Saturday, April 27, 2019
"The learned man who has not judgment is like an unarmed soldier proceeding into battle. . . . Reason without learning is like the untilled soil, or like the human body that lacks nourishment."
-Kahlil Gibran, from The Voice Of The Master
A group of political activists were attempting to show the Master how their ideology would change the world.
The Master listened carefully.
The following day he said, "An ideology is as good or bad as the people who make use of it. If a million wolves were to organize for justice, would they cease to be a million wolves?"
-Anthony de Mello, One Minute Wisdom
On October 6, 1939, Malcolm MacDonald, Britain's Secretary of State for the Colonies, called a special meeting on "Future Policy in Africa." The meeting included a veteran colonial official named Lord Hailey and many other notable British Africanists.
Why would Africa be high on the list of priorities only a month after Britain declared war on Germany? Many of the official class feared that Britain's survival, not to mention the survival of the empire, depended on the allegiance of non-European peoples. The British were going to need troops and raw materials from the empire to fight the war. And it was hard to keep the allegiance of colonial subjects when the empire was built around a racial hierarchy that reflected still-prevalent feelings of racial superiority by the British, feelings not lost on the victims of such racism. As one colonial official put it, "Colonial subjects might be tempted to say that they do not have much freedom to defend." Other officials and observers feared a worldwide revolt by nonwhites against white rule, perhaps lead by the rising power, Japan, and destroying the empire. The British realized during the new war that racism was becoming a serious political liability. The failure to endorse Japan's racial equality proposal at the Versailles peace talks after the previous war was not a huge embarrassment.
Lord Hailey would attempt to remove this liability during World War II by reinventing yet again the idea of technocratic development as a justification for colonial rule. The empire's legitimacy was going to be based on its technical ability to achieve rapid development, not on the racial superiority of the British. The empire could present itself as a benevolent autocrat for the colonial people. The British even banned racist statements by colonial officials to conform to the new narrative, although the victims of racism knew that such a ban did not immediately change racist attitudes.
Ironically, Lord Hailey's justification for colonialism and his cover-up of racism would later appeal to the anticolonial victims of racism, the new African political leaders who would emerge after the sooner-than-expected collapse of the British African empire in the 1950s and early 1960s. The new African leaders found state-led technocratic development to be a justification for their own aspirations to unchecked power. The new African leaders would inherit the role of benevolent autocrat from the defunct empire.
-William Easterly, The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and The Forgotten Rights Of The Poor
.................................a lost art, and we are all the poorer for it.
"Seven o'clock, and retired to my fireside. I have determined to enter into conversation with you." Jefferson began one letter to Madison in October 1785. Distance did not lessen their intimacy: Jefferson wanted his far-off friend to hear his voice; he wanted to see his friend listening. Something had upset the American abroad, and he needed to hash it out. Jefferson was in Fountainebleau, a town forty miles from Paris where the king of France hunted, and where the court attended him when he did so. Jefferson had gone for a walk, "to take a view of the place," and had fallen into conversation with a woman laborer who showed him a hillside path. She told Jefferson she had two children (she made no mention of a husband) and she earned eight sous, or four pennies, a day—when she could find work, which was not always. As she and Jefferson parted ways, he gave her twenty-four sous, at which she burst into tears. "She probably never before received so great an aid." This led Jefferson into "a train of reflections" on the cause of his guide's plight—the unequal distribution of property.
"The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. If for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated"—that is owned by individuals—"we must take care that other employment be provided to those" who own no land at all. "If we do not, the fundamental right to labor the earth returns to the unemployed." How would Jefferson encourage a distribution of property that would not leave his guide weeping over a twenty-four sous tip? He made two suggestions: abolishing feudal forms of inheritance that steered an estate to one heir, and progressive taxation. Abolishing feudal forms was advice aimed at France, Virginia had already abolished primogeniture and thus, Jefferson believed, mammoth estates like the king's at Fountainebleau. But Jefferson's letter implied two more radical ideas. Property is only a secondary right, since society allows it "for the encouragement of industry," and the right to earn a living—"to labor the earth"—precedes it. Such thoughts would call all Virginian, and American, society into question. Jefferson was grappling with a deep political subject—the intersection of work and rights—and he sent his thoughts to Madison because Madison was smart enough to follow them, and bold enough not to dismiss him out of hand.
