Of course memory is a function of the present—and so is continually subject to revision in the light of what the present reveals. It transpires that she was not the faithful lover you had thought; that when he said those terrible things to you, he had just discovered he was dying… Nonetheless we should not concede that we got something badly wrong just because a new perspective alters its sense. All we gain is a practical demonstration—for once—that the meaning of our lives is unstable, and its information-content unfixable. All we have is the interpretive act of memory, and its truths are only distinguished from its lies by the sheer luck of their being historically unchallenged. (it is further revealed, let’s suppose, that her betrayal was fabricated by a jealous admirer; or that, from his old diaries, it’s clear that your behaviour had disgusted him for years…and once again, the memories must be sweetened or embittered to taste.) We have no better truth than the present we simply live—one as yet untainted by memory, and so emptied of any meaning.
It was, I suppose, to the Alexandrian school and to the early Church that I owe in particular what I definitely held about the Angels. I viewed them, not only as the ministers employed by the Creator in the Jewish and Christian dispensations, as we find on the face of Scripture, but as carrying on, as Scripture also implies, the Economy of the Visible World. I considered them as the real causes of motion, light, and life, and of those elementary principles of the physical universe, which, when offered in their developments to our senses, suggest to us the notion of cause and effect, and of what are called the laws of nature. This doctrine I have drawn out in my Sermon for Michaelmas day, written in 1831. I say of the angels, ‘Every breath of air and ray of light and heat, every beautiful prospect, is, as it were, the skirts of their garments, the waving of the robes of those whose faces see God.’ Again, I ask what would be the thoughts of a man who, ‘when examining a flower, or a herb, or a pebble, or a ray of light, which he treats as something so beneath him in the scale of existence, suddenly discovered that he was in the presence of some powerful being who was hidden behind the visible things he was inspecting, who, though concealing his wise hand, was giving them their beauty, grace, and perfection, as being God’s instrument for the purpose, nay, whose robe and ornaments those objects were, which he was so eager to analyze?’ and I therefore remark that ‘we may say with grateful and simple hearts with the Three Holy Children, ‘O all ye works of the Lord, &c., &c., bless ye the Lord, praise Him, and magnify Him for ever.
Why I so much prefer autumn to spring is that in the autumn one looks at heaven—in the spring at the earth.
— Søren Kierkegaard
A brown moth goes by.
Eight minutes go by,
sit, sit somewhere else.
I’m on time, mostly.
I think it is going to get better;
it’s already subterranean—inside me
and coming out, as a prayer
to Radha and Krsna to Radha
(Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, 1994)
Mine de rien, c’était une sacrée question que me posait votre chère et tendre. La formulation habituelle en est: “Quel livre emmèneriez-vous sur une île déserte?” Interrogation que j’ai toujours trouvée un peu stupide, car absurde: si le métier de professeur d’université devait offrir, en prime, un voyage sur une île déserte, ça se saurait. Mais, posée à l’envers, la question devient essentielle: quels livres auriez-vous le moins de scrupules a détruire?
— Amélie Nothomb, Les combustibles, p. 28
A young prince with mystics (mid seventeenth century). (Source)
I defined thinking as combining information in new ways. The information can come from long-term memory — facts you’ve memorized — or from the environment. In today’s world, is there a reason to memorize anything? You can find any factual information you need in seconds via the Internet. Then too, things change so quickly that half of the information you commit to memory will be out of date in five years — or so the argument goes. Perhaps instead of learning facts, it’s better to practice critical thinking, to have students work at evaluating all that information available on the Internet, rather than trying to commit some small part of it to memory.
This argument is false. Data from the last thirty years lead to a conclusion that is not scientifically challengeable: thinking well requires knowing facts, and that’s true not simply because you need something to think about. The very processes that teachers care about most — critical thinking processes such as reasoning and problem solving — are intimately intertwined with factual knowledge that is in long-term memory (not just found in the environment).
It’s hard for many people to conceive of thinking processes as intertwined with knowledge. Most people believe that thinking processes are akin to those of a calculator. A calculator has available a set of procedures (addition, multiplication, and so on) that can manipulate numbers, and those procedures can be applied to any set of numbers. The data (the numbers) and the operations that manipulate the data are separate. Thus, if you learn a new thinking operation (for example, how to critically analyze historical documents), it seems like that operation should be applicable to all historical documents, just as a fancier calculator that computes sines can do so for all numbers.
But the human mind does not work that way. When we learn to think critically about, say, the start of the Second World War, it does not mean that we can think critically about a chess game or about the current situation in the Middle East or even about the start of the American Revolutionary War. Critical thinking processes are tied to the background knowledge. The conclusion from this work in cognitive science is straightforward: we must ensure that students acquire background knowledge with practicing critical thinking skills.
As always, there was a lot of talk about Pandit Baba’s legendary ascetism and dedication to the life of bhajan. He owned nothing but his kaupin and his karua. One sadhu told the story of how the king of Scindia came to have darshan of the great saint, no doubt accompanied by his entourage, and after an uncomfortable silence, asked, “Is there anything I can do to serve you?”
Pandit Baba answered, “Yes, please never come back here again.”
on Ramakrishna Pandit Babaji
Prabhupada, what is the difference between the mind and the intelligence?"
“When you look down from a tall building and your mind says jump, your intelligence says don’t.
— Acyutananda Dasa’s Blazing Sadhus, p. 224.