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Showing posts from February, 2017

BREAK THE MOLD

When you conjure the word philosopher, what comes to mind? Likely the great thinkers of Greece (the triad of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle that every schoolchild learns), or perhaps some other beacon of European Civilization - the Nietzsches and the Kants and the Descartes and the Lockes and the Marxes and the Humes; and lest we forget America, the Huxleys and Camus too. Every western nation seems to have its philosophic treasure. The key word being west. 

And when you think of the word sage, perhaps you recall certain mystics of the Orient, such as Buddha, or the three wise men (Magi) who came from the east to visit the baby Jesus shortly after his birth. 

But the east/west dichotomy, which separates these two groups of individuals, breaks down on further inspection.

For philosophers actually have a lot in common with sages. After all philosophy means "love of wisdom" (philo is the Greek word for love and sofia means wisdom) and sage derives from the Latin verb sapere which me…

I WANT A NEW DRUG

There are few mysteries in this world that cannot be solved by means of reason and reflection. By reason I mean the mental ability to logically understand a phenomenon. For example, if all birds have wings, and you see a bird in the distance, it is reasonable to assert that the given birds has wings. And also feathers. But it may not fly, since not all birds can. 

And by reflection I mean using personal experience to form meaningful deductions. For example if every time I pet a cat I start to sneeze and break out in a rash, personal experience tells me that I am allergic. This is empirical evidence, the evidence of the senses.

Though the senses may sometimes deceive, they are much more authoritative than what your best friend's wife's nanny tells you, or what Donald Trump has to say on any subject. Another person's claims fall in the category of hearsay, and you can just naysay it. I had an instance of this the other day while discussing the topic of reincarnation with my fr…

ALL RUSSIANS CAN HACK

The saying used to be "you have to spend money to make money." The line was delivered by my teenage idol, Richard Tyson, in the movie Two Moon Junction when his character (Perry) is trying to get the owners of the carnival he works for to invest in repairs lest the whole show come down around them. They didn't. So the carnival did. 

But nowadays the saying is "to make money you have to make other people spend money." Witness the deluge of advertisements you encounter everywhere. 

Yesterday while driving to the market I became so mesmerized by a larger-than-life billboard that I almost missed my turn. To make my right I had to cross a bicycle lane hastily, without really making sure the lane was clear. It was. But had it not been, I'd have had only my wayward eye to blame. But who can avoid eye candy, and advertisers have impunity. They are free to bombard the unsuspecting eye with desires it didn't even know it had, while distracting your from work and re…

THE GRAND SCHEME

The Greek playwright Euripides is considered the "father of the stage." He started writing at the age of eighteen and in the fifty years that followed he wrote ninety or so plays. The most tragic of the poets, Euripides more than any other Greek tragedian is quoted by philosophers Plato and his protegee, Aristotle. Unlike many of the writers of his day, Euripides took little part in politics and war. A gloomy recluse who never laughed, he wore a long beard, lived alone and hated society as well as the company of women. He lived in a cave in Salamis, alone with his books and a beautiful view of the sea, where he could be seen "all day long, thinking to himself and writing, for he despised anything that was not great and high."

When I decided to be a writer around the age of twenty-three I told my mother that I wanted to be like Euripides. She opined that I was much too social to go it alone, and with my looks and general charisma I should not deprive society of my so…

SOLITARY BROTHERS

For a brief time in my late twenties I worked as a high school teacher. Well, more as a supervisor of high school-aged kids. 

The program was called AEWC for Alternative Education and Work Center and it catered to students who for one reason or another (work, pregnancy, poor grades, trouble with the law) were not suited for the traditional attendance-based classes offered by the standard curriculum. AEWC evolved as an independent study program "to provide high school dropouts with an alternative way to earn a high school diploma."

These "at-risk youths" would come to my classroom and check out their work for the week, around twenty assignments usually culled from two subjects, which they then could complete in class or take home and turn in by the week's end. 

I once remarked to a colleague that such a program, performance-driven rather than attendance-based, was an excellent idea and I wished I had had the opportunity to be my student when I was a teen. Especiall…

A HISTORY OF THE WORLD ACCORDING TO ME

I always thought it would be cool to dilate upon the purpose of life and nature of the universe in a thousand words or less, so here goes.

In the beginning consciousness became aware of itself and with this awareness rose the mind and the first thought, which was: "I am one, let me become many."

Though I was not present at the moment of the creation of the universe, or if I was I can't remember being there, and though I don't take literally the 7-day account found in the Bible, it seems to me that in the beginning of time there must have been a first cause. A oneness. A supreme being. 

