A Jewish American high school student wins MLK Jr. writing award for this essay

It’s been a while since I read something that moved me as much as this short essay by an 11th Grader.

2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards
Prose: High School

First Place

Fighting a Forbidden Battle: How I Stopped Covering Up for a Hidden Wrong

Jesse Lieberfeld
11th grade, Winchester Thurston

I once belonged to a wonderful religion. I belonged to a religion that allows those of us who believe in it to feel that we are the greatest people in the world—and feel sorry for ourselves at the same time. Once, I thought that I truly belonged in this world of security, self-pity, self-proclaimed intelligence, and perfect moral aesthetic. I thought myself to be somewhat privileged early on. It was soon revealed to me, however, that my fellow believers and I were not part of anything so flattering.

Although I was fortunate enough to have parents who did not try to force me into any one set of beliefs, being Jewish was in no way possible to escape growing up. It was constantly reinforced at every holiday, every service, and every encounter with the rest of my relatives. I was forever reminded how intelligent my family was, how important it was to remember where we had come from, and to be proud of all the suffering our people had overcome in order to finally achieve their dream in the perfect society of Israel.

This last mandatory belief was one which I never fully understood, but I always kept the doubts I had about Israel’s spotless reputation to the back of my mind. “Our people” were fighting a war, one I did not fully comprehend, but I naturally assumed that it must be justified. We would never be so amoral as to fight an unjust war. Yet as I came to learn more about our so-called “conflict” with the Palestinians, I grew more concerned. I routinely heard about unexplained mass killings, attacks on medical bases, and other alarmingly violent actions for which I could see no possible reason. “Genocide” almost seemed the more appropriate term, yet no one I knew would have ever dreamed of portraying the war in that manner; they always described the situation in shockingly neutral terms. Whenever I brought up the subject, I was always given the answer that there were faults on both sides, that no one was really to blame, or simply that it was a “difficult situation.” It was not until eighth grade that I fully understood what I was on the side of. One afternoon, after a fresh round of killings was announced on our bus ride home, I asked two of my friends who actively supported Israel what they thought. “We need to defend our race,” they told me. “It’s our right.”

“We need to defend our race.”

Where had I heard that before? Wasn’t it the same excuse our own country had used to justify its abuses of African-Americans sixty years ago? In that moment, I realized how similar the two struggles were—like the white radicals of that era, we controlled the lives of another people whom we abused daily, and no one could speak out against us. It was too politically incorrect to do so. We had suffered too much, endured too many hardships, and overcome too many losses to be criticized. I realized then that I was in no way part of a “conflict”—the term “Israeli/Palestinian Conflict” was no more accurate than calling the Civil Rights Movement the “Caucasian/ African-American Conflict.” In both cases, the expression was a blatant euphemism: it gave the impression that this was a dispute among equals and that both held an equal share of the blame. However, in both, there was clearly an oppressor and an oppressed, and I felt horrified at the realization that I was by nature on the side of the oppressors. I was grouped with the racial supremacists. I was part of a group that killed while praising its own intelligence and reason. I was part of a delusion.

I thought of the leader of the other oppressed side of years ago, Martin Luther King. He too had been part of a struggle that had been hidden and glossed over for the convenience of those against whom he fought. What would his reaction have been? As it turned out, it was precisely the same as mine. As he wrote in his letter from Birmingham Jail, he believed the greatest enemy of his cause to be “Not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who…lives by a mythical concept of time…. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” When I first read those words, I felt as if I were staring at myself in a mirror. All my life I had been conditioned to simply treat the so-called conflict with the same apathy which King had so forcefully condemned. I, too, held the role of an accepting moderate. I, too, “lived by a mythical concept of time,” shrouded in my own surreal world and the set of beliefs that had been assigned to me. I had never before felt so trapped.

