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Walking with Giants (Part 2)

Into the Mountains

Faust: “I’ve studied now Philosophy and Jurisprudence, Medicine, – And even, alas! Theology, – From end to end, with labor keen; And here, poor fool! With all my lore I stand, no wiser than before.” (Johann, Wolfgang von Goethe)

We travel with Johan Kaag to West Wind on Janus Road, New Hampshire, in the White Mountains where William Ernst Hocking built his house and his library. Some months earlier Kaag came inadvertently upon this treasure of about 10,000 books written by the world’s most brilliant Philosophers.

At the time of the discovery Kaag was actually running away from his failed marriage and was seriously considering suicide, or at least hoping for “the fatal crash I often imagined” to take him out of his misery (like we all do at least once during our miserable little lives? Even William James considered killing himself in 1860).

With his self-professed attitude of: “in my heart of hearts, in my own personal attic, I frequently viewed people as mere things – to be avoided, to be managed – not as other people …” it is small wonder that Kaag’s marriage (this one and the next one and maybe the next one?) went down the drain.

But he did not have that fatal crash and he did go back to the library many times (with his new, very beautiful lover – soon to be wife – Carol) over the next couple of years to save as many books as possible from destruction by rodents, squirrels, mould and the occasional book thieve.

Imagine the joy of discovering an intellectual treasure like this sitting in the mountains in the shade of Beech trees. Imagine giants like Royce, James, Peirce, Richard Feynman and other thinkers from the Golden age of American Philosophy visiting Hocking at West Wind to discuss Descartes’s Cogito Ergo Sum or Dante (whom they all loved) or the work of Hobbes and Descartes whom they all disliked.

“It was the biggest time capsule of American intellectual history I had ever seen,” Kaag said in a press release. “It was every philosopher’s dream: first editions from the 17th and 18th centuries, tucked away in the most beautiful setting.” And imagine (if you must) the cash value of the 10,000 books in the library given that one of Lock’s books sold for $41,000 and one of Hobbes sold for $32,000. (That is a staggering R738,000 and R576,000 in our own Mickey Mouse money!)

But of course  no work of William James, Thoreau, Descartes, Dante, Plato, Coleridge, T.H. Huxley, Peirce, Whitehead, Josiah Royce, Schelling, Hegel, Lydia Maria Child, Jane Addams, May Sarton, Pearl Buck, Gabriel Marcel or any book of the other authors, even the once that Hocking and the other Pragmatists regarded as “misguided but instructive” like Spinosa, Leibniz, Wolf, Locke, and Kant, can ever be reduced to mere items of commerce, that would be sacrilegious.

This makes one think of Socrates who said that there is something worse than death: living an ugly, wicked, boring life. To which we could add the unthinkable … a life without books. That would indeed be worse than death.

What makes the collection of books in Hocking’s library even more fascinating, and indicative of the depth and inclusiveness of the Pragmatists’ studies in developing Pragmatism, is the volumes of books by German and other mystics like Meister Eckhart and Augustine, books on Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and the 50  “Sacred Books of the East” by Max Muller found in the library.

“The lover widens his experience as the non-lover cannot. He adds to the mass of his idea-world, and acquires thereby enhanced power to appreciate all things.” William Ernst Hocking.

The true and beautiful love story in Johan Kaag’s book actually belongs to Hocking, and not to Kaag and his fellow, beautiful professor and lover which was (as it turned out later) immature and uninspiring. (she an expert in Feminist Ethics and an ardent Kantian – you go figure that one out! – and he a specialist in American Philosophy with a religious bent and an admirer of Nietzsche and existentialism; What were they thinking!) Continue Reading »

Namib

Fotos uit die Woestyn deur Hannelie

As die son sak oor die woestyn

Namibian Holiday 2017

Kissing stones

Namibian Holiday 2017

As die woestyn blom

Namibian Holiday 2017

Aanhalings/Quotations

“It’s hard to know whether to laugh or to cry at the human predicament. Here we are with so much wisdom and tenderness, and—without even knowing it—we cover it over to protect ourselves from insecurity. Although we have the potential to experience the freedom of a butterfly, we mysteriously prefer the small and fearful cocoon of ego.”

The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

by Pema Chödrön,

Twee Jaar

Hat 02

Vra Sus waarom moes jy dood gaan. Kon ek vir haar sê omdat jy moes, maar ek doen nie. Dit was nie wat sy wou hoor nie.

Sou jy vir haar gesê het: Ek is nie dood nie want ek is nooit gebore nie, maar dit sou sy ook nie verstaan het nie.

Wat sy dalk wou weet is; hoekom jy en nie sy as regmatige volgende in die ry soos dit hoort nie.

