Monthly Archives: February 2013

Rubá’í of the Day

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The Master did himself these vessels frame,
Why should he cast them out to scorn and shame?
If he has made them well, why should he break them?
Yea, though he marred them, they are not to blame.

The Police Live: Invisible Sun

With guest vocals by Bono.

Short for Wednesday Morning: Adam and the Dog

A nominee for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short, and a beautiful little film.  h/t Jordan Bloom.

New Books!


I’ve added several books to the Library, including an article on the development of the Elvish languages by J. R. R. Tolkien, the Voynich Manuscript (subject of this documentary), The Mystical Qabalah. by Dione Fortune, The Last Ringbearer, which retells Lord of the Rings from the perspective of Mordor (!), the Kebra Nagast, a semi-mythological history of the kings of Ethiopia, the King James Bible, and more.  Have a look!

Rubá’í of the Day

Steens Mountain Scene2

That azure-colored vault and golden tray
Have turned, and will turn yet for many a day;
And just so we, impelled by turns of fate—
Come here but for a while, then pass away.

Movie Night: Solaris (TV movie; по-русски, Ночь Кино: Солярис, телеспектакль)

The well-known science fiction novel Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem has been filmed three times.  The best known, and most critically successful, was filmed in Russian in 1972 by the great Andrei Tarkovsky.  Thirty years later, Stephen Sonderbergh made an English-language version starring George Clooney.  The first filmed version, however, was the made-for-Soviet TV version posted here.

Readers fluent in Russian may enjoy it as is, as it lacks subtitles.  Alas, my Russian is very, very weak, certainly not up to watching a movie without subtitles (in fact, if I’ve made any errors in the Russian I’ve posted here, corrections are welcome).  However, non-Russian speakers may do the following work-around, which I did earlier tonight:

1.  Go here, paste the movie URL into the address bar of the website, and click “download”, specifying MP4 format.  The movie will be downloaded to your computer (it took about 15 minutes for me–YMMV).

2.  Go here  and download the appropriate subtitles (you may have to clean some extra crap off your computer afterwards, but it wasn’t too hard to deal with).

3.  Save the video and the subtitle file in a common folder.

4.  Go here to get the VLC player; download and install it (like the previous downloads, this is free).

5.  Select the movie file to play from the VLC player and then click “Video” at the top.  From the drop-down menu, select “Subtitles Track”, and from the menu, select “Open File”.  From the dialogue box, select the subtitle file you’ve previously saved.  Then you can watch the entire movie with English subtitles.

So, if you do all this, enjoy; and if you don’t need to because you speak Russian, наслаждайтесь!

Rubá’í of the Day

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What lord is fit to rule but “Truth “? Not one.
What beings disobey His rule? Not one.
All things that are, are such as He decrees;
And naught is there beside beneath the sun.

Movie Night: Monsieur Verdoux


Charlie Chaplin plays very much against type in this very dark comedy.

Japanese Psychobilly!


Why not start the week with weirdness?

Philosophical Food for Thought


From this interview (my emphasis in italics) with the philosopher John Gray (h/t Rod Dreher):

So are you denying that it’s a natural human impulse to crave freedom?

Of course not. Otherwise we wouldn’t have the periods of freedom that we’ve had in human history. I’m just saying that it’s not the only human impulse, and rarely is it the most powerful one. You begin to see that when life becomes unsettled, when there are dangers, especially that people cannot understand. It’s then that human beings tend to look at solutions to these problems that typically involve restricting freedoms. In other words: when life gets rough, the need for freedom, or the impulse for freedom, which is real —it’s part of the human constitution you might say— tends very commonly to be eclipsed by other needs. These can simply be for security, or they can be darker needs to bolster up an identity to attack, marginalize, or even exterminate others. These are all classic human responses. The idea that humans are by nature free is one of the most harmful fictions that’s ever been promoted anywhere.

What is your own relationship with religion?

I don’t belong to a religion. In fact I would have to be described as an atheist. But I’m friendly to religion on the grounds that it seems to me to be distinctively human, and it has produced many good things. But you see these humanists or rationalists who seem to hate this distinctively human feature. This to me seems to me very odd. These evangelical atheists say things such as: religion is like child abuse, that if you had no religious education, there would be no religion. It’s completely absurd.

You also say that ‘atheism does not mean rejecting belief in God, but up a belief in language as anything other than practical convenience.’ What are you getting at here?

I was referring to Fritz Mauthner, who wrote a four-volume history of atheism. He was an atheist who thought that theism was an obsessive attachment to the constructions of language: that the idea of God was a kind of linguistic ideal. So that atheism meant not worshipping that ideal. But he took that as just an example of a more general truth: that there is a danger in worshiping the constructions of language. Of course religions like Christianity are partially to blame for this.  But for most of their history, these so called creedal faiths didn’t define themselves by doctrine. Instead they had strong traditions of what’s called Apophatic theology: where you cannot use language to describe God.

Would you call yourself an existentialist? 

No I think that carries too much baggage. I’m a sceptic, but in a positive sense. I don’t mean just standing back from belief, and not having any. But exploring different views of things that have been part of the human world: like the views of the pagan philosophers, with a view to seeing what benefit they can be to us.

Why do you dispute the notion that knowledge is a pacifying force?

Well there is this notion in some intellectual circles that evil is a kind of error: that if you get more knowledge you won’t commit the error. People often say: if we get more knowledge for human psychology won’t that help? No. All knowledge is ambiguous in this way. The Nazis were very good at using their knowledge at mass psychology. Or if you were a Russian revolutionary like Lenin, you might use the knowledge of the causes of inflation to take control of the central bank, create hyper-inflation and bring about your revolutionary project. So knowledge can never eradicate the conflicts of the human world, or produce harmony where there are conflicting goals to start with.  Because knowledge is used by human beings as a tool to achieve whatever it is they want to achieve.

In one part of the book you ask why humans have such a need for meaning. You’re a philosopher: isn’t meaning important for you?

Well knowledge is important. But I’m not sure if finding a true meaning is.  But one of the chief reasons humans need meaning — and I’m only speculating here — is that they are conscious of their own mortality. Even Epicurus said: When we exist death is not, and when death exists we are not. What he was getting at was that we have a different sense of time that other animals don’t have. If we have the idea of our mortality then we see our lives in a different way because we think we see them as a single coherent story.

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