Poetry: The Icelandic Language

The Hammock Papers shares an evocative poem from Bill Holm, The Icelandic Language:

In this language, no industrial revolution;
no pasteurized milk; no oxygen, no telephone;
only sheep, fish, horses, water falling.
The middle class can hardly speak it.

In this language, no flush toilet; you stumble
through dark and rain with a handful of rags.
The door groans; the old smell comes
up from under the earth to meet you.

Read the rest, here.

More on Holm, here and here.

This poem, apparently, comes from a collection, The Dead Get By With Everything.

 

Photo by Ghost Presenter on Unsplash

The coddling of the American mind – Economist

The Economist has a review of a new book: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. By Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.

It looks fascinating though, sadly, my Must Read shelf is currently creaking at its limit.

Yet, in a week when Manchester University Student Union bans clapping and cheering (to reduce anxiety), the book offers a crumb of comfort:

In reality, only a minority of students take part in the more egregious sorts of disorder that “The Coddling” documents. In the spectrum of threats to Western democracy, cock-eyed campus politics may not entirely deserve the attention it attracts.

Maybe, I can still find a little space …

 

 

Something for the weekend – Jordan Peterson

These are really good: two (different) lectures by Jordan Peterson in Iceland. As I recall, the second lecture starts with some background on how he came to write 12 Rules for Life.

The book made its way to the top of the Must-Read pile and I’m currently half-way through. Exceptionally lucid.

And, as Stoic Week nears its end, I see a lot of commonality between Peterson’s responsibility-over-rights perspective and the Stoic perspective.

Set aside a few (well, five) hours to feed the mind…

 

Downtime: A Man In Full by Tom Wolfe

A Man In Full was my first Tom Wolfe novel. It had been on my Must Read list for a few years and, when Tom Wolfe died, I finally ordered a copy.

It’s a beautifully observed, beautifully written book that shows you its worlds through the eyes of each character, immersing you in their perceptions and prejudices.

It is often referenced because of its use of Stoic philosophy and that seems to come on two levels.

There’s the slap-in-the-face-obvious storyline of a man in his hour of darkest need, who comes across a Magic Book. The constant references thereafter to Zeus  play to this surface reading, so I guess that may have been Wolfe’s intent.

However, at a more interesting and subtle level, all of the main characters go through something of a Stoic revelation. In each arc, we see and experience their  own version of  “being a man”, from former football hero and real-estate mogul Charlie Croker’s trophy-wifed, quail-hunting, plantation-owning,  machismo, through Roger White’s educated, elegant, professional career, to young Conrad’s desperation to provide for his family. As the story progresses,  each evolves a different – and perhaps more Stoic – view of what it means to be a “man in full”.

I enjoyed it enormously, yet I came away feeling slightly let down by the final 100 pages or so (of 740). They felt rushed and, I suppose, I wanted a slightly different ending.

That said, it’s well worth a read over the summer.

 

Downtime: Marcus Aurelius – Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor by Frank McLynn

We talk a lot about Marcus Aurelius, but often know nothing beyond the 100-odd pages of Meditations, the published collection of his private notebooks.

Frank McLynn corrects this with a comprehensive biography of the famed philosopher-king. It’s a weighty read, but fascinating. I came away a much richer understanding of Roman history, economy, geography and military as well as some insight into the man and his beliefs.

I think it’s fair to say that McLynn is no Stoic himself, but it is interesting to understand the history of Stoicism and how it was understood in Marcus’ own time.

If I’m not too late, this would make a fantastic holiday read.

Aspidistras and aspirations – @TheEconomist

The Economist draws bleak parallels for the independently-minded between today and the 1930s of George Orwell’s Keep The Aspidistra Flying.

“Keep the Aspidistra Flying” foreshadows the dilemma that befalls today’s millennials. With so little room for manoeuvre and such high penalties for non-compliance, their quiet conformity belies a devastating loss of freedom, a crushing of the spirit that only their great-grandparents could relate to.

Did you publish? – @ThisIsSeth

A reminder, or call to arms, from Seth:

They (whoever ‘they’ is) made it easy for you to raise your hand. They made it easy for you to put your words online, your song in the cloud, your building designs, business plans and videos out in the world. They made it easy for you to be generous, to connect, and to lead.

Did you?

Read the ever pithy and relevant Seth, here.

 

Photo by James Bold on Unsplash