Maar dit is nie soos dit werk nie, ek weet dit, sy weet dit. Daarom antwoord niemand haar vraag nie. Ons swyg. Ons kyk na die vloer. Die geleentheid om sinvol te antwoord gaan verby. Jy is weg. Ons bly … vir nou.

‘n Reis die woestyn in

Fotos deur Hannelie

Kolmanskop waar die woestyn terug vat wat syne is.

   … Maar ook vir jare bewaar waar die mens se voetspoor lank reeds uitgewis is.

Die woestyn het ook die huise oorgeneem waarin mense eens geleef het.

‘n Sandbad?

 

Walking with Giants.

American Philosophy – A love Story

Johan Kaag’s book “American Philosophy – A love Story” is a combination of the history of American Philosophy’s search for an truly American identity away from mainstream European Philosophy with their increasing reliance on abstract concepts and pure reason, and the men behind the Philosophical system that came to be known as Pragmatism.  Interwoven between Philosophy, historical facts and politics is the personal life and the (sometimes sad and even sordid) love life of the fathers of American philosophy (including the sad love life of Johan Kaag which begins in this book with his divorce from his first wife, the romance and wedding with his second wife which spills over to his next book (Hiking with Nietzsche) where they eventually run out of love and he then moves in with another woman of which we will probably read more in his next book about philosophy and the tragic love life of Johan Kaag).

Back to philosophy: The aim of Pragmatism was the same as that of Transcendentalists and Existentialists like Marcel, who wanted to bring the human experience of life back into the fold of philosophy, or conversely, who believed that philosophy should be woven into the general conduct and fibre of life. For Marcel life wasn’t supposed to be mastered, it was supposed to be experienced, and philosophy, said William James, helps us to make sense of life – to understand it and to awaken us to its nuances and potentialities, it guides us in living a more meaningful life. (Johan Kaag)

And having said that, the obvious next question for James was; Is life worth living? Throughout the book Kaag follows James’ argument to its very interesting conclusion.

Pragmatism as used by James is defined  as; “a theory about truth” (The Concise Encyclopaedia  of Western Philosophy and Philosophers).  Pragmatism asks; “Grant an idea or belief to be true, what concrete difference will its being true make in one’s actual life?” and “What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief were false?” Thus, truth must always be translated into experiential terms and the aim of philosophy must be the understanding of everything (in life) in the light of human purpose. In other words, what the Pragmatists were looking for was an answer to the question: how to live a creative, meaningful life in the face of our existential problems and our inevitable demise.

Like many great thinkers of the past including Emerson, Thoreau, Jesus, Buddha and many others, William James was a walker. Perhaps with his “inevitable demise” in mind, and his pragmatic form of moral relativism, in which no action can be absolutely good or evil in all conceivable circumstances, the happily married  fifty-something year old James arranged a weekend of hiking in the mountains with a twenty-four year old Pauline, a student of his with whom he had more than philosophical discourse in mind. Needless to say, the weekend turned out rather bad for the old man who could not keep up with the energetic young girl and he ended up aggravating his heart condition and left him with a severely dented pride. Hence forth he would concentrate his energy exclusively on philosophy (and his wife we hope?). Continue Reading »

Tell me your name.

Tell me your name.

Let me find you.

Here amongst the wild willow.

Here where only the shadows go.

Bring your sorrow to the light.

Expose your heart to the world.

They will mock your tears

Ridicule your life

Mourn your death.

But they will never know your heart

Your soul

Your name.

Fly to the ends of the earth.

Find what you misplaced.

Seek what you lost.

Bring them home to your sorrow.

Weep their names to the wind.

Never forget your heart

HVS

Order, Disorder, Reorder.

Ek pos hierdie artikel deur Richard Rohr volledig hier aangesien ek dink dit het berekking op, en bring n ander perspektief op die huidige wanorde in die VSA asook in die res van die wêreld. Ons lewe in n tyd van ongekende politieke, fiesiese, emosionele en natuurlike aanslae en dit is maklik moed te verloor. Maar Rohr sê dat selfs wanorde nodig is om die volgende fase van ons evolusie in te gaan.

Order, Disorder, Reorder: Part Three

Reorder: The Promised Land
Sunday, August 23, 2020

Our recent Daily Meditations have been focusing on what seems to me a universal pattern of spiritual transformation that takes us from Order, through Disorder, to Reorder. Order, by itself, normally wants to eliminate any disorder or diversity, creating a narrow and cognitive rigidity in both people and systems. Disorder, by itself, closes us off from any primal union, meaning, and eventually even sanity in both people and systems. Our focus of this week is Reorder, or transformation of people and systems, which happens when both are seen to work together.

