Discussion

Note: When I use as an example what others have written, that is NOT a critique of the author.

As I’ve mentioned before, I try to make contributions in these comment threads based on well-founded data and logical analysis. I judge my purely personal opinions and conclusions to be worthless, except perhaps to some I know personally. For that reason, I’m not likely to write “I believe (or don’t believe) in X.”

Accordingly, I stand mute regarding my position on Big Bang Theory (an example offered above), or a multitude of other interesting questions.

In contrast, the question of how to regard scientific consensus on well-studied questions is of life-and-death importance, in light of rapid climate change, epidemiologic responses to the pandemic, and the expected deployment of novel vaccines.

There’s a worthwhile discussion, I propose, to be had about THAT.


Within the limits of my understanding, the assertion “numbers are infinite” has no precise meaning. Therefore, its truth or falsity cannot be definitively established.

Even “space is infinite” — which seems rather more specific — is still ambiguous to my understanding.

These notions put me in mind of Linus Pauling’s famous quip, “not even wrong.”


Though this is a security blog, and not a crypto blog, our host is a cryptographic authority and we’ve had many discussions about cryptography. Anyone who’s delved into crypto at any depth knows what I call the “smart guy” fallacy, which goes like this: “I’m a smart guy who has solved tough problems, and I put many hours into my cryptosystem, therefore it’s secure.”

What this misses, of course, is that cryptography has become something of a science, and practically noone has the combination of smarts and time to reinvent everything that has gone before.

Those notorious cryptosystem inventors haven’t put in the required study of the present state of knowledge. Even true experts invent systems which get broken, but they’re not very surprised when this happens, because they understand how hard it is to get right.


A friend who was quite a serious student of philosophy was sometimes approached by people who wanted to offer him their philosophical analysis of some domain or other — even one guy who self-published a book.

My friend invariably found that academic philosophers had already written with deep and comprehensive insight about these matters. The noobs kept stumbling along well-plowed fields, imagining that they had discovered something fresh.

If I wanted to offer anything about religion (which in general, I won’t), I would be very embarrassed to do so unless I had (for example) studied William James’ “The Varieties of Religious Experience” (which in fact, I have not). James was one of the most highly regarded intellectuals of his time, and his book is still of great value. Even so, it’s almost 120 years old, and many Very Smart People have added quite a lot since then.


A famous saying (often attributed to Samuel Johnson, apparently falsely) goes something like “your manuscript is both good and original. Unfortunately, the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.”

With this in mind, I try to be careful. Borrowing from Asimov, I concede that my ignorance is not as good as another’s expertise, so I seek good solid ground before offering assertions — or else label my thoughts as speculation or questions.

Clive Robinson October 11, 2020 8:48 AM

@ rrd,

All because I have proven that you have no understanding of (nor desire to understand) the topic at hand.

Rubbish, you have proved absolutly nothing.

All you did was try and force me into a very crude debating tactic with a highly biased question, which failed.

Tell me,

“Do you still beat your wife and children?”

I responded to a posting by a different person, but you jumped on with your assumptions and crude style. Thus I quite clearly recognised your aproach as what it was and thus declined to answer your crude and biased question and combative behaviour, and responded politely.

This was apparently not good enough for you even though atleast three others recognized you for what you were and gave you fair warning. So in response you then entered a trollish mode trying again and again to get me to respond to your crude and base trickery.

I simply declined and having failed in your objective you then claimed that my avoidance of your question therefore made you correct…

When this failed you then decided to attack another person in your crude way.

You’ve then wriggled like a worm on a hook trying to self justify your behaviours because you failed to get a bite.

It realy is time you grow up and stop pretending to be what you claim.

So do everyone a favour and get back under your bridge before you get cast off.

Clive Robinson October 11, 2020 9:27 AM

@ MarkH,

Within the limits of my understanding, the assertion “numbers are infinite” has no precise meaning. Therefore, its truth or falsity cannot be definitively established.

The reason is there has been no point defining infinity since Georg Cantor proved that there were numbers beyond infinity — transfinite numbers– and always would be no matter where you stuck the highwater mark.

In more practical uses of mathmatics infinity is used as an unreachable limit. The old joke about the fly forever flying between two moving trains that crash being an example of the deliberate misuse of the idea of infinity as a point about analysis limits[1].

The point being if you do something like “repetative halving” it will take an infinite number of steps to reach 2a where “a” was the initial value. Obviously the limit in this case is 2 but for other sequences it approaches but never reaches infinity which is the limit. The thing is you can have rather more than an infinite number of sequences that have a limit of infinity[2]. Such a statment will not make sense if you give infinity a value…

Although Georg Cantor did the work for “transfinite numbers” Newton did earlier work via what he called infetesimals that have real practical uses in our everyday lives[3].

[1] Imagine a fly that takes of from the front of one train and turns around when it meets the other train and so on. Each time the distance the fly travels is halfed. Obviously the halving goes on to infinity, so it will take the fly an infinite amount of journeys even though the trains crash.

[2] The process of halving is to produce an infinite binary string with the point preceading it. The same logic applies not only to all other integers but all other number sets that are by definition infinite, thus you have multiple infinities.

[3] One such is calculating how light behaves with respect to curved surfaces. Which includes radio waves and charged surfaces or clouds of particles or arrays of wires.

rrd October 11, 2020 9:48 AM

@ Clive


Tell me, “Do you still beat your wife and children?”

No, I have never beat my wife (or even physically threatened her) and only spanked my son two times before I decided that I would not raise my children with the specter of physical violence hanging over their heads (as I was raised).


It realy is time you grow up and stop pretending to be what you claim.

So do everyone a favour and get back under your bridge before you get cast off.

Personal attacks, name-calling, and a threat.

You claim that I am pretending to be something I am not. Wow. That’s just ridiculous. That you don’t even have the self-awareness to understand what this says about you, does, indeed, say a great deal about you.


Do you believe all religions are nonsense?

Of course you do. Everyone here knows you do. Furthermore, everyone here knows that you refuse to admit it because it renders all your opinions on religion moot. Except your perspective that “All religions are nonsense”, that is. That is literally the only perspective you have that has any bearing on this conversation, and very, very little at that. Because you know this — and know that it is you, yourself, that is the disingenuous one around here — you refuse to admit it.

Apparently, your ego requires you to be the primary expert on all things around here. Logic dictates that that simply cannot be the case. Your ego dictates otherwise, and obviously, at that.


Now please show me where I said, “Numbers are infinite.” You can’t, you simply can’t. And neither can SpaceLifeForm. Given that I never said that, are you willing to retract your accusation about me?

Of course not, as it is you, yourself, who have demonstrated your infidelity to good-form public discourse.

You are being a bully. I say this without enmity at all, for the simple fact that I am only responsible for my own choices’ effects on others.

You don’t have to remain a bully, however. “There’s still time to change the road you’re on.” That would require, however, that you to first admit your mistakes, then apologize for them, then make the necessary changes in your life. That is the only path to a life without regret.

It is possible; I know you could choose a better path; I believe in you, and I wish you nothing but peace and happiness in this world. As I’ve explained here, it is for you to use your mind to command your free will toward the light.

(ps) @ALL

No, that last bit was not easy for me to say. Thankfully, I have enough level to recognize my Id’s attempt to divert me from positive discussion, the Id’s only purpose being to make us unhappy by suggesting ways we can be less good than we can be. No, instead, I have chosen to be loving, kind and hopeful that I can help someone as I have been helped. And so my happiness grows!


name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons October 11, 2020 1:49 PM

@ Clive, SpaceLifeForm
It is apparent that discourse can be challenged without the historic perspective on past performance or previous experience. I do not doubt the motives or intentions of either of you. I support of your current situation, I suggest that further subject matter contributions avoid the discord that is about this topic. I know I am preaching to the choir, an appropriate pun under the circumstances, but just wanted to shout out in support of your situation. Seems that inference is different than direct linguistic or lexical constructions both in perception and understanding.

Peace, out!

@ SpaceLifeForm
Keep up the irreverent humor–keeps a balance between the seriousness of the topic and the need to bring levity into our discourse for relief.

MarkH October 11, 2020 2:44 PM


My previous comment was addressed to ideas and their expressions, not to authors.

Who wrote what when, is outside my knowledge or interest.


In our paying work, precision of sentence construction and correct usage of nomenclature are sometimes indispensable.

I recognize “there are [zero | a finite number of | infinitely many] [numbers from specified set] in [specified domain/interval]” as a meaningful statement which in general may be determined to be true or false.

“Infinite numbers [exist | don’t exist]” seems much fuzzier, but at minimum can serve as a starting point for mathematical discussion, as you just demonstrated.

To my mind, “numbers are [finite | infinite]” is too vague for contemplation.

The core thesis of Orwell’s essay on politics and language is that the words and expressions I use — and the manner in which I use them — may operate as a limitation on the scope of my reasoning.


The parable of the doomed railway fly (presumably, a mighty quick fellow) strikes me as a “kissing cousin” to Zeno’s Paradox.

As I get older, I wonder how it came to be called a paradox. If ancient Greek mathematicians didn’t already know that an infinite sum of positive quantities can be finite … well, Zeno proved that to be true with awesome economy!

The next step of reasoning, which I imagine would have been well followed by intellectuals of that time, is that an infinite sum of positive time intervals can likewise be finite.

Those guys were already on top of infinitesimals …

Reading on the history of aerodynamics, I was astonished to learn that by the time the Wrights were puttering about in their original flyer, more than one European aerodynamicist had already analyzed supersonic flows.

As I inexorably approach my admission to the fellowship of Old Dead Guys, my admiration steadily grows for the knowledge and insights possessed by those who came before.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons October 11, 2020 2:58 PM

@ MarkH
Well said, I wish to associate myself with remarks and sentiment.


