Category Philosophy

Squeezing the “Tao Te Ching” Into a Jam-Packed Week

All right, so that is a little joke in the headline, yes? Need I explain it? The ancient Chinese text emphasizing peace, stillness, patience, emptying the Self, the unity of opposites, being rather than doing, or at least being completely there in the doing? Squeezing that into one’s week?

Funny, maybe a little bit? Tiny smile?

I laugh in order not to cry. Or rage.

Dear Tao, help me in my laughter.

It is the tail end of a week that has seen renewedly breathtaking revelations of an ex-president’s overt and relentless attempt at a coup, followed by rapid-fire Supreme Court decisions that on successive days 1) declared open season on gun violence victims by approving open carry across all 50 states of our union, and 2) ruled on a case that will amount to the outlawing of all abortions in probably half the United States almost immediately.

The devastating symbolism of the court’s one-two punch: force women to...

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American Distemper: On Not Letting Our Daubers Down

Roger Craig was an avuncular figure in the sometimes rough-and-tumble, sometimes over-sentimentalized world of major league baseball. He was a better-than-his-record starting pitcher mid-20th century, enjoying a 12-year career and four World Series appearances before staying in the game first as a scout and coach and then through a successful decade-long run as a manager.

It was during his eight-season run (1985-92) managing the San Francisco Giants in that cosmopolitan city that the slightly drawling Durham, North Carolina native became known and celebrated for a down-home phrase to keep his players’ spirits up, especially when they were leaving the clubhouse after a tough loss, or worse, several losses in a row.

“Don’t let your daubers down,” he would tell them, employing that delightful, if somewhat mysterious-origin word “daubers” to here mean their spirits, confidence and passion for the game.

One ne...

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A Hymn to Memory, Mom, and Andy Williams, Whom I Still Remember

One of my clearest early musical memories is of using my paper route and yard work money to buy Andy Williams’s “The Shadow of Your Smile” album as a birthday present for my mother when I was probably 15. She and my dad had purchased one of those low-slung wood-framed console stereos that were becoming fashionable at the time, signaling a kind of tentative probe into the promise of American middle class life.

When one lifted up the hinged cover door to behold the turntable and tastefully designed silver control knobs below, there was a slot to the left that was prepared to accept maybe the initial 10 or 15 albums that would launch the owner’s collection. Andy Williams was among the early occupants of that slot.

But time and memory are tricksters extraordinaire, as any good physicist will tell you about the former and neuroscientist about the latter.

And there was that song he sang, not the cover so...

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Pink Floyd and Some Heideggerian Musings on “Time”

The photo off to the side here shows my ancient cat’s pill dispenser. Two pills of different dosage values go down his gullet in the morn (note the “a.m.” slot), two at night (“p.m.”), to keep his wonky thyroid properly modulated. I take a couple of minutes to fill this dispenser every Sunday night, both to save myself the trouble of fishing individual pills out of their respective bottles twice daily, and also as a backup for my wonky memory (for which no modulation is available) as the day proceeds and I ask myself, “Did I give Rascal his pills this morn?”

What strikes me most about this weekly ritual is the increasing feeling, week to week, that I JUST DID THIS LIKE ABOUT…16 HOURS AGO!

And therein lies the problem of time, and memory, and the future, and life and meaning and death and the music and the philosophy that does its level best to make sense of it all and keep us from th...

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Perfection or Oppression? Chasing Happiness With Epicurus and “The Giver”

So we heard from Kierkegaard a couple of posts ago, and his prescription for happiness, at least as it existed in his own mind. Kierkegaard largely turned his back on the pleasures and joys of this world (other than philosophy and religion), putting all his faith as well as his formidable intellectual capital into a vision of an afterlife that would ultimately reward the denial or disinterest in pedestrian earthly pleasures.

His philosophy is far more nuanced and rich with rhetoric than that brief summary suggests, but at base, Kierkegaard and a segment of Christianity that has at least partially mirrored his views aren’t overly enamored with this fallen world, regarding it as mere waystation and proving ground for the eternal joy to come.

Google tells me it’s about 1,725 miles from Copenhagen to Athens, but it’s a lot farther than that philosophically from Kierkegaard to another subject of this post, the ...

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