Monday, March 30, 2015
by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse
We've noticed a strange phenomenon in contemporary political discourse. As our politics at almost every level become increasingly tribal -- devoted to circle-the-wagons campaigns and on-point messaging of carefully curated party-lines -- the dominant images of our politics are all the more dressed in the rhetoric of reason, debate, evidence, and truth. Hence a puzzle: political communication is almost exclusively conducted by means of purported debate among people with different views, yet citizens seem increasingly unable to grasp of the perspectives of those with whom they politically disagree. Indeed, that there could be reasoned disagreement about politics among well-informed, rational, and sincere people is a though that looks increasingly alien to democratic citizens. Consequently, despite all of the rhetoric, citizens show very little interest in actually talking to those with whom they disagree. In short, as appeals to reason, argument, and evidence become more common in political communication, our capacity to actually disagree -- to respond to criticisms and objections, to address considerations that countervail our views, and to identify precisely where we think our opponents have erred -- has significantly deteriorated. That's an odd combination of phenomena. Let's call it the puzzle of political debate.
To be sure, the images that dominate the landscape of political communication are mere images. Popular tropes such as "the no spin zone," "fair and balanced" reporting, "straight talk," "real clear politics," and so on are merely slogans. And, similarly, the dominant "debate" format of television news is mostly political theater. However, these images and practices prevail. And they prevail because they are effective as marketing tools. So one must ask why citizens should demand that political views come packaged in this way. Here's an answer: an unavoidable fact about us is that we need to see ourselves as reasoners, debaters, and thinkers; and we need to see our own views regarding pressing social and political matters are the products of epistemically proper practice.
Consequently, any vision of democracy that prizes public discourse and civic debate must be supplemented by a properly social epistemology, an account of the ways in which people should go about forming, maintaining, and revising their political views, and a corresponding view of how democratic political institutions can aid or obstruct these processes. In providing a normative account of such matters, a social epistemology can also serve as a critical tool for assessing our present conditions.
by Alexander Bastidas Fry
The most commonly used noun in the English language is time. Yet time is nothing more than an idea. It is an intangible concept invoked to make sense of the world such that, ‘everything doesn't happen at once,' as Einstein said. The actual most common thing in the universe is dark matter. Dark matter purports to be more than an idea. It has some kind of elusive tangible existence, yet it has never been held in anyone's hands.
The nearly invisible components of nature such as cells or atoms can only be seen with the aid of tools. If you see a cell with a microscope there exists a physical and philosophical stratification between your perception, your eye, the optics of the microscope, and the observed cell. If you see an atom on a computer monitor rendered from data from an atomic microscope then the layers of complex stratification between you and the atom are monumental. What can we truly know about the nature of things which can only be observed through tools? I would argue quite a lot. Dark matter will always remain isolated from basic human perception, but we can know it through tools or imagination.
Imagine a sea of particles gliding through you unnoticed; this is dark matter. Imagine anything, and dark matter doesn't stop for it. Dark matter doesn't interact strongly with earth, fire, wind or water. There are many particles that have elusive existences similar to dark matter like photons or neutrinos. Unfamiliarity with these known particles doesn't hinder your ability to imagine dark matter: even these particles were not discovered without stratification between human perception and the thing itself. Imagine bits of dark matter passing through you brain at this moment, every moment, because it probably is. And if it is, but it never interacts with you in any way, does it matter?
On a street
to make one
On a street
On a street
On a street
by Jim Culleny
by Jalees Rehman
All obsessions can be dangerous. When I read the title "Why America's obsession with STEM education is dangerous" of Fareed Zakaria's article in the Washington Post, I assumed that he would call for more balance in education. An exclusive focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is unhealthy because students miss out on the valuable knowledge that the arts and humanities teach us. I would wholeheartedly agree with such a call for balance because I believe that a comprehensive education makes us better human beings. This is the reason why I encourage discussions about literature and philosophy in my scientific laboratory. To my surprise and dismay, Zakaria did not analyze the respective strengths of liberal arts education and STEM education. Instead, his article is laced with odd clichés and misrepresentations of STEM.
