Children in the gulag

Eugenia Ginzberg, who served eighteen years in the camps of Kolyma, wrote that when a camp of child prisoners was given two guard-dog puppies to raise the children at first could not think of anything to name them. The poverty of their surroundings had stripped their imaginations bare. Finally they chose names from common objects they saw every day. They named one puppy Ladle and the other Pail.

On the Prison Highway, Ian Frazier (New Yorker, August 30, 2010)

Friendship & other relationships

Somewhere in The Art of Happiness a book of interviews with the Dalai Lama, he talks about how in Western culture the most emphasized form of relationship is romantic, and that he, as a monk, will never have a romantic relationship, but that he has deep and abiding relationships with all kinds of people. And it seems that in our search for romantic love we overlook the possibilities for profound relationships with sisters, children, colleagues, and the like. Which I thought of as I read America, Land of Loners.

Friendship is uniquely suited to fill this void because, unlike matrimony or parenthood, it’s available to everyone, offering concord and even intimacy without aspiring to be all-consuming. Friends do things for us that hardly anybody else can, yet ask nothing more than friendship in return (though this can be a steep price if we take friendship as seriously as we should). The genius of friendship rests firmly on its limitations, which are better understood as boundaries.

And a quote from Aristotle on its different flavors:

Aristotle, who saw friendship as essential to human flourishing, shrewdly observed that it comes in three distinct flavors: those based on usefulness (contacts), on pleasure (drinking buddies), and on a shared pursuit of virtue—the highest form of all. True friends, he contended, are simply drawn to the goodness in one another, goodness that today we might define in terms of common passions and sensibilities.

And a quote from John Cacioppo, who says that Americans are lonely—not because we have fewer social contacts, but because the ones we have are more harried and less meaningful.

Easier to just read the whole thing. 🙂

Individualism, infantilism

One begins to suspect that over the years the ideal of individuality which lies at the root of the idea of America has become infantilized. The corruption of individualism we now so often see about us is a species of arrogance that confirms itself by excluding others and begets conflict with others, opposition and fear.

From The American Soul by Jacob Needleman

I’ve been reading Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, after seeing her speak and being impressed (which led me to this essay by Jacob Needleman) and is largely about bridging differences and making room for disparate positions and world views among Lincoln’s cabinet.

Abraham Lincoln by Woodrow Wilson

We say that Lincoln was honest; men used to call him “Honest Abe”. But honesty is not a quality. Honesty is the manifestation of character. Lincoln was honest because there was nothing small or petty about him, and only smallness or pettiness in a nature can produce dishonesty. Such honesty is a quality of largeness. It is that openness of nature which will not condescend to subterfuge, which is too big to conceal itself. Little men run to cover and deceive you. Big men cannot and will not run to cover, and do not deceive you. Of course, Lincoln was honest. But that was not a peculiar characteristic of him; that is a general description of him. He was not small or mean, and his honesty was not produced by any calculation, but was the genial expression of the great nature that was behind it.

From Selected Literary and Political Papers and Addresses of Woodrow Wilson

Reinstall of blog software (Crossing Fingers)

Since I broke for the umpteenth time my Movable Type install, I figured I’d just reinstall the whole thing with new blogging software. Now I am importing from MT using install instructions intended for WP 2.0 so not sure how it is going to go, but my fingers are crossed.

For the time being you can find my old MT archives here, until the time when I’m able to move it all over. Bonus archives! I put my old Caterina.net Blogger archives on blogspot, which I’m also going to (today? someday?) move over in the massive merge. Images are missing, and they’re kind of janky, but heck, all 1500 posts are there. The even earlier handwritten ones are lost to the ages. I think they may be on a Syquest or Zip disk somewhere.

And I’d blocked Internet Archive with my robots.txt a while back when I was having a mania about the internet needing to forget; and I’ve reconciled myself to internet losses. A little data loss is a good thing.