Pascal in Discussion

May 20, 2016

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today's post.

I am excited about our newest addition to the Quarterly Discussion. In July, we will be discussing a selection of Pascal's Pensées. In addition to discussion, the journey to understanding often involves clear articulation of a thought through writing. So, I propose that we all attempt a few pensées of our own, a few thought poems or prose poems. It is immensely instructive for a couple of reasons. First, this offers insight into the process of someone like Blaise Pascal, a mathematician and scientist, attempting to understand the intangible things of life through words. Second, it is instructive for the development of thought itself. Not everyone enjoys writing, and some are better at speaking than writing, but I find that the experiment of writing about one thought and carrying it to some sort of final conclusion, is always useful. Third, creative experiments develop an extra resource in our own minds. We draw upon this resource much more often than we realize. This experiment is not a requirement of the discussion, but is simply designed to add something to your own experience. If anyone would like to join me in writing a few pensées,then I will post a handful of them on our blog after July's discussion. I invite you to send me your thought projects anytime within the next two months. I will compile them and post a handful on our blog after our July Quarterly Discussion.

If you are interested in the July Quarterly Discussion, we have room in either: Thursday, July, 14, 2016 at 4 pm PDT; or Saturday, July 16, 2016 at 9 am PDT. For more details, email Alissa at Feel free to send your pensées to me as well. I look forward to hearing from you.


Below are some sample pensées. These pensées were written by Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor:

1] On Language – A disappearing language is no less spectacular than an exploding planet, a supernova or volcano. Repercussions ripple out among estranged beings. Maybe the language lingers. If oral, it lingers in some codex hidden deep within a body of peoples. Perhaps in the sense of cadence and rhythm. Perhaps in the deeply buried idea of taboo. Or as a subject-verb structured world. If written, then form and shape, or purpose, allows for a different kind of eloquence. Do we know what shadows shape our world, what hieroglyph, what rune, what character? We cleave to what was cleaved.

As a body of peoples, we see the world in a way that is inherently informed by language. Yet, putting thought into words makes fools of us all, attempting the impossible. We absolutely underestimate the force and power present within a single mind. Both mouth and pen struggle to represent a single thought in words suitable, appropriate and transmittable. Ad infinitum.

We have heard that languages die. But what sort of death would this be? What sort of burial? Would there be a recorded last speaker who suddenly, and at no one's suspense or expectation, simply disappears? Into the... ether? How does something exist, and then not? Language even lacks an acceptable word for the ether of the infinite.


2] On Beauty - We find meaning only after we lose something dear. Just like life, to take what we give and rename it at the end. Meaning arrives simultaneous to the moment's conclusion. Singular moments, singular meanings, yet each linked to the next. Something greater than ourselves grants memory and then takes it back again. It is beautiful to recognize the moment. Just like beauty, to sneak in along the fringe.

We do not know for what we search and sometimes we do not know why we search. The closest I can say is that we attend our daily duties with a sense of upkeep. And in the day to day grows a self. Swells the soil from deep within over the smallest germ – the cost of which is both time and mortality.


3] On Thought – Computers offer proof of the development of human thought, but they do not develop human thought. Those tools were built before human hands – or at least in tandem – and remain far from the narrow reach of our human hands. Perhaps emotion informs these hidden tools of human thought. A map of emotions would be similar to crows in flight: erratic, cacophonous, yet graceful enough to land among some treasures.


4] On Space – It has been said that a house reflects the tenant. I am tenant of no house except the mountains, seas and deserts and they absolutely reflect who I am. This is the space that guides, limits and extends my imagination. 


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