De-cluttering your digital life

If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product

There’s a popular movement in the West called, “minimalism.” Although it spans many fields, a particular application is the de-cluttering of people’s homes, the cleaning out of extraneous possessions. As it clears out a space, so it clears up the mind –even the soul. I would like to propose we do the same with our digital lives. Why bother filling your life with Netflix subscriptions and purchases of latest phones when we know that life is most clearly enjoyed in the company of other human beings? Why would you let someone else steal your personal information and profit from their sharing? To this end, I’ve compiled a few questions which you can ask yourself to de-clutter your digital life, and perhaps break the addiction of screens that are dragging your life down.

  • Do I store my music on my devices or with a cloud provider? If it’s by a cloud provider, do I have a compelling reason to do so?
  • Who do I share my personal information with?
  • Do I use an ad blocker? If not, you should get one immediately. I recommend Brave.
  • Can I list, on a napkin or post-it note, the number of services that I’m subscribed to online? If you can’t remember, you should research and know; if the number goes past the length of the note, it’s too much. Digital services should be considered utilities and given the same kind of attention to each month.
  • When I open my computer, do I know exactly what I’m using it for? In other words, am I using my computer to accomplish a task, or is the computer using me to accomplish a profit?

The computer and the internet were made to make men more free in their ability to know and create. However, a person lacking in virtue can easily let these freedoms overwhelm their temperance and cause one to gorge on the endless variety of pleasures it provides. A virtuous individual will be able to use these tools to make him/herself better. A virtuous citizen will be able to use them to make the community around them, and their country as a whole, better. If we cannot make the right decisions about how we use computers, we risk having the organizations behind them (whether it be the manufacturer, political party, etc.) take control over our attention, and therefore, our minds.

Welcome to class, this app will be your teacher

In becoming a teacher, I’ve lost my mind…but found my heart and soul.”  

Students looking at the Museum’s mobile app

When was the last time you downloaded an app to learn something? This month? This week? Today? Education is one the largest app categories on the App Store, and the advent of COVID has only increased the number of educational apps that assist with remote learning. The trend of online learning has increased in recent years thanks to the advent of machine learning and big data —an increased amount of data means recommendations and attuned instruction can be provided to users based on their previous behavior. This generated enormous success for software companies: apps like Duolingo, Coursera, Lynda, etc. have become household names, and the companies behind them became multi-billion-dollar enterprises.

At the same time, the number of education majors in the United States has decreased over 20% in the last years, one the greatest declines in all majors. The salary of a teacher, especially primary education, is one of the lowest in the nation. So much so that 1 in 6 teachers need to take another job to make ends meet. It is a difficult, stressful job with an enormous workload and little to no recognition.

If the success of educational applications are increasing, why is the number of people who live for education declining? What has happened that’s caused our society to shift the responsibility of learning, one the most fundamental aspects of being human, from teachers, to software?

Like an artist that draws lines and ovals to ketch a painting, I won’t be answering this question fully, but rather hint at where the answer may lie. This will be forthcoming in my next post…

The Culture of Space-Faring People

Up there, just above us, is the Moon…Unrubbed by wind. Unwashed by rain…Standing there, unblinking since time began.” — Moonwalk One, 2009.

Fifty years after men first walked on the moon, private corporations are readying to make space travel, in the words of Elon Musk, “as common as air travel.” The science of space exploration, much like the other sciences we study in the modern world, frequently eclipse the values and meaning we derive from them. What are we to do with the realization that space travel will be so common? How would we define ourselves as a species, as a community no longer bound by Earth? Is venturing out into the lifeless void of space even worth it? 

These and other questions linger about like dirty dishes we leave in the kitchen sink —they are ever present in our minds, and will start to stink if we don’t do anything about them. For decades, a techno-centric view of the world has been dominating the discourse of education and in the minds of our leaders: STEM-focused curriculums, the rise in engineering degrees coupled with a precipitous decline in the humanities, are evidence to the decline of “value-based thinking.” As the popular intellectual Sam Harris succinctly stated: “When you are adhering to the highest standards of logic and evidence, you are thinking scientifically. And when you’re not, you’re not.” That is, all human knowledge is scientific knowledge; if it isn’t scientific, it is not real knowledge. 

