Saturday, November 25, 2017

Lesson #3..............................

     Third, and it its way the most important, Churchill never allowed mistakes, disaster - personal or national - accidents, illnesses, unpopularity, and criticism to get him down.  His powers of recuperation, both in physical illness and in psychological responses to abject failure, were astounding.  To be blamed for the dreadful failure and loss of life in the Dardanelles was a terrible burden to carry.  Churchill responded by fighting on the western front, in great discomfort and danger, and then by doing a magnificent job at the ministry of munitions.  He made a fool of himself over the abdication and was howled down by a united House of Commons in one of the most savage scenes of personal humiliation ever recorded.  He scrambled to his feet and worked his way back.  He had courage, the most important of all virtues, and its companion, fortitude.  These strengths are inborn but they can also be cultivated, and Churchill worked on them all his life.  In a sense his whole career was an exercise in how courage can be displayed, reinforced, guarded and doled out carefully, heightened and concentrated, conveyed to others.  Those uncertain of their courage can look to Churchill for reassurance and inspiration.

-Paul Johnson,  Churchill

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Lesson #2......................

     Lesson number two is:  there is no substitute for hard work.  Churchill obscured this moral by his (for him) efficient habit of spending a working morning in bed, telephoning, dictating, and consulting.  He also manifestly enjoyed his leisure activities, for him another form of hard work, to keep himself fit and rested and to enable himself to do his job at the top of his form.  The balance he maintained between flat-out work and creative and restorative leisure is worth study by anyone holding a top position.  But he never evaded hard work itself:  taking important and dangerous decisions, the hardest form of work there is, in the course of a sixteen hour day.  Or working on a speech to bring it as near perfection as possible.  No one ever worked harder than Churchill to make himself a master orator.  Or forcing himself to travel long distances, often in acute discomfort and danger, to meet the top statesmen face-to-face where his persuasive charm could work best.  He worked hard at everything to the best of his ability:  Parliament, administration, geopolitics and geostrategy, writing books, painting, creating an idyllic house and garden, seeing things and if possible doing things for himself.  Mistakes he made, constantly, but there was never anything shoddy or idle about his work.  He put tremendous energy into everything, and was able to do this because (as he told me) he conserved and husbanded his energy, too.  There was an extraordinary paradox about his white, apparently flabby body and the amount of muscle power he put into life, always.

-Paul Johnson,  Churchill

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Lesson #1...............

     The first lesson is:  always aim high.  As a child Churchill received no positive encouragement from his father and little from his mother.  He was aware of failure at school.  But he still aimed high.  He conquered his aversion to math, at least enough to pass.  He reinforced success in what he could do:  write a good English sentence.  Conscious of his ignorance, he set himself to master English history and to familiarize himself with great chunks of literature.  Once his own master, he played polo to win the top award in the world.  He got himself into five wars in quick succession and become both a veteran of military lore and one of the world's most experienced (and highly paid) war correspondents.  Then he set his sights on the House of Commons and stayed there (with one lapse) for over half a century.  He sough power and got it in growing amplitude.  He never cadged or demeaned himself to get office, but obtained it on his own terms.  He sought to be prime minister feeling only he could achieve certain things.  In 1940 he aimed not only high but at the highest - to rescue a stricken country in danger of being demoralized, to put it firmly on its feet again, and to carry it to salvation and victory.  He did not always meet his elevated targets, but by aiming high he always achieved something worthwhile.

-Paul Johnson,   Churchill

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But I'm afraid...........................

.....................................blogging might be one of them.

... I recommend that you write down your three most harmful habits.  Do that right now.  Now pick one of those habits and be committed to breaking it.  Can you do that?  That would be extraordinarily impactful.  If you break all three you will radically improve the trajectory of your life.

-Ray Dalio,   Principles


“Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is.”

-Joseph Campbell

No trouble.............................

“A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.” 

-Steven PressfieldDo the Work

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A full life............................