I decided to make one last appeal to my religion. If it could not answer my misgivings, no one could. The next time I attended a service, there was an open question-and-answer session about any point of our religion. I wanted to place my dilemma in as clear and simple terms as I knew how. I thought out my exact question over the course of the seventeen-minute cello solo that was routinely played during service. Previously, I had always accepted this solo as just another part of the program, yet now it seemed to capture the whole essence of our religion: intelligent and well-crafted on paper, yet completely oblivious to the outside world (the soloist did not have the faintest idea of how masterfully he was putting us all to sleep). When I was finally given the chance to ask a question, I asked, “I want to support Israel. But how can I when it lets its army commit so many killings?” I was met with a few angry glares from some of the older men, but the rabbi answered me. “It is a terrible thing, isn’t it?” he said. “But there’s nothing we can do. It’s just a fact of life.” I knew, of course, that the war was no simple matter and that we did not by any means commit murder for its own sake, but to portray our thousands of killings as a “fact of life” was simply too much for me to accept. I thanked him and walked out shortly afterward. I never went back. I thought about what I could do. If nothing else, I could at least try to free myself from the burden of being saddled with a belief I could not hold with a clear conscience. I could not live the rest of my life as one of the pathetic moderates whom King had rightfully portrayed as the worst part of the problem. I did not intend to go on being one of the Self-Chosen People, identifying myself as part of a group to which I did not belong.

It was different not being the ideal nice Jewish boy. The difference was subtle, yet by no means unaffecting. Whenever it came to the attention of any of our more religious family friends that I did not share their beliefs, I was met with either a disapproving stare and a quick change of the subject or an alarmed cry of, “What? Doesn’t Israel matter to you?” Relatives talked down to me more afterward, but eventually I stopped noticing the way adults around me perceived me. It was worth it to no longer feel as though I were just another apathetic part of the machine.

I can obviously never know what it must have been like to be an African-American in the 1950s. I do feel, however, as though I know exactly what it must have been like to be white during that time, to live under an aura of moral invincibility, to hold unchallengeable beliefs, and to contrive illusions of superiority to avoid having to face simple everyday truths. That illusion was nice while it lasted, but I decided to pass it up. I have never been happier.

a thought …

Anyone can achieve their fullest potential, 
who we are might be predetermined, but the path 
we follow is always of our own choosing. We should 
never allow our fears or the expectations of others 
to set the frontiers of our destiny. Your destiny can't 
be changed but, it can be challenged. 

Every man is born as many men and dies as a single one.

Death Note a modern take on Plato’s Gyges Ring

In a discourse in Plato’s The Republic, the integrity of man is questioned and, perhaps, ultimately deemed to be fundamentally flawed: The Ring of Gyges is a mythical talisman that grants its owner the power to become invisible at will. Using the story of the ring, Plato’s Republic, explores whether a typical man would remain moral if he did not have to fear the consequences of his own actions, and that no man is so virtuous that he could resist the rings temptation or avoid becoming morally bankrupt by using its power. If morality is a social construct where we act out of necessity, then what happens if those social sanctions are removed, or you come to believe that they no longer apply to you? In the Republic, Glaucon made the argument:

Suppose now that there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other; no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a god among men. Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point. And this we may truly affirm to be a great proof that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever any one thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust. For all men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right. If you could imagine any one obtaining this power of becoming invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another’s, he would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him to one another’s faces, and keep up appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice.

This is, and always has been, an interesting thought experiment. It’s one that I’ve wrestled with in the past, what would I do if I could do anything I wanted to, if there were no consequences? If power corrupts, then does absolute power corrupt absolutely? Would I be able to stop myself? Would any of us? H.G. Wells also explored this in The Invisible Man, as his character Griffin is transformed from a gifted young scientist, to a megalomaniac planning world domination. Perhaps the only memorable line from the movie Hollow Man, an adaption inspired by Wells work, was Sebastian’s (Kevin Bacon) observation:

“You know what, Matt? It’s amazing what you can do … when you don’t have to look yourself in the mirror any more”

As I said, its a fascinating idea, and one that I’ve been forced to dwell on again whilst watching the brilliant anime series: Death Note, one of the most unique and mind-blowing anime in recent history.

It’s the tale of a young man, Light Yagami, a brilliant young student, with perfect grades, perfect record, perfect looks etc. he’s a decent upstanding young man. All of that changes when a shinigami ( god of death ) drops his Death Note into Light’s schoolyard, where the young man stumbles across the enigmatic looking book and reads the instructions in it, the primary rule being: The human whose name is written in this note shall die. Light is initially skeptical thinking it to be a joke, but after experimenting with it he realises that the Death Note is real. Light, in a very real sense, becomes a living incarnation of the Gyges discourse, a seemingly flawless character, who is given the power to kill anyone in the world, and seizes upon this to create a new utopia with his god like power. He begins by entering the names of criminals into the Death Note:  murderers, rapists, serial killers, child molesters etc. his belief is that the world would be better without them.