By reducing our view of the world in this strict sense, we become blinded to the other kinds of ways of knowing about the world, such as stories. But the stories our culture sells aren’t “fiction” anymore: they are “science fiction,” as if to indicate the supremacy of scientific thought in our collective imagination–now bound by the physical laws of our universe. No more talking animals, bring in the aliens instead! A wardrobe that leads to another world? Well that’s just a wormhole built by scientists. No heroes that hurl thunder, only genetically modified soldiers. I don’t want to give the reader the impression that I’m a science-basher–I am a software engineer after all. Science helps us understand the natural world by observing it and deriving laws that describe our universe at large; it does not tell us about what makes for a happy life, what a rose smells like, or why we should even bother to study the universe at all. In this sense, there’s a dire need to ask, and answer, the moral questions that arise from our exploration into space, and not just the scientific ones. This isn’t just an ethical question, it’s an epistemological one: if we don’t ask the whys, we will never attain a full understanding of the universe. 

One can think of the recent developments by SpaceX, NASA and other small companies in making accessible space travel as a distraction; a commendable but unnecessary enterprise that does more to fill up the ambitions of billionaires instead of the bellies of the poor and hungry. Isn’t our world enough to fill our needs? Can’t we instead spend our precious time and energy in creating communities of solidarity? Shouldn’t we learn to love one another first before venturing out into the void? 

I believe there are many answers to this question, but there’s one that stands out by its sheer compatibility with our biology and spiritual make up which I wish to make a case for. 

Fossil evidence tells us that man first appeared on Earth in the tropical heartland of Africa about two millions years ago. Since then, he ventured out: first into the Middle East and Europe, then India, China, the whole of Asia, and finally, the Americas. What drove those first people out of their evolutionary crib? Hunger? Competition? War? We don’t know. But then again, we surely know, as anyone who’s been forced to sit in a room for a long time can attest. Remember that time you were explicitly told not to do something and immediately felt a burning desire to do it? We all carry that fire within us — that curiosity, desire for exploration, rebelliousness even. Could this same feeling also have driven our ancestors out of their homelands? 

Our desire to explore is innate. What is the source of this desire is debatable, but to deny it exists is like saying we don’t feel cravings when presented with a delicious piece of cake. Like that piece of cake, we are compelled to engage in the act of discovery when given the chance, and the undertaking feels like a reward in itself. In the course of history, exploration has proven to be excellent at displaying the better parts of our nature: teamwork to accomplish a goal, patience in the face of overwhelming odds and suffering, ingenuity in crafting solutions, the list goes on. Aristotle tells us that something is most itself when it is able to demonstrate its own excellence. The function of excellence in man, according to him, is his reason. It is that higher capacity to think, discern and understand that separates us from the animals and makes us “a little less than the angels.” Isn’t this excellence present when man explores? Who can deny the teamwork involved to visit far-off places? Who can ignore the patience exercised in the face of overwhelming odds, of ingenuity required to craft solutions, of courage to face dangerous obstacles? To venture out into the unknown, is to venture into the deepest parts of our soul to find out what we’re made of. Outer space, the ultimate unknown, fascinates us in its ethereal brilliance and confronts us with cosmic dread. Space travel indeed can become the last, great frontier of exploration left for humanity to conquer. 

What does a society that accepts this proposition look like? What, in other words, does the culture of a space-faring civilization look like? Consider: the stories which space-faring people could tell one another will just, if not more outstanding, than any fantasy we can conjure up on Earth. By expanding our imagination to the literally cosmic level, we open up ourselves to a universe of unimaginable beauty, danger and excitement. These fantasies and stories meld closely with the amazing science which the civilization would have created. The achievements of the human mind would be in full display as people regularly bend the rules of space and time to travel vast distances to other worlds. The conception of what these people believe possible would be much more flexible than our own. The creation of such technologies and the incredible wealth of knowledge necessary to understand and describe them would probably mean that there would only be a few who understand how these machines function, with the vast majority of people content to go about their daily lives. It would be interesting to consider whether the common people would see the marvels of technologies which they come into contact with as “magic,” or accept a passing description of them much the same way one presses to ask a person how a plane flies.