-Richard Brookhiser, James Madison
Friday, April 26, 2019
Thursday, April 25, 2019
Worth reading, especially the obsession part. He concludes:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been a political celebrity for less than a year. She may yet rise, in time, to spectacular heights, or plunge into the abyss and be forgotten. No one can say at this point. The only prediction I offer with confidence is that her performance, along the way, will be hugely entertaining.
Happy endings come from an understanding of the compass, not the presence of a useful map.
If you’ve got the wrong map, the right compass will get you home if you know how to use it.
-Seth Godin, from this post
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
There have probably always been philosophers, in some sense of the word. They were those individuals who did not only ask questions—such as Where did the world come from? Where did people come from? and Why are there rainbows?—but more important, went on to ask follow-up questions. When told, for example, that the world was created by the gods, these proto-philosophers would have realized that this answer didn't get to the bottom of things. They would have gone on to ask why the gods made the world, how they made it, and—most vexatiously to those trying to answer questions—who made the gods.
-William B. Irvine, A Guide To The Good Life: (the ancient art of stoic joy)
Madison shone in the daily drudgery of work. The Virginia Governor's Council met six days a week. During his first, seven-month session, from January to July 1778, Madison missed only seven days. In the three and a half years he spent in Congress—most of that time in Philadelphia—he missed hardly any days. Bachelorhood helped him compile there almost-perfect attendance records; so did being the son of a wealthy father who managed the family business back home, and loaned him money whenever he needed it. But Madison made the most of the opportunities his situation in life gave him. He wanted to work, and the more he did, the more he was given.
-Richard Brookhiser, James Madison
We often become trapped in loops of thought that are not useful to our lives or the lives of others. In fact, these loops of thought can become destructive forces in our lives. Therefore, we have to regulate the mind. We achieve this by practicing meditation. And we must practice in such a way that our minds are naturally attracted toward a useful object—a transformational object. That is the benefit that a sound method can confer. The way meditation regulates the mind is by orienting it toward the ultimate Source of contentment.
-Kamlesh D. Patel, The Heartfulness Way: Heart-Based Meditations for Spiritual Transformation
In the summer the school day began at 6 A. M.; in the winter, as a concession to the darkness and the cold, at 7. At 11 came recess for lunch—and Will presumably ran home, only three hundred yards or so away—and then instruction began again, continuing until 5:50 or 6. Six days a week; twelve months a year. The curriculum made few concessions to the range of human interests: no English history or literature; no biology, chemistry, or physics; no economics or sociology; only a smattering of arithmetic. There was instruction in the articles of the Christian faith, but that must have seemed all but indistinguishable from the instruction in Latin. And the instruction was not gentle: rote memorization, relentless drills, endless repetition, daily analysis of texts, elaborate exercises in imitation and rhetorical variation, all backed up by the threat of violence.
Everyone understood that Latin learning was inseparable from whipping. One educational theorist of the time speculated that the buttocks were created in order to facilitate the learning of Latin. A good teacher was by definition a strict teacher; pedagogical reputations were made by the vigor of the beatings administered. The practice was time-honored and entrenched: as part of his final examination at Cambridge, a graduate in grammar in the late Middle Ages was required to demonstrate his pedagogical fitness by flogging a dull or recalcitrant boy. Learning Latin in this period was, as a modern scholar has put it, a male puberty rite. Even for an exceptionally apt student, that puberty rite could not have been pleasant. Still, though it doubtless inflicted its measure of both boredom and pain, the King's New School clearly aroused and fed Will's inexhaustible craving for language.
