Highlighted passages from Huxley's Island

Science is not enough, religion is not enough, art is not enough, politics and economics is not enough, nor is love, nor is duty, nor is action however disinterested, nor, however sublime, is contemplation. Nothing short of everything will really do.

One third, more or less, of all the sorrow that I must endure is unavoidable. It is the sorrow inherent in the human condition, the price we must pay for being sentient and self-conscious organisms, aspirants to liberation, but subject to the laws of nature and under orders to keep on marching, through irreversible time, through a world wholly indifferent to our well-being, toward decrepitude and the certainty of death.

The remaining two thirds of all sorrow is homemade and, so far as the universe is concerned, unnecessary.

"Which brings me back to those American doctors. Three of them were psychiatrists... We just couldn't believe our ears. They never attack [illness] on all the fronts; they only attack on about half of one front. So far as they're concerned, the physical fronts don't exist. Except for a mouth and an anus, their patient doesn't have a body. He isn't an organism, he wasn't born with a constitution or a temperament. All he has is the two ends of a digestive tube, a family and a psyche. But what sort of psyche? Obviously not the whole mind, not the mind as it really is. How could it be that when they take no account of a person's anatomy, or biochemistry or physiology?

Mind abstracted from body — that's the only front they attack on. And not even on the whole of that front. The man with the cigar kept talking about the unconscious. But the only unconscious they ever pay attention to is the negative unconscious, the garbage that people have tried to get rid of by burying it in the basement...

... it's not idiocy. It must be something voluntary, something self- induced—like getting drunk or talking yourself into believing some piece of foolishness because it happens to be in the Scriptures.

A rationalising, traditionally religious outsider:
"Don't try to behave as though you were essentially sane and naturally good. We're all demented sinners in the same cosmic boat - and the boat is perpetually sinking."

Encountering the horrible Messiah-complex theosophist:
What a spiritual way of saying, This is what I want to happen! Not as I will but as God wills — and by a happy coincidence God's will and mine are always identical. Will chuckled inwardly, but kept the straightest of faces.

"Does your Little Voice say anything about Southeast Asia Petroleum?" he asked.
The Rani listened again, then nodded. "Distinctly."

We neither encourage nor discourage. We accept it. Accept it as we accept that spider web up there on the cornice.

Given the nature of spiders, webs are inevitable. And given the nature of human beings, so are religions. Spiders can't help making fly-traps, and men can't help making symbols. That's what the human brain is there for - the turn the chaos of given experience into a set of manageable symbols.

Sometimes the symbols correspond fairly closely to some of the aspects of the external reality behind our experience; then you have science and common sense. Sometimes, on the contrary, the symbols have almost no connection with external reality; then you have paranoia and delirium. More often there’s a mixture, part realistic and part fantastic; that’s religion.

a federation of self-governing units, geographical units, professional units, economic units with room for initiative and democracy but no place for a dictatorship.

[Modern industrial society]: Take one sexually inept wage-slave, one dissatisfied female, two or three small television addicts; marinate in a mixture of Freudism and dilute Christianity, then bottle up tightly in a four-room flat and stew for fifteen years in their own juice. Our recipe is rather different: take twenty sexually satisfied couples and their offspring; add science, intuition and humour in equal quantities, steep in Tantrik Buddhism and simmer indefinitely in an open pan in the open air over a brisk flame of affection.

"Cement?" Will questioned.
Dr. Robert nodded. "One of the indispensable industries. We produceall we need and a surplus for export."
"And those villages supply the manpower?"
"In the intervals of agriculture and work in the forest and the sawmills."
"Does that kind of part-time system work well?"
"It depends what you mean by 'well.' It doesn't result in maximum efficiency. But then in Pala maximum efficiency isn't the categorical imperative that it is with you. You think first of getting the biggest possible output in the shortest possible time. We think first of human beings and their satisfactions. Changing jobs doesn't make for the biggest output in the fewest days. But most people like it better than doing one kind of job all their lives. If it's a choice between mechanical efficiency and human satisfaction, we choose satisfaction."

..."Sampling all kinds of work — it's part of everybody's education. One learns an enormous amount that way—about things and skills and organizations, about all kinds of people and their ways of thinking."
Will shook his head. "I'd still rather get it out of a book."
"But what you can get out of a book is never it. At bottom," Dr. Robert added, "all of you are still Platonists. You worship the word and abhor matter!"
"Tell that to the clergymen," said Will. "They're always reproaching us with being crass materialists."
“Crass,” Dr Robert agreed, “but crass precisely because you’re such inadequate materialists. Abstract materialism — that’s what you profess. Whereas we make a point of being materialists concretely — materialistic on the wordless levels of seeing and touching and smelling, of tensed muscles and dirty hands. Abstract materialism is as bad as abstract idealism, it makes immediate spiritual experience almost impossible.”

