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Life Arts    H4'ed 11/23/18

Daily Inspiration — I hope that you had a delicious Thanksgiving.

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I hope your parents loved you and your childhood was free of trauma.

I hope the Founding Fathers were sincere in their desire to create an inclusive democracy.

I hope that two World Wars never happened.

I hope I don't come off sounding like Erving Goffman.

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Actually, I hope that I do manage to evoke the ghost of Goffman, because IMHO he was one of the funniest and most perceptive writers ever to poke holes in our blinders.


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What does it mean to hope for something in the past that already has happened (or not)?

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Heck--what does it mean to hope for something in the future? And what does it mean to tell someone that we hope something, without really experiencing either the emotion of hope or the visualization of the desired event?

I hope that each time I say good-bye to my friend, I recall the image of God vouchsafing his passage.

I am acquainted with the literature at the edge of experimental psychology suggesting that intention and visualization (hope) can have a real impact on the future. There is evidence for remote healing through the power of prayer. The finding that this effect can even work retroactively suggests a need to rebuild the foundations of modern science, flowing from the axiom that the past is an efficient cause of the future (and never the other way 'round). No sh*t.

I hope that this re-evaluation might proceed expeditiously. I don't hope that the re-evaluation might be obviated by re-arranging the past in such a way that the principles of causality were never woven into the fabric of scientific thought in the first place.

Einstein, BTW, rooted his most influential thought experiments in the principle that an experimenter's free will may affect the future (he called it the forward light cone) but never the past. This reasoning was the basis of his conclusion that the notions of future and past were, in some cases, relative to the observer (but beyond limits imposed by light speed, other events are in either the past or the future, which all observers agree upon). When the emerging laws of quantum reality seemed to show that only half of the future was determined by the past, and the other half could be influenced by events distant in space and time, either forward or after, Einstein clung too long to the suspicion that this implies a problem at the heart of quantum mechanics.

The hopes that we express in polite conversation are social lubricants, significant for facilitating a level of familiarity and safety that we establish before trusting another human with a glimpse into our inner experience. They are devoid of literal content. To analyze their verbal content as though it held a meaning intended for communication is the height of absurdity. Hence my hope that you might find this column an occasion for laughter.

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Josh Mitteldorf, a senior editor at OpEdNews, blogs on aging at http://JoshMitteldorf.ScienceBlog.com. Read how to stay young at http://AgingAdvice.org.
Educated to be an astrophysicist, he has branched out from there to mathematical (more...)
 

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