Saturday, November 3, 2018

Magnitude..............................


     Contemporary America is often now seen through the lens of ancient Athens, both as a center of culture and as an unpredictable imperial power that can arbitrarily impose democracy on friends and enemies alike.   Thomas Paine long ago spelled this natural affinity out:  "What Athens was in miniature, America will be in magnitude."  Like ancient Athenians, present-day Americans are often said to believe that  "they can be opposed in nothing," and abroad can "equally achieve what was easy and what was hard."  Although Americans offer the world a radically egalitarian popular culture and, more recently, in a very Athenian mood, have sought to remove oligarchs and impose democracy - in Grenada, Panama, Serbia, Afghanistan, and Iraq - enemies, allies, and neutrals alike are not so impressed.  They understandably fear American power and intentions while our successive governments, in the manner of confident and proud Athenians, assure them of our morality and selflessness.   Military power and idealism about bringing about perceived civilization to others are a prescription for frequent conflict in any age ...

-Victor Davis Hanson,  A War Like No Other:  How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War

On paying attention............


     And, of course, Jesus says that the greatest commandment is this:  loving God and loving our neighbors.  I don't know what it means to love God - really, I'm not all that good at it - but I think one of the things it means is, just as in the case of loving everybody else, you stop and watch and wait.  Listen for God, stop and watch and wait for him.  To love God means to pay attention, be mindful, be open to the possibility that God is with you in ways that, unless you have your eyes open, you may never glimpse.  He speaks words that, unless you have your ears open, you may never hear.  Draw near to him as best you can.

-Frederick Buechner,   The Remarkable Ordinary

On circumstance..........................


     As a progressive and evolving being, man is where he is that he may learn that he may grow;  and as he learns the spiritual lesson which any circumstance contains for him, it passes away and gives place to other circumstances.
     Man is buffeted by circumstances so long as he believes himself to be the creature of outside conditions, but when he realizes that he is a creative power, and that he may command the hidden soil and seeds of his being out of which circumstances grow, he then becomes the rightful master of himself.

-James Allen,  As A Man Thinketh

Tempting.......................



Fifty years ago.......................


The Beatles..........................................................Dear Prudence

Friday, November 2, 2018

Connectivity problems..............

        
           One of the glorious things about American culture in our day is that people leave you alone. There is more freedom than ever before. You can be who you want to be, and judgment rarely comes. You can dress the way you like, eat what you want, be the you you want to be, and much of the time, if you live in the right cities anyway, your choices will not be just tolerated but celebrated. We are free in so many dimensions to mold our identity as we see fit and there is something incredibly beautiful about this opportunity.
        And yet, one of the most horrific things about American culture in our day is that people leave you alone. You can sleep on the street, be mentally disturbed, use the sidewalk as a latrine, medicate yourself into oblivion and no one will say a thing. They will simply avert their eyes and give you your privacy. Oh, you might get a dollar or two from a sympathetic passerby, but no one will tell you to clean up your act. Few will actually try to connect with you in any meaningful way. In the right cities, no one will arrest you for vagrancy, and certainly no one will force you into what we used to call an insane asylum and medicate you against your will. There are many glorious things about this tolerance. But there is something horrific about it, too.

-Russ Roberts, from this essay, The Lonely Man with a Gun

via

Thucydides......................


Then there is the matter of Thucydides himself.  Greece's preeminent historian was not merely an analytical and systematic writer of a great extant military history of Sparta and Athens.  He was also a brilliant philosopher who tried to impart to the often obscure events of the war a value that transcended his age.  In his own boast, his narrative would prove to be "a possession for all time,"  far more important than the war itself.
     Precisely because of this didactic nature of Thucydides' lengthy narrative - predicated on the belief that human nature is unchanging across time and space and thus predictable - the conflict of Athens and Sparta is supposed to serve as a lesson for what can happen to any people in any war in any age.  A central theme is the use and abuse of power, and how it lurks behind men's professions of idealism and purported ideology.  What men say, the speeches diplomats give, the reasons states go to war, all this "in word" (logos) is as likely to cloak rather than to elucidate what they will do "in deed" (ergon).  Thucydides teaches us to embrace skepticism, expecting us to look to national self-interest, not publicized grievances, when wars of our own age inevitably break out.