Clive Robinson October 11, 2020 3:21 PM

@ rrd, ALL,

Now please show me where I said, “Numbers are infinite.” You can’t, you simply can’t. And neither can SpaceLifeForm. Given that I never said that, are you willing to retract your accusation about me?

First you are making your assumptions yet again, which despite several warnings you persist in, which is really quite silly to say “childish” and shoes an inability to learn from your mistakes you fail to correct.

If you check I never claimed you did say “Numbers are infinite.” nor even implied it. I simoly refered to a comment that somebody else made…

Which is about the third time you have made your false claims, I wonder what it is in your ID that makes you do that?

So as anyone can see I did not accuse you of saying that… So I have no need to appologise for it.

But I note you throw in your dumb ass biased question yet again of,

“Do you believe all religions are nonsense?”

Which you failed to realise was why I quoted the very old lawyer question about wife beating, it was not intended for you to answer it but for you to think about as an out of date and much derided debating tactic.

Try comparing and contrasting it with your question, I’m sure many others got the point with out it having to be belabored.

But then given your behaviour what do you think people will think of your,

You are being a bully.

Really, what does that make you?

Dwell on that thought as you started this nonsense you will not stop.

But to give you a hint about your apparent lack of knowledge not all religions are the same, something you would know if you had in anyway studied the subject as opposed to being indoctrinated in just one form of mysticism. I even told you that when I said that there were both christian and secular forms of Humanism to at your request improve your knowledge. Butvsadly you chose not to take it on board.

A further hint is many religions have,

1, A deity or equivalent.
2, A moral conponent.
3, A legal component.
4, A charitable component.
5, A teaching component.
6, A mysticism component.
7, A control component.

Not all religions have them all and some focus strongly on certain aspects that then get used by those lacking morals for “control” as a form of “authoritarian politics”.

So most religions are quite different from each other. Which begs the question about your question? But most will see it for what it actually is by your rather silly crowing,

Of course you do. Everyone here knows you do. Furthermore, everyone here knows that you refuse to admit it because it renders all your opinions on religion moot.

How idiotic can you get? First you make a false claim based on your silly preconceptions and assumptions. Secondly you make claims of others you can not in any way support, which will probably upset others. Thirdly you repeate the same claim of “everyone”. Then you make your rather pathetic claim of victory simply because I ignore your childish attempts…

I’ll let others make their mind up about you, but it is clear that others have tried to warn you about your behaviours and claims.

Yet for some reason you appear unable to comprehend that?

Thus the question why?

You have claimed to be a Sufi, which anyone can go and look up and realise you are not behaving in a way that is conducive to that belief system. Others have questioned you on that before, so it’s not just my observation.

Then you try dumb patronizing with,

I know you could choose a better path

Grow up for goodness sake, how very very pathetic. You know absolutly nothing about me, however you have made a truck load of assumptions from your preconceptions and potentially indoctronation when young.

So I will quote you at you,

There’s still time to change the road you’re on. That would require, however, that you to first admit your mistakes, then apologize for them, then make the necessary changes in your life.

So think on your own advice as it pertains to you and your behaviours, and rather than try some more silly “I’m holier than you” prattling actually act upon your own advice.

You appear to have faith that you have some immortal soul, well go contemplate on what it means to you in the privacy of your own head.

And leave others to contemplate privately in their heads as is their right as guarenteed by law in many places.

I have “free will” to do so and I am not partvof your “manifest destiny” nor would I ever wish to be.

Oh by the way, in the UK we have harasment legislation and by it’s definitions you have crossed a couple of lines. We also have legislation with regards religeous freedoms, you have also crossed a line their.

Have a think on that, does the god you claim to follow realy want you to be a criminal on their behalf? You are not Abraham, the times of that nonsense are over in the majority of main stream Abrahamic religious texts, which you realy should know. As for the Qur’an what does it say about tolerance and free will?

Well how about the word “Islam”, of which the literal meaning is “surrender”?

That sounds neither tolerant or encoraging of free will, more like enslavement.

Oh and why oh why does it talk about the colour of Muhammad’s lower body parts?

There are oh so many questions that I could ask but I won’t and I realy realy do not want answers on. I raise them simply to make a point, because as I’ve found in my readings quite a few religions have “history” that does not fit in with the modern age and frankly would be considered shamefull by many.

The point is, if you are not alowed “free will” then you must believe in what is written without interpretation. Of which there are things that would be considered at best distasful, through immoral through to criminal in this day and age…

So do yourself a favour and keep your beliefs in the privacy of your own head, I for one do not wish to hear them.

Which by the way I chose to keep my beliefs and faith in my head in all but the broadest terms.

And yes as I’ve said before I have not just belief in mankind, right or wrong I have faith in the notion of inate goodness in by far the majority of people. Which unsurprisingly the softer sciences appear to also reason to be true, by repeatable experimentation these days within the bounds of ethics. So yes I also have belief in morals and ethics, does this make me a bad person? I would like to think not. But I have a primal side when attacked, it’s an evolution thing, thus I only turn the cheek so far, a point you appear not to have considered. The advice to ascertain the lie of the land before you make war is one that long predates the Abrahamic religions. Interestingly it is advice that never appears to age for some reason, unlike deities and belief in them which appear to grow in sophistication with mankind, something else for you to contemplate.

rrd October 11, 2020 4:23 PM

@ Clive

You said:

Really, what does that make you?

This question is not relevant.

“I don’t take responsibility at all.” –Donald J. Trump


Clive Robinson October 11, 2020 4:30 PM

@ MarkH,

As I get older, I wonder how it came to be called a paradox.

The reason sometimes given is that it provides two answers that are mutually incompatable, thus “apparently” creating a paradox.

In this respect it is not to disimilar to “The proof that all cats have nine tails[1]”, when you’ve worked out where the fallacy in reasoning is, it’s just like oh so many riddles.

In life most of the time we don’t have to prove things even when we are supposed to we just have to talk a good tale that sounds logical but is just any old nonsense (think about a court room and a criminal trial, do you see any logical or formal proof there?).

[1] So you propse the theorem,

“All Cats have nine tails.”

For which someone is going to ask for your logical reasoning so you offer up this Proof,

1, No cat has eight tails.
2, One cat has one more tail than no cats.

Therefore, all cats have nine tails.

By common knowledge observation point 1 appears to be true. Point 2 excepting Manx Cats is again by common observation apparently true. Thus why is the proof not ?

Well a simple answer is the two points are unrelated, in part because the first point is ambiguous due to the English language (as is the second). But you can also see the first point would be true for any number of tails greater than one so can you logically invert the point and always have it false?… That gives you an indicator there is something wrong with it as a statment. But look again because point 1 can be used with just about any number then the proof would in effect be true for a cat with any number of tails… So ask yourself if a proof works for nine tails that also will work for three tails or eleven tails what use is it as a proof? So again something is wrong… And so on you pick it appart untill you get to the nub of the problem…

If this “kind of crazy” messes with your head, then avoid any degree or above qualification that requires you to use rigorous formal logic.

Clive Robinson October 11, 2020 4:39 PM

@ rrd,

This question is not relevant.

Which describes your biased question perfectly…

I guess you can learn eventually.

MarkH October 11, 2020 5:36 PM

@name. :


@esteemed interlocutors:

One pearl of wisdom I derived from Alcoholics Anonymous is “principles before personalities”


A favorite infinity story: A young student proclaimed, “I know the biggest number! It’s twenty-three million.”

An adult helpfully prompted, “what about twenty-three million and one?”

To which the child sullenly replied, “well, I was close.”

SpaceLifeForm October 11, 2020 5:45 PM

@ Clive, name.*.*.*.*

Apparently it was a bad assumption on my part to consider that reading comprehension is really a thing.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons October 11, 2020 9:54 PM

@ SpaceLifeForm

Apparently it was a bad assumption on my part to consider that reading comprehension is really a thing.

For shame, for shame–we’d had such high hopes for you. If you continue down this hilarious path I will have to stop drinking coffee. Ironic rhetorical prose will only get you more accolades and praise from me, and we know how dangerous that can be…

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons October 11, 2020 10:05 PM

@ Clive
Do you remember “Skeptical”? Seems a similar place (though the building is not the same), the lawn and driveway certainly bare an uncanny resemblance.

I have been working on a serious critical analysis of Barr’s statements to the National Religious Broadcasters convention in 2019 where he gave a speech. So far it is about 7 single spaced pages and is quite thorough. It is simply stunning what Barr “believes” but also quite concerning. The speech was posted to the DoJ website conferring some official status. The basis and subtext in this speech in which Barr goes beyond postulating or even theorizing, it is an insistence to truth and virtue without question or peer. Barr is hardly the candidate to make such foul pronouncements, but then again maybe he is.

rrd October 11, 2020 10:21 PM

@ MarkH

The Wikipedia page for “The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature” by William James appears to be very objectively and interestingly researched.

I have only read the Wp summary for the beginning few sections, but everything I’ve seen in my scan scans, especially “Lecture XX. Conclusions” and the “Postscript”, which I quote in full :

Lecture XX. Conclusions.
In the final chapter James identifies a two-part “common nucleus” of all religions: (1) an uneasiness (“a sense that there is something wrong about us as we naturally stand”) and (2) a solution (“a sense that we are saved from the wrongness by making proper connection with the higher powers”).

James finds that “the only thing that [religious experience] unequivocally testifies to is that we can experience union with something larger than ourselves and in that union find our greatest peace.” He explains that the higher power “should be both other and larger than our conscious selves.”

More later, Lord Willing.

Clive Robinson October 11, 2020 10:51 PM

@ MarkH,

One pearl of wisdom I derived from Alcoholics Anonymous is “principles before personalities”

AA has a number of such pearls.

But some one made a very similar observation to yours, but rather than use “derived” they used the more popular “distilled” which for some reason stuck in my mind… I can’t think why 0:)

rrd October 12, 2020 12:38 AM


Steps 10-12 of AA:

10 Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11 Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12 Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Tell us all, Clive, how much you believe in AA’s principles. Tell us also how you believe it’s not complete and utter bs.

