Page 6 - Boca ViewPointe - January '21
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Page 6, Viewpointe                                                  January 2021
      Book Review

       Transcendence: Regarding                          and  genius  in  more  than
       Knowledge And Its                                 one area. From the ancient
                                                         philosopher  Pythagoras
       Discontents                                       who inferred mathematics,
                                                         studied astrology and came
       Gaia Vince. Transcendence: How Humans Evolved Through   up with the notion of the
       Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time. New York: Basic Books,   music of the spheres, and
       2020.                                             Aristotle who compiled the
       Peter Burke.  The Polymath: A Cultural History from   definitive compendium of
       Leonardo da Vinci to Susan Sontag. New Haven: Yale   knowledge of the ancient
       University Press, 2020.                           world, from Physics, and
       Cass R. Sunstein. Too Much Information: Understanding   Poetry to the authors of
       What You Don’t Want to Know. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,   the Encyclopedia in the
       2020.                                             Age of  Reason and  the
       “Much learning does not teach understanding.” Heraclitus   Scottish Enlightenment of
       ca. 5th century B.C.E.                            the Eighteenth century. He notes the distinction put forward   which he ably included in his writing as perhaps the most
       “If ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” Thomas Gray  by Isaiah Berlin of the intellectual pursuits by the hedgehog   distinctive polymath of the Renaissance.
       “A little learning is a dang’rous thing,          who seeks to know one thing and know it very well, and      In contrast, Cass R. Sunstein, a professor of Behavioral
       Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring.” Alexander Pope  the fox who seeks in mischief to attain multitude branches   Science at Harvard Law School, has published a book that
                                                         of knowledge.                                     appears by its title to take a skeptical view of knowledge. Do
       By Dr. Ronald J. Meyers                              Burke suggests that the Polymaths enjoy the gift of   we know, or seek to know too much? He is not necessarily
                                                         prodigious memory, visual imagination, and not least   agnostic, in despite of the title, a non-believer in knowledge.
          The Greek myth posited                         abiding curiosity. Though they have been ridiculed and   He argues that our culture today is given to excessive
       that the god  Prometheus                          denounced as Dilettantes, as Charlatans and as Plagiarists   information, not necessarily relating to philosophy or
       introduced the miraculous                         (from the original Greek meaning, derived from stealing a   evolution but to the quiddities of daily life, from caloric
       gift of fire to human beings,                     slave, to stealing a text or an idea). He offers his account of   counts in our food, work-place risks, greenhouse gases, fuel
       which allowed the species to                      the unique 500, discussing them in terms of their heredity   emissions, credit ratings, disposition of wastes, to what he
       achieve the peak of divinity                      and social status, some high born, many not, religion,   terms dark knowledge of data mining and intrusions on
       of transforming food, and                         Protestants, Catholics, Muslims and Jews, some educated,   privacy. Having served as Administrator of the Office of
       attaining warmth against                          some autodidacts, some bachelors, and their gender noting   Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Obama
       the elements, and comfort; a                      Queen Christina of Sweden, George Eliot, Susan Sontag.   administration,  he  witnessed  how  misusing  quest  for
       gift to be jealously protected                    Our Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson make the   knowledge can lead to anxiety and depression. He argues
       by the gods, and it led to the impalement of Prometheus   cut. The book perhaps lacks the heft of Ms. Vince’s rigid   that we take a pragmatic view of knowledge, scaling back
       by his fellow Olympians. The Hebrew Bible describes the   historical analysis, but makes for a pleasant skim and   the thrust of the information age in favor of focusing on
       Lord speaking to Moses from the fiery bush, reinforcing   parlor game over those who as been included. No mention   matters that enhance our lives and contribute to our well-
       the significance of fire to our cultural evolution.   of the polymaths who appear on the popular game show   being. I believe all three books reviewed here at the outset
          Ms. Gaia Vince, a British science writer and television   Jeopardy, which delights and teaches us. I would raise   of 2021 contribute to expanding our understanding of the
       journalist, has brilliantly developed this narrative in her   objection regarding the exclusion of Shakespeare to the   worth and joy of knowledge.
       Transcendence, in which she traces the triad of genes,   list. Along with Da Vinci, whose totality of knowledge is
       environment and culture in the evolutionary process. Her   contained in his notebooks, Shakespeare let it all hang out      Dr. Ronald J. Meyers is a resident of La Paz and
       learning is all-encompassing; she brings together physics,   in his writing, his diverse interest extended to medicine,   Emeritus Professor of English, a curious learner and
       the Big Bang, the gigantic spark that created matter out of   Psychology, philosophy, Politics, history, sports, flowers,   aspiring polymath, though sufficiently aware of his own
       energy, which over billions of years created the admixture   fauna, food, drink, animals and even the essentials  of   limitations. 
       of chemical reactions that brought about life as well as   witchcraft, virtually everything that he learned and knew,
       sufficient dead plant matter to sustain fire. The evolution
       of our bodies emerged from the geological mass, walking
       upright, loss of hair, and finally human culture the final step   Boca Pointe Community Association, Inc.
       in this process.