As thousands of criminals begin to die suddenly around the world, the number of inexplicable deaths captures the attention of interpol and the mysterious detective known only as ‘L‘. It’s hard to describe L without falling back on cliches but he is a mysterious, enigmatic, eccentric genius. He has a strong sense of justice, yet his methods are sometimes as morally questionable as Lights. It’s the battle of wits that ensues between these two protagonists that makes this series such compelling viewing.

Light can only kill someone if he has seen their face and can visualise it as he writes their real name in the notebook, the more he kills the more he believes himself to be a God- eventually Light becomes more than just a self-styled God, he amasses a huge following under the moniker of ‘Kira’ ( which in typical Japanese is pronounced similarly to the english word “killer” ), and soon he begins to kill anyone that threatens his plans, including FBI agents and others that are attempting to discover his identity. L, however, deduces that Kira can kill people without laying a finger on them provided he has seen their face and knows their real name. Light recognises L as his greatest nemesis and so a cat and mouse battle between the two begins. Each racing desperately to discover the others true identity first – coming second means death. The suspense is exhilarating.

I highly recommend Death Note, it’s utterly brilliant: its dark, morally ambiguous and yet full of humour. It’s great, thought provoking entertainment.

Marcus Aurelius

Been reading a lot this weekend, it’s the only form of escape I can turn to without relying on any form of planning. I’ve got a couple of book reviews to write but I thought I’d post up some passages I just read by Marcus Aurelius which seem relevant right now for a number of reasons that I don’t intend to elaborate on …

All things are linked with one another, and this oneness is sacred; there is
nothing that is not interconnected with everything else.  For things are
interdependent, and they combine to form this universal order.  There is
only one universe made up of all things, and one creator who pervades
them; there is one substance and one law, namely, common reason in all
thinking creatures, and all truth is one--if, as we believe, there is only
one path of perfection for all beings who share the same mind.

… and …

Why should anyone be afraid of change?  What can take place without it?
What can be more pleasing or more suitable to universal Nature?
Can you take your bath without the firewood undergoing a change?
Can you eat, without the food undergoing a change?  And can anything
useful be done without change?  Don't you see that for you to change
is just the same, and is equally necessary for universal Nature?

… and also …

Discard everything except these few truths:  we can live
only in the present moment, in this brief now; all the rest
of our life is dead and buried or shrouded in uncertainty.
Short is the life we lead, and small our patch of earth.

… and finally …

nowhere can a man find a quieter or more 
   untroubled retreat than in his own soul

Zimbardo, Lewis and Donne

I’ve been reading Philip Zimbardo’s – The Lucifer Effect, which is proving to be very difficult to read. Someone described it as a ‘transformative text‘ and I completely agree with that sentiment. It’s impossible to read without reflecting deeply about oneself. From what I’ve read so far If I had to distill Zimbardo’s book into a single sentence it would be that situation plays a bigger part in determining evil or heroic behaviour than any innate disposition.

That sounds so simple and yet it’s so very complex. I intend to write a review of the book when I’m finished but for now I’ve been reflecting on some material that Zimbardo points to. The first is “The Inner Ring” by C.S. Lewis, which from what I can gather was a Memorial Lecture at King’s College, University of London, in 1944.

In it Lewis describes one such situational imperative that can drive people to make abhorrent decisions. Many Organisations (all?) have groups of people who are more powerful or influential than others. This is true whether the organisation is a company or a less formalised social group. These so called “rings” admit some people and exclude others. The desire to be inside, to gain acceptance and approval, can be a powerful motivational force for some people, and conversely this desire can be used by those on the inside to manipulate those seeking admission. As Lewis himself describes:

I believe that in all men's lives at certain periods, and in many 
men's lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, 
one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the 
local Ring and the terror of being left outside ... Of all the passions 
the passion for the Inner Ring is most skilfull in making a man who 
is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.

