Halcyon In Kaleidoscope
In the 1840s Henry David Thoreau swapped his busy schedule in Concord, Massachusetts, for a wooden hut he built himself near Walden Pond. We had the privilege to visit Walden, five years ago, in July 2012; it exceeded expectations in its tranquility and beauty - and the swim in the pond itself was unforgettable.
In 1883, Antoni Gaudí began working on the Sagrada Família in Barcelona and before his death managed to complete the crypt, apse and part of the Nativity facade. Work slowed during the 1930s and 40s, then picked up again in the 1950s and a series of architects carried on Gaudí’s work, completing new towers and facades.
Robert M. Pirsig, who inspired generations to road trip across America with his "novelistic autobigraphy," Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died in April 2017 at the age of 88. Pirsig wrote just two books: Zen (subtitled "An Inquiry Into Values") and Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, both of which moved and influenced me deeply.
What I am is a heretic who's recanted and thereby in everyone's eyes saved his soul. Everyone's eyes but one, who knows deep down inside that all he has saved is his skin - Robert Pirsig
I have been a proud member of Lions Heraldic in Brussels since 2006. 2017 sees the centenary of the global Lions movement, started by Melvin Jones in Chicago.
I have long been entranced by Pan, probably inspired - as I'm guessing many others have been too - by the beautiful and haunting passage in The Piper at the Gates of Dawn chapter of The Wind in the Willows.
We often assume that laughter occurs when we hear something funny, but research has shown that it is the people doing the speaking who laugh the most - 46% more than their audience.
Dave Pollard wrote thought-provokingly of the "Now Time”, a multidimensional recursive eternal present familiar to aboriginal cultures the world over, and recalling Friedrich Nietzche's desire to be a "yes-sayer" to each moment.
For me the purpose of life is to know other people…is to discover what life is. Who inhabits the world? What is it to be human? What can I give to the world which it doesn’t have…a gift for tolerating my presence in this world..…and unless I know the people, I can’t know what it does not have - Theodore Zeldin
Imagine balancing self-interest and caring for others. If this is possible, then:
(1) What is the approximate balance between the two today - in individuals, organisations and societies? How much time do we really spend thinking about and then acting on other people's needs?
Asking which shifts, in which centuries, really shaped the modern world. a historian identified 10 leading drivers of change, century by century (see below).
Meanwhile, Prospect believes that reflecting on the past can give great in sight into the present and has published accordingly The past in perspective e-book.
"Individuals are no longer what they used to be, each is unique. That makes a big difference to how they work. Each one is an enigma. There are six billion people whom we need to discover. We are now in the same position as the scientists of the last century, discovering the different elements and molecules of the natural world. So there is no need to feel lost or aimless. There is a wonderful adventure before us."
Three of Picasso's many interpretations of Las Meninas by Velasquez stare down from our walls.
Michel de Montaigne's Essais help us better frame and address the fundamental question: "how to live?"
Montaigne has been covered well in both In Our Time and in a Philosophy Bites interview with Sarah Bakewell - listen also to Bakewell on Montaigne and/or read her series of Guardian articles about Montaigne.
For more on Montaigne, see e.g:.
Certainly, when I learned Transcendental Meditation back in 1989 it was a life-changing experience, though I gradually moved away from the more cultish aspects of TM. Perhaps anyway, as the Dalai Lama put it, "sleep is the best meditation".
Joseph Campbell's The Masks of God have been a constant companion to me for more than 25 years, while his The Hero with a Thousand Faces outlines the common journey of the archetypal hero across a wealth of ancient myths from around the world. Now a short animation from TED Ed presents a synthesis of Campbell’s foundational framework for the eleven stages of the hero’s quest - from the call to adventure to the crisis to the moment of return and transformation.
Above and beyond the many unread volumes in our library, there are many other books that I'd still like to read, given sufficient life and leisure, including the following:
The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff - Carl Sagan, Cosmos
While the saying “we are stardust” seems poetic but vague, it is literally true. The atoms of our bodies were created in the cores of stars billions of years ago.