is his WikiWeb page:
Spent a little time at WikiWeb just now adding some design quotes to the
WikiWeb quote page:
And I saw there how many great quotes by famous people exist just on
that page, and it made me feel small and insignificant. Not that
there's anything wrong with that; I believe humility is a Good Thing.
But it reminded me of a wonderful essay by Annie Dillard in the
January 1998 Harper's, pages 51-56, on taking our century's measure,
titled "The Wreck of Time."
I looked for it out in Webland for y'all but the only mention I could
find of it includes only part of the article at
> We Poor, Pathetic Fools
> By Peter Carlson
> Washington Post Staff Writer
> Tuesday, January 6, 1998; Page B04
> The January issue of Marie Claire has guest-editor Gwyneth Paltrow on
> the cover. You're sitting there reading the paper, effortlessly
> inhaling and exhaling, going about your life as if you had
> forever. But, of course, you're doomed, you poor fool.
> You've got a few minutes or a few decades to horse around and then
> you'll be gone, dead and buried, along with all your friends and
> family; soon not a living soul will remember you, and the indifferent
> world will go on as if you'd never been here.
> Of course you already knew all that, but it's healthy to be reminded
> of our pathetic insignificance occasionally, lest we get too
> pompous. Annie Dillard reminds us beautifully in her essay "The Wreck
> of Time" in January 1998's Harper's.
> "Anyone's close world of family and friends composes a group smaller
> than almost all sampling errors, smaller than almost all rounding
> errors, a group invisible, at whose loss the world will not blink,"
> she writes. "Two million children die a year from diarrhea, and
> 800,000 from measles. Do we blink?"
> We, the living, are outnumbered by them, the dead, and always will
> be. The 5.8 billion of us currently breathing are a tiny sliver of the
> 70 billion to 100 billion humans who have lived in the 7,500
> generations since our glorious and ludicrous species evolved from apes
> about 150,000 years ago.
> Her essay is stuffed with statistics, usually the most boring part of
> any article, but Dillard, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book
> "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" and many other books, turns them into a kind
> of grim poetry.
> "Every 110 hours a million more humans arrive on the planet than die
> into the planet," she writes. "A hundred million of us are children
> who live on the streets. Over a hundred million of us live in
> countries where we hold no citizenship. Twenty-three million of us are
> refugees. Sixteen million of us live in Cairo. Twelve million of us
> fish for a living from small boats. ... Nearly a thousand of us a day
> commit suicide."
> We humans are strong and smart, but our lives are awfully
> precarious. In one day more than 20 million people die. What nature
> doesn't do to us, we frequently do to each other, usually in the name
> of progress. Pol Pot killed a million Cambodians. Mao starved 30
> million Chinese. Stalin starved 7 million Ukrainians in one year.
> Not only do humans die, but whole civilizations vanish, leaving behind
> only bones and broken crockery. "The Trojans likely thought well of
> themselves, one by one; their last settlement died out in 1,100
> Meanwhile, the more we learn about the universe, the more
> insignificant we seem. "Ten years ago we thought there were two
> galaxies for each of us alive," Dillard writes. "Lately, since we
> loosed the Hubble Space Telescope, we have revised our figures. There
> are nine galaxies for each of us. Each galaxy harbors an average of
> 100 billion suns. In our galaxy, the Milky Way, there are 69 suns for
> each person alive. The Hubble shows, says a report, that the universe
> `is at least 15 billion years old.' Two galaxies, nine galaxies ... 69
> suns, 100 billion suns - these astronomers are nickel-and-diming us to
> "We arise from dirt and dwindle to dirt," she says, "and the might of
> the universe is arrayed against us."
So take that, Rohit, and stick it in your hubris-riddled,
actually-a-long-time, Long Now Millennium Clock...
Point of view is worth 80 IQ points.
-- Alan Kay, http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?AlanKay