Grave Offenses, And Little Thanks

In a letter to Titinius Capito, the Roman official and career lawyer Pliny discusses the idea of writing a book of history.  Of particular concern to him was the choice of topic:  he was uncertain whether he should treat an ancient or a modern subject.  Valid arguments existed for both options.  An older subject might allow for a more considered perspective, far removed from the passions of immediate memory; whereas the treatment of a current subject might inflame unreasonable emotions in his readers.  Pliny has serious doubts about choosing a subject that might be within the living memory of his readers.  He summarizes his feelings with this sentence:

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The Cultivation Of A Sense Of Humor

To be lacking in a sense of humor is a true misfortune.  I would not go so far as to call it an offense against others; but it certainly is a detriment to oneself.  Social media seems to magnify our sense of self-importance; and when self-importance escalates, so does our sense of grim momentousness.  There is nothing wrong with being serious, of course, up to a certain point.  But there must be some kind of pressure-value to release the steam-engine’s expanding vapors.  And if the first duty of the philosopher is to be clear, then certainly his second obligation is not to take himself too seriously.  The truly wise know when to laugh.

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Al-Farra And The Three Obligations Of Respect

Abu Zakariyya Yahya Ibn Ziyad is one of the more famous of the early Arabic grammarians.  Known to history by his moniker Al-Farra, he was born in the city of Kufa around A.D. 761 and received an intensive education there in rhetoric, law, and theology.  His biographer Ibn Khallikan calls him “the most eminent of all the doctors of Kufa and also the most distinguished by his knowledge of grammar, philology and the various branches of literature.”

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On Living Near The Ocean

Although I do not live near the ocean now, I grew up in a small town that was close to it.  The spirit of place enters imperceptibly into one’s bloodstream; and one gets used to the tang of rotting seaweed, the early morning salt mist, the relentlessly shifting dunes, and the omnipresent screams of the gulls.  I have found that being near the ocean is restorative of health.

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