The common people of England … so jealous of their liberty, but like the common people of most other countries, never rightly understanding wherein it consists,…
And Lou McIntosh, who works at a rehabilitation center for formerly schizophrenic patients, had a question connecting personal identity with self-referential sentences: “If I were you, who would be reading this sentence?” She then added, “That’s what I get for working with schizophrenics.” This brings me to Peter M. Bringham, M.D., who in his work ran across a severe case of literary schizophrenia: “You have, of course, just begun reading the sentence that you have just finished reading.” It’s one of my favorites.
…But if much converse perhaps
Thee satiate, to short absence I could yield.
For solitude somtimes is best societie,
And short retirement urges sweet return.
Losing information doesn’t only mean data erasure: if one part of the database says “white” while another part says “black,” you have lost information.
The English describe a gentleman as someone who can play the bagpipes—but doesn’t.
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens. Even a beggar does not depend upon it entirely. The charity of well-disposed people, indeed, supplies him with the whole fund of his subsistence. But though this principle ultimately provides him with all the necessaries of life which he has occasion for, it neither does nor can provide him with them as he has occasion for them. The greater part of his occasional wants are supplied in the same manner as those of other people, by treaty, by barter, and by purchase.
Morpheus: You try my patience, little ghost. Where are your masters?
Hector: That didn’t faze you, huh? Well, let’s see how you react to a cartridge of dream sand!
M: I can feel them, hiding in that place. Get out of my way.
H: Monster, you shall never get past me.
M: And who are you…?
H: I am the Sandman, guardian of the dreams of men, protector against wicked nightmares, lord of the Dream Dome, and friend of children everywhere!
M: You are what? Hrrr. Hrr. Hrrraahh. You…? You are the Sandman? Is that what they told you, little ghost? Hrr. Hrrahhahaha. Ha ha ha ha ha hrrahh hahaha! (facepalm) Ohhh. Humanity, I love you. You never cease to amaze me.
The social scientists have a long way to go to catch up, but they may be up to the most important scientific business of all, if and when they finally get down to the right questions. Our behavior toward each other is the strangest, most unpredictable, and almost entirely unaccountable of all the phenomena with which we are obliged to live.
“Making Science Work”
…That is good, but the gold medal in the category is reserved for Lee Sallows, who submitted the following tour de force:
Only the fool would take trouble to verify that his sentence was composed of ten a’s, three b’s, four c’s, four d’s, forty-six e’s, sixteen f’s, four g’s, thirteen h’s, fifteen i’s, two k’s, nine l’s, four m’s, twenty-five n’s, twenty-four o’s, five p’s, sixteen r’s, forty-one s’s, thirty-seven t’s, ten u’s, eight v’s, eight w’s, four x’s, eleven y’s, twenty-seven commas, twenty-three apostrophes, seven hyphens, and, last but not least, a single !
…It strikes me as weird (and wonderful) how, in certain situations, the verification of a tiny percentage of a theory can serve to powerfully strengthen your belief in the full theory. And perhaps that’s the whole point of the sentence!
(Obsessive parents know who they are and are generally proud of the fact; non-obsessive parents also know who the obsessives are and tend to snicker at them.)