Second vice: sloth

  Large animals are characteristically slothful, despite their ferocity or pomposity. That’s why computer chips nowadays are getting smaller and smaller, as are many other electronics proliferating in the market. Inertia, as Newton observed, is intrinsic in every observable object (with the notable exception of photons of course, but that’s irrelevant here). Somehow the same physical principle jives with the biological world equally well.
  Just as in the case of greed, there are two levels of sloth. The most basic form is of course lethargy displayed in terms of lack of response, energy, corporal movement, etc. I don’t know if there is any connection between entropy level and human productivity, but historically northerners are much more productive in terms of military, civil engineering, as well as scientific advances than their southern counterparts. I guess the more conventional wisdom attributes such disparity to the austere subarctic living condition, underscoring the need of territorial expansion as well as internal construction. But the south is also fraught with cruel weather and rampant spread of diseases.
   It is often believed that as one grows older, there is an accumulated level of slothfulness that pervades the person’s mind, body, eventually leading to his premature moritification. Indeed sloth is quite often associated with weariness and ebbing of enthusiasm (about life?). But there is also a signficant group of people, particularly found in North America, upon whom the name "animal person" is stenciled. An animal person is in simple terms one who lives like an animal: no aspiration beyond instantaneous satiation of base desires. He is sometimes ultra-religious, in the sense that he follows the mass quite vehemently to the extent people mistake him for a religious fanatic. Well it can be said that religion is one of his immediate, pain-relieving desires.
  I do not want to dwell on the subject of animalistic sloth for too long; such experience is hopefully reminiscent in every living individual. The truly unidentified, or insufficiently identified manifestation of sloth is a catholic feature among scholars. 
  When a learned individual dwells on the same subject intransigently for a long period, or mechanically work through a prescribed set of routine in anticipation of self-conditioning, he is being intellectually slothful. He does not know, at least for the time being, how to pull himself out of a rythmic mode of existence. It is admittedly true that rare intellectual sparks are usually generated at the end of a long, endless Byzantine quest. And to a mathematician like myself in particular, a snug environment, comfortable position, and maybe even a delicatedly balanced tidal level (as associated with the distance of moon from the earth) can lead to different depth of originality. But that is no excuse for the lack of alacrity as a living being. After all the greatest source of inspiration comes from the reconstitution of raw material. No one is capable of "inventing" the raw material, other than the supreme force presiding the universe. Our only contribution to the cosmo comes in the form of remixing the extant gemstones to form a larger, more spectacular piece of art. Through myriad years of historic oblivion, such factitious artwork might eventually be granted the status of raw material, so that new generations of alchemists are able to deem themselves the founder of a new science.
    I do not wish to close the present discussion of sloth with a decorous conclusion: after all I cannot escape my sloth-striken fate..

About aquazorcarson

math PhD at Stanford, studying probability
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