Monday, July 26, 2010


Still on holiday... but surfacing long enough to drop some postcards and note the wonderful service yesterday at the Church of Baseball in Cooperstown. I love what the White Rat said about going to heaven before you die.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Digital Holiday

And some keep the Sabbath by unplugging, occasionally. Sand and salt-water don't mix well with the grid. Later.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

heaven all along

On Fresh Air the other day, Billy Collins noted Emily Dickinson's "radical" style of free-thinking, as evidenced by this poem:
SOME keep the Sabbath going to church;
I keep it staying at home,
With a bobolink for a chorister,
And an orchard for a dome.
Some keep the Sabbath in surplice;
I just wear my wings,
And instead of tolling the bell for church,
Our little sexton sings.
God preaches,—a noted clergyman,—
And the sermon is never long;
So instead of getting to heaven at last,
I ’m going all along!
Pagan poetry: there's none better.

Jennifer Hecht, herself a pagan poet of the first rank, has lots to say about Emily and many others in Doubt: A History. They both deserve shelf-space in the Essential Freethought Library.

[CFI's alternate lists]

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Juvenal's mens sana in corpore sano, a "good idea" worth quoting at length:
It is to be prayed that the mind be sound in a sound body.
Ask for a brave soul that lacks the fear of death,
which places the length of life last among nature’s blessings,
which is able to bear whatever kind of sufferings,
does not know anger, lusts for nothing and believes
the hardships and savage labors of Hercules better than
the satisfactions, feasts, and feather bed of an Eastern king.
I will reveal what you are able to give yourself;
For certain, the one footpath of a tranquil life lies through virtue.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010


Thinking about train-wrecks this morning, and the Great Train-Wreck at Dutchman's Curve in 1918-- a line of reflection oddly triggered by the comparatively-trivial derailment in France of Lance Armstrong, puts me in mind of a memorable James quote.
The world may be saved, on condition that its parts shall do their best. But shipwreck in detail, or even on the whole, is among the open possibilities.
Drive safely. Or fly. Or, you could walk.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Does wisdom have a future?"

Stephen Hall poses that question in Wisdom, and (of all places) in the gift shop of the New York Public Library. There, he found
a refrigerator magnet for sale that read, "Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness-- Confucius." Is this a way of preserving pearls of wisdom in our contemporary, mass-produced form of amber, or have economies of scale managed to turn the hard-earned coin of aphoristic wisdom into one more kind of widget?
Hmmm. We do indeed "embrace bits of wisdom, as long as they are short and compact enough" to fit on a magnet. Or in a tweet.

But isn't that better than nothing? People will always return to the refrigerator. Libraries of mere books, alas, are not so galvanizing these days.

Friday, July 9, 2010


I love the way Stephen Hall begins his Wisdom: From Philosophy to Neuroscience, evoking the vulnerability of childhood and the desperation that can make vulnerable children of us all. It's been that kind of decade.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

leaving home

In The World Is My HomeJames Michener left a light-hearted "living will." Just for the record, and until I get around to a more detailed personal statement of my own, I'll borrow it.
"I have given strict instructions: 'I am in favor of allowing totally helpless and lost persons, including me, to seek the help of friends in ending their meaningless misery. But I do not want on my board of review any book critics, people to whom I owe debts, or conservative Republicans.' " 
Also for the record: some of my best friends and closest family are conservative Republicans.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

another old house

Some grand old houses find surprising new life. Consider this one, formerly a General Merchandise store. Went there with Dad, as a boy, when he needed hardware. Now I go there for a nicely-poured black and tan.

Monday, July 5, 2010

more light

Speaking of flashy light shows... This is not the pyrotechnics episode I was looking for, the one with the rockin' soundtrack, but it makes the point more sweetly and vividly. More light = more life.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Every July 4 since its publication a decade and a half ago, I've been pulling out and pondering Independence Day, Richard Ford's marvelous paean to freedom in all its personal, political, and philosophical glory.

Give us liberty!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

lab rats

"What if these guys in white coats who bring us food are, like, studying us and we're part of som...

New Yorker

What if Nick Carr is right? ("Net turns us into lab rats constantly pressing levers for social & intellectual pellets")

Thursday, July 1, 2010 Accelerating Intelligence News