The All-Thing

All carrot and no stick, since ought-three.

秋日登吳公台上寺遠眺 (劉長卿)


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Wed, 16 Jul 2003

Better to burn out than to fade away

That was Kurt Cobain's famous last line, penned on his suicide note, and I recently saw it again on (of all places) some guy's sig on some IETF list (he's burning out through defining network protocol standards, I suppose).

I wonder why people believe this? And, in general, why people are driven to sacrifice their life, or their youth, for such abstract social fictions (there's that term again!) as fame (which is what I assume burning out means)? Because people do.

I taste my food and drink. I talk to my friends. I read good books. I play music with others. These are things I understand, and things I enjoy doing. To sacrifice all that for the purposes of a few more orders of magnitude difference in the number of people who know my name? Maybe I'm too much of an Alan Watts reader/Epicurean.

Posted at 11:31 | /society | (leave a comment) | permalink


I often think that people too readily apply their notions of fair and unfair—notions born from and within a very specific social context—to domains which they don't belong to.

People will say, It's not fair! He didn't have to earn any of his money!, or, It's not fair! She's the kindest person I know! Why would she get cancer?, or, It's not fair! I am talented but women don't like me!, or even, "It's not fair! Iraq never harmed us! We can't harm them!". But the fairness we know—an eye for an eye, no good deed goes unrewarded, do unto others, unto each according to his abilities, what you reap is what you sow, etc.—is not recognized by nature, or even by people acting in their own best interest.

And without recognizing this, it's just too easy to start thinking that the universe has treated you unfairly, or the world owes you something. Which is a sure path to a short bitter life.

Fairness is a social fiction, and a convenient one, but to think that it makes sense outside the realm of social interaction is foolish. "God works in mysterious ways" is just a poor translation for Shit happens.

Posted at 11:25 | /society | (leave a comment) | permalink


Remark of Dr. Baldwin's concerning upstarts: We don't care to eat toadstools that think they are truffles. -- Mark Twain, "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"