Here are paraphrases, in meme form, that will either inspire or cause dumbfounded stares and face-palms. The original quote or idea is briefly explained.
This paraphrase is the result of a bit of particularly indefensible nonsense that spewed from the diamond-encrusted keyboard of Deepak Chopra. Chopra is a new-agey guru type who is most famous for peddling the concept of a “quantum consciousness”. This is a sort of solipsistic, postmodernist notion that can’t be tested or applied to the world. Its only conceivable use is making Chopra sound smart to those who don’t bother to scrutinize his words.
The inspirational text for this paraphrase comes from one of Chopra’s books: Return of the Reishi. Here is the quote of interest (from Chapter 13):
“As the meditator begins to practice, he lays down a pattern of repetition in which the body more and more begins to understand what the mind wants. In scientific parlance this is called behavioral conditioning. In common language, he is simply acquiring a habit. Mundane as it sounds, flying is simply a habit. Over time, the body stops shaking and, unexpectedly, while doing nothing more than the same practice he has done in the past, the person accomplishes the result. His body lifts up and goes forward.
Needless to say, this is a remarkable moment for every meditator, and of the fifteen thousand TM meditators in America who practice the yogic flying technique, each one remembers his first liftoff with incredible vividness. My own experience is fairly typical. I was sitting on a foam rubber pad, using the technique as I had been taught, when suddenly my mind became blank for an instant, and when I opened my eyes, I was 4 feet ahead of where I had been before.”
This paraphrase comes from the writings of Alan Sokal during the infamous “Sokal affair.” The Sokal affair involved Alan Sokal, a respected professor of mathematics and physics, submitting a purposely, blatantly nonsensical article to a then-fairly-well-respected journal. The journal was called Social Text and it focused on postmodernist cultural studies. Sokal’s article was titled: “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” Immediately after the article was submitted, Sokal published another article explaining that it was all a scam. Here is how Sokal explained his own intentions:
“[I wanted to show that] a leading North American journal of cultural studies […] would publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if: (a) it contained the right buzzwords and (b) flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions.”
Here are a couple examples of the purposeful ridiculousness in Sokal’s article:
“It has thus become increasingly apparent that physical ‘reality’, no less than social ‘reality’, is at bottom a social and linguistic construct; that scientific ‘knowledge’, far from being objective, reflects and encodes the dominant ideologies and power relations of the culture that produced it; that the truth claims of science are inherently theory-laden and self-referential; and consequently, that the discourse of the scientific community, for all its undeniable value, cannot assert a privileged epistemological status with respect to counter-hegemonic narratives emanating from dissident or marginalized communities.”
“We can see hints of it [emancipatory mathematics] in the multidimensional and nonlinear logic of fuzzy systems theory; but this approach is still heavily marked by its origins in the crisis of late-capitalist production relations.”
Haha! Physical reality is just a construct of society! The idea of an entirely subjective world would render everyone’s opinions valid! Just think about that for a minute. And multi-dimentional logic allowing glimpses of emancipatory math!? I don’t even know where to start with that—and that’s the whole point! Just pontificate with such verbose and pointless blather and people will assume you know what you’re talking about!
If you think these are too over-the-top, just compare them to some of the quotes from actual postmodernist philosophers that Sokal included in his paper:
“This diagram [the Möbius strip] can be considered the basis of a sort of essential inscription at the origin, in the knot which constitutes the subject.”— Jacques Lacan
“… natural objects are also socially constructed. It is not a question of whether these natural objects, or, to be more precise, the objects of natural scientific knowledge, exist independently of the act of knowing.”— Stanley Aronowitz
This has all inspired a lot of debate on the usefulness of—and even the assessability of—postmodernist theories. And, more entertainingly, it has inspired a hilarious computer program called the “postmodernist generator” that creates imitations of entire postmodernist essays whenever you want. Just visit the webpage and refresh for a new, unique essay that’s fabricated from absolute nonsense.
So, if you think the meme I created for this periodic paraphrase is confusing, I guess it’s doing its job.
This paraphrase is inspired by the words of the indelible Benjamin Franklin. In his A dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain (published in London in 1725), Franklin wrote:
“Mankind naturally and generally love to be flatter’d: Whatever sooths our Pride, and tends to exalt our Species above the rest of the Creation, we are pleas’d with and easily believe, when ungrateful Truths shall be with the utmost Indignation rejected. ‘What! bring ourselves down to an Equality with the Beasts of the Field! with the meanest part of the Creation! ‘Tis insufferable!’ But, (to use a Piece of common Sense) our Geese are but Geese tho’ we may think ’em Swans; and Truth will be Truth tho’ it sometimes prove mortifying and distasteful.”
I have to admit, however, that some of the inspiration behind—or necessity for—this paraphrase is owed to Kellyanne Conway. Conway is a political commentator-turned-counselor for President Donald Trump. She recently proclaimed that “alternate facts” were grounds for dismissal of unsavory truths. I think the US founding fathers would disagree.
More importantly, if we are to continue to progress as a rational and scientific species, we need to all be shocked at the overtly-Orwellian notion that “alternate facts” can be used to decide our own truths. Because if the truth is unappreciated, science becomes a factory for the unwanted and society will be doomed to capricious governance by the opinions of tribal oligarchies.
This paraphrase is from part of Charlie Chaplin’s final speech in The Great Dictator (Copyright © Roy Export S.A.S. All rights reserved). Chaplin’s overarching point of this speech was to inspire the USA to take action against the tyranny of Hitler and Nazism. However, I’ve paraphrased my favorite part, which focuses on the importance of science and reason:
“Then—in the name of democracy—let us use that power—let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world—a decent world that will give men a chance to work—that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will!
Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world—to do away with national barriers—to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.”
It’s striking how appropriate and compatible these sentiments are to our modern world.
This periodic paraphrase is inspired by a truly idiotic idea: putting egg-shaped lumps of rock into your vagina. Gwyneth Paltrow promotes this on her website, Goop, which I strongly encourage you to avoid. A terrific takedown of this potentially-dangerous and certainly-stupid advice is provided by Dr Jen Gunter. This is a great example of a totally non-scientific idea!