Hermann Hesse on Little Joys, Breaking the Trance of Busyness, and the Most Important Habit for Living with Presence. “Of all ridiculous things the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy — to be a man who is brisk about his food and his work,” Kierkegaard admonished in 1843 as he contemplated our greatest source of unhappiness.
It’s a sobering sentiment against the backdrop of modern life, where the cult of busyness and productivity plays out as the chief drama of our existence — a drama we persistently lament as singular to our time. We reflexively blame on the Internet our corrosive compulsion for doing at the cost of being, forgetting that every technology is a symptom and not, or at least not at first, a cause of our desires and pathologies. Our intentions are the basic infrastructure of our lives, out of which all of our inventions and actions arise. More than a century before our present whirlpool of streaming urgencies, Hesse writes: Great masses of people these days live out their lives in a dull and loveless stupor. Noting that he doesn’t have a silver bullet for the problem, Hesse offers: Atom, Archetype, and the Invention of Synchronicity: How Iconic Psychiatrist Carl Jung and Nobel-Winning Physicist Wolfgang Pauli Bridged Mind and Matter.
The History of Zero: How Ancient Mesopotamia Invented the Mathematical Concept of Naught and Ancient India Gave It Symbolic Form. If the ancient Arab world had closed its gates to foreign travelers, we would have no medicine, no astronomy, and no mathematics — at least not as we know them today.
Central to humanity’s quest to grasp the nature of the universe and make sense of our own existence is zero, which began in Mesopotamia and spurred one of the most significant paradigm shifts in human consciousness — a concept first invented (or perhaps discovered) in pre-Arab Sumer, modern-day Iraq, and later given symbolic form in ancient India. This twining of meaning and symbol not only shaped mathematics, which underlies our best models of reality, but became woven into the very fabric of human life, from the works of Shakespeare, who famously winked at zero in King Lear by calling it “an O without a figure,” to the invention of the bit that gave us the 1s and 0s underpinning my ability to type these words and your ability to read them on this screen.
Kaplan writes: Names belong to things, but zero belongs to nothing. A Partnership Larger Than Marriage: The Stunning Love Letters of Kahlil Gibran and Mary Haskell. The Unity of the Universe: Nobel-Winning Physicist Steven Weinberg on Simplicity and Complexity, Science and Religion, and the Mother of All Questions. “If the universe is meaningless, so is the statement that it is so,” philosopher Alan Watts, who popularized ancient Eastern teachings in the West, wrote in his classic 1951 meditation on how we wrest meaning from reality.
“The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless,” the great theoretical physicist, Nobel laureate, and prolific author Steven Weinberg (b. May 3, 1933) observed a generation later in his influential 1977 book The First Three Minutes. A lazy literalist might miss the point, for this is more Zen koan of science than nihilistic defeatism. Just as acknowledging the illusoriness of free will — a tremendously difficult feat for a thinking, feeling human being — can liberate us rather than take away our freedom, acknowledging the impersonal and disinterested laws of nature governing the universe places on us the power and responsibility to synthesize our own sense of meaning.
We want to achieve a simpler understanding of nature.