Thursday, November 28, 2019

Stoics and the Divine

In the 16th and 17th Centuries more humanist thinkers blended the Christian tenets with Stoicism. And the principle reason for this had to do with the Stoic idea of a natural order, or what they sometimes called Divine Reason. My own argument would be that the natural order or Divine Reason are expressions that simply attempt to explain those parts of our world over which we as individuals have less, or no control and where we feel most unsafe. Take for example the more ancient idea of The Fates. On the one hand they were three Goddesses who weaved our individual destiny, and to give a narrative of hope, each Goddess had different personalities ranging from nice to nasty. Each Goddess had a name and no doubt far too often the nicer Goddess got lots and lots of presents on her special day, which really pissed off the nastier Goddess who only very rarely got a present for being particularly unpleasant to someone every one hated. On the other hand The Fates in mythology were much less motivated, they were three angry blind men, dour as aging gardeners in the shorter days, randomly hacking away at the invisible strands that determine our destiny, a brutal but necessary business. In this respect for Stoics it was Knowledge that supplied us with the necessary armor to protect us from reacting poorly to the shears of the blind men or the moods of the weavers. Then, when Divine Reason becomes an Almighty Creator, an all knowing entity, and often he or she passeth our understanding, a problem arises. Is Nature fundamentally good or fundamentally evil. Difficult to tell. One answer has always been an iteration of good battling evil which reaches a zenith of absurdity with "Good Guys with Guns, Bad Guys with Guns." From other branches of understanding there's Survival of the Fittest.

By the end of the 20th Century, in what's called Modern Stoicism, the Ancient idea of Divine Reason was modified so as to better fit the templates of thinking, or the conceptual frameworks, of recent times. In terms of Knowledge, a great deal has happened in the last 2500 odd years, just look around, yet how to maintain emotional balance when confronted by that over which we have no control remains a singular preoccupation in just the same way as it always has. Modern Stoicism seeks a clearer understanding of the nature of Divine Reason in scientific areas such as cognition, psychology and so on. These are areas where the language used is the language of science. In other words The Fates as weavers of destinies, or The Fates as bad tempered blind men, might well be up there somewhere, but they are interpreted not through the Knowledge of myth, but through a Knowledge built around how our minds physically interact with our daily life. It's also the case that very often from these recent explorations of mind it emerges that we people are motivated to find a meaning in life, without which we are more prone to an unhappiness, frustration or whatever. Worth noting it's not The Meaning, it's A Meaning. And here you can never really get away from that ancient prophet who fortunate enough to find himself in conversation with his God, asked "What are you. what shall I call you?" Clearly not a question God had ever been asked before. On that occasion God was a Stoic, his most unsatisfactory reply was, "I am THAT I am." And you can kind of see in the Divine answer a Being in Progress, a going somewhere, who knows where, trust me, even though I'm eternal, I'm as adrift as everyone else, so just get over yourself.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


There's an increased interest in the Schools of Stoicism. Interesting also is the extent to which Rand's version of Objectivism is using this new interest in Stoicism to promote their own incredibly depressing ideas, and as a rule with Rand's objectivists they basically spend more time attempting to monetize their almost Satanist template of thinking than they do actually thinking about their understanding with any degree of objectivity. Stoicism is about how a person manages his or her relationship with the world in conjunction with a declaration about Good and Bad. For Stoics Knowledge was the ultimate virtue, as opposed to something like self centeredness, or wealth, or health, or festive spirit. And with this virtue of Knowledge in mind, a Stoic was in a position to react wisely in his or her development of a relationship with nature, which 2500 years ago was thought of in terms of the order of things and was sometimes called Divine Reason.

Back then too, the Natural Order, or Divine Reason, were Fate, Providence, circumstance of birth and such. The sorts of things we people in our daily lives have less control over and get very stressed about. Invariably the more evangelistic in out midst see Stoicism as a more deterministic set of beliefs that result in a kind of fatalism. This criticism is in my view way off the mark, and I say this because a person's relationship with the world is an entirely personal relationship, and furthermore a person's relationship with the world is unique to each individual. In short, a Stoic is one who wisely adapts their will to the world, as opposed to endeavoring to adapt the world to their will, and they do this on the understanding that Knowledge in all its manifestation is the ultimate good. This, their argument goes, produces a balance in the passions that Stoics reckon results in a lasting happiness well worth pursuing. In all the categories and theories of Knowledge one theme remains constant. This theme is,  understandings based on Facts gleaned from experience and learning.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


 It was the man from Iscariot who betrayed the embodiment of his meaning in life. Secure in their oath, they all said they never would.

