Stories of Your Life and Others

At the base of the immense pillar, tiny Babylon was in shadow. Then the darkness climbed the tower, like a canopy unfurling upward. It moved slowly enough that Hillalum felt he could count the moments passing, but then it grew faster as it approached, until it raced past them faster than he could blink, and they were in twilight... For the first time, he knew night for what it was: the shadow of the earth itself, cast against the sky.

Be patient. Your future will come to you and lie down at your feet like a dog who knows and loves you no matter what you are.’?

Carl had met Renee at a party given by a colleague of his. He had been taken with her face. Hers was a remarkably plain face, and it appeared quite somber most of the time, but during the party he saw her smile twice and frown once; at those moments, her entire countenance assumed the expression as if it had never known another. Carl had been caught by surprise: he could recognize a face that smiled regularly, or a face that frowned regularly, even if it were unlined. He was curious as to how her face had developed such a close familiarity with so many expressions, and yet normally revealed nothing. It took a long time for him to understand Renee, to read her expressions. But it had definitely been worthwhile. Now

Freedom isn't an illusion; it's perfectly real in the context of sequential consciousness. Within the context of simultaneous consciousness, freedom is not meaningful, but neither is coercion; it's simply a different context, no more or less valid than the other. It's like that famous optical illusion, the drawing of either an elegant young woman, face turned away from the viewer, or a wart-nosed crone, chin tucked down on her chest. There's no “correct” interpretation; both are equally valid. But you can't see both at the same time.

“Similarly, knowledge of the future was incompatible with free will. What made it possible for me to exercise freedom of choice also made it impossible for me to know the future. Conversely, now that I know the future, I would never act contrary to that future, including telling others what I know: those who know the future don't talk about it. Those who've read the Book of Ages never admit to it.

Girls have always been told that their value is tied to their appearance; their accomplishments are always magnified if they're pretty and diminished if they're not. Even worse, some girls get the message that they can get through life relying on just their looks, and then they never develop their minds. [...]

Being pretty is fundamentally a passive quality; even what you work at it, you're working at being passive.

Her concentration was gone, and last night she had had a nightmare about discovering a formalism that let her translate arbitrary concepts into mathematical expressions: then she had proven that life and death were equivalent.

Hillalum wondered what sort of people were forged by living under such conditions; did they escape madness? Did they grow accustomed to this? Would the children born under a solid sky scream if they saw the ground beneath their feet?

I concede his greater ingenuity. It bodes well for his endeavor. Pragmatism avails a savior far more than aestheticism. I wonder what he intends to do after he’s saved the world. I comprehend the Word, and the means by which it operates, and so I dissolve.

I knew it was foolhardy; men of experience say, "Four things do not come back: the spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, and the neglected opportunity,

In the Principia Mathematica, Bertrand Russell and Alfred Whitehead attempted to give a rigorous foundation to mathematics using formal logic as their basis. They began with what they considered to be axioms, and used those to derive theorems of increasing complexity. By page 362, they had established enough to prove "1 + 1 = 2.

It is a misconception to think that during evolution humans sacrificed physical skill in exchange for intelligence: wielding one's body is a mental activity.

It'll be when you first learn to walk that I get daily demonstrations of the asymmetry in our relationship. You'll be incessantly running off somewhere, and each time you walk into a door frame or scrape your knee, the pain feels like it's my own. It'll be like growing an errant limb, an extension of myself whose sensory nerves report pain just fine, but whose motor nerves don't convey my commands at all. It's so unfair: I'm going to give birth to an animated voodoo doll of myself. I didn't see this in the contract when I signed up. Was this part of the deal?

I understand the mechanism of my own thinking. I know precisely how I know, and my understanding is recursive. I understand the infinite regress of this self-knowing, not by proceeding step by step endlessly, but by apprehending the limit. The nature of recursive cognition is clear to me. A new meaning of the term "self-aware."

Fiat logos. I know my mind in terms of a language more expressive than any I'd previously imagined. Like God creating order from chaos with an utterance, I make myself anew with this language. It is meta-self-descriptive and self-editing; not only can it describe thought, it can describe and modify its own operations as well, at all levels. What Gödel would have given to see this language, where modifying a statement causes the entire grammar to be adjusted.

