``There is no such thing at the microscopic level as space or time or spacetime continuum." -- J. A. Wheeler (about 1990).
``I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and consistency. Let the words be gazetted and ridiculous henceforward." -- R. W. Emerson, in ``Self Reliance'' (1839). Emerson's essays and other texts can be found on Project Gutenberg, available online. The Project Gutenberg site is a great resource for free online texts.
``It (the universe) is nothing vague or wasteful, it does not stretch into infinity; but is a definite quantum of energy located in limited space, and not in space that would be anywhere empty. It is rather energy everywhere, the play of forces and force-waves, at the same time one and many, agglomerating here and diminishing there, a sea of forces storming and raging in itself, forever changing, forever rolling back over incalculable ages to recurrence, with an ebb and flow of its forms, producing the most complicated things out of the most simple structures." -- F. Nietzsche (about 1880).
``I love songs about horses, railroads, land, judgment day, family, hard times, whiskey, courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, damnation, home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak, and love. And Mother. And God." --Johnny Cash (1996).
``Sometimes at night. When I hear the wind. I wish I was crazy again." --Johnny Cash (1996).
``If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or objects." --Albert Einstein.
``One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one's greatest efforts." --Albert Einstein.
``Science will stagnate if it is made to serve practical goals." --Albert Einstein.
The Man Watching, by Rainer Maria Rilke
I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields saying things
I can't bear without a friend,
I can't love without a sister.
The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.
What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.
When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers' sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.
Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.
Invictus, by William Ernet Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Reading of Invictus by Morgan Freeman
with discussion of Nelson Mandela too
'If' by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
A commencement speech about life, by Steve Jobs:
Stanford Report, June 14, 2005
'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says
/This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of
Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005./
I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the
finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth
be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation.
Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big
deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed
around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So
why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed
college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She
felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so
everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his
wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that
they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list,
got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected
baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother
later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that
my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the
final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my
parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college
that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class
parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six
months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to
do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it
out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their
entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work
out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of
the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop
taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping
in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the
floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to
buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday
night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved
it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and
intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy
instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every
label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had
dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to
take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif
and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between
different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great.
It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science
can't capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life.
But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh
computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac.
It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never
dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never
had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows
just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have
them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this
calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful
typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots
looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear
looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect
them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow
connect in your future. You have to trust in something ? your gut,
destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and
it has made all the difference in my life.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky ? I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I
started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in
10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2
billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our
finest creation ? the Macintosh ? a year earlier, and I had just turned
30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you
started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very
talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things
went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and
eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors
sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been
the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let
the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the
baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob
Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very
public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley.
But something slowly began to dawn on me ? I still loved what I did. The
turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been
rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple
was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of
being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner
again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most
creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another
company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would
become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer
animated feature film, /Toy Story/, and is now the most successful
animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple
bought NeXT, I retuned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT
is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a
wonderful family together.
I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired
from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient
needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose
faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I
loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true
for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a
large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do
what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to
love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't
settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.
And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the
years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live
each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be
right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33
years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If
today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about
to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in
a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever
encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost
everything ? all external expectations, all pride, all fear of
embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of
death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are
going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you
have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to
follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in
the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even
know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly
a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no
longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get
my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means
to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10
years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure
everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for
your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy,
where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and
into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells
from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that
when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying
because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that
is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.
This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the
closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now
say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful
but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to
die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one
has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very
likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It
clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you,
but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and
be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.
Don't be trapped by dogma ? which is living with the results of other
people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out
your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow
your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want
to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called /The Whole
Earth Catalog/, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was
created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park,
and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late
1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all
made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of
like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was
idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of /The Whole Earth
Catalog/, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final
issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of
their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the
kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous.
Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their
farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I
have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin
anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much.
The greatest achievement is selflessness. The greatest worth is self-mastery. The greatest quality is seeking to serve others. The greatest precept is continual awareness. The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything. The greatest action is not conforming with the worlds ways. The greatest magic is transmuting the passions. The greatest generosity is non-attachment. The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind. The greatest patience is humility. The greatest effort is not concerned with results. The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go. The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances. - Atisha
If one's life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few
desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and
shelter to protect yourself from the elements. And finally, there is an intense delight in abandoning faulty
states of mind and in cultivating helpful ones in meditation.
- Dalai Lama
ON WRITING (maybe scientists can learn from this too):
When asked to describe his daily writing routine in 2009, Saramago responded, "I write two pages. And then I read and read and read." --Jose Saramogo
One must learn by doing the thing; for though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try. -- Sophocles