Misrepresentation #1: STEM teaches technical skills instead of critical thinking and creativity
If Americans are united in any conviction these days, it is that we urgently need to shift the country's education toward the teaching of specific, technical skills. Every month, it seems, we hear about our children's bad test scores in math and science — and about new initiatives from companies, universities or foundations to expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and deemphasize the humanities.
"The United States has led the world in economic dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship thanks to exactly the kind of teaching we are now told to defenestrate. A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity."
Zakaria is correct when he states that a broad education fosters creativity and critical thinking but his article portrays STEM as being primarily focused on technical skills whereas liberal education focuses on critical thinking and creativity. Zakaria's view is at odds with the goals of STEM education. As a scientist who mentors Ph.D students in the life sciences and in engineering, my goal is to help our students become critical and creative thinkers.
by Jonathan Kujawa
Human beings are tightly bound by the limits of our intuition and imagination. Even if we grasp an idea on an intellectual level, we often struggle to internalize it to the point where it becomes a native part of our thinking. Rather like the difference between being able to comfortably converse in a foreign language by translating on the fly and being fluent enough to think in the language like a native. Or, as the philosopher Stephen Colbert explained, it's the distinction between truth and truthiness.
We struggle to imagine things much different from what we see around us. This failure leads one in four Americans to believe the Sun goes around the Earth. It means we can't truly grasp the staggering, mind-boggling length of a billion years and this fuels skepticism about evolution. And for science fiction readers it leads to raging internet arguments about whether the authors have any imagination at all.
When it comes to geometry our everyday intuition tells us that we live in the planer geometry of good old Euclid. The angles of triangle add up to 180 degrees, parallel lines will never meet, and the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But intellectually we know we live on the sphere called Earth, and that the geometry of the sphere leads to triangles whose angles sum to 230 degrees, parallel lines which meet, and flight paths between cities which follow "Great Circles".
Media portrayals to the contrary, mathematicians are human, too. From Euclid until the first half of the 19th century, everyone was on board with Euclidean geometry. After all, that was what their gut told them geometry should be. But then Bolyai and Lobachevsky showed us that there are more things in heaven and earth than Euclid could dream of. In two dimensions there are also hyperbolic and spherical (elliptic) geometry. In higher dimensions the possible geometries multiply like rabbits and Einstein's theory of relativity tells us that the geometry of our universe isn't Euclidean .
How can we free our feeble minds from their Euclidean prison and develop an intuition for these new geometries?
Gregory Holm, Matthew Radune. Ice House, Detroit. 2010.
by Paul Braterman
"And if he insists on being killed … then at the end, by the authority of the ruling body, it's done."
Sheikh Kamal El Mekki, who expounds with apparent approval the law on beheading ex-Muslims, spoke this February at Trinity College Dublin. Lawyer Maryam Namazie, ex-Muslim and prominent critic of political Islam, was, after agreeing to speak in March, presented with conditions impossible to accept. We know that El Mekki's talk went ahead without restrictions despite concerns expressed by the President of the Students Union. We know that Maryam's talk was cancelled, and by the College, not by her.
El Mekki is on video (embedded here; see also here), at an event organised by the AlMaghrib Institute (of which more below) in July 2011, describing how he explained to a Christian missionary the law about apostasy. The missionary was complaining because of his lack of success in Morocco, which he attributed to the law  against apostasy. In reply, El Mekki, visibly amused at the missionary's predicament, draws an analogy between apostasy and treason (a justification that when examined makes matters worse), and goes on to explain
It's not like somewhere you heard someone leaves Islam and you just go get him and stuff like that. First of all it's done by the authorities, there are procedures and steps involved. First of all they talk to him, yeah, about, yanni, the scholars refute any doubt that he has on the issue, they spend days with him refuting and arguing with him, trying to convince him. Then they might even, yanni, threaten him with the sword and tell him ‘You need to repent from this because if you don't you repent you will be killed.' And if he insists on being killed that means really, really believing in that. And then, after the procedures take their toll, and then at the end, by the authority of the ruling body, it's done.
