There are other great writers who are not read properly in their own day for the reason, perhaps, that their readers are not yet born. What they have to say to their own generation is said so at cross-purposes and with such apparent irrelevance that it is not understood. They are, as it were, giants who tower above their own age to cast their shadows across the next.
To collude in the minimisation of British history on the grounds of its imagined irrelevance to our rebranded national future, or from a suspicion that it does no more than recycle patriotic pieties unsuited to a global marketplace, would be an act of appallingly self-inflicted collective memory loss.
But I would like to reach the point where I could cut up an illustrated magazine at random and see to it that the parts would each become a painting. I cannot properly explain it right now. Already now I am searching for the most boring and irrelevant photo material that I can find. And I would like to get to the point soon where this determined irrelevance could be retained, in favor of something that would be covered up otherwise by artifice.
The cloud is driven by statistics, and even in the worst individual cases of personal ignorance, dullness, idleness, or irrelevance, every person is constantly feeding data into the cloud these days. The value of such information could be treated as genuine, but it is not. Instead, the blindness of our standards of accounting to all that value is gradually breaking capitalism.
If I should throw down a thousand beans at random upon a table, I could doubtless, by eliminating a sufficient number of them, leave the rest in almost any geometrical pattern you might propose to me, and you might then say that that pattern was the thing prefigured beforehand, and that the other beans were mere irrelevance and packing material. Our dealings with Nature are just like this.
By our uncritical pursuit of relevance we have actually courted irrelevance; by our breathless chase after relevance without a matching committment to faithfulness, we have become not only unfaithful, but irrelevant; by our determined efforts to redefine outselves in ways that are more compelling to the modern world than are faithful to Christ, we have lost not only our identity but our authority and our relevance. Our crying need is to be faithful as well as relevant
Fine art, that exists for itself alone, is art in a final state of impotence. If nobody, including the artist, acknowledges art as a means of knowing the world, then art is relegated to a kind of rumpus room of the mind and the irresponsibility of the artist and the irrelevance of art to actual living becomes part and parcel of the practice of art.
There is, however, a moral basis for the vegetarian diet for which the indeterminate value of an animal's life takes on irrelevance. And that moral basis is a concern for the environment, a value as absolute as the value we all place on human life, since humanity will not survive for long on a poisoned planet. To be an environmentalist who happens to eat meat is like being a philanthropist who doesn't happen to give to charity.
If moral statements are about something, then the universe is not quite as science suggests it is, since physical theories, having said nothing about God, say nothing about right or wrong, good or bad. To admit this would force philosophers to confront the possibility that the physical sciences offer a grossly inadequate view of reality. And since philosophers very much wish to think of themselves as scientists, this would offer them an unattractive choice between changing their allegiances or accepting their irrelevance.
And this is how I know that it's all just words, words, words - that fundamentally, they make no difference... Our relationship, for as long as things were good, and in that moment when they could have been good again, was about the irrelevance of words. You feel what you feel, you act as you act, who in the history of the world has ever been convinced by a well-reasoned argument?
I see Professionalism as a spreading disease of the present-day world, a sort of poly-oligarchy by which various groups (subway conductors, social workers, bricklayers) can bring things to a halt if their particular demands are not met. (Meanwhile, the irrelevance of each profession increases, in proportion to its increasing rigidity.) Such lucky groups demand more in each go-round - but meantime, the number who are permanently unemployed grows and grows.
Shift from mediocrity to excellence. Mediocrity and Excellence are like jealous suitors fighting for a partner and competing to please him/her, to the extent they do all they can to reproduce in sets of twins. Mediocrity gives birth to Irrelevance and Obscurity, whilst Excellence breeds Relevance and Significance. These sets of twins cannot inhabit the same life, only one compatible pair can co-exist.
A philosopher is a lover of wisdom, not of knowledge, which for all its great uses ultimately suffers from the crippling effect of ephemerality. All knowledge is transient linked to the world around it and subject to change as the world changes, whereas wisdom, true wisdom is eternal immutable. To be philosophical one must love wisdom for its own sake, accept its permanent validity and yet its perpetual irrelevance. It is the fate of the wise to understand the process of history and yet never to shape it.
So the experience of death is turned into that of the exchange of functionaries, and anything in the natural relationship to death that is not wholly absorbed into the social one is turned over to hygiene. In being seen as no more than the exit of a living creature from the social combine, death has been domesticated: dying merely confirms the absolute irrelevance of the natural organism in face of the social absolute.
[S]ometimes, when you are a food person, the possible irrelevance of what you are doing doesn't cross your mind until it's too late. (Once, for example, when I was just starting out in the food business, I was hired by the caper people to develop a lot of recipes using capers, and it was weeks of tossing capers into just about everything but milkshakes before I came to terms with the fact that nobody really likes capers no matter what you do with them. Some people pretend to like capers, but the truth is that any dish that tastes good with capers in it tastes even better with capers not in in.
We may say then that the contribution of the telegraph to public discourse was to dignify irrelevance and amplify impotence. But this was not all: Telegraphy also made public discourse essentially incoherent. It brought into being a world of broken time and broken attention, to use Lewis Mumford's phrase. The principle strength of the telegraph was its capacity to move information, not collect it, explain it or analyze it. In this respect, telegraphy was the exact opposite of typography.
