Travels with Epicurus

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I’m sure it’s not just me who feels this way, but these days I find increasing wisdom and solace in the words of the classical authors: Seneca, Cicero, Epicurus, Marcus Aurelius, Horace, Aristotle, Heraclitus, Epictetus, Diogenes, Plato. The writers of classical Greece and Rome mostly attract my attention right now, although I have also read many classical Chinese, Indian, Hebrew and Japanese philosophers and poets. Wisdom can be found everywhere. It never ceases to amaze me how human emotions, perceptions and sensations have not changed … click below for more ↓

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules

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I really wanted to read this book objectively, separating it from the media hype and social media torrents of opinion and abuse that often accompany its author, Jordan Peterson. I wanted to consider it in the company of the vast number of already-published self-help or philosophical books, and the historical context in which they exist. Sadly, I was unable to do so for one simple reason: there’s too much Jordan Peterson in it. You have to wade through far too much of him to get … click below for more ↓

The Ten Bulls

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A series of ten Buddhist drawings make up what are known collectively as the Ten Oxherding Pictures or sometimes just as the Ten Bulls. Each one graphically illustrates a stage along the path to enlightenment or self-realization, but they can also be seen as a metaphor for a wider range of human development and growth. (they are not, as Lifecoach screams ungrammatically but histrionically in its headline, “The 10 Secret ZEN Steps Straight To ENLIGHTENMENT!” There is no secret about them, and they are not … click below for more ↓

Musings on leadership

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What makes a good leader? Or a bad one, for that matter? That’s a long-standing debate that reaches back into history.* Of late I’ve been reading about and pondering the characteristics of leadership. Some people are promoted, elected or appointed to positions of authority. This makes them leaders by definition or responsibility, but not always by capability, style or attitude. Simply being in a position of authority or having a title doesn’t necessarily mean these people have leadership qualities. We’ve all had the experience of … click below for more ↓

The sharp edge: razors and rituals

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Since I switched to using a safety razor, as I wrote about last spring, I’ve continued to pursue my explorations into razors, blades, technologies and techniques about shaving. I’ve learned much, but still want more hands-on experience. Nothing teaches like hands-on. I followed up that post with another one on shaving, a month later, about what I’d learned since that first piece. Now, four months later, I come back to the topic with new discoveries to relate. And some new razors to describe. But let … click below for more ↓

Channelling John Stuart Mill

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In the opening few pages of his essay On Liberty, John Stuart Mill warned about the “tyranny of the prevailing opinion.” Anyone familiar with the mob mentality than can erupt on social media, its potential for divisiveness and the platform’s inherent weakness to be manipulated by outside forces (such as Russia) would consider Mill’s words as topical today.  Mill was writing in this essay about, “…the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual” and how to … click below for more ↓

Shin Godzilla: the reboot

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yk7KaxjTz-0 I’m almost embarrassed to admit that, of all the Godzilla films I’ve watched, I can recall the exact details of few. I cannot remember, just by looking at the title, which monsters were battling which. I need to look at the slipcase cover to see a picture to remind me which foe Godzilla was battling this time. Or foes, because there’s often more than one. In many ways, I prefer the original premise: a single Godzilla versus the world rather than Godzilla versus other … click below for more ↓

Montaigne and The Block

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I do love reading Michel de Montaigne.  And writing about him. In 2014 alone, I wrote ten separate posts about him and his famous book, Essays. But since then, my reading habits moved on to other writers and topics. I hadn’t actually been reading Montaigne in the past few years, but recently while sorting some of my books, I found him again. I started re-reading the Essays last week (and reading his travel journal, included in the Everyman edition – Frame translation, which I had … click below for more ↓

The Dude, the Tao and the Dharma

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I suppose it all began with Benjamin Hoff. Hoff was one of the first contemporary writers to attempt to distill Taoism in a lighthearted form for Westerners when he wrote The Tao of Pooh in 1981, a very successful book still in print. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for 49 weeks. A decade later, he followed with The Te of Piglet, less successful (its message somewhat diluted by Hoff’s extraneous political and social commentary) but also still in print. Not that … click below for more ↓

Marcus Aurelius and The Block

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Perhaps the most famous work by any Stoic is the Meditations, written as a series of notes-to-myself by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.  I’ve been reading a lot of Stoic works of late, and this remains my favourite. Although never meant for publication, just as reminders to himself, it’s full of wonderful, inspiring comments. And some seem eerily prescient in our current municipal calamity. For example, Book Two opens with these words: Begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busybody, the … click below for more ↓

Empathy and The Dog Allusion

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Empathy, writes Martin Rowson, is one of the things that make us human, make us civilized, allows us to interact without tearing one another’s throats out. Without it, we’d have no civilization; we’d be like the beasts of the fields. And we’d have no dogs or gods, either. Empathy is what makes us own pets and be religious. That’s one of the thought-provoking ideas Rowson tosses around in his book, The Dog Allusion (Vintage Books, London, 2008). The title, as I’m sure you are aware, … click below for more ↓

On growing old

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No man is so old that he does not think himself able to live another year. (Nemo enim est tam senex qui se annum non putet posse vivere) I was thinking of that line from Cicero this week when I attended a friend’s drop-in post-Christmas party. Most of the many people in attendance were my age or older. Few were under 50. All were active, engaged, alert, conversing and despite the relentless march of time, as alive that evening as they had ever been in … click below for more ↓

The subtle art of Mark Manson

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I have a healthy skepticism towards anything labelled a “self-help” book – especially those that aim at making your life happier or more fulfilled through some fad, superstition or pseudoscience. I am, as you know from this blog, cynical towards the unending volume of New Age woo hoo, fads and pseudoscience that pollutes bookstore shelves and the internet. I’m more of the “life’s a bitch and then you die” outlook kind-of-person than someone in search of a happy-platitude guru. I don’t post pictures of kittens, … click below for more ↓

The bucket list, kicked

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Nowadays the “bucket list” concept has become a wildly popular cultural meme, thanks to the movie of the same name. Subsequent marketing of the idea to millennials has proven a successful means to derive them of their income, with which they seem eager to part. I don’t like the concept. The list, I mean, not necessarily the plucking of the millennial chickens who willingly hand over their financial feathers. They get what they deserve. Bucketlist.org has, at the time of this writing, more than 5.317 … click below for more ↓

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