Diotima’s Ladder
October 7, 2016, 4:31 pm
Filed under: the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: , , ,

Why Socrates believed that sexual desire is the first step towards righteousness

Can sexual desire lead us to something that transcends the physical act? Socrates seemed to think so. In Plato’s Symposium, Socrates recalls the words of his apparent teacher of erotics, the priestess Diotima of Mantinea, who instructed him that lust was the first rung on a ladder leading upwards towards an appreciation of the form of beauty itself and, further, to morality and virtue.

Video by BBC Radio 4 and The Open University

Script: Nigel Warburton

Animator: Andrew Park

from Aeon magazine

beauty born of danger
January 2, 2016, 11:11 pm
Filed under: departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: , ,

Beauty, liberty, and wisdom are born of danger, neglect, decay, fear, dirt, sloth, ruin, accident, uncertainty. Not of security, enterprise, perfection, strategy, planning, foresight. Death not money.

“The history of Paris teaches us that beauty is a by-product of danger, that liberty is at best a consequence of neglect, that wisdom is entwined with decay. Any Paris of the future that is neither a frozen artefact nor an inhabited holding company will perforce involve fear, dirt, sloth, ruin, and accident. It will entail the continual experience of uncertainty, because the only certainty is death.”

Luc Sante, The Other Paris

B – the Devil’s Dictionary

Here’s some more viciousness from Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary.  In many of these entries, for every word’s accepted and surface meaning there is an underlying or shadow meaning.  Two faces.  The revealed meaning is acceptable and scrubbed and would, I assume, belong in the dictionary of a more sanctified being, like an Angel perhaps.  It’s the lurking, unrevealed meaning that is devilish and sinister.

For instance, beauty is charm on the surface, but terror below.  A benefactor is beneficient and even magnanimous in public, but stingy for the gratitude he feels is his rightful due underneath it all.  In public life a boundary is a line; in private it is the manifestation of the politics of neighboring populations given to delusion and self-aggrandizement.

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and when I shall die
August 20, 2011, 7:35 am
Filed under: departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: , , , , ,


“And when I shall die, take him and cut him up in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will fall in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.” Juliet

I don’t know why I can’t stop crying over Amy Winehouse.  I barely paid her attention since the world began to notice her; some songs on my ipod and occasional wincing at how cruelly she was treated by the British press as she struggled with her life going in and out of relationships, courtrooms, concert venues, London flats, pubs, fixes and addiction treatment centers.

She reminds me of the child heroine of Elizabethan literature Juliet, I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it is her beauty, her youth, her desperate affairs and tragic end.  But with each new evidence during these past few days since her death – video, picture, story – her resemblance to Juliet clarifies for me:  her core motivation, and our great fascination with her, is her mad, relentless craving for love.

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i’m me!
September 22, 2008, 4:00 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Here are the novelist Ian McEwan’s thoughts on the imagination from an interview with Ramona Koval on Radio National.  They are talking about his book Atonement which was made into a picture last year.  Although I haven’t read the book, I have a sneaking suspicion it’s miles better than the film.

I remember when I was studying literary criticism, we read an apologetic piece that claimed that literature’s use is to humanize us.  It was late in my undergrad and I was pleasantly surprised by this new idea that, beside beauty and delight, literature was useful.  It seemed to bring it all crashing down to the level of function as if literature were a machine, designed to meet some base social operation.  Some people don’t trust beauty and want everything to be understood at its basest level.  I do trust it, and somehow, the idea that literature, and by extension art, is beautiful and useful adds to its complexity – and desirability.

McEwan talks about this same idea in the quotation below.  He says imagination helps us to have empathy with other people.  Which is the same thing as saying literature humanizes.  Helpfully, he tells us what we are like when not properly humanized:  cruel and fearful.

Here is the quotation.  Read the entire article here.

My mother dropped me at the beach on her way to work. I was in North Africa. It was early in the morning. It was the Mediterranean spring and I had the day to myself. No friends—I don’t know why, that day—and I had one of those little epiphanies of ‘I’m me,’ and at the same time thinking, well, everyone must feel this. Everyone must think, ‘I’m me.’ It’s a terrifying idea, I think, for a child, and yet that sense that other people exist is the basis of our morality. You cannot be cruel to someone, I think, if you are fully aware of what it’s like to be them. In other words, you could see cruelty as a failure of the imagination, as a failure of empathy. And to come back to the novel as a form, I think that’s where it is supreme in giving us that sense of other minds.

~from Books and Writing, Radio National with Ramona KovalSunday 22/9/2002