Category: Culture

Misshapen Creatures that Live in the Earth Can Give Us Sage Advice?

Well, no. But: Don’t Fear the Gnome

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The first philosophical event in the Greek world, the selection of their seven sages, gives the first distinctive and unforgettable characteristic of Greek civilization. Other people have saints, while the Greeks have philosophers. They are right when some state that a people is not defined by its great men it has but by the way it recognizes and honors them.

Friedrich Nietzsche

When you hear “gnome,” you probably think of a scary little creature.

That’s because of the Rosicrucians, a 17th-century mystical movement in Europe that said gnomes are little misshapen creatures that live in the bowels of the earth.

But well before the Rosicrucians, the word “gnome” meant something different. It meant a short statement that expresses a general truth, like a proverb or maxim.

There were seven men in ancient Greece who were well-known for the particularly-insightful gnomes attributed to them. These men were called “The Gnomics.” Today, we refer to them as the “Seven Sages of Ancient Greece.” They were philosophers, poets, rulers, statesmen and lawmakers who were renowned for their wisdom.

Actually, there were a lot more than seven.

One ancient writer (Hermippus) said there were 17 of them. That’s probably because ancient Greece was an amalgamation of city-states and different city-states had different lists.

But all the Greeks agreed that wisdom is a great thing. The ancient Greeks’ veneration of the Gnomics was, in the words of Nietzsche quoted above, the “first philosophical event in the Greek world.”

In any event, although there were various lists of Gnomics, the following seven were most often agreed upon: Thales, Solon, Bias, Pittacus of Mytilene, Periander of Corinth, Chilon of Sparta, and Cleobolus of Lindus. The following is a short summary of each Gnomic, along … Read the rest

Did Video Bring Us BLM, Riots, and COVID Hysteria?

A new essay about the Marshall McLuhan disciple, Neil Postman

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You like dead white guys? How about a dead white guy who was the disciple of a dead white guy?

I do. I also like DWG Marshall McLuhan and his disciple, DWG Neil Postman, whose Amusing Ourselves to Death is a classic (his Technolopy is also very good). 

Postman is the subject of a recent essay at the Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourses (a publication that has increasingly been catching my attention). If you’re interested in how the media of television, smartphones, and social media, I believe it’s a “must-read.”

Postman called television a propagator of “irrelevance, impotence, and incoherence.”

That seems an apt description of the first presidential debate, as well as of broader trends we have witnessed this year. Indeed, it’s pretty obvious that our digital age, in innumerable ways, aggravates our social and political distemper.

In order to understand Postman, it’s necessary to understand McLuhan’s iconic saying, “The medium is the message,” which means that extensions of ourselves (e.g., a hammer extends our muscles) alter us in fundamental ways, regardless of the message loaded onto the medium.

So, for instance, TV alters us fundamentally, regardless of whether we’re using it to watch Masked Singer or the MacNeil/Lehrer Report. The mere fact that we are viewing TV changes us. The content doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that we are using TV at all.

And it’s TV where Postman parted with McLuhan. McLuhan was excited at the possibilities of electronic media. He saw it returning us to our “whole self,” which was ripped apart with the advent of print. In Postman’s words about McLuhan’s vision:

Electronic communication contains in its structure, that is, its speed, its volume, its multi-directionality, and

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Playboy Taki, the Riviera, and an Elegant Culture of Excess

I have a romantic nostalgia for something I’m nearly clueless about

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I tend to loathe the rich, especially those who have money because of Hollywood or, worst of the worse, government.

But there’s something about the elegant rich I admire, almost in a nostalgic or romantic sense, almost like the world needs elegance to elevate it.

Yeah, I know:

I don’t know what I’m talking about.

The world needs the spiritual strength of the sacraments and the simple example of saints, not the lavish luxury of the elegant rich.

Still, there’s always been “something there” for me in the elegant rich: about the way they held themselves above vulgar ways, about the way they disdained boorishness, about the way they intuitively realized high manners are an art form of consideration for others, about their retreating and demure public persona.

It’s all on display in this splendid article at Gentleman’s Journal: The Last Playboy of the Riviera — Taki Theodoracopulos.

