All moments in time are lost like tears in the rain…..
All moments in time are lost like tears in the rain…..
With the passing of Philip Roth the world has lost a lion of literature.
All my favorite writers are dying off. John Updike, Saul Bellow, Edward Albee, and now Philip Roth. Who will take their place? No one. There is literally no one who can fill the shoes of theses giants. With the passing of Philip Roth follows the death of the Great American Novel.
What mystery lies beneath the mist enshrouded tombs?
The dead die hard, they are born astride a grave
A stranger’s shadow finds its way across the yard by dead reckoning
He meets a deadend
He is deadbeat meat for worms
That’s a sensible cadaver
There never was such a season for mandrakes.
Shall we linger here until perdition caches up to us?
The Cemetery is a cockpit for comic panic
Sob heavy world, sob heavy.
What always stands in the way of friendship is falsehood and hatred. We shall not accomplish anything for friendship if we cannot get rid of falsehood and hatred. For months now, we in America have been subjected to an unparalleled outbreak of hatred. Our poisoned hearts must be cured. The most difficult battle must be fought within ourselves. With exceptional effort we must transform our appetite for hatred into a desire for justice. Not giving in to hatred. Not making concessions to violence, not allowing our passions to become blind. There are things we can do for friendship and against Trump. It is essential that we never let criticism descend to insult. We must save intelligence. Years ago when the Nazis seized power in Germany, Goering declared, “When anyone talks to me of intelligence, I take out my revolver.” That philosophy was not limited to Nazi Germany. We see it on the rise today. Donald Trump, during his campaign, declared, “I like the uneducated.” He also said, “I could pull a gun out on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and no one would care.”
The only way to defeat Donald Trump, and defeat him we must, is through intelligence. When intelligence is snuffed out, the dark night of dictatorship begins. Friendship is a knowledge acquired by free men. There is no freedom without intelligence or without mutual understanding. Resist the idea that intelligence is unwelcome or that it is permissible to lie to succeed. Do not give in to guile or violence or inertia. Then perhaps friendship may be possible.
Hypatia of Alexandria (370 CE – 415 CE) was a mathematician and philosopher. She was educated at Athens. Her father was the mathematician Theon who tutored her in math, astronomy and philosophy. Around AD 400 she became head of the Platonist school at Alexandria, where she taught Plato and Aristotle. Known for her great beauty she became famous for her achievements in music, astronomy and philosophy. She was the world’s leading mathematician and astronomer, a claim no other woman has been able to make. Her philosophy was considered pagan during a time of unrest and conflict between the Jews, Christians, and pagans.
Alexandria, Egypt, was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. It was a center of learning and culture. The city has been described by scholars a magnificent city. The great Library of Alexandria is said to have contained 500,000 books on its shelves on papyrus scrolls. As a professor at the university, Hypatia would have had daily access to these books. Unfortunately she lived in troubled times.
Hypatia was murdered by a Christian mob in Alexandria 415. She was stripped of her clothing and skinned alive with sharp pottery shards and her torn and mutilated body was dragged through the streets of Alexandria where it was put on a funeral pyre and burned.
The murder of Hypatia marked the end of Classical antiquity and the downfall of Alexandrian intellectual life. Hypatia is a powerful feminist symbol who sacrificed her life to the unruly and ignorant mob in the name truth and knowledge. The struggle goes on.
So I took my young friend Elise to a David Bowie tribute in the Highlands the other night. We were sitting there at the bar sipping our whiskies listening to the Serious Moonlight having a conversation about all the Rock Stars that have died recently. David Bowie -69, Glen Frey-67, and Lemmy Kilmister-70. I remarked that these rockers dying recently sort of concerned me.
“Yeah, why’s that Frank?”
“Well because they are all about my age, you know.”
Oh, you have nothing to worry about Frank.”
“Yeah? Why’s that Elise?”
“Because, Frank, you’re no Rock Star.”
She did it to me again! Just when I was beginning to recover my equilibrium, she knocked me off my high horse.
The question, do we live in a determined universe, and if so do we have free will, is frequently asked and one I have often wrestled with. My conclusion is yes, the universe is determined and, yes we do have free will but, it is limited. I call this limited modified free will. This idea is best illustrated by the following analogy. We are like an ant traveling down a rushing stream of water on a leaf. The ant can turn the leaf a bit this way or that way, but it cannot change the direction of the traveling leaf or its final destination.
Because we are men and women and not ants, we have a bit more control of our lives, and can make choices which creates causes. As the world operates by cause and effect these causes can change the course of lives. But some circumstances are beyond our control and are indeed determined. Such as when and where we were born, who our parents are, our genetic makeup, our intelligence, and the color of our skin. All of these things play a role in determining our existence in spite what free choices we make.
And then there is the question of fate. Sometimes, it seems, no matter how hard we try, no matter what choice we make, we still cannot avoid what seems to be our fate. I am reminded of the story of the servant who had an appointment in Samarra. There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, “Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?” “That was not a threatening gesture,” I said, “It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”