Belief

we are sound

To the former of these Sects we may justly annumerate all such, who conceived the soul of man to be only a certain harmony, not of Musical sounds, but a contemperation of parts, humours, and qualities; and consequently, that as of Musical Harmony, nothing can remain after the sounds are vanished, so of the soul nothing can remain, after death hath once destroyed that harmonious Contemperation of parts, humours, and qualities, from whence it did result.

And this purely was the opinion of not only those ancienter Greeks, Dicaearchus, Aristoxenus, Andraeas, and Asclepiades, all which are thereof strongly accused by Plato (in Phaed.) and Aristotle (Lib. I. de Anima. Cap. 5.) but also our Master Galen, who was positive an plain in his definition of the soul, to be a certain Temperament of Elementary Qualities.

Charleton, Walter. “An Apology for Epicurus.” Epicurus: His Morals. London: Peter Davies, 1926.

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Belief

Patti Smith on remembrance

AL: What I meant to ask you about is how you commemorate people when you’re not doing a show.

PS: Oh, daily. I mean I’ve lost so many people that I love. Robert Mapplethorpe was my best friend, I lost my young pianist, my brother, my husband, my parents, so many people in my life that I just find myself remembering them, sometimes writing about them, writing poems for them, saying prayers for them, or sometimes just talking with them.

I still consult my mother for guidance and my husband when I’m working on something like a visual project or a photograph and I have trouble. I often think of what Robert would say.

We can seek guidance from our departed, you know, as long as we listen. It’s a matter of listening. So, it’s not necessarily a dramatic thing or a sad thing, it’s just a part of my daily practice.

Sometimes in my travels I see a lot of churches. I really like to sit in churches, and if they have candles, I’ll light candles for everyone from my father to our ailing cat. It’s just integrated in my life. It’s not connected with any particular religion or anything, it’s just something that I do.

Levitt, Aimee. “Patti Smith discusses art, remembrance, and detective shows.” Chicago Reader. 27 Oct. 2014.

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Belief

anthropocentric optimism

The author is reflecting on society’s secondary reaction to Charles Darwin (following denial), which rushed to adopt the workings of evolution as proof of man’s supremacy in the universe. Henry Adams, in thought and repose, abstained from this belief and went further to criticize nature’s workings.

Despite their epistemic shift, however, many evolutionist treatises were characterized by the same anthropocentric optimism that typified their predecessors. . . . the most prominent evolutionist discourses from 1870 to 1900, especially in America, triumphantly announced the naturalization of the “Supremacy of Mankind over the Earth.”

As Adams himself notes in The Tendency, America added to evolution “the cheerful optimism which gave to Darwin’s conclusions the charm of possible human perfectibility” (130). “Society naturally and instinctively adopted the view that Evolution must be upward” (153) . . . though humanity’s exceptionality was no longer assured by divine ordination, its position atop creation was yet secured by the workings of natural law.

Adams, however, while citing evolution as crucial to his own materialist historiography and aware of its aesthetic appeal (it was, he claimed, “the best substitute for religion”), unconditionally refuses the optimistic terms of its popular representations (Education, 225). Rejecting any belief in a “doctrine of development”—whether biologically or socially engineered—he offers instead an alternative, pessimistic account of humanity’s past, present, and future.

Perhaps most important for Adams is his conviction that evolution could offer only “pure inference,” not evidence, of progressive “selection”: “All he could prove was change,” not improvement (Education, 230, 228, 230). Indeed, if evolution has a direction, The Education suggests, it is downward.

Taylor, Matthew A. Universes without Us: Posthuman Cosmologies in American Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. 63, 64. Print.

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Belief

return to the unconsciousness

Schopenhauer, influenced by Buddhist thought, proclaimed that all will is suffering. Therefore, the ultimate goal of the self should be annihilation—a return to the unconscious eternity whence it emerged: “Awakened to life out of the night of unconsciousness, the will finds itself as an individual in an endless and boundless world, among innumerable individuals, all striving, suffering, and erring; and, as if through a troubled dream, it hurries back to the old unconsciousness.”

Schopenhauer’s quasi-Buddhist view of life may seem a needlessly jaundiced one. Still, the idea of annihilation as a return to a lost state of peace can have a powerful emotional resonance, one that harkens back to our childhood.

We come into existence in the womb—a warm sea of unconsciousness—and then find ourselves at our mother’s breast, in a consummate state of satisfied desire. As our sense of self gradually emerges, it is in an atmosphere of total dependence by rebelling against our parents, repudiating the comforts of home, and striking out into the world. There we compete to reproduce ourselves, beginning the cycle anew.

But the world is a dangerous place, full of strangers; and our rebellion against our parents leaves us with a sense of alienation, a sense of having ruptured a primal bond. Only by returning home can we expiate our crime of existence, achieve reconciliation, and restore oneness.

Holt, Jim. Why Does the World Exist? New York: Liveright Publishing Company, 2012. 269–70. Print.

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Belief

frisbeetarian

The second part of my thinking is what’s next? I have carefully considered some alternatives without reaching a decision. In addition to more prominent belief systems, there is the creative belief of the frisbeetarians who believe that when we die our souls go up on a roof and we can’t get them down. Regardless of when and how, “death has so many doors to let out life.” Death is always inconvenient. For a while I wondered if I would know how to die, much like the time long ago when I wondered if I would know how to give birth, but that seemed to take care of itself without my micromanagement.

Continue reading:

Patterson, Naomi. “Naomi Patterson: Dying to know answers.” The Topeka Capital-Journal. 23 Sep. 2012.

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Belief

something endures

“[One afternoon we] were sitting in his backyard… and he was not in the best of health at the time. . . . He said, ‘You know, I’m kind of 50/50 on believing in God. But I want to believe that something endures, that your wisdom that you accumulate, that the knowledge that you have somehow is able to endure after you die.’

“And then he pauses, and he says, ‘Maybe that’s just wishful thinking. Maybe that’s just like an on-off switch.’ And he goes, ‘Click, you’re off. You’re gone. It’s over.’ And then he paused for a moment and he said, ‘Maybe that’s why I didn’t like to put on-off switches on Apple devices.’ ”

—Walter Isaacson, biographer

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Belief

Katharine Hepburn on altruism


“I’ve never felt the slightest interest in the ‘next world’. I think it’s here, and I think anything good that you’re going to do, you should do for other people here, and not do anything to make yourself have a happy time in the next world.”

—Katharine Hepburn, atheist

On June 29, 2003, Hepburn died of natural causes at Fenwick, the Hepburn family home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. She was 96 years old, and was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Hartford, Connecticut in the family plot. In honor of her extensive theater work, the lights of Broadway were dimmed for an hour. In 2004, in accordance with Hepburn’s wishes, her personal effects were put up for auction with Sotheby’s in New York.

“Season 6, Episode 23.” The Dick Cavett Show. ABC, Los Angeles. 2 Oct. 1973.

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