-Victor Davis Hanson,  A War Like No Other

Fifty years ago.........................


The Beatles.....................................While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Opening paragraphs.....................


In April 404 B.C. the Spartan admiral Lysander finally led his vast armada of ships, crammed with some 10,000 jubilant seamen, into the hated port of Athens at the Piraeus to finish the Peloponnesian War.   After the destruction of its imperial fleet at the battle of Aegospotami ("Goat Rivers") in the waters off Asia Minor the prior September, the once splendid city of Athens was now utterly defenseless.  Worse still was to come.  It was soon surrounded, broke, jammed with refugees, starving, and near revolution.  Such and end would have seemed utterly inconceivable just three decades earlier when a defiant Pericles promised his democracy victory.  But then neither had 80,000 Athenians fallen to plague nor 500 ships been sunk at Sicily and on the Aegean.

-Victor Davis Hanson, from the Prologue to A War Like No Other:  How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War

Opening paragraphs..............................


The Peloponnesian War is now 2,436 years in the past.  Yet Athens and Sparta are still on our minds and will not go away.  Their permanence seems odd.  After all, ancient Greek warring parties were mere city-states, most of them smaller in population than Dayton, Ohio, or Trenton, New Jersey.  Mainland Greece itself is no larger than Alabama, and in antiquity was bordered by empires like the Persian, which encompassed nearly one million square miles with perhaps 70 million subjects.  Napoleon's army alone had more men under arms by 1800 than the entire male population of all the Greek city-states combined.  In our own age, more people died in Rwanda or Cambodia in a few days then were lost in twenty-seven years of civil war in fifth-century B.C. Greece.

-Victor Davis Hanson,  A War Like No Other:  How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War

Fifty years ago................................


The Beatles....................Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Five good minutes..........................


.........................................................with Buster Keaton

This explains a lot..................


our species tends to think in terms of narrowly defined problems, and usually pays little attention to the most important feature of these problems: the wider context in which they are embedded. When we think we are solving the problem, we are in fact disrupting the context. Most consequences will then be unintended.

-Martin Gurri, from this upcoming book

via

Guess I'm slowing down..............


Bruce Johnson & The Beach Boys......................Disney Girls

Clearing skies and drying eyes
Now I see your smile
Darkness goes and softness shows
A changing style
Just in time words that rhyme
Well bless your soul
Now I'll fill your hands
With kisses and a Tootsie Roll
Oh reality, it's not for me
And it makes me laugh
Oh, fantasy world and Disney girls
I'm coming back
Patti Page and summer days
On old Cape Cod
Happy times making wine
In my garage
Country shade and lemonade
Guess I'm slowing down
It's a turned back world
With a local girl
In a smaller town
Open cars and clearer stars
That's what I've lacked
But fantasy world and Disney girls
I'm coming back
Love...Hi Rick and Dave
Hi Pop...Well good morning mom
Love...get up guess what
I'm in love with a girl I found
She's really swell
Cause she likes
Church, bingo chances and old time dances
All my life I spent the night
With dreams of you
And the warmth I missed
And for the things I wished
They're all coming true
I've got my love to give
And a place to live
Guess I'm gonna stay
It'd be a peaceful life
With a forever wife
And a kid someday
It's earlier nights
And pillow fights
And your soft laugh
Fantasy world and Disney girls
I'm coming back

Fifty years ago..........................


On Broadway.....................................................................Hair

See.......................


"See what's there, not what you expect to see.  See what is really present in your life.  See yourself, see each other."

-Frederick Buechner,  The Remarkable Ordinary

Color me doubtful......................


But the real problem with the idea that Judaism contributed monotheism to the world is that this is hardly something to be proud of.   From an ethical perspective, monotheism was arguably one of the worst ideas in human  history.
     Monotheism did little to improve the moral standards of humans - do you really think Muslims are inherently more ethical than Hindus just because Muslims believe in a single god while Hindus believe in many gods?  Were Christian conquistadores more ethical than pagan Native American tribes?  What monotheism undoubtedly did was to make many people far more intolerant than before, thereby contributing to the spread of religious persecutions and holy wars.

