Ideas

Adam Johnston
Be careful!

Some of my own essays:

 

Knowledge and thinking:

While all thinking results in knowledge, ultimately the value of knowledge is subordinate to its use in thinking. For we live not in a settled and finished world, but in one which is going on, and where our main task is prospective, and where retrospect -- and all knowledge as distinct from thought is retrospect -- is of value in the solidity, security, and fertility it affords our dealings with the future.

John Dewey, 1916

 

Welcome to Earth 101:

I've often thought there ought to be a manual to hand to little kids, telling them what kind of planet they're on, why they don't fall off it, how much time they've probably got here, how to avoid poison ivy, and so on.  I tried to write one once.  It was called Welcome to Earth.  But I got stuck on explaining why we don't fall off the planet.  Gravity is just a word.  It doesn't explain anything.  If I could get past gravity, I'd tell them how we reproduce, how long we've been here, apparently, and a little bit about evolution.  I didn't learn until I was in college about all the other cultures, and I should have learned that in the first grade.  A first grader should understand that his or her culture isn't a rational invention; that there are thousands of other cultures and they all work pretty well; that all cultures function on faith rather than truth; that there are lots of alternatives to our own society.  Cultural relativity is defensible and attractive.  It's also a source of hope.  It means we don't have to continue this way if we don't like it.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

 

Being But Men

Being but men, we walked into the trees
Afraid, letting our syllables be soft
For fear of waking the rooks,
For fear of coming
Noiselessly into a world of wings and cries.

If we were children we might climb,
Catch the rooks sleeping, and break no twig,
And, after the soft ascent,
Thrust out our heads above the branches
To wonder at the unfailing stars.

Out of confusion, as the way is,
And the wonder, that man knows,
Out of the chaos would come bliss.

That, then, is loveliness, we said,
Children in wonder watching the stars,
Is the aim and the end.

Being but men, we walked into the trees.

Dylan Thomas

 

Enjoying the land:

Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am -- a reluctant enthusiast ... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space.

Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their heart in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards.

Edward Abbey

 

On APA "style":

Unconstrained wordiness lapses into embellishment and flowery writing, which are clearly inappropriate in scientific style. (APA Style Manual, 4e., p. 27).

 

Happiness

I asked professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them.
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaines river
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.

Carl Sandburg