Month: June 2014

Thursday

Kontent from the Kindle Amazon Page

During random moments when I don’t really feel like doing anything, I’ve started grabbing my Chromebook and going through Amazon Kindle highlights. The Kindle highlights page shows you what other readers have highlighted on their Kindle editions of various books. I’ve found it interesting and edifying.

The Kindle unabridged version of Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, for instance, has apparently been downloaded far more often that I thought it would’ve been. I don’t know how often the Kindle version has been downloaded, but this one verse has been highlighted 354 times:

Hence it was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation.

Similarly, readers of the Kindle edition of de Caussade’s classic Abandonment to Divine Providence have highlighted this passage 167 times:

The passive part of sanctity is still more easy since it only consists in accepting that which we very often have no power to prevent . . .

Ninety-eight melancholic readers have highlighted this passage from Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy:

For truly in adverse fortune the worst sting of misery is to have been happy.

And 42 readers found it worthwhile to highlight this passage from Cecil Chesterton’s History of the United States:

Lord Baltimore established his Catholic colony, which he called “Maryland.”

That last one was pretty mundane. I only referenced it because I found it surprising that many, many people have downloaded a book by Cecil Chesterton (I have no objection to Cecil, except perhaps his anti-Semitism that has been used to taint his brother GKC, but I didn’t even know a 100 people were aware of him, much less a 100 people who also own Kindles).

Expect Kindle highlights to become a regular … Read the rest

Wednesday

While looking up Koestler’s chapters on Pythagoras, I ran across this great passage:

The sixth pre-Christian–the miraculous century of Buddha, Confucius, and Lao-tze, of the Ionian philosophers and Pythagoras–was a turning point for the human species. A March breeze seemed to blow across this planet from China to Samos, stirring man into awareness, like the breath in Adam’s nostrils.

He’s right, of course. I just wonder why he didn’t mention the other luminaries from that century: Zoroaster, Solon, Heraclitus, Nehemiah, and the author of the Book of Isaiah.

Anyway, here’s one of those passage about Pythagoras that I vaguely recalled:

The Pythagoreans were, among other things, healers; we are told that ‘they used medicine to purge the body, and music to purge the soul.’ One of the oldest forms, indeed, of psycho-therapy consists in inducing the patient, by wild pipe music or drums, to dance himself into a frenzy followed by exhaustion and a trance-like, curative sleep–the ancestral version of shock-treatment and abreaction therapy.

Compare that passage to this article I saw last week at Lew Rockwell: The Myth of Mental Illness. The article makes some interesting points and presents things I’d never considered, like the possible link between our psychiatric-therapeutic culture and the modern phenomenon of mass shootings.

It makes me think we ought to ditch all psychiatric medicines . . . or at least make them a last ditch effort, to be utilized only after the frenzied dancing is over.

Read the rest

Meyers

A new study shows that men who carry their cellphone in their pocket have a sperm count nearly 10 percent lower than those who don’t. While men who keep their cellphone on a belt clip don’t need to worry about it.… Read the rest

Koestler

Many years ago, when I wore a younger man’s underwear, I bought Arthur Koestler’s green three-volume series. I call it the “green” series because, even with the physical books and the Koestler page on Amazon in front of me, I can’t find the series name. The books are The Sleepwalkers, The Act of Creation, and The Ghost in the Machine.

Koestler isn’t an easy read. I even found Darkness at Noon a bit arduous, and The Sleepwalkers’s 600 pages are thick and dense. I made some headway in The Act of Creation, but broke off around page 100 and never went back (I meant to; alas, I always mean to).

Still, Koestler is worth it if one has the time. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a man so difficult to pinhole: a rapist, misogynistic, ex-Commie, drug user, Jewish, Zionist, skeptic, with an interest in mysticism and the paranormal, who committed suicide in 1983 (see his Wikipedia entry). Based on my limited knowledge of him, he was a fearless autodidact who wrote and studied whatever the hell he wanted.

And he “told it like it was.” Or at least, “like he thought it was.” In this, he’s like Orwell, who also became disillusioned with Communism in the 1930s (that’s one nice thing about Communism, incidentally: you can immediately identify the honest intellectuals of that era from the dishonest ones by looking at who continued to endorse Communism after, say, 1945).

Anyway, while flipping back through The Sleepwalkers lately to find some of Koestler’s observations about Pythagoras, I ran across these passages about Galileo (Koestler, you might surmise from the above, was no Galileo fan and, as I remember it, The Sleepwalkers largely exonerates the Catholic Church in that astronomical struggle, based in large … Read the rest

Monday

Miscellaneous Rambling

Perhaps the most interesting “Today I Learned” at Reddit that I’ve ever seen: “TIL, in 1981, a man who had been bullying residents of a small Missouri town was murdered in broad daylight when 46 townspeople rose up against him, in an act of vigilante justice. No charges were ever filed despite their being 30 – 40 witness to the shooting.” Here’s the Wikipedia link. This story could be a snapshot poster boy of the merits of anarchy. * * * * * * * Just like the Wild West is the snapshot poster boy of the merits of government. Except for one major problem: the wild west wasn’t that wild. And it wasn’t that violent. And people cooperated out there quite well. Google “violent wild west” and you’ll find all sorts of links and papers on this topic, including this 9 Crazy Truths about the Wild West at Listverse. “Turns out the popular image of the Old West as a place where manly men solved their differences by shooting those differences in the face simply isn’t true. People were more likely to cooperate than fight—in a harsh and lawless world, it was better to side with your neighbor for mutual benefit than start shooting. Bank robberies, too, were virtually unheard of. One estimate places the number at about a dozen for the entire frontier period.” * * * * * * * So yes, the Wild West was lawless, but the Wild West wasn’t violent. It makes you wonder what cultural forces would have it in their interests to make everyone think otherwise. Probably just entertainers trying to make a cheap buck, but I can’t help but wonder if there was a larger, more sinister, force behind it. Anarchist thinkers have long pointed out that … Read the rest

Sunday

A Random Passage

Our society needs more outdoor power tools:

“The common sense of mankind has associated the search after truth with seclusion and quiet. . . . Pythagoras, the light of Magna Græcia, lived for a time in a cave. Thales, the light of Ionia, lived unmarried and in private, and refused the invitations of princes. Plato withdrew from Athens to the groves of Academus. Aristotle gave twenty years to a studious discipleship under him. Friar Bacon lived in his tower upon the Isis. Newton indulged in an intense severity of meditation which almost shook his reason.”

Henry Cardinal Newman
The Idea of a University

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