Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mortimer Adler on Reading the Great Books For the Sheer Pleasure of It

"It is a far, far better thing to have read a great book superficially than never to have read it at all."

"Note that I did not say this is the only good way or even the best way to read a great work. I said that this admittedly superficial reading is the best and only way the first time around. I grant, indeed I urge, that the great books are infinitely rereadable, that we discern more meaning in them the more we read them and the more we bring to them. But we must start from where we are and with what we are -- with our present age, experience and insight -- and let these works and writers communicate to us here and now."

"This is a good time to recall that the reason why we reread a book is not merely to grasp what was lost or blurred in the first reading, but also to enjoy again what we enjoyed the first time. Exactly the same impulse is at work as the one that impels us to see again a movie which we particularly enjoyed and admired. William Faulkner, remarking on how he continually reread the literary classics, pointed out that with these "old friends" you do not have to begin at the start and go on to the end. "I've read these books so often," he said, "that I don't always begin at page one and, read on to the end. I just read one scene, or about one character, just as you'd meet and talk to a friend for a few minutes." This is all the more reason to read through and enjoy a great book the first time. Without that initial acquaintanceship and pleasure, the stage of familiar friendship and repeated enjoyment can never be reached."

- Mortimer Adler.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reading Hippocrates

Today I read Hippocrates' piece on how the environment creates health or illness. The core idea is that a harsh, dry, mountainous, unfriendly environement gives rise to a courageous and strong people, while a soft, swampy, luxurious environment gives rise to weak and soft people.

Hippocrates tries his hand at some ethnology too. He compares the Scythians, Persians, and Europeans. His views don't seem very cogent. But the most interesting part about his opinions is his views on the causes of the impotence of the Scythians. His diagnosis of the Scythian's commonplace impotence is fascinating. I have to wonder if he borrowed it from someone who had lived among them, though. Hippocrates does not seem much like a travelling man.

The piece is called 'Airs, Waters, Places'. It's quite a sensible paper when you read it in historical context. Hippocrates apprehends the malleable nature of humans, and tries to grasp how humans fit the environment without recourse to myth or religion. In that light, his first efforts are very good indeed.

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