I’m not even sure it’s properly called an “article.” It’s a piece of writing, I suppose, but after the introductory paragraph, it’s all a bunch of quotes from Taki about hanging out on the Riviera in the 1950s.

It’s one of the most delightful things I’ve read lately. A handful of excerpts will, I think, illustrate my general nostalgia and vague romanticism.

The Riviera in the 1950s. In the words of Taki

“[T]here was no real drug use. We were young, people drank. Debauchery then was a private affair. Of course, you had a lot of women looking for a rich man, but it was all done in a very discreet way. You didn’t have the hookers in the hotels, the slobs in t-shirts in the casinos. At the very least, everyone was

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The Senator Asked Barrett if She has Ever Committed a Sexual Assault

Oh, if everyone could just sit back and laugh at the idiocy spawned by our higher educational institutions

Leftists crack me up: Senator Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, asked whether Amy Comey Barrett has ever sexually assaulted someone.

It’s this kind of idiocy that gets 75-year-old women searched at airports.

It’s ironic. We live in an age of identity politics. Everything revolves around one’s tribe, as determined by shared characteristics. But if you draw distinctions between people based on their membership in such a tribe, the Left screams like someone getting tape ripped from their hairy leg.

The mere identification with a tribe establishes that the tribe has a distinct identity, but for others to recognize that identity? It’s considered an outrage.

So in this case, I suppose it’s fair to ask a man, especially one with a penis, whether he has ever sexually assaulted someone. But to ask a woman? Unless she used to work as a female prison guard, it makes no sense. It’s simply a formality born of vague multiculturalism and gender elimination that has leaked out of our colleges and universities into the general consciousness.

It can all be traced back to concrete academic causes. As Richard Weaver noted years ago, ideas have consequences.

If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend Cynical Theories. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve listened to the authors on podcasts for hours. I’ve also been flipping through it, just waiting for a chance to read it straight through. This was an area of study I embarked on a few years ago, so much of the stuff in the book isn’t new to me, but the authors appear to have done a good job of organizing the history of ideas and presenting them in a clear format.

I haven’t watched

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The Flopping Men Who Play Soccer

And Miscellaneous Other Matters

I guess I really, really don’t like soccer

Look, I couldn’t care less about soccer. I agree with Colin Cowherd’s observation that, if you live on a dirt road with chickens running around, kicking a ball is probably pretty cool, but this is America. We have money; we have wealth.

Readers of TDE understand that I don’t think such wealth is an unequivocally good thing, but it does do one thing: it gives us a lot of options. We don’t need to resign ourselves to kicking a ball and we definitely don’t need to resign ourselves to watching others kick a ball, so I’ll opt for those games that cost a lot more money: baseball, hockey, and football (basketball doesn’t).

I also detest the outrageous flopping that soccer features. Again, I (proudly) don’t know much about it, but I gotta believe the flopping is a result of nanny officiating, which in turn stems from mandates from league officials who prize safety and health to the exclusion of all else (maybe we oughtta make soccer the official sport of the COVID generation).

So, it’s not like there’s much that would prompt me to hold soccer in much lower regard, but this story did it: Phoenix Rising FC Player Suspended For Homophobic Slur: USL.

That wasn’t surprising, of course. You can’t say “f***ot” or “f’ng f**” or any other (oh so) clever derivation anymore without severe reprisals. The same would happen in the NFL. Heck, with Roger “The Human Virtue Signal” Goodell, such a thing would probably get you a Pete Rose ban.

But I like to think the guys in the NFL are too busy kneeling and wouldn’t stoop to tattling, like these women did: 

Martin was issued a red card at the end of the

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These Micro-Habits Can Improve Your Life. Plus: St. Francis, Rudolf Steiner, and The Relentless Leftist

The wedding hiatus starts now. We’ve married off three kids in 16 months. The second two were planned, unplanned, and replanned under COVID restrictions, which made them particularly brutal.

But the married kids seem happy and the single kids are doing well so I’m happy.

Someone once said you’re only as happy as your least happy kid. I’m not sure that’s true, but it might be . . . and there’s definitely something there.

The Relentless Leftist

Marie marvels about a liberal friend who is incapable of saying anything without exuding politics from every pore of her skin.

