Today’s post, an essay by philosopher Alain de Botton, is from LARB Channel Marginalia. It was published last week – if you missed it, we’ve reproduced it here in full. The above photo is a screenshot of one of The School of Life’s new YouTube videos. The video is included in the below post.
By Alain de Botton
Traditionally, philosophy has been nervous around the idea of communication. Reaching out has not been high on the agenda. Academic philosophers have frequently erected barriers to wider participation: abstruse vocabulary and hypercomplex arguments have seemed to guarantee intelligence — all of which is a great pity.
Philosophy is simply the pursuit of wisdom. And though it’s a rather abstract term, the concept of “wisdom” isn’t mysterious. Being wise means attempting to live and die well, leading as good a life as possible within the troubled conditions of existence. The goal of wisdom is fulfilment. So a philosopher or “person devoted to wisdom” is someone who strives for systematic expertise at working out how one may best find individual and collective fulfillment. Continue reading
Today’s post is from LARB Channel Boom.
By D.J. Waldie
A View from Bixby Hill. Sometimes I go up on a hill that overlooks the concrete box of the San Gabriel River where the river flows into Alamitos Bay in Long Beach. From there, you see nature. Wetlands drained for oil production lie below, as do tracts of houses and the congested asphalt ribbon of the Pacific Coast Highway. Most of what I see had been owned by the Bixby family of Long Beach. The Bixbys farmed, grazed sheep and cattle, and raised draft horses from 1878 until the suburban boom of the 1950s. In the 1920s, the Bixbys began pumping oil from their wetlands and hired renowned landscape architects—Florence Yoch and the Olmsted brothers, as well as Paul J. Howard, William Hertrich, and Allen Chickering among them—to lay out four acres of sophisticated gardens surrounding the Bixby homestead. Continue reading
Photo: Portrait of Ishi by E.H. Kemp, July 1912. Courtesy of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology and the Regents of the University of California.
Today’s post is from LARB Channel Boom.
By William Bauer
Ishi must be tired. For 160 years, people have hunted him and other California Indians. In the mid-nineteenth century, settlers, miners, and ranchers tracked Ishi and his family in revenge for the killing of livestock. In the early twentieth century, anthropologists trailed after Ishi, searching for North America’s “last wild Indian.” In 2000, Maidu and Pit River tribal members tracked down his brain, which Dr. Saxton Pope had removed at Ishi’s autopsy and Professor Alfred Kroeber had sent to the Smithsonian. In 2012, photographers Byron Wolfe and Troy Jollimore continued the quest to capture Ishi, visiting Deer Creek in search of his wilderness. Settlers, anthropologists, and indigenous people have hounded Ishi for different purposes. Understanding why people hunt Ishi tells us much about how Californians envision Indians and their past, present, and future. Continue reading
Today’s post was originally published earlier this week by LARB Channel Avidly.
By James McWilliams
The psychoanalyst Adam Phillips once observed that people don’t strive to be what they already are. It’s an elegantly obvious point, but it’s also terrifying in its implications. After all, for the “aspiring self,” the ambition to be something else—someone else—reveals that life is marked by a yawning void. That is: life hurts. I suspect nobody intuitively grasps this reality better than an adolescent. It makes you wonder: how do these tender creatures ever survive? Continue reading
Today’s post was originally published by LARB Channel Marginalia.
By Andrew B. Irvine
Almost all the arts of life are enhanced when performed with unselfconscious spontaneity — think shooting hoops, playing a complicated musical passage, dining with friends. The moment we try not to try is often the moment performance collapses in a counterproductive muddle. This “paradox of wu-wei,” as Edward Slingerland calls it, can be explained as the goal of trying not to try. This ambitious book reprises much of the author’s previous work on classical Chinese philosophical cultivation of wu-wei (see his 2003 book, Effortless action) and broadens the scope of his previous engagement with cognitive science, particularly notions of embodied mind. Slingerland seeks to address a popular audience that is both fascinated and frustrated by the paradox of wu-wei, and thus far the book has received good press here, here, and here. Continue reading
Today’s post was originally published last week by LARB Channel Avidly.
By M.J. Dinius
Last night on Facebook, my friend explicitly linked the two stories dominating my social media feed: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the events in Ferguson, Missouri. My friend asked, “How many buckets of ice would I have to pour over my head to get people to care about black lives?” Likely meant to be more provocative than substantive—especially when compared to the real and deep connections confirmed between Ferguson and the Middle East — the question might be seen as an opportunistic, if well-meant, politicization of a charity fundraiser. Or more confrontationally, it might be challenged for implicitly setting up a false choice between caring about African Americans and people suffering from a terminal, incurable disease.
For me, the post struck a still-quick nerve, compelling me to take seriously the question of what moves people to care about others these days, to question what it means to “care.” And it made me think again about the relationship of two concepts that are strange traveling partners: care, and cure. Continue reading
This interview is from LARB Channel Marginalia, and is number 13 in their ongoing radio series.
Art Remillard talks with Randall Balmer about his new book, Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter. Balmer is the Mandel Family Professor in the Arts and Sciences at Dartmouth College, and author of more than a dozen books, including Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America.
Photo: Janet Delaney, Roof Terrace One Hawthorne 645 Howard Street, 2013.
This piece was originally published by LARB Channel Boom, in their Summer 2014 issue.
By Leah Reich
When I tell pretty much anyone outside the tech industry I work at a start-up, there’s usually a pause. I can watch her compose her face, waiting to hear the worst. If I’m lucky, I’ll field questions about foie gras burgers, daily massages, or what it’s like to work with a bunch of clueless bros. I laugh, but I’m careful to say it’s not always like that. Sure, some places are beautifully designed and full of crazy start-up perks, but there are companies that aren’t. Like the one run by people I know, people who spent a year crammed in a tiny two-room office, busy around the clock, emails and messages flying at all hours. In fact, they’ve been going nonstop for a few years now, working on a product they hope will help people be smarter, safer drivers—and maybe even get people to use less gas. Continue reading
Below is a piece from Boom, one of our LARB Channels. We’ve reproduced it in full here; to read the original, and to check out more from Boom, visit their website.
By Eve Bachrach and Jon Christensen
From Boom Summer 2014, Vol 4, No 2
We’re not arguing about what really matters.
So many columns filled, so much hand wringing, but no one seems to be able to answer: What’s the matter with San Francisco? Continue reading
Non-Muslims, including Jews and Christians, have spoken Arabic since before the revelation of the Qur’an. Was there an Arabic Bible before the rise of Islam? Or, did the appearance of the Arabic Qur’an shape the Arabic Bible? These are among the questions addressed in Sidney Griffith’s masterful book, The Bible in Arabic. Continue reading