We have to recognise, individually, that we are all susceptible to such forces, they are after all a part of the human condition. The problem is many of us aren’t willing to acknowledge this, as Zimbardo points out, our unfounded pride takes precedence over what should be the humility to recognise that we are all vulnerable to such situational forces. In his book Zimbardo recalls John Donne‘s Mediations (27), as a wonderfully eloquent reflection on our common interrelatedness and interdependence, which I think is absolutely key to guarding our hearts and minds against such behavior:

All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, 
one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better 
language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the
bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but 
upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much
more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....
No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, 
because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee

Zimbardo’s book is proving to be a challenge on many different levels. The graphic nature of some of the experiments he describes, as well as some of the atrocities he has researched is painfully disturbing to read. Man’s lack of humanity is central to Zimbardo’s thesis, and on that subject I can’t help but smile ruefully thinking that Tennessee Williams was probably right when he wrote:

We're all of us guinea pigs in the laboratory of God. 
Humanity is just a work in progress

I’d love to hear anyone else views on the book or the subject, I’m learning a great deal as I read it but I’d welcome anyone else insight. So please leave a comment or get in touch.

Proverbs 11:29

I’m thinking that we should all remember the wisdom of Solomon in the Book of Proverbs:

  He that troubles his own house shall inherit the wind: 
     and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.

The phrase “own house” could easily be substituted with any (social?) group an individual belongs to: your friends, your family, a sports team, your colleagues at work, your country and so on. The tragedy is that it’s difficult to see when we are falling foul of this, because it really doesn’t take much. It seems to me that when one believes one is right it’s easy to become rigidly inflexible, it’s easy to lack consideration for the feelings of others, or indeed to dismiss them out of hand out of sheer frustration with the other rather than taking a step back and questioning one’s own standpoint. Worse is that it’s easy to overlook the immediate damage this can cause to relationships, to how people perceive you, and of-course their willingness to want to engage with you. It seems to me this should be interpreted as a serious lapse in judgment in any of us, and near fatal lapse in judgment for anyone in a position of authority/leadership; it tends to undermine trust by creating distance; it’s becomes a barrier to any constructive dialogue; and those around you can lose their voice. When that happens you have, quite literally, inherited the wind.

Part of the problem is that we are deeply emotional creatures, and we wear those emotions like a cloak around us. Something I’ve observed often is that even when an individual is putting forth an argument in a manner that he/she might feel is objective, concise, erudite and wholly reasonable, their body language, or language, or tone, or even a slight unconscious inflection when uttering a single word, can send out a completely different message. It’s this dichotomy that we create that puts us at odds with those observing us, those that we are trying to communicate with.

It’s actually quite amusing to observe when this happens during the current political debates taking place between the candidates in the American Presedential election. That’s not really not what I want to talk about though.

So I guess the question becomes, how do we guard against this? How do I know when I’m doing this? It shouldn’t be a paradox because in as much as we are emotional creatures we are also hugely perceptive creatures. Yet it becomes a paradox when you ask what is it about our emotions that seemingly overrides our ability to perceive the effect our words and actions have on others? or worse, what is it that overrides the need to perceive the effect we have on others – until the damage is already done?

Is it something that we can guard against by simply thinking or taking a moment to pause before speaking/reacting? Is this a quality that can be taught? or is this simply something we have to learn in the crucible of our own minds as we reflect on each time we make this mistake? or should we simply temper what we do with the knowledge that we are part of a (social) group and that our behaviour will reflect how much we are accepted and valued, or indeed, rejected by that group?

As an observation this is something I’ve learned the hard way, for me it was brought into sharp relief when my father died. Fortunately, as social groups go, families are rather more forgiving than others 🙂

"The universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice ... 
It speaks in the language of hope."

"It speaks in the language of trust. It speaks in the language of 
strength and the language of compassion. It is the language of the 
heart and the language of the soul. But always it is the same voice.
It is the voice of our ancestors speaking through us and the voice 
of our inheritors waiting to be born. The small, still voice that says: 
'We are one. No matter the blood, no matter the skin, no matter the 
world, no matter the star. .. We are one. No matter the pain, no 
matter the darkness, no matter the loss, no matter the fear. .. We 
are one.' Here, gathered together in common cause, we begin to 
realize this singular truth and this singular rule that we must be 
kind to one another. Because each voice enriches us and ennobles 
us and each voice lost diminishes us. We are the voice of the 
universe, the soul of creation, the fire that will light our way to 
a better future. We are one."
           G'Kar in "The Paragon of Animals"

Zen Master Raven

Having spent the previous evening working till way past midnight, I decided to keep my laptop switched off yesterday – It was Saturday after all! Besides I’d come to a realisation earlier in the week. That although I really love what I do at Talis, I’ve been using my work, rightly or wrongly, as a way to hide from other things that I haven’t figured out how to deal with.


