Autobiography of a Restless Mind: Reflections on the Human Condition [NOOK Book]

Overview

Volume 2

Autobiography of a Restless Mind is a fascinating, exceptionally diverse collection of observations and reflections written over the past twenty-five years by one of the most innovative thinkers, writers, and leaders of the past half century. Witty and wise, playful and profound, prophetic and immensely quotable, it is a companion no thinking, caring person should be without. Written in an unforgettable style reminiscent of Aurelius, Montaigne, Lao-Tse, and Bacon, it is...

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Autobiography of a Restless Mind: Reflections on the Human Condition

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Overview

Volume 2

Autobiography of a Restless Mind is a fascinating, exceptionally diverse collection of observations and reflections written over the past twenty-five years by one of the most innovative thinkers, writers, and leaders of the past half century. Witty and wise, playful and profound, prophetic and immensely quotable, it is a companion no thinking, caring person should be without. Written in an unforgettable style reminiscent of Aurelius, Montaigne, Lao-Tse, and Bacon, it is a classic that will be read with pleasure and profit for generations to come.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781475978674
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/6/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 165 KB

Read an Excerpt

AUTOBIOGRAPHY of a RESTLESS MIND

Reflections on the Human Condition Volume Two: 2001 to 2008


By Dee Hock

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2013 Dee Hock
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4759-7868-1


CHAPTER 1

Introduction


The first decade of the new millennium was increasingly turbulent, as news headlines reveal.

Dotcom bubble crash—Vladimir Putin elected president of Russia—Concorde crash in France kills 113—Sydney hosts Olympic games—Wikipedia launched—George W. Bush sworn in as US president—Terrorist attack brings down World Trade Center towers killing thousands—First tourist in space—Apple launches ipad—Euro currency begins circulation—Deadliest act of terrorism in the history of Indonesia—Columbia space shuttle disaster strikes—Second invasion of Iraq begins—Human genome project completed—Record heat wave kills tens of thousands in Europe—Myspace introduced—China launches its first manned space mission—Worldwide oil production hits plateau—Twitter launched—North Korea conducts its first nuclear test—Saddam Hussein executed—Global economic recession—Shooting rampage kills 32 at Virginia Tech—Market blast in Baghdad kills 100—Prime minister Bhutto of Pakistan killed—Minneapolis bridge over Mississippi collapses—First recorded hurricane in South Atlantic—George W. Bush reelected—Olympic games in Athens—Train bombing in Madrid kills 200—First privately funded human space satellite—Facebook launched—New world's tallest building in Asia—Indian ocean earthquake results in a quarter million deaths—Youtube launched—Suicide bombers London—Hurricane Katrina decimates New Orleans–Angela Merkel first female chancellor of Germany.


After selling our rural paradise in 1999, we moved to the state of Washington, where we bought a derelict house on two acres of land with saltwater frontage at the south end of Puget Sound. In February 2001, a major earthquake (6.8 on the Richter scale) with the epicenter but two miles from our house provided ample adventure. It was our second such experience, the first (6.9 magnitude) having occurred in February 1989, with the epicenter but four miles from our ranch house in California.

Sales from my recently published book, One from Many, were brisk and brought even more invitations to speak and consult, which I had little desire to pursue. After ten years of intense effort to catalyze institutional change without notable success, I had become disillusioned. As the closing lines of Voltaire's Candide advised, "perhaps it is just as well to stay at home and tend one's garden."

I wanted no more of travel, notoriety, and fruitless effort. I methodically put aside activities of the past as I turned my attention to rebuilding the derelict house, creating two acres of gardens, oil painting, hand-lettering in stone, and, as ever, continuing my incessant reading, writing, and study, including another 2,200 reflections on life and living.

As 2003 began, we were comfortably settled in our new but smaller Shangri-la, with sweeping views of rocky beaches, lower Puget Sound, a forested, far shore with the Black Hills in the distance. I continued to make an occasional speech and work with the Patient Safety Institute, a not-for-profit effort by leading people in the medical field who were attempting to create an electronic medical information system to reduce a rising tide of medical errors resulting in death or serious injury.

Ironically, in October, the cartilage in both my knees gave out and double knee replacement became necessary. The surgery was successful; however, when I regained consciousness, both my arms were extremely painful and the side of both hands and two fingers of each were paralyzed. Neurological testing revealed major damage to the ulnar nerve in each arm.

The surgeons, anesthetists, surgical nurses, and hospital administrators denied any knowledge of possible cause, yet the fact remained that both arms and hands had been in perfect shape when anesthetics were administered and severely damaged when I awoke in the recovery room.

Six months later came news of colon cancer. With great trepidation, I returned to the hospital for more surgery to have a third of my colon removed, this without apparent medical error. Within months of the cancer surgery came diagnoses of sleep apnea requiring use of a machine that delivers constant air pressure through the night via a face mask, then chest pains due to a blocked heart artery that put me back in the hospital to have the artery probed, opened, and a stent inserted.