@ Clive

You said:

But I notice the subject of @SpaceLifeForm’s incomprehension has like Smaug’s Eye moved questioningly onwards towards greener pastures to try and roast yet another poor soul.

Well, you’re charred to the bone.

And don’t be too surprised at SLF’s incomprehension; there’s a lot of that going on around here.

Two words are missing from your discourse here: Placebo Effect.

And it’s no accident.

Step #11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Step #12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

That’s precisely what I’ve been saying, except the Sufi Message of Love is for everyone, especially Egoholics.

And that it works. And that it works because it understands the importance of faith in and developing a relationship with God.

Thanks for proving me correct, yet again! First the koan, and now AA. You’re doing my work for me. Beautiful. And effortless.

Carry on. I believe you were about to discuss the Placebo Effect, right?

rrd October 12, 2020 2:11 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm, Clive


You wrote:

rrd wrote in regard to my point: “Numbers are infinite”

I read that as you saying that I wrote the quote. Oops.

Maybe the intensity with which you are attempting to protect yourself from Bruce’s blog is getting in the way of clear communication? It certainly couldn’t be that, now could it?

Now it makes sense.

I mean, your post is, in the least, ambiguous.

Maybe if you took the time to make a post that contained a point instead of two quotes and a snarky “Q.E.D.” we could have a more focused conversation here.

Instead, you’re defending and aligning yourself with an unrepentant bully. Enjoy your in-jokes; if they make you feel good about yourself, then who am I to rain on your pack’s parade with something as simple as the truth?

Sorry for the confusion, but at least I am acting in good faith (pun not intended, again).

MarkH October 12, 2020 4:55 AM


This is a purely personal message, which I intend in the spirit of lovingkindness. I offer my interpretations and reflections, knowing humbly that I am very prone to misunderstand.

In this thread alone, I have seen from you the phrases: “unending happiness and peace,” “maximizing order/peace/happiness,” “And so my happiness grows!”

Some perspectives, which perhaps you might find a little useful:


Persons following the twelve steps are encouraged to take their own inventory. To want to take the inventory of others is human nature, but not a path to healing.

The steps are offered as a tool for self-help, not a bludgeon (however gently or well-intended) to be wielded on others.


Another pearl I learned, is that when I point my finger at another … three of my fingers are pointing back at me.


I was blessed to learn from M. Scott Peck that I cannot contribute to the growth of another, by doing for them what they could do for themselves.

If I understand correctly, you hope to help Clive toward some kind of greater understanding. I have worked to discipline myself, to generally limit my offers of help to those who wish and ask for it.

Like most of us, Clive has taken care of himself (and his family) for a long time. I trust that he can continue to manage about as well as the next fellow.

Robin Norwood wrote that when she started her career as a counselor, there was a sign in the office reading “Help is the Sunny Side of Control.”

It’s also worth noting that the first major sura of the Holy Quran says (in rough translation) “when one confronts those who make mischief in the land, they reply ‘We are only setting things right!'”

By the time Jesus said “physician, heal thyself,” it was already an ancient proverb.

When I want something for another, more than they want it for themselves, it’s a sign that there is some ache in my own heart which I am projecting outward … and it is time to address my own healing.

For however much, or little, these may be worth. Take what you like, and leave the rest!

MarkH October 12, 2020 4:58 AM


My dogma was run over by a karma.


What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?

A: “Make me one with everything”

rrd October 12, 2020 7:46 AM

@ MarkH

This is a purely personal message, which I intend in the spirit of lovingkindness.

I know your heart. But others’ hearts are not so gentle. They are wickedly ignorant. I do not have to tolerate their feeble attacks, so long as Bruce lets me, that is.

I offer my interpretations and reflections, knowing humbly that I am very prone to misunderstand.

That is an advantage you have over the ones who attack me here.

Do you not understand that we can achieve a level where we know that we know?

Do you not recognize unabashed bullying when you see it?

Do you not understand Elie Wiesel’s demands that we not remain indifferent in the face of willfully ignorant bad intentions?

It appears that you would rather remain in everyone’s good graces than dig in, read the debate, and then express your opinion. That is but one way how ideological packs dominate others in this modern world of the internet, to the detriment of all.

Persons following the twelve steps are encouraged to take their own inventory. To want to take the inventory of others is human nature, but not a path to healing.

On a personal level, that is true; in an internet forum, the teaching is from me to anyone and everyone that reads this forum. I am being used in this exchange with Clive et al to show that their atheistic perspective is deeply, logically flawed and that their lack of spiritual self-growth leads to certain character defects that eventually render them unrepentant bullies. They are the ones demonstrating what happens when one fights the Tao.

The steps are offered as a tool for self-help, not a bludgeon (however gently or well-intended) to be wielded on others.

Of course, but this isn’t an AA meeting, it’s a text-based debate upon ideas, and my opponents don’t even believe in steps 9-12, yet claim utility in other, shallower aspects of the steps.

They set traps for others, yet find themselves ensnared.

Another pearl I learned, is that when I point my finger at another … three of my fingers are pointing back at me.

I’m sorry, friend, but that is overly-simplistic. When I point at a Nazi, that does not mean I’m a Nazi. Why is it different to me? Because I have been pointing to myself for a long time. How can I prove it? Because I am the only one around here who admits when I make a mistake.

So, the rule you point out is only valid while one is just beginning the journey. At a certain point — especially when in a public setting — the truth must prevail, egos be dammed. (Pun intended, if only to escape any kind of naughty word detector.)

I was blessed to learn from M. Scott Peck that I cannot contribute to the growth of another, by doing for them what they could do for themselves.

I am teaching them what I have done for myself and why their choices prevent them from being able to accomplish what I have.

Will you tell an alcoholic at a meeting that it’s ok to drink on the weekends, just because they want to believe it to be true? For the benefit of the group, you must tell them the truth, as gently as you can.

And what if they then attempt to bully you? Will you let the entire group’s discourse be derailed by a willfully ignorant bully who’s probably only there to fulfill a court order?

And what would be your judgement of someone who allows their meeting to be dominated by such a one?

That is perfection.

I have worked to discipline myself, to generally limit my offers of help to those who wish and ask for it.

You are trying to do your best, but you do not have the depth of understanding that I do.

How else do you explain how the koan’s meaning — of which I had no exposure before this debate — was immediately available to me, describes my family’s harmonization with the Tao, and what I must face as a result of my interactions with the deniers, and is utterly inaccessible to anyone else here in this thread. (If they had a better understanding, they certainly haven’t even tried to express it.)

Andrew Wiles’ Ph.D. advisor (John Coates, IIRC), said, “I did not think Fermat’s Last Theorem was accessible at this time.” (my paraphrase)

I am here to explain what is accessible to me, though it is to be expected that there will be much resistance and downright nastiness. Our Creator has ensured my life path trod through the steps necessary for me to have both personal and theoretical knowledge of the human predicament.

Like most of us, Clive has taken care of himself (and his family) for a long time. I trust that he can continue to manage about as well as the next fellow.

You assume much.

He’s a unabashed bully. You trust in a disingenuous fellow, my friend. He is a defender of the English atheistic academic tradition, and this discussion has exposed the character defects a person who fights the Tao necessarily exhibits.

Robin Norwood wrote that when she started her career as a counselor, there was a sign in the office reading “Help is the Sunny Side of Control.”

That’s what I’m explaining to everyone here: how to best control themself. Would you stand idly by while someone attacked her ideals with bullying? I sure hope not, but human beings tend to prefer to protect their social standing instead of embracing the wisdom of, for example, Elie Wiesel.

It’s also worth noting that the first major sura of the Holy Quran says (in rough translation) “when one confronts those who make mischief in the land, they reply ‘We are only setting things right!’”

That’s the entire extent of my purpose on this Earth.

By the time Jesus said “physician, heal thyself,” it was already an ancient proverb.

Are you, too, claiming that I am “pretending”?

I have already explained that I have already worked hard to gain some level of knowledge. That’s why I have an extremely happy family and internal life. The peace, happiness and laughter my family experiences daily is not something I could make up in this new world we live in in 2020.

That’s also why my inspiration gave me the keys to the koan. Do you not understand my Source?

Do you not understand the Placebo Effect through the lens of AA’s rules 11 and 12?

Do you not understand how attempting to “love God with all one’s heart, all one’s soul, all one’s mind, and all one’s strength” can result in a person who truly does know and has the power to express the wisdom of why it results in “loving one’s neighbor as one’s self”?

When I want something for another, more than they want it for themselves, it’s a sign that there is some ache in my own heart which I am projecting outward … and it is time to address my own healing.

For you, that may be the truth.

However, when the doctor tells the patient that cocaine is damaging their heart, that doctor is not diagnosing themself.

Take what you like, and leave the rest!

This is a public forum. I am teaching all who read this while I address the opponents of the truth.

Do you know why Alcoholics Anonymous is the most successful such program ever?

Because it’s 12 Steps, not just the first 10.

It is also applicable to Egoholics, as well, but is missing some crucial details.

I am not here to bandy words with unrepentant atheist bullies.

They have shown their true colors by how they debate. They have gloriously demonstrated what happens when someone doesn’t do the work to transmute the soul’s vices into its virtues.

What I understand is that you have the natural tendency to not want to challenge, in any way, the alpha dog in these parts. You should take my comment seriously, let you run afoul of Elie Wiesel’s recommendations. I asked you for help, and you refused my humble request in order to preserve your good graces in these parts.

I know what the still-incomplete wisdom I have gained thus far is worth, and I know what my purpose is upon this blessed Earth. My efforts in these parts have been a huge spiritual blessing for me this past week+. It is the universe’s indication that my work here is helping me further harmonize my self with the Tao. That is why I have been given insight into deeper understandings here in real-time, to the dismay of the opponents of the love of truth and the truth of love.

