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Steven Weinberg

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The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things which lifts human life a little above the level of farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.
--
The First Three Minutes (1993)

 
Steven Weinberg

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Farce may often border on tragedy; indeed, farce is nearer tragedy in its essence than comedy is.

 
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[W]e prefer not to countenance the kinds of sacrifices the professional-grade athlete has made to get so good at one particular thing. . . . We prefer not to consider the shockingly vapid and primitive comments uttered by athletes in postcontest interviews, or to imagine what impoverishments in one's mental life would allow people actually to think in the simplistic way great athletes seem to think. Note the way "up-close and personal profiles" of professional athletes strain so hard to find evidence of rounded human life—outside interests and activities, charities, values beyond the sport. We ignore what's obvious, that most of this straining is farce. It's farce because the realities of top-level athletics today require an early and total commitment to one pursuit. An almost ascetic focus. A subsumption of almost all other features of human life to their one chosen talent and pursuit. A consent to life in a world that, like a child's world, is very serious and very small.

 
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They stood out from the rest of the crowd, their beauty and grace otherworldly. I wondered how I'd ever fallen for their human farce. A couple of angels, standing there with wings intact, would be less conspicuous.

 
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Tragedy occurs when a human soul awakes and seeks, in suffering and pain, to free itself from crime, violence, infamy, even at the cost of life. The struggle is the tragedy - not defeat or death. That is why the spectacle of tragedy has always filled men, not with despair, but with a sense of hope and exaltation. (pp. 4-5)

 
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