Thoughts and Observations: Weekend Edition

File:Bixby Creek Bridge, California, USA - May 2013.jpg
Bixby Creek Bridge, care of Wikipedia

Mostly just pointing you to other links.

1. In the course of taking the family on our annual camping trip to meet up with my little brother and his family, we drove CA Highway 1 from Santa Cruz to Morro Bay.  Couple observations.

– This world is really beautiful. Even elephant seals look sort of OK framed by the California coast;

– People are really good at building roads. There are a *lot* of death-defying cliff-hugging roads and bridges along Highway 1. Some nuts had to design and then actually build those things – and they pulled it off in style;

– I won’t be willingly moving from California any time soon.

2. Visited Hearst Castle, a place I have never had the least interest in seeing, because the extended family wanted to. Hey, domestic tranquility and all that.  Let’s just go ahead and say it: it is a metaphor for everything that’s gone wrong in America over the last 150 years:

– It’s a monument to what money unencumbered by anything higher than a bloated ego can accomplish;

– All over the buildings and grounds, religious themes are incorporated into the secular pleasure palace because they are old and kind of interesting. The main building is built to look like a church, and just about every facade and room has diptichs, choir stalls, religious statuary, paintings and knick-knacks.  Generations of monks might have prayed for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of the world in those stalls, but Hearst repurposed them so that Errol Flynn could sit in one and complain about Hearst’s watery martinis;

– The entire point of the buildings ceased to be upon the death of the builder. Once Willy died, his estate couldn’t wait to get rid of it. Ended up giving it to the State of California, which turned it into a tourist attraction that pretty much pays for itself. Now, you lay you money down, and you can look at it – just don’t touch anything, don’t even think about swimming in the pools or riding the trails or sitting in the sitting rooms. Just look.

– All of history, represented by all the stuff Hearst collected, is merely a curiosity to be momentarily gawked at. It’s cool, and all, but means nothing.

It’s a kind of transitional piece, where a man with pretensions to culture could acknowledge religion – Catholicism, really – while simultaneously pushing it aside as a mere curiosity. The next generation could, as a simple matter of taste, ignore it completely.

3. The always interesting Darwin Catholic has a post up about reading and rereading. I’m with Darwin here: the virtues of reading sources (Great Books), of reading good fiction, and of rereading good books in general seem so obvious and natural the mind stumbles over the novelty of trying to express why, like Chesterton’s example of the man asked why he prefers civilization.

4. John C. Wright is at it again, making a manly effort to explain philosophy and what really thinking about something looks like to the masses in his combox and email. It is a think of great beauty and horror: the beauty of seeing truth expounded and defended, and the horror of observing the deformities which – however innocently and even with good intentions – have shaped so many modern minds.

5. Mr. Wright also addresses the topic of skepticism, an issue dear to my heart. He points out that the term ‘skepticism’ is used equivocally to mean both the thorough and logical critique of ideas and assumptions and the emotional predilection toward scoffing at every belief and idea you don’t like. He adds a new and interesting thought: that skepticism as used in the second sense amounts to a failure of imagination. Aristotle somewhere says words to the effect that the sign of a cultured mind is the ability to calmly entertain an idea without believing it true.

6. The Statistician to the Stars takes time off from  explaining and defending Bayes’s theorem (his math-fu is stronger than mine! Like horse stronger than ant!) to explain the usefulness of and logic behind ensembles of models. This, I could understand – good stuff.

7. Last, Mike Flynn writes about science and humanism, enlisting the aid of, among others,  Calvin and Hobbes, Star Trek, LotR, Joni Mitchell, and Hitler in making his points clear. How can you not love that?

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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