The Sultan’s Two Goblets

The medieval Arab traveler Ibn Battuta passed through Persia during his many years of wanderings.  One of the regions he visited there was Lorestan, which is today a province in western Iran, situated in the Zagros mountains.  Lorestan was at that time ruled by Muzaffar Al-Din Afrasiyab, a member of the Hazaraspid dynasty, which was a line of Kurdish Sunni composition.  The sultans who ruled this country carried the title atabek, a hereditary Turkic and Persian title of nobility.

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Seven Pillars Of A Noble Youth

It has been said, my son, that a society which neglects its youth is a society unworthy of survival.  For while libraries and museums may be repositories of our cultural heritage, it is the youth that embody our sentient aspirations, and, through their activities, redeem our errors with the vitality of innocence.  Yet surging waters require dams and embankments to control their flows; their energies must be checked and directed into proper channels, lest the raw force of effluence create a destructive tide.  To this end I offer some words of advice.  I have drawn up seven of them; there are probably many more, but certainly there are none less.

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Do Not Surrender The Playing Field (Podcast)

There are too many who are too quick to leave the field, give up, and throw in the towel.  When you do that, you forfeit the game to the other side.  And in many cases, the unworthies win.  Then they end up in positions of power.  Good men and women must always be prepared to see the game through to the very end, and must never allow themselves to concede the game.  You have just as much right to be there as the unworthies do, so stake a claim, and make yourself heard.

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Taboos And Totems

Herman Melville’s first book, Typee, describes his adventures among the natives of the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific.  His whaler, the Acushnet, had reached Nuku Hiva, and by that time the young rogue had reached the limits of his tolerance of shipboard life.  So he left.  He and his friend Toby took a few personal possessions and descended into the valley of the Typee (Taipi) tribe, to see what the great Unknown had to offer.  Melville had had enough with tyrannical ship-captains; he could accept no further impediments to his exploratory desires.  As the Roman historian Velleius Paterculus says,

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My Favorite Films Of The Past Twenty Years

Below are listed my favorite films of the past twenty years.  These are the movies that have most influenced me, or have left the most enduring impression on my mind.  They are presented in no rigid order of hierarchy, except for the first title, The Lives of Others, which for me towers over every other film as a cherished work of cinematic art.

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Take Responsibility For What You Do (Podcast)

If you’ve been assigned a job or a position, take responsibility for what you do.  Form your plans, put them into action, and stand by your decisions no matter what the consequences.  Don’t shirk responsibility, don’t pass the buck, and don’t look to create excuses if things don’t go as planned.  Our society is filled with buck-passers, dirtbags, and weasels who are always looking to affix blame for things on anyone but themselves.  We discuss details, using a conversation between President Lincoln and General U.S. Grant as a guide.

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The Nakedness Of The Soul

I have just finished watching a reality television series on Netflix called Alone:  The Arctic.  I believe it was originally produced by the History Channel.  Now before you roll your eyes and dismiss what I have to say out of hand, I would ask you for a fear hearing.  Hear me out, dear reader:  for I too once retained your same squint-eyed skepticism.

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The Gravitation Of Noble Souls

In one of his letters to his brother Quintus, Marcus Tullius Cicero makes the following observation:

The more virtuous a man is, the less he considers others to be evil.  [Letters to Quintus I.4.12]

The idea is the same as that expressed in an old Korean proverb, which I remember from my residence in that country many years ago:  “In the eyes of a Buddha, everything is Buddha-like; but to a pig’s eyes, everything appears piggish.”  The proverb sounds much more beautiful, of course, in the original Korean; but the point remains valid.  A great spirit—a soul imbued with a certain nobility—finds it difficult to comprehend, or accept, venality and baseness displayed by others.  Such a man can be trained to recognize and avoid these things, but they will always retain an air of incomprehensibility to him, as if they were fundamentally anathema to his soul.  Why is this?

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The Wisdom Of Ibn Abd Al-Barr Of Spain

The Iberian peninsula’s uniqueness derives from the fact that its shores have been washed by successive cultural waves:  Roman, Gothic, Arab, and then indigenous Christian.  No other region of Europe has acted as a similar crossroad, or has stimulated a comparable fermentation.  Each of these civilizational tides altered the terrain as it flowed in, and then receded.  We now turn, once again, to the world of medieval Arabic scholarship, and attempt to pry open its chests of mysterious treasures.

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