P.Z. Myers on nearly dying:
And then I felt myself going. My guts went all watery, and I felt the unpleasantness of nausea with a flabby feeling that no, I wasn’t even going to have the strength to vomit. My limbs went all rubbery and limp. I kept sweating — a cold, clammy sweat. There was a roaring whisper in my ears, and all I heard as the doctors milled about was a distant “waa waa waa” sound. My peripheral vision faded, and it seemed like I was staring down a narrow tunnel.
And I was alone.
My wife was there, there were a couple of doctors and nurses present — let me tell you, if you ever have a cardiac event, do it while in a hospital while wired to every instrument that goes ping you can find — but they all felt distant and remote. And I thought, “So this is what dying feels like.” I felt no panic or fear, just a little sad about ceasing to exist, and I thought about the important things in my life.
I had married the love of my life, and she was standing there with me. We had had three kids, and I could see them all in my mind’s eye, and they were strong and smart and good, and I could trust that they’d be all right — my only wish was that I could see them one last time. I did not see my whole life flash past my eyes, but I did recollect a brief and simple happy moment, remembering when my children were small and they’d lift their hands to hold mine. There were no regrets, my job was done.
They are not new lessons. Never owe any money you can’t pay tomorrow morning. Never let the markets dictate your actions. Always be in a position to play your own game. Never take on more risks than you can handle…Good businesses, good management, plenty of liquidity, always having a loaded gun; if you play by those principles you will do fine no matter what happens. And you don’t ever know what’s going to happen…
I mean, when times are good, it is kind of like Cinderella at the ball. She knew at midnight that everything was going to turn into pumpkins and mice, but it was just so much damn fun, dancing there, the guys looked better and the drinks got more frequent and there were no clocks on the wall.
And that’s what happened with capitalism. We have a lot of fun as the bubble blows up, and we all think we are going to get out five minutes before midnight, but there are no clocks on the wall.
— Warren Buffet (via)
Sam Harris, who has been my favorite secular thinker for a few years now, wrote an excellent response to the question, “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?”
If the lives of your children depended on it, you could not focus on anything — even the feeling of a knife at your throat — for more than a few seconds, before your awareness would be submerged again by the flow of thought. This forced plunge into unreality is a problem. In fact, it is the problem from which every other problem in human life appears to be made.
While most of us go through life feeling that we are the thinker of our thoughts and the experiencer of our experience, from the perspective of science we know that this is a distorted view. There is no discrete self or ego lurking like a minotaur in the labyrinth of the brain. There is no region of cortex or pathway of neural processing that occupies a privileged position with respect to our personhood. There is no unchanging “center of narrative gravity” (to use Daniel Dennett’s phrase). In subjective terms, however, there seems to be one — to most of us, most of the time.
If we want to actually understand the mind, and overcome some of the most dangerous and enduring sources of conflict in our world, we must begin thinking about the full spectrum of human experience in the context of science.
But we must first realize that we are lost in thought.
Updating and configuring Office for my work machine was an annoying experience that makes me distrustful of it. I was trying to open a docx file from an email in Outlook. It’s the first time I’ve tried to use Office since getting the machine from my employer, and it inflicted the following disjointed workflow on me: