a short history of the wolf
November 13, 2011, 3:05 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , ,

finding pleasure
November 5, 2011, 6:07 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , , , ,

Sometimes we think pleasure is narcissism.  I’m sure we may not in our day to day lives, but the din of the popular culture pushes getting mine and getting more.

Pleasure has been neatly tied to money.  In Philip Larkin’s poem, money becomes a man – an understated incarnational event – that chastises him for not living his life:  Quarterly, is it, money reproaches me: / “Why do you let me lie here wastefully? / I am all you never had of goods and sex. / You could get them still by writing a few cheques.”  Clearly this poet is not convinced that pleasure should be quite so tied to acquisition and consumption.

There are of course other more hopeful routes to finding pleasure.  Here is one written by a disciple of the stoic Lucretius.  For him pleasure is found in a restrained, measured life; the diametric opposite of a life of narcissism and consumption.  He adds that pleasure comes from taking risk, making friends and helping people.

Here is his path:

[It is impossible to live pleasureably] without living prudently and honourably and justly, and also without living courageously and temperately and magnanimously, and without making friends, and without being philanthropic.

Lucretius’ disciple

Stephen Geenblatt, The Answer Man, The New Yorker

to unprotect ourselves for the sake of bigness and of love

Summoning up a whirlwind of illogic, Margaret Thatcher once said, “And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.”  That was the beginning of the end of the idea of society in contemporary western life.  This new idea has run its course for the better part of two generations.  It has had enormous impact on our lives and our politics.  There are evidences of it in everything from personal attitudes to public policies.

I can think of numerous examples of how the idea that society, or a commitment to the public good, is essential to having a good life has ebbed away.  On a personal level, the incidence of competition and lack of empathy among friends and colleagues is higher and harsher than it used to – and needs to – be.  Professional jealousy and character assassination at work particularly, as people angle to get ahead, are commonly accepted, where I don’t think they used to be as much.   Continue reading

what’s a hipster good for?
November 4, 2011, 12:36 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , ,

Our present day hipsters who slouch along on Billyburg streets in skinny jeans and plaid shirts, sporting tattoos and facial hair, are nothing like the hipsters of yesterday from whom they take their name.  The Beatniks (Kerouac and the Beats) and Angry Young Men (Kingsley Amis and John Osborne) among others were counter cultural and prickly.  They had agendas and idea and wrote about them in books and produced art which shook our world.

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elect new people
November 1, 2011, 6:30 am
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

“Would it not be easier…for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?”

Bertold Brecht, following the East German Communists’  crackdown on protesting workers in June 1953