Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day! I, myself, had a delightful day. I performed last night at the M Bar and I got to see many old friends and had a good time revealing myself on stage. Beth Lapides and Greg Miller, who produce the Uncab, were so much fun to catch up with. Taylor Negron was hilarious and I’m still laughing over his set, today.

So, I am working feverishly on my small projects. So, since I don’t really have time to compose a post, I thought, in the spirit of St. Valentine’s Day, to quote here in my blog one of my favorite passages of anything, ever, anywhere. Maybe everyone who might stop in here at my blog already has read it, but for me, Valentine’s Day is a nice day to reread it.

It’s from the prologue to Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography.

What I Have Lived For.

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and the unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness – that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what – at last – I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, have I achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes and cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by their oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and therefore I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) won the Nobel prize for literature for his History of Western Philosophy and was the co-author of Principia Mathematica.


shannon said...

Happy Day After Valentine's Day! I got a kick out of all the romance stuff TV. Apparently, 60% of men and 40% of women cheat - and if they're not cheating, they're thinking about it!! Ha!

Well, that's what we get for being animals. Dr. Phil, the idiot, talks about how looks are superficial but, scientifically speaking, looks indicate health and good genes.

I agree with Russell on the last 2: knowledge and pity. Love stinks.

Tony Varga said...

Russell has lived his life by three worthy passions, and we could do worse than to follow them whenever we can. I would add a fourth - parenting. Raising a child well is a passion that will define a life and make it all that more worthwhile. Pursuing the proper 'set' of passions makes being human a most wonderful and fortunate experience. Even love.

pkd14u said...

Wow. I can relate to Russel. I need to read him.

The suffering part. Sigh. After watching Hotel Rwanda, Rabbit Proof Fence, Yesterday (on PBS), and reading Love in the Driest Season and The Kite Runner I am so struck by all the suffering. I want so badly to do something about it. To help in any way I can. It is such a helpless, useless feeling.

I hear ya Tony Varga. Being here for my kids is the most important thing I think I can do in all my life. It is a worthy cause. Thanks for bringing that up!


Anonymous said...

Dwight Ballard once said: "If I could achieve a high level of mediocrity in every aspect of my life, only then would I be sort of happy."

Sheldon said...

Hey Shannon! You're absolutely right about good looks as genetic health indicators. If you want more fun info on that, check out "The Human Face," a documentary written and narrated by John Clese. Also, visit Stephen Marquardt's site at

You'll love it!

Lynne said...

Thanks, once again, for the food for thought, Julia (and Mr. Russell).

While I am not a pacifist (peace at any cost), I subscribe to this bit of wisdom from Gandhi: Be the change you wish to see in the world. I want my children to grow up understanding that there is suffering in the world, but knowing that the best way to combat it is by living their lives as a celebration of the human spirit, the best way they can, by giving love and seeking knowledge. Love, that you bestow upon others who share the values you hold most dear, knowing that it is most powerful when given and can never be demanded in exchange. And knowledge, that you must exchange in order to better understand the world. In fact, it will be through the exchange of ideas and knowledge only that the bulk of human suffering may be overcome.

shannon said...

Hey, Sheldon, I will check out the beauty science. Dr. Phil basically just says what he thinks fat housewives want to hear.

And let me say here and now that, for some reason(s), Julias blog site is a cool place to be because... Think about it: It was a special time on SNL when Julia was there and Pat was the funniest character ever and now Julia's a prominent atheist activist winning hearts and minds - which is exactly what this part of the world needs! Let go of God, America! For goodness sake, let go of God and use your brain.

Plus, it's cool that Julia adopts. And she's into science. I'm just saying this is a special place to meet on the net.

Sheldon said...

I agree with you in every way, Shannon. I had the good fortune of meeting Julia at TAM in January, and she's one of those celebs that makes you feel like she's just "one of the guys." With Randi out of commission, I need every Progressive message I can glean these days...Julia's blog is a good source for that.

Tony Varga said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tony Varga said...

I'll throw my hat into the ring with Shannon and Sheldon in praise of Ms. Sweeney's blog (I haven't had the opportunity to meet her as has Sheldon, so I guess I'll be a bit more formal). I am not a blog reader normally, but hers is rather engaging, essentially for the reasons mentioned previously, and I've been following it for a couple of years now. Particularly when she posts a Russell quote such as this, it does makes for a worthwhile and pleasant read.

wstachour said...

First time visitor! I'm thrilled to have found your blog on a link from another blog. I've heard of your show, and a quick scan of your stuff here excites me to spend some time in the archives.

Murray Gell-Man, James Randi, Daniel Dennet, Bertrand Russell--such great references and influences!

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Julia for the reminder of what a brilliant & admirable guy Russell was. He was one of my heroes back in college days and I should have done better about staying in touch with his writing. But so it goes. At least I haven't forgotten.

gracehoper said...

My goodness. Thanks so much for the Bertrand Russell!

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