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Getting to Know Missouri’s Geology and Beauty

I was driving all around SE Missouri today with a friend, a sculptor who knows a lot about Missouri geology. We were looking for (and finding) some awesome looking rocks. Recently, I've been learning that Missouri offers lots of interest to geologists and rock hounds.

Unfortunately, the sun started setting, as it tends to do too soon every day. That's when we came across this vista of Marble Creek in Arcadia, Missouri (Mark Twain National Forest). Apparently, I don't even know some of the most beautiful parts of my own state.

Now back to those rocks . . . ?Here are photos of four of them. ?Big and stunningly beautiful and bursting with quartz. ?It really helps to go rock-hounding with someone who knows where to go and what to look for.

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My Favorite Two Quotes.

I love quotes. ?When they are especially good, it's like you can inhale a novel in a sentence. ?You can check out many of my collections here.?

Here are the two that stand out to me, over and over. ?They haunt me and inspire me, probably in part because I'm no longer 20 years old. ?Here they are:

"The trouble is, you think you have time."

Jack Kornfield, in Buddha's Little Instruction Book (1994).

-- "If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough."

Mario Andretti

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Bertrand Russell Tossed me a Life Preserver in 1943, Before I Was Born

As a 17-year old boy, I was incredibly lucky to find a book by Bertrand Russell at the local public library. ?This was a key time in my development--I was skeptical about many things back then, but I felt alone. The people in my life were earnestly telling me things about life, politics and religion that didn't make any sense to me and discussions with them mostly resulted only in strange and condescending lectures.

I remember the joy and relief I felt when I first started reading the first paragraph of Russell's 1943 essay, "AN OUTLINE OF INTELLECTUAL RUBBISH," which was a chapter in a book I found at the library.

Man is a rational animal-so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favour of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it, though I have searched in many countries spread over three continents. On the contrary, I have seen the world plunging continually further into madness. I have seen great nations, formerly leaders of civilization, led astray by preachers of bombastic nonsense. I have seen cruelty, persecution, and superstition increasing by leaps and bounds, until we have almost reached the point where praise of rationality is held to mark a man as an old fogy regrettably surviving from a bygone age. All this is depressing, but gloom is a useless emotion. In order to escape from it, I have been driven to study the past with more attention than I had formerly given to it, and have found, as Erasmus found, that folly is perennial and yet the human race has survived. The follies of our own times are easier to bear when they are seen against the background of past follies. In what follows I shall mix the sillinesses of our day with those of former centuries. Perhaps the result may help in seeing our own times in perspective, and as not much worse than other ages that our ancestors lived through without ultimate disaster.

Russell's full essay is much longer than this excerpt and it is filled with many other pointed observations, permeated throughout with Russell's wry sense of humor. Until the teenaged version of me saw this essay, I thought I was alone in my skepticism. That's a difficult place to be trapped for a teenager. This was in the 1970's, long before the Internet. I sometimes wondered whether there was something wrong with me. I didn't think so, but when I would express doubts about religion, for example, everyone else got quiet and started to look nervous The only exception was my mother, who often had the courage to ask simple questions. As I am writing this article, my mother is a vibrant and independent-living 87 year old. ?How lucky I am in that regard, too. I sometimes thank her for her unbridled curiosity and "blame" her for the fact that I became somewhat subversive. ?She laughs and says she doesn't know what I'm talking about.

Reading this essay was a joyride for the 17-year old version of me. I discovered that I was not alone. I learned that it is critically important to speak up, even when you are the only one in the room taking a controversial position. When I first read Russell's essay, I learned that I was not crazy. This was the beginning of a whole new way of thinking for me, and it gave me the courage to take stronger stands on my own against things that made no sense to me.

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Marginalizing Intellectual Curiosity

Let's see. It's the weekend. ?If I want to spend time with others tonight, what should I do? ?Where should I go? ?Who would like to spend time with me?

Here's a seemingly unrelated question: Who is more popular in most parts of American society?

a) An animated people who engages in banter about pop culture, sports, TV and movies with their like-minded friends, where loud partying and drinking alcohol are significant parts of the gathering?

b) A person who enjoys intense discussions about science and other intellectual pursuits?with like-minded people in quiet places, where partying and small talk are not significant aspects of the gathering?

Today, I stumbled upon an article in Forbes that raises concerns about how those who love to study science are sometimes ostracized by others. This article by?Ethan Siegel?is titled, Here is an excerpt:

All across the country, you can see how the seeds of it develop from a very young age. When children raise their hands in class because they know the answer, their classmates hurl the familiar insults of "nerd," "geek," "dork," or "know-it-all" at them. The highest-achieving students — the gifted kids, the ones who get straight As, or the ones placed into advanced classes — are often ostracized, bullied, beat up, or worse.

The social lessons we learn early on are very simple: if you want to be part of the cool crowd, you can't appear too exceptional. You can't be too knowledgeable, too academically successful, or too smart. Someone who knows more, is more successful, or smarter than you is often seen as a threat, and so we glorify ignorance as the de facto normal position.