-Stephen Greenblatt, Will In The World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Madison, half Mason's age, improved his language, proposing a crucial change to the clause on religious liberty. Mason's draft, reflecting a hundred years of liberal thought going back to John Locke, called for "the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion." Yet this did not seem liberal enough for Madison. Toleration implies those who tolerate: superiors who grant freedom to others. But who can be trusted to pass such judgments, even if the judgment is to live and let live? Judges may change their minds. The Anglican establishment of Virginia, compared with established churches in other colonies, had been fairly tolerant—except when it hadn't, and then it made water in Baptists' faces. So Madison prepared an amendment. "All men are equally entitled to the full and free exercise" of religion. No one could be said to allow men to worship as they wished: they worshipped as they wished because it was their right as men. Madison's language shifted the ground of religious liberty from a tolerant society or state, to human nature, and lifted the Declaration of Rights from an event in Virginia history to a landmark of world intellectual history.
-Richard Brookhiser, James Madison
As a history major, I am sort of embarrassed by the gaps in my knowledge. The Reconstruction era and the fate of the freed slaves post-Appomattox is an
At 959 pages, Chernow might have benefited from a stronger editor. Still, he tells a tale crucial to the understanding of the United States of America.
"How does one seek union with God?"
"The harder you seek, the more distance you create between Him and you."
"So what does one do about the distance."
"Understand that it isn't there."
"Does that mean that God and I are one?"
"Not one. Not two."
"How is that possible?"
"The sun and its light, the ocean and the wave, the singer and his song—not one. Not two."
-Anthony de Mello, One Minute Wisdom
Monday, April 22, 2019
................................................John Bell Condliffe:
"The human race has made progress towards the good life as long as thought and economic activity were left free to cross national boundaries and creeds." "But now," he observed, "we face a new and more formidable superstition than the world has ever known, the myth of the nation-state, whose priests are as intolerant as those of the Inquisition. The struggle for the rights of the individual against the all-powerful and intolerant nation-state is the most difficult and crucial issue of our generation."
"the essential condition of effective planning is that the planners must be prepared to dragoon those who do not fit into their plans."
Condiliffe understood that unchecked state power was one of the root causes of poverty, not one of the solutions.
-as excerpted from William Easterly's The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, And The Forgotten Rights Of The Poor
When Epicurus defined happiness as the supreme good, he warned his disciples that it is hard work to be happy. Material achievements alone will not satisfy us for long. Indeed, the blind pursuit of money, fame, and pleasure will only make us miserable. Epicurus recommended, for example, to eat and drink in moderation, and to curb one's sexual appetites. In the long run, deep friendship will make us more content than a frenzied orgy. Epicurus outlined an entire ethic of dos and don'ts to guide people along the treacherous path to happiness.
Epicurus was apparently on to something. Being happy doesn't come easy. Despite out unprecedented achievements in the past few decades, it is far from obvious that contemporary people are significantly more satisfied than their ancestors in bygone years.
-Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
The people who radiate a permanent joy have given themselves over to lives of deep and loving commitment. Giving has become their nature, and little by little they have made their souls incandescent. There's always something flowing out of the interiority of our spirit. For some people it's mostly fear or insecurity. For the people we call joyful, it's mostly gratitude, delight, and kindness.
-David Brooks, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life
Today's world is characterized by a ferocious competition for "moral authority". The attraction is the innate vanity and perceived power of domination and control over others. This competition applies to whole countries, political and philosophical systems, and entire cultures, all of which claim moral superiority and, therefore, justification for all actions. Victimology is the sly back door by which a "make wrong" becomes a manipulative level of moral blackmail and extortion.
In today's media-driven society, even the most extreme behaviors, as well as bizarre, delusional declarations, are given equal rank with truth. By this device, alleged rights and claims ensue that have the added value of being "righteous" and "superior", by which anything and everything can be justified or excused, or at least public opinion solicited for sympathy. The world now worships not Divinity but the ego and thus caters to aggrandized narcissistic rhetoric and blatant falsity of even a psychotic degree. . . .Society is now the arena for competition of self-proclaimed, aggrandized moral "rights" that are actually merely selfish egocentricity for gain.