When one goes to the doctor for steroids to help them lift weights, and the doctor notices the huge cancerous growth on their forehead, the doctor does not talk about the relative merits of different kinds of medicinal muscle augmentation. Some patients will ignore the doctor’s pleas and leave in order to find a doctor who will talk about what they want, how they want. I, however, retain fidelity to my oath.

In this thread alone, I have seen from you the phrases: “unending happiness and peace,” “maximizing order/peace/happiness,” “And so my happiness grows!”

And I have seen no comment that even attempts to offer a better perspective.

Not one.

But I am experiencing bullying here. Will you even admit to that?

rrd October 12, 2020 8:33 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm

You need to find your Tao again.

Running away frantically from the Tao in denial and loathing, they never realize that the Tao was only going to tap them on the shoulder and say, “Good day, my troubled friend. If you turn around and face the other way and come with Me, you will only need to walk gracefully on a journey filled with the most sublime peace and happiness.” Choosing to remain ever out of reach, their strength is never enough. This is not the Tao’s fault, and is wholly expected, for they, too, express the Tao’s teachings, except about misery, instead of the happiness that results from walking with the Tao.

You cannot explain why I still love Clive and yourself so much.

You will not explain why you align yourself with a bully, not that you admit the truth of Clive’s more recent behavior.

I do not have acedia for the simple reason that I deeply, deeply care. The reason I can and do care about others is that I do not defend my ego, but a set of ideals. And I have chosen to first love God.

Ineffectual and weak, the enemies of the Tao destroy their own happiness with their every effort, while those grounded in the Tao remain less affected by their attacks than a duck is by a gentle rain. Regardless, both are living the inescapable results of the Tao’s many generosities.

Or, how about this one:

The lovers of the Tao find Its insights, love and happiness flowing through them to their astonishment and humble gratitude, and much to the consternation of their adversaries.

These past few days, I keep getting a childhood memory replayed in my mind’s eye: that of Yosemite Sam’s reaction after Bugs defeats him yet again, “Oooooooooo! I hate that rabbit.”

Always love. Teach to always love.
Never hate. Teach to never hate.

I suggest you choose wisely the company you keep and the ideals you choose to support.

I am at your service.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons October 12, 2020 1:10 PM


THIS IS A SNIPPET FROM A WORKING PAPER STILL BEING DRAFTED BUT IS NEARLY COMPLETE: Hoping a critical review can be solicited from Bruce’s cadre.

Revisionist Abuse of the Spirit Codified in the U.S. Constitution

A Critical Analysis in Response to Official Statements by the Department of Justice; Attorney General, William Barr
Author: (name.wtihheld.for.obvious.reasons)
10 October 2020, Current Draft

Summary Statement
From a speech at the National Religious Broadcasters convention, published on 26 February 2020 Department of Justice website, given by William Barr, of the Department of Justice, Attorney General of the United States of America. The entire speech is given a treatment and critical analysis in order to disabuse a fallacy that continues being proffered by any number of people in and out of government and in public[1]. More than a violation to the spirit and nature of the country’s founding principals, the language in both historic and contemporary contexts is maligned to suit an objective as opposed to providing any meaningful understanding or advancing current thought. A troubling aspect of the speech is the incomplete characterization of supposed issues or problems that is answered with narrow and subjective rhetoric and suppositions. One is expected to suspend disbelief and embrace a “narrative” analysis that is frankly dismissive of the stated problem(s).

The subtext of the speech, offered primarily by Barr, may not be readily apparent where a motive could be attached to expressed content, context, and supposed objective[2]. I have my suspicions but must refrain from the desire and need to “repudiate” the statements as this will unduly negate the credibility and analytical integrity offered by this report. A straightforward, clear, and extensive retort to either inaccurate or wholly fictional assertions include ideas expressed that can be attributed to Barr and other references made to historically significant sources applied out of context or incorrectly.

Of recent history, as the author of a critique in respecting the founding of the United States of America, it is distressing to be witness to a faith-based claim to the cause that would spur a revolution in political and governmental precepts in the 18th century in the former colonies of Britain. No other time has so specific and so mounted an attack against the spirit of the flawed, but amendable thesis, U.S. Constitution in the country’s history. Unlike the textual rigidity of classic religious scripture, the U.S. governmental thesis expressed in the Constitution remains malleable and dynamic though the institutions may not[3]. This malleability is necessary to prevent dogmatic assertions as to the nature of the truth at any moment in time.

For scriptures, the truth is forcibly made immutable and static—forming a constant thesis that is pure and cannot be changed, nor challenged. When was it in Catholicism the doctrinal mandate of the universe revolving around the planet Earth? Was it the year 1610 when heliocentrism postulated previously by Copernicus made foul and assuredly the condemnation of Galileo? Was the papal authority challenged in maintaining the biblical text and scripture, or was it to the truth? In 1633, the truth being found most vexing and heretical meant the ultimate damning of Galileo[4].

If textual purity, God’s word, is offered as infallible and embodied in the scripture that is the Bible, but the failure in consistency presents. The speculative assertion (an exercise in faith/belief) in which the completeness and veracity of biblical scripture is ineradicable and incapable of describing the contours of the real world. The following is offered to exemplify a basic logical statement that appears sound but is not:

It has not or cannot be written, so, it has not and cannot be truth?[5]

The state is not the same as the voluntary associations that make up civil society.  To the contrary, it is the apparatus of coercive power.  Under our system of liberal democracy, the role of government is not to forcibly remake man and society.  The government has the far more modest purpose of preserving the proper balance of personal freedom and order necessary for a healthy civil society to develop and individual humans to flourish.

First, setting the context for the relationship a person has with the state (indirectly religious membership is voluntary) and with the state it is mandatory. It is true, initially, but Barr does not understand a religious order demands involuntary conformance, it is the conformity to the idiosyncratic and often arbitrary rules and behaviors, in time, that creates a forced adherence or be cast out. The state does not threaten to cast the citizen out but flips the ordering in the relationship. One is inherently a citizen, but as citizen there are basic contributions and responsibilities in the maintenance of the state and liberties but is not enforced or coerced except in cases where personal liberty is exceed and infringes on another.

State; membership immutable (benefit), voluntary adherence to fundamental principals (risk).

Church; membership conditional (risk), mandatory adherence to fundamental principals, affects status/membership (risk).

Proponents of moral authority ply their religious teaching into a form of administrative policy and public law. Much of the basis for quasi-legal language that encumbers the individual is biblical textually and considered sacrosanct and the “final truth” or “The Truth”. In contemporary law statutes and legal language and its meaning can be considered “testable” or disputable wherein a sectarian quasi-legal assertion cannot be found fallible. It may be reassuring to have a level of certainty when a contest of ideas or rights can confound the best and brightest but that is hardly a reason to abandon rational and objective measures of truth.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons October 12, 2020 1:42 PM

@ MarkH

Good on you, very funny at the correct time with the correct balance.

I am at one with your humor, at two with your satire; and no later then three I take a nap.

rrd October 12, 2020 1:58 PM

@ name.withheld….

I don’t need to read your post to know that anything Barr is doing is anti-humanity, and anti-compassion. This administration’s record these past four years includes crimes against humanity, from the migrant children to their clearing the way for Trump’s Bible photo op.

That said, I look forward to having more time to read your post in full. It is a direct part of Sufism that we work to strip the world’s evil oppressors of their power to harm others.

There is no religion without a selfless love that extends to every human being on the planet. No one in the GOP has any religion, but their hypocrisy works wonders for their willfully ignorant, hateful adhereants.

Lots and lots of people call themselves religious, but they could just as well call themselves a rabbit and be just as accurate.

“You have no idea how little we care about what people say.” –Rumi

Singapore Noodles October 13, 2020 3:42 AM

Train tracks converge at (the wrong) infinity. Dropping out of that usually pleasant but actually dangerous hyperspace at the end of the line at the stopping of the train, they’re still apart. You leave your carriage, and walk into the station, and your journey and its responsibilities come closer.

“I saw the snares the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, What can get through from such snares ? Then I heard a voice saying to me, Humility.”

rrd October 13, 2020 8:04 AM

@ Singapore Noodles

Train tracks converge at (the wrong) infinity.

No they don’t. That’s an illusion. The math of parallel lines is rather straightforward.

Was that an attempt at a home-grown koan?

“I saw the snares the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, What can get through from such snares ? Then I heard a voice saying to me, Humility.”

The answer is to understand the Great Command:

To love God with all one’s heart, all one’s soul, all one’s mind and all one’s strength. Then to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Humility is but one of the 19 virtues that result from seeking to understand, live and then teach that Great Command and Its Next.

Some of us hang around in the Law’s Tree, climbing and swinging around, whooping and laughing, playing, because we have worked very hard to live that Great Command and Its Next. We overflow with joy on this Earth because happiness is our birthright, and we have claimed that birthright by seeking our Lord’s Face with all our being.

Nazis hang from the Tree of the Law in a different way. Not because of any kind of pride the righteous have, but because the righteous humbly went to work, a completely selfless work that sometimes costs them their lives, in selfless service to all of humanity in their efforts to rid the Earth of those who would selfishly, sadistically, and remorselessly dominate others.

You wrote, far up above:

Acedia is not human discouragement or pervading sense of hopelessness, which are natural reactions in difficulty. It is going from this to the denial or serious doubt of God’s providence. It is a deadly sin, really a version of the (original) sin of pride. With man very little is possible, but with God all things are possible. Of himself, man has nothing but a lie. It’s only by the assistance of divine grace that there is any good in this world. All benefit freely as God sends rain to the just and the unjust alike. But in the end you have a free choice to accept or not.

I am humble about my struggles to reach the still-imperfect level God has allowed me to reach thus far, in it Its Most Gracious Mercy.

