The Leadership Principles Of St. Benedict

If we are to understand the mind of early medieval man, we must attempt to place ourselves in his situation and circumstances.  It is difficult for us, having been reared in an age of relative peace and prosperity, to grasp the degree to which Western Europe had succumbed to chaos, warfare, and barbarism after Roman civil authority collapsed in the fourth and fifth centuries. 

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Everything Is Fine, Until It Is Not

In 1917 there was published in Germany a book entitled Deductions from the World War (Folgerungen aus dem Weltkriege).  It was an analysis of lessons learned from the previous four years of intense fighting, and its author was a man named Baron Hugo Von Freytag-Loringhoven.  At the time he was a lieutenant-general, and he was working as the deputy chief of the German Imperial Staff.  An English translation of his book appeared in 1918.      

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Exploring Small Twitter Accounts (Podcast)

I’ve been exploring small Twitter accounts lately. And when I say “small,” I generally mean accounts that have less than 50 followers. You’d be surprised how much gold can be found hidden away in these accounts: they tend to be raw, honest, and unconcerned with saying the “right” thing. In this podcast, I discuss how I started doing this, what I’ve learned, and how I go about it.

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Here Be Thy Grave

The Swiss orientalist and explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt crossed the cataracts of the Nile in 1813 and was intending to penetrate into the heart of unknown Nubia.  Near a place called Jebel Lamoule, his Arab guide dismounted from his camel and approached the intrepid European; his intention was to practice on him a time-honored extortion ritual much observed in that region when escorting foreigners.  The ritual was called “preparing the grave for the traveler.”    

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Alive Today, Dead Tomorrow, Then Alive Again

The ancient Greek statesman and general Alcibiades once likened his career to the lives of the mythical half-brothers Castor and Pollux.[1]  These two figures are together called the Dioscuri, and they are attended by many stories and fables, some of which are contradictory or ambiguous.  According to myth, the Dioscuri are alive and dead on alternate days.  Homer says:

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On The Tempests Of Misery

The Roman writer Aelian, in his Varia Historia (X.5) credits the following parable to Aesop the Phrygian, although I have never heard it mentioned in collections of his stories.  He said that a pig squeals when it is touched by man for a good reason:  it does not produce fur or milk for human use, as a goat or sheep, and has nothing to offer except its own meat. 

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On Why The Best Philosophers Are Men Of Action

The Roman writer Aelian, in his Varia Historia (III.44), conveys the following anecdote. Three young friends, he says, were traveling to Delphi in order to consult the oracle.  Along the way, they lucklessly encountered some bandits.  In the melee that followed, some of the robbers were killed. 

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The Inescapable Limitations Of Knowledge

As we become older, we are more conscious of the limitations of knowledge.  Nothing is so frustratingly difficult as its attainment.  It is like trying to look up at a star or planet in the night sky.  Every time we look directly at one of these points of light, it seems to disappear; only by shifting away our eyes can we perceive it. 

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Empty Words, Empty Gestures, Empty Actions

There is a scene near the beginning of the film The Departed (2006) in which the character played by Martin Sheen, a police captain, asks Leonardo DiCaprio, a potential recruit for undercover work, a pointed question.  The question is this:  “Do you want to be cop, or do you just want to appear to be a cop?  It’s a legitimate question.  Some guys just want to appear to be cops.” 

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