WickedEye's Quotient

6/18/2006 at 03:55

Knowledge is not a loose-leaf notebook of facts. Above all, it is a responsibility...

...for the integrity of what we are, primarily of what we are as ethical creatures.
-Jacob Bronowski

It was my birthday last week.

I wrote an earlier entry about the thrill of communication and discourse with great human minds, living and dead, through their writings. And ever since I read The Ascent of Man when I was 25, I’ve been reminded on my birthday of Jacob Bronowski- mathematician, poet, biologist- because his writing spoke so immediately and eloquently to me, and because he died exactly 10 weeks after I was born.

Good old Bronowski.

I love Sagan’s incisiveness. I love Diamond’s thoroughness. I looooove Dawkins’ mordancy.

I love Douglas Adams’ wry essays and Jonathan Swift’s corrosive humor and Mark Twain’s brilliantly razored wit.

Jacob Bronowski’s writing is none of those things. He was highly intelligent, highly articulate; he was sober and principled and earnest and responsible.

His words sum up everything I think and feel and understand about the world I live in, and my abilities, and why the latter constitute an obligation to the former.

Just the other day, I had an email from an old friend telling me that I was “closed-minded” for dismissing certain snake-oil claims (what they are isn’t important; just that they were and remain an enormous pile of ludicrous rubbish) because they “didn’t fit in” with my value system.

I responded- offensively, and deliberately so- that my value system included authenticity and veracity, and if that made me closed-minded, then so be it.

The real issue he can’t let go of- nor, come to think of it, can I, though in an entirely different way- is that I cannot abide the pursuit of gratification without the full and knowing consent of both parties participating.

Usually that’s used as a description of consensual sex, but “pursuit of gratification” actually encompasses a far wider ambit of human activity.

To wit, those who deliberately use others without informing them of the fact, whether for money, sex, religious and/or psychological self-pleasure, or any other reason, really chap my hide.

Human relationships and their interrelationships are subtle, complex, and multilayered. So is Truth. So is Beauty.

But a few things, at least, are clear. And the “responsibility for the integrity of what we are” is one of them.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo! well said- glad that you find comfort in math- As I've always maintained, you were too smart for a hick like me :)

always- J  


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