Concept Exchange Society


Wednesday, October 8, 1997 6:30 pm

At Glenn Johnston's House.

Presentation: All Who Wish

Show and Tell Potpourri

Pre-Meeting Notice:

1. A summary of a meaningful article you have read
2. A precis of a book you recommend we read
3. A passage you would like to read to us. Say, the length of a typewritten page, about 450 words. Reads in about 3 minutes.
4. Only your wits and your good will.

Question: What does 'spiritual' mean?
Nothing at all?


Present were Meredyth, Jeff, Roberto, Curtis, Markus, who was visiting from Switzerland, Kevin, Glenn, Roger and Marvin.
It was Glenn's sixty-second birthday. Three birthday cakes appeared. The champagne flowed. We celebrated.

Roberto started us off. He distributed a list entitled, "What Motivates You". He asked us to suggest what might be missing. Here is his list of motivations.

Competition, Creating Your Own Reality, Curiosity, Dares, Fear, Fun, Getting Help From Buddies, Getting Lots of Praise, Guilt, Lecturing, Money, Other, Pain-Driven, Positive Thinking, Praying, Promising Yourself a Reward, Reincarnation, Repeating Affirmations,Revenge, Scolding, Sex, Shaming, Spirituality, Starting Small, Taking a Class

The list is egalitarian. The category 'Other', appears alphabetically, in its just place, between Money and Pain-Driven.

What motivated Roberto to produce this list? His answer was that he has encountered people who suffer from lack of motivation. A list of motivations provides them with a selection from which to choose. Roberto's 'motivation therapy' brings his expertise with mechanical things to the realm of the psychological. A part is missing? Here's a list of replacement parts, says Roberto. I'll bet this therapy works as well as any.

When asked for his own motivations in life Roberto unhesitatingly stated them: "Truth, health and love - to promote healing". He is a noble soul. But none of these were on his list.

Our group quickly produced what are surely the most powerful motivations absent from the list.
Love from Jeff
Duty and honor from Curtis
Patriotism from Roger
Fame from Kevin
Finally came 'A Little Voice In The Head' which was condensed to Conscience.

For his contribution to the evening Curtis asked us to consider this question: On the grounds that a world without racial distinctions would be a better place should it be a matter of social policy to encourage interracial marriage? He pointed out that social policy need not be coercive. Currently some official documents request a racial category. This amounts to social policy since 'Multiracial' is not among the choices.

The notion brought to mind the concerned and dedicated individuals who brought this racial category question into being. They, too, were concerned with social policy. To right civil wrongs was their motivation. It was part of the policy of Affirmative Action. The object of the racial question was to uncover racism so as to correct it. To those who fought to uncover racial bias a Multiracial category appeared counterproductive. It would hinder the parceling of aid to people of color. To have a category called Multiracial would thwart justice

. Justice has evolved! Shouldn't the multiracial among us be accorded pride and dignity. Let us encourage interracial marriages not ignore them, suggests Curtis. To have a Multiracial category would now achieve justice.

And how unjust will today's justice seem to our children?
Fighters for justice take heed.

Jeff is enthusiastic about progress in decreasing pollution from automobiles. Inspired by a lecture at SSU on the use of flywheels in hybrid autos he read us an article from the September, 1996 issue of Time Magazine. It was about the Rosen brothers who are at the forefront of technology in this area.

The essence of the technical idea resides in the conjunction of three facts.
1. An internal combustion engine running steadily under a constant load consumes only minimal fuel. It is in acceleration and braking where energy goes to waste.
2. A buffer device can moderate energy transfer so that the engine runs steadily while the buffer accomodates the load variations. One such device is a flywheel. It can absorb and deliver electrical energy in rapid bursts or slowly as required. Another is a capacitor. Both can be charged or discharged in a wide range of time scales with little loss of energy - their critical feature. Both can replace friction braking by electrical braking so as to recover energy from deceleration.
3. Modern computer technology enables the manufacture of the finely tuned control circuits necessary to coordinate the two parts of the hybrid operation.

Roger brought us quotes from a book he unearthed called, "Memorabilia Mathematica" by Robert E. Moritz. It was published in 1914. What he read taught us what mathematics really is. Many think of mathematics as 'the discipline dealing with numbers'. That is like defining cooking to be the heating up of food. Mathematicians see their art this way: the uncovering of what follows necessarily from a hypothesis. The mathematician delights in pursuing the chain of reason. We benefit enormously from his play. It gives the rest of us the means to test hypotheses - therefore to explore the world.

Marvin's contribution was a reading from Spinoza. Here was one part:

. . . . men are deceived because they think themselves free, and the sole reason for thinking so is that they are conscious of their own actions, and ignorant of the causes by which those actions are determined. Their idea of liberty therefore is this -- that they know no cause for their actions; for as to saying that their actions depend upon their will, these are words to which no idea is attached.
from "Of Falsity" in "The Nature and Extent of Human Knowledge" in the Improvement of the Understanding by Baruch (Benedict) de Spinoza 1634-1677

On hearing this Kevin offered this observation: meaning can arise from the discussion of meaningless ideas. That is how thought evolves, says Kevin.
There is a poetic truth in what he says. It is often the case with Kevin.
My own views differ. What is meaningless - "words to which no idea is attached" - is to be shunned not cultivated. I'd rather deal with meaningful words. Intellectual progress is measured by recognizing and learning to shun what is nonsense - words without meaning. What Spinoza was saying so eloquently can be more plainly put: that the concept of free will is nonsense.
Kevin disagrees. "There is an inner knowing that each of us has", says Kevin. Something deeper than what is received via the five senses. Thus free will is not an idea without meaning.

We never got to a definition of 'spiritual'. But we received a very thoughtful offering on spirituality from Dave Burch. He lives too far up north to attend meetings. It came via email. But I only discovered it after the meeting. I'll present it for him in November.

October 1997
Marvin Chester

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© m chester 1997 Occidental CA