Like most other kinds of growth, this spiral probably happens over and over throughout our lives, and reveals itself in the Bible:

Garden of Eden —> Fall —> Paradise.

Walter Brueggemann teaches three kinds of Psalms: Psalms of Orientation —> Psalms of Disorientation —> Psalms of New Orientation. [1]

Christians call the pattern Life —> Crucifixion —> Resurrection.

Many now speak generally of Construction —> Deconstruction —> Reconstruction.

We are indeed “saved” by knowing and surrendering to this universal pattern of reality. Knowing the full pattern allows us to let go of the first order, accept the disorder, and, sometimes hardest of all—to trust the new reorder.

Every religion in its own way is talking about getting us to the reorder stage. Various systems would call it “enlightenment,” “paradise,” “nirvana,” “heaven,” “nirvana,” “springtime,” or even “resurrection.” It is the life on the other side of death, the victory on the other side of failure, the joy on the other side of birthing pains. It is an insistence on going through—not under, over, or around. There is no nonstop flight to reorder. To arrive there, we must endure, learn from, and include the Disorder stage, transcending the first naïve Order—but also still including it! It amounts to the best of the conservative and the best of the liberal positions. People who have reached this stage, like the Jewish prophets, might be called “radical traditionalists.” They love their truth and their group enough to critique it; and they critique it enough to maintain their own integrity and intelligence. These wise ones have stopped overreacting but also over defending. They are usually a minority of humans.

Based on years of spiritual direction, I have observed that conservatives must let go of their illusion that they can order and control the world through religion, money, war, or politics. True release of control to God will show itself as compassion and generosity, and less boundary keeping. Liberals, however, must surrender their skepticism of leadership, eldering, or authority, and find what is good, healthy, and deeply true about a foundational order. This will normally be experienced as a move toward humility and real community.

Voel vry om opmerkings te maak of kretiek te lewer, ons is mos deel van “the wise ones”, ons kan en moet soos grootmense oor hierdie belangrike sake praat.

(No fun? To tell the truth, I think we had more fun visiting Dachau in Munich a few years back!)

We did a work-related trip to Dullstroom. We were actually going to a farmer in the Stofberg district, but my wife is mad about Dullstroom so we decided to travel early from home, explore the quint little historical town, have something to eat and then proceed to the famed Dunkeld Equestrian Estate where we booked accommodation for the night.

Booking accommodation on the internet was relatively easy through booking.com. I completed the booking document, filling in all the relevant information as requested and used the drop-down box provided to state our estimated time of arrival. Because we were told that the estate was situated in a forest with lovely hiking trials winding through the trees, we decided to arrive at such a time that we could still saunter along the hiking trails and explore the Estate at out leisure before sunset. I chose from the drop-down box (where you have a choice of arrival times with hourly  increments from early morning to late afternoon) a time of 1400hr to 1500hr.

Great was our surprise when were told: “Request denied”, meaning that my ETA was (rudely) rejected and that we were not allowed to arrive at the estate before 1500hr! We did not want to or needed to move into the apartment we booked immediately on arrival, we simply wanted to be there and enjoy nature in what was left of the late afternoon. If it was high season and the estate fully booked, I could understand the need for time to clean the rooms and get everything ready for the next guests, but it was not high season and we are still living in phase 3 of lockdown. It was not as if the estate was flooded with visitors, in fact I counted 4 cars (mine included) in front of the apartments.

Given the economic devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in all the economic sectors, including, and especially the hospitality industry one would think that they would go the extra mile to make their guests feel welcome and to make sure that they come back again in the not too distant future and bring their friends along. Apparently Dunkeld Estate does not need more visitors?

The more worrying aspect of our visit was the estate’s complete disregard for the safety of their guests. The day before our trip to Dullstroom we heard rumours of unrest in the town. Believing that the Estate would inform us if it was not safe to go there, and hearing nothing from them we assumed all was well and safe and we sett off for Dullstroom and Dunkeld Estate.

What we did not know, and what the Estate did not tell us was that the township where the people were throwing stones at vehicles and burning tires was right next to the Estate and that you have to drive on that same road, passing  about thirty meters from the nearest houses, to get to the Estate. By the time we got there the Police were still in the process of clearing the road of stones and burning tires.

Of course, we were a little bit upset about the situation and contemplated turning around and find some other accommodation in town. But we persevered and went on as fast as we could to get to the Estate. At reception the atmosphere was tense and the personnel not overly friendly. Enquiring whether we could book a table for dinner that evening, we were bluntly told that that there was a strike action by the workers and that the kitchen would not be open that evening but we were welcome to go into town and buy our own dinner. Management was conspicuously absent on the premises and no one else came forward to talk to us and explain to us what they were going to do to make our stay as comfortable and safe as possible so we boldly took the chance and drove back to town to buy food and then went back to the Estate.