Wonder if Stone will falter or feel betrayed by the understanding that the purpose of his meaning is no longer. When that happens we search for new meaning.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Not Bad for Once

Have to think the Founding Fathers are thinking seriously about celebrating, inviting a few friends, bring a bottle type thing. A bunch of old soldiers now, they'll grunt approvingly or jeer at the mention of this or that elected representative. Franklin, my own favorite, visiting London England he didn't drink the beer, instead for liquids, he wander up the Thames River to where London City's effluent had yet to contaminate the drinking water. Today the great man might even by flying a celebratory kite.

And your correspondent is also more positive in his appraisal of his fellow citizens. His own celebratory kite is a release from the mind of a shackle that's prevented him from contemplating The Rabbit of Usk ever since you know when. Mind you whether the Jordan River has been crossed still remains to be seen. But it's the little things that count, as Dewi Sant was fond of telling his parishioners. He was a short man, unassuming, gentle of heart, a definite nerd in many respects, and poof he became Patron Saint of Wales.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Public Trials

Big day for our struggling Republic. Wind chill, technical issues and snow blindness, so not sure what might be happening in the Halls of Power. Possible of course there'll be the beginnings of an orderly and sensible discussion around whether our president has behaved in a disgraceful and disgusting manner and should be removed from high office, marched to the scaffold, make it a TV Spectacular, have little boys throw rotten eggs at him, sell tee-shirts and beaky hats. The scene reminds me a little of the 12 formative years I spent within the boundaries of English Boarding schools, which were about as far from a Republic as you can get, inspired as they were by the Spartan's treatment of their own youth, who at the age of seven were forced from their homes, out into the world, where they were to fend for themselves through brigandage and theft. A character building exercise apparently, a sorting of the political chaff, I guess. Speaking of which, kind of hoping to again witness a little chaff sorting, but you kind of need your own backbone to do that, none of this what do the polls say nonsense.

Back in the formative years we too had our factions and we had a few totally inadequate high office holders, Head of House they were called, horribly obnoxious spotty faced, entitled delinquents, one of whom wore a cravat at the supper table. We on the lower tables had a visceral reaction to this particular Head of House, his every word and movement, and the prime object of our lives was through acts of aggravation that made his life a living hell, he was big on what was called Dumb Insolence, not saying anything but looking at him funny, the punishment for which was three days calling. You got up, you had cold bath, you dressed, you reported your presence for inspection to him as he lay in bed and you had to do that three times. Tie out of place, and whoop another days calling, your correspondent has seven days straight in his permanent record. The Head of House was found one early day light savings morning beating his own bloody head against the bathroom mirror, it was self centered and very thoughtless of him to get so worked up about his exams, make such a mess of the bathroom just before breakfast. He disappeared from our midst, and much grumbling as it took around two weeks for our House Master to get our mirror replaced. The Assistant Head Boy was promoted and for the rest of that year you could smoke in the toilets whenever you damn well wanted to and some of us, to test the new boundaries, started walking around with our hands in our pockets.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Tapestry

In every possible configuration of a society there are flaws, many of them unseen, unpredicted and invariably those flaws set the scene for a societal change of some sort. What might be called Modernists reckoned it was possible to do something about those flaws, and when you're talking Modernists you're really talking from the Age of Reason to not so long ago. Modernists have an understanding of truth, it's got a capital T and it's out there even if it might be just beyond grasping in an absolute and certain way.

Post Modernists agree with this, but for Post Modernists one of the flaws in society was the capacity of powerful interests to control how truth was perceived. Indeed it wasn't the Post Modernists that caused the current conundrums, rather, from Tobacco is Good for You all the way to Climate Hoax their suspicion around the motivations of sources of information is demonstrably justified. Short term, the whole thing's a sort of basic hedonistic idiocracy stumbling toward extinction, but long term we learn our painful lessons. Small comfort it's all part of the tapestry.

Sunday, November 10, 2019


Your correspondent will not be waxing on about the the many flaws in the design of our species, certainly won't mention the tragedy of not having been blessed with a capacity to hibernate through the shorter and more pointless days.

