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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“How Do I Transition From Youth To Middle Age?” (Podcast)

A reader emails me and asks for advice and guidance on how to navigate the passage from youth to middle age. But there are no magic answers, no magic wands. You have to keep moving forward, keep working on yourself, keep focusing on mind, body, and responsibilities. But I also detect some other things in his email, things that are unsaid. We discuss.

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Arousing The Imagination

By what means can the imagination be activated?  By what artifice may its secrets be coaxed to the surface of our consciousness, and made capable of articulation, as an enterprising fisherman might lure a rare specimen from deep waters to the surface?  Are there tried techniques, or is it simply a matter of random inspiration?  These are questions worthy of consideration.

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“Should I Reopen A Closed Chapter?” (Podcast)

A reader reaches out to ask a question that’s been troubling him.  He was recently re-contacted by an ex-girlfriend from several years ago.  She appears to want to start over again with him, but he has his doubts and hesitations.  Should he re-open this closed chapter of his life, or should he keep his distance?  We discuss.

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The Anatomy Of The Scam

There has been a big surge in online scammery and con artistry in the past two years.  Economic hardship and desperation have been contributing causes, but this kind of activity has been with us since the dawn of time.  And con games will always be with us, because they are rooted in the timeless and predictable ingredients of human nature.

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Betrayal Will Find Its Punishment

We will examine the consequences of treachery and betrayal.  Zahir Al-Umar Al-Zaydani (ظاهر العمر الزيداني) was a charismatic regional potentate who managed to carve out a fiefdom for himself in Palestine during the waning centuries of the Ottoman empire.  Born around 1690, he achieved ascendancy through the usual mix of piety, maneuvering, and ruthlessness; and by the 1730s he had acquired such power in Galilee that the Turkish authorities in Istanbul knew they needed to find a way to clip his wings.

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On The Right Delivery Of Advice

The best advice in the world will be of meager service if it is not conveyed in a way that enhances the likelihood of its acceptance.  Knowledge is one thing, and communication of that knowledge is another.  What is hard-won on the battlefield of experience may be dissipated in its conveyance to another.  He who wishes to render advice, then, should be aware of the snares and pitfalls that lie in wait for him.

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If They Had Lived Up To The Responsibilities That Went With The Privileges (Podcast)

The distinguishing feature of our “leaders” today is their near total disregard for putting the mission ahead of themselves.  They are unwilling to risk their careers to make the hard calls that would truly benefit society.  And because of their moral cowardice, all of us suffer.  We see this played out over and over.  In this podcast we examine an anecdote from the experience of one POW in the Second World War, and discuss its lessons.  When leaders betray their oaths and their offices, the betrayal extends beyond their immediate radius of control:  they betray future generations as well, the young people who were looking to them for protection and guidance.

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The Eminence Of Barley

Of all the cereal grains I like barley the most.  It has a smooth consistency and a nourishing quality that one does not find in other grains, such as rice or oats.  One reads of its ubiquity in ancient Rome, when it was a true food staple, and found its way into the bowls of gladiators, soldiers, scholars, scribes, and aristocrats.  It could be pounded into a porridge, baked into a bread, and fermented; added to soups or stews, it acted as a fortifying agent.

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