Pierre de Charlevoix. Journal of a Voyage

“Were we always to sail as I then did, with a serene sky in a most charming climate, and on water as clear as that as that of the purest fountain; were we sure of finding every where secure and agreeable places to pass the night in, where we might enjoy the pleasure of hunting at a small expence, breathe at our ease the purest air, and enjoy the prospect of the finest countries in the universe, we might possibly be tempted to travel to the end of our days. I recalled to memory those ancient Patriarchs who had no fixed place of abode, who lived in tents, who were in the manner the masters of all the countries they passed through, and who enjoyed in peace and tranquillity all their productions, without the plague inevitable in the possession of a real and fixed estate. …  that there is no kind of life more capable of placing this maxim constantly before our eyes, that we are no more than pilgrims on the earth, and that we have no right to use but as passengers, the good things of this world; that the real wants of man are very few in number, that little is sufficient to purchase contentment, and that we ought to take in good part those evils and crosses which surprize us, since with the same rapidity they make way for a mixture of better fortune.Lastly, how many things contribute in this way of life to make us sensible of our dependance on the divine providence, which in order to produce this mixture of good and evil, makes not use of the passions of men but of the vicissitudes of seasons, which may entirely be forseen, and the caprice of the elements which we ought to look for: and consequently what a multitude of opportunities of meriting by our confidence in, and resignation to the divine will? It is generally said that long voyages are seldom attended with a large crop of divine grace; nothing however is more proper to produce it than this sort of life.” More here

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No difference

Most mornings I walk three or four miles.  As I walk I like to listen to podcasts or books on tape (or whatever they are now called). This morning it was episode 257 of the Kunstler Cast, an interview with Piero SanGiorgio, author of Survive the Coming Economic Collapse, a practical guide.  Fascinating stuff, especially in light of the different approaches Americans take (lone wolf survival, a la Jeremiah Johnson) vs. European approaches, which do not involve turning your back on society and manning big guns.  The great thing about being alive today is the ability we have to go further, track down books we hear about, and even download first chapters on Kindle to read.  That’s what I did.  And .. even though I will probably not read the book in its entirety, I read enough to be inspired.  I love the quotes which open each chapter.  Here’s one from Einstein: “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment.  Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”  And also this:

“To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.”

― Jules H. Poincare

Yes.  Yes .. it works on so many levels, from the unthinking, uncritical fundamentalist, to the whack jobs who populate the far right – the birthers, the truthers, the deniers and the assholes who throw sand in the face of truth, for whatever benighted or greedy reasons.  What, I ask you, can you do with people who refuse to believe in climate change, despite overwhelming evidence, but who are more than ready to believe that ISIS is at the Mexican border, spreading Ebola.  For the former there is evidence – ample, sound, mainstream evidence.  For the latter there is none – just naked, ignorant fear.  Imminent “threats” trump long term problems. Cranks and crackpots get listened to, while mainstream expertise is ‘elitist” .. or whatever.  Fear does this, fear and denial.

To doubt everything is no different to believing everything – it all amounts to the same lack of thinking.  And my oh my, that makes life convenient, doesn’t it?

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