Tuesday, March 27, 2018

12 rules for life

I haven't read much science fiction since I was a teenager. Apart from Tolkien, I really don't read fantasy either. My genre reading is primarily detective/mystery stories. But I enjoyed "Stephen Carter's 12 Science-Fiction Rules for Life" this morning. Carter writes "Like so many other scribes, I have been inspired by psychologist Jordan Peterson’s fascinating book to sketch my 12 rules of life. But mine are different...." Four of them:
“An atom-blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways.” — Isaac Asimov, Foundation.
This is one of the clearest expressions of the basis of the liberalism of process. It matters not only whether one accomplishes an end but also how. Any tool available to the “good guys” today might be wielded by the “bad guys” tomorrow. One should always take this proposition into account when choosing a toolkit.
“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring.
This much-quoted line is also much-misunderstood. It’s spoken by the dwarf Gimli as the Fellowship is preparing to depart on its mission to return the Ring. To see the context, one must consider Elrond, Lord of Rivendell’s response: “But let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.” Elrond’s point is that it’s okay to back out — but back out now, before taking on the responsibility. Once the vow is made and the task undertaken, Gimli is right: One mustn’t give up because the going gets hard. But we should not avoid making promises just because it’s wrong to break them. On the contrary, as Tolkien notes, making promises is also a duty.
"Whether a thought is spoken or not it is a real thing and it has power.” – Frank Herbert, Dune.
If thoughts matter, then thinking matters — which means training people to think matters. I doubt that Tuek, the smuggler who spoke these words in the novel, would have much cared for social media.
"The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. They’re Caesar’s praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, ‘Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.’” — Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451.
As Bradbury notes, a crucial reason to read is that we can be surprised, upset, offended, turned in a different direction. Books at their best make us think. We don’t live in a thoughtful age, and for just that reason, reading books that challenge us has become more important than ever. When we read seriously and thoughtfully, we run the risk that we might change our minds. That’s good. One of the worst things in the world is conformity, which is another word for intellectual cowardice.