Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Quotes from the Dune series by Frank Herbert

The mystery of life isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.
  • Paul Atreides to the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam
"What is the meaning of life?" People spend a lot of time and energy trying to answer that question. However, as Paul says, perhaps we're asking the wrong question. The outlook promulgated by the quote is similar to the Buddhist outlook, which emphasizes the importance of living in the present moment. Apparently, Eckhart Tolle's book "The Power of Now" promotes a similar worldview.

Muad'Dib learned rapidly because his first training was in how to learn. And the first lesson of all was the basic trust that he could learn. It's shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult. Muad'Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson.
  • from The Humanity of Muad'Dib by the Princess Irulan
I think a large part of the willingness to learn is the willingness to examine yourself - to evaluate one's own abilities, see where they can be improved, and take every available opportunity to do so. Perhaps those who do not believe they can learn are unwilling to truly see themselves and judge their strengths and weaknesses.

The Fremen were supreme in that quality the ancients called "spannungsbogen" — which is the self-imposed delay between desire for a thing and the act of reaching out to grasp that thing.
  • from The Wisdom of Muad'Dib by the Princess Irulan
Good government never depends upon laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery. The most important element of government, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.
  • Law and Governance The Spacing Guild Manual
The same could be said of any organization - but the one that is most relevant to me is business. The corollary to the above statement could be that the next most important element of government, therefore, is the method of choosing the people to carry out the wishes of the leaders.

The difference between a good administrator and a bad one is about five heartbeats. Good administrators make immediate choices ... [that] usually can be made to work. A bad administrator, on the other hand, hesitates, diddles around, asks for committees, for research and reports. Eventually, he acts in ways which create serious problems ... A bad administrator is more concerned with reports than with decisions. He wants the hard record which he can display as an excuse for his errors ... [Good administrators] depend on verbal orders. They never lie about what they've done if their verbal orders cause problems, and they surround themselves with people able to act wisely on the basis of verbal orders. Often, the most important piece of information is that something has gone wrong. Bad administrators hide their mistakes until it's too late to make corrections ... One of the hardest things to find is people who actually make decisions.
  • God Emperor of Dune
There was a man who sat each day looking out through a narrow vertical opening where a single board had been removed from a wooden fence. Each day a wild ass of the desert passed outside the fence and across the narrow opening — first the nose, then the head, the forelegs, the long brown back, the hindlegs, and lastly the tail. One day the man leaped to his feet with a light of discovery in his eyes and he shouted for all who could hear him: "It is obvious! The nose causes the tail!"
  • Stories of the Hidden Wisdom from the Oral History of Rakis, Heretics of Dune
There is a great deal of emphasis on causality - if we see the effect B, what was the cause A that led to B? However, as the quote says, many causal relationships can be much better understood from a holistic sense as being part of the same event.

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