I think Jon Stewart is the most astute political analyst working today. He has more moments of “Eureka” in a single broadcast than a month of editorials. Who else sets off laughter and light bulbs in your head at the same time? If I believed in reincarnation, I would believe Mark Twain alive and well.
To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the human condition of the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertain and on a willingness to be exposed; it’s based on being more like a plant than like a jewel, something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from its fragility.
What happens to me when I learn something new, and it happens every day, is that I just feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest. I’m afraid that just about the time I begin to feel really at home, it’ll be over.
Bill Moyers, talking to Isaac Asimov in 1988 about the transformation of learning in the then-new digital age.
Watch the whole interview, in two parts, below. It’s really fantastic. Not only does Asimov basically predict YouTube, social networks, and online education in part 2, in part 1 he discusses how writing down his ideas, in the form of stories, ensures that his mind will live on after his body has ceased to function. Isn’t that what we’re all doing, here, in some way?
I left the party because it was becoming an apocalyptic cult. Because you cannot govern a country of 310 million people that is the greatest economic power on earth and the greatest military power on earth as if it’s a banana republic. You can’t govern it with people who think that Obama was born overseas or who believe in all manner of nonsense about climate change. They don’t even know, apparently, where babies come from, if we’re to believe Todd Akin.
Mike Lofgren spent twenty-eight years working in Congress, the last sixteen as a senior analyst on the House and Senate Budget committees, which gave him an insider’s look at the Bush tax cuts, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Hurricane Katrina disaster relief, debates on the Pentagon budget, and the various deficit-reduction commissions.
Increasingly frustrated by the gridlock and partisan polarization in Congress, Lofgren left government service as the debt ceiling crisis of 2011 came to a boil.
His initial hit article as a private citizen, Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult, received over a million views on Truthout.com. Lofgren has expanded on that article in his new book, The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted.
Lofgren has a B.A. and M.A. in history and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to the Universities of Berne and Basel, Switzerland.
MOYERS: Do you think we can educate ourselves, that any one of us, at any time, can be educated in any subject that strikes our fancy?
ASIMOV: The key words here are “that strikes our fancy.” There are some things that simply don’t strike my fancy, and I doubt that I can force myself to be educated in them. On the other hand, when there’s a subject I’m ferociously interested in, then it is easy for me to learn about it. I take it in gladly and cheerfully…
[What’s exciting is] the actual process of broadening yourself, of knowing there’s now a little extra facet of the universe you know about and can think about and can understand. It seems to me that when it’s time to die, there would be a certain pleasure in thinking that you had utilized your life well, learned as much as you could, gathered in as much as possible of the universe, and enjoyed it. There’s only this one universe and only this one lifetime to try to grasp it. And while it is inconceivable that anyone can grasp more than a tiny portion of it, at least you can do that much. What a tragedy just to pass through and get nothing out of it.