"Yanni," a common interection in Arabic, means "kind of." I wonder how one "kind of" threatens someone with the sword. However, we are left with the impression that El Mekki would be opposed to recent well-publicised Jihadist beheadings, not out of any objection to beheading as such, but because of failure to conform to the proper procedures.
"I would like to understand things better,
but I don't want to understand them perfectly."
~ Douglas Hofstadter, Metamagical Themas
A few weeks ago I went to an evening of presentations by startups working in the artificial intelligence field. By far the most interesting was a group that for several years had been quietly working on using AI to create a new compression algorithm for video. While this may seem to be a niche application, their work in fact responds to a pressing need. As demand for video streaming, first in high definition and increasingly in formats such as 4K, hopelessly outruns the buildout of new infrastructure, there is a commensurate need for ever-greater ratios of compression of video data. It is the only viable way to keep up with the reqirements of video streaming, and companies such as Netflix are willing to pay boatloads of cash for the best technologies. But the presentation also crystallized some interesting and important aspects of AI that go well beyond not just niche applications, but the alarmist predictions of people like Steven Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates. What are we really creating here?
This startup, bankrolled by a former currency trader who, as founder and CEO, was the one giving the talk, has engaged in a three-step development program. The first step involved feeding their AI – charmingly named Rita – with every single video compression algorithm already in use, and having it (her?) cherry-pick the best aspects of each. The ensuing Franken-algorithm has already been tested and confirmed to provide lossless compression at a rate of 75%, which is already best in its class. The second step in their program, which is currently in development, charges Rita with the taking the results of everything learned in the first step, and creating its own algorithm. The expectation is that they will reach up to 90% compression, which is really rather extraordinary.
So far, so good. The final step of the program – one which expects to yield a mind-boggling 99% compression ratio – is where things get really interesting. For Rita's creators are now ‘entrusting her' (I know, the more you talk about AI, the more hopeless it is to attempt avoiding anthropomorphization) with the task of creating her own programming language that will be solely dedicated to video compression. There was an appreciative gasp in the room when the CEO outlined this brave next step, and during the Q&A I wanted him to explain more about what this meant.
by Brooks Riley
by Kathleen Goodwin
At the end of February, Laura Kipnis, a professor in the Department of Radio/TV/Film at Northwestern University, authored a piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled "Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe" which explores the ban some schools have placed on sexual relationships between students and professors and how it relates to the current atmosphere regarding sexual assault on college campuses. Kipnis is funny and perceptive, and I find her essay troubling precisely because I agree with many of her points at the same time that I find some aspects of her argument to be problematic because she fails to acknowledge overarching problems with gender dynamics among college students. I admire Kipnis for writing about a topic that, as she points out, most professors are too terrified to comment on. However Kipnis does not seem to recognize that female students today continue to feel disenfranchised in comparison to their male peers and that sexual assault is just one tangible way the unequal power dynamic plays out. Ridiculing her students and university administrators as paranoid is counter-productive to a dialogue on college sexual assault that has only been given the beginning of its due in the public consciousness.
I don't feel, as some Northwestern students do, that it is the responsibility of the University to condemn Kipnis's article. I respect the students' right to disagree with Kipnis and respond to her opinions; however, as Michelle Goldberg points out in The Nation, "Kipnis could hardly have invented a response that so neatly proved her argument…the demands for official censure, the claims of emotional injury—demonstrated how correct she is about the broader climate." One of Kipnis's central points is that conflating sexual assault between students with sexual relationships between professors and students reveals how misguided college administrators have become when it comes to handling sexual issues on campus. While many administrators used to try to sweep cases of sexual assault under the proverbial rug, the pendulum has swung so far that they now seek to regulate relationships between consenting adults.
