DUBNER: Let me throw at you then a question from a listener. This is someone named Patrick Kelly. He wanted me to ask you, “How would you translate the Billy Beane method for building a successful professional baseball club to an individual’s approach to life?”
LEWIS: I think the first takeaway in a very general way — from Moneyball for your life — is to ask why you’re doing things the way you’re doing things. And it’s intoxicating, once you start. Once you start saying, why do we have to steal a base when there’s nobody out and a runner on first? Or why isn’t anybody placing any value on a walk? Or why do we have to have a starting pitcher? Once you start asking these questions, you start to get answers that might surprise you. And then after that, it’s sort of like how do you start to evaluate the things you need to evaluate? And if there are ways to try to put numbers on things, to try to make probability judgments about things that you’ve just been not thinking about, you might get to a different answer.
Emo Phillips had a joke about this:
“Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!”
He said, “Nobody loves me.”
I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?” He said, “Yes.”
I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.”
I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.”
I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”
I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.”
CARLOS ALOMAR: The trilogy—Low, “Heroes,” Lodger—changed my life forever. In adjusting myself to the methodologies that were used, and the new form of freethinking and linear thinking that I was exposed to, it changed me. They taught me that every time I came back to David, I needed to change. He wanted R&B, rock and roll, electronic music, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, romantic music. Stir the pot and out comes the Thin White Duke. He was such a restless person. He didn’t like being comfortable. Comfortable is genre-driven, and be careful, because it will outlive you and it will surpass you. David had a lovely saying, “Let go, or be dragged.” He was David 2.0, 3.0.
David Bowie: A Life
He who has much looked on at the childish satisfaction of other people in their hobbies, will regard his own with only a very ironical indulgence. He will not be heard among the dogmatists. He will have a great and cool allowance for all sorts of people and opinions. If he finds no out-of-the-way truths, he will identify himself with no very burning falsehood. His way takes him along a by-road, not much frequented, but very even and pleasant, which is called Commonplace Lane, and leads to the Belvedere of Commonsense. Thence he shall command an agreeable, if no very noble prospect; and while others behold the East and West, the Devil and the Sunrise, he will be contentedly aware of a sort of morning hour upon all sublunary things, with an army of shadows running speedily and in many different directions into the great daylight of Eternity. The shadows and the generations, the shrill doctors and the plangent wars, go by into ultimate silence and emptiness; but underneath all this, a man may see, out of the Belvedere windows, much green and peaceful landscape; many firelit parlours; good people laughing, drinking, and making love as they did before the Flood or the French Revolution; and the old shepherd telling his tale under the hawthorn.
Quote from the essay, Apology for Idlers, which you can find here:
The Lantern-Bearers and Other Essays
Robert Louis Stevenson
When people were walking out of Husbands and Faces en masse I never felt bad about that because I thought that it was pain that was taking them out of the theater and I thought that it wasn’t the fact that the film was bad. It was that they couldn’t take it without changing their own lifestyles, which made both those films very successful to me. I thought at the time that Husbands was anti the lifestyle of almost everyone in America. We presented a lifestyle that went against their lifestyle. People walked out because they didn’t want to accept the fact that there could be anything wrong with the way they lived their lives.
It doesn’t matter whether audiences like it; it matters whether they feel something. I feel I’ve succeeded if I make them feel something — anything. The hope is that you don’t make it so easy for an audience that when they go to your movie they have nothing to think about except, ‘That was wonderful. Good. Next! What else are you going to entertain my great appetite with?’ I want to make you mad. Yeah, that’s going to take longer. And yeah, when we have it we’ll let you know, I mean. And we’ll put it there.
Cassavetes on Cassavetes
John Cassavetes, Ray Carney
“You said that my manner in that book was not serious enough — that I made people laugh in my most earnest moment. Why should humour and laughter be excommunicated? Suppose the world were only one of God’s jokes; would you work any the less to make it a good joke instead of a bad one?”
Letter from George Bernard Shaw to Tolstoy
In Samuel Beckett’s play Happy Days, the character Winnie says something along the same lines:
“How can one better magnify the Almighty than by sniggering with him at his little jokes, particularly the poorer ones?”
(See also: John Simon on Beckett’s Happy Days)
The first time I read “Elective Affinities” was in college, when it appeared on the syllabus of a class that I swiftly dropped. The teacher pronounced “Goethe” with enthusiastic violence, making it sound like a noise someone would make when using the toilet. I read the book on my own time and strip-mined it for insights on marriage, fashion and virtue. (“Human beings reveal their character most clearly by what they find ridiculous.”)
It wasn’t until revisiting the book five years later that I saw what I had missed — and, contrarily, probably missed a lot of what I’d understood the first time. The novel is about an aristocratic married couple, Charlotte and Eduard, who fall in love with other people. They work through their rift by exchanging stiff philosophical dialogues about fate, domesticity, nature, freedom, transgression — you know, all the fun stuff. Aphorisms everywhere.
There’s a piece in The American Scholar in which Alberto Manguel describes Goethe as never merely narrating, but always injecting theories into his prose, with those theories permeating each section “like the smell of fried onions.” It remains the only novel I’ve read that feels like the work of a scientist (author) guiding lab rats (characters) through a maze (plot). It was published in 1809 to widespread bafflement.
Wind, Of Course, Goethe and Shame Our critic recommends old and new books.
Were one asked to characterize the life of religion in the broadest and most general terms possible, one might say that it consists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto. This belief and this adjustment are the religious attitude in the soul.
The Varieties of Religious Experience
How does one inquire into value? The standard answer these days is, by rational groping. That is, we begin from our intuitive sense of things and then fashion our ethical “intuitions” into a body of knowledge through reflection. Say we ask the question, is time in leisure good in itself? I’m inclined to answer, “Yes, intuitively speaking; it does seem so.” Which is to say something like “Yes, it seems so, but I don’t yet claim to have an explanation why this would be true, and I might change my mind I can’t find one.” But then I can try to think up principles or theories that would explain my intuitive reactions. I can adjust and prune either the intuitions or the principles or theories, until they all fit into a coherent system. I can keep tinkering until the overall fit seems holistically satisfying, much in the way scientists gradually refine theories. John Rawls, the twentieth century’s most influential political philosopher (and Quine’s colleague at Harvard), called this the search for “reflective equilibrium.” It is always a search, in both ethics and science. We never just coast along without the Socratic labors of reexamination. But the search has a destination. We can gain in understanding and confidence.