About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Lewis Black on meditation

This is going to be a brief one, but it vaguely pertains to the discussion we've had about eastern philosophies. The other day I went to a Barnes & Noble bookstore to attend a book signing by comedian Lewis Black, whom I've seen several times on Jon Stewart's Daily Show. Black is the guy that occasionally plays the part of the really angry liberal. And he pulls it off beautifully, just my cup of tea.

Turns out Mr. Black, when seen live and talking to people, comes across as a really nice guy. So I bought his book, Nothing's Sacred, and even got his autograph. In fact, I went with a friend of mine who managed to get a hearty laugh out of Lewis, by pretending to be my gay companion, and that he was to cheap to buy a second copy of the book.

Anyway, the book itself is essentially an autobiography, with some interesting insights and some fun material. I just read the chapter entitled “New Haven – Haven my ass!” where Black describes a summer spent in New Haven, in Connecticut, trying to start a Reader's Digest magazine for liberals. As he admits readily, he surely was an optimist at the time (it was the 60s).

At any rate, toward the end of the chapter he says that the financial backer for the magazine left town before the first issue ever got printed, to look for his guru. Black notes that meditation was then just becoming “the next big thing,” and that – since it seems to work for millions of people, there must be something to it. Then the gem comes as the very last sentence of the chapter, and I quote in full: “Still, I figure you can close your eyes and listen to your own breath, or you can close your eyes and touch yourself – either way, you're going to end up in the same blissful state.” Excuse me folks, but I've got to do the experiment...


  1. Your blog and my blog at http://georgeshollenberger.blogspot.com/have common interests. I am the author of "The First Scientific Proof of God" (authorhouse.com)

  2. "Meditation is the practice of focusing the mind, often formalized into a specific routine." (definition) Is this a bad thing? Focusing or concentrating while breathing deeply and slowly. This slows the heart rate and brings oxygen to much needed cells.

    I am curious how your experiment turned out.

  3. Just a reminder to all the guys out there: Meditate in moderation!

  4. But the difference between the two styles of meditation is that, after method one, you can see clearly now, while, after method two, you go blind.

  5. As to meditation I do it routinely. It calms the body and helps rethink things. It has nothing to do with faith (at least for me) and it only makes me a better person because I can calm down from the hectic nature of my life. I don't spend any time thinking about nirvana or use aroma therapy I simply sit on the floor in the quiet and ponder some problem and try to gain a different perspective than the one I had at work or driving my car.

    Meditation is hawked by budhists and new agers as something spiritual but I find it does the job just find with out the input of religiosity. I'll keep doing it and I'll keep doing yoga exercises because I am an old fart I need to stretch. I don't care that I have to listen to waves crashing onto the shore from a boom box and listen to all this karmic phrasing. I just do the stretches and in meditation and yoga a I am an unapologetic atheist proponent.

    Mike Stahl


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.