I am not humble, however, about the wisdom I have learned and tried to live that pointed me in the correct direction: the Great Command and Its Next.

Seeing as how you did not address your latest comment to anyone in particular, I apologize if you really meant it for Clive et al to read. Please forgive me if your comment was not pointed at myself.

You also said well up above:

What one person says is good may be held as bad by another, both completely honestly and sincerely. In today’s weaponized anti-discussion world, disagreement is often seen as hate as you say.

The fact of principled disagreement does not mean ethics or morality are subjective. Where is truth?

I answered your questions and then you disappeared.

And now you have no comment on Clive’s treatment of me here?

Or do you, too, loathe me for explaining to you how the knowledge you apparently intellectually grasp can actually percolate into your consciousness? Do you, too, have enmity towards me for the ideas I teach here?

It seems to me that someone with your understanding would appreciate that I have expanded upon the knowledge this world needs to heal itself of the various flavors of bullies who gleefully cause misery in others as they destroy our precious Earth.

Perhaps the humility you preach is not within your grasp? I love to be wrong about such opinions (regarding how I perceive a person), when a person actually proves to be a better person than their words appear (to me) to show them. It sure doesn’t appear that I’ve been wrong about the alpha dog around here, however, who is now more hidden than the Queen after Diana’s death (see Eddie Izzard’s “Glorious” standup special; it is truly that).

The silence is deafening around here, I am at peace, and the truth, as ever, stands tall and firm. Not being made of atoms, the truth doesn’t even vibrate. It just IS, flawlessly reflecting its Ineffable Creator’s intent.

Show me where I have been wrong, and I will gladly apologize (and just did, a meter or so up above). As I’ve said before, my willingness to admit when I’m wrong is the reason I’m correct so often. (For one who seeks understanding, it is the reason why anyone is correct about anything, ever.)

Where is the humility of which you speak?

Who has eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that understands?

What is more important than to understand the Great Command?

What is more important than to live the Great Command?

How does this beautiful koan not describe how those who truly live and humbly preach the Great Command are received by their fellows:

To study this is to study what cannot be learnt.
To practice this is to practice what cannot be accomplished.
To discuss this is to discuss what can never be proved.
Let knowledge stop at the unknowable.
That is perfection.

What is more perfect than the Great Command and Its Next?

What is left of one’s selfish ego once one loves God with the entirety of one’s being, and all their neighbors as themself?

Nothing. That’s why it’s the Great Command. None of humankind’s self-destructive ills can withstand that perfection. It is the adamant foundation beneath all of God’s Messengers of Love.

Living in harmony with the Tao, their every effort brings them great joy, because their every effort is for the happiness of others. Endlessly offering a hand to help their fellows up, their arm never grows weary.

Who shall ride with the Rohirrim to the aid of Gondor?

rrd October 13, 2020 11:50 AM

@ Michael

You asked:

How would you recognise God?

Well, first off, God is not a part of Its creation, but Its “Face” can apparently be perceived from the edge of existence with the spiritual perceptual abilities of our soul. That is why “seeking God’s Face” is an important part of the spiritual path. Loving God with “all your soul” is the key to unlocking our soul’s latent abilities, which includes conscious travel during dreaming and directly understanding the truth of some situation (“a heart that understands”).

I say “apparently” because I have not reached the level where I have been granted the ability to consciously perceive Its grandeur. I just know that,

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

As such, I — with degrees of success that vary from day to day — try to purify my heart by attempting to transmute my heart’s vices into their corresponding virtues, not just with esoteric spiritual practices, but by the more in-the-regular-moments-of-our-lives spiritual practice of consciously striving to treat others as excellently as I can at all times.

From all I have learned about the topic of seeing God, however, I can state that such an experience cannot be described with words. I’ve heard that the word “colors” simply cannot do the experience justice.

Rumi, by the way, was such a “pure of heart” who had perceived Its Face. I am quite certain you would be better off with one of the Poet of God’s words than mine regarding such extraordinary experiences.

That said, I can state categorically that I’m at least on my way, because, in the words of Guitar Slim (that I know through Stevie Ray Vaughan):

“The things I used to do, Lord, I won’t do no more.”

Forgiveness and peace are accessible to us all — no matter what we have done in our past — so long as we make the heartfelt plea to God to help turn us toward the light. Once that connection is made for the purpose of self-evolution, and so long as we continue that striving, we are forgiven our sins and are given the strength to stay out of their traps. This is a practical evolutionary step in human spiritual growth because:

a) We all start life as an ignorant sinner, to varying degrees according to our upbringing and the choices we have made up to the point that we accept Its Mercy.

b) Once we turn toward the light, we can truly, selflessly, humbly testify to how our past misdeeds caused us unhappiness as a result of how we treated others badly in our ignorance, and to how we no longer reap the bitter fruits of our prior selfish attitudes and behaviors because we have been changed by the seeking.

Therein lays the foundation of the success of AA, as cemented in their sublime 12 Steps.

Turned towards the light and reaping Its benefits, our newly loving, selfless heart ever wishes to share the beauty of our newly happy life with others.

Such testifying is not “I’m not wearing this mask because I’m better than you.”

It is “I’m wearing this mask because I love you and wish you to remain healthy. It would be best for you, too, to wear one.”

Of course, that’s a very coarse analogy.

Peace be with you.

“The Way goes in.” –Rumi

Singapore Noodles October 13, 2020 12:29 PM


My comment was not directed at anyone in particular, it was simply a “for what it may be worth”. My take is that, in general, discussion and meeting of reason is directed to ideas, not to persons. For me at least, persons are way above my pay grade. (Of course as a practical matter for continuity one may put an “@ sormeone etc” as a preface.)

rrd October 13, 2020 3:11 PM

@ Singapore Noodles

The Golden Rule fails me again: I love for the ideas I present to be criticized.

You said:

My take is that, in general, discussion and meeting of reason is directed to ideas, not to persons.

My intention has always been identical, however :

The bulk of my ideas — and all the ideas on this site that I read — come from other persons; those ideas are then combined via my logical extrapolations to form the ideas I put forth here in realtime. [1]

That said, for me,

Considering the person behind a person’s idea is

never desired, (yes, let’s stick to the ideas!)

but always revealing, (via the lens of personality)

and sometimes necessary, (history and bad actors of any kind)

as all ideas are nested in interrelated sets,

that often infect groups of human beings like wildfire,

especially down family generations and cultures.

[1] := But not all of my ideas come from other people, soooo, what of the rest? What other Source is there?

Thank for the inspiration for this contemplation.

And thank you very much for hosting this, Bruce et al. I hope the universe is smiling upon you both/all for your selfless acts of facilitating these discussions, however gnarly this microcosm is at times.

SpaceLifeForm October 13, 2020 7:30 PM

@ Clive, name.*.*.*.*, JonKnowsNothing

We are watching AI trying to converse with AI.

Danger, Will Robinson!

SpaceLifeForm October 13, 2020 7:35 PM

@ Clive, name.*.*.*.*, JonKnowsNothing

We are watching AI trying to converse with AI.

Danger, Will Robinson!

Ever seen a 409 error?

Singular Nodals October 13, 2020 8:05 PM

Re: 409

You can get backfire if you mishandle the clutch

SpaceLifeForm October 14, 2020 3:14 AM

@ rrd

You may be overthinking things.

No one is really attacking you. Yet, you appear to see ghosts.

Just because someone questions your argument does not make it an attack.

In fact, that is the nature of robust communication, enlightenment, education.

How is one to learn, if they automatically dismiss the wisdom of others?

Methinks, you doth protest too much.

SpaceLifeForm October 14, 2020 3:49 AM

@ name.*.*.*.*

Thumbs up!


Unitary Executive is almighty.

If one disagrees with my dogma, they are wrong, and subject to punishment.

Hail to the King!

rrd October 14, 2020 5:52 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm

All noise, zero signal. All broadcast, no reception.

Your post is less sensible than Hitler’s two-front war.

“You have no idea how little we care about what people say.” –Rumi

Do you know why I don’t care if Bruce is tracking me? No. No, you do not.

If you want a fresh morning koan, my friend, just ask!

After a dog is done chasing its own tail, the tail in its mouth is no accomplishment and tastes like sh_t anyway. Having not gotten anywhere, the unnecessary increase in entropy is not in a dog’s purview. The person who walks with the Tao sometimes walks dogs, too; when done with their task, they wash their hands thoroughly and move on to more interesting pursuits.

If someone were to call me a bully, I would review the record as honestly as I could. If I found their claims to be true, I would apologize to them and try to be better. If false, I would calmly try to explain that I didn’t intend to bully anyone. I would behave that way because I am, indeed, not a bully. Unrepentant bullies act differently. The age-old trope is that after one stands up to a bully, they run off and never bother their would-be victim again. They don’t apologize and probably just look for another victim, that being their chosen nature. Oftentimes, their toadies stay by their side, attempting to soothe the bully’s ego.

As a child, I got to roller skate to “Another One Bites the Dust” on Friday nights. Such a great song. That bass line! And that voice for the ages!

Once, a million years ago, I got free rent and utilities in trade for taking care of a small house and an old vegetarian Doberman Pinscher that was dying of cancer. The first thing my housemate and I did was switch him to real dog food (and stop cutting the grass; that yard became an epic bug party that summer). No dog has ever loved a can of regular old Alpo like Max. The owner said that when Max started whining too much from the pain, I should take him to the neighborhood vet to have him euthanized. One day I woke up and heard him whining more than usual, so we went for a walk/jog to the vet on that beautiful morning. I held his paw while he calmly, gratefully fell asleep.

That morning, Max and I were both walking with the Tao, and his owners were spared the sadness of seeing their old friend suffer and then pass on.

The aching beauty is all around us, this joy within everyone’s reach.

I have gained the wisdom I share here by honestly, selflessly seeking any wisdom others may have for me to learn. If you had some to share, I would gladly add it to my cornucopia.

