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Month: January, 2014

“Meditations“, Book 4 – Marcus Aurelius

“How much trouble he avoids who does not look to see what his
neighbour says or does or thinks, but only to what he does himself,
that it may be just and pure; or as Agathon says, look not round at
the depraved morals of others, but run straight along the line
without deviating from it.”

Meditations“, Book 4, 18

Marcus Aurelius

___________

having given the sciences their theoretical
foundations, philosophy, overtaken by facts,
theorems and numbers, impermeable verities
based on rigorous calculations and verifiable
experimentations, feared ceding its austere
position at the head of progressive thought
and ground its studies in more rationally
impregnable pursuits, empiricism overtook
speculation, morality became merely a
subtext instead of the existential quest
it had earlier informed

it has never recovered, though the
importance of the question of good
and evil has never subsided

towards what do we aspire, how do we
accord that with our environment, be it
social, political, natural

it is not a bad thing to consider our
priorities, otherwise we are merely
wisps, I would think, of undifferentiated
dust in the wind, dust having returned
inexorably to untransubstantiated
dust

therefore Marcus Aurelius

Richard

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homespun philosophy‏

from the Westender, January 23 – 29, 2014

rant/rave (a weekly, and delightful, feature):

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off,
and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t
be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
— The Velveteen Rabbit

Richard

“Meditations”, Book 3 – Marcus Aurelius‏

“If thou workest at that which is before thee, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract thee, but keeping thy divine part pure, as if thou shouldst be bound to give it back immediately; if thou holdest to this, expecting nothing, fearing nothing, but satisfied with thy present activity according to nature, and with heroic truth in every word and sound which thou utterest, thou wilt live happy. And there is no man who is able to prevent this.”

Meditations“, Book 3, 12

Marcus Aurelius

_________

the idea of the virtuous man, or the
interpretation of Marcus Aurelius of
such a person, goes back of course to
Socrates by way of Plato, 427 – 347
B.C., who’s ideal was primarily
political, what to achieve within a
political order, rather than a private
meditation, an advice rather than
a contemplation as in Marcus
Aurelius, 121 – 180 A.D., 550,
not inconsequential, years later

other moral perspectives meanwhile
applied, Epicureanism, for instance,
notably, after which the stranglehold
of Christianity produced not philosophy
but dogma, for a subservient and,
biblically labeled, fallen people,
nearly fifteen hundred years spent
trying to figure out how many angels
fit through the eye of a needle,
essentially, how many irrationalities
could prove the existence, and
authority, of a mandated God

René Descartes inadvertently in this
very quest, but not before 1637, put
an end to that, introduced a new, and
revolutionary, perspective, I think,
therefore I am
“,
which put the individual
instead of the Church in the driver’s seat,
this, if it didn’t bring on the Renaissance,
at least gave it a significant push

but because of his famous scientific
method
, studies afterwards in what
we now know as the humanities
became more empirical than
specifically moral, how do we
perceive rather than how do we live
according to what is right or wrong,
Nietzsche‘s Beyond Good and Evil“,
1886, reoriented that investigation,
as it happened, ominously, in an age
where any kind of god had become
irrelevant, Beethoven would be
transformed into a Hitler, an
uncomfortably fateful Übermensch,
Superman

now philosophy is concerned with
language, what do we mean when
we say what do we mean, and can
anybody understand that

our closest moralist, our modern day
Marcus Aurelius, is at present Miss
Manners
, whom I wholeheartedly
recommend

as well as, of course, Marcus Aurelius

Richard

psst: Miss Manners‘ question and answer
format, incidentally, is not at all unlike
what Plato does in his Socratic dialogues
,
she just has a larger, more flip audience

Meditations, Book 2 – Marcus Aurelius‏

“Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.”

Meditations“, Book 2, 1

Marcus Aurelius

____________

Marcus Aurelius was an emperor, he ruled
Rome for just under 20 years, from 161 to
180 A.D., a highly unlikely fount of
philosophical inspiration, do potentates
think this way, for instance, nowadays

meanwhile the advice above is not a
bad way to start any day, I think, even
for impotentates

respectfully

Richard

psst: “Remember that all is opinion.”,
Book 2, paragraph 15, also one of my
favourite ruminations

for all I‘m apparently therefore worth

Meditations, Book l – Marcus Aurelius‏

“From Rusticus I received the impression that my character required improvement and discipline; and from him I learned not to be led astray to sophistic emulation, nor to writing on speculative matters, nor to delivering little hortatory orations, nor to showing myself off as a man who practises much discipline, or does benevolent acts in order to make a display; and to abstain from rhetoric, and poetry, and fine writing; and not to walk about in the house in my outdoor dress, nor to do other things of the kind; and to write my letters with simplicity, like the letter which Rusticus wrote from Sinuessa to my mother; and with respect to those who have offended me by words, or done me wrong, to be easily disposed to be pacified and reconciled, as soon as they have shown a readiness to be reconciled; and to read carefully, and not to be satisfied with a superficial understanding of a book; nor hastily to give my assent to those who talk overmuch; and I am indebted to him for being acquainted with the discourses of Epictetus, which he communicated to me out of his own collection.”

