The Passionate Skeptic
Introduction to The Passionate Skeptic

The Passionate Skeptic website is hosted by Thor May. The site contains many sections and hundreds of entries. The sections reflect Thor's wide interests in how the world works, as well as his professional training in teaching and linguistics. A few of the sections are active while some others date back to the 1990s. Thor hopes to gradually update the pages to be smart phone friendly, but many of the sections for a long while will be hard to read on small screens.
Features on this home page will usually reflect a changing selection of Thor's current activities.


Topic & Focus Questions from Thor's January 25, 2021 DX8 (Discussion x8 people) meetup

The Human Spirit

Note: "The human spirit" in its colloquial meaning is shorthand for human aspiration, above and beyond the ordinary, and often against heavy odds. It can also refer to generosity, or even great exuberance. It is the sense of aspiration to which this DX8 topic is mainly directed. (Many literary or philosophical references have a more religious interpretation. That is in general not what we are about here).

Focus Questions

1. What were some of the best examples of 'the human spirit' which emerged in 2020? => 2020 was an extraordinary year, mostly not in a good way. It tested individuals and institutions worldwide. Some reacted poorly or unwisely. Others showed extraordinary resilience. Opportunities were seized. Innovation proliferated.

2. Are inspirational speakers and inspirational movements just racketeers? What is their record of changing real outcomes? How many aim for 'our better angels' and how many aim for the dark side?

3. Have you known anyone (including yourself) who was inspired in a big way to take a quite different path in life? If so, what actually drove this change?

4. What are some of the ideas and inner drives that have caused individuals, or whole cultures, to pick themselves up from devastation and keep struggling for something better. Think of real examples - human history and human pre-history (i.e. before written records) is littered with 'human extinction events'. Some of these events have come from nature, and some have resulted from man's inhumanity to man, up to and including genocide.

5. What is meant by 'creative destruction'? Some religions revolve around the tension between creation and destruction - e.g. the Hindu gods, Shakti and Shiva, or arguably Christianity's notion of god and devil. Why is destruction so much more 'attractive' to most people than creation (take a look at news content and entertainment media)?

6. Have you ever had a teacher who inspired you? In what way did their quality or approach move you to develop your own potential?

7. How do you manage luck? What part does luck play in sustaining the human spirit? When all seems lost, some people indeed give up, but others put their faith in hoping for a lucky break, or setting out to create that 'luck'. Some will turn to some system of ready made magical thinking, from astrology to temple offerings, to prayers tied to a religion.

8. How can our spirit, our will to persist and triumph, be most tested? Does surviving this kind of test most depend upon 'perspiration' or stubbornness, or preparation, or adaptability, or luck, or what? We try to insure against being personally crushed by investing in family, friends, cultural support, formal education, systems of government etc. For some individuals, some or all of these fail. Others become smug that these guarantees have 'saved' them until they are smashed by a 'black swan event' like a pandemic or war.

9. What is your appetite for challenge and moving out of your comfort zone? Some seek safety and a quiet life above all else. This quest for safety can take many forms - a safe job, safe friends, a safe marriage, avoiding risky places, situations or controversy etc, finding a safe or non-challenging country or city (Adelaide?) ... etc. Others feel that this kind safety quest is death to their 'human spirit' and will result in stagnation, a life not really lived.

10. What drives people to suicide? What is the remedy? Suicide is the very opposite of a triumph of the human spirit. It is a personal expression of despair and utter loss of hope. Yet behind that personal act there are often overwhelming external forces from family, culture, or the condition of a whole country.

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author: Thor May PhD
location: Adelaide, Australia

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