Category: Ideas and Reflections

“The Suicide”

Robert Musil wrote that Kafka’s writing displayed the gentle friendliness of a suicide in the hours between decision and deed. I have previously corrected this lovely sentiment, as it is a false romanticizing (a redundancy, since all romanticism is false) of the suicidal man. Kafka’s gentleness derives not from a decision to die, but rather from a decision not to die, or not...

Random Reflections: Suicidal Societies, Suicidal Sex Toys, Suicidal Spirits

Gee, who could have seen this coming? The wishy-washy, flip-flopping, finger-in-the-wind, what-will-make-people-like-me-today?, unprincipled, self-emasculated, small-handed sissy Donald Trump, after four days of defending his abandonment of the Kurds, and mocking them as they died, is now threatening sanctions against Turkey, demanding an immediate ceasefire, and declaring that he will not withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.  What will his millions of monkeys say now,...

Economist, Heal Thyself

The other day, I listened to a recent Hoover Institution interview with Thomas Sowell, in which the interviewer, Peter Robinson, a milquetoast Republican type, asked Sowell to assess the presidency of Donald Trump. To be precise, he cited Sowell’s friend and fellow free market defender Walter Williams, who while criticizing Trump’s character nevertheless believes that he is “a good president,” offering as evidence...

Nietzsche, the European Narcotics, and Romanticism

Nietzsche’s “two great European narcotics”: Christianity and alcohol. German Christianity and German beer were, for Nietzsche, particularly noteworthy as the vanguard of European man’s decline. Christianity in the modern sense and alcohol in the “our beer” sense are, among other things, Nietzsche’s shorthand for — but also the moving and final causes of — nineteenth century romanticism.

Limits Imposed and Removed

Jorge Luis Borges, one of my favorite modern writers, published two distinct but similar poems called “Limits,” dealing with roughly the same philosophical theme, namely the gradual narrowing of our remaining experience as we grow older. I wish to discuss the shorter of the two poems, which, although less well-known, is the one I prefer. I begin with Borges’ work itself, which I...

The Totalitarian Tipping Point

I am sometimes accused of exaggerating the threats to modern civilization, or of engaging in hyperbole in discussing today’s political trends. I am certainly not one inclined to feel self-deludedly sanguine about the current state of things, or blind to rising evils and dangerous follies. I note this merely to preface an anecdote that demonstrates the extent to which we are all, even...

What Modern Parents Say vs. What They Mean

“Now that you are close to graduating, you have to focus on getting a safe, comfortable job as quickly as possible.” Meaning: I don’t believe you can accomplish anything really worthwhile in life, so you shouldn’t waste your time trying. “A stable career is the most important thing.” Meaning: Money is the most important thing. “Get your head out of the clouds and...

Ultrahydrophobicity

The Lotus Effect Living in a pond,Survival depends on one’s —Water repellence. The trick to living as a lotus leaf is to be on (or when possible slightly above) the water’s surface, and yet to remain forever dry. Even when it rains, or when the pond level rises and threatens to engulf the plant, the leaf remains resistant to harm; and of course...

On Sunsets, Moonrises, and Wisdom

Hegel said the owl of Minerva flies at dusk, meaning that wisdom is gained at the end of history, which Hegel needed to believe because he embodied, and indeed largely ignited, the essential “progressive” urge to stop the world and get off. It was not really history that attracted his mind, nor even wisdom per se, but rather the end. Progressivism, of which...

Two Kinds of Freedom

They do not know you. They cannot understand. But neither do they ignore you as you wish they would. “Why don’t you live as we do?” they ask, half-perplexedly, half-critically.  You have two choices here: Drop your head, lower your voice, and reply meekly, “I don’t know”; or look them in the eye and say, “I don’t want to live your way.” “Aren’t...