When, for instance, the friend recently asked her, by all accounts, conventional and heterosexual teenage niece about her new boyfriend, she enthused, “So what’s he, or she, like?”

I told Marie it could just be the leftist political playbook: politics must inform every corner of life. Or maybe it’s a constant fear not to be woke, lest people think you less intelligent. Or maybe it’s just relentless virtue signaling.

Given that the left has sought the complete transformation of society, and given that such wholesale change is bound to come up against the resistance of ordinary people who don’t care for having their routines and patterns of life overturned, we should not be surprised that the instrument of mass terror has been the weapon of choice. The people must be terrified into submission, and so broken and demoralized that resistance comes to seem impossible.

Lew Rockwell

What’s that? Why do I say it’s a play from the leftist playbook?

Because it is.

Socialism, including its manifestation in certain forms of liberalism, wants to re-make society and the world along atheistic lines. It’s not just political. It’s everything, a real creed or religious worldview. But because socialism is first and foremost a political

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We’re on Information Overload. Here’s One Solution

One forgotten ancient suggests what we might do with all of today’s information

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When reading, I numb. When surfing the Internet, my eyes glaze. When thinking — about all the things to be thought, all the books to be read, all the websites to frequent — I freeze. 

Not always of course, but occasionally.

Everyone knows about the mammoth caverns of information at everyone’s door: two billion websites; thousands of must-read new books every year; piles of magazines and newspapers; cable television; streaming services and their docuseries; AM, FM, and satellite radio; podcasts; entire libraries digitalized and online.

It’s gotten so bad that a group at Kings College in London studied the effects of “informational overload” and concluded that it harms concentration more than marijuana.

And that was about ten years ago, when we had only 100 million websites to choose from.

We now speak of “information literacy,” a branch of knowledge dedicated to searching and deciphering information. Efforts to increase information literacy are spearheaded by the American Library Association and funded with federal and private grants.

Everyone calls it the “Information Age,” but that doesn’t do the endless proliferation of data justice.

It’s better called the “Too Much Information Age.”

Enter a pagan saint

If the TMI Age has a pagan saint, it might be Pyrrho of Ellis.

Historians of philosophy refer to this younger contemporary of Aristotle as an early skeptic, but he wasn’t. The skeptic claims there’s nothing to know. Pyrrho was more radical. He said we can’t even know if we can’t know. He was skeptical about skepticism. He was neither dogmatic like Aristotle nor a debating skeptic like the later Carneades.

He was rather like the agnostic who stands between dogmatic believers and atheists, refuting neither but agreeing with … Read the rest

De Lubac and Nietzsche

“God is dead.” Anyone who graduated eighth grade has heard that famous Nietzsche pronouncement. It makes Christians cringe, but Nietzsche meant nothing by it. He was merely pronouncing what the rest of Western civilization had impliedly concluded. He needed to slam shut the book on Christianity so he could make it clear that, now that God was dead, Western civilization was officially screwed (subject to some vague hope in the Superman, a concept I’ve never fully understood . . . and I’m not sure Nietzsche did). Neither science nor humanism would save civilization, and Nietzsche wanted to make sure that those people who cheered God’s death fully appreciated what they had unleashed.

Nietzsche wants to shake [the atheist scoffers] out of their complacency; he wants to make them perceive the void which has been hollowed out within them, and he accosts them in violent terms. Henri de Lubac, The Drama of Atheist Humanism.

Nassim Taleb made similar observations in Antifragile.

[Nietzsche] went after Socrates, whom he called the ‘mystagogue of science,’ for ‘making existence appear comprehensible.’ . . . ‘What is not intelligible to me is not necessarily unintelligent. Perhaps there is a realm of wisdom from which the logician is exiled?’ . . . It is the very goodness of knowledge that [Nietzsche] questioned.

De Lubac, incidentally, completely agrees with Taleb on this point. Nietzsche didn’t hate Socrates because of Socrates’ moralism, but because of Socrates’ rationalism and the insufficient respect Socrates gave to mysticism and myth. “But man,” notes de Lubac, citing Nietzsche, “starved of myths is a man without roots. He is a man who is ‘perpetually hungry,’ an ‘abstract’ man, devitalised by the ebbing of the sap in him.”

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