Steven Pinker tagged posts

Fire, Rage and Hope 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…
                                                —Rudyard Kipling 

We live in a time when meaningful commentary about the affairs of the day faces the challenge of being overrun by ever more head-shaking events—and by the 24-hour news cycle that barely has time to chronicle those events before a new one crashes in commanding our attention.

It’s like one of those diabolical amusement park rides that no sooner dumps you out from a screeching, white knuckle series of turns than it drops you and your stomach down a precipitous descent far speedier than gravity would seem to allow.

And then the speed and lurch build up much too quickly again and you find yourself praying for the end of the r...

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Jagged Trajectory: From Renaissance Glory to Lord of the Flies

The older I get, the more sense history makes. All the pieces of humanity’s exceedingly checkered past fall more into place, resulting in both more compassion for what we have come through and alarm for what continues to befall us. More than 500 years after the Renaissance posited that humanity could become a shining beacon of perfectly realized rational values, we lurch from one crisis, one massacre, one civil war, one bellicose despot to the next. One part or other of our world is always threatening to go up in flames even as many of us preoccupy ourselves with whose dessert will make the grade on the next installment of some epic cooking show that plays like the Last Judgement, set to music.

These thoughts occur as I work my way through two books that have piled atop each other on my reading table this week: Charles Taylor’s sweeping account of the secular-religious tracks running on their often paral...

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