A dread world-historical hallucination:
...Onward Nazi soldiers. Onward Marxists. Onward Chris tian soldiers, and Muslims. Onward every chosen people, every Crusader and Holy War maker. Onward into misery, into all wickedness, into death. And suddenly Will found himself looking at what the marching column would become when it had reached its destination—thousands of corpses in the Korean mud, innumerable packets of garbage littering the African desert. And here (for the scene kept changing with bewildering rapidity and suddenness), here were the five flyblown bodies he-had seen only a few months ago, faces upwards and their throats gashed, in the courtyard of an Algerian farm. Here, out of a past almost twenty years earlier, was that old woman, dead and stark naked in the rubble of a stucco house in St. John's Wood. And here, without transition, was his own gray and yellow bedroom, with the reflection in the mirror on the wardrobe door of two pale bodies, his and Babs's, frantically coupling to the accompaniment of his memories of Molly's funeral and the strains, from Radio Stuttgart, of the Good Friday music out of Parsifal...

Nobody needs to go anywhere else. We are all, if we only knew it, already there. If I only knew who in fact I am, I should cease to behave as what I think I am; and if I stopped behaving as what I think I am, I should know who I am...

...in the remoter background, the great world of impersonal forces and proliferating numbers, of collective paranoias, and organized diabolism. And always, everywhere, there would be the yelling or quietly authoritative hypnotists; and in the train of the ruling suggestion givers, always and everywhere, the tribes of buffoons and hucksters, the professional liars, the purveyors of entertaining irrelevances.

...their uniformed victims would go on obediently marching and countermarching, go on, always and everywhere, killing and dying with the perfect docility of trained poodles. And yet in spite of the entirely justified refusal to take yes for an answer, the fact remained and would remain always, remain everywhere—the fact that there was this capacity even in a paranoiac for intelligence, even in a devil worshiper for love; the fact that the ground of all being could be totally manifest in a flowering shrub, a human face; the fact that there was a light and that this light was also compassion.

The heart has its reasons and the endocrines have theirs.

Lot more I could have quoted just to disagree with but I want these 'Highlighted passages' to be less neutral in selection and more neutral in tone than that.


the great toolchain

(c) PuppyOnTheRadio (2011)

To do web dev, I need an incantation:

"ES6, Atom, Mocha, Mongo, V8, Node + Promises, npm, Express, Docker, Grunt, Ractive, VMware, Git, Gitlab, JIRA!"

Together, these technologies form a toolchain and a stack. (To clarify: each of the above are different programs, or frameworks, all used in making one other program. Each link in the chain has quirks and an internal mini-language to learn. And this is all besides the home-grown scaffold the target program actually uses / consists in.) Two months ago, I'd no idea that people use a dozen widgets to get large projects up and talking; I had no acquaintance with most links in the above chain.

But I'm being melodramatic: we use these because the project I'm working on is so large; all of the links make my life easier, and most are unobtrusive (to the point where they don't need launching, even). And it is easy enough to get by with only a fewer components. It's just that I learned code by writing toy single-thread synchronous desktop applications first, and never wrote without stabilisers (an IDE) that did all of these tasks for me, silently. This was a bubble.

Anyway, if you're interested, here is an example of a very modern web-dev toolchain:

Coding: (Virtual) platform:
  • VM: VMware,
  • Virtual container: Docker

Runtime platform:
  • Server: Node
  • Compiler: V8, just in time
  • Optimiser: V8
  • Engine: V8

  • Package manager: npm
  • Library for superior asynchrony: Promise.js
  • Source control: Git
  • Repository manager: Gitlab
  • Project management: JIRA


This post actually started out as a little rant about one particular obnoxious buzzword in an industry full of them: 'the full stack developer' (i.e. someone totally skilled in every layer of development). But I was confusing the above toolchain (the production line) with 'the stack' (the product), and got into the former topic much more.

Anyway, trying to understand everything – 'working your way down the stack', nearer and nearer to bedrock protocols or hardware – is as admirable a goal in computing as it is anywhere: it is good to be less complacent, more aware of The World, even without the practical benefits it yields (in fixing problems faster and so on).

In this case, though there is the additional matter of appreciating what one is actually doing when one deigns to order 1 or 8 billion robots around, badly.

'The Mirror of Nature and the Image of Art' (1617) by Robert Fludd