“Ack-thppt.” –Bill the Cat

Clive Robinson October 14, 2020 6:17 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm,

Two very clear and concise posts with a very high signal to noise ratio for those with comprehension skills.

With regards 409 not that I can remember, but AI on AI has happened before and they came up with rudimentary cryptography to gain privacy, so it might not just be “A human need”, I guess it depended on the ground rules they ere given.

Oh a note to history, do you remember a time when I advised “Brush up your Shakespeare”? It looks like that time will be comming around again for the same reason as last time. I guess it depends on the “Ratio” effect…

Clive Robinson October 14, 2020 7:20 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm,

Oh one thing that is clear is someone has still not looked in the mirror…

They mention the word bully or bullying appears 17 times in the comments above, all made by the same person and no other.

As every one ignores their obvious faux indignation, whilst they try to berate and humiliate other people into their “faux news/viewpoint” it gets ever more strident abd ever more hypocritical.

There is an old saying about such people and thst sort of bigoted behaviour which is they are effectively saying,

“My way or the highway”

It might be obvious that I’m not going to play their game nor are atleast three others who have politely asked the person to reflect on their behaviours and opinions they insist on trying to force on people despite their repeated requests that the person ceases and desists…

The person then claims they have some moral right due to their beliefs to correct other people in what that person sees as the wrong aproach to life.

Thus no humility just arrogance, no politness just accusations, no acknowledgment that others have rights to not just free will but freedom from persecution from the person, and so on.

They have no credibility nor are they displaying the traits of a civilized person in modern society. I guess because their bigoted viewpoint does not alow them to see that people are other than their assumptions and preconceptions.

I guess they must be hell to be near in any manner of human existence, thus I feel genuine sorrow for those around them.

The love that the person proffesses to have not only does not excuse their behaviour it is as well both unholly and unclean and a form of stalking which is now a crime in many jurisdictions.

Certainly in the UK if they were to behave that way in public, they could be arrested on charges ranging from public order offences, through criminal harasment and stalking as well as civil harasment and slander.

Yet they feel because they hide behind a three letter handle such does not apply to them. Which I guess tells you what their measure is as a person it is after all a form of moral degeneracy if not cowardice as well to behave that way.

But it is very “junior school playground behaviour” and also very needy attention seeking. But like a six year old apparentky totaly incapable of realising that they are not exceptional, have moral high ground, speak for all, or are even close to being right. Yet they clearly believe that if they make enough noise long enough, throw enough false accusations and claim others refusal to engage with them as proof they are right, realy is displaying not just the worse traits of “Hitler” –that they alone have brought up twice– but many other spoiled bratz and tin pot demagogue trying to portray themselves as some kind of demigod etc to be looked up to. Rather than what they actually deserve which is to be looked down upon, and at best pitied, but best ignored in the hope that “being sent to Coventry”[1] will encorage the self reflection they are desperately in need of.


The above Wikipedia page is slightly wrong in what it says. It referes to the Coventry Act of Charles the second, but without saying the real reason behind it. Charles the first was beheaded at the behest of Oliver Cromwell, who then went on to savage Ireland, the crimes in the Act were those carried out by Cromwell’s chosen on the Catholics in Ireland especially on women and children. The act was thus a way to bring such behaviours to an end and hopefully bring a little peace to the benighted land. Unfortunatly it did not and even to this day there is a level of emnity on both sides that boils over from time to time and violence upon the streets and riotous behavior is evidenced, especially during “marching season” where Orange Men taunt the Catholics as much as they are alowed to by the authorities.

rrd October 14, 2020 8:01 AM

@ Clive

Did you, perhaps, rejoin the conversation to:
. Discuss the success of Alcoholics Anonymous?
. Discuss the Placebo Effect?
. Discuss the scourge of online bullying?
. Discuss the deeper meanings of famous koans?
. Regale us with stories of your happy family life?
. Explain to us how to live a life devoid of regret?
. Help set guidelines for good-form public discourse?
. Tell us why your Sufi “friends” are so happy?
. Discuss how you, yourself, overcame Acedia?

I’m sure you’re quite sure that you’re an expert on all those topics, and thus think you have much to share that will enhance the conversation on this page. Ever ready to learn more truths (even if they’re just about a person’s personality), I await your valuable contributions in breathless anticipation.

If I ever have the means to start my own company, my employees will be encouraged to use terms such as “bullsh_t” and {word that rhymes with “rock-ROM-bull”} because I will tolerate neither of them in any organization I have a decision-making role in.

Years ago, when dreaming of what mission statement would fit my imaginary company’s ethos, I heard a faint but clear statement:

Lasting peace and happiness for ALL human beings.

Yeah, it was weird to hear all-caps, but the universe emphasizes what it wills, how it wills. One of the universe’s roles is to reflect the truth of what we project out into it back into our depths. It can be either positive or negative reinforcement, but it’s never unjust.

The reason corporate America doesn’t allow swearing is that the last thing they ever want to hear on their premises is the word “bullsh_t”. They really rather despise hearing the one word that perfectly succinctly summarizes the truth of their entire modus operandi.

Good to have you back from holiday!

“He used… sarcasm. He knew all the tricks: dramatic irony, metaphor, pathos, puns, parody, litotes and… satire. He was vicious.”
–Monty Python’s “The Tale of the Pyranha Brothers”

rrd October 15, 2020 5:35 PM

@ Clive and ALL

I hope you’re well, Clive. I wish you realized how wrong you were about me, but your choices are yours to make as you please.

My intuition suggests to me you have a problem with alcohol; you’re far too educated a man to make such obvious spelling errors while calling me a criminal for my posts in a public debate forum run by a man obviously troubled by a world society rife with antipathy, if not downright moral pathology.

I love you. All we lovers of God love you. God and Its universe loves you. Personally, I’d love to sit at your feet and learn EE and security from you, but it doesn’t look like things are going to work out in that direction, if but for the world travel situation.

I just wrote a big post before this one, refuting each of the paragraphs in your latest post (and even digging up a few choice quotes from your previous ones, too), but then I realized that all I really want is for you to be truly happy.

This feeling of deep compassion is real, Clive. When we each learn how to feel this compassion for every other human being on Earth we will finally be able to begin remaking this planet into the clean, joyous, plentiful playground it is meant to be, as so eloquently spoken and then sung by that great, great man, Louis “Pops” Armstrong.

I want you to know you are truly loved. The past is negativity’s realm. We are here in the here-and-now and we can build a future together if we manifest mutual self-respect and love as our foundation, across all boundaries. Love — and only love — is capable of dissolving all the barriers we — alone and in our groups — have erected in our shared past and the continuing present.

Bruce’s blog is here (IMHO) to ratchet up the truth and proper understanding of this world and how we can implement all dimensions of security: air, water, food, shelter, religious, societal, governmental, and technological. We are blessed in the USA to have a flexible Constitution and far-seeing but still imperfect Bill of Rights. All of us across this beautiful planet still have a great deal of work to do towards harmony with each other and the Earth itself.

I bring my long-studied perspective on self-evolution toward love to this table in the honest quest for truth and the establishment of peace and happiness for all human beings.

I love you, respect you and care for you deeply, but I can’t sit idly by and let you sully the good name of the Sufi Message of Love. Me, you can call me whatever names you like (I find “criminal” rather hilarious, really), and I haven’t a care. I’ve worked very hard in this life to become the man I am, as honestly as I can, and my life bears its fruits. Besides, being a Sufi means we are simply going to be called names; it’s just part of the bargain: our selfish, defensive ego in exchange for submission to the Tao’s loving Way and the peace and happiness it confers. Unfortunately, I — as you admit of yourself — can still get trapped in our Id’s game of “pistols at noon” or whatever such foolishness it dictates (poor Galois). I apologize for any and all negativity I have expressed toward you and those who align themselves with you.

I love you, and remain at your service; ask and I shall try my best to honestly answer your questions, even if my only answer is, “I don’t know.” But you are not my master who gets to order me around. This is more than just you and me here, and my service to the other readers of this page must remain equal to my service to you, which is all to say that I am trying to be a loyal, faithful and knowledgeable servant of the truth, however flawed I remain as a person. As such, I simply cannot obey your orders to stop telling the truths that will help heal this world and its peoples of the ills we subject ourselves to in our selfish ignorances (yes, plural).

“You would rather throw stones at a mirror?
I am the mirror, and here are the stones.”

“Love baby, love. That’s the secret, yeah.”

Love is only a secret because there are few who embrace it, and so, so many that deny it and outright fight it. Everyone has love for their kin, but loving all human beings resides only in the realm of the utmost achievement of humanity, both individually and in our groups. The reality is that it’s all our choice to make, freely but not without consequences.

Sufi Story Time™

A new student comes to the Dergah and is greeted at the door by the Teacher. The Teacher tells him to go down the hall, go into the first room and slap the man studying in the back of his neck and then return.

Confused, the student does as he says. Immediately, the student he slapped gets up angrily, grabs him, slaps him back with the same exact force, then returns to his studies.

Upon returning, the Teacher tells him to do the same thing in the second room.

After slapping the occupant of the second room, the student wheels around in anger, about to get up, but, instead, their face softens and they return to their studies.

Upon returning again, the Teacher tells him to do so again in the third room.

This time, the man he slapped wheels around, stands up and says apologetically, “You cannot believe how sorry I am to have treated you wrongly; if you ever need anything whatsoever, please consider me your closest friend.”

Upon returning, very, very confused, indeed, the Teacher explains:

“The man in the first room has enough level of progress to only return like for like and no more, so the degrees you would have lost — had you not been obeying my order — would have been equally given back to you and all would have been even. Thus is the minimum standard of justice: an eye for an eye. It is essential in dealing with the violent fools of this precious world.

The man in the second room has progressed further. He has held his anger in check and turned the other cheek so that he may retain the degrees he would have earned had you actually wronged him.

