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Quotes on the mind letting go of categories

David Weinberger:

"Perhaps most important, [the game] Twenty Questions has shown them that the world is organized so perfectly that we can get from ignorance to knowledge in just twenty steps. The game is called Twenty Questions and not Four Thousand Questions because — and this is perhaps the subtlest lesson it teaches our children — we've divided our world into major categories that contain smaller categories that contain still smaller ones, branching like a tree. That we can get from concepts as broad as animal, vegetable, and mineral to something as specific as a penguin's foot in just twenty guesses is testimony to the organizational power of trees."

Robert M. Pirsig:

"He [Phaedrus] wasn't really interested in any kind of fusion of differences between these two worlds [classical and romantic]. He was after something else — his ghost."

The opening sentence of Lovecraft's “The Call of Cthulhu”:

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents."

Eric Hoffer:

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

Stephen Prothero:

"What intrigues me about the quest of Zen practitioners for satori (their term for moments of awakening that bring qualities of spontaneity and openness to everyday life) is how often these moments come in a flash of intuition. There is now strong evidence that breakthroughs of many sorts — Eureka! moments for scientists and novelists alike — often arrive only after the rational brain has run into a brick wall. When you are out for a walk or a drive or just waking up or just going to sleep, the solution does an end run around your ordinary mind and pops into your head, fully formed. Apparently you need to wear out the left side of the brain so the right side can do its work. Or, to use language more native to the Buddhist tradition, you can't get to nonduality with the dualistic mind. You can't think your way to nirvana; it comes when you are out of your mind."

John R. Searle:

"First, we must not allow ourselves to postulate two worlds or three worlds or anything of the sort. Our task is to give an account of how we live in exactly one world, and how all of these different phenomena, from quarks and gravitational attraction to cocktail parties and governments, are part of that one world."

John W. Gardner:

"You’ll be surprised how the world keeps on revolving without your pushing it. And you’ll be surprised how much stronger you are the next time you decide to push."


David Weinberger. Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. New York: Times Books, 2007. pp. 64-65.

Robert M. Pirsig. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. (1974) New York: Bantam, 1975. p. 217.

“The Call of Cthulhu”, H. P. Lovecraft, first published in Weird Tales, Feb. 1928.

Philosopher Eric Hoffer, quoted in the Monterey County, Calif., Herald. The Week, April 11, 2014. p. 15.

Stephen Prothero. God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World — and Why Their Differences Matter. New York: HarperOne, 2010. p. 193.

John R. Searle. Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. p. 3.

John W. Gardner, quoted in Christopher Gergen and Gregg Vanourek. Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives. Jossey-Bass, 2008.


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