    Mole came to Raven privately and said, "We haven't talked 
about death very much. I'm not concerned about where I will 
go, but watching so many family members die, I'm wondering 
what happens at the point of death?".
   Raven sat silently for a while, then said, "I give away my 

After visiting dad’s grave yesterday morning, I decided to take a trip into the city center and do a little shopping – wasn’t really sure what I was shopping for. I’ve been having strange moments like that a lot recently – strange in the sense that I’m doing things that feel random, they don’t necessarily have any purpose at the outset. Anyway after buying a couple of DVD’s and some clothes, I ended up at Borders Book Shop in the Bull Ring.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, I simply walked from one aisle of books to another glancing at the shelves to see if anything caught my eye. I love Science Fiction and Fantasy novels so I did consciously walk over to that area and spent a while there but didn’t find anything that really stood out. I also spent a fair bit of time rifling through a bunch of Manga novels but I aready own all the good stuff and some of the newer series have proven to be disappointing. Eventually I ended up in the section entitled Philosophy / Spirituality – that’s when I found “Zen Master Raven: Sayings and Doings of a Wise Bird“. When I got back home I proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon and much of the evening reading it from cover to cover, twice! Here’s why …

I had this terrible feeling that whilst I understood much of it … there’s a huge amount of meaning within it’s covers that I simply can’t figure out … yet … It feels like a thorn in my mind … and I love it …

The Spirit of the Practice

    Relaxing with the others after zazen one evening, Owl
asked "What is the Spirit of the practice?"
    Raven said, "Inquiry."
    Owl cocked his head and asked, "What do I inquire 
    Raven said, "Good start."

I think it’s a wonderfully delightful book. The author Robert Aitken, is a well known American Zen Master, whilst he has written a number of other books and essays this piece is very different. His literary device of using animals, unconventional in Zen, is remarkably successful in presenting the promises and risks, hopes and fears of the Tallspruce community that Raven Roshi shares with his students, neighbours and friends. I think this book captures the spirit of Zen as much as any book can, and it demonstrates how Zen can become the practice of a lifetime.


    One evening, in a discussion of his personal problems,
Raven asked Brown Bear, "What is the role of character in 
the practise?"
    Brown Bear said, "I try to keep my promises."
    Raven said, "I try to keep my promises, too, but I'm easily
    Brown Bear said, "The cold wind reminds me."

Aitken’s book is the distillation of a collection of stories, some only a few sentences in length, that, as he sees it, illuminate the Way. These stories are succinct, charming and contain a huge depth of insight. The stories might feel weird, but are hugely compelling.

Very Special

    In a group munching grubs one afternoon, Mole
remarked, "The Buddha Shakyamuni was very special
wasn't he! I'm sure there has never been anyone like 
    Raven said, "Like the madrone."
    Mole asked, "How is the madrone unique?"
    Raven said, "Every madrone leaf."
    Mole fell silent.
    Procupine asked, "How does the uniqueness of every
Madrone leaf relate to the practice?"
    Raven said, "Your practice."

The Life Giving Sword

  Weapons are instruments of ill omen. The Way of Heaven
  finds them repugnant. The Way of Heaven is to use them
  only when necessary.

Finally finished reading The Life Giving Sword by Yagyu Munenori last night. The version I have is translated into English by William Scott and is and absolutely wonderful read. It is considered to be one of the most important and influential texts on Japanese Martial Arts. Scott’s introduction, which is a third of the book, is essential reading and provides, in great detail, the historical context in which this book was written. He not only provides an insight into the life of Munenori but also into life in Japan almost four hundred years ago.

It was also nice to see, in Scott’s account, references to Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings – which to my mind is another seminal text on Japanese Swordsmanship. What’s amazing is that both these men were alive at the same time, and yet they never met. It’s widely acknowledged that Musashi coveted Munenori’s position as Official Swords Instructor to the Tokugawa Shogunate but was never able to gain it over his great rival.

