Musings on Cats and Philosophers

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British philosopher John Gray thinks cats can “often teach us much more about living the good life than philosophy ever could.” As a lifetime cat owner, I can vouch for cats serving as metaphors for all sorts of things, but not usually as philosophers outside some children’s books. That statement intrigued me because my prior association with cats and philosophers had been mostly limited to Michel de Montaigne‘s musing about animal consciousness and the thought experiment of Schrödinger’s cat. Gray was interviewed on the CBC, … click below for more ↓

Why Master Sun Matters Today

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Master Sun was a wise man. So wise that his famous treatise, The Art of War (aka The Art of Warfare), has been read, written about, critiqued, and discussed for roughly 2,400 years. It has been used as a model of strategy and leadership for the military, for business, romance, sports, and for politics. And, like Machiavelli’s The Prince, it has often been misused, misunderstood, and misinterpreted for those purposes.* It’s a short book: a mere 13 chapters written in generally brief aphorisms. And, very … click below for more ↓

On growing old

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“We truly can’t praise the love and pursuit of wisdom enough,” wrote Marcus Tullius Cicero in one of his last works, How to Grow Old (De Senectute; aka On Aging or On Old Age), “since it allows a person to enjoy every stage of life free from worry.” “Ancient wisdom for the second half of life,” is how Philip Freeman subtitles his translation of Cicero’s little book in his 2016 Princeton University edition. Cicero wrote his essay (not really a book as we think of … click below for more ↓

Bring Back the Salons

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Today if someone mentions a “salon” you probably think about a haircut or manicure. But in the 18th century, prior to the French Revolution, salons were the focus of civil debate, intellectual curiosity, and culture. They were  centres of discussion on everything from manners to literature to philosophy to science. And they were run by women. Salons were the bright stars of the Enlightenment; cauldrons of intellectual, cultural, and social development. More than ever, we need a salon culture today. Social media is driving us … click below for more ↓

Manners? Civility? What happened to them?

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I was sitting in my car on main street, recently, waiting for a break in the traffic so I could back out and drive on. My backup lights were lit, my turn signal flashing, so drivers knew I was trying to exit. The parking downtown is nose-first, angled to the sidewalk, so you need to back into the oncoming traffic lane to leave. All I needed was a single driver to stop and allow me out. A few seconds of someone’s time. But even though … click below for more ↓

Where is Wat Tyler Now That We Need Him?

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I was disappointed that the Occupy Wall Street movement, which began with such vigor and hope in 2011, soon petered out  into a sputtering, unfocused political miasma barely a year later. I was even more deeply disappointed that the antifa (anti-fascist) protests, which also seemed to have such promise earlier this year,  lost its momentum and focus by mid-summer, 2020. The Black Lives Matter movement, which looked like it, too, had real strength and direction earlier this year, seems to have withered by the late … click below for more ↓

Lessons from History

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It is common practice to look back and conflate the events of the past with those of the present, seeking parallels, resonance, and answers from previous events that help explain today’s. We learn from others, from their experiences, and we like to find commonalities in our shared experiences, even from our or other’s historic past. We see ourselves reflected in our past and we sometimes mistake that reflection for the reality. Machiavelli did it in both The Prince and The Discourses, didactically using examples from … click below for more ↓

Shopping carts, masks, and morality

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The shopping cart theory — or rather the S.C. hypothesis, since it really isn’t a theory in the proper scientific sense — is a test of our humanity, or so the notion goes: The shopping cart is ultimate litmus test for whether a person is capable of self-governing. But it’s more than that: it’s a test of civility, social conscience, morality, community, and ultimately our level of selfishness. But none of these sites seem to bring up the outright theft of shopping carts for the … click below for more ↓

Can an atheist be a good citizen?

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The answer to the headline’s question is no, at least according to the late Catholic priest Richard John Neuhaus in a podcast in the Socrates in the City series (Sept. 22, 2004; I came across it as one of the chapters in the 2012 book from the podcast, Life, God, and Other Small Topics. Neuhaus’ talk was actually based on a 1991 piece he wrote.) To which response I must respond: codswallop. Not that I expect religious employees like Neuhaus to defend atheism, but to … click below for more ↓

The Cancer Diaries Part 1

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I should have started this a while ago. Perhaps when I received the first news something as wrong. But it took a while to really sink in. And then it was upon me. Although this is personal, I wanted to share it, in the hope others might find it useful. There’s a psychological process called the Kübler-Ross model, or the Five Stages of Grief, which is often applied to cancer and other diseases, but at least for me, it didn’t work that way. Her stages … click below for more ↓

Dandelions and civilization

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Whenever I see a lawn with dandelions, I think, “This is the home of civilized people. This is the home of people who care about the environment and their community. This is where bees are welcome.” When I see a monoculture lawn, bereft of weeds or dandelions, I think, “Here is the home of an anti-social family; a place where life is restricted, wildlife discouraged; where community and the environment don’t matter.” I feel the same when I see a lawn sign advertising that an … click below for more ↓

Decades, centuries and millennia

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January 1 is NOT the start of a new decade. To the CBC and the other arithmetically-challenged media who insist otherwise: it isn’t. You just don’t understand how to count to 10. No matter how you spin it, 9 years is not 10. And even if it was, starting or ending a decade or any other period of time has no magical significance. Neither history nor culture, neither politics nor science work along calendrical timelines and our own calendar is an arbitrary construct for convenience … click below for more ↓

Thoreau and Buddhism

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In his introduction to Thoreau: Walden and Other Writings (Bantam Books, 1962-1981), Joseph Wood Krutch described Henry David Thoreau’s writings as having four “distinct subjects”, which I paraphrase somewhat as: The life of quiet desperation most men live; The economic fallacy that is responsible for their condition The delights yielded from a simple life close to Nature, and The higher laws which people intuitively realize from a gentle life in Nature. These appear similar in form to the ‘Four Noble Truths’ of Buddhist philosophy: Life … click below for more ↓

Cicero, Seneca and Confucius

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As I wrote in my last post, I have been reading a lot of the classic philosophers of late, particularly the Stoics. And I’ve been going further afield. My classical readings have included a lot of Seneca and Cicero of late (plus Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius), as well as interpretations of same. While Seneca was a confirmed Stoic, Cicero seems sympathetic if not entirely convinced, and may have had strong sympathies for the Epicureans as well.  My reading also includes what I’ve found is the … click below for more ↓

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