Throughout the centuries, people have described the place they live in as a prologue to the history that took place there. A person born in France isn’t just born in the modern nation-state of “France” — she carries within herself a whole mythos of francophone culture, imbued with the spirit, blood and sweat that was poured within the bounds of the society she lives in. Even the first pilgrims that arrived to America could recognize that they weren’t alone, that the lands which they lived were inhabited far longer than their memories could imagine. But what of settlers who arrive on a new planet? What would they think of themselves as they start a new colony? With the only connection to the rest of humanity being the delicate strand of their own past, the new generations born out of their parents could feel far greater independence and self-reliance than societies on earth do. 

The increase in technological prowess will not change how people behave, merely the means and ways in which they can pursue the object of their desire. As our mastery over matter increases, will the mastery over our senses increase as well? Our appetites are infinite, and nothing in the universe can satisfy them completely. It is plausible to assume that, if the technology becomes available, some will tap into the Tree of Life to create (as oppose to capture) human slaves that do their bidding. As the creation of nuclear weapons, biological and chemical weapons have shown, the capability for man to commit crimes of depravity increase as his means (i.e technological power) increase. Cain killed his only brother in jealousy; will a future Cain kill billions in amusement? Facts can tell us how the world works, values tell us how we should treat it. It remains to the hearts of future explorers to discern how they will educate their progeny in light of their increased power. A person in the 1800s could only harm as much as his rifle allowed; the same person in the year 2300 could destroy an entire continent (perhaps he/she have enough access to anti-matter). Alternatively, if individuals are not as effective in self-government as their technology would allow them, we could imagine a government that maintains absolute control over them to effectuate the safety of its citizens. A Leviathan-like state that tracks its citizens’ every move and quickly effectuates justice could maintain the tight grip required to keep society from obliterating itself. For “at the end of the path of liberation lies enslavement. Such liberation from all obstacles is finally illusory, for two simple reasons: human appetite is insatiable and the world is limited” (Patrick Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed).

When God gave Adam the garden of Eden to tend, He gave him dominion over all creation. He did not say, “Everything under the atmosphere you can explore,” or “stay within the bounds of the garden I made.” Yes, for a long time, our species has dwelt in the circle of the earth and looked above to the stars as the plane of the gods. We can now expand our horizon of understanding to include this plane, acknowledging that the eternal fire wasn’t contained there, or anywhere else for that matter, for it dwells outside and inside all there is. We can venture out with confidence therefore, into the unexplored realm of the celestial heavens, assured that the sense of wonder that propels us is good and guided by the creator himself.

A prayer before coding

Lord, I am about to begin work on my computer. I thank you father, for having given humanity the light of reason to be able to make such wondrous machines. I thank you for my desire for knowledge, which I know can only be filled by knowing you.

I pray, dear Lord, that you may help me in the work I am about to begin. Help me stay focused and keen in my work. Help me to control my mind and heart so that I don’t drift into distraction. No, Lord, be the cloud ahead of me, the pillar of fire above me that leads me to clear thinking and piercing insight.

Thank you Jesus. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Lunar Man

Update: Hello dear readers. I apologize for not adding more content in recent months. Life’s taken a turn for me, thankfully for the better, but the rocking of my boat means I haven’t been able to post more on this blog as I’d like. But no fear – I have lots of ideas written down which I’d like to share in due course. They range from space travel to morality, to epic poems and potential new ventures.

I’d like to share a poem I just wrote that attempts to capture the character of what I believe could be the leaders who will take us to our Earth’s little sister, the Moon, and beyond. There was a lot of thinking behind it and I might even come up with another article just to explain what’s behind the smoky allusions and double-entendres.

I liberally took inspiration from Native Indian and Aztec dances. I also had some inspiration from the screenplay for a TV show, Moonwalk One. Finally, the thoughts came to my mind about the public character of the leaders we see such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos – people with immense power and wealth who dedicate their lives to creating incredible products and services, though perhaps at the cost of their own selves. Enjoy!

Behold the man from the moon!
See how he comes, conquering,
Averting earth’s nearing doom
Through cosmic tech conjuring
Machines and ships for the stellar road.

His Argent garb shines, dazzles,
The clinkering chains resound,
Hands are golden, smile is sly,
Surrounded by jewels, yet frowns
Behind a helmet with Draconian design.