The man in the third room is in the home stretch of his spiritual development. Instead of ignoring your transgression that wasn’t really a transgression, he chose instead to manifest love in the face of harmless wrongdoing, knowing both that he will gain even more degrees from manifesting love to you in return for your behavior, but that he has manifested the highest teaching of the Tao for you to learn from. Thus his behavior is the highest level of human attainment, though the other two did not act outside the Law.”

[Note that I am in no way suggesting that I am “in the home stretch of my spiritual development”; no, I just know some Sufi stories, try to treat those around me with love, try to maintain my spiritual practices, and try to monitor and defeat my selfish ego’s dictates. The Dictates of the Tao bear much more refreshing and rewarding fruits.]

xcv October 15, 2020 11:42 PM


your choices are yours to make as you please.

My intuition suggests to me you have a problem with alcohol; you’re far too educated a man to make such obvious spelling errors while calling me a criminal

We’re having a food service problem with heavy adulteration and people are coming out with unwanted tattoos and results of other choices not theirs.

Clive is British, or at least has claimed to be so. The English language was never traditionally so strict about spelling as you may assume it to be. There are many old-fashioned or alternate spellings that may not be generally recognized as “correct” in the modern Microsoft-compatible computerized spell checker era.

rrd October 16, 2020 12:55 PM

@ xcv

You said:

The English language was never traditionally so strict about spelling as you may assume it to be. There are many old-fashioned or alternate spellings that may not be generally recognized as “correct”

I am fully aware the British/English use “behaviour” instead of “behavior” and “different to” instead of “different from” and so on.

But in just the last post:
. “abd” for “and”
. “politness” for “politeness”
. “proffesses” for “professes”
. “unholly” for “unholy”
. “apparentky” for “apparently”
. “bratz” for “brats”.

If that’s not a lack of sobriety, it’s certainly a lack of proofreading, which — to me at least — demonstrates an utter lack of concern for the quality of the posts here in Bruce’s blog, if not sheer belligerence, or perhaps even mischief, however unintentional.

Alcohol’s disinhibiting nature is well proven. I’m guessing that social alcohol use — not topically {wink} — is a major cause of the dramatic uptick in COVID cases around the US and Europe these past few weeks. Is someone drinking in a pub/bar from their beer bottle every minute going to keep their mask in place, even as their inhibitions ebb away and their voice rises toward a crescendo?

Alcohol also lessens our natural inhibitions away being aggressive, too. A sober person is far less likely to tell someone they deserve “to be looked down upon”.

It is times like these I am quite happy to be wrong about my intuition. But I have certainly been in the right place at the right time to help a random someone more than a fair few times in my life over the past 25 years. As is fundamental in my newly skimmed teachings of Alcoholics Anonymous (I mean, I read the 12 Steps), it is our duty to help others in such dire straits.

SpaceLifeForm October 16, 2020 4:46 PM

@ Clive, name.*.*.*.*

our are dee

Is ann Aye I bot.

Not bad, but obviously has bugs.

Two wordie, won't shut up.

There was another not long back that went by handle eh, I.

I pointed that out.
Not seen since.

Just saying.

JonKnowsNothing October 16, 2020 4:53 PM

@rrd @xcv

Well good point about those pesky auto-correction AI and built-in grammar checkers in devices. Not worth the cost of the RottenApple-Phone to have it constantly misspell stuff for you when you can misspell and mistype perfectly fine on your own.

I get a little extra help from my broken keyboard and my borked mouse.

th ky dosnt rgistr vry wll.

But there are studies that say we don’t need vowels in English anymore and folks can read just fine without them, providing they can read.

Oh in case you are wondering how I get the key to work? I just hammer it until something shows up. It’s always a surprise: one or many…

Trying to turn off auto-correction is a study in smashedApples; it’s on a par with trying to block all the other trackers which can tell who you are by the typos you make.

rrd October 17, 2020 12:53 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm

You said:

Is ann Aye I bot.

You mean the lemur with the very long middle finger?

“Aye, aye, Captain. I’ve got two of `em at the ready, but no extra thumb.”

From Wikipedia:

The skinny middle finger is unique in the animal kingdom in that it possesses a ball-and-socket metacarpophalangeal joint. The aye-aye has also evolved a sixth digit, a pseudothumb, to aid in gripping.

I did not know that until just now. Thanks.

@ JonKnowsNothing

My WAG is that editing is 90% of a writer’s work; a writer that cares, that is.


I haven’t listened to U2’s first five albums in months upon months. Tonight I had the urge.

“No one , no one is blinder ,, than he , who will not see.”
— U2 “I Threw a Brick Through a Window”

Now on to “Rejoice!”.


It is said in chess that it takes two to make a masterpiece. But, really, it’s the same for a miniature, and even for a forfeit. One great player from long ago just calmly up and left his game with his opponent after realizing he was getting mated in seven or somesuch after not many moves at all (mid-20s?); he did so because of his respect for the other tournament games going on in the room at the time, not wanting the crowd to go wild (really) at the miniature that would earn his opponent a Brilliancy Prize. Other players have left such games just to let their opponent have to wait for the clock to run out.

Regardless, a win is a win. When the king cannot be defended, time is running low, there’s no more checks, and the material disadvantage is simply overwhelming, it’s just a matter of time.

JonKnowsNothing October 17, 2020 1:08 AM


re: WAG the dog…

Then no doubt there is an awareness that WYSIWYG does not happen. It doesn’t happen because the AI overrides all the perfectly good typos people insert. We have lots of fun doing that. It’s call Punning4Funning.

Computerzzzz don’tzzzz getzzz itzzzz. Peoplezzz dozzzzz.

Cheaper by the dozzzzzen…

LOOK! my zzzzz works!!!

JonKnowsNothing October 17, 2020 1:14 AM


re: It is said in chess that it takes two to make a masterpiece.

You are behind the times, pwned and on the wrong castle side.

No one plays chess anymore.

Everyone has a cheater-AI-Chess kit on demand and they dutifully type in the moves the cheater-AI-Chess kit dictates.

There are no people playing chess. It’s PVE without the P.

rrd October 17, 2020 3:34 AM


i apologize for overstaying my welcome.

Perhaps my worst assumption was to think that Bruce et al letting my posts remain around here was a tacit approval of my style and substance.

Clive, if you feel my “spirited debating” style is abuse, then I sincerely apologize and am now elsewhere, as in not here.

Bruce and team (of one?), thank you for allowing me to try. I’m sorry if I increased your workload in what appears to be a nontrivial transition.

Besides, I’ve got shtuff to do. May you all enjoy the maximal peace and happiness that this life has to offer.

I blame my robot double.

SpaceLifeForm October 17, 2020 4:27 AM

@ rrd

Seriously, check out slashdot.

It’s amazing the stuff you can discuss there.

If you get some good discussions going, I may show up with my low 6 digit id.

You will not be wasting any cycles there.


Singapore Noodles October 19, 2020 4:57 AM

Infinity (mentioned above) is related to acedia !

From a paper by the late Edward Nelson, professor of mathematics at Princeton University

“The celebration of infinity is the celebration of life, of newness, of becoming, of the wonder of possibilities that cannot be listed in a finished static rubric. The very etymology of the word infinite is “unfinished”. As Aristotle observed, infinity is always potential and never actual or completed.
So what are we to make of the contrasting notion of a completed infinity? I confess at the outset to the strong emotions of loathing and feeling of oppression that the contemplation of an actual infinity arouses in me. It is the antithesis of life, of newness, of becoming—it is finished.”

As Nelson notes, Aristotle argues that there is no “actual” infinity but that there is “potential” infinity. As the Stagirite says, the infinite is not that outside of which there is nothing, but rather that outside if which there is always something. Aristotle disposes of actual infinity, resolves Zeno’s paradoxes, and points out that mathematicians never need this infinity, potential infinity is all that is ever used.

Modern mathematics since Cantor and Dedekind seems mostly to have accepted the existence of complete or actual infinity. A lot of pure mathematics now proceeds on the basis of these actual infinities, and it conceptually colors applied mathematics. Cantor’s diagonalization method requires as a presupposition complete infinity, that of the natural numbers, as does Gödel’s incompleteness result, and hence the equivalent treatment by Turing of the halting problem.

However, if Aristotle was correct, complete infinity is an assumption or a belief. There is no way to prove it exists. So Cantor, Gödel, Turing et al., and vast stretches of pure mathematics are removed.

Nelson explores the implications of taking Aristotle seriously in mathematics, and shows that a lot can be done and can be done more simply. It also naturally leads one to focus on issues of computational complexity, and provides a nice setting in which to view the papers of Stephen Cook, Stephen Bellantoni, amd Daniel Leivant on recursion theory and polynomial time functions.

Professor Nelson’s papers and books on this topic are available at his Princeton mathematics department website

rrd October 19, 2020 5:39 AM


It is better to break a bad oath than see it through to its foolish end.

After re-reading Bruce’s commenting guidelines, I’m back, baby!

I shall choose to reframe my assumption as: Bruce doesn’t mind my posts until they start getting deleted wholesale.

Besides, until then, at least I have something interesting to say.

@ SpaceLifeForm

I’m terrible at remembering numbers (that’s what my computers are for), but I remember my /. id for some weird reason.

/. id(rrd) := ((50 + φ) x 10^3) +- 3

That’s just φe3 above 50,000, plus or minus. But I haven’t used that login in maybe 10 years, and wasn’t much of a commenter back then.

@ Singapore Noodles

Georg Cantor’s life did not end well. Perhaps he was drinking from pewter mugs or something, but one way or another he died in an insane asylum.

Infinity is purely a human mental construct. At some point, there is a maximum number of anything, atoms, even photons.

And infinity as a concept isn’t going to help humanity with any of the really rather pressing issues we are currently facing, namely fascism and the effects of our wasteful use of the Earth’s resources that is resulting in global heating.