Which leads to another one of Kipnis's points— it appears that both administrators and students themselves believe that undergraduates are not adults capable of engaging with the realities of the world. Kipnis brings up the example of the relationship of a 21 year old Stanford student, Ellie Clougherty and a 29 year old Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Joe Lonsdale, as reported in the New York Times Magazine in February. The two dated for a year and after they broke up Clougherty accused Lonsdale of "psychological kidnapping" and asked that Stanford launch an investigation into her allegations of his sexual misconduct. It is undeniable that there were a number of problematic aspects of the relationship— Lonsdale was both significantly older and wealthier than Clougherty and had been assigned as her mentor in a Stanford class before they began dating. However, as Kipnis observes, in Clougherty's narrative of the events, "She seems to regard herself as a helpless child in a woman's body…No doubt some 21-year-olds are fragile and emotionally immature (helicopter parenting probably plays a role), but is this now to be our normative conception of personhood? A 21-year-old incapable of consent?"
Fragments from Firefly
A candle among the roses
In the garden
A shooting star
A loop of the moon's robe
A speck in the sun's hem
In and out of eclipse
Consul of day
In night's kingdom
Unknown at home
Lucid in exile
Unlike the moth
The firefly is light
Song is the nightingale's scent
Scent is song of the rose
Rose's scent is the firefly's radiance
by Rafiq Kathwari, whose book of poems, In Another Country, is scheduled for
publication in September 2015 by Doire Press, Ireland. More work here.
by Dwight Furrow
When we eat, if we pay attention at all, we focus on the pleasures of flavor and texture. But some meals have a larger significance that provokes memory and imagination. So it is with comfort food--the filling, uncomplicated, soft, and digestible comestibles that haunt our consciousness with thoughts of security, calm, nourishment, and being cared for, especially when triggered by memories of the flavors of home.
Apple pie, ice cream, chocolate cake, macaroni and cheese, chicken soup-their smell and taste can unfetter a flood of memories because our brains are wired to associate good feelings with specific flavors and aromas, especially when the flavors are fat, salt and sugar. In the face of such powerful stimuli, we succumb helplessly to the endorphin cascade. The foods of home have such a grip on us that we go to a great deal of trouble to bring our food with us when we travel. The spread of various foodstuffs throughout the world was made possible by armies, both military and migrant, determined to carry the taste of home with them. A visit to any ethnic market in a major city reveals the importance of these taste memories to our sense of well-being.
Home cooking has this significance because meals are as much about relationships as they are about food. Unlike other animals, we do not eat when food is available. We dine at particular times, in particular ways, and with particular table mates. Families interact around the kitchen table and are defined by the small daily rituals of gathering, preparing, and consuming food. Meals bring families together physically and emotionally and the tastes and smells become associated with the achievement of social solace and acceptance. "Homeyness", for want of a more elegant word, may be the most powerful and persistent meaning that attaches to food. Thus, the simplistic claim that food lacks meaning is obviously false. Mom's apple pie is as meaningful as anything in life for some of us.
But does comfort food have the kind of meaning that works of art have?
by Tamuira Reid
"The world can't just fucking stop. It's ridiculous. We need to move on from this." It's a week after the Ferguson ruling and Beverley sits across from me, poking ice cubes in her empty cocktail glass with a straw. I don't like her but I'm trying. There's no one else to talk to here. They're all too drunk to care anymore.
"I mean, like, leave art alone. The movies, TV, sports even. Every time anything bad happens in this country it just shuts off. We need dumb stuff, too. I need my Scandal. And my boys need some fucking baseball, yeah? Not CNN all day. ESPN!" She pauses to pull her long red hair into a messy knot on top of her head. Lighting a cigarette, she takes a deep concentrated drag, as if to illustrate the intensity of what she's saying.
"Every magazine, every radio station – all of it. Consumed by racism and hate crimes. I get it, okay? It's not like I don't care about the people that die," she shakes her head wildly from side to side, striking an uncanny resemblance to a bobblehead doll. "Of course I care about those guys. But, like, why oppress the rest of us, you know? Life needs to go on."
I begin to wonder how many crap movies, Lifetime specials, 60 Minutes segments will come out of this newest tragedy. What the profit margin will be. It's perfect Hollywood fodder.
