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Considering “the proper study of mankind”

[ by Charles Cameron — I am reminded also of Abraham Joshua Heschel’s great and simple book, The Sabbath ]

Two very different styles of thinking came to my attention today. The first style (upper panel, below) is that now commonly found within the effective altruism movement:

SPEC two ways of thinking

The second (lower panel, above) comes from Oliver Sacks, physician.

Between them lies the difference between quantitative and qualitative modes of thinking — which is to say between quantity and quality as the two great vectors aloing which we align our lives and futures.



  • Dylan Matthews, I spent a weekend at Google talking with nerds about charity..
  • Oliver Sacks, Sabbath
  • **

    Rabbi Heschel‘s book, The Sabbath, opens with the words:

    He who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil.

    2 Responses to “Considering “the proper study of mankind””

    1. Charles Cameron Says:

      Friend Bill Benzon has a piece upo today that’s close kin to this one. He’s titled it Amazon and the Borg vs. Shabbos and the People and it compares Amazon’s employment practices as detailed by Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld in Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace with the same Oliver Sacks piece I contrasted above with Dylan Matthews’ piece on Google.
      You can judge how close Bill’s piece is to mine in spirit from his comment:

      I juxtapose these two articles because they exemplify two very different ways of being in the world, the way of humans, Shabbos, and the way of the Borg,

      Amazon work ethic and Google altruism appear to be cut from the same cloth, both contrasting strongly with the culture of Sabbath that Oliver Sacks so movingly describes.
      Key to Bill’s account is this observation:

      Notice in the first paragraph that Sacks’ parents would allow their working lives to occasionally intrude on the Sabbath. That’s because they are physicians and people’s well-being and lives depend upon them. Otherwise simply notice all the ways in which the Sabbath is kept different from the other days of the week. There’s no work, different food, different clothes; they spent time visiting with friends and relatives. The holiness of the day allowed them to devote time to one another, to their community.

      And the secret within that possibility? Sacks gives us a glimpse:

      The peace of the Sabbath, of a stopped world, a time outside time, was palpable, infused everything,

    2. Bill Benzon Says:

      Great minds, Charles, Great minds….

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