I made one last attempt to create institutional change when the secretary of Health Education and Welfare asked if I would help create a national organization for the evolution of the American Health Information Community, a semiformal group working to advance the automation and electronic transmission of medical information. After working on this for a year and creating a concept, an organizational structure, requisite bylaws, and proposing a plan to bring it into being, political pressures caused the department to take a different approach that I knew was certain to fail. I declined further participation as it faded away.

In spite of five major medical problems in less than two years, my treasured routine of rising each morning at five thirty for a half hour of meditation and two hours of writing, followed by six to eight hours of work in gardens, painting studio and wood/stone shop, then four hours of evening reading and study, became even more entrenched.

Toward the end of the decade, the habit of ending the morning's writing with four or five short observations came to a close, and selecting and arranging them for publication took its place.

And so herewith, the second volume of the Autobiography of a Restless Mind.


1 Life is messy; only death is neat.

* * *

2 Dreams are destroyed by their realization and achievement by accomplishment, but hope lives on forever.

* * *

3 Knowledge is the rubble left when wisdom breaks down.

* * *

4 Trusting a politician to put the public interest before his own is like trusting a dog to deliver a pound of hamburger to your neighbor.

* * *

5 The two most discontented beings are humans and cancer cells.

* * *

6 Under precise, scientifically controlled conditions, life does as it damned well pleases.

* * *

Every man, no matter how intelligent and learned, conceals within a dunce in a dungeon and a madman on a chain.

* * *

8 Life offers everyone truth and comfort. Choose carefully. You rarely can have both.

* * *

9 The young man loves women; the mature man loves enterprise, the old man loves memories.

* * *

10 It is no more sensible to expect morality from science than it is to expect feathers from a rock. Morality is not what science does.

* * *

11 "From a great kingdom [nation] into one great play-table, to turn its inhabitants into a nation of gamesters; to make speculation as extensive as life; to mix it with all its concerns; and to divert the whole of the hopes and fears of its people from their usual channels into the impulses, passions and superstitions of those who live on chances." —Edmond Burke (1790)

(It's enough to make one believe in reincarnation. This would make an excellent twenty-first century op-ed piece for the Washington Post.)

* * *

12 Even donkeys know it is better to lie on straw than on gold.

* * *

13 In the gratification of every desire lies the creation of more demanding ones.

* * *

14 Science asks, "What can we know?" Practicality asks, "What can we do?" Morality asks, "How shall we behave?" Religion asks, "What will we believe?" Wisdom alone is silent.

* * *

15 Certainty is not a property of the universe; it is a construct of the mind.

* * *

16 Commerce has the cunning to pluck a handful of feathers from every goose for each kernel of corn it provides.

* * *

17 What makes us believe that every effect has a cause and every cause has an effect? Is it not more sensible to think that everything is a complex, harmonic interplay of infinite relationships?

* * *

18 Why is it so difficult to see that estrangement from nature and from the wholeness of self came about in direct relationship to the rise of mechanistic, Newtonian science and mathematics?

* * *

19 Language is the substitution of symbol for reality, thus the first, immense separation of humanity from the animate earth.

* * *

20 At the heart of most immense, intractable, societal problems lie the hubris of science, the ubiquity of technology, the mythology of economics, and the corruption of commerce.

* * *

21 Dogma has this to recommend it: the believer is isolated from the constant struggle to obtain knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

* * *

22 Formal education has abased itself and now concentrates on making the world safe for centralization of power, concentration of wealth, plunder of the planet, and dominance of science and technology.

* * *

23 I would much rather plant a tree than cut one down, and draw current capital from the sun rather than exploit its accumulated reserves.

* * *

24 When money's rant is on, what do universities do? Why, leap forward, hands out, with the best of them. What should the university do? Ah, that is another question entirely.

* * *

25 We are so obsessed with the nature of the economy that we ignore the economy of nature.

* * *

26 Western man conceives of time as a straight string stretching from a beginning to an end. Perhaps it is an integrated mass without beginning or end within which all things manifest themselves and move about without awareness of where in the mass they lie.

* * *

27 Lust for profit has no limit, no conscience, and no virtue.

* * *

28 That the words economist and economize have common origins is an excellent example of the debasement of language.

* * *

29 In our insatiable quest to know, what has happened to our capacity to care? In our lust to get, what has happened to our desire to give? In our eagerness to hate, what has happened to our capacity to love? The answers are too unpleasant to contemplate.

* * *

30 Knowledge by itself is a means without an end, a sentence without a subject. Knowledge alone can no more produce a just, equitable, peaceful society than a trumpet can compose a symphony or a violin play a musician.