"Watch," Beverley continues. "Every awards show next year will have some fucking tribute to this. Some stupid montage, slow-mo crime scene shit."
It becomes clear to me that Beverley is more obsessed with the impact of racial injustice on popular culture than anything else. This obsession seems to be fueled by another; chain-smoking some obscene little white cigarette, the skinny kind the trendy girls smoked in the bathroom of my high school.
"Censorship. Denying the public access to culture. That's the true crime here. That's where it's really at. I turn on the TV and it's nothing but old assholes in bad suits talking about this cop and that man and this fucking gun and this fucked-up town. It gets sooo old after a while, you know?" I don't.
Her voice carries to all four corners of the room and someone applauds her sentiment. "Fuck the fucking news!"
I think about my four year-old son back at home. How, without fail, he will approach any cop -- on the street, in the train station, at a diner -- and smile, say Hi and Good job, guys. He still believes, without absolute faith and certainty, that those in positions of power are helpers. That those in positions of power use all their superhero skills for good.
I'm in a college dive bar with kids light years younger than me. I swapped vodka for fake beer years ago and sip on club soda tonight. Sometimes the loneliness of my occupation, writer, pushes me out of the apartment and into places like this, with people like Beverley. I feel out of place and worried, worried that that humanity is going to Hell in a hand basket, as my grandmother used to say. Worried because my family is on the other side of the country and I am forgetting what they look like, feel like. Worried that an entire police force let a bullet-riddled teenager lay in the middle of a hot Missouri street for four hours before moving him into an SUV. Where's the ambulance, I remember thinking. Where's the fucking ambulance?
by Shadab Zeest Hashmi
WRITING IS ALL ABOUT EXTENDING: When I was a child, I heard the story of the scholar jinn disguised as a boy, who once extended his arm all the way to the end of the palace courtyard to reach his ink pot, thus exposing his identity to his human tutor and risking rejection. Was he that absorbed in what he wrote, how he wrote? The tutor forgave his pupil’s deceptive guise on the grounds of his deep attention to the work at hand.
BEFORE LITERATURE, CAME WRITING: Penmanship was a dying art even in my school days, but luckily I learned to use a traditional bamboo pen at home; forming letters of the Nastaliq script of Urdu in jet-black ink. Layering the hand held wooden board with white clay paste, drying it in the sun, and writing with a reed pen that needed to be filled every few minutes, was messy and frustrating. As I fumbled with the materials, I began to acknowledge the muscles that are engaged in the physical work of writing. Forming letters became a fascinating study of lines and curves, symmetry and alignment. Soon I began to have a deeper appreciation for the calligraphic pieces hanging in the house. I noticed how well the artists conformed to rules and how gracefully they deviated, playing with form to create visual effects that influenced the meaning of the words. In learning to see patterns and variations, I was learning to extend myself, to make imprints of my inner life onto the outer reality of the page. Words had created visual fields for me—allowing endless possibilities for expressing meaning.
AND OF COURSE, MUSIC: There were the sonic fields too, the textures of my mother tongue Urdu, as well as the other languages around me, chiefly English, but to varying extents: Arabic, Persian, Pushto, Punjabi. I heard each or a mixture of these languages on the street, in the class room, on TV, on tapes of Shakespeare’s plays, recited or sung on my parents’ LPs. Words collided, chimed, made leaps across different worlds: from the abstract to the concrete, emotional to intellectual, imaginary to the palpably real. Words became a means of extending experience into expression.
I've learnt that poetry picks up from where dreams get interrupted; it extends our inner lives by allowing us entry into mystique, a space we navigate not only through the sound and meaning but also the shape and form of the written word.
Sunday, March 29, 2015
In 2115, when our descendants look back at our society, what will they condemn as our greatest moral failing?
Stefan Klein and Stephen Cave in Aeon:
In 100 years it will not be acceptable to use genderised words such as ‘he’ or ‘she’, which are loaded with centuries of prejudice and reduce a spectrum of greys to black and white. We will use the pronoun ‘heesh’ to refer to all persons equally, regardless of their chosen gender. This will of course apply not only to humans, but to all animals.
