The Travels Of Benjamin Of Tudela

The motivations of intrepid travelers are not difficult to discern.  The desire to get out, to get away from everything that reeks of contemptible familiarity, to smash through obstacles and barriers both mental and physical, to be confronted with stimuli both terrifying and strange:  these would be primary impulses.  Following close behind them would be a thirst to seek one’s fortune, to take a certain measure of the world and its people, and to test one’s mettle against the mettlesome natures of others.  It has been so for centuries.

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The Travels And Philosophy Of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

She was born in 1689 in Thoresby in Nottinghamshire, the eldest daughter of Evelyn, Duke of Kingston, and Lady Mary Fielding.  When she was only four years old, her mother died, and this event became a defining one in her life; for she was raised in a decidedly male environment, a fact that imparted her personality with a bluntness and daring that distinguished her from other aristocratic women of her era.  As seems to be the case for many great travelers, she had to win her education through her own efforts.  She developed an interest in the classical languages at an early age; but as good instruction was impossible to come by, she taught herself Latin, French, and the basics of Greek through her own unrelenting exertions.  By her teenage years, she was composing verses.

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Plato’s Five Components Of Happiness (Podcast)

In this podcast I answer an email from a reader. He enjoyed a great job as a bartender before the Covid crisis hit, and now has to go back to work with greatly reduced hours and uncertain prospects.  He isn’t sure whether to go back, or to try something new.  We discuss.  We also talk about Plato’s five components of happiness, and how they relate to his situation.

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The Power Of Physical Gestures

We have forgotten the importance of physical gestures, and lost the power to use them effectively.  The modern man mumbles hesitatingly through his daily conversations with speech, intonation, and physical movements that betray his supreme lack of confidence and paralyzed will; his sentences are strung together with drooping, truncated, insipid copulas and expressions that are just as uninspiring as his limp-wristed gesticulations, his distended paunch, and his lack of musculature.  Grunting and stumbling have now replaced fluency of communication, grace of artistry, and the supple movement of a divine form towards a noble goal.  Since the words flowing from so many mouths now mean so little, we can expect the gestures of such speakers to echo the hollowness of their words.  It seems that T.S. Elio’s descriptive lines in “The Hollow Men” have become fact:

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The World Provides Our Necessities (Podcast)

The world is a provider of necessities.  Just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, things have a way of turning around if you keep fighting and stay in the game.  The only way to lose is to be a quitter.  Have faith in the world’s fructifying ability to provide for our needs.

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The Horns Of Dilemmas

There are times to act decisively, times to observe events and await opportunities, and times to discuss.  There are also times to say nothing at all.  Aesop tells a story to make this point.  A monkey, he says, was once taken as a shipboard pet by a Grecian sailor.  When the sailor’s vessel approached Attica’s Cape Sounion, a storm arose and the ship capsized; all aboard ship were tossed into the sea, but a dolphin appeared and prevented the monkey from drowning.

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The Insanity Of The Daughters Of Proetus

Pliny’s Natural History (XXV.47) contains a passage that discusses hellebore, a medicinal plant that in ancient times was used to treat insanity.  One variety of hellebore, he says, is called melampodion, a name acquired from a shepherd named Melampus, who noticed that the plant had a purgative effect on his female goats (capras purgari pasto illo animadvertentem) once they had eaten it.  This milk, we are told, cured “the daughters of Proetus of madness.”  Pliny even describes a detailed ritual supposedly used to collect the plant.  But who were the daughters of Proetus?  What story is being referenced?

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The Ring Of Thoth: A Tale Of The Supernatural By Arthur Conan Doyle (Podcast)

This podcast is a reading of A. Conan Doyle’s tale of the supernatural, “The Ring Of Thoth.”  First published in 1890, it recounts the horrific consequences of an ancient Egyptian priest’s discovery of the secret to eternal life.

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Before Acquiring The Horse, One Must Build The Stable

In the year 357 A.D., twenty-seven years after the empire’s capital had been moved to Constantinople, the emperor Constantius II visited Rome.  He was awed by its architectural splendor, which at that time was still substantially preserved.  He visited the center of the city and the extensive suburbs; the sanctuaries of Tarpeian Jove, “transcendent to the same extent as heavenly things rise above those of earth” (quantum terrenis divina praecellunt); the extensive baths; the amphitheatres; the immortal Pantheon, “arched in high grandeur, like a smooth neighborhood” (velut regionem teretem speciosa celsitudine fornicatam), and whose lofty niches were still adorned with the statues of former emperors; the Forum of Peace; the Oleum; and all the other brilliant monuments of this venerable jewel of a city.

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You Have To Make The Call (Podcast)

When you are leading, you have to make the big decisions.  You have to make the call, not sit back, judge the prevailing winds, and cover your ass.  If you are unwilling to put yourself on the line, you are a worthless leader and have no business being there.  In this podcast, we discuss:

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