After his colleagues updated the music system they had given him five years earlier, Einstein began repeatedly to play an RCA recording of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. It was an unusual choice for two reasons. He tended to regard Beethoven, who was not his favorite composer, as “too personal, almost naked.” Also, his religious instincts did not usually include these sorts of trappings. “I am a deeply religious nonbeliever,” he noted to a friend who had sent him birthday greetings. “This is a somewhat new kind of religion.”- From Walter Isaacson’s Einstein: His Life and Universe (Simon and Schuster, 2007)
So a sympathy for writers and thinkers who define themselves by a sense of loss comes naturally to me. I’ve grown out of it in many ways — and the depression and loneliness that often lie at the core of the reactionary mind slowly lifted as I grew more comfortable in the only place I could actually live: the present. But I never doubted the cogency of many reactionary insights — and I still admire minds that have not succumbed to the comfortable assumption that the future is always brighter. I read the Christian traditionalist Rod Dreher with affection. His evocation of Christian life and thought over the centuries and his panic at its disappearance from our world are poignant. We are losing a vast civilization that honed answers to the deepest questions that human beings can ask, replacing it with vapid pseudo-religions, pills, therapy, and reality TV.
Source: Andrew Sullivan: Why the Reactionary Right Must Be Taken Seriously
Compare 1997 and 2017. It’s ugly. If you’re a human American, you’re more likely to live alone or with people who aren’t related to you than you were in 1997. You’re less likely to belong to a church, a bowling league, or a civic association. You’re less likely to subscribe to periodicals you like. You’re more likely to report a shorter attention span. You’re far more likely to have a problem with addiction, whether opioids, porn, or just the flickering screen.
Source: Michael Brendan Dougherty, I write on the internet. I’m sorry.
Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly. — Marcus Aurelius
the majority will accommodate themselves to the faceless inflexibility of platforms, and will become less and less capable of seeing the virtues of institutions, on any scale. One consequence of that accommodation, I believe, will be an increasing impatience with representative democracy, and an accompanying desire to replace political institutions with platform-based decision-making: referendums and plebiscites, conducted at as high a level as possible (national, or in the case of the EU, transnational). Which will bring, among other things, the exploitation of communities and natural resources by people who will never see or know anything about what they are exploiting. The scope of local action will therefore be diminished, and will come under increasing threat of what we might call, borrowing a phrase from Einstein, spooky action at a distance.
Source: Alan Jacobs, Text Patterns: platforms and institutions
Meritocracy is a parody of democracy. — Christopher Lasch
No longer do ideas, but interests only, form the links between men, and it would seem that human opinions were no more than a sort of mental dust open to the wind on every side and unable to come together and take shape. — Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Isocrates, Panathenaicus 30-32 “Which men do I call educated when I set aside the arts, sciences, and specialties? First, I prize those who handle well the events they meet each day and who have an…
To cultivate the soul and mind by study; to sharpen all of the gifts of intellect by the observation and consideration of useful things; to increase our faculty of understanding every day; to know ancient things and, once known, to emend and amplify them; to discover new things by thought and to inquire after the causes of things; to examine the origin and progress of things; to explain the present through the past; to make obscure and intricate things easier; to separate true from false; to refute, knock down, and drag away trifling and absurd things and, in short, to see the truth – this at last is worthy of the human intellect and reason; this is the food of the mind; this, finally, is what it means to live and have the full profit of one’s soul!
Source: C.G. Cobet, An Encomium to the Life of the Mind | SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE