On The Solitary Life

The scholar Petrarch once secured an audience with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who lived from 1316 to 1378.  His meeting with the emperor at Lombardy in 1354 is described in one of Petrarch’s luminous letters (Familiares XIX.3).  It was a charming custom of those days that kings and popes would occasionally seek out men of letters for the purpose of philosophical inquiry.  Perhaps kings preferred to talk with scholars because they were removed from the concerns of power, and could speak with a frankness that was lacking with the royal ministers and advisors.

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Why We Should Forgive The Faults Of Our Heroes

There comes a time in the life of every son or daughter when they begin to see their parents as flawed mortals.  Before this, they are still under the spell of their upbringing; they see their parents more as imposing authority figures than as anything else.  I am not sure exactly when, or how, this transition takes place; for some it may be one event, for others it may be a series of events, or an incremental process.  But it does happen, and the son begins to see the father as the human being he is, in all his definitive defects and foibles.

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Do Not Be Too Proud Of Your Generosity

I have always counted myself fortunate when receiving the generosity of another.  I have never paused to ask questions about the circumstances of the giver, or to weigh the relative merits of a gift.  To be graced with the kindness of another is enough.  Perhaps what matters more is the sincerity of the giver; for a gift wrapped in cold anonymity is valued less than a benefaction derived from proximate familiarity.  We appreciate any generosity, but are more likely to cherish that which carries this aura.

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O Arquiteto Da Imaginação (Translation By Daniel Castro)

[The following is a Portuguese translation of my recent article The Architect of the Imagination, which was published here on July 1, 2018.  Mr. Daniel Castro, the translator, has done great work in capturing the spirit of the original, and for that I am grateful.  He can be found at his website, Nuvem de Giz.]

O homem foi feito para a ação. Mesmo que ele não saiba disso– especialmente se ele não souber disso– seu ser físico se revolta com longos períodos de inércia indolente, e anseia pela liberação física da disputa violenta. Isto é parte do seu sangue-espírito, seu Ser interior irreconciliável. Ele pode tentar negar isto, e ele pode tentar evitar as consequências desta realidade; mas no final esta simples verdade retorna para encará-lo. Mesmo o bicho preguiça corpulento irá se acender como uma bola de pinball quando levado a discutir tópicos de intenso interesse dele; ele irá pular de sua cadeira, gesticular selvagemente, e segurar firme naquele tópico para o qual todas suas energias são dirigidas…

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On The Acceptance Of Disappointments

There is no man who can boast of having enjoyed an unbroken string of successes.  The variability of Fortune, a pervasive theme in these pages, is a force of nature that ensures success will be liberally interspersed by failure.  So it seems to me that we ought to spent just as much time–perhaps even more time–in equipping ourselves with the tools needed to deal with defeats and disappointments, than we do in preparing ourselves for short-lived victory parades.  The seasoned, mature mind will wave to the crowd, and enjoy his moment of reflected glory, remembering all the while that dejection is waiting for him just around the next corner.  I believe it was Theodore Roosevelt who said that, nearly as soon as man passes through the triumphal arches of his victory parade, the crowd will be ready to pelt him in the back with bricks.  And this is undoubtedly true.

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The Corrupt Rule Of Walter VI Of Brienne, The “Duke Of Athens”

The citizens of a free republic should always be alert to threats to their liberty.  Such threats may come in a variety of forms; one of the most dangerous is that posed by a fraud or con artist who appears in the guise of a “people’s champion.”  Skilled at manipulation and demagoguery, such men know how to take the measure of a crowd, or the tenor of the times; they know how to cast their voices so as to appear sympathetic to the legitimate aspirations of their people; and they are practiced at dangling before their gullible audiences the enticements that could be theirs, if only they agree to throw in their lot with him.

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The Pursuit Of Work, And The Quest For Ideals

In 1893 Leo Tolstoy published an essay whose title was rather clumsily translated into English as “Non-Acting.”  In it the great novelist compared the relative merits of two positions, one held by Emile Zola, and the other held by Alexandre Dumas.  Both Zola and Dumas had been asked to state their opinions on what they believed to be the basic forces that move, or should move, humanity.  Tolstoy, mystic that he was, saw these rival opinions in terms of a cosmic competition between “the force of routine, tending to keep humanity in its accustomed path,” and “the force of reason and love, drawing humanity towards the light.”

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