I always thought, as a kid, that growing old would be awful because you’d be aware that you have less and less time ahead of you. As a teenager I thought how depressing it would be, thirty years old, working every day, with no childhood to return to, only old age ahead. This feeling was enhanced by the fact that my teenage years were not fantastic, and that the adults around me said they were the best years of my life.
Now that I’m forty, I see things differently. The first reason is practical: Read More
It might sound crazy but hear me out.
When I use the term ‘lockdown’, I mean setting strict regulations on when we may leave the house and the number of people who may gather in one place, enforced wearing of masks, and restrictions on where we may travel.
We’ve never previously managed to create a safe and effective vaccine against a coronavirus. This forces us to consider the very real possibility that we may never Read More
Book review of Intellectuals, by Paul Johnson.
There are very few books that I have read twice. One was The Lord of the Rings, which I read when I was eight and later when I was fifteen and actually understood it. The only other I can remember off the top of my head is this one. I happened to look something up for some reason, got distracted by the chapter on Sartre, and ended up reading the whole thing again. The antics of this intellectual crowd are highly entertaining. My favourite was the list of drunken injuries that befell Hemmingway, which stretches over three or four mirthful pages.
I thought about inserting here a check-table of intellectuals and their sins but concluded it would be too much work and you wouldn’t be that impressed anyway. So instead I will Read More
Book review of Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius.
Poor old Marcki-poo. High-born and bookish, he wanted nothing more than to go to Athens and study philosophy. But duty called him to other things: in the age of the Five Good Emperors, starting with Hadrian, each new one was chosen for his virtues rather than because he was the son of the old one – though none of the previous four had had sons, so that was easily done. And Marcus Aurelius felt the unwanted tap on the shoulder.
He insisted, against the wishes of the elite, that his Read More
Book review of The Analects of Confucius.
Confucius lived at around the same time as the great Greek philosophers, when thinking and learning were becoming more possible with the rise of cities and non-farming opportunities. Dusted off and misused by modern ChiCom tyrants and incompetent Korean bosses, his philosophy is not quite the ‘rote learn piles of useless rubbish and do as you’re bloody well told, dirty peasant’ line pushed by those who assume their material-obsessed populace will not actually read his work.
The Analects are collected sayings of the old teacher as reported by his students, similar to the Islamic Hadith literature. So let’s have a look.
The Master said, ‘Learning without thought is labour lost; thought without learning is perilous.’
Every tiger mum should have this tattooed backwards on her Botoxed forehead. The Asian obsession with Read More
Book Review of Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche, Part I of III.
What should Man do with his life?
Satan whispers in his ear, ‘Whatever you like.’
The Stoics insist, ‘True happiness is found in virtue!’ Jesus moans, ‘There is no path to heaven but through faith in me!’ The utilitarians whine, ‘Make the world a better place!’ The Socialists wheeze, ‘Destroy capitalism and racism and patriarchy!’
But there is Satan, in the back of Man’s mind, still whispering his seductive refrain: ‘Do whatever you want. Why not?’
A hermit named Zarathustra spends many years high in the mountains with only animals as companions. One day he reaches enlightenment and climbs down the hill to inform mankind of what he has discovered.
He reaches the people and he teaches them: Read More
Book Review: Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One (Penguin Classics) by Friedrich Nietzsche.
Have you ever met one of those blokes? You know the type. You’re in a quiet pub – maybe you’re waiting for the trains to be less crowded, or perhaps you’re an alcoholic. There’s only one drinker there and he says hello. You start talking.
This fellow, there’s usually something silly about his hair. Maybe it’s long and he’s way too old for it. Perhaps a giant beard. But you get talking to him and you find that you’ve discovered a soul mate. One of those very rare people who actually thinks how you think, even those unpopular things that are verboten on both left and right. Indeed, he says those things before you do. There’s no one eavesdropping. It’s just the two of you. You both chuckle conspiratorially and say, ‘No one else can see it, can they? Normal people don’t want to accept the truth. We’re not normal though, are we? We’re the effing Illuminati, we are. But keep it under your hat, of course. Most people aren’t ready for this stuff and they never will be.’
Actually, I’ve never had an experience like that. I could imagine it happening though. That’s what reading Nietzsche is like. On almost every page I inwardly scream, ‘Of course! That’s right! It’s so bloody obvious but no one dares admit it!’ And yet Read More
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Isaac Newton would be considered by most to be a pretty clever bloke. He did, however, have some strange habits. He once tried staring at the sun for as long as he could just to see what would happen and spent the next few days in bedridden agony. On another occasion he stuck a wire between his eyeball and his skull as part of some ill-considered experiment. Astonishingly, he escaped both incidents without permanent injury.
John Maynard Keyes bought some of Newton’s papers and was shocked to find that, in between founding modern physics and advancing every area of mathematics, Newton had found time to Read More