In my experience, it's not usually such a clear distinction as in A or B above, and there are many styles of socializing. ?I'm focusing on these because am a "B" type person who found myself trapped in a few too many "A" environments over the past year. I should also make clear that I have no problem with drinking, only drunkenness, and a lot of nerdy people admittedly do enjoy alcoholic drinks. ?Further, many people, nerdy or not, like to discuss the science stories they find in news sources that don't specialize in science. These things are often interesting, even when not explored in depth.

The real division lies here: Some of us take science and other intellectual pursuits much more seriously than others. Some of us read challenging and detailed science publications, and we contemplate science spontaneously, when waiting in line or walking down the street; we cannot turn it off. ?Digging to deeper levels inspires us to learn even more, and this hard-earned knowledge often bears fruit in the form of connections to many other aspects of our lives. Digging deeply often enables us to challenge the way we conceive of ourselves and others. ?Most people who socialize, however, get exhausted, bored, tired of discussing these topics and would rather have "fun."

Having an enthusiastic love of intellectual pursuits can be a social problem.

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New at Rock Hounding

I loved collecting rocks as a kid. I've returned to this passion. I'm brand new to a FB group called South East Missouri Rockhounds and I'm brand new to owning a rock tumbler (a Thumler brand, Model B). A couple weeks ago I scooped up some rocks from a creek near Farmington, Missouri. I just finished washing them off after tumbling them for a week with rough grit.

Wow. Such details that I couldn't originally see when I picked up the rocks. It will be fun to see how these look after several more rounds of tumbling, three weeks from now. I'll somehow turn these into Christmas gifts, even if it's merely little bags of tumbled rocks.

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The Meaning of Meaning

What does it mean for a word to have meaning? This simple question affects almost everything we do, every day. Now here’s something mind-blowing: For the past 2,500 years (including up to the present) most of the people studying this question (“How is it that words have meaning?”) have analyzed meaning from their armchairs, content to assume, and then conclude, that meaning is best studied by defining words in terms of other words, without considering human biology.? Long distinguished careers have come and gone without making the human body an essential part of the analysis. Philosopher Mark Johnson describes this failure:

The overwhelming tendency in mainstream analytic philosophy of language is to begin with concepts more-or-less well formed, and then to analyze their relations to one another in propositions and to objects of reference in the world. This leads one to overlook the bodily origins of those concepts and patterns of thought that constitute our understanding of, and reasoning about, our world . . . when I found myself immersed in linguistic philosophy as a graduate student in the 1970s, I did not even realize that I had been plunked down in a landscape that had been invaded by the body snatchers.
Johnson, Mark. Embodied Mind, Meaning, and Reason (2017).

You would think that this overlooking of the human body when discussing meaning would be impossible, especially

over the past few decades, during which new cognitive science findings are everyday occurrences. Isn’t it obvious that the oral and written words we use, the grunts and scribbles we produce, don’t have any inherent meaning? Isn’t it obvious that it is only when those grunts and scribbles interact with a human body that those grunts and scribbles trigger meaning? Well, apparently not.? It hasn’t been obvious for thousands of years and it is still not obvious to many people. Why not?

Here’s my suspicion.

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Where Did That Time Go?

What's a good way to spend an evening? Watching (Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks) and discussing the history and legalities of this excellent film with a college student named Charlotte Vieth. Nineteen years ago I was helping baby Charlotte to take her first steps and introducing her to ice cream. Somehow, it has now come to this very different sort of activity. It makes me think of that common lament of parents: "The time goes so fast." Yes, indeed, it has, regarding both of my daughters (Charlotte and her big sister, JuJu Vieth). Luckily, we have lots of photos to prove that those intervening years actually happened, year by year.

Now the passing of time no longer clicks by in seconds, but in semesters and quarters in Chicago and Denver. Whenever I get to welcome home my adult-children after they've put in several months of hard work, these are not merely satisfying times. I don't think life gets any better.

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More Quotes

I love good quotes. It's like finding a a novel compressed into a sentence. Periodically, I share some of my favorite quotes that I have collected. Here's my latest batch of offerings:

“Today I broke my personal record for consecutive days alive.” - Anon

“Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.” ― Alfred A. Montapert

"If you wish to make apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe"? - Carl Sagan

“To understand everything is to five everything.” ― Buddha

“You can do so much in 10 minutes’ time. Ten minutes, once gone, are gone for good. Divide your life into 10-minute units and sacrifice as few of them as possible in meaningless activity.”
-Ingvar Kamprad, Founder of the furniture brand IKEA

"If you want to be a millionaire, start with a billion dollars and launch a new airline." - Richard Branson

“Matter tells space how to curve, space tells matter how to move.” ― Albert Einstein

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” ― Mark Twain

“A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.” ― Edward R. Murrow

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