Prisoner Of The Bolsheviks: The Ordeal Of Henry Pearson

The newspapers and magazines of previous eras provide us a window on the age.  One gets a sense of the mood and odor of the times.  Personal accounts are better still, especially when the writer has endured a direful or traumatic experience.

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Operation Eagle Claw: Disaster In The Desert

In early November 1979, rioting Iranian students entered the American embassy in Tehran and seized fifty-two government employees.  Whether this was a spontaneous act, or a planned operation by Iran’s revolutionary government, is still open to debate; but in either instance, the nation’s clerical leadership moved quickly to exploit the crisis.  In the United States, the Carter administration was still reeling from the shock waves sent out by the fall of the Shah, who had long been an American ally in the region.  There was a sense of confusion, even paralysis; and the problem was compounded by the fact that the Americans had very little knowledge of what was happening in Tehran.  There were no eyes and ears on the ground.

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Of Cowardice And Magnanimity

The philosopher and naturalist Theophrastus of Eresos succeeded Aristotle as head of the Peripatetic school; and while he may not have had his predecessor’s visionary profundity, he more than compensated for this with a genial manner, relentless curiosity, and a genius for organization.  Like the Prussian naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt, there was nothing in the heavens or on the earth that escaped his attention; and his exhaustive botanical treatise, the Historia Plantarum (Study of Plants) remained an authority in the field until well beyond the medieval period.

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An Eclipse Confirms General Relativity

Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, first published in 1915, proved to be a revolutionary way of looking at the universe.  The three dimensions of space were combined with time to create a unified whole; and this space-time grid, instead of being fixed and static, could be warped in certain circumstances.

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George Washington’s Leadership Qualities

George Washington generally preferred a restrained style of leadership.  By this I mean he was economical with his words, careful in doling out both praise and recriminations, and mindful that his actions would resound more loudly with subordinates than his statements.  He understood the principle that, when leading men, sometimes a leader had to turn his back on them; he did not strive for back-slapping familiarity, but instead the calm and steady application of discipline and objective.

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Conscience As The Theater Of Virtue: The Justice Of Saladin

I very much like the following maxim of Cicero’s:

Nevertheless, no theater for virtue is greater than one’s conscience. [1]

What he meant by this was that one’s own conscience should guide the performance of good works.  He was expressing his disapproval of those who did things for the purpose of gaining public favor, instead of following that inner voice which represents man’s instinctive sense of justice.  What should be paramount in one’s mind are not specious public displays, or a craving for shameless notoriety; what should be controlling are the dictates of one’s own conscience.

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On The Death Of Seneca

There is a preparatory plaster statue, very finely executed by Eduardo Barrón, on display at the Museo Nacional del Prado Museum in Madrid.  It is called Nero and Seneca, and it was completed in 1904.  Barrón never produced a final version in marble or bronze; and although it remains a preliminary study, it is a powerfully evocative depiction of two strong personalities.  Seneca points at a passage in an unrolled book before him, and is leaning towards Nero, evidently to make some pedagogic point.  The young Nero, whom Seneca had the misfortune to tutor, remains slouched in his chair, a clenched fist pressed against his temple in sullen opposition to the lesson his teacher is attempting to expound.

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The Roman Gestures Of The Clenched Thumb, And The Turned Down Thumb

The meaning of hand gestures may vary widely from culture to culture.  In the modern West, approval is popularly expressed by the “thumbs up” sign, and disapproval by the downward turn of the thumb.  These hand gestures even seem to be universal, at least in the modern era.  But perhaps it was not always so.  The humanist Angelo Poliziano’s Miscellanies contains a passage in chapter 42 of his book that raises some doubts, at least to my mind.  Philology may shed some light on the subject.

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A Dog’s Heroism During The Wreck Of HMS “Harpooner”

Whether our canine friends risk themselves out of a conscious sense of duty, or whether they act out of blind instinct, is a question that dog lovers and animal behaviorists will endlessly debate.  It is not an unimportant question.  For if it is true that dogs may, under some circumstances, feel the pull of obligation, then it must follow that they are capable of the noblest emotions, and the stirrings of love.  This was the question that the following sea-story raised.  Buried in a volume of forgotten nautical lore, it describes the heroics of a service dog named King during the wreck of the British transport Harpooner in Newfoundland in 1816.

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