And the reason he won't be suggesting that a couple of months of total absence from consciousness might benefit us all in unimaginably wonderful ways, everyone gone for a bit, "Have a Happy Hibernation" cards, balloons and so on, is because, apparently, it's a boring subject.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Customer Relations

Gormenghast has changed a little, and the reason it's changed a little is because I have no memory of what I was planning for N-Scale this winter. I have stared at the project, but not actually touched it yet, so it's a confusing time and the last thing you really want to hear from a Telephone linesman is that the frigid temperatures and horrible little wind in the outdoors suits him fine. "Perfect Weather," he called it. I did raise an eyebrow, and he explained "I'm big." It's not the telephone line I tried to be helpful, "so no need to spend the next seven days looking for a fault in the line," and I went on about flashing modem lights, and how traditionally the modem at this end of the telephone line continually dropped if the speed of electronic packets being blasted down the line was too fast, the delicate system couldn't take it and neither could I, the whole streaming movies thing was a total waste, and anyone who played games on line had something seriously wrong with them, when all a person really asks from his internet connection is that it doesn't have the electronic equivalent of a nervous breakdown every ten minutes...

In the back of my mind as I rambled on, I was very aware of my own cruel experiences of the customer class, yet I seemed quite incapable of reining myself in. Poor chap must have been warned, "You want it slowed down?" "Yes please," I replied and off he went. In the aftermath of the exchange I thought back to the years I spent delivering milk to door steps. When new management arrived to boost our productivity, all kinds of absurd enthusiasms, like glossy pamphlets offering door step delivery of eggs, cheese, bacon, something called yogurt, one of our number who'd grown up in the coal valleys, a card carrying member of the communist party and our union representative called a meeting. "Kapital doesn't know the job," he said. "Gets this Bee up it's trouser leg, and you just got to let the Bee run it's course. I can't do it because, you know why, but you can." And he pointed at innocent me. I had the Cogan run, poorest part of the city, row houses, front door steps. And indeed absolutely no one in their right mind in the early hours of the morning would have left six eggs, or even a yogurt, on the door step of a house in Cogan. That month our Milk Yard won a great victory, sales were up, receipts were way down. "What can I do?" I explained. "Customers say it keeps getting stolen." And our lives quickly got back to normal

Friday, November 8, 2019

Greater Good

Given the current circumstances, well worth recalling Plato's contributions to public discourse. One of the things we snowflakes have to remember is that we people have been at this for a very long time and one of the things we have learned is that Onions don't grow on trees. And it's true, as you age, and forced to experience something like the dawn of a new fascist state, you acquire a new appreciation of those thinkers you might once have big time sneered at. Plato reckoned that we people in the majority were good at dreaming, we had all sorts of ideas, and when someone came along who promised us the earth we were prone to believing them even if what they promised was almost absurd. And indeed Plato's ideal state was not the chaos of democracy but a Good Tyrant. As well, Plato was well aware that Good Tyrants were very few and very far between, and in the meanwhile recovering from a Bad Tyrant could take generations of thunder and lightening.

What Plato wanted was wisdom in our political leaders. Wisdom is fundamentally an understanding of past, present and future as it is, not what you'd like it to be. Plato's experience of the public square was many bad ideas followed by very few good ideas, and all of them contributing to mostly unsatisfactory and half baked solutions. What was needed, he argued. was a system that plucked the more studious minds from the populace and gave them the opportunity to study the realities of what was known about us people and from these People of Gold the ruling class would be chosen. And even today, you can see the sharp distinction between those who have obedience to the Constitution of the USA, they took their oath and role in society seriously, and those for whom maintaining personal power and privilege could well be more important than the greater good of the three hundred and sixty odd million people who make up these here United States.  In the end Socrates was the wisest of men because he freely admitted without others he didn't know anything.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The New Governor

 In the latter part of the 18th Century, which is like the 1700's, 1776 and all that, the British had a Prime Minister who came to be called Pitt the Elder. Pitt the Elder was a strong Prime Minister, who held the always quarreling Parliament together through the power of his oratory and his capacity to debate. Pitt the Elder was followed by his son, who came to be called Pitt the Younger. And Pitt the Younger has, if you like the idea of a colonial empire, been deemed a very, very fine Prime Minister indeed. I mention this to remind myself that not always do the offspring of those born to or who climb the slippery pole fall to a sort of pointless, nepotistic and corrupt existence. Here in Kentucky, the new governor elect if he survives the challenges to his election by a majority of the vote, is a man called Andy Beshear. His father Steve Beshear served as Governor of Kentucky from 2007 to 2015.

One of the things about the more conservative mind, is its relationship to that Old Testament rabble rouser Ezekiel, I guess. He was asked "Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?" These days everyone knows that the son should be innocent until proved guilty, it's the only decent and Christian thing to do. Yet far too often we people find it difficult to be decent. And indeed in these parts we're all frightfully decent, yet woe unto he who trusts, let's call them the Pudesduckles, because it's a well known fact that all Pudesduckles are thieves, brigands, bandits and adulterers. Same thing with the "virtues of the father." Andy Beshear, his father was deemed a good and popular governor, an upright and respectable man, he served two, four year terms as Governor and might very well have been elected to serve a third term had State Law allowed it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Governor

One of the things about our hopefully soon to be ex-governor here in the State of Kentucky is that he's a truly unpleasant person, his qualities Skunk and Porcupine. We're talking rude, mean, selfish, totally uncouth in an entirely charmless way and a classic so called successful businessman from New Hampshire.

