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Weekly Features Post


What a difference a week makes. Last week, we wrote/slashed together the Weekly Features Post with a tall cold one at our elbow. This week? Tuesday a.m., cold sober.

The beer went with the mother-in-law. And with the wife. Her passion is swimming and, with the baby twelve days old, she decided it was time to get back at it, so she left Eric with the seven children for an hour. Instead of lounging back with a pilsner, he cleaned the kitchen, drove the Megma Express (a plastic wagon in which he pulls Meg (4) and Max (20 months) around the court), gently bounced Tess (12 days), and tended to the miscellaneous needs of the older children. Quite frankly, it's even better than writing, but Eric misses the relaxing beer.

Another factor militating against the beer: Things are pretty busy with TWE due to the overhaul we're giving it. The changes are coming along nicely, though, and we expect the improved blog to be ready in a week, possibly less.

We see North Carolina won the NCAA Tournament last night. What's coming next weekend? The Masters, right? It seems there's a "major" sporting event almost every weekend, except during the summer. The NFL draft–now dubbed the "biggest non-event of the year" and enjoying multiple-hour TV coverage–is coming later this month. Eric, however, enjoys the draft. It is the equivalent to the Superbowl for a Detroit Lions fan: all the promise and excitement. Enjoy it now, before September comes and dashes the hopes.

Who Cares About a Trade Deficit?
"Let London manufacture those fabrics of hers to her heart's content; Holland her chambrays; Florence her cloth; the Indies their beaver and vicuna; Milan her brocades; Italy and Flanders their linens, so long as our capital can enjoy them. The only thing it proves is that all nations train journeymen for Madrid and that Madrid is the queen of Parliaments, for all the world serves her and she serves nobody." A happy Spaniard, 1675, just as Spain started its long economic downward spiral. (Lifted from David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations)

Stoic's Porch
We've been asked why we call it "Stoic's Porch." It's a triple play on words. (1) Stoicism has been called "the porch of Christianity." Its teachings take a person to the threshold of Christianity, but not all the way into the house. (2) Stoicism takes its name from the Greek stoa, which means "porch." The name derives from the location in Athens where the school first met. (3) Chronologically, it came just in front of Christianity, like a porch comes just in front of a house. It was the last great philosophical school prior to the advent of Christianity.

Eric Scheske has assembled a book of Stoic sayings for the Christian (hence his large stock of such quotes–anyone know a publisher?). In the Introduction, he explains the relevance of Stoicism:

The Stoic worldview resonates on many levels with Christianity. According to the Stoic, God is omnipresent, and this world is governed by his reason; his intelligence directs all things. It is man's duty to ascertain this divine reason through the workings nature.

Stoicism also taught the idea of a universal brotherhood: God is the father of all, hence all are brothers. The mentally retarded and the vicious, they are our brothers. Slave and free, all men should be the objects of our benevolence. It was a radical idea for the times.

The Stoic, like the humble Christian, didn't place too much stock in his likes and dislikes or his successes or failures. Such things count for little, if anything, in the grand scheme; ultimately all things turn out for the best. This attitude leads to resignation and acceptance of all things as divine handiwork.

In a related idea, the Stoic urged its people to distinguish between things in their power and things not in their power, and to be concerned with the former and unconcerned with the latter. Readers will recognize in this the Serenity Prayer. In a complementary doctrine, Stoicism emphasized that man must use his will to acquire virtue, that being the only thing he can control.

All these Stoic teachings add up to a philosophy of calmness. Their words bring detachment, cultivate resignation and patience, teach the need for moderation and the use of reason, and renew trust in Providence.

Their words, in short, profit the soul.

"We must flee the world not in place, but in thought." Origen

"To have ideas is paradise, to work them out is hell." Maurice Maeterlinck

"Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must first be overcome." Samuel Johnson

"Advertising men and politicians are dangerous if they are separated. Together they are diabolical." Phillip Adams

"A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying...that he is wiser today than he was yesterday." Alexander Pope

"The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits." Plutarch

"Often, the surest way to convey misinformation is to tell the strict truth." Mark Twain

The Last Word
Camorra: A secret society, usually one breaking the law. "Here's a scary sentence: Most of our policemen belong to a camorra."