Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Written Words

I get these . . . moments of epiphany, I guess. All of a sudden I'm hit by a profoundness in something and my mind dwells on it for hours, or even days. It can be the simplest thing, or it might be something entirely esoteric.

A couple days ago I read a very short selection of the I Ching (or The Book of Changes) for one of my classes. And as the professor lectured on the profoundness of this text - of how it was the "first crystallization of the Chinese mind," I was struck with a certain nostalgia. Listening to him recount the ways in which this text has influenced Chinese culture for millennia, and listening to him discuss how the Chinese world-view was so radically different from the West, there was the feeling of a kind of connectedness.

It's the kind of feeling that almost whispers, "This is a part of me, and has been ever since before I was born." That I can hold even but a sample of a version of this text, and even though it has been translated and commented on and edited, it's still the work of my ancestors. And their voices were calling out through the words of my professor.

Sounds strange, doesn't it? But perhaps not so strange. I felt something eerily similar when I last read Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War. Through reading that text, discussion on the readings, and the words of the professor, I could almost hear his warning to Western, and perhaps all, societies.

The voices of the past have only ever been maintained in their most pure form in writing and texts; and by "pure" I mean relatively unchanged. For but a fleeting moment - a second, a few minutes - I could almost hear them. I think I'm really going to like this class. We'll be reading selections (if not the entire works) of books and texts that I have always wanted to, but probably wouldn't have been able to, if not for a course on them.

This is completely unrelated to any of the above.

So, 2 nights ago, my roommate tried to invalidate chemistry to me, saying it was useless. He stated that if one took enough physics (and math) courses, and knew the concepts underlying everything, the entire chemistry major is irrelevant. Then he almost tried (again) to extend that to biology. He also does this to my poli-sci and other social science friends.

It astounds me how he see no value in almost anything beyond his own majors of physics and math. He once told me that biology hasn't given us (human society) anything useful, and that physics (and math) has given us all these wonderful things. Umm . . . okay then. I still think math is but a tool to be used by other disciplines.

Here's what I think of him:
Original link:

::drop kicks roommate:: Sigh.

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