     In his ninety years, Churchill had spent fifty-five years as a member of Parliament, thirty-one years as a minister, and nearly nine years as prime minister.  He had been present at or fought in fifteen battles, and had been awarded fourteen campaign medals, some with multiple clasps.  He had been a prominent figure in the First World War, and a dominant one in the Second.  He had published nearly 10 million words, more than most professional writers in their lifetime, and painted over five hundred canvases, more than most professional painters.  He had reconstructed a stately home and created a splendid garden with its three lakes, which he had caused to be dug himself.  He had built a cottage and a garden wall.  He was a fellow of the Royal Society, and Elder Brother of Trinity House, a Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, a Royal Academician, a university chancellor, a Nobel Prizeman, a Knight of the Garter, a Companion of Honour, and a member of the Order of Merit.  Scores of towns made him an honorary citizen, dozens of universities awarded him honorary degrees, and thirteen countries gave him medals.  He hunted big game and won a score of races.  How many bottles of champagne he consumed is not recorded, but it may be close to twenty thousand.  He had a large and much-loved family, and countless friends.
     So Winston Churchill led a full life, and few people are ever likely to equal it - its amplitude, variety, and success on so many fronts.  But all can learn from it, especially in five ways.

-Paul Johnson,  Churchill

Ed. Note:  Stay tuned for more about the five ways.

to interrogate...........................

But when Socrates was  a young man and explored, as he later said, the limits of scientific knowledge, he could not see any way of pushing them further.  The cosmos was mute.  It could be seen but could not speak.  Above all, it could not answer questions.
     That, to Socrates, was the great objection to work on the external world.  He was the Great Question Master.  His deepest instinct was to interrogate.  The dynamic impulse within him was to ask and then use the answer to frame another question.  At an early age - in his twenties, most likely - he saw that science, or the investigation of the external world was, for him at least, unprofitable.  But the investigation of the internal world of man was something he could do and wanted to do.

Paul Johnson,  Socrates:  A Man For Our Times

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The classical anxiety........................

The Cruxifiction    Nicola Pisano

     The story of Renaissance sculpture begins with Nicola Pisano, who lived approximately between 1220 and 1284.  He came from Apulia in the heel of Italy, but most of his working life was spent in Pisa, Bologna, Siena, Perugia and other central Italian towns.  He was a product of the brilliant if precarious court culture created by Emperor Frederick II, knows as stupor mundi, of the Wonder of the World.  Frederick build palatial castles in southern Italy, patronized artists and craftsmen of all kinds, imported ideas and technology from the eastern Mediterranean and the Orient and, not least, sought to revive classical forms.  Pisano was clearly trained in one of the emperor's south Italian workshops, and he brought to Tuscany something new:  the classical anxiety to represent the human body accurately, to show emotions not symbolically but as they are actually seen on human faces, to distinguish with infinite gradations between youth and age and to render men and women as living, breathing, individual creatures.

-Paul Johnson, The Renaissance:  A Short History

On getting the mixture right............

     The creation of the United States of America is the greatest of all human adventures.  No other national story holds such tremendous lessons, for the American people themselves and for the rest of mankind.  In now spans four centuries and, as we enter the new millennium, we need to retell it, for if we can learn these lessons and build upon them, the whole of humanity will benefit in the new age which is now opening.  American history raises three fundamental questions.  First, can a nation rise above the injustices of its origins and, by its moral purpose and performance, atone for them?  All nations are born in war, conquest, and crime, usually concealed by the obscurity of a distant past.  The United States, from its earliest colonial times, won its title-deeds in the full blaze of recorded history, and the stains on them are there for all to see and censure:  the dispossession of a indigenous people, and the securing of self-sufficiency through the sweat and pain of an enslaved race.  In the judgmental scales of history, such grievous wrongs must be balanced by the erection of a society dedicated to justice and fairness.  Has the United States done this?  Has it expiated its organic sins?  The second question provides the key to the first.  In the process of nation-building, can ideals and altruism - the desire to build a perfect community - be mixed successfully with acquisitiveness and ambition, without which no dynamic society can be built at all?  Have the Americans got the mixture right?  Have they forged a nation where righteousness has the edge over needful self-interest?   Thirdly, the Americans originally aimed to build an other-worldly 'City on a Hill,'  but found themselves designing a republic of the people, to be a model for the entire planet.  Have they made good their audacious claims?  Have they indeed proved exemplars for humanity?  And will they continue to be so in the new millennium?