Nations are political and military entities, and so are blocs of nations. But it doesn't necessarily follow from this that they are also the basic, salient entities of economic life or that they are particularly useful for probing the mysteries of economic structure, the reasons for rise and decline of wealth. Indeed, the failure of national governments and blocs of nations to force economic life to do their bidding suggests some sort of essential irrelevance.
Apple was very close to bankruptcy and to irrelevance [but] you learn a lot about life through death, and I learnt a lot about vital corporations by experiencing a non-vital corporation. You would have thought that, when what stands between you and bankruptcy is some money, your focus would be on making some money, but that was not [Steve Jobs'] preoccupation. His observation was that the products weren't good enough and his resolve was, we need to make better products. That stood in stark contrast to the previous attempts to turn the company around.
The serious reader in the age of technology is a rebel by definition: a protester without a placard, a Luddite without hammer or bludgeon. She reads on planes to picket the antiseptic nature of modern travel, on commuter trains to insist on individualism in the midst of the herd, in hotel rooms to boycott the circumstances that separate her from her usual sources of comfort and stimulation, during office breaks to escape from the banal conversation of office mates, and at home to revolt against the pervasive and mind-deadening irrelevance of television.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.
We are beginning to learn that intangibles have more specific gravity than we suspected, that ideas can generate as much forward thrust as Atlas missiles. We may win a victory in exploring the infinities of outer space, but it will be a Pyrrhic victory unless we can also explore the infinities of our inner spirit. We have supersensitive thermographs to show us the slightest variations in skin temperature. No devices can teach us the irrelevance of skin color. WE can transplant a heart from one person to another in a brilliant feat of surgical virtuosity. Now we are ready to try it the hard way: transplanting understanding, compassion, and love from one person to another.
All my life I have been the sort of person in whom people confide. And all my life I have been flattered by this role - grateful for the frisson of importance that comes with receiving important information. In recent years, however, I have noticed that my gratification is becoming diluted by a certain weary indignation. They tell me because they regard me as safe. All of them, they make their disclosures to me in the same spirit that they might tell a castrato or a priest - with a sense that I am so outside the loop, so remote from the doings of the great world, as to be defused of any possible threat. The number of secrets I receive is in inverse proportion to the number of secrets anyone expects me to have of my own. And this is the real source of my dismay. Being told secrets is not - never has been - a sign that I belong or that I matter. It is quite the opposite: confirmation of my irrelevance.
This irrelevance of molecular arrangements for macroscopic results has given rise to the tendency to confine physics and chemistry to the study of homogeneous systems as well as homogeneous classes. In statistical mechanics a great deal of labor is in fact spent on showing that homogeneous systems and homogeneous classes are closely related and to a considerable extent interchangeable concepts of theoretical analysis (Gibbs theory). Naturally, this is not an accident. The methods of physics and chemistry are ideally suited for dealing with homogeneous classes with their interchangeable components. But experience shows that the objects of biology are radically inhomogeneous both as systems (structurally) and as classes (generically). Therefore, the method of biology and, consequently, its results will differ widely from the method and results of physical science.
Walter M. Elsasser
We'll have to see, " Belbo said. He rummaged in his drawer and took out some sheets of paper. "Potio-section... " He looked at me, saw my bewilderment. "Potio-section, as everybody knows, of course, is the art of slicing soup. No, no, " he said to Diotallevi. "It's not the department, it's a subject, like Mechanical Avunculogratulation or Pylocatabasis. They all under the same heading of Tetrapyloctomy." "What's tetra... ?" I asked. "The art of splitting hairs four ways. This is the department of useless techniques. Mechanical Avunculogratulation, for example, is how to build machines for greeting uncles. We're not sure, though, if Pylocatabasis belongs, since it's the art of being saved by a hair. Somehow that doesn't seem completely useless." "All right, gentlemen, " I said, "I give up. What are you two talking about?" "Well, Diotallevi and I are planning a reform in higher education. A School of Comparative Irrelevance, where useless or impossible courses are given. The school's main is to turn out scholars capable of endlessly increasing the number of unnecessary subjects.
What has happened, and is happening, to our under-standing of what law is for is subtler but no less portentous: we have come to mistakenly define what law is for. These mistakes do not result from unsuccessful efforts to get the matter right, unfortunately. Instead, lawmakers have lately deemed the truth about persons, marriage, family, and religion to be irrelevant to law. What these goods re-ally are does not matter, they say. Worst of all, the irrelevance of moral truth has been carefully cultivated: not considering who is really a person, or what marriage really is, or how religion truly works, has been celebrated as a great virtue of American public life, a trend that has be-come dominant since World War II. More exactly, under the influence of contemporary liberal doctrines about moral 'neutrality, ' our determination of what law is for has become the creature of consensus, not of what is, of what is true.6 The desideratum is not to get what law is for right, but to fit it all comfortably within dominant cultural mores and conventional morality. Our lawmakers have resolved that avoiding controversy is the overriding end of law, especially when it comes to considering what law is for. Our lawmakers correctly see that law's moral foundation is potentially a source of great controversy. What they fail to recognize is that getting it wrong promotes the greatest injustice of all.
Gerard V. Bradley
We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares. But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us. This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.