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Under the Influence -- Writer's Poke #255

Last night I watched the final HBO special George Carlin filmed before he died. Some will say that he was smart, but too vulgar, that he was more than a comedian, but spent most of the time speaking to the already converted. Call him what you will, but I call him irreplaceable. We are not going to see another comedian/philosopher/prophet like him again for a long time, if ever.

And I started thinking about other individuals that have shaped my philosophy and worldview. In addition to Carlin, four others came to mind immediately: Socrates, Lao Tzu, Carl Sagan, and Kurt Vonnegut.

What attracts me to these men? All of them were thinkers. All of them were willing to question everything. On one end of the spectrum, Vonnegut and Carlin could come off as bitter, but part of that was simply part of their act. Both, I think, admitted that the spark of idealism was still within them. It might be deeply buried, but it was still there. On the other end of the spectrum, Sagan and Socrates exhibited a fascination with discovery. They knew that simple belief and "common sense" wasn't enough. What was required, always: inquiry and an earnest evaluation of the evidence.

And Lao Tzu? For me, he's my connection to the spiritual realm -- an important voice in living an ethical existence, with none of the baggage that comes with Christianity and other religious viewpoints.

Who are the five individuals that have had the greatest influence on your worldview? Why?

"Criticism is the only known antidote to error." -- David Brin

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