Socrates on Wisdom

Socrates, 470-399 BC. [Public domain image via Wikipedia]
The great Greek philosopher, Socrates, left behind no writings. What we know of his teachings and sayings came to us via his students… in particular, Plato.

Quote of the Week:

I only wish that wisdom were the kind of thing that flowed… from the vessel that was full to the one that was empty. (Socrates)

Plato: Symposium

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When It Clears Up

Quote of the Week:

Photo by danfador via Pixabay [CC0]

If I wished to see a mountain or other scenery under the most favorable auspices, I would go to in in foul weather so as to be there when it cleared up. We are then in the most suitable mood, and nature is most fresh and inspiring. There is no serenity so fair as that which is just established in a tearful eye.

(Henry David Thoreau: Canoeing in the Wilderness)

Four Seasons in Japan – with Matsuo Basho

“Haiku”, it is said in Japan, “began and ended with Basho.”

Translator’s Introduction to The Sound of Water: Haiku by Basho, Buson, Issa and Other Poets by Sam Hamill

Two weeks ago, in the conclusion of The Four Seasons in Japan, I promised that I would revisit haikus, with a specific focus on Matsuo Basho (you know: the first, the last and the only… in other words, the greatest writer of haikus), so:

  • first a little introduction to Matsuo Basho’s life and poetry
  • followed by part II of The Four Seasons in Japan

Enjoy. 🙂

Continue reading “Four Seasons in Japan – with Matsuo Basho”

More Final than Pompeii

Quote of the Week:

Selinus (Seliunte), Sicily. View of the Marinella di Selinunte and Temple E as seen from the acropolis of Seliunte. Photo by Matthias Süßen [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Fear in a handful of dust. Stillness and sun-petrified ruins. Here lay the ancient city, running north and south, overlooking the sea and the memory of its ships.

Here, then, was all that was left of great Selinus, called rich and powerful by Thucydides, with silver and gold in its temples and a treasury of its own at the shrine in Olympia. One of those sad disputes, with which the Greeks destroyed their promised land of Sicily, destroyed this city.

In 409 B.C. Hannibal and the Carthaginian army razed the walls of Selinus to the ground. Selinus, ‘City of the Wild Celery’ (and we had passed wild celery as we climbed the headland), was extinct by Strabo’s time. It had been a monument to the vanity of human wishes even when the Roman galleys swept past that bright bay…

“More final than Pompeii.”

(Ernle Bradford: The Wind Off the Island)

Don Quijote y el ventero andaluz (Don Quixote and the Andalusian inn-keeper)

Don Quijote & Sancho Panza, Cervantes Monument, Madrid. Photo by Michael Gwyther-Jones [CC BY 2.0] via Wikipedia

Viendo don Quijote la humildad del alcaide de la fortaleza, que tal le pareció a él el ventero y la venta, respondió:

—Para mí, señor castellano, cualquiera cosa basta, porque ‘mis arreos son las armas/mi descanso el pelear, etc.’

Pensó el huésped que el haberle llamado castellano había sido por haberle parecido de los sanos de Castilla, aunque él era andaluz, y de los de la playa de Sanlúcar, no menos ladrón que Caco, ni menos maleante que estudiantado paje…

(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra:
El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha)


Don Quixote, observing the respectful bearing of the Alcaide of the fortress (for so innkeeper and inn seemed in his eyes), made answer, “Sir Castellan, for me anything will suffice, for

‘My armour is my only wear,
My only rest the fray.'”

The host fancied he called him Castellan because he took him for a “worthy of Castile,” though he was in fact an Andalusian, and one from the strand of San Lucar, as crafty a thief as Cacus and as full of tricks as a student or a page.

(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: Don Quixote)

Easy Promise Never Kept (Promesa ligera nunca cumplida)

The Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

Lao Tse (6th century BC) [public domain via Wikipedia]

He who lightly promises is sure to keep but little faith; he who is continually thinking things easy is sure to find them difficult. Therefore, the sage sees difficulty even in what seems easy, and so never has any difficulties.

(Lao Tse: Tao  Teh King 63:3)


El que promete a la ligera
merece poco crédito.
El que todo lo encuentra fácil
difícil le será todo.
Por esto, el sabio en todo considera la dificultad,
y en nada la halla.

(Lao-Tse: Tao Te King  LXIII)

The Lights at Kew Gardens (Las luces de Kew Gardens)

I didn’t have a chance to take photos of London’s new year fireworks, so I’ll give you the lights at Kew Gardens instead – enjoy. (Click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.)

No tenía oportunidad para sacar fotos de los fuegos artificiales de Londres, así que en vez de eso os doy las luces del jardín botánico de Kew – ¡que las disfrutéis! (Haz click para ampliar las fotos.)

Life Beyond Auto-Intelligent

 A Dummy’s Lessons in Photography – 2017

2017 – the year when I took the camera off Auto-Intelligent. Which, by the way, does not mean that I attempted to go fully manual; that is still a long way off, if it ever happens. But I experimented with the Program mode, with Aperture and Shutter Priority, with Manual Focus and Macro.

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Quote of the Week: Church-Shaped Air

Canterbury Cathedral

The late Romanesque façade of the abbey church is decorated with a row of frail columns lacking a base. Not touching the ground, supporting nothing, they simply frame the semi-circular arch through which I enter.

The coolness of the garden contrasts with the head of the landscape, the coolness of the church contrasts with that of the garden, it is almost chilly where I am now. The thick walls of