We each are given a precious life and can choose to do with it what we will. We can act in our natural self-interest and seek safety, material wealth and pleasure, or we can act outside of our direct interests, enriching our lives through the consideration of others. Our lives¬†are most meaningful and worthwhile when we love others.¬†The elements of life to be¬†savored most are those that are founded on the humble idea that we are all human beings who are worthy of consideration.
I was asked once by someone close to me why I read the kinds of things I read, or why I would read some things more than once, when much of it didn't seem immediately useful.¬† Upon some thought, I replied that I was simply curious, and that not everything of interest is necessarily or immediately of practical value.
Alongside Newton's powerful physical model of the universe came a growing belief that the universe in principle was deterministic, that the rules by which the universe behaved could be discovered and modeled, were repeatable, and could be in principle exactly or absolutely determined. Absolute determinism came under serious question with the advent of subatomic physics at the start of the 20th century, more or less collapsing in the face of problems insoluble with the physics of Newton and Maxwell, and only explicable by using the new quantum mechanics, which posits that natural phenomena could be modeled at the highest attainable precision only by using explicitly probabilistic models, that is, by building into the models a modicum of fuzziness.
Confusion is the only rational outcome of the questions raised by religion. How can one be certain that God exists or certain that God does not exist, or if God exists, what form God takes? To insist that any religion has the unequivocal answers to these questions is to be blinded by the fear of uncertainty and the fear of death. That is not to say that the religious impulse is a false one. What is the purpose of life? How do we live a good life, a meaningful life, a fulfilled life?
Zeno of Elea, an ancient Greek mathematician and philosopher, was well-known for his logical paradoxes. ¬†One involves shooting an arrow at a target, which he argues first must move half-way to its target, then half-way again from the midpoint, then half-way again, never quite reaching the target; in fact, in order to get to the first half-way point, the arrow must go half-way to it, and to get to that point, it must go half-way to it, etc., requiring an infinite number of steps to reach the target.¬†According to Zeno, then, you can never get to where you are going.
"Diddly squat is as close to squat as makes no nevermind."(page 124)
Robert Kaplan's The Nothing that Is is a superb and far-ranging essay on the apparently mundane zero. While it might be expected to be predominantly mathematical, it is much more, an erudite and masterly exposition that touches many disciplines without slighting its mathematical roots. It has an exponential arc.