In one of his last works before his masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote The Dream of a Ridiculous Man.
In this story, the narrator goes to another solar system and lands on a planet where the inhabitants are people just like us, but untainted by the Fall in the Garden of Eden. They live, the narrator tells us:
“In the same paradise as that in which . . . our parents lived before they sinned.”
But the narrator, being a fallen man, corrupts the inhabitants:
“Like the germ of a plague infecting whole kingdoms, I corrupted them all.”
They then begin to act like us on earth. …
Johnny Cash’s 1961 “Tennessee Flat-Top Box”
In 1961, Johnny Cash recorded Tennessee Flat-Top Box, an intoxicatingly-charming song about a dark-haired youngster who played guitar in a small Texas town cabriolet. He cared for nothing in life, except playing his guitar: “He couldn’t ride or wrangle, and he didn’t care to make a dime, but give him his guitar, and he’d be happy all the time.”
A guy like would be scorned for many reasons in our society. Jocks wouldn’t like his athletic inability. Career men wouldn’t like his refusal to get a job and make money. …
Toward the end of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield tells himself he will move out West and shut himself off from everyone and everything, possibly by posing as a deaf-mute.
If he pretends to be a deaf-mute, he reasons, people would have to write messages to him on a piece of paper, and then, after they got tired of it, he’d be finished with conversations for the rest of his life.
Holden, a radically-disaffected youngster, thought his move out West would contain the seeds of his salvation because it would take him away from a world that held scant meaning for him and from a world that quietly tormented him with a parade of everyday things that irritated him. …
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t much bugged by Twitter deplatforming President Trump. I didn’t think it was cool, and it bothered me that a company displays such brazen arrogance, but I agree with the ACLU’s Ira Glasser, who said a President always has plenty of speaking outlets.
I was uber-bugged — outraged, in fact — when Amazon killed Parler’s access to the Internet altogether and, if antitrust laws mean anything, Amazon should be facing severe scrutiny in this regard.
But Twitter? I was just annoyed and, of course, I’ve long been frustrated by Twitter’s ongoing and disingenuous agenda: “We’re just neutral content hosts. We don’t favor either side, but we do enforce a certain narrative because that narrative is true, so we block other narratives because they’re false.” …
‘’[T]his is the best book ever written about how to write!’’ Carl Sandburg
A young man approached me recently, saying he wanted to start writing. I read one of his pieces, saw potential, complimented him . . . then beat the living hell out of his piece.
His grammar was fine. The story flowed fairly well.
I beat on the story for its style, rewriting paragraphs and deleting cliched’ writing.
But what I really wanted to criticize was his approach.
I wanted to say, “This is fine and honestly shows a lot of potential, but it oozes prose that tells me you’re not really interested in the art of writing. You need to strip down to your underwear — to your attitude, your disposition, your entire writerly outlook — and start over.” …
I think it’s safe to say that pretty much everyone has heard of Shakyamuni (Gautama Buddha) and Lao-Tzu, the semi-historical founders of Buddhism and Taoism.
A lot of people have probably also heard of Bodhidharma, the 28th patriarch of Buddhism (and first patriarch of Zen Buddhism) who brought Indian metaphysics to China in 520 AD, where it started to mix with Taoism, leading to the entirely new phenomenon that we call “Zen.” See D. T. Suzuki, “History of Zen,” in Essays in Zen Buddhism.
But most of us in the West haven’t heard of the hundreds of other philosophers and monks in the Zen tradition whose insights and lives deserve attention. …
I’m not looking to join the old Tropic Thunder velitation, but about 20 years ago I volunteered to sell Tootsie Rolls to help people with mental disabilities. I figured it was an easy way to do some good, so I stood on the steps of my Catholic church as people came out of Mass and enthused, “Help the retards! Buy a Tootsie Roll. Only a buck. Help the retards!”
The next day, I thought about the funny look on parishioners’ faces. I asked my law partner: “Your sister has Down’s Syndrome. Is it offensive to refer to such people as ‘retards’? Because I was at church yesterday . . …
Pithecanthropus is the ape-man. He’s also known as the Java Man and the Peking Man. Latin-loving scientists call him Homo erectus, Homo modjokertenses, Meganthropus palaeojavanicus, Pithecanthropus robustus, and Pithecanthropus dubius.
He is the creation of Dutch physician Eugene Dubois. In the 1890s, Dubois discovered a few bony remains of a primitive-looking human in the gravels of the Solo River basin in Java, Indonesia. With these remains, he constructed Pithecanthropus and claimed he was the Missing Link that completed Darwin’s theory of evolution.
With Pithecanthropus, he thought he would shake God down from the heavens.
Although the popular science crowd was enthusiastic over the findings, some were dubious of Dubois, including G.K. Chesterton, who objected in The Everlasting Man that those few bones were too “few and fragmentary and dubious to fill up the whole of the vast void that lies between man and his bestial ancestors, if they were his ancestors.” …
What demographic seems to be the most worried about COVID?
Among my acquaintances, liberal millennials and the last strands of the X-generation seem to be most concerned. Basically, liberals in the 30–48-year-old range.
There is, of course, no consistent rule, but hands down, people in my age bracket (I’m 54), especially those who tend to be conservative, are far less concerned about it. We also know that the kids (under age 30) seem hardly phased by concerns about the disease.
“We pay more attention to unpleasant feelings such as fear, anger, and sadness because they’re simply more powerful than the agreeable sort.” …
There’s a localism movement afoot.
The Saturday after Black Friday is now recognized as “Small Business Saturday,” an effort to remind people that it’s important to support their local stores. There has been a corresponding harsh backlash against Amazon and its disturbing gains on the back of COVID.
The phrase “Bowling Alone” from Robert Putnam’s 2000 book about America’s alarming reduction in “social capital” has gained currency. I see it used with no explanation, since the writer just assumes everyone knows what it refers to.
More people seem to understand the importance of buying and eating locally-grown food.
The American Chesterton Society, that flagship organization for the oft-forgotten but persistent economic school of Distributism, recently declared that “Distributism” ought now to be called “Localism.” …