4 February 2023, around 16.32.
…he did not want to do away with his scepticism, precisely because he wanted to doubt. That is is his prerogative. But one should not attribute to him the stupidity that he believed one doubted with necessity, or by the same token what is even dumber, that if such were the case, doubt could be abolished. The Greek sceptic does not deny the correctness of sensation and immediate cognition. Error, he says, has a completely different source; it comes from the inferences I draw. If I can just refrain from drawing any inferences, then I will never be deceived.
—Kierkegaard (Philosophical Crumbs, trans. M.G. Piety, p. 149)
8 February 2023, around 4.37.
ὁ βίος βραχὺς, ἡ δὲ τέχνη μακρὴ, ὁ δὲ καιρὸς ὀξὺς, ἡ δὲ πεῖρα σφαλερὴ, ἡ δὲ κρίσις χαλεπή.
Life is short; art is long; opportunity [the moment] fugitive; experience delusive; judgment difficult.
—Hippocrates (Aphorisms, 1.1, trans. Thomas Coar, 1822)
Reading some of the Hippocratic writings in the morning, I like to imagine the book proposal for someone seeking to live in line with the Hippocratic regimen for health (in the spirit of better living through ancient wisdom). Much of the advice is sensible (innocuous, platitudinous) – the notion of adjusting one’s activities and diet to the seasons, to the vagaries of one’s individual humours. Walk fast in winter, slow in summer; bathe often in summer, seldom in winter. If you ache while wrestling, the writer says, go ahead and run; if you ache while running, go ahead and wrestle. In either case, it wouldn’t hurt to go for a walk. Don’t be in a hurry to make changes – for changes that occur gradually are best (On Humours, xv).
The project seems less appealing once one tries to consider the specifics. One would need sections on the different humours, I suppose, and the seasons, and so forth. Overall, it could start promisingly enough with roast meat and no vegetables in winter, washed down with unmixed wine, before moving on to light soups and wine cocktails for summer,1 although the recommended thick, greasy enemas (made from milk, for those inclined to ‘dryness and leanness’ – those who are fat and moist should use a salty clyster) in summer would perhaps give many pause. Indeed, that is rather where my interest in the conceit wanes. If one takes a jaundiced (more common in spring) view of publishing, the oddity (which is certainly no greater than any of the other twaddle peddled as self-improvement) would perhaps make it all the more marketable. Still, as the author points out, ‘a wise man will consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit in his illnesses’.
- Supplemented by twice monthly emetics, of course, in a quantity which the editor notes would be ‘heroic’. [↩]
12 February 2023, around 14.24.
The familiar indecision of packing books before a trip. They must all fit into a drawstring bag that takes up about a quarter, or perhaps a third, of the primary bag, which also needs to contain everything else one could possibly imagine needing, as well as many things no one could possibly find useful but that are comforting and so carried along. Setting aside Donne, again, as well as books that are too large, too small, too familiar, too unknown, books that fail the test of an aleatoric reading (usually but not always page sixty-eight, the first sentence), books that pass the test too easily. Trying not to take more than a book a day, knowing that even if one could read all of them, one won’t, but that having options, having even a narrow choice, is the only thing that makes any sort of action possible.
A view (57)
14 February 2023, around 5.53.
17 February 2023, around 6.38.
It is a sure sign of a little mind to be doing one thing, and at the same time to be either thinking of another, or not thinking at all. One should always think of that one is about; when one is learning one should not think of play; and when one is at play, one should not think of one’s learning. Besides that, if you do not mind your book while you are at it, it will be double trouble to you, for you must learn it all over again.
—Earl of Chesterfield (Letters to His Son…, 24 July 1739)
21 February 2023, around 11.44.
Undoubtedly, the landscape will be endearing to someone in the future, even if it changes again. People live in the world of their own moment. They get used to their environment and cannot waste emotions on grieving over everything that has changed.
—Andri Snær Magnason (On Time and Water, trans. Lytton Smith, p. 251)
26 February 2023, around 8.36.
καὶ τὸ μὲν εὔχεσθαι ἀγαθόν · δεῖ δὲ καὶ αὐτὸν συλλαμβάνοντα τοὺς θεοὺς ἐπικαλεῖσθαι.
Prayer indeed is good, but while calling on the gods a man should himself lend a hand.
—Hippocrates (Regimen, 4.87, trans. W.H.S Jones)
Reading Hippocrates about dreams and how to interpret them in relation to health (for more significant omens, one must have recourse to a dream interpreter): Murky planets lead to foreboding, but clear planets are a sign of health. Any dream requires adjustments to the softness of the bed, the distance and timing of the daily walk, and whether one should run in circles or back and forth, to say nothing of the wateriness of the diet and its color. The details are soporific, as is the heavy fall of snow outside.
unus dies par omni
28 February 2023, around 4.50.
Φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ.
Nature is wont to be hidden.
—Heraclitus (Bywater fr. 10)
There is snow outside and a fire going in the fireplace. The black dog is asleep, her tail beating against the carpet with the rhythm of her dreams. The sky is louring, pressing down the hill into the white of the trees; in the room, the crackle of a turning page and the temptation to mark out a clever turn of phrase, a pleasant notion.