The promise of politics is that, within and through our differences, some form of common life can be discovered. But if the process of discovery is to be faithful, hopeful, and loving, we must render ourselves vulnerable to others we don’t understand.
Sapiens is a distinctly nihilist tract, rejecting every sort of theism, every claim that life has meaning, and every assertion of human rights. According to Harari, there’s nothing the least bit sacred about human life, the Declaration of Independence is in error about liberty and equality, and the word “nature” itself—as in human nature—is meaningless. Insofar as Sapiens is a work of philosophy, it’s Nietzchean in its rejection of the most central human values, as well as in its suggestion that a superman—created by genetic or “inorganic” engineering—may be on the way.
~Mark Lieb, in Commentary
The effect is to situate the actors within the world; even with closeups, the individual is never alone in front of the camera. So Fani’s anguished face is set against the backdrop of the people enforcing her isolation.
From a review of Terrence Malick’s film A Hidden Life that beautifully connects the formal, cinematic techniques employed in the film to its underlying theme, martyrdom.
A compelling essay by philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah that argues for why it’s so problematic to capitalize “Black” but not “white”:
One reason that the MIT philosopher Sally Haslanger prefers to capitalize the names of races is, she explains, “to highlight the artificiality of race,” by contrast to the seeming naturalness of color. A larger argument lurks here: Racial identities were not discovered but created, she’s reminding us, and we must all take responsibility for them. Don’t let them disguise themselves as common nouns and adjectives. Call them out by their names.
Toward the end of his essay, Appiah notes that language doesn’t change by fiat, but organically, based on what arguments about linguistic conventions win in the sphere of daily life and practice: how people actually speak and write.
I spend significant time teaching language, so I appreciate this aspect of his argument. Too often, people wave their hands or act as if issues of language are merely random and pointless; others believe that a usage-board’s decision can or should effect change is common usage. Neither of these responses reflects the true complexity of linguistic change, or the importance of argument in contributing to this change.
The quartet recorded the track in November 1963, two months after the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, made an absence of four little black girls. When I listen to Coltrane playing over Tyner’s piano I hear smoke rising up from a smoldering crater, mingling with the voices of the dead.
The central issue for us is probably the question of whether the mystery at the heart of poetry (and of art in general) can be kept safe against the assaults of an omnipresent talkative and soulless journalism and an equally omnipresent popular science—or pseudo-science.
~Adam Zagajewski, quoted by Cynthia Haven
Today an authentic intellectual life seems more natural in the flaneur than the professional scholar…. Whether our focus is on the tools of training, a heart for service, or learning from our asynchronous neighbors, the intellectual life is, ironically, a particular kind of political practice, an art of membership…. We can educate in a way that makes us all, despite and even through upheavals of culture, economy, and politics, more intelligible to each other and to ourselves. Today, as in the Greek polis or the Roman villa, the company of readers remains both the most democratic, and the most privileged, of memberships.
~Joshua Hochschild, in his review of three new books offering expansive visions of the life of the mind
I just caught the Billy Hart quartet live at the Village Vanguard, thanks to the club’s streaming series. (Vijay Iyer’s trio is up next weekend.)
Hart and his conspirators were excellent. All original pieces, I believe. I particularly love Turner’s piece, “Nigeria,” with which they closed their set.
- Billy Hart, drums
- Ethan Iverson, piano
- Ben Street, bass
- Mark Turner, tenor
Partial set list:
- ? (I missed the intro & half of the first tune)
- Aviation (Iverson)
- Teule’s Redemption (Hart)
- Showdown (Iverson)
- Ira (Hart?)
- Amethyst (Hart)
- Nigeria (Turner)
Weekend project: building new beds for the boys. All that remains is to add a bed skirt to cover up those screws. 🔨
Morgan Meis on a highly questionable paraphrase of Auden in the NYT: “We must assist one another or die”?
Ahhh… back in the outdoor office at last.
R.I.P., Lee Konitz.
Here’s jazz pianist Ethan Iverson’s tribute to Konitz, insightful as always.
A sure way to establish enduring significance as a thinker is to combine sophistication with carefully constructed ambiguity and, if necessary, outright contradiction.
(But it depends on how you define enduring.)
Today (Mon 6 Apr) at noon CST: “Christian Ethics & Pandemic Ethics”.
My colleague Pilar’s 86-year-old father has been hospitalized with covid-19 in Spain.
His last wish is to find a friend of his from Folkstone, Kent, England. I’m posting an article about his search here just in case anyone can help.
A stunning New York Times photo-essay on how coronavirus has devastated Bergamo, Italy.
In high school, my family hosted an Italian exchange student. His hometown? Bergamo. I never imagined it would return to my mind, or enter the global consciousness, in such a tragic way. 🔗
Probably also been reading some Taleb. 📚
I sense a lucrative consulting career in the near future for Justen Noakes, H-E-B’s “director of emergency preparedness.” 💰💰💰
A profound, honest reflection on COVID-19 and our mortality. Written for Leonard J. DeLorenzo’s students at Notre Dame, but applicable to all:
The call in this season is to throw off the illusion of invulnerability and live together in truth.
A follow-up to last week’s post: for those who don’t want to sift through 2,000+ options, here are the Financial Times’ picks of the world’s best virtual galleries (the article’s behind a paywall, but here are the links):
- Sistine Chapel
- British Museum
- V&A – Indian Textiles
- Rembrandt & Amsterdam Portraiture
- Met – Timeline of Art History
- Uffizi – On Being Present
- Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room
I’ve been listening to Pat Metheny’s outstanding new album From This Place.
From the compositions, through the arrangements (Metheny called in Alan Broadbent to help), to the musicianship of drummer Antonio Sanchez, bassist Linda May Han Oh, & pianist Gwilym Simcock.
Highly recommended—& also available on Bandcamp.
Singers, among many others, have had their livelihoods cancelled or postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19.
But it turns out you can still make beautiful music together virtually. Here’s my sister-in-law singing Mauricio Duruflé’s Ubi Cartas, as part of a virtual octet. 🎶
I’m planning on visiting many museums in this way with my kids in the days & weeks to come. 🎨 🖼
My selections from our trip the Shoreview Public Library today. Looking forward to some reading time over the next few days off… but I may have overestimated just how much time I’ll have. 📚
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