And most religions including Christianity endorse this. To posit two or more beings existing simultaneously as far back as forever just doesn't make any sense. If these two beings occupied all known space, where would one stop and where would the other begin? And who would the space in between belong to? 

No, two beings would definitely make for feisty neighbors. I often wonder who own…

GUT FEELING

I found out a dear friend has been suffering recurrent bouts of what appears to be the stomach flu and so I offered to share any medical advice she may find useful to alleviate symptoms of this most inconvenient and uncomfortable condition. 

I sent her a detailed questionnaire the purpose of which was to rule out serious conditions, narrow down the diagnosis and possibly even reach a likely culprit. Included in this questionnaire were questions about coffee consumption and alcohol and artificial sweeteners and new foods, travel and stress and sleep. Because the cruel combination of diarrhea, fever, aches and stomach pain three times in 6 months is more than anyone should have to bear. 

But the virus responsible for stomach flu in adults (norovirus, to give it a name, which infects people most frequently from October to April and causes the symptoms my friend has been suffering, within 1 to 3 days of exposure and lasting about as long) has various strains, and so it is not impossible tha…

FINDING EDEN

I don't have many friends, and I sometimes wonder why I don't spend more time socializing. Because my interactions with others, whether chance and fleeting or extended and deep, always prove beneficial in some way. This may be partly due to the fact that I'm very open to suggestion and impressionable. My mother would say this trait is indicated by my Sagittarius rising. Your rising sign is how you appear to the world, and Sagittarius is mutable, as in open to suggestion. But I don't live or die by astrology.

A recent dinner date led to my purchase and perusal of a lovely little book on Zen. And after spending a day watching football with my friend and his wife, I came away with a copy of Jack London's Martin Eden. 

Martin Eden is one of Anna's (my friend's wife) favorite books. She particularly likes the way the eponymous main character died at the novel's end. She told me even before giving me the book that, determined to end his life, Eden, who was once…

A VISION FOR THE FUTURE

They say that gardening cleanses the soul. If this is the case, then my soul is sparkling. Because this past Saturday I spent not one but three hours trimming the three big jacaranda trees that grace the yard. These trees are lovely, especially in the summer and spring, when their large fan-like leaves sway in tune with the breeze and give the surroundings a gentle, tropical feel. But come winter their pretty green turns urine brown and they shed profusely, sending tear-dropped shaped shavings everywhere. I've had to go on the roof not one but three times this rainy season, cleaning out the gutters of jacaranda debris. And all the times I've had to rake the lawn, and sweep the tiles! As I said, my soul must be spotless. 

The process involves not one but three steps, which are in order: cutting the big branches, stuffing them into garbage bins (I used not one but six) and then raking the debris. My soul is not only debris free but I also have enough firewood to last until spring…

A PERFECT WORLD

After reading Zen and the Art of Happiness, and having for decades been a devotee of Voltaire's Candide, I decided to finally sit down and read Liebniz, who in his Theodicy treatise reasons why a good God permits the presence of evil in the world. What do the former two books have to do with the latter? As I mentioned previously, the Zen book argues that in a Universe invested in its perpetuation, only beneficial events can happen, and as you are a part of this Universe, everything that happens to you is for your ultimate good. Voltaire attempted to mock this simple notion by plunging his Candide into all manner of hardship and having him cling to the notion that we live in the "best of all possible worlds," a statement made famous by Liebniz, who was Voltaire's 17th-century contemporary.

Now the Theodicy is slow going. These scholars of yore were long-winded. They were before the Internet and so their readers had fewer distractions (phone, TV, computer, etc) vying fo…

THE PAIN GAME

Life can be hard. And not just when you consume sucralose. This sugar alcohol, which is found in various sugar-free, calorie-free drinks and gums and candies, not to mention Splenda, and also the diet Margarita mix I found in the pantry and mixed with tequila every night the second half of last week in my version of a party of one - excuse me, but it was my birthday week - sucralose, I repeat, is hell on the stomach. What's the point of saving a few calories when your belly swells to third trimester pregnancy size. Which makes it hard to enjoy the Groundlings comedy show. Well, not that hard, because the show was funny and I am in love with one of the stars. Her name is Patty. A sense of humor is the most potent aphrodisiac. Which put negatively is to say that the lack thereof is "the most profound indication of a social malignancy." That's Virginia Woolf. Which I'm currently reading. And if I have tequila, it will be sans mixer. Don't consume artificial swee…