Michael October 19, 2020 5:55 AM

@ Singapore Noodles

Infinity, as it has been defined/described throughout history, is a concept that identifies the limitations of being human.

Singapore Noodles October 19, 2020 11:19 AM


Material infinity, and also complete infinity in the intellect are both non existing. But potential infinity is an true aspect of how we know reality.

Who can say if potential infinity, or for that matter any intellectual truth, might play a role in a positive way amidst the crises the time. I would once have been of the opinion you state, but then kept running into stories of mathematicians in concentration camps who did the finest work under those horrible conditions, some dying. Again, the Soviets used psychiatric torture as means to correct ideology in persons (many of whom were mathematicians). Perhaps exercising the act of knowing truth strengthens the person and stabilizes the psychology and enables resistance to the constant pressure to degrade and negate the individual. This pressure comes from utopian movements on all sides of the political spectrum both left and right. Victor Frankl (who was in the concentration camps) talks about this kind of thing in his book Man’s Search for Meaning.


The human limit is that given by human nature. Part of that nature is to be a knower, i.e. to know truth. Understanding what is possible in regard to infinity is knowing truth. So to that extent, infinity does reveal the limits of the human.

Just Another Caregiver October 19, 2020 2:56 PM

There are a zillion comments above this one, so I don’t know if anybody is going to read this, but “acedia” sounds very much like what some people with a chronic illness go through. (I am a caregiver for such a person.) I’m not talking about clearly-defined illnesses that have more or less predictable path, even though it might be fatal in the end. Some people have a chronic illness that is poorly understood, and gets worse over time, or fluctuates worse/better/worse, and there is no cure and very little symptomatic relief, such as many illnesses that have debilitating pain. The “patient” must gradually come to terms with the possibility of never regaining their life as they knew it. They must mourn the loss of their accustomed life, and their anticipated future. For many, this includes things like the ability work and earn, the ability to participate in sports or physical activities, the ability to travel, and/or the ability to do their hobbies and interests. People you thought were friends fall away because their life goes on while yours takes a decidedly different course. Nobody wants to stew in their illness, but the most important thing in your day might be that you were able to stand up long enough to take a shower. This is hardly what friends want to talk about. So you always only talk about what they are doing. You suffer in solitude as your horizons shrink. You do your best to stay connected to the outside world, but you finally have no predictable personal future to “live into”. So you continue to live, but without a future. Your legacy is only whatever you may have done before. If you are already elderly, then maybe you lived a great life and made a real difference, so you don’t feel this so acutely. But if you are still young, it is quite disheartening.

rrd October 19, 2020 3:33 PM

@ Singapore Noodles

Fair points, but at this moment in history I suggest we would be better served by focusing on the generous but finite Earth we have our existence upon. There are only a finite number of brutal oppressors and Earth destroyers.

But, absolutely, yes, in the realm of mathematics it appears that the notion of infinity is useful, although I don’t have the expertise to comment on it. And, of course, I would never begrudge the mental landscape an oppressed person creates for the purpose of shielding their mind from the tortures of brutal evildoers.

A person contemplating the concept(s) of infinity is harming no one, so I can say nothing against them. The liars, oppressors (verbal and/or physical), haters, ragers and the like, however, I will ever stand against.

It’s nice now that the noise-makers have filtered themselves out; maybe now we can have a pleasant conversation about ideas, my dear friend. I should note that I define a “friend” as someone I will lovingly serve as best as I can; what they can or will do for me is not of my concern.

I posit that the number of steps we (as a human race) need to take to achieve “On Earth as it is in Heaven” is finite. Not simple, for sure, and certainly daunting, but that’s precisely what I pray to be a part of. For one and all, though the griefers will do their darnedest to derail any such effort. Luckily, the universe has ensured that love is a far greater power here than ignorance and the other 18 vices of the human heart. As the universe meanders its way slowly but surely towards that Greatest Achievement, our hearts are strengthened and loins girded (I love that expression), those of us who — at least in our hearts — seek to see all innocent persons on Earth live to experience Its beauty and joy.

rrd October 19, 2020 4:06 PM

@ Just Another Caregiver

You suffer in solitude as your horizons shrink.

This is where the Great Command and Its Next serve both the sick and their companions.

For the sick, they should realize that there are few limitations in the inner world we can explore, both consciously in our feelings as well as when we sleep. That is why we are commanded to first “love God with all our being”. It is the foundation upon which we stand firm, for the love we experience from seeking God with all our being (at least for short periods of time during the day) does not flee when we are ill, as oft happens with our selfishly flawed human companions. Upon the foundation of God’s Love, we can fully explore our latent human abilities.

For the friends and family of the sick, they must realize that active, service-oriented compassion is an opportunity for them to lessen someone else’s pain of loneliness and misery. That is the second part: “to love your neighbor as yourself”. Selflessly giving of one’s time to bring joy to others creates an upwelling of joy in the heart of the giver (as we truly do reap what we sow), and then gives a newfound appreciation for being able to do the simple things of this world.

I have found that most “friends” in this world are really just here to receive, not to give. For me, what is important is for me to be a friend for the other person. This perspective creates positivity on Earth. This is why Jesus says, “the greatest among you is the servant of all”.

It is selfishness, alone and in our groups, that is the source of all harm people must endure. Illness — or at least a loss of the abilities we had when younger — will be a part of everyone’s life at some point as we age. Our societies would be much better off if we were determined to care for our elders and infirmed; we would learn much and better appreciate our abilities with such selfless attitudes and behaviors.

I wish you all strength and peace in the difficult but rewarding situation you have chosen to undertake. I suggest you gird yourself by going within and making a connection with our Creator, as your strength will only grow and you will feel the results of your good work even more fully.

“You can’t grow until you burn.” –Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Pumping Iron”

Suffering in order to lessen another’s suffering banks mountains of magic. Use your service to better connect yourself to our Ineffable Creator and joy will rule your heart. The methods and cruelties of the selfish will no longer bother you as you will realize that they have simply failed to realize how precious and beautiful this life can be, even in the face of our difficulties.

“The Way goes in.” –Rumi

You are beloved. If I can help you any way, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Michael October 20, 2020 3:02 AM

@ Singapore Noodles

We know what we know. As we gain knowledge, we increase what we know. It is quantifiable. We do not know what we do not know. The unknown is not quantifiable. As the unknown transitions to the known, what is unknown is still indeterminate. As what is known returns to the unknown, what is known diminishes but the unknown remains constant, it is unknown. My question to you would be, Why do you think you know anything?

Michael October 20, 2020 4:08 AM

@ Singapore Noodles

I realise as I read my last post that the question could be taken as an aggressive challenge. I did not mean it that way. I am interested in the thoughts of others and where, as people keep referring to, the ‘truth’ of their conclusions come from, especially with such certainty of conviction. I cannot say that I know anything for certain, I just think I do.

Singapore Noodles October 20, 2020 10:04 PM


One has to start by acknowledging that one does know. Nobody really believes that they don’t know. The counter claim springing from Cartesian doubt is just a made up problem. Those that propose it don’t themselves act on it. The mere fact that they urge a specific thing means they implicitly assert they know.

Accepting that we do know, one can ask what is the nature of knowing. Accounting for knowing leads in the end to realizing that knowing is an immaterial act. It must be that the thing known has being in the intellect. We become the thing without its materiality. This begins in the senses and terminates in the intellect, with mediation and involvement of the entire suite of physical organs associated with the senses, memory, psychology, and so on.

One can then ask how there can be error in knowing, or how there can be falsity in the intellect. How can the being in the intellect be false ? It has to be that somewhere in the coming to be in the intellect we add something that is not actually given in the senses or assume something without justification. E.g., we see an orange sphere and say it is the citrus fruit. But what we know in the senses is just a color and shape and perhaps texture. The identification with a fruit comes from memory and is a separate element.

This is just a clumsy sketch of Aristotelian and Thomistic epistemology. For a really well presented philosophical account by the pre-eminent Aristotelian philosopher of the last 100 years, take a look at the book “Cognition” by the late Father Joseph Owens of University of Toronto. Used copies are available from online booksellers. A more compressed treatment is given by Owens in his book “Elementary Christian Metaphysics”. Despite what one might think from the title, this is a purely philosophical account and does not use any items of the Christian faith in the discussion.

Michael October 21, 2020 4:06 AM

@ Singapore Noodles

Thank you for your response.

I agree that one does know, except, [insert your understanding here] doesn’t know one.

Singapore Noodles October 22, 2020 6:22 AM


[ … who ? … ] – an amusing reference ! Especially given the name you bear. The existence of that person can known through philosophy, and some of the attributes, but then we run out. That One doesn’t have such limits.

Psalm 139

1Lord, thou hast proved me, and known me:

2thou hast know my sitting down, and my rising up.

3Thou hast understood my thoughts afar off: my path and my line thou hast searched out.

4And thou hast foreseen all my ways: for there is no speech in my tongue.

5Behold, O Lord, thou hast known all things, the last and those of old: thou hast formed me, and hast laid thy hand upon me.

6Thy knowledge is become wonderful to me: it is high, and I cannot reach to it.

7Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy face?

As for us,

1 Corinthians 13

12Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Vaya con dios !

rrd October 22, 2020 6:56 AM

@ Singapore Noodles

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs shall be the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Do you have any theories on this 1st Beatitude?

Singapore Noodles October 22, 2020 9:23 AM


Re: “… poor in spirit …”

Aquinas contrasts the goods, even kingdoms, limited goods of this life, as they are are prized and sought, too typically from pride and reliance on one’s own strength, with the complete and perfect good of God’s kingdom and union, which though immeasurably higher can only be sought through humility.

Deus superbis resistit, humilibus autem dat gratiam.

God resist the proud, but gives grwce to the humble.

Or, 1 Corinthians 13

4 Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up;
5 Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil;

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