-David R. Hawkins, Reality, Spirituality, and Modern Man
Not every day is going to turn out the way we want it to. All routines and to-do lists are aspirational. "You go diving for pearls," said Jerry Garcia, "but sometimes you end up with clams.
The important thing is to make it to the end of the day, no matter what. No matter how bad it gets, see it through to the end so you can get to tomorrow. After spending the day with his five-year-old son, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in his diary, "We got rid of the day as well as we could." Some days you just have to get rid of as best as you can.
When the sun goes down and you look back on the day, go easy on yourself. A little self-forgiveness goes a long way. Before you go to bed, make a list of everything you did accomplish, and write down a list of what you want to get done tomorrow. Then forget about it. Hit the pillow with a clear mind. Let your subconscious work on stuff while you're sleeping.
A day that seems a waste now might turn out to have a purpose or use or beauty to it later on.
-Austin Kleon, Keep Going: 10 Ways To Stay Creative In Good Times And Bad
Sunday, April 21, 2019
To a visitor who described himself as a seeker after Truth the Master said, "If what you seek is the Truth, there is one thing you must have above all else."
"I know. An overwhelming passion for it."
"No. An unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong."
-Anthony de Mello, One Minute Wisdom
But the world's problems are very simple. They are the lack of love between human beings, the lack of compassion, of tolerance, of humility, and of acceptance. They are the arrogance, hatred, and violence that have polluted human hearts. They are prejudice and intolerance. If a person has no peace in their heart, there can be no peace around them. Such a person will always find a reason to argue and fight. Only when a person's own heart is peaceful can their interactions be peaceful.
How to solve the problem of hatred? Is there any political solution? Can love and acceptance be legislated and enforced? Can any law change the human heart? The heart only changes when it decides to change. And that is a personal choice that each person must make for themselves. We cannot enforce it upon them. We can only inspire them and offer them the tools.
Therefore, rather than trying to transform others, let us devote ourselves to our own transformation. As for others, let us be nondemanding of them. Let us be content to love them as they are, to accept them as they are, and to be ever ready to serve them as we would members of our own family. This is the humanity that the world sorely needs.
Only love can make it possible to accept another person's flaws. Have you ever seen a mother give up on her children? Even if her child constantly misbehaves, getting thrown out of school or worse, the mother remains by their side, even after everyone else is fed up. This is due to the mother's love. Where there is love, there is forgiveness. Where there is love, there is compassion.
Love is the root of every noble quality. Therefore, when there is love, do you need any other quality? When love is present, acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion all become redundant. Love alone is sufficient. No other quality is required. We all know this. The great teachers of the past and present have all said so. But if teachings were enough, wouldn't we be transformed by now?
-Kamlesh D. Patel and Joshua Pollock, The Heartfulness Way: Heart-Based Mediations for Spiritual Transformation
Most investors assume that risk is a form of "I know it when I see it." Unfortunately, risk is nearly impossible to define because it has so many permutations. To some it's volatility. To others it's losing money. Longevity risk—outliving your money—is probably the biggest risk of all. Then you have all the risks within each investment class: duration, interest rates, earnings shortfalls, recessions, permanent impairment, innovation, competition, and so on. The list cold seemingly go on forever.
If there is an ironclad rule in the world of investing, it's that risk and reward are always and forever attached at the hip. . . . understand that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
-Ben Carlson, A Wealth of Common Sense
But still, this was his hometown, his home state. He had played for the mighty Buckeyes and then, albeit briefly, the Cleveland Browns. He was a product of the Midwest. He never got too high and never got too low. He looked at the world realistically. He was a jeans and beer kind of guy. He could never fit inside a Ferrari, not that he would ever want to. He always tried to do the right thing. He helped others when they needed it.
-David Baldacci, as found on page 298 of Redemption