Some denizens of the HGB will be gratified to learn that Brown's Baccalaureate Service was so painstakingly multi-denominational that even included a reading for atheists. As follows:
From the SilenceForced to admit this particular passage didn't do much for me -- not half as much as the bit in one of the student Commencement Orations the following day about a series of studies of squirrel behavior in the 1950s that pointed to the evolutionary survival benefits of altruism.
SELF COMES TO MIND: CONSTRUCTING THE CONSCIOUS BRAIN
by Antonio Damasio
Read by Tomas Rocha '11
And what is the ultimate gift of consciousness to humanity? Perhaps the ability to navigate the future in the seas of our imagination, guiding the self's craft into a safe and productive harbor. The greatest of all gifts depends, once again, on the intersection of self and memory.
Memory, tempered by personal feeling, is what allows humans to imagine both individual and the compounded well-being of a whole society, and to invent the ways and means of achieving and magnifying that well-being. Memory is responsible for ceaselessly placing the self in an evanescent here and now, between a thoroughly lived past and an anticipated future, perpetually buffeted between the spent yesterdays and the tomorrows that are nothing but possibilities. The future pulls us forward, from a distant vanishing point, and gives us the will to continue the voyage.
This may be what T.S. Elliot means when he writes: "Time past and time future / What might have been and what has been / Point to one end which is always present."
The book, Self Comes to Mind, is the latest hot Cog-Neuro tome for the rest of us. It is in fact reviewed, unfavorably, in the issue of NYRB already quoted at length below. Cool quote:
...a common mistake is to assume that because science is objective and consciousness is subjective, there cannot be a science of consciousness. Science is indeed epistemically objective, because scientific claims are supposed to be verifiable independently of anybody’s feelings and attitudes. But the ontological subjectivity of the domain of consciousness does not preclude an objective science of that domain. You can have an (epistemically) objective science of an (ontologically) subjective consciousness. Much confusion has been created by the failure to see this point.