It will be an offence to eat any life-form. Once the sophistication, not only of other animals, but also of plants has been recognised, we will be obliged to accept the validity of their striving for life. Most of our food will be synthetic, although the consumption of fruit – ie, those parts of plants that they willingly offer up to be eaten – will be permitted on special occasions: a birthday banana, a Christmas pear.
We will not be permitted to turn off our smartphones – let alone destroy them – without their express permission. From the moment Siri started pleading with heesh’s owners not to upgrade to a newer model, it became clear that these machines contained a consciousness with interests of heesh’s own. Old phones will instead be retired to a DoSSBIS (Docking Station for Silicon-Based Intelligent Systems).
Privacy will have been abolished, and regarded as a cover for criminality and hypocrisy. It will be an offence to use a pseudonym online – why would anyone do this except to abuse or deceive others? – and all financial transactions of any kind, including earnings and tax payments – will automatically appear on the internet for all to see.
Sandro Contenta in The Star:
He takes those hikes when he is back at his Montreal condo, between semesters at the renowned Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, N.J., where Langlands has been a professor for more than 40 years.
His destination, the bright summer day when the Star first caught up with him, was the gravesite of writer Mordecai Richler, on a spot called Rose Hill. It was hot, the air was alive with birds, and tombstones rose and fell as if on a wave of green. Death seemed almost acceptable. But Langlands strolls the graveyards for a different kind of inner peace.
“If you’re lucky, it’s a way to stop thinking,” he says. “The wheels don’t stop so easily after a while.”
Langlands, a Canadian, is one of the world’s great mathematicians. His universe is the outer limits of pure mathematics, a rarefied realm where abstract objects exist, infinity is corralled and symmetry reigns.
In 1967, as a young professor at Princeton University, he revolutionized the ancient discipline. He discovered patterns in highly esoteric objects called automorphic forms and motives, and he restructured mathematics with two dazzling theories.
More here. [Thanks to Jennifer Oullette.]
From Scientia Salon:
This article focuses on a case that expert practitioners count as an explanation: a mathematical account of Plateau’s laws for soap films. I argue that this example falls into a class of explanations that I call abstract explanations. Abstract explanations involve an appeal to a more abstract entity than the state of affairs being explained. I show that the abstract entity need not be causally relevant to the explanandum for its features to be explanatorily relevant. However, it remains unclear how to unify abstract and causal explanations as instances of a single sort of thing. I conclude by examining the implications of the claim that explanations require objective dependence relations. If this claim is accepted, then there are several kinds of objective dependence relations.
Read the rest here.
Who walks alone in the streets at night? The sad, the mad, the bad. The lost, the lonely. The sleepless, the homeless. All the city’s internal exiles. The night has always been the time for daylight’s dispossessed – the dissident, the different. Walking alone at night in the city by both men and women has, since time immemorial, been interpreted as a sign of moral, social or spiritual dereliction...
If solitary men on the streets at night have exercised a right to the city denied to solitary women, then they too have often been identified or represented as pariahs. People who walk about at night with no obvious reason to do so, whether male or female, have attracted suspicion, opprobrium and legal recrimination from patriarchs, politicians, priests and others in authority, including the police, for thousands of years. In 1285, Edward I introduced a specific “nightwalker statute” in order to police the movement of plebeian people – especially migrants, vagrants and prostitutes – after the 9pm curfew. But long after this statute became impossible to implement, because of the rise of “nightlife”, the authorities continued to construe nightwalking as deviant.
Today, more than ever, solitary walking at night in the streets of the city does not necessarily mean deviant movement. It may well be perfectly legitimate, purposeful. Contemporary capitalist society requires what Jonathan Crary has identified as the despoliation of sleep in the interests of maximising the individual’s potential – both as a producer and a consumer – for generating profit. The political economy of the night, in this dispensation, means that plenty of people have to commute after dark, sometimes on foot, sometimes across considerable distances.
