Thursday, November 10, 2005

Why be clever if you know how to be kind?

Jeb really makes me think, or try to think.

"Why" is a word with which we, too often unwittingly, anthropomorphize the universe. In human activities [and what others could we really know very well] there is generally a motive and isn't the universe operating just as our own minds operate;?) Introducing motives, we gain room to ascribe "good" or "bad". The only "why" worth pondering is why anything exists at all. And that gets back to 42 in Doug Adams' Guide to the Universe. When I was an undergrad in physics I fancied I had even backed that matter into a corner: If you change one decimal place in any of the fundamental constants, the entire universe winks out in a puff of illogic. i.e. things are as they are because there is no other way they could be: we could never get to the point of asking these questions in any other universe so why ask. But thats a tautology and neither answers nor satisfies.

I'm not 20 years old any more. A dear and saintly teacher gave me this to chew on:
"When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people."
[Abraham Joshua Heschel]

Cleverness can wrestle with why until the cows come home, meanwhile kindness knows how to get us through life as easily as possible.


Gadfly said...

Didn't see an e-mail addy; I posted two follow-ups in my comments box to your original comment about my "happiness" post; I then did a whole new third link:

Davo said...

It would be interesting if the words "good" and "bad" vanished from language. There are words like "appropriate" and "inappropriate".

jeb said...

I'd not thought of "why" as a symptom of anthropomorphizing the universe, but it strikes me as very likely true - something for my mind to chew on a bit.

Good quote about cleverness vs. kindness. While not opposites, they don't seem to go together very often. Aging will eventually dull cleverness, but kindness can ripen and enrich indefinitely.

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