3 min read

Breakfast Notes #29 (Turning Cheeks, Stealing, Indigenous Science)

Breakfast Notes #29 (Turning Cheeks, Stealing, Indigenous Science)
Photo by Julia Koblitz / Unsplash

Good morning friends. 45 years ago, we achieved a monumental breakthrough in telecommunications. On 22 April 1977, optical fibre was first used to carry live telephone traffic, beginning the acceleration of long-distance phone calls. In 2022, we call each other within five presses of a glass screen.

Here is the 29th serving of the Breakfast Notes

The Benefits of Turning The Other Cheek

Over the past week, I have been reflecting on this puzzling biblical passage in the book of Matthew. In his sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaimed to his audience that while they might have heard of the saying "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." They ought not to ‘resist the evil one. But if anyone slaps them on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

To many Christians, turning the other cheek is a call to pacifism and an injunction to practise the virtues of love, patience and kindness. In essence, to turn the other cheek is to be selfless.

What if turning the other cheek has its self-serving benefits?

I realised that the act of turning the other cheek itself is a demonstration that the wrongs someone commits against me do not injure me. I can even afford to let him do his worst again. In this sense, I have realised that the joy in forgetting the wrongs others commit against us is that we get to focus our energies on things that matter.

The Best Way To Steal

Whenever I face writer’s block, I take a paragraph from a writer I admire and copy the text word for word. Although it looks like regurgitation, I find myself inhabiting the writer’s perspective and appreciating his mastery of the written word. Soon enough, I became acquainted with his style, taste and preferences. I gradually developed my pantheon of heroes, and I noticed that my writing also improved.

If you don’t have a favourite paragraph, you can go ahead and steal this paragraph which I also steal from Nassim Taleb whenever I want to introduce and explain the pros/cons of a concept.

Heuristics are simplified rules of thumb that make things simple and easy to implement. But their main advantage is that the user knows that they are not perfect, just expedient, and is therefore less fooled by their powers. They become dangerous when we forget that.

Visualisation Of The Day

Library of Congress

Senator Gaylord Nelson promoted Earth Day on April 22, 1970, calling upon students to fight for environmental causes and oppose environmental degradation with the same energy they displayed in opposing the Vietnam War.

Today, as we commemorate Earth Day, let us strive to be like the girl scout in this canoe - doing the little we can to make the Earth we live in a little more inhabitable.

The Indigenous Science

In his essay - In Praise of Shadows, Junichiro Tanizaki makes a point that I can’t seem to get out of my head.

His central question - What if the Orient (the East) developed our own science?

As Japan replicated the intellectual practices of the West, it also imported Western technologies, which would displace traditional Japanese technologies, forcing many Japanese to discard cultural traditions that have revolved around these items.

He cites a trivial example, the fountain pen. Had the ancient Chinese or Japanese invented the pen, ‘it would surely have had a tufted end like our writing brush’ and would have been ‘made to seep down from the handle into the brush.’ Since they would have found it difficult to write on Western paper with a pen soaked in ink, they would have used a mass-produced paper approximating Japanese paper. This might give the Japanese a greater affection for their traditions and, more importantly, prevent their literature from imitating the West.

In his words, ‘An insignificant little piece of writing equipment when one thinks of it has had a vast, almost boundless influence on our culture.’

Before Marshall McLuhan proclaimed that the ‘medium is the message’, Tanizaki astutely pointed out that he who creates the medium shapes the message.

May the sun shine upon your face,

Keith