We were told that breakfast (which we paid for in advance) would be served in the morning … if the kitchen staff turned up for work! The next morning at 8.30 the kitchen was still locked, the lights were off and there was nobody from the Estate in sight. Again, management failed to show up to tell us what they were going to do about our breakfast. They could have offered us, on that very cold morning, a cup of coffee and rusks (on the house!) and we would have been very happy and thankful, but no such offer was forthcoming.

We left Dunkled Estate with no intention of ever returning there again, and it goes without saying that we will never recommend friends and family to ever visit the Estate. I am sorry for the labour unrest that they experienced but I am afraid they will reimburse us for the breakfast we did not get. The restaurants in town found a way around the strike and were able to put food on the table for visitors. I am sure Dunkeld, if they were interested in looking after their guests, could have done the same.

Ps. The apartment we had was old and it showed. Bathroom floor tiles were broken, the heater against the wall was coming loose from the wall and there was a bad smell emanating from the bathroom, obviously coming from rotting floorboards under the carpet where the carpet and the bathroom tiles meet. The plug of the handwash-basin in the bathroom was stuck with the result that we could not use it at all.

When we got up the next morning, we found Woodlice (Oniscus asellus) crawling over the floor, on our towels and on our clothes. Granted, they are harmless but still very creepy little critters. There was a little spider as well, but that was ok, be do not mind spiders in a forest as long as they are very small and keep the mandatory social distance as described in the Government Gazette during the pandemic.

 

The Great Stuffer of Bags

Hierdie is n uitstekende werk deur n baie volwasse, vry mens wat weier om deur haar kleur gedefinieër te word. As ons almal (wit, swart, groen of pers) maar so vry kan word van ons obsessies met wie ons dink ons is.

How It Feels to Be Colored Me, by Zora Neale Hurston

“I remember the very day that I became colored”

A genius of the South, novelist, folklorist, anthropologist”–those are the words that Alice Walker had inscribed on the tombstone of Zora Neale Hurston. In this essay (first published inThe World Tomorrow, May 1928), the acclaimed author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, explores her own sense of identity through a series of striking metaphors. Zora Neale Hurston (Source: Carl Van Vechten, photographer, Library of Congress)

I am colored but I offer nothing in the way of extenuating circumstances except the fact that I am the only Negro in the United States whose grandfather on the mother’s side was not an Indian chief.

I remember the very day that I became colored. Up to my thirteenth year I lived in the little Negro town of Eatonville, Florida. It is exclusively a colored town. The only white people I knew passed through the town going to or coming from Orlando. The native whites rode dusty horses, the Northern tourists chugged down the sandy village road in automobiles. The town knew the Southerners and never stopped cane chewing when they passed. But the Northerners were something else again. They were peered at cautiously from behind curtains by the timid. The more venturesome would come out on the porch to watch them go past and got just as much pleasure out of the tourists as the tourists got out of the village.

The front porch might seem a daring place for the rest of the town, but it was a gallery seat for me. My favorite place was atop the gatepost. Proscenium box for a born first-nighter. Not only did I enjoy the show, but I didn’t mind the actors knowing that I liked it. I usually spoke to them in passing. I’d wave at them and when they returned my salute, I would say something like this: “Howdy-do-well-I-thank-you-where-you-goin’?” Usually automobile or the horse paused at this, and after a queer exchange of compliments, I would probably “go a piece of the way” with them, as we say in farthest Florida. If one of my family happened to come to the front in time to see me, of course negotiations would be rudely broken off. But even so, it is clear that I was the first “welcome-to-our-state” Floridian, and I hope the Miami Chamber of Commerce will please take notice.

During this period, white people differed from colored to me only in that they rode through town and never lived there. They liked to hear me “speak pieces” and sing and wanted to see me dance the parse-me-la, and gave me generously of their small silver for doing these things, which seemed strange to me for I wanted to do them so much that I needed bribing to stop, only they didn’t know it. The colored people gave no dimes. They deplored any joyful tendencies in me, but I was their Zora nevertheless. I belonged to them, to the nearby hotels, to the county–everybody’s Zora.

But changes came in the family when I was thirteen, and I was sent to school in Jacksonville. I left Eatonville, the town of the oleanders, a Zora. When I disembarked from the river-boat at Jacksonville, she was no more. It seemed that I had suffered a sea change. I was not Zora of Orange County any more, I was now a little colored girl. I found it out in certain ways. In my heart as well as in the mirror, I became a fast brown–warranted not to rub nor run.

But I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all but about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more of less. No, I do not weep at the world–I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife. Continue Reading »

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