There are two very clear indications of real science and real art: the first inner sign is that a scholar or an artist works not for profit, but for sacrifice, for his calling; the second, outer sign is that his works are understandable to all people. Real science studies and makes accessible that knowledge which people at that period of history think important, and real art transfers this truth from the domain of knowledge to the domain of feelings.
Creating art is not as elevated a thing as many people guess, but certainly it is a useful and kind thing to do, especially if it brings people together and arouses kind feelings in them.
Eventually everything connects — people, ideas, objects… the quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.
I do not accept subtractive models of love, only additive ones.
In the realm of psychology, there are three general theories that explain how humor works. According to the most common explanation for humor—the tension release theory—we experience, for a brief period after hearing a joke or looking at a cartoon, a tension that counterbalances what we assume about the situation being described or illustrated against what the comedian or cartoonist intends to convey. The tension is released only when the joke or cartoon is understood.
The second most popular theory of humor, the incongruity resolution model, involves the solving of a paradox or incongruity in a playful context. This theory is based on the deep relationship that exists in the human brain between the laughable and the illogical. As a species, we place great value on logic. Even so, we will playfully accept a situation that is highly unlikely or even impossible … as long as the scenario depicted in the cartoon is coherent and logically consistent with its theme. Incongruity resolution usually takes a little longer than tension release and occurs in two stages. First, expectations about the meaning of a joke or cartoon are jarringly undermined by the punch line of the joke or the caption of the cartoon. This leads to a form of problem solving aimed at reconciling the discrepancy. When we solve the problem, the pieces fall into place and we experience the joy that accompanies insight. Failure to get the point of a joke or cartoon causes the same discomfort we feel when we cannot solve a problem.
Finally, the superiority theory emphasizes how mirth and laughter so often involve a focus on someone else’s mistakes, misfortune, or stupidity. … The superiority theory lends itself especially to an explanation of cruel and hostile humor: the situation depicted in the joke or cartoon could never happen to us, hence our amusement. In a word, we feel superior to the person suffering misfortune.
In practice, most humor incorporates aspects of all three of those theories.
In its encounter with Nature, science invariably elicits a sense of reverence and awe. The very act of understanding is a celebration of joining, merging, even if on a very modest scale, with the magnificence of the Cosmos. And the cumulative worldwide build-up of knowledge over time converts science into something only a little short of a trans-national, trans-generational meta-mind.
Understanding is not a piercing of the mystery, but an acceptance of it, a living blissfully with it, in it, through and by it.
Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Those who maintain the power structures of the academy, and particularly the humanities, might reply that of course Helen Keller would say such a thing. If they didn’t say it out loud, they’d at least imply that collaboration is helpful only to those whose infirmities and weaknesses make it impossible for them to stand on their own—those people really need help. But not so in the humanities! Where we all lift our own weight, and all of us speak in our own, strong voices.
Academic life in the humanities still bears the form, if not the detail and substance, of the monastic life that shaped the modern university. Our offices and library cubicles are like cells, places to which we retreat so that we can “read, read, read, work, pray, and read again,” as the philosopher Charles Peirce put it back in 1877, quoting an old chemist’s maxim. Our graduate-school training habituates us in burying ourselves for long hours in solitary seeking, emerging only for the austere hours of communal liturgy, where most of us sit in silence while one chosen from among us stands and reads from the holy text. The main difference between us and the medieval monastics is that they, when they went into solitude, believed they were not alone. We moderns decidedly are.
Do not amend by reasoning, but by example; approach feeling by feeling; do not hope to excite love except by love.
We lose ourselves in what we read, only to return to ourselves, transformed and part of a more expansive world.