A Bite of… Watson Davis

Q1: What should take priority duty or friendship and why?

I guess, it depends?

When someone is your friend, you have certain duties and responsibilities to them and they have certain duties and responsibilities to you.  Depending on how close a friend they are and your history with them, those obligations may be quite different from friend to friend and may change over time even for a single friend.

For example, I have a friend who is a recovering drug addict.  I have, at times, gone out of my way to get this guy clothes and food, to help him try to find a job and move , and other things.  At a certain point, I had to draw the line and stop helping him, because I wasn’t helping him anymore, I was enabling him.  I still consider him my friend and I think he’s gotten back around to thinking of me as his friend even though he considered me a traitor for a few years.  I don’t feel the same about what my duties to him are as I do to some of my other friends, or what I thought those duties were before I dedicated my time, energy, and money to trying to help him.

Every person prioritizes their duties and obligations depending on what is important to them, and not just what is important to them now, but what is important to them at the time they have to make the decision.

Personally, my highest priorities are to my wife and myself and our marriage.  If I had children, I have no doubts they would be my highest priorities.  After that come my duties and responsibilities to other things, my friends, my work, organizations I belong to, promises I’ve made, etc.

So when you ask about prioritizing “duty” or “friendship”, I interpret that as prioritizing duties.  I have some friends I would give my life for but for most, I wouldn’t.  I have some ideals I would give my life for but for most, I wouldn’t.  Whether I give priority to my duty to some institution or to some friend, depends on too many factors to easily say.


Q2: What bends your mind every time you think about it and why?

Almost everything is nothing.

Take the solar system.  You’ve got this ball of mostly hydrogen blazing away and then all these little specs caught in its orbit.  And in between and around all this is almost entirely empty space, and there’s a lot of that empty space and the gaps between things are mind-bogglingly vast.

Democritus, the first philosopher we know of that hypothesized that all matter was composed of atoms, but he expected them to be little solid balls of stuff, not little bits of geometric probability full of not much of anything.

But atoms are mostly nothing, interacting internally and externally on a quantum level so small that the human mind really can’t conceive of it according to laws that frequently make no sense on the non-quantum level.

Whether you’re thinking about very large scales or very small scales or very medium scales, almost everything and everywhere is empty space.

I was a teenager when I first thought about that and it seriously weirded me out and made me feel very small and insignificant.  Now that I’m older, I realize just how amazing and special it is that any of this exists.


Q3: What would you most like to have named after you and why?

I had never thought about this before.

I’d love to have some pithy observation about people or society named after me and I’d like for it to be a quote from one of my books that becomes viral, something like Murphy’s Law although I’d be happy with a Pascal’s Wager or a Zeno’s Paradox even though those are intrinsically flawed concepts.  Watson’s Law or the Davis Dilemma would be awesome.

And now, it’s my life’s goal.


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