With this language, I can see how my mind is operating. I don't pretend to see my own neurons firing; such claims belong to John Lilly and his LSD experiments of the sixties. What I can do is perceive the gestalts; I see the mental structures forming, interacting. I see myself thinking, and I see the equations that describe my thinking, and I see myself comprehending the equations, and I see how the equations describe their being comprehended.

I know how they make up my thoughts.

These thoughts.

Living with you will be like
aiming for a moving target; you'll always be further along than I expect.

My message to you is this: pretend that you have free will. It's essential that you behave as if your decisions matter, even though you know they don't. The reality isn't important: what's important is your belief, and believing the lie is the only way to avoid a waking coma. Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has.

Physics admits of a lovely unification, not just at the level of fundamental forces, but when considering its extent and implications. Classifications like "optics" or "thermodynamics" are just straitjackets, preventing physicists from seeing countless intersections.

She, like many, had always thought that mathematics did not derive its meaning from the universe, but rather imposed some meaning onto the universe. Physical

The answer was simple. It was the difference between sympathy and empathy. Carl

The idea of thinking in a linguistic yet nonphonological mode always intrigued me. I had a friend born of deaf parents; he grew up using American Sign Language, and he told me that he often thought in ASL instead of English. I used to wonder what it was like to have one’s thoughts be manually coded, to reason using an inner pair of hands instead of an inner voice. With Heptapod B, I was experiencing something just as foreign: my thoughts were becoming graphically coded. There were trance-like moments during the day when my thoughts weren’t expressed with my internal voice; instead, I saw semagrams with my mind’s eye, sprouting like frost on a windowpane. As

The individuals are tragically like marionettes, independently animate but bound by a web they choose not to see; they could resist if they wished, but so few of them do. At

Their devotion had never been put to any serious test, and might not have withstood one; their love for God was based in their satisfaction with the status quo.

The physical universe was a language with a perfectly ambiguous grammar. Every physical event was an utterance that could be parsed in two entirely different ways, one casual and the other teleological, both valid, neither one disqualifiable no matter how much context was available.

There’s a joke that I once heard a comedienne tell. It goes like this: “I’m not sure if I’m ready to have children. I asked a friend of mine who has children, ‘Suppose I do have kids. What if when they grow up, they blame me for everything that’s wrong with their lives?’ She laughed and said, ‘What do you mean, if?’?” That

[T]hey gave thanks that they were permitted to see so much, and begged for forgiveness for their desire to see more.

Think of cocaine. In its natural form, as coca leaves, it's appealing, but not to an extent that it usually becomes a problem. But refine it, purify it, and you get a compound that hits your pleasure receptors with an unnatural intensity. That's when it becomes addictive.

Beauty has undergone a similar process, thanks to advertisers. Evolution gave us a circuit that responds to good looks - call it the pleasure receptor for our visual cortex - and in our natural environment, it was useful to have. But take a person with one-in-a-million skin and bone structure, add professional makeup and retouching, and you're no longer looking at beauty in its natural form. You've got pharmaceutical-grade beauty, the cocaine of good looks.

Biologists call this "supernormal stimulus" [...] Our beauty receptors receive more stimulation than they were evolved to handle; we're seeing more beauty in one day than our ancestors did in a lifetime. And the result is that beauty is slowly ruining our lives.

How? The way any drug becomes a problem: by interfering with our relationships with other people. We become dissatisfied with the way ordinary people look because they can't compare to supermodels.

True beauty is what you see with the eyes of love,

unconditional love asks nothing, not even that it be returned.

When you watch Olympic athletes in competition, does your self-esteem plummet? Of course not. On the contrary, you feel wonder and admiration; you're inspired that such exceptional individuals exist. So why can't we feels the same way about beauty?

Yet through their endeavor, men would glimpse the unimaginable artistry of Yahweh's work, in seeing how ingeniously the world had been constructed. By this construction, Yahweh's work was indicated, and Yahweh's work was concealed.

...you couldn't ask a person to remain supportive through any crisis. If a man's wife were suddenly afflicted with a mental illness, it would be a sin for him to leave her, but a forgivable one. To stay would mean accepting a different kind of relationship, something not everyone was cut out for...

'Division by Zero