          Ms. Vince suggests the symbiosis between biological    6909 SW 18th St., Suite A120  A special Thank You to our monthly volunteer contributing writers
       and cultural development, between the human capacity        Boca Raton, FL 33433
       for planning ahead, guided by the evolution of our brains,   Office (561) 395-7551 Fax (561) 395-5936  Steve Handwerker  Harriet Rubin  Lin Schader
       which represent 2% of our body mass and utilize 20% of   Website:    Bob Kronish      Jack Kulick          Justin Mocha
       our energy. Our first clock was the heavens which enabled                               Mort Mazor       Elaine Rubinson      Barry J. Haberman
                                                                                                                                     Peter Sachs
                                                                                                                Anne Gannon
                                                                                               Judith Levy
       our species to gain understanding of the flow of time in   Access Control               Dr. Ronald J. Meyers  Elyse Weintraub Brown  Steven L. Abrams
                                                           Operator: (561) 395-3392
       our existence. Noting and measuring the movements of   Voice mail system: (561) 395-3369  Lisa Sileo     Helen Karpel         Arthur Dermer
       the stars, the Babylonian and the Egyptians could interpret   Website:  Rayna Becker  Hillary Reynolds     Alan Arnold
       the processes of nature, the change of seasons, the flooding   Staff                    Halli Moore      Oris Martin          William A. Gralnick
       of the Nile, connection between sexual behavior and birth   Kathleen O’Donovan, General Manager  Harold Katz  Robert Weinroth
       nine moons ahead. We adapted to cataclysmic asteroid   Lisa Cammaleri, Assistant Manager
       crash 66 million years ago and severe periods of climate   Yvonne Rivera, Administrative Assistant
       change, and learned how to shield ourselves, to construct   Justin Mocha, Director of Security
                                                                                                  The views of the writers of the various articles in this newspaper do not
       dwellings, string clothes from flesh and fiber to mitigate     Viewpointe of Boca Pointe is the newspaper     necessarily reflect the views of the Boca Pointe Community Association.
       the merciless fluctuations of weather.              of Boca Pointe Community Association, Inc.   The Association nor the individual writers are not responsible for claims
          Next Human Sapiens began vocalizing, producing   Please  direct  all  questions,  comments  or   or promises contained in any advertising material appearing in the
       bird-like twitters and animal sounds along with primitive   articles for Viewpointe to lisa.cammaleri@  Viewpointe. Such claims and promises are the sole responsibility of the
       tools like spears and axes that evolved over 40,000 years          individual advertiser.
       into our sophisticated use of grammar and language. The
       gift of language led to story-telling as a methodology of
       instruction fostering tribal pride and societal connection.              Champagne ~ ‘Not Just For
       Writing followed fostering commerce, keeping records of
       transactions and narratives that wed survival to beauty.
       Remnants of Beauty  have remained as our species                         New Year’s!’
       navigated our survival and left mementos of cave drawings,
       architectures, beads, pottery, and pre-historic carbon stones,   By Laura Berrio, Freelance         and Champagne Bar.
       amulets against death and disappearance. Ms. Vince even   Writer/Blogger                               This Champagne bar absolutely delivered on creating
       looks forwards to the next stage of evolution: the Cyborg,      Champagne has crossed               the experience. I enjoyed a glass of Taittinger, Reims
                                                                                                           Champagne while nibbling on a macaroon. I was seated
       technology literally harnessed to the human body that   over into the mainstream. I                 in a beautiful bar, surrounded by two floors of literature
       allows not merely the use of a cell phone, but antennae that   used to only drink Champagne         with jazz music playing in the background. What pairs
                                                          on New  Year’s Eve, or at
       allow us to morph into one.                        special events requiring a                       better with Champagne than books? Our inner bibliophile
          Peter Burke also celebrates the force of culture in the   toast. Now, I am seeing a nice         surfaces!
       distinctive evolution of our species, the Polymath, those   variety of Champagnes by the               To keep prices affordable, Champagne bars offer a
       who have distinguished themselves by their brilliance   glass offered at my favorite                variety of Champagne by the glass, half bottle or bottle.
                                                          restaurants.                                        If you are looking for a unique, fun experience, check
                                                             Champagne bars are the                        out the local Champagne bars in your area and let me
        Golf Carts                                        new “in vogue” place to try                      know what your new favorite Champagnes are!

                                                                                                             ~ Cheers
                                                          new bubbly! They create a sophisticated, yet affordable,
                                                                                                             ~ Keep the conversation going
        Please Drive                                      experience for the Champagne lover. The idea behind the     and the bubbly flowing!
                                                          Champagne bar is to create a relaxed, less pretentious

                                                                                                             Follow the  Vine at: www.
                                                          setting to enjoy Champagne.
        Carefully!                                           I recently traveled to Asheville, N.C. and checked out
                                                          a local Champagne bar, the Battery Park Book Exchange
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