Hemlock Club and Socrates Cafe

Diary 6/25/22: Interesting articles from Nature, including Roe; Alan Watts poem; no doom and gloom; my bleak philosophy; poetry challenge; annoying flies; misery of heat; MLK quote and Christopher Phillips.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved


A new article from Nature: “Why hundreds of scientists are weighing in on a high-stakes US abortion case:  Studies suggest that a reversal of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision would be detrimental for many.”

Fans of Where’s Waldo? might like to try “Find the Penguin” from Nature magazine.  I looked for about 90 seconds and gave up, unsuccessful.  The answer will be published Monday.  The location is Busiek State Forest in Missouri.

Nature Cell Biology offers this tidbit:  “Long life depends on open communication.”  Alas, this is not an article about human communication, but rather “inter-tissue communication from periphery to neurons to regulate lifespan via fatty acid breakdown and secretion.”  I know some of the words, but have no clue about the meaning.

Alan Watts (1915-1973)

“A Peek Inside” What is Tao? by Alan Watts (ISBN 157731168X) turns up this poem, “The Way of the Tao”:

Nature Reviews Psychology offers this tantalizing hint about resting and memory:  “Offline memory consolidation during waking rest:  People spend approximately half of their waking hours inattentive to their surroundings. In this Review, Wamsley describes the beneficial effect that these periods of offline waking rest have on memory, contrasting this benefit and its underlying mechanisms with the effects of sleep.”  The “Preview of Subscription Content” has this sentence:  “Even a few minutes of rest with closed eyes can improve memory, perhaps to the same degree as a full night of sleep.”  So the next time I find myself “zoning out,” I’ll just chalk it up to improving my memory.

I also learned from Nature this morning that they’ve found a giant bacteria, one centimeter long, thus visible to the naked eye (just barely).  They also point out that it’s very different from ordinary bacteria (if there is such a thing) in that it has some features of eukaryotes.  What puzzles me is why they then call it “bacteria”; apparently it’s sui generis.  The name is “Thiomargarita magnifica,” prompting me to wonder who Margarita is, and whether the name is a reference to her thighs.

It seems that today I am resistant to wallowing in doom and gloom.  Good, because I have to get ready for a somewhat reduced Hemlock Club meeting (Nog is doubtful about attending).

The Hemlock Club was interesting today.  I presented the Watts poem given above; everyone read it but there was little or no discussion.  Earlier, Pablo and I had talked about the pragmatic foundation of my “bleak philosophy,” the wording of which I’ll copy here:  “…a book, a sentence, a position, a map, a method, a truth, anything is personally worthless to me unless I can understand it.  And understanding comes in many forms.”  He found this unreasonable, raising the issue of cell phones, etc.; I explained that I can understand how to use a cell phone, I don’t need to understand quantum mechanics and otherwise how they work.  We went back and forth on this non-issue for a while.  SE, via my blog, also objected to this principle.  The point is that people who believe in God claim that God is a mystery that no one can understand.  So, to get practical guidance, it is necessary to turn to a book, such as the Bible, which raises other objections.  It’s not to be expected that I’ll change his mind about “the usefulness of belief in God,” or anything else, but at least for a while it wasn’t excessively dull—unlike his neverending love-hate with “Gertrude.”

At the end I challenged TC and Pablo both to come up with an original poem on Zen or Taoism by next Saturday’s meeting; I was thinking that this was a way to get me to write a poem, something I haven’t done in six or ten years.  My guess is that Pablo will come up with something, written the morning of the meeting, probably, and TC won’t come up with anything serious (and perhaps nothing at all).  He asked about Peanut, who wasn’t present at the time of this discussion, and I said to ask her to participate, by all means.  Actually, it’s rather unfair to include TC, because he generally hasn’t been a party to our discussions of Taoism.  I’m hoping that the post I called “My Taoism” will be a help [to me] in getting this written.

“Flies” Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

I tried to take a nap earlier (it’s now almost 8:00), but a fly kept bugging me.  When I got up and went into the living room, more flies were annoying.  I killed two, but a third escaped his doom, and there’s still one in the bedroom.  Usually I get just one fly at a time in here, because I’m pretty careful about closing the door quickly when I’m going in or out.  There are two dumpsters within a stone’s throw of my front door.

The predicted high today was 106°; next week the highs are predicted at or above 100° except Friday, slightly less, and so on.  Misery, worse for Pablo than for me.

Met a new guy at Panera Bread, Mr. P; he seems pretty bright, but seems also more interested in joking around (ala TC) than not.  When he played poker he went all in, blind.  That’s a jerk’s move.  Of course it’s just for chips, but this ruins the game (though TC didn’t mind, he said).

“MLK, Jr.” Photo by Gotta Be Worth It on Pexels.com

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”  This quote comes by way of Donald Robertson at  PlatosAcademy.org (link) where the article is titled “Christopher Phillips: The Socrates Café Movement.”  I like the quote, skimmed (and wasn’t inclined to read) the article.  Another quote:  “We simply must counteract the pervasive predisposition to think in black and white terms.”  I can agree with this wholeheartedly; it seems to be from Phillips.  There is a Socrates Café YouTube channel, which seems to be primarily or exclusively discussions between Phillips and one or more eight-year-olds; given that Cornel West is involved enough to have his name here, however, is encouraging.  The best link appears to be to the site called “Socrates Café”:  link.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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