Friday, February 8, 2013


Are you, have you been a beneficiary? Inherited or been given money? Was it a surprise?

It's normally used in a financial context, but I'm looking a wider world here. One of the things that really grinds my gears is people talking about never taking or getting anything from anybody, having to fight for what they have, resenting taxes, seeing restrictions on how to make money or acquire goods as an infringement on their personal freedom. This is essentially a two year old's view of the world.

Those of us living here and now didn't invent this world, the one with cars, and electricity, and hot and cold running water in comfortable homes. Some of you may have been involved in building some of the recent refinements such as complicated web things, and that's fine. All of us started with what was here, passed on by earlier generations. The least we could do is appreciate their gifts.

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton in a letter to Robert Hooke in 1676. The phrase is older than that, though, going back to the 12 century. Bernard of Chartres used to say that we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.
(Dicebat Bernardus Carnotensis nos esse quasi nanos, gigantium humeris insidentes, ut possimus plura eis et remotiora videre, non utique proprii visus acumine, aut eminentia corporis, sed quia in altum subvenimur et extollimur magnitudine gigantea.) From Wikipedia.

Some people like to say we are more civilized than earlier generations. In fact, I suspect we are exactly like previous generations; we just have more complicated toys. Unfortunately, the most common use of those more complicated toys is to kill other people. Yes, I fully realize that lots of good stuff has come out of the military developments. But the people giving the orders to fire drone missiles at villages on the other side of the world are exactly like the general who ordered "Kill them all, God will know his own."

I sometimes wonder what we would have accomplished if we hadn't had a millennia long dark age imposed by Christianity. In some ways the Romans were surprisingly modern, and if we could have built on that we might have colonies on other planets now, come to a proper understanding of our own biology and DNA, and just maybe, come to a mature understanding of ourselves in our world. An understanding that other creatures have to live here too, and the way we are living now is very bad for them.

The other half of being a beneficiary, is being a benefactor. Are we collectively being a benefactor to our children? Are you, personally? What, exactly, are you doing to make this a better place for us and our children? Will our great grandchildren think we were giants? I rather think not. They will look at some of our toys, and might like them, or maybe they'll think they are unbelievably primitive, the way the think of dentistry even a few decades ago. I'm pretty sure they'll look at how we despoiled their world and will think the less of us, wondering how we could be so stupid as to foul our own sandbox, especially since we have no way of leaving it.

Up early and on the bike for a short and surprisingly sweaty spin session. I didn't think I was working that hard. Easy gear, low wattage, not breathing hard, but sweating like a stuck pig. No idea why. Then a bit of core and stretching. I found a great spot in my butt to roll on the ball. I was getting these great crunchy clicking noises.

If I wasn't planning on running for Sherry tomorrow, I'd have run this after noon. It was so nice out. Maybe I should have anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Yes Keith, troubling times ... What kind of benefactors are we if we sit and watch the demolitions, poisonings and killings go by without lighting one candle and lifting one small voice in protest.

    "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
    Margaret Mead


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