-Yuval Noah Harari,  21 Lessons for the 21st Century

You've likely heard the expression that getting a lot more money will only make you more of what you already are.   Human nature being what it is, I suspect the same is true of religious faith.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Content...............................


     Someone asked me, "Aren't you worried about the state of the world?"  I allowed myself to breathe and then I said, "What is most important is not to allow your anxiety about what happens in the world to fill your heart.  If your heart is filled with anxiety, you will get sick, and you will not be able to help."  There are wars - big and small - in many places, and that can cause us to lose our peace.  Anxiety is the illness of our age.  We worry about ourselves, our family, our friends, our work, and the state of the world.  If we allow worry to fill our hearts, sooner or later we will get sick.
     Yes, there is tremendous suffering all over the world, but knowing this need not paralyze us.  If we practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful sitting, and working in mindfulness, we can try our best to help, and we can have peace in our heart.  Worrying does not accomplish anything.  Even if you worry twenty times more, it will not change the situation of the world.  In fact, your anxiety will only make things worse.  Even though things are not as we would like, we can still be content, knowing we are trying our best and will continue to do so.  If we don't know how to breath, smile, and live every moment of our life deeply, we will never be able to help anyone.  I am happy in the present moment.   I do not ask for anything else.  I do not expect additional happiness or conditions that will bring about more happiness.  The most important practice is aimlessness, not running after things, not grasping.

-Thich Nhat Hanh,  The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching:  Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

Watching, always watching................


“Even though you try to put people under control, it is impossible. You cannot do it. The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in a wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good. That is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them.” 

-Shunryu Suzuki,  Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Watching ... Always watching..............

the moment....................


An old silent pond.
Into the pond a frog jumps.
Splash.  Silence again.

     The whole genius of haiku is that they don't mean anything.  People who try to figure out what a haiku means are beating up the wrong path.  The frog doesn't stand for anything.  The pond has no symbolic value or anything like that.  All of these things that other literature might be attempting are not attempted by the haiku at all.  The haiku settles for doing, as I read it anyway, one very simple but very crucial thing - it tries to put a frame around the moment.  It simply frames the moment.  Of course, as soon as you put a frame around anything, you set it off, you make it visible, you make it real. Haiku enables us to see, to experience, this moment that is framed ...

-Frederick Buechner,  The Remarkable Ordinary:  How to Stop, Look, And Listen To Life

Me too............................


"I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his essay Self-Reliance

Authority...........................


29.  Erasing all fancies, keep on saying to yourself,   'It lies in my own hands to ensure that no viciousness, cupidity, or turmoil of any kind finds a home in this soul of mine;  it lies with me to perceive all things in their true light, and to deal with each of them as it merits.'  Remember this authority, which is nature's gift to you.

-Marcus Aurelius,  Meditations, Book Eight

This song has been playing...................


........................in my head all morning.   Can't think of a reason why I shouldn't plant it in yours too.

The Beach Boys with Kathy Troccoli.................I Can Hear Music

 

Ahhhhhh oooooo
This is the way
I always dreamed it would be
The way that it is, oh oh
When you are holding me
I never had a love of my own
Maybe that's why when we're all alone
I can hear music
I can hear music
The sound of the city baby seems to disappear
I can hear music
Sweet sweet music
Whenever you touch me baby
Whenever you're near
Lovin' you
It keeps me satisfied
And I can't explain, oh no
The way I'm feeling inside
You look at me we kiss and then
I close my eyes and here it comes again
I can hear music
I can hear music
The sound of the city baby seems to disappear
I can hear music
Sweet sweet music
Whenever you touch me baby
Whenever you're near
I hear the music all the time, yeah
I hear the music, hold me tight now baby
I hear the music all the time
I hear the music
I hear the music (baby)

Fifty years ago.........................

Blood, Sweat, and Tears.......................................And When I Die



This Laura Nyro tune was recorded by BS&T in October of 1968 and released in December of the same year.