Computers twinkle like a firefly,
His machines roar like a hurricane,
Like lightning they illuminate the sky.
Riches pile up beyond any reign.
They’re piloted by Apollos & Artemises.

His hands reach to the unknown,
Mars and Ceres they take hold,
And Jupiter he controls.
For him life’s only a fool’s gold.
He saves the world. But can’t save himself.

Our own little Eden

Thinking about the time he walked on the moon, astronaut Edgar Mitchell from Apollo 14 remarked that, while seeing the earth from afar, he developed “an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world…You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck…and say, “Look at that!”

It’s safe to say that during the last couple of decades, thanks to improvements in transportation and the invention of social media, people have developed a sense of “global community.” The plight of a starving African family can trigger a rallying of support in the form of a GoFundMe page in America. The sight of protests in America can inspire British students to do the same in Trafalgar Square. Our sense of belonging and need for community —heightened by the loneliness of quarantine— shows that we work and live best when we sense that our community is secure and flourishing.

But it’s the opinion of many and my opinion as well, that this shared sense of belonging is breaking, that the ice beneath us is cracking and the cold waters of uncertainty are beneath. There are many angles from which one can view the disintegration of communities around us, much like a diamond reflects the same light in a thousand different ways, but I’d like to hone in on two such reflections: our planet’s ecology and the formation of human virtue. The latter concerns the natural world and our behavior toward it, the latter concerns how we should behave as a society. 

The care for and protection of the environment is not just a point of interest to our generation, it is instinctual. It is an axiomatic proposition that every individual and community should do their best to take care of the resources they use and develop a consciousness of how they affect their environment. Different people carry different levels of this consciousness, but I haven’t found someone yet who’d prefer the construction of an oil rig over the preservation of a coral reef. We strive to take care of nature and shame those who don’t. But it is a point of fact that the resources we use are finite, and thousands of years of exploitation have left the world, well, looking quite exploited. There are so many forests we can use, so many miles of earth we can dig up for gold, so many tuna in the sea to make delicious sushi. Two thousand years of human activity — actually, more like 200 years of industrial activity— have shaped the world such that we can see the difference from space. Even the most committed Anti-Malthusians can recognize that two thousand years more of increasing activity won’t just do damage to the earth, it’ll damage us as a species. But it doesn’t take a Malthusian to resolve this problem, that is, population control is not the only answer to allow the species to continue. 

Just look up. 

At our cosmological doorstep is the moon and Mars, massive bodies full of usable land. We now know that we can grow plants on Mars, and we can make the desert bloom. And if we’re able to make the desert bloom, I can’t see why we can’t with Mars. 

Let us expand out into our solar neighbors: Mars, Venus, Titan, Ceres. These will become names our great-grandchildren will know just as they learn about the Moon. Mars has the combined surface area of all of the earth’s continents, and a mountain that’s the size of France. Venus’ thick atmosphere could harbor cloud cities akin to those in Star Wars. Titan’s got a complete water cycle (rain, rivers, oceans) but with liquid Methane; and Ceres could be the Solar System’s next biggest cantina joint — a stopping place between Mars and Jupiter. A nearby asteroid, 16 Psyche, has enough gold and precious metals to make everyone on Earth a trillionaire. Such wealth would make Jeff Bezos look like a beggar in comparison. The only limitations to access this wealth are human ingenuity and capital allocation. The universe therefore, can become as exploited as human vice desires it to be, whilst the earth, our Eden, can become a garden world, a beautiful reminder of the cosmological crib whence we came from. Feel free to drop a nuclear bomb on the next asteroid you find, but don’t cut down a forest on Earth. 

But there’s an ever deeper benefit to the exploration of the universe than mere resources. For man does not live from bread alone. My last point to make is probably more controversial but I’m confident that the lessons of history confirm it. That the exploration and colonization of the unknown will breed a society that is stronger, more ingenious, and more virtuous than that of our present, decadent age. Rome reached its glory when it defeated Hannibal and the Carthaginian Empire. Europe burst into a renaissance of art and science after history’s most fatal pandemic. America’s status as a superpower rose from the ruins of Pearl Harbor and into the Space Age. Faced with a mortal enemy, a hero rises up to defeat the great dragon. If we are to expand to space, the stakes could not be higher: a thin film is enough to separate our intrepid explorers from the vacuum of space. Great stars, black holes, gamma ray bursts, extreme heat and cold and all kinds of hostile environments to human life stand in our way. It is up to the genius of all people, and their will to find a way to survive, that will forge the virtues,  create incredible acts of heroism and ultimately drive the destiny of humankind. The peace and stability of earth is the universal anomaly, not the other way around. 

