Tag Archives: philosophy

The Lint Trap

Am I the only person who has managed to do laundry for decades without learning that occasional white spots or streaks on dark clothes are caused by too much undissolved detergent? Please don’t embarrass me by replying, “Well, duh, everyone knows that!”

Anyway, I know this now. And while I was emptying the lint trap today — today being laundry day around here — it occurred to me that we often accumulate little unwanted specks of debris in our psyches, too.

Mental “lint” accumulates when we’re exposed to too many little bits of negativity. It could come from the news. The jerk driver who cut you off. A chance remark by a nasty neighbor or co-worker. It could even be a self-deprecating thought that makes us doubt our own worth.

And, just like doing our laundry, we need to regularly empty our mind’s lint trap and start afresh. At least once a week.

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Damocles

How long is it before procrastination takes on the mythical proportions of an Impossible Hurdle? My plan to write about our recent excursion to France has turned into a post about NOT writing it (“for now”, says the procrastinator-at-large).

So what is the origin of the story (also the phrase, “hanging by a thread” to denote looming disaster or apprehension)? The History website enlightens, as follows:

History Stories

What was the sword of Damocles?

What was the sword of Damocles?

EVAN ANDREWS

The famed “sword of Damocles” dates back to an ancient moral parable popularized by the Roman philosopher Cicero in his 45 B.C. book “Tusculan Disputations.” Cicero’s version of the tale centers on Dionysius II, a tyrannical king who once ruled over the Sicilian city of Syracuse during the fourth and fifth centuries B.C. Though rich and powerful, Dionysius was supremely unhappy. His iron-fisted rule had made him many enemies, and he was tormented by fears of assassination—so much so that he slept in a bedchamber surrounded by a moat and only trusted his daughters to shave his beard with a razor.

As Cicero tells it, the king’s dissatisfaction came to a head one day after a court flatterer named Damocles showered him with compliments and remarked how blissful his life must be. “Since this life delights you,” an annoyed Dionysius replied, “do you wish to taste it yourself and make a trial of my good fortune?” When Damocles agreed, Dionysius seated him on a golden couch and ordered a host of servants wait on him. He was treated to succulent cuts of meat and lavished with scented perfumes and ointments. Damocles couldn’t believe his luck, but just as he was starting to enjoy the life of a king, he noticed that Dionysius had also hung a razor-sharp sword from the ceiling. It was positioned over Damocles’ head, suspended only by a single strand of horsehair. From then on, the courtier’s fear for his life made it impossible for him to savor the opulence of the feast or enjoy the servants. After casting several nervous glances at the blade dangling above him, he asked to be excused, saying he no longer wished to be so fortunate.

For Cicero, the tale of Dionysius and Damocles represented the idea that those in power always labor under the specter of anxiety and death, and that “there can be no happiness for one who is under constant apprehensions.” The parable later became a common motif in medieval literature, and the phrase “sword of Damocles” is now commonly used as a catchall term to describe a looming danger. Likewise, the saying “hanging by a thread” has become shorthand for a fraught or precarious situation. One of its more famous uses came in 1961 during the Cold War, when President John F. Kennedy gave a speech before the United Nations in which he said that “Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness.”

The Curmudgeon Chronicles: Is It Art If It Needs Subtitles?

Maybe it’s an age thing.  But it seems to me that art — be it visual, musical, literary or what have you — should stand on its own without relying on accompanying commentary.

Last night we attended a gallery opening of paintings and sculpture by two artists, one of whom is married to a colleague of a mutual friend.  The manifesto that accompanied this work was quite beautiful and actually much more interesting than the work itself, which felt derivative and rather banal. Which got me thinking….

We don’t expect margin notes on the pages of a good novel.  Or a running crawl in a film to explain what the director had in mind.  Are paintings and sculpture more compelling because of an artist’s backstory — in this case, gender identity — , even when the images have nothing to do with that struggle? 

This is ultimately the problem I have with most political art: Take away the message, and what are you left with? Picasso’s Guernica? Unfortunately, mostly not.

focus photography of sea waves

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Mysteries of Coastal Living

The Oregon coast is one of the most stunning places on earth. Here, you can contemplate the mysteries of the universe as you stroll down the beach, hike through majestic forests or marvel at a gorgeous sunset.

My mind tends to wander towards the more prosaic:

Why are there 15 bead and glass blowing shops but only one car wash?

Why can’t we get decent Internet and phone service?

Are the whales actually showing off, or are they oblivious?

What makes plants grow this huge?

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Why is there no decent pizzeria when so many families with children visit and live in the area?

How does the place serving truly horrible pizza stay in business?

Why do the blackberry bushes have more brambles than blackberries?

When is Walgreen’s pharmacy actually closed for lunch?

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Why do people visit a beautiful place and then litter?

Why is there only one liquor store when there are so many local drunks, visitors, and drunken visitors?

Why are there so few doctors in an area where there are so many seniors?

How long will it take us to visit all 500 wineries in Oregon wine country?

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Why won’t some dog owners pick up their dog’s poop unless someone’s watching?

How do all the t-shirt stores make money?

What does the Christmas store do the rest of the year?

Why does the landscape guy only show up after we’ve mowed the lawn?

 

And mostly… why does summer have to be so damn short?!