Bertrand Russell : The Best Answer to Fanaticism …

I saw this paste of Bertrand Russell over at Kottke, and I had to share it. The advice rings symphonic bells. The ideas fell at the end of an article that Russell wrote in 1951 for the NYT magazine.

1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

2. Do not think it worthwhile to produce belief by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3. Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.

4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

9. Be scrupulously truthful, even when truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

The first piece of advice stopped me in my tracks. “Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.” I can’t for a second back any of my views with absolute certainty.

And often, I feel trumped when talking to someone, especially with religious proclivities, who say things like, “I know I’ll be with my savior some day” or “I know Jesus is real.”

Those things are unknowable. As unknowable as any other “knowledge.”

Knowing the unknowable thwarts conversations, real discussion, and makes for frustrating talk.

Jason’s response to the 1951 article is also admirable:

Over the past few years, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to keep an open mind about many issues, particularly on those related to politics. Remaining curious and generous about new & different ideas, especially in public, is perhaps more challenging than it was in Russell’s time. We are bombarded on all sides by propaganda, conspiracy theories, and broadly discredited theories from the past pushed upon us by entertainment news outlets and social media algorithms — we’re under a constant denial-of-service attack on our ability to think and reason.

We can’t reasonably be expected to give serious consideration to ideas like “the Holocaust didn’t happen”, “the Earth is flat”, “the Newtown massacre was faked”, “let’s try slavery again”, “vaccines cause autism”, and “anthropogenic climate change is a myth” — the evidence just doesn’t support any of it — but playing constant defense against all this crap makes it difficult to have good & important discussions with those we might disagree with about things like education, the role of national borders in a extremely mobile world, how to address our changing climate, systemic racism & discrimination, gun violence, healthcare, and dozens of other important issues. Perhaps with Russell’s guidelines in mind, we can make some progress on that front.


He’s not only my co-pilot, he’s my lawyer, too

From Canada’s CBC:

The couple spoke in tongues in court to a stuffed lion who they claimed was giving them direct counsel from God.

They rejected legal aid, preferring to advise witnesses “it was their lawyer Jesus Christ asking the questions through the voice of the parent.”

The battle was for custody of their baby — who the mother wants to rename Jesus JoyoftheLord.

My parents were against this kind of “Christianity” when I was growing up, I don’t think it was too far away from the kind of Christianity we learned about in school. While there were no speaking in tongues, there was an idea about God’s voice talking to you in your mind, and through scripture. As a kid, it was confusing. As an adult, it’s just weird.


learning from life on the road


The trip that Tina and I just returned from was the best one to date. We saw and did a lot.   And by a lot, I mean a shit ton.

In France, We visited Paris, Bonnieux, Lourmarin, L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Gordes, and several other miscellaneous sights along the way. In Portugal, we hit Lisbon and Sintra. In Spain, we stayed in Barcelona, but knocked out a lot of sights in the city.

We ate and drank both the best and the worst of food and drinks. We toured like the best and worst tourists. I dented and scratched our rental car. Tina lost her phone in plain sight, searched frantically for it. We thought some Italian tourists in a camper van somehow swiped it while we were looking on. Eventually, after almost losing our minds, we found the damn phone in the bathroom beside the toilet.

Especially in crowded areas, we wore our wallets in front pockets, and I never kept my phone or cameras available for theft like that time in Rome when I was taking a photo in a touristy area with my phone in the big pockets of a rain coat.

We took risks in little shit restaurants. We pointed and grunted not knowing but a few words in Portuguese on several occasions. We paid one euro to use bathrooms in little restaurants only to get the money back by buying something, like a beer to walk down the street with.  Continue reading

Travel is food for the soul


Last year, our friend Jay turned 50 and wanted to celebrate his birthday by coordinating a trip to Europe, specifically Spain & Portugal, and see how many friends he could get to go along.

Tina and I are always up for Europe, so we agreed to go along. Jay’s partner Miles also tagged along, as well as our friend Michelle, who’s done a lot of business in Portugal and Spain, and she’s kind of our designated tour guide.

Tina and I started the trip by spending a week in France on our own. We landed in Paris a week and a half ago, did a quick tour of a few places we’d never explored. Paris, while awesome, is not our favorite thing about France. While it gives us a chance to practice a little French, the life there is usually too fast (slow in American terms) and there are way too many touristy things to get caught up in.

We are used to city life, so it doesn’t really appeal as much to us.

So this trip we planned for four days in an area of Aix en Provence with a home base in Bonnieux, which is a gorgeous town on a hillside.

It was one of my favorite trips to France, mainly because we stayed in one place for a four days. In the past, we’ve been moving moving moving. Two days here. Two days there. It’s just too much airports or trains or rental cars.

I felt recharged and good by the time hit the Marseille airport again and headed to Lisbon. We ended up finding an Uber, because the cab line was crazy long.

I fell in love with Lisbon by the time we exited the airport parking lot. It’s kinda dirty and not as pompous as Paris. It has a kind of third world flair, like the Philippines or somewhere in Asia, but you’re in Europe. Someone probably won’t appreciate my Philippines reference but whatever.

All the people we met the first couple of days were VERY (almost EXTREMELY) nice. And not in a deceptive way. But in a genuine and kind way.

Of all the European experiences I’ve had, Portugal has been one of my favorites, in the sense that, I would tell everyone who hasn’t adventured overseas that Portugal is fucking rad.

We also took a train trip to a little area called Sintra, which was extremely touristy and so exhaustingly busy that you take a train to wait in line for a bus, to wait in line to buy tickets to a palace, to then find out you need tickets to a shuttle.

We landed in Barcelona, Spain yesterday. Our apartment is amazing. Our group is exhausted from traveling. So we kind of did our own thing last night and everyone’s ready to start the day today.

There are negative things that happen while traveling, too. Like Tina opened a sliding glass door too fast and almost took off her middle finger. She had a large gash and a flappy piece of skin because of it. With the exhaustion of travel and the shock, she almost hyperventilated. But we got through it. And now she thinks she will always remember Bonnieux France thanks to the scar she will have because of it. It’s like a tattoo on her middle finger.

One time in NYC, we were talking to a Nepalese man in his little shop that we stumbled into while looking for B&H Photo. We ended up chatting for a long time, and he told us how important it is for him to send his daughter on trips. “Travel is food for the soul,” he said. It’s always been the tattoo that I never got.