Why Every Man Should Read “Robinson Crusoe”

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By any standard Daniel Defoe (1659?-1731) is one of the most remarkable authors in English history.  In versatility, energy, and practical wisdom, few can claim to be his peer in life experiences or in skill with the pen.  He came to writing by a circuitous route.  After fathering seven children, he threw himself into business and politics; bankruptcy was the result in 1692, but his repayment plan would eventually compensate his creditors almost in full with an amount of 17,000 pounds.

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A Fool Is Put In His Place

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The following anecdote is related in Ibn Khallikan’s short biographical profile of the philologist and rhetorician Al Said.  His full name was Abu al-Said Ibn al-Hasan Ibn Isa Al-Raba’i.  Verbal abilities are highly prized in cultures with rich literary traditions, and this tale bears testament to this fact.

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The Song Of Roland

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As Europe took shape in the early medieval period, the vernacular languages found their voices in popular epics and ballads.  This was not an accident; access to Latin and its literature required literacy, and this was something not easy to come by at that time.  But the lay audiences of Europe began to develop their own voices, and these soon coalesced by degrees into coherent form.  The tradition was mostly oral at first, until these songs and ballads began to be written down.  In every new civilization it seems that the epic ballad occupies the first stage of literary expression; perhaps this is because a people must first master their environments before they can have the leisure to philosophize.  And mastery of the environment means capability in war.

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How Some Old Dystopian Science Fiction Predicted Our Future

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The BBC recently ran an article describing how the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger action film The Running Man contained many supposedly accurate predictions of a dystopian future.  The article makes many valid points about how some elements of the film’s plot seem to describe our current social landscape, but the author forgets that The Running Man was in many ways a derivative film.  Much of its “predictions” were made by less promoted forerunners in the 1970s.

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A Retreat Can Spur Creative Energy: Machiavelli’s Letter To Francesco Vettori

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Sometimes being away from the fray and the fracases of life can allow us to compose our thoughts and regenerate our spirits.  This has the effect of spurring the creative soul on to higher amplitudes of output.  We forget just how distracting it is for the mind to be bombarded with invasive stimuli; and while periods of withdrawal from the fray should not be permanent, they can, in the right doses, provide just that right proportion of flint and steel to spark great works.

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Seek It, And It Recedes; Ignore It, And It Comes To You

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The biographer Ibn Khallikan relates the following anecdote about a man named Abu Amir Orwa Ibn Uzaina, a scholar and poet who died around A.D. 736.  Not much is known of his life except that he was a member of the Iraqi tribe of al-Laith.  It illustrates the importance of not chasing things in life too much.  From personal experience I can attest to this principle’s soundness.  When I was younger, there were times when I would try too much to chase things or control events.

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The Vengeance Of The Wife Of Orgiago

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This story is found in Giovanni Boccaccio’s On Famous Women (De mulieribus claris).  The same qualities of greatness of soul (magnitudo animi and munificentia animi) and moral character that make men great also serve the same purpose for women, as I have recounted in these pages many times before.  It is right, then, for us to praise these virtues wherever we find them.

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