What sets this text apart from others is that it combines the technical refinements of Shikage-Ryu with the philosophical and psychological insights of Zen Buddhism, which Munenori was greatly influenced by through his close friendship with the famous Zen priest Takuan Soho ( author of The Unfettered Mind ). In fact, having read some of Soho’s essays,  I’m convinced that this Buddhist spirituality is reflected in the whole idea of the "life giving sword" – this notion that you can control an opponent through your own spiritual readiness to fight. It is further reflected in Munenori’s mastery of restraint and diplomacy through which he became a trusted advisor to the Shoganate – and whilst this might surprise some it really is an insight into the most personal thoughts on non-attachment and non-violence of one of the greatest of all master swordsmen.

It is missing the point to think that the martial arts is
solely in cutting a man down. It is not in cutting people down;
it is in killing evil. It is in the stratagem of killing the
evil of one man and giving life to ten thousand...truly the sword
that kills one man will be the blade that gives others life.

or …

In Zen there is a saying, "Beat the grass and scare up the snake".
Just as you beat the grass to scare up the snake that lies within,
there is a technique of suprising your opponent to cause his mind
to become agitated. Deception is doing something unexpected by your
opponent, and suprising him. This is the martial arts.

Once surprised, your opponent's mind will be taken, and his skill
undone. Raising your fan or hand in front of him will also take your
opponent's mind. Tossing aside the sword you are carrying is also a
martial art. If you have obtained the skill of No-Sword, what will
a sword be to you? 

Whilst his words can seem cryptic and inpenetrable at times there is no doubting Munenori’s immense skill as a swordsman, and yet apart from one instance there is no recorded account of him ever killing another in a duel. That one incident though is legendary,and remembered to this day:

... a desperate force of about twenty to thirty men ... broke into
the Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada's camp. The Shogun's men were thrown
into confusion as the assailants, almost incredibly, pressed their
way to within a short distance of the shogun himself. There, however,
they confronted a middle-aged samurai, who was standing calmly in front
of the shogun's horse. The man stepped forward and, with shocking speed,
dexterity, and grace, killed seven of the attackers, giving the shogun's
guards a chance to regroup ... the middle aged samurai was Yagyu Tajima
no kami Munenori.

I often find it interesting to contrast the lives of Musashi and Munenori, the former’s fame was gained through numerous duels and was regarded as an outstanding swordsman having killed so many, and the latter maintained an aire of invincibility without ever having fought a duel. It seems paradoxical. For some odd reason this reminds me of something Plutarch once wrote when he compared the Lives of Numa and Lycurgus

Virtue rendered the one so respectable to deserve a throne, 
and other so great as to be above it.

I know it doesn’t quite fit but it certainly resonates. I thoroughly recommend this book, it’s deeply philosophical and deeply profound and will change your understanding of the nature of any martial art.

p.s. and no I guess it’s not a coincidence that my new sword arrived the other day 🙂

Clifford Stoll: 18 minutes with an Agile mind

This is one of the most energetic talks I’ve ever heard. Clifford Stoll is amazing! I’m not even going to try to explain what he talks about since he moves from one subject or interest to another so quickly it’s hard to keep up …

Strangely listening to Clifford talk reminded me of Alan, I’ve often sat in lectures, or my living room, or in a restaurant listening to him and like Clifford he is a wonderful teacher, but it can be difficult to keep up with him, it’s an assault on the senses so many ideas often tangential come flooding out, and yet it’s impossible not to learn something, and often rather profound.

Clifford ends his talk with this wonderful quote:

All truth is one. In this light may science and religion endevour here for the steady evolution of mankind from darkness to light from narrowness to broadmindedness from prejudice to tolerance. It is the voice of life which calls us to come and learn.

… a couple of not so random thoughts

"To thyself be faithful: if in thy heart thou strayest 
   not from truth, without prayer of thine the Gods 
   will keep thee whole."
                              -- Polonius

"Tis in every man's mind to love honor: but little doth 
  he dream that what is truly honorable lies within himself
  and not anywhere else. The honor which men confer is
  not good honor. Those whom Châo the Great ennobles, 
   he can make mean again."
                          -- Mencius