Removing The Veils Of False Modesty: The Life-Affirming Philosophy Of Al-Salami

The name Muhammad al-Salami (A.D. 948–1003) is nearly unknown in the West, but occupies a prominent position in medieval Arabic poetry.  The genius of his metaphors, the richness of his turns of phrase, and the elegance of his diction can be felt even through the fog of translation; and we will do our best to pay him homage here.  The anthologist Abu Mansur al-Tha’alibi called him:

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The Right Man In The Right Place Can Make All The Difference

There are times in history where the right man in the right place can make all the difference.  Accidents of fate, the changing circumstances of fortune, and the randomness of events all conspire to turn predictability into uncertainty; yet a man of learning, vision, and character may, at times, interpose himself in the middle of these whirlwinds and by his actions change the course of history.  It happens all the time.

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Adam Olearius: Amazing Travels And Explorations In Russia And Persia

In the early seventeenth century, the steppes of Russia were almost entirely unknown to western Europeans.  Forests were thicker than they are now, roads were fewer and more difficult to navigate, and travel required much more money and resources than it does now.  One had to be sponsored by a wealthy patron, or be an official representative of a government.  It is to this latter category that the German explorer Adam Olearius (1599–1671)  belonged; he was one of the first westerners to penetrate deeply into Russia and Persia, and the account he left behind is one of the more fascinating works of travel literature that I have seen in recent years.

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The Counsel Of Helios To A Noble Youth

There is a fable told in the Roman emperor Julian’s oration To the Cynic Heracleios that is worth relating and discussing.  The fable is rather involved, but we will extract its relevant parts here.  The god Hermes once appeared before a youth who, though virtuous and good, was having some difficulties in life.  Hermes said to the young man:

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The Imperative Of Discovery: Charles Sturt’s Australian Explorations (Podcast)

After saying a few words about the great explorers and travelers of the past, and explaining why a study of their exploits is more important for us than ever before, I give a podcast reading of my most recent article, Charles Sturt: A Pioneer Of Australian Exploration.

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Charles Sturt: A Pioneer Of Australian Exploration

The student of the history of exploration and discovery cannot fail to notice certain recurring patterns in the lives of great explorers.  Many of them come from modest or poor backgrounds; many have military experience; many are driven by an inner conviction that they are destined for great achievements; many have a high tolerance for pain and hardship; and some of them have combative or disputatious natures that make them difficult to get along with.  Not all of these generalizations are found in every explorer, of course.  But it cannot be denied that a certain personality type is well-suited to a life of exploration.

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