28 November 2014

Clemens' Notebook: The Uses of Philosophy

Peter Green, The Hellenistic Age (p.118) speaks of the intellectual changes in the Hellenistic Age, a time of troubles, defeat, and social change.

"... to a remarkable degree all Hellenistic creeds, from Stoicism to the counterculture of the Cynics, were agreed that, as Xenocrates (head of the Academy 339-315) put it, in the immediate aftermath of Chaeronea and the collapse of the Achaemenid empire, '[the] reason for discovering philosophy is to allay that which causes disturbance in life.' The full implications of this attitude are not always appreciated. What such statements - and they came to be a commonplace - imply is a kind of intellectual tsunami, a universal disaster from which philosophy must attempt to salvage what it can, and for the survivors of which it sets out to provide some kind of makeshift comfort."

It was certainly needed, as new creeds would be needed in the Late Antique, but could this not also be seen as a fellow traveler to the Buddhist goal of overcoming 'suffering', dukkha? Or is it speaking on a scale larger than an individual's suffering?

09 November 2014

Clemen's bookshelf

Too often my bookshelf includes every flat surface in the house, including desks, tables, and floor. Too much that I want to read.

I have read a great many books as part of my job in the last few months. Probably the best was Robin Fleming's Britain After Rome. It tells us what it can soley from material remains about the disappearance of the urban lifestyle, the coming of the Anglo Saxons, the Vikings, and the Normans. Excellent, though I missed a discussion of DNA and language.

Then there ere several books for my History of Spain til 1492 class. Right now I am reading The Poem of the Cid for the seventh or eighth time. It's still fun, especially trying to puzzle out the medieval Castilian text. It is always better than The Song of Roland which is proof that even in the twelfth century the French were already French.

Best new book I have, and am almost finished with, is The Race for Paradise by Paul Cobb , the Islamic view of the Crusades, a concept they did not have btw. For them the First Crusade was just part of a broader counter attack by the Christians that had started in Spain and Sicily.

Halfway through The Oxford Handbook of Iranian History, and nearly done with Europe Before Rome by T. Douglas Price. Both excellent and worth reading.

On my Kindle I am finishing up Prescott's classic on Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. It is still hard to believe that a half blind Bostonian who had to learn Spanish and never went to Spain could have written this in the 1830s. As dated as it is, I am not sure it has been totally replaced, at least in English. And I keep chipping away at the Bible - after what seems like months if not years, I have reached the 50% marker. As far as I can tell, despite many difficulties, it has never been replaced either.

As for what I have been listening to, I can't even remember, though right now I am working on Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fisher. It is a fascinating look at where "American" culture came from and why it is so varied region by region.  Just finished Furies: War in Europe 1450-1700. It is one depressing read. Apparently war in those years was as destructive of the civil population as World War II, they just did it the old fashioned way, helped out by plague, starvation, and general all around human beastliness.

So you might say I have a few things to keep me occupied.

Morning conversation

Carmen: Your brother is turning into a real movie star.

Me (struggling to wake up): What's he in now?

Carmen: Something called "Purgatory."

Me: That figures.

03 November 2014

Mindfulness practice

With me, I think it will always be just that, practice, hoping to gain the skill to start the journey. I am the type who wants a road map, but I am getting over that. Each time it is something worth doing only for its own sake, that time. The future never gets here.

Saturday I was physically ill, it was an exceptionally dreary day, and both factors were depressing me. For no particular reason I decided to search out Bohdipaksa videos on You Tube. Found one that looked good and decided to try formal meditation, since all I have been doing little snippets of informal mindfulness here and there during the day.

And it all worked. For nearly a half hour I sat cross legged on the floor and listened and focused. When it was done, I felt fine. All the nausea was gone, all the aches and pains, even the lassitude. I did not even need a nap that afternoon.

So why did it work so well that time, when my meditation practice before, as useful and even necessary as it was, had never even come close to being this remarkable? Possibly all those little informal practices cleared the ground and prepared to way. More likely, I simply like Bohdipaksa voice and his take on meditation. Most likely, I believe, is that he talked about joy and instructed his class to smile.

Perhaps that is all it takes.

(the next day Critter came in to help me and Bohdipaksa in our practice - not sure if it was a help)

Headlines you don't want to read first thing in the morning...

... especially if you are a college professor.


from the AOL newsfeed.