In this podcast, we discuss a serious subject. A reader explains that his family has just lost a young child, and he is searching for advice on how to deal with this calamity. I offer some suggestions drawn from Plutarch’s letter of consolation to his wife on the death of his two-year-old daughter Timoxena. We also discuss anecdotes from other sources (e.g., Cicero’s views on grief, the life of P.T. Barnum, etc.), and my own personal experiences. Fiat voluntas tua.Continue reading
When one examines the characters of different civilizations, one begins to notice commonalities of concern. That is, recurring patterns. Especially in the most ancient of civilizations. There is this obsession with capturing the Spirit of Life, mastering its principles, and using that Mastery as a sort of pole-vault—if you will—to leap over the Wall of Life into the realm of the After-Life. Look at those old Assyrian stone reliefs, showing the bearded kings pollinating their date-plants, which were the staff of life in the ancient Near East. Look at the pharaoh smiting his enemies with a mace, and enjoying every minute of it. Mastering life in order to master death, in other words.
A reader has a question about the direction he should take in life. His father died recently, and he is feeling the effects of delayed shock and repressed anger. He feels like he has been denied a positive role model.
I offer some thoughts and suggestions, using an anecdote and then some commentary.
The charm of old books often lies in their inaccuracies, errors, and absurdities. It is not a requirement of entertainment that everything must be factual. It is a pleasant thing to be reminded every now and then of our humanity; and nothing is more human than error. Only by seeing how far knowledge has advanced through the centuries can we appreciate the achievements of those who came before us.
Those acquainted with modern Chinese literature tell us that Lu Hsun (1881-1936) is one of its most towering figures. His stories are of the most intimate type: he chronicles his thoughts, feelings, and impressions in a free-flowing manner, unrestrained by convention or rule. He did not subscribe to any political affiliation, preferring to remain beholden to no one. It is this streak of stubborn independence that attracts us to his writings.