 All very well for something like firing factory workers without turning a hair, ripping-off contractors and so on, but none of them qualities one should really look for in a high political officer where a degree or two of prescience is a necessary quality for leadership. Otherwise you got yourself just another loudmouth know it all. Two a penny in the political class at the moment.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Woolly Preludes to Winter Projects

The problem with winter projects is you forget where you are. The result, you just sit there wandering around looking at things, your mind still in the vegetable garden, your research becomes an endless hunt for some kind of miracle that will enable a Daikon Radish winter ground cover to survive a rather dramatic cold spell you might not have fully anticipated. To achieve a good deep root growth a Daikon Radish needs getting on sixty days of warmish weather. Then you have to cast through the notes in a vain attempt to determine how long it might be since the Daikon Radish germinated, which it did in a most willful and enthusiastic manner.

Round here if you plant something like a Daikon Radish, or even a Turnip, too early what you get is nesting ground for extraordinarily well fed Stinkbugs, and every pest associated with Cabbage type vegetables that you can possible imagine. In the accumulation of years there was only one year when I got the Turnip planted at just the right time to survive molestation by, shall we just get it over with and call them the Freedom Caucus Republicans of the Insect Kingdom. Nor can I say that I haven't tried very hard to avoid current events. Either way if the ground covers fall foul of anything at all, I know who to blame, and I guess like so many others I've got that to look forward to.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Readying for the Shorter Days

The prospect of cleaning the room which for some reason I call mine is kind of like everything about the shorter days summed into one horrible nightmare. Has to be done, otherwise moving around becomes a little dicey. And once embarked upon the chore isn't too bad, the odd excitement, and inevitably the mind does wander, a worker gets himself briefly sidetracked, a Red Squirrel revere, then pulls himself together and proceeds along the path to removing the summer incumbent all nice and ready for what may or may not turn into winter of studious, useful and constructive activates.

Something comfortable about the word in incumbent, it comes from bearer, a responsibility, but which ever way you look at it, it's basically a burden, which pretty much sums up the current incumbent. Imagine moving that one out. There'd certainly be an ick factor, a sort of goo on the carpets, a slime, pretty much throw away the antimacassars. But no doubt in that venue the new incumbent, the diligent winter projects incumbent, will not themselves have to do the hands and knees shirtsleeve work, nor struggle with a vacuum cleaner cord, wrestle with bedding, even if an exorcist might eventually have to called in from Rome.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Orderly Transition of Power

One of the issues for Kings was the huge problem of what happened after the King died. Too often the transition to a new King was endless warfare. One solution was the eldest son. And the authority for this was in the doctrine of the divine right of kings, which often worked so long as the eldest son was generally deemed legitimate, and in the high ends of aristocracies there was whole breeding program, which over the years got more and more complex, occasionally producing a few somewhat unstable personalities, or congenital idiots if you prefer. For example the Austro-Hungarians did reckon the oldest male offspring of a king or prince who erred by marrying a commoner wasn't really entitled to come under the category of the Divine Right of kings, royalty-wise his eldest son had no chance of being anything remotely divinely ordained. A Royal Hapsburg who chose a non-registered woman to marry wasn't really allowed to be seen in public with her, unless the event was military related. Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, of First World War fame, had married an unregistered woman, she was also killed in the Sarajevo assassination. That visit to the provinces was considered a military matter, which was why the Arch Duke's wife had the misfortune to be there.

The Acholi people in Eastern Africa had the same sort of problems when their Paramount Chief started getting doddery. Who would take his place when he died, and how best to make the transition to a new Paramount Chief with as little public trauma as possible. Their solution was in my view rather brilliant, it covered all bases and worked pretty well. The close advisors to the Chief would generally inform the populace that the old man was on his way out, which meant all the kings male children would begin to try and kill each other. They didn't get into the equivalent of a Roman Arena and make a spectator sport of it. Instead the male children would go off into the wilder places, gather their supporters, all of whom would be promised easy work in return for loyalty and through a combination of bloody violence, traditional megalomaniacal political ambition and clever political maneuvering the Paramount Chief in waiting would emerge, so that when their father died, there'd be no debate around the transition of power. Most Acholi never had to get involved, they went about their day as though nothing was happening.