LORENZO DE' MENLO
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The Sayings of Lorenzo de' Menlo
Life is best enjoyed when you take everything seriously but nothing too seriously.
There is only one fundamental question: why is there something rather than nothing. All else is detail. (The existence of God doesn’t help: God is still something.)
People want to be treated equally and also to be treated specially.
The worst thing that you can say about any work of art is not that it is ugly or bad, but that it is boring.
Loyalty is not in itself a virtue; it is only a virtue if the object of loyalty is virtuous.
To be wealthier, desire less wealth.
There is only one cure for the disease of racism: ignore race.
Money has a place in society, but it should not be the organizing principle of society.
If you want simplicity, you do not want reality.
Morality is a code of behavior, rooted in social instincts, that reflects an ever evolving compromise between the desires of individuals and the desires of their society.
Time is that which allows for something in one location to be in another location, and for something in one state to be in another state: it is what allows for change. Existence has no meaning without time.
Anti-Semitism is the hatred that rarely goes out of fashion. Over the last 1000 years, Jews have been hated for being too poor and too rich, too lazy and too industrious, too stupid and too smart, too passive and too aggressive, not white and white. Jews are the all-purpose "other" who have long been available to be blamed and vilified.
When everything is valued only by its monetary worth, we all become poor.
A key ingredient of good mental health is feeling that you have control over your life.
Life consists of creating meaning.
There can be no law, no society, no place, no time that entirely pleases everybody.
If everyone had a good sense of humor and could laugh at themselves, there would be no wars.
Human behavior is inherently messy, governed by a multitude of drives and emotions. Machine behavior, in contrast, is highly circumscribed. As technology becomes ever more powerful, we are not seeing machines behaving more like humans so much as humans being pushed to behave more like machines.
People seek rules governing the universe, as if there exists a rule book for the universe that we can reconstruct. The universe, though, obeys no rules. It rather has an inherent, self-generated order, which we can describe, and which may change over time.
Free will, in practice, is the ability to consciously act in ways that cannot be predicted. Does a person have free will? A person is part of the overall universe, and the universe is too complex and vast to be precisely and accurately predictable. There are far too many events and variables at any one time for anyone to predict the precise configuration of the universe—or even a minute part of the universe, such as a person—at any time in the future. The lack of precise predictability is compounded by the fact that measuring some aspect of the universe, in an effort to learn about it, itself causes changes to the universe. Thus, because the conscious actions of an individual can never be precisely and accurately predicted, free will exists in every practical sense.
It can be argued that an all-knowing god, who perceives the exact configuration of every single particle, field, and force in the universe at every moment, would recognize that the universe is actually deterministic—that free will is just an illusion. For such an all-knowing god to even exist, there could not be free will in the universe. However, unless that god's information on the future is available to us (and there's no hint that it is), it doesn't alter the unpredictability of our conscious behavior, and thus our functional free will. Ironically, such a god could not have free will itself in any way that affects the universe, as that would allow it to change the future at any time, preventing it from knowing the future with certainty. If a god knows everything that it will do in the future, it doesn't have free will. A god can be all-knowing (without free will) or all-powerful (with free will), but not both.
The germanium isotope 76Ge has a half-life of roughly 1.4 x 1021 years. This means that when the current age of the universe (13.8 billion years) transpires another ten billion times, just half of the atoms in a sample of 76Ge would have decayed. The decay of these atoms is a certainty, but on a time scale beyond unimaginable. What could it mean to have a clock that ticks this slowly? Has our view of a vast and ancient universe been reduced to an infinitesimal blip in something incomprehensibly greater, our concept of time so flawed as to be meaningless?
©2019 Lawrence R. Bernstein
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