* * *

31 In our monetized society, stockholder profit is the only thing that can proclaim with the full force of law, and judicial sanction, "Thou shalt have no other god before me," to which corporate executives, politicians, and academics chorus a fervent, "Amen!"

* * *

32 Logic is the kingdom of opposites in which nothing can be reconciled. Love has no such difficulty.

* * *

33 One of the principle functions of government during the past two centuries has been to make economic crimes against people and planet legal.

* * *

34 Our descendants will view our insatiable, destructive consumption, and pursuit of economic growth as moral corruption and mental derangement. They will justly curse us for their legacy of enormous reparation we will leave them.

* * *

35 The earth can easily satisfy the legitimate needs of all life, but not the devouring lusts of mankind.

* * *

36 Our leaders think terrorism is a problem to be solved with power, technology, and money rather than a paradox to be avoided with awareness, wisdom, and equity. The same is true of most other intransigent problems facing society.

* * *

37 Power demands; wisdom requests.

* * *

38 Postmodern education seems a mad effort to divorce the humanities from the reality of living and relegate them to the realm of fanciful abstraction.

* * *

39 The richest societies are always dependent on exploitation of the poorest. The most powerful societies are always dependent on domination of the weakest. We call it civilization.

* * *

40 Preoccupation with enemies, constant search for treason, continual appeals for patriotism, and ever-increasing military might are signs of an insecure, besieged, deteriorating nation.

* * *

41 Despite the achievements of science and technology, present society cannot cure a fraction of the ills it creates or create a fraction of the marvels it destroys.

* * *

42 Power without responsibility, wealth without beneficence, fame without morality, and avarice without restraint: is that the message of postmodern society?

* * *

43 Belief in the so-called "virtual world" is akin to belief that perusing a wilderness map can replace a walk through a forest, that eating a menu can replace a meal, or that listening to news accounts of a town meeting can replace participation.

* * *

44 In the past three centuries, the massive, blundering immediacy of what, when, and how has trampled underfoot the essential importance of why.

* * *

45 We seem intent on descent into intense, high-tech barbarism.

* * *

46 The zeal with which we are led to believe that technology will eventually save us from ecological, social, and political disaster would be laughable were its consequences less grim.

* * *

47 We seem bound forever between things too huge and too small to grasp, between things too obvious and too obscure to be noticed, between things too good and too evil to understand.

* * *

48 What is nature but a resource to be exploited by the most fortunate among us as they see fit. Why nothing, of course, in the minds of most.

* * *

49 We invest in all the wrong things because they are compatible with the pursuit of profit, while essential values are discarded as useless.

* * *

50 The things that matter most and are essential to a decent society—character, ethics, empathy, generosity, love, peace—cost nothing, while technology, war, and destructive consumption are not necessary and cost a great deal. Why do we prefer the expensive and unnecessary to the essential and free?

* * *

51 For those who do not believe in the religion of money and refuse to worship in the temples of commerce, the world is an increasingly ugly, unfriendly, dangerous place.

* * *

52 There is a form of rabies rampant in science for which there is no known cure—hubris. It is spread when one infected mind bites another.

* * *

53 Every decision, other than those essential to secure food, shelter, and clothing, should be made based upon its effect a hundred years hence.

* * *

54 The great ideas of the past centuries continue to titillate our minds but they no longer touch our hearts. They have become intellectual toys rather than fundamental beliefs. We reason about them but do not live them. They are in the brain, not the bone.

* * *

55 This is the age of violence—violence to planet, species, society, and individuals; violence to life itself and everything on which life depends.

* * *

56 There is no problem in the world that cannot be solved if we love broadly, deeply, and wisely enough.

* * *

57 This much we can all know for certain: in the eyes of the universe, the most learned, powerful, wealthy, or famous cannot be distinguished from the least among us.

* * *

58 We are naught but temporary manifestations of the dispersed energy and intelligence of the universe. How does our behavior appear to the pure intelligence and energy from which we coalesced? Very poorly I suspect.

* * *

59 You can't reason with ideology any more than you can with deceit.

* * *

60 Everyone knows that children make more messes than they clean up. Everyone knows that present forms of societal organization, particularly government and business, make more messes than they clean up. Are we, organizationally, in a state of arrested childishness?

* * *

61 Words are raped, pillaged, and plundered of all meaning when power's bellow and money's rant are on.

* * *

62 A society that believes infinite increase in material consumption is possible in a finite world is a society of cretins.

* * *

63 All medical science notwithstanding, the race between microbes and man has barely begun. My money is on the microbes.

* * *

64 Any idiot can impose and exercise control. It takes genius to ensure freedom and release creativity.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from AUTOBIOGRAPHY of a RESTLESS MIND by Dee Hock. Copyright © 2013 Dee Hock. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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