coromandal


despised people

There’s guilt and innocence, and then there’s despised.  The idea that we limit ourselves, in our emotions and thoughts, to the first two is maybe a little naive.

The law claims we do; that we are dispassionate and reasonable.  It says that crimes are committed, that enforcement brings perpetrators to the courts by whose honored mechanisms evidence is weighed and judgments meted.  That everything from the slash of the blade to the clang of the door that shuts out the condemned, is analyzed, vetted, debated and safely concluded.  The claim is not that the system is perfect but that, even in its imperfections, the broader aims of Justice ultimately prevail and social order is reestablished.

But there are cracks in the stones at the very base of the institution of law:  we don’t confine ourselves to guilt and innocence; we do despise.   Continue reading



Revenge is a kind of wild justice
September 23, 2011, 1:44 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , ,

Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more man’s nature runs to the more ought law to weed it out.

Sir Francis Bacon, English author, courtier, & philosopher (1561 – 1626)



consumption thrift generosity
September 15, 2011, 11:18 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

The opposite of consumption isn’t thrift. It’s generosity.”

Raj Patel, The Value of Nothing



pyongyang metro
September 14, 2011, 10:42 am
Filed under: departure lounge | Tags: , ,



bring me back to earth
September 13, 2011, 4:19 pm
Filed under: the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: , , , ,

 

We could do worse than to emulate the ambitions of a man who concentrated his life’s goal on three passions: love, knowledge and pity for suffering.  It’s interesting how pity grounds love and knowledge, which otherwise would soar up into abstraction and self regard.  In fact, by his definition, forms of religion and science which exist for their own sake and gratification, can become quite cruel in their unwillingness to look at and react to the broken world they have been established to serve.

The prologue to Russell’s autobiography, in full:

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair. Continue reading



a small emperor
September 13, 2011, 3:36 pm
Filed under: chronotopes, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

 

When we were kids, the day we were in was all there was:  overflowing with possibility, rife with potential for joy and cataclysm, made to be shaped by our persistent wills and the limits of our imaginations.  Then, suddenly, slowly, we grew up.

Now we are grown, the long childhood days have shrunk; the obligations of the present shares equal time with memories and lessons of the past and hopes and preparation for the future.

I like to think the best among us once in a while – perhaps even regularly – let the day grow long again, let it fill like a languid balloon with the fanciful preoccupations we had long ago.  Like dipping a tin cup to drink in the abject joy and the wonderment we lived every day as children.

Continue reading



preserve of geniuses

I’ve been watching some British TV shows – detectives, lawyers and doctors in small towns and villages – and marveling at how addicting they are.  They are well written – the ones I’m hooked on – the acting is strong and the filming / editing lush.  And the combination makes a show that is technically rich with a human vulnerability built in that draws you to the story and characters.  Layers of broad brush and detail finely cut and a steady parade of exceptional actors:  technique and humanity in a fine balance.  Their great appeal is in the quiet strength and nuance of their craft.

To talk about craft in the electronic age is clearly a throwback.  Our houses are not of clay and wattle made; often they’re factory built by speculators.  In America consumer goods are made in enormous factories and now even more in industrial towns in China.  Everyone works in finance, IT, Google.  So is there a place for a conversation about craft among the ones and zeros?

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is love an elitist guild?
September 11, 2011, 7:38 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

I recommend Alain de Botton’s twitter page.  Each tweet is pregnant with insight that no doubt comes from years of reading and writing books, particularly on philosophy and society. I’ve assembled some here in no particular order on the theme of family.  Apparently, he’s in the thick of one, and reflecting deeply, which is good news for us.  His ideas tend to upset the apple cart of standard beliefs about relationships and love.

Here’s my take on some of the ideas:  Love is work, it may not look like it to the casual observer, but relationships that look stable have been worked on.  Living in a family is like living in a fish bowl: all foibles on display and assessed.  Our children reflect our worst qualities and embarrass us.  To love, you have to understand how difficult it was to have been loved by your parent.  Real love may come to very few of us.  Love loves beauty and degradation, which confuses us. Love isn’t guaranteed, it’s hard work and often ugly.

Continue reading



entirely foolish and entirely wise
September 8, 2011, 1:57 am
Filed under: brave new world, unseen world | Tags: , ,

 

I have an uncle who said, curiously, that he wanted to die poor.  Materially poor, which he did, but we suspect he died rich in other ways.

The Victorian writer John Ruskin set down some observations on the different characteristics of rich and poor below.  In his view, the rich have hedging characteristics:  they are sure and unthinking etc “generally speaking.”  The poor, on the other hand go headlong into their roles:  “entirely foolish … entirely wise.”

This is our accepted generalizing narrative about class in our time:  the hedging rich find it hard to fully live; and the committed poor are all in.

From Ruskin’s essay:

The persons who become rich are, generally speaking, industrious, resolute, proud, covetous, prompt, methodical, sensible, unimaginative, insensitive and ignorant.  The persons who remain poor are the entirely foolish, the entirely wise, the idle, the reckless, the humble, the thoughtful, the dull, the imaginative, the sensitive, the well informed, the improvident, the irregularly and impulsively wicked, the clumsy knave, the open thief and the entirely merciful just and godly person.

Unto This Last (1862), John Ruskin