23 April 2010

The battle of the novel and the physics textbook

Why study the humanities, stated with a burning conviction by Rabindranath Tagore:
The real truth is that science is not man’s nature, it is mere knowledge and training. By knowing the laws of the material universe you do not change your deeper humanity. You can borrow knowledge, but you cannot borrow temperament.
Of course we all like suspension bridges, antibiotics and computers, but our technical mastery over the world will be as pathetic as Ozymandias if we lose what makes us human, namely what Tagore calls "temperament" (I'm not sure what word he uses in Bengali).

11 April 2010

Death over Smolensk

After the crash that killed the President of Poland, most of the top officials in government, and several Solidarity-era heroes, I am reminded of a few lines by Jan Kochanowski (1530-84),  "the Polish Shakespeare":
Jedenże tylko sposób człowiekowi
Jest urodzić się, a zginąć tak wiele
Dróg jest, że tego niepodobno zgadnąć.
There is only one way for a person
to be born, but so many roads lead
to death, that you can never even guess.