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July 16, 2019

Lugubrious. That's the word for how I'm feeling tonight. That and self-indulgent. So I thought I'd write a blog post. These midnight moods used to ambush me frequently when I was in my 20s, sometimes eliciting sentimental poetry. Now I'm older, not much wiser, more callused, but still susceptible once in a while to the misty melancholy of existential yearning. Diffuse nostalgia,...

August 7, 2018

[Excerpts from this book. See also this blog post, "Excerpts on happiness."]

The meaning of life?— Life is not totally “meaningless.” People’s commitment to their work, to relationships, and to life itself proves that. However, it is hard to deny that life is not as meaningful as we’d like. It is the evolutionary product of “meaningless” random variation and natural selection, no...

November 20, 2016

[From 2008.] Reading Oliver Sacks’s Awakenings, which is about his experiences with post-encephalitic, Parkinsonian patients. It’s a good book, full of good thoughts and superb writing. Sacks emphasizes, as against his colleagues, that Parkinson’s disease is an existential rather than a purely neurological illness. It affects the whole being and not just the body; it is holistic...

October 25, 2016

I attended my first Episcopalian service last night [in April 2010]. It was Maundy Thursday, so we did the whole foot-washing thing and then the Eucharist, etc. Endless singing and antiphonal rituals, responses, prayers. A certain pungent beauty in the foot-washing, beautiful symbolism. But how foreign it all is to the spirit of the times! A relic of antiquity, as Nietzsche said....

January 22, 2016

[Excerpt from this book.] There are delights and dangers in adopting a broad perspective on oneself and one’s society. Looking at the “big picture” can either electrify or paralyze one’s will. The latter possibility is obvious, given, for example, the big-picturesque horrors of global warming and capitalist global pollution. Oceanic garbage patches the size of continents, slums t...

November 18, 2015

Max Scheler’s Ressentiment (1912), while dated and silly in some respects, is worth reading. Scheler is a semi-Nietzsche in his psychological and phenomenological insights, though also in his misguided contempt for the masses. But he thinks Nietzsche misunderstood true Christianity, as he implies, for example, in the following comparison between the ancient and Christian concepti...

July 30, 2015

It’s a cliché but it’s worth repeating: one cause of modern loneliness is the attitude of treating people as means to an end, namely happiness. “If a person doesn’t entertain me or stimulate me,” people implicitly think, “I’ll end my relationship with him.” Relationships have become conditional on stimulation and the achievement of satisfaction. But what’s needed is commitment. Y...

April 16, 2015

Karl Marx once said, “After all, we can forgive Christianity much because it taught us to love children.” Almost unbelievably, the factual part of that statement is right. Christianity did have such an effect on the Western world. Throughout antiquity, children had been thought to have little or no value. In Rome, fathers had absolute authority over their children: they were lega...

April 13, 2015

One of the many ironies about contemporary Christians is that they tend to be supportive of capitalism. This isn’t surprising: from the time of Emperor Constantine, the Church has been allied with established power-structures, which have found it useful as a way to keep the masses obedient. So Christianity accommodated itself to the Roman Empire, then to feudalism, then to royal...

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