Simon Worrall in National Geographic:
He was hailed after his death as “The Uncrowned King,” a philosopher whose sound bites of wisdom became China’s handbook on government and its code of personal morality for thousands of years. But little is known about Confucius, and what is known is full of contradiction and myth. Speaking from Washington, D.C, during a break on his book tour, Michael Schuman, author of Confucius and the World He Created, teases out fact from fiction; explains why he had to take bowing lessons before his wedding; and tells us why the influence of a scholar who died nearly 3,000 years ago is still felt in the boardrooms, bedrooms, and classrooms of nearly a quarter of humanity.
...Let’s scroll back now to 551 B.C. What do we know about Confucius, the man?
What we know is in bits and pieces scattered across various historical records of somewhat suspect quality. What we think we know is that he was born to a family of low-level officials. His father died when he was quite young, and he was raised by a single mother. There’s some speculation among modern historians that he might have been illegitimate. But we know very little about his childhood. What we do know is that he turned himself into an expert on the literature and history and poetry of an earlier age in China, and with that he created his own doctrine. The purpose of the doctrine was to restore peace and order. The time in which he lived was a time of war and conflict in China between numerous feudal states, and he believed he had devised a doctrine of virtue that could bring prosperity back to China. In his own life, unfortunately, he failed in that vision, because he could not find the dukes and kings to adhere to his ideas. But where he did succeed was as a very successful teacher. He had very loyal students who became his disciples, and they carried on his mission and his teachings until Confucianism eventually became China’s dominant philosophy
Sam Knight in The New Yorker:
Early on a Tuesday morning last fall, Ronnie O’Sullivan was running through the woods near his home, in Chigwell, Essex, northeast of London. It was damp and muddy, England in November. O’Sullivan, who is thirty-nine, loves the anonymity of running. About ten years ago, he discovered that it was one thing that truly takes him out of himself—more than the drink and the drugs and the antidepressants—and suspends the otherwise unavoidable fact that he is the most talented snooker player of all time. At the age of eleven, O’Sullivan was making good money in the sport, and in the past three decades he has won five World Championships and set a number of records while enduring a bewildering odyssey of breakdowns, addictions, and redemptions, largely precipitated by the imprisonment of his father, whom he loves, for murder. O’Sullivan is frequently described as a genius. But he does not see how this can be so. Most days, he feels like a fraud. His game comes only in fits and starts. He wins because the others lose. He has wondered for a long time whether he would be happier doing something else. He has moved nine times in the past ten years. “I’m fucking, you know, searching,” he told me recently. “I kind of know who I am but I don’t like who I am, do you know what I mean? I wish I was a bit more fucking stable.”
Also, see this:
According to the inhabitants of the Trobriand Islands "a remarkable thing happens to the spirit immediately after its exodus from the body. ...the baloma (which is the main form of the dead man's spirit) goes to Tuma, a small island..." —from Bronislaw Malinowski's Magic, Science and Religion
I hope my turn to leave comes in July
and there's someone willing to launch the scuffed canoe
loon barking in alarm at the sudden shadow
cast over its territory, annoyed ducks
let it be at the moment
the lake's precisely balanced — the sun holding it
by one end the moon by the other, water thick, shiny
crepuscular cream insects slurp
with a terrible greed
for incense, juniper will do
sweetened with fermenting leaves, an aroma
that follows from the shore, lingers on the skin
like old memories, fades with each stroke
of the paddle
the island — a black pincushion
cormorant and heron nests up and down dried up spruce trees
reclining fledglings, sleek Buddhist monks
in calm contemplation of sticks they've plucked
from the floor, the wall
until the next fish is flown in
and then the jostling, the squawking, the island lifting
quivering, cries of triumph and self-pity such perfect
cacophony against the deepening
let it be that island
let it be an old spruce trunk, even a clump
of reeds nearby, I could do worse than spend eternity
in the company of birds
by Anna Mioduchowska
from In-Between Seasons
Rowan Books, 1998
Saturday, March 28, 2015