-Paul Johnson,  A History of the American People

Monday, November 20, 2017

All I need to know about love.................

.....................................I learned from my dog:

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Run, romp, and play daily.
Be loyal.
Never pretend to be something you're not.
Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
Thrive on affection and let people touch you - enjoy back rubs and pats on your neck.
When you leave your yard, make it an adventure.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
No matter how often you're scolded, don't pout - run right back and make friends.
Bond with your pack.
On cold nights, curl up in front of a crackling fire.
When you're excited, speak up.
When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
If you stare at someone long enough, eventually you'll get what you want.
Don't go out without ID.
Leave room in your schedule for a good nap.
Always give people a friendly greeting.
If it's not wet and sloppy, it's not a real kiss.

-author unknown, but borrowed from here

Sorry about that........................

According to the counter thing that Blogger provides, the last post was the 20,000th.  Apologies are extended for littering all over the Intertunnel floor.   Hopefully, faithful reader, you have found a thing or two of value.   I know I have.

Confirmation Bias......................

     Confirmation bias is one of the many reasons your should not solely rely on past experience to predict the future.  Those facts that you think you know from the past might be confirmation bias, and not facts at all.
     Most people know what confirmation bias is, if not by its name, then certainly by personal experience.  We all know how hard it is to change a person's mind about anything important, even when all the facts are on our side.  But what nonpersuaders usually don't realize is how prevalent confirmation bias is.  Confirmation bias isn't an occasional bug in our human operating system.  It is the operating system.  We are designed by evolution to see new information as supporting our existing opinions, so long  as it doesn't stop us from procreating.  Evolution doesn't care if you understand your reality.  It only cares that you reproduce.  It also wants you to conserve energy for the important stuff, such as surviving.  The worst thing your brain could do is reinterpret your reality into a whole new movie with each new bit of information.  That would be exhausting and without benefit.  Instead your brain takes the path of least resistance and instantly interprets your observations to fit your existing worldview.  It's just easier.

-Scott Adams,  Win Bigly:  Persuasion In A World Where Facts Don't Matter


People don't change opinions about emotional topics just because some information proved their opinion to be nonsense.  Humans aren't wired that way.

-Scott Adams,   Win Bigly: Persuasion In A World Where Facts Don't Matter

wobble and go blind..........

Solomon was busy judging others,
when it was his personal thoughts
that were disrupting the community.

His crown slid crooked on his head.
He put it straight, but the crown went
awry again.  Eight times this happened.

Finally he began to talk to his headpiece.
"Why do you keep tilting over my eyes?"

"I have to.  When your power loses compassion,
I have to show what such a condition looks like."

Immediately Solomon recognized the truth.
He knelt and asked forgiveness.
The crown centered itself on his crown.

When something goes wrong, accuse yourself first.
Even the wisdom of Plato or Solomon
can wobble and go blind.

Listen when your crown reminds you
of what makes you cold towards others,
as you pamper the greedy energy inside.

-Rumi,  Solomon's Crooked Crown

On will and whim....................

If one had the powers of Poseidon, to bend the waves to one's will and whim, one couldn't be a good surfer.  There'd be no occasion to flow freely, in heightened adaptive attunement to what is beyond one's control.   The state of grace is necessary for surfing.  Why not be content with it?

-Aaron James,  Surfing With Sartre:  An Aquatic Inquiry Into A Life Of Meaning

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On aggregations of appetites....

     In 1960, the common caricature was that liberals had ideas and ideals, whereas conservatives had only material interests.   Goldwater set out to refute the idea the conservatism is merely "a narrow, mechanistic economic theory that may work very well as a bookkeeper's guide, but cannot be relied upon as a comprehensive political philosophy."  Goldwater insisted that it was liberalism that had become thin intellectual gruel.  He said it produced government that saw the nation as a mere aggregation of clamorous constituencies with material itches that it was Washington's duty to scratch with federal programs.  The audacity of The Conscience of a Conservative was its charge that the post-New Deal political tradition, far from being idealistic, was unworthy of a free society because it treated citizens as mere aggregations of appetites.

-George Will, from his essay, Barry Goldwater: "Cheerful Malcontent"