Meditations, Book l, 7

Marcus Aurelius

______________

recently a website caught my attention
with news of a shared interest in things
of, to my mind, significance, a guide to
a moral life

Marcus Aurelius, an emperor, 121 – 180
A.D., along with Epictetus, 55 -135 A.D.,
a slave, are probably the only two
philosophers we know today specifically
devoted to that profoundly noble
intention

the juxtaposition of states here, from
the imperial to the abject, is instructive,
if not even inspiring

both from their divergent positions
proposed a considered life, of probity
and tolerance, what more do we
need of philosophy, fundamentally,
than that

above is an excerpt from Book l, others
will follow

Richard

psst: I found it hard not to imagine here
Laertes responding to Polonius in
“Hamlet”, Act l, scene l, lines 55 – 80,
nor Rudyard Kipling’s son responding
to his father’s poem, “If“, with its
famous, indeed timeless, exhortation,
“… you’ll be a Man, my son!”

daughters should also participate

Pink Floyd‏

after Beethoven there was Pink Floyd,
just click

Richard

why I write

why I write, just click

the information that either music or
art deliver isn’t intellectual, in the
sense that it isn’t driven by any
discernible logic

it’s a logic of the heart, which follows
other, inscrutable, principles

“Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison
ne connaît point.”,
the heart has its
reasons which reason can never
ever fathom – Blaise Pascal

therefore art

Richard

my Amsterdam, January 12, 2013‏

Rusland and the Kloveniersburgwal

“right across from those two bridges”

Amsterdam, Holland

________

upon reaching our rented apartment after
our cab crawl through the Friday night
streets of bustling Amsterdam, hemmed
in and harried wherever we went by its
canals, bikes and rickety cobblestones,
all festooned in the neon glitter of, at
seven already of a November evening,
its multicolour nightlife, I looked around
to get my bearings, we found ourselves
on a little lost street standing on uneven
ground in the darkness between a row
of doors and some water

up the short street, as I looked around,
a bridge crossed from our street over
the stream that passed before our
lodgings, and on the other side of that
bridge another crossed another canal
that ran perpendicular

in my mind cobblestones, canals and
bridges incontrovertibly led to fairy
tales, around me I foresaw, in the
pregnant darkness of our secluded
street, adventure, and I would be
its Alice in Wonderland

and verily there appeared, as though
like magic, right across from those
two bridges, two coffee shops and a
restaurant, my two essentials, nothing
else but moonlit buildings, otherwise
only bicycles loomed, and the
occasional pedestrian

of the two coffee shops I chose the
one that was the least pretentious,
seemed to me the least a nightspot,
though it had its own smoky den at
the back, as it turned out, where they
did indeed serve coffee, made friends
with Francesco and Danielo the first
night, who were easy and engaging,
as they rolled me some take-out coffee,
little trumpets of the best, of course,
Columbian, or something, enough for
a couple of days

further up the further street a neon
sign read “Radisson“, which was
perfect, we wouldn’t have to look
for dinner, a noted hotel is always
an excellent place to find fine fare

and that night that’s all we wanted

we weren’t disappointed, the room
was nigh empty, the service right, and
the delicacies good enough to come
back for seconds, which we did

later as we walked home churchbells
rang the late hour, soon, they tolled, Read the rest of this entry »

Botero’s Abu Ghraib

Botero's Abu Ghraib

Fernando Botero standing before three of over 80 of his stylized
depictions of atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib

____________

the role of art has always been to bring
attention to injustice, Goya, for instance,
famously, Picasso’s Guernica“, without
which Guernica would be forgotten, in
literature the servile position of women
and those marginalized by industrialization
in the works of Charles Dickens, Henrik
Ibsen, Émile Zola, in music the strident
strains of Shostakovich indelibly
imprinting the cruel depredations
of the Soviet system in his searing
compositions, just click

Botero, as the others, has given here
impermeability to what had been merely
news items, something tragic but lost
amongst so many other tragedies, by
giving it ideological breadth, depth and
substance, giving it the modern postion
of an altarpiece, a place of ardent
contemplation

we have after all no more churches,
only malls, we rely on potent images
for our moral guidance

therefore art

Richard