System Of The World

Neal Stephenson book ISBN:0060523875

part of The Baroque Cycle

some excerpts

Who wasn't scared?... And he came to ask, why was he... devoting these minutes to drawing up a tedious inventory of who was, and was not, scared?... Daniel had an almost physical longing for Hope. And perhaps Hope was no less contagious than Fear. He wasnted to be infected wtih Hope and so he was trying to think of someone, like Wren or Marlborough, who would give it to him... And so even if Hope was a contrived thing - a mechanism that popped out of Pandoras Box by dint of levers and springs - it was by no means bad. Which signified that if a crowd of people had somehow deluded themselves into phantasying that Daniel was unafraid, and from that, were now geenerating Hope ande Courage of their own, why that was an excellent practice. Daniel was obliged to remain upon the stage and to play his role, be it never so false. Because by doing so he might defeat the contagion of panic that was leading men like Bolingbroke to pursue such abysmally stupid gambits. False, machine-made Hope could make real Hope - that was the true Alchemy, the turning of lead into gold. (Leadership, Story Telling)

(The Court of Technologickal Arts is a temple to...) a religion that presupposes that we may draw closer to God by a better understanding of the World that He made.... That being the only evidence available to us, you mean, as to what He was thinking... Is there a rest of us who have other ways of knowing God? Yes, but it is dangerous to say so, for almost all who claim to belong to this rest are charlatans... You are not Wise but Erudite... Which means you (Wise) have ways of knowing things that we Erudite fellows don't. We have to be satisfied with practicing our religion... You make it sound so unsatisfactory. Change your mind about this. It is better to know why you know things than simply to have things revealed to you.

As a result of being near men like Newton and Leibniz, men like John Locke and I are all too keenly aware of the limits of our own intellects, adnd the dullness of our own senses. And not only of ours but of most other people's, too. And as a result of studying Natural Philosophy we have got glimmerings of the immensity and Complexity of the Universe that were not available to anyone until of late, and are known only to a few now. The imbalance between the grand mysteries of the Universe as opposed to our own feeble faculties, leads us to set very modest expectations as to what we shall and shan't be able to understand - and makes us passing suspicious of anyone who propounds dogma or seems to phant'sy he has got it all figured out.

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