There are many men who lack a certain sense of awe and grandeur at the inscrutable workings of Nature. They are apt to favor crank theories instead of considered judgments; and they recline in negativity and pessimism when the time comes for them to perform in the face of adversity. They lack faith in the ability of the human soul to accomplish truly great things, because they themselves have no awareness of the capacities of that divine soul.Continue reading
Most people never realize that good fortune can be suddenly and brutally replaced by bad fortune. What once seemed like heaven can quickly be transformed into a hell. The reverse is also true: a man can find himself in terrible straits, but can extricate himself through consistent efforts, and reach a kind of “heaven.”
This observation leads us to make five (5) important conclusions. We list and discuss them.Continue reading
A nineteenth-century volume of nautical lore provides the following story of a strange incident at sea. In 1818 there was a ship—its name is not recorded by the tale’s author—on its homeward voyage from Jamaica to Whitehaven, England. One of the passengers was a young mother with her infant child, who was only several weeks old. One day, the ship’s captain saw something on the horizon, and offered his spyglass to the mother, so that she might for herself see what it was. She wrapped her child in her shawl and placed it carefully on the seat where she had been sitting.
The Athenian statesman and lawgiver Solon is said to have enacted an unusual law in 594 B.C. The essence of the law was that, in times of civil conflict or crisis, every citizen had to take one side or another. Neutrality was not an option; one could not “sit on the sidelines” and wait things out. Anyone doing so would run the risk of being declared an outlaw (atimos), and might have his property confiscated.
The Battle of Zama essentially concluded the Second Punic War, that terrible contest waged by Rome and Carthage for control of the western Mediterranean. It took place in 202 B.C. near the town of Zama in what is now Tunisia. The commanding generals were Hannibal on the Carthaginian side, and Publius Cornelius Scipio on the Roman. The historian Livy (XXX.30) relates a fascinating exchange between these two great commanders that took place on the eve of the battle.
It often happens that we are forced to accept what we wish to avoid. Avarice, for example, defeats itself; and the miser who in futility clings to every penny finds himself compelled to part with greater sums than he might otherwise have spent. The health fanatic who obsesses about every morsel of food that goes into his mouth, or cup that is pressed to his lips, finds himself harassed by ailments and bodily infirmity, while the moderate enjoyer of pleasure scarcely has a need to visit the physician. The athlete fixated on avoiding injury brings it down upon himself.
I was lucky enough today to find an old copy of Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra; the volume is lavishly illustrated and was actually published in Granada in the late 1940s. The following tale is found in this Andalusian collection; it reminds us of the influence of Fortune in the lives of mortals, a theme that we have explored frequently in these pages.
It is a feature of human nature to try to control our environment. We wish to exert some kind of influence over the outcome of events, and thereby enhance our own feelings of security and comfort. Yet there are many times when human labor will fall short; it will prove itself to be incapable of dealing with a situation, or unable to weigh the nuances of an evenly balanced pattern of fact. When these situations come about, we must step back from the work-shop; we must move away from the work-table, the field of conflict, or the courtroom, and Fortune take over the guidance of events.
Al-Mu’tamid ibn Abbad (المعتمد بن عباد) lived from 1040 to 1095 and was the last ruler of the Abbadid kingdom of Seville. He was raised under the fold of royalty, and enjoyed the pleasures and good fortunes that come to young princes. In 1069, upon the death of his father Abbad al-Mu’tadid, he inherited the dominion of Seville; his domain included a large part of southern Spain.
Everyone has heard the tired phrase, “path of least resistance.” It represents a principle that I have no objection to. Of course there is no reason to make more work for oneself without good reason. No one is arguing with this idea. All things being equal, the shortest path to a goal is usually the best. But it occurred to me today to take this phrase and modify it a bit to create another principle, one perhaps equally valid, yet one far less frequently discussed. Let us consider this new phrase: the wrath of least persistence. What do I mean by this?