The expansion to space is not a far-off dream. SpaceX and a thriving startup space scene is making it easier than ever to get started on this promising industry. For now, it is the will of individuals that are deciding the course of our road to space, not governments. However, I can’t help but think of the possibilities if our government would organize around this goal. And if the government is made of the people, then I believe that we can find a way to move the culture towards this goal. This might be the final solution to our problem of global warming, the destruction of Earth’s ecology, and dwindling size of our natural resources. And it might just make better citizens too.

The Ultimate Race

In times of quarantine, where physical activity is limited, I thought of revisiting an old poem I wrote on while waiting on a flight layover. From ancient greeks till today, peoples from all walks of life know the beauty and value of exercise; sometimes as an end in itself, but perhaps more importantly as a means to our ultimate end.

How I long again to feel my muscles stretch,

To look ahead for the ball I seek to fetch,

To the ribboned finish line that’s yet to break,

To the net that sleepily waits to be fast awake.

How I long to have sweat run though my brow,

Weakness, faintness of heart I disallow,

Pushing out weights of iron I’ve trained to plow,

And challengers of the prize I hope to win somehow.

How I seek to run through mountains, 

Swim in oceans, take in the poundings,

Seek inside my mind a treasured place,

Where body, mind and soul embrace.

In the quiet scene of battle I guard my heart and strengthen my will, 

In the defining seconds of the game, I remember my skill,  and rise again with zeal.

The lonely practices, the sacrifices I made,

The friendships I keep and hopes I’ve prayed 

-to never fail, to never surrender,

To keep my character firm in splendor.

However grey the situation can become,

In whatever challenge I must overcome,

I can safely say, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.

Yes Lord, I attach myself to You, the only One. 

The first champion of the universal race,

The only goal worthy of lifelong chase.

Notes in times of quarantine #2

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

I went yesterday to a blood drive held at St. Patrick’s Church in Rittenhouse Square. Out of all Philadelphia’s squares it’s probably the most beautiful one. Perhaps it’s the combination of old and new architectures, or the grand stone fountain in the middle that’s reminiscent of European towns. The place usually buzzes with people, drinking and laughing inside the many restaurants, bars and small shops huddled in between. This time however it was eerily quiet. The bright shops were closed. Chairs were put over tables, neon lights were off -the air itself was cold and grimy. I passed a few people on the way, careful to reach the widest boundary of the sidewalk and avoid looking into each other’s eyes.

At last I arrived to the church, or rather, the parish hall. The Philadelphia Youth Orchestra usually practices in the main room, which I’ve visited a few times. Their chrome instruments and golden bassoons thunder with epic, sparkling sounds. But that seems like ages ago. I don’t know the last time they practiced here.

Instead, the room’s been repurposed, like a field hospital, with about a dozen platforms scattered around and nurses walking around them. I am greeted by a nurse with a facemask, gloves and a temperature meter. They take my temperature, sign me in, lead me to a table to get my medical information and again take my temperature. I ask my nurse whether people have been donating blood in light of the current crisis. She says they have, and have been very grateful for the outpouring of public support. She’s bubbling with energy and kindly leads me through the process.

The drawing of blood voluntarily is a strangely ancient thing. Romans frequently “opened their veins” to commit suicide. Medieval doctors prescribed “purges” for all sorts of sicknesses. Aztecs pricked their ears with cactus spikes as a blood offering to their gods with the same nonchalance as we might eat cereal in the morning. Nowadays, blood is so common in movies and tv shows that it suffers from a comical tiredness.

As I watched the crimson liquid slowly flow through the tube, I had the vague feeling that I was giving a small, though not unsubstantial, part of my life away -if they drew too much, I could pass out and die. Of course, this was not going to happen, but the fact that people put themselves in these situations is a testament to the strangeness in which people can either hold on to their life, or give it away. A wise man once said that saints love life so much, that they’re willing to give it away for their faith. I still ponder what that means.

I walked back to my car as before, but with increased effort in keeping my stride straight, taking in deep breaths, sipping from an apple juice box. The city remained as silent and cold as before, and I hurried my way to the car in case a policeman were to ask of my whereabouts. I slipped out of downtown into the quiet security of my home. But I realize that that peace has been shattered for too many people in the world today. The war continues against the silent, invisible enemy that’s invaded our shores.

Notes in times of quarantine

Like many people in the world today, I’ve found new time for myself. Dark, grey skies and rain hang over Philadelphia, brooding uncertainty and tremor that mirrors the feelings of its population.

I’ve been reading Will Durant’s Civilizations: Caesar and Christ; admiring, disgusted, amused and elated by the lives of great people that’ve lived before us. With this knowledge comes the realization that we live in a vast universe of expansive and never-ending action. And within it all here I am with my puny agendas and dreams.

It’s humbling.

Through this humility are born kernels of thought that I wish to share here. One: that the modern world, broken in more ways than one, can be recouped by a silent revolution of Christian communities living in solidarity with everyone else. Two: we carry too much material baggage -both in the physical sense and in our psychological attachment to them. Three: that there is virtue and value in seeking to live a quiet life.

The first realization is partly inspired by a talk by Dr. Peterson (below) essentially saying that the world is a complicated place and if you want to change the world try starting by changing your habits, attending to your family’s needs and struggles, slowly growing outwards to your surrounding communities.

But it doesn’t stop there. Once the individual is put in order, he has the capacity to create a family that follows that order. Thus it’s not only one person acting in pursuit of virtue but two, then three, maybe four or more. The family can then grow together and form bonds with similar families, creating a local culture that can support itself and regenerate the culture along the way. I previously used the world solidarity because I don’t believe this change can be done in isolation from the rest of the culture, but rather in accompaniment with it. When yellow paint is poured over blue paint it changes the nature of the paint and becomes green. If the yellow paint had instead been poured in a separate bucket then both paints would never intermingle -societies will live apart and never learn from one another.

I also mentioned how we carry too much material attachment. There is much that I have to say about this, and will probably delve in deeper in another article but suffice to say that I believe our minds and hearts have been hijacked by the propaganda machine of modernism that abhors beauty and spews out ugliness. What we do, what we use, what we create I believe should be a reflection of our own selves. Because the human person is the most beautiful thing in the whole universe, and the product of our labor is a form of creation that makes the world a better place. It’s a curious thing to say in light of all that humanity has done to one another and to this planet. But I believe it’s true, because I’ve seen people do amazing things that bring harmony and greater sense of beauty to a place than nature was able to do. Does this mean that nature should be razed in favor of human inventions? No, I mean that nature and people can co-create together, with people adding to nature when they consider it prudent and wise.

I believe the third point I wish to note follows from the previous. Once we have a proper understanding of nature and our place in it, we can seek a place to make of it our own. One of the greatest Roman legends concerns Cincinnatus, a statesman who became dictator to defend Rome against its enemies, then, in the face of all the people applauding him and wishing to make him king, he retired from public life to live out his days in his farm.

There’s value in living in a city, where incomes are high, events and festivities are commonplace, and where the individual is most free. But there’s also value in “flyover country.” Land that is put apart from the business of urban life. The ruggedness and isolation (two things unfamiliar us moderns) force people to work together to live and prosper. In precisely these conditions the spirit thrives, innovation is encouraged, and culture is established.

There are subtleties and caveats to everything I’ve talked about here. One must find the, “middle way,” that Aristotle described, not indulge in fancy ideals. If you’re interested in diving more into the warm oceans of thought i’m swimming in these days, check out the resources below. I’ll pray, dear reader, that you and your families may be blessed and kept healthy.

The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle:

Caesar and Christ by Will Durant:

Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick J Deneen:

What are the origins of mass?

Came upon this excellent lecture by Jim Baggot, english physicist, philosopher and science writer on what our current understanding of mass is. Rarely does one find someone who speaks lucidly about a complex subject such as particle physics, intermixed with humor and softened by the palpable awe which Jim has towards the science.

I will leave you, dear reader, to be the judge.

We need more scientists who philosophize over their research, and ascribe meaning and wonder to the facts of life.