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Let’s admit that just now our world could use a little sprucing up. I often think of the joke that dramatist Samuel Beckett has one of his characters tell about the world. A man hires a tailor to make a pair of pants. The tailor keeps botching parts of them, endeavors to make them perfect, and keeps putting off delivery. The client finally becomes exasperated, loses his patience and complains, “In six days, do you...

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I suspect that each of us carries some best thing around inside, some thing that we want to develop not for glory or riches but because it would mean ripening to fruit the finest thing that we feel capable of growing. If we could only bring it to the surface, we sense that this thing would fulfill us in ways that other things cannot. Last semester I diagnosed why it is difficult to accomplish the...

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Isn’t there is a certain enchantment that sometimes comes over us when we pass a lovely house? The sunny windows, the neat lawn, those tidy bricks and that happy bench by the front door: we drink them in with a glance. The people who live in such a place, we find ourselves (almost involuntarily) thinking, must be as happy as the smiling face of the house. Before we know it, we find ourselves (almost unconsciously)...

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I started playing squash in grad school because my dissertation director told me to take up a sport. Squash is a racquet sport of precision, strategy and stamina played by two people on an enclosed court. The ball is smaller than a golf ball, rubber and stubborn. Before you learn to play properly, and on bad days, it is shockingly difficult to get the ball to do anything you want it to do. Even though...

The philosopher Ernst Bloch writes that some false propositions “are not totally finished with regard to the truth.” This strange formulation insists that factually untrue philosophical propositions are not doomed to remain untrue forever. He gives the example of Socrates’ proposition that nobody voluntarily does wrong. This, of course, is wildly untrue. Last summer someone stole my identity, and I’m sure the thief knew it was wrong to buy all those iPads on the Sam’s...

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Sometimes I think about other jobs I could be happy doing. I think I’d like a job helping needy people or non-human animals, or one in which I do something more productive with my hands than type. But I guess that is the way things work: it takes years to gather the wisdom that should have directed your decisions years ago. Borges wrote a story called “The Garden of Forking Paths” in which a character...

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OpinionSeize the deck

David RandoFebruary 2, 2017192 min

My astronomy professor once turned our classroom lights off and slowly moved a laser pointer (a technological novelty in those horse-drawn carriage days) from left to right across the dark wall. The red dot represented the present as it advances into the future. The idea, I think, was like a cosmic Hop-on, Hop-off bus tour: everyone alive right now just happens to be together on board that little floating dot. Behind and ahead is vast...