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Saturday, December 26 2009 (diary, philosophy, Schopenhauer, evolution)

Arthur Schopenhauer on old German coin Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), probably one of the most pessimistic philosophers that ever lived, was the first to address the subject of love seriously in his philosophical analyses.

"We should be surprised that a matter that generally plays such an important part in the life of man has hitherto been almost entirely disregarded by philosophers."
Schopenhauer writes of his predecessors.

"Love, he continues "interrupts at every hour the most serious occupations, and sometimes perplexes for a while even the greatest minds."

Love invariably has precedence over reason.   Schopenhauer argues that love is one of the conscious expressions of a most powerful all pervading subconscious force present in each of us, which he calls the "Wille zum Leben" (will-to-live), and defines as "an inherent drive within human beings to stay alive and reproduce."

Immediately upon reading about the above in Alain de Botton's splendid book The Consolations of Philosophy, my mind does a quantum leap and makes an immediate connection with something else. I do a quick online search, confirming the idea I have. This is what I find :

To qualify as a "life form"--rather than as an inanimate (non-living) object--a bit of matter has to have two main characteristics:

  1. the ability to actively extract energy from the outside environment (such as when living plants derive energy from the sun, or when living animals derive energy from eating) and,

  2. the ability to replicate itself: to qualify as "alive," matter has to be able to make copies of itself (though not necessarily perfectly identical copies) and in replicating itself it has to be able to "pass on" at least some of its characteristics to its descendants.

On this planet at least, all life forms also form some kind of membrane or compartment-- such as a cell membrane--which serves to contain the replication and energy-tapping mechanisms and keep them relatively separate and distinct from the rest of the outside world.

Most scientists today think that the earliest living organisms on earth were little more than self-replicating protein molecules enclosed in a simple membrane, and that all subsequent life forms evolved over several billions of years from these simple beginnings.

From the above it is crystal clear that Schopenhauer's will-to-live force is defined by the same two criteria that define the very first form of life on earth :

Schopenhauer's human desire to "staying alive" = an organism's "ability to actively extract energy
from the outside environment"

Schopenhauer's human desire to "reproduce"


an organism's "ability to replicate itself"

In other words Schopenhauer's will-to-live force is not restricted to the human species alone, but is contained within every life form on earth.
Since those very first primitive living clusters of protein molecules, formed 3.5 billion years ago, the manifestations of this force have undergone an evolution with markedly different outcomes for plants, animals and human beings. It seems unlikely that plants have any feelings of "love". But what about animals ? They certainly show preference on looks, strength etc.

Cartoon : Evolution Schopenhauer argues that even the very first signs of love by humans, like initial attraction, an effort to establish contact, getting a phone number, setting up a first date, etc., are all conscious expressions of a subconscious desire to find the best possible mate for reproduction.

This proposition (I believe) brings a totally new and fresh perspective on the mechanism of Evolution.
For it implies that the process of evolution is not controlled by just one force (the survival of the fittest in the prevailing environment), but rather the result of two interacting forces :

  1. one internal : the individual's subjective will-to-live force which selects its most suitable mate in order to produce its considered best offspring, and

  2. one external : the objective environment which allows only the survival of the fittest.

I personally like this idea : that through our subject choice of selecting a partner in life we personally define the DNA mix of our offsprings and by doing so make a small individual contribution to the nature and direction of our species' continued evolution into the future.

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Sunday, December 27 2009 (diary)

Mooloolaba Surf Club There are two days in the year I (as a single) have always hated. They are Good Friday and Christmas Day. On both these days Australia virtually shuts down. Shops, restaurants, Pub, Clubs, they are all closed and you have nowhere to go. This year even the fast food outlets like Subway and McDonalds were closed.
However when I walked along the Mooloolaba Esplanade on Friday I found that some Cafes had taken pity on us and were open for business. So I ended up for my very first coffee (quite good) in a Starbucks Coffee Cafe sitting outside and enjoying a good view of the ocean.

The weather has been excellent these past days. regular short periods of refresshing rain at ThreePonds, but the coast sunny and dry throughout. The sea temperature has now reached 25°C (77°F) and is absolutely lovely. There has been a consistent moderate breeze from the West and as a result no Bluebottles at all, so great swimming every day.

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Monday & Tuesday, December 28 & 29 2009 (diary)

Babette is a very creative cook. She of course loves making Japanese style dishes (having lived there for 7 years) and besides the food itself her presentations, using the many Japanese plates, bowls, trays etc. she has, are a delight for the eye.
This is what we had last night (28th) : grilled aubergines, potato salad, seafood in jelly (in bowl), steamed asparagus and grilled salmon.

Babette also got (from the Dutch shop in Brisbane) a packet of premixed flour for making Dutch oliebollen (a traditional New Years Eve treat), which I will make on New Years Eve.

The last three days holiday makers suddenly started to pour into Mooloolaba. There are long car cues to get to the beach, and it is very difficult to find a park. But I have managed so far. The sea temperature has risen another degree, and is now at its usual summer peak of 26°C (79°F).

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Wednesday & Thursday, December 30 & 31 2009 (diary)

Making oliebollen, 31 Dec. 2009 There we are : near the end of yet another year. It has gone rather quickly again. Wednesday evening I get the raisins (I purchased previously) out and start soaking them in water.

Thursday I do my usual routine with a lovely swim in the Surf. The Surf Club is not quite so busy as the previous few days and I easily find a table to have a beer while reading my paper.
Then back home for the great event : making oliebollen. It is at least 55 years ago that I did this the last time back in Holland, and I can't wait to try it again. With Babette's help we stir the pre-made yeast-flour mixture in luke warm water, add the raisins, then leave it to let it rise.

Ricadonna - Asti : Italian sparkling 

wine While waiting Babette prepares a platter with cheeses, meats, and other finger foods and we open our first bottle of bubbly (Italian Asti - Riccadonna) on the ThreePonds rear deck.
After a while I prepare some Oysters Kilpatrick, and when finished, place the oliebollen mixture in the still warm oven. But even after two and a half hours the dough has not risen all that much.
Nevertheless we try it out in the hot oil. The mixture is very liquid and produces all sorts of odd shapes, but once browned and sprinkled with icing sugar we (to our great surprise) find that they taste absolutely delicious. So we use all the mixture, eating all the while we deep fry. Despite our munching away we still end up with two large plates of very surrealistic looking oliebollen.

Babette had promised we come to one of her writer friend's (Sandy) birthday party who happens to have her birthday right on December 31. So we drive off at around 8.30 loaded with plates of finger food, oliebollen, wine and beer.
Upon our arrival the oliebollen disappear quite quickly into the various stomachs (especially mine !!) and we play the "Trivial Pursuit" board game until midnight. Well fed we return home by about 1 AM, so once again we watch Dinner for One in the early hours of the new year.

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