Notes from Wendell Berry's Home Economics

Wendell Berry is a great writer on community, the local, and how to organize a life. These  notes are from his collection of essays Home Economics. I also recommend What are people for?.

  • To call the unknown by its right name, “mystery”, is to suggest that we had better respect the possibility of a larger, unseen pattern that can be damaged or destroyed and, with it, the smaller patterns.This respecting of mystery obviously has something or other to do with religion, and we moderns have defended ourselves against it by turning it over to religion specialists, who take advantage of out indifference by claiming to know a lot about it.

    What impresses me about it, however, is the insistent practicality implicit in it. If we are up against mystery, then we dare act only on the most modest assumptions. The modern scientific program has held that we must act on the basis of knowledge, which, because its effects are so manifestly large, we have assumed to be ample. But if we are up against mystery, then knowledge is relatively small, and the ancient program is the right one: Act on the basis of ignorance. Acting on the basis of ignorance, paradoxically, requires one to know things, remember things — for instance, that failure is possible, that error is possible, that second chances are desirable (so don’t risk everything on the first chance), and so on. (p. 4-5)

  • Both the Greeks and the Hebrews told us to watch out for humans who assume that they make all the patterns. (p. 5)
  • Ignorance of where to stop is a modern epidemic; it is the basis of “industrial progress” and “economic growth”. The most obvious practical result of this ignorance is a critical disproportion of scale between the scale of human enterprises and their sources in nature. (p. 15-16)
  • The proper scale confers freedom and simplicity…and doubtless leads to long life and health. I think that it also confers joy. (p. 16)
  • No good thing is destroyed by goodness; good things are destroyed by wickedness. We may identify that insight as Biblical, but it is taken for granted by both the Greek and the Biblical lineages of our culture, from Homer to Moses to William Blake. Since the start of the industrial revolution, there have been voices urging that this inheritance [nature] may be safely replaced by intelligence, information, energy and money. No idea, I believe, could be more dangerous. (p. 20)
  • Everywhere, every day, local life is being discomforted, disrupted, endangered, or destroyed by powerful people who live, or who are privileged to think that they live, beyond the bad effects of their bad work. (p. 50)

Act Now, Electoral College

Stopping demagogues and unqualified candidates is why the Electoral College was created. Time to reread The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton. Jon Zieger paraphrases and explains:

The intention of the electoral college is to protect us from interference in our elections by foreign powers and from unqualified candidates who rise up quickly based on “little arts in popularity”;  to stop “foreign powers… gain[ing] an improper ascendant in our councils… by raising a creature of their own to the [Presidency].” its purpose is to “afford a moral certainty that [POTUS] … will never fall to any man not in eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications as a majority of votes might not … happen [go to] one man, and as it might be unsafe to permit less than a majority to be conclusive…it provides that, in such a contingency, the House of Representatives shall select the man who … may be best qualified”

And he concludes:

If there were ever a case for individual electors to exercise judgment independent of their state populations, this is it. And doing so would be consistent with both the constitution and the intention of the system as expressed by the framers.

Yes.

21 States do not restrict their Electors. There is already unrest: Texas elector has said he couldn’t support Trump.

Virginia Woolf’s Diary Vol. 2

I have been reading Virginia Woolf’s Diary Vol. 2. It has been good, and I recommend it.

I haven’t read it in years, and had forgotten how much she lived for other people’s compliments, how insecure she was, how she flowered under another’s approval, and how she withered beneath another’s dismissal. I also noticed how much she speaks of, and thinks of, her household, particularly her servants. It’s remarkable how much help she had, really. And Leonard, always in the background, a tremendous support to her. And I had the thought that, for someone with such an active social life, how could she have fallen into her dark periods, as friends and family are a balm for the trials of life.

A handy guide to what types of speech are not protected by the First Amendment

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Here’s a useful guide to non-controversial types of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment, as recently re-articulated by the Supreme Court. Note that “hate speech” is not among them:

From 1791 to the present the First Amendment has permitted restrictions upon the content of speech in a few limited areas and has never included a freedom to disregard these traditional limitations.

These historic and traditional categories are long familiar to the bar, including obscenity,  defamation, fraud,  incitement, and speech integral to criminal conduct–are well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem.

The associated cases:

  • Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. Members of N. Y. State Crime Victims Bd., 502 U. S. 105, 127 (1991)
  • Roth v. United States, 354 U. S. 476, 483 (1957)
  • Beauharnais v. Illinois, 343 U. S. 250, 254-255 (1952)
  • Virginia Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U. S. 748, 771 (1976)
  • Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U. S. 444, 447-449 (1969)
  • Giboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co., 336 U. S. 490, 498 (1949)
  • Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U. S. 568, 571-572 (1942).

Further Reading:

How To Spot And Critique Censorship Tropes In The Media’s Coverage Of Free Speech Controversies A superbly useful guide to help you understand who is right and who is wrong when they invoke the First Amendment in the media.

 

 

Caterina Fake: 30 Days of Genius

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I was interviewed by Chase Jarvis, the co-founder and CEO of Creative Live, an education company that has live education around the clock, every day, in creative fields such as design, filmmaking, photography and music. It’s a great company! I was on their board too.

Here is the interview, which was recorded last week, and is part of a series “30 Days of Genius”, which includes interviews with other folks such as Richard Branson, Swiss Miss, Arianna Huffington and other interesting and unexpected people. I had fun doing it, and, while I chafe at being characterized ONLY as an Entrepreneur and Angel Investor, was able to talk about my experiences along the way.


Further Reading

These are some of the books I mentioned in my interview:

A Blue Fire by James Hillman. Hillman is a student of Carl Jung, but focuses his work on the cultivation of the soul. Great guide for creative pursuits, but for anyone looking beyond success into fulfillment and magnanimity in the old sense: great-souledness.

 

 

The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald. A German writer, who spent most of his career teaching in East Anglia in England. Sebald writes movingly, is deeply learned. The Emigrants is his masterpiece: a study of men, their lives and failures, their deaths.

Monday’s List

In which I gather random, unrelated things in short list form.

  • Never having made pizza before, I made 10 pizzas yesterday.
  • I worked as a youth in a nursing home, and gained a lot of experience taking care of elderly people. There was something quite beautiful about the old people
  • I am going to dig into the archives of Caterina.net and other sites around the internet where I’ve done some writing. I will repost some of the better posts, update some, and so on. Many of the posts have been offline for years, but I still have all the archives, going back to the late 90s. Nearly 20 years of blog posts should provide some fodder.
  • I’ve read some exceptionally good books recently, which I will write about soon in greater detail.

Doubt in Buddhism

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“Doubt is the fifth of the five hindrances to insight in meditation teaching, writes Sharon Salzburg, in a post about doubting.”  The other hindrances, grasping, aversion, sleepiness, and restlessness are easier to see than doubt, she says, as it “often disguises itself to us as something skillful, like a brilliant thought.” Brilliant thoughts are often the crafty method used to avoid difficult things such as acceptance or understanding.

Salzburg’s post provides these other thoughts: “Don’t believe anything. See for yourself what’s true,” from Buddha, which, like much great wisdom, come across as obvious, a platitude, but is not. And I was also struck by what Salzburg’s guru said in response to some students going off and trying out other gurus, “The dharma (the truth, the nature of things, the way or the path to freedom) doesn’t suffer from comparison.”

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