Quotes to write by, 2.

From The Journals of Kierkegaard, 1834-54: And this is the simple truth: that to live is to feel oneself lost. He who accepts it has already begun to find himself, to be on firm ground. Instinctively, as do the shipwrecked, he will look around for something to which to cling; and that tragic, ruthless glance,... Continue Reading →

From Seamus Heaney

From Seamus Heaney "Here is the great paradox of poetry and of the imaginative arts in general. Faced with the brutality of the historical onslaught, they are practically useless. Yet they verify our singularity. they strike and stake out the ore of self which lies at the base of every individuated life. In one sense... Continue Reading →

Gathering flowers for the mind

This morning I pulled down from my bookshelf a cardboard box that contains a hundred or more index cards on which I had written in the 1980s and 1990s when I was a student, and before computers, quotations, drawn from my reading. This old habit is like gathering flowers for the mind, and the sewing... Continue Reading →

Quotes to write by 1.

From Niccolo Machiavelli's letter to the magnificent Lorenzo de Medici in presenting his The Prince: Nor I hope will it be considered presumptuous for a man of low and humble status to dare discuss and lay down the law about how princes should rule; because, just as men who are sketching the landscape put themselves... Continue Reading →

A solution to political decay: the ordinary virtues of governing well

Francis Fukuyama has recently argued that Western democratic states, especially America, are suffering political decay. The causes of this decay lie in institutions and culture: state capability, law and accountability begin to work against or undermine each other, rather than working together as complementary components of the political order of liberal democracy.   While Fukuyama's... Continue Reading →

Is nothing sacred?

One of the surprises of my mid-life has been the admission of a longing for the sacred. In the 1980s I remember there was a band, called the Sacred Cowboys who sang a post-punk dirge, "Is nothing sacred?" The song got under my skin in a way, and it seemed to my youthful mind more of... Continue Reading →

Taking time with Szymborska

One of the pleasures of disconnecting, if only for a few months, from the real world, and from its rush and press, the deadlines and overloads, its grinding work and gasping wishes, is to take the time to enjoy poetry again, both as a writer and a reader. The other night, with no obligations attached... Continue Reading →

Madness & History

I am reading Andrew Scull's Madness in Civilization: a cultural history of insanity from the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine (Thames & Hudson, 2015). The title is a wink to the English translation of Foucault's Folie et Déraison, that is Madness & Civilization: a History of Insanity in the Age of Reason.... Continue Reading →

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