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Behind Those Golden Slumbers

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"Come sleep, O Sleep, the certain knot of peace." (Sir Philip Sydney, 1580s)
Eight hours is eight hours, yet why does eight hours of sleep pass at a much different rate than eight hours of work or eight hours of play? How does the time seem to pass at such a different rate?

We don't want to close our eyes, lest we miss a thing; yet, we would die without sleep. Our survival depends on it. At risk of sounding like a "stoner thought" (perhaps "shower thought" would be better said), isn't it interesting that over the course of our lives, such a significant portion is passed while we are unconscious? We close our eyes and wake up having traveled with the orbit of the planet through space.

Today I learned that the Beatle's famous song, "Golden Slumbers" was an adaptation of a song found in a play by Thomas Dekker popular in the early 1600's:

Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
Smiles awake you when you rise;
Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cr…

Two places I'd love see in person

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Ball's Pyramid, 12 mi southeast of Lord Howe Island in the Pacific Ocean (approx. 400 miles off the coast of Australia). All-access banned in 1986 due to its treacherous approach, delicate ecosystem and fragile surface.
Tristan De Cunha, the most remote island in the world, approximately 1500 miles off the South African coast. Population: 250. Visitors are welcome but please are invited not to stay long. To best appreciate exactly the island's location, click here and scroll out. Edgar Allan Poe introduced me to the island via his novel, "The Narrative of Gordon A. Pym of Nantucket." 


Simple As Grass

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A few thoughts and a short reading from Walt Whitman, an early influence on my writing life.



"I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death." (Song of Myself, 1, Walt Whitman, 1855)

A Lesson in Forgetting

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One of my reads included a reference to the historical event that we now call The Irish Potato Famine, a ten year period in which hundreds of thousands of people died due to lack of food. Remember 1841-1851 (dates vary among historians).

Potatoes were not native to but were brought from South America to Ireland by Spanish Explorers in the late 1500s. Farming potatoes was not the prime directive of the Armada, but the tuberous crop found its way to the Emerald Isle, nonetheless. Over the course of about 300 years, the Irish population enjoyed potatoes as the main food source. But why did the population of Ireland plummet 20% over that ten year period? How much of that decrease was due to starvation and how much was due to immigration? Out of ignorance and for want of learning, one wonders what people ate before the potato. Did they forget? Did the blight affect more than potatoes so nothing edible would grow? The environment can be harsh but one wonders what they forget.

Ireland becam…

Daily Practice Is The Philosophy

"In your actions, don't procrastinate. In your conversation, don't confuse. In your thoughts, don't wander. In your soul, don't be passive or aggressive. In your life, don't be all about business." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.51)

"Unvollendete"

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1797 to 1828 was all he had. Franz Schubert died young. A student of Antonio Salieri, Schubert became obsessed with music at a young age. Days were long doing little but composing. When he started teaching piano, he was known to stop composing music only to discipline a student who interrupted him.

A typical romantic-bohemian, borrowing money, living in other people's homes, he sold his music cheap and spent any earnings drinking and reciting poetry with friends who loved and performed his music ("Schubertians").

Schubert's Symphony No. 8 is known as his "Unvollendete" (Unfinished), as he started the piece in 1822 and only completed the first two movements. As a joke, young music students penned lyrics to the melody found in the cello and echoed by the violins after the first minute or so,

"This is the symphony that Schubert wrote but didn't finish; 
this is the symphony that Schubert wrote but didn't finish, 
th' unfinished symphony . . . &q…

Circumdiem; or, "About One Day"

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The Online Etymology Dictionary explains how the term "circadian" was "coined 1959 by German-born biologist Franz Halberg, from Latin circa "about" (alternative form of circum "round about;" see circum-) + diem, accusative singular of dies "day" (from PIE root *dyeu-"to shine"). The original use is in circadian rhythm." (source)
Think of the circadian rhythm as a pre-installed, ready-made clock for every living creature, found in that part of the brain that controls pretty much everything we can't control: body temperature, fluids, hormone production, organ function. Interestingly, that part of the brain is connected to the eye, the sensor that detects light. Our chemistry changes when it gets dark or light, which means artificial light at night does not help the clock. Our circadian rhythm also changes with the seasons, which may explain why we "slow down" and are inclined to stay under the covers just a littl…

Whistler's Mother: A Harmony of Color

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It's an icon. An old woman dressed in black. Why has this painting captured our attention? We don't know the woman, but flash an image of it to a stranger on the street and find that just about anyone has a familiarity with her.


Whistler's title for the painting is "Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Artist's Mother." While only a portion of the life-size painting is represented here, one can get an inkling of what captures our fascination. The canvas (representing the wall behind her) is rough but her aged features are softened with delicate layers of paint. Had we not been told we would not know she was cold, sick, could not stand for long and withstood the constant pain of bad teeth. The lace of her white bonnet is portrayed with transparent fragility. Her plain black dress is her statement of years of mourning after the death of her husband. Though we do not see them directly, her eyes are wide open with a kind of readiness.

Whistler says of …

"Freedom Isn’t Free" by Ryan Holiday

"The fact that America exists is the ultimate argument that Stoicism is not apathy and that philosophy is not mere theory. Because without Stoicism, it’s possible there would have been no revolution, no Constitution, no Bill of Rights and no Fourth of July.

Thomas Jefferson kept a copy of Seneca on his nightstand. George Washington staged a reproduction of a play about Cato at Valley Forge in the winter of ‘77/’78 to inspire the troops (having first read the Stoics as a teenager). Patrick Henry cribbed lines from that same play which we now credit to him: “Give me Liberty or give me death!” John Adams, Ben Franklin—almost all the founders were well-versed in the works of the Stoics. It’s partly what gave them the courage to found a new nation against such incredible odds, and it’s partly what set up the principles that formed that nation and changed the world.

At the core of the American experiment was liberty. At the core of Stoicism we have not only a love of freedom, but the co…

Get To

"The task of a philosopher: we should bring our will into harmony with whatever happens so that nothing happens against our will and nothing that we wish for fails to happen." (Epictetus, Discourses, 2.14.7)

Ryan Holiday says the difference between a "to do" list and a "get to" list is privilege. I would add that the difference also includes "flexibility." This is why I no longer keep a "to do" list, but an "if nothing prevents me" list--things I get to do. Flexibility comes into play by giving myself the freedom to tackle list-items when I am free to do so.

The Beauty of Strength

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How to Criticize

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The Last Day of June

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Download the game free of charge through July 4.
I'm not a gamer, but I am a huge fan of the artist behind the soundtrack.

Try The Opposite

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"What assistance can we find in the fight against habit? Try the opposite!" (Epictetus, Discourses, 1.27.4)