Category: Ideas and Reflections

The Body

A Musing on Pleasure.— Imagine a door so rare and enticing in its loveliness that passing through its frame engenders an immediate obsession with the act of passing through as such, and thus an overwhelming desire to open that door again, and then again, until one can hardly stand the thought of ever walking away from it, for fear of losing contact with...

A Brief Reflection on Surfaces

Smartphones, personal screens permanently before our eyes, offering continuous and virtually infinite varieties of stimulation, are the fulfillment and vindication of our slightly clunky old metaphor for internet use, “web-surfing.” To surf is to ride the ocean’s surface, to skim excitingly along on transient and ever-changing waves which, in their momentary violence and extreme proximity, foster illusions of ultimate importance. Meanwhile, the ocean’s...

How to become rational

A student sent me an e-mail yesterday which consisted of one simply-worded, but far from simplistic, question: “How can I be rational?”┬áThe question has perennial importance, of course, and may in a sense be the defining concern of the human soul. However, as the obstacles to living in accordance with reason grow more pervasive and pernicious with each generation, the notion of “being...

In Mid-Fall

Fall colors are the Earth’s last desperate attempt to slow our descent into the white. The trees whisper, “If this is not enough to keep you here, then you may pass along; but know that you must never return this way again.” The leaves teach us, if we care to know, of the meaning of color and light. The prism of the body...

An Autumn Stroll

This is an autumn. One comes every year, of course, but somehow each year’s looks and smells more autumnal, doesn’t it? Perhaps this is a sign of the times, in which case we might feel blessed, almost literally touched by divine grace, since to honest eyes these times are already, surely, the onset of a long, harsh winter. “What are all these pretty...

Of Fish and Ponds: Advice for Aspiring Writers

One of the constants of the writer’s life is the underlying question, almost never explicitly asked, but in a sense always implicitly answered in his work: “What is a writer?” The answers to this question are as varied as the motives of those who write — which, contrary to our age’s ubiquitous relativism, is not to say that everyone who writes is a...

Sight, Surface, and Texture

Wisdom is one thing. It is to know the thought by which all things are steered through all things.
— Heraclitus.
At one time they are all brought together into one order by Love; at another, they are carried each in different directions by the repulsion of Strife, till they grow once more into one and are wholly subdued.
— Empedocles.

Maxims on Modern Democracy

A citizenry proves itself untrustworthy with power, even essentially unworthy of self-government, to the extent that they are collectively sanguine, let alone enthusiastic, about the kind of people they are invariably asked to vote for. To be successful at the highest levels of democratic politics is to expose oneself as the kind of character who overvalues short-term gain, who is always prepared to...

A Morning Walk

After nine long months of recovering from two foot surgeries, this walking fanatic is finally returning to his proper routine, including a short early morning walk, alone, during which I clear my mind of irrelevancies, organize my thoughts, and generally enjoy observing the world around me on its own terms, which is to say entirely without practical concerns, without the emotional mire of...

Defining Our Limits

Time is a faculty of the mind for ordering and measuring our spatio-temporal experience in terms of sequence. When our scientists, our appointed cataloguers of the mind’s measuring systems, decree (for the moment) that the universe is 13.8 billion years old — give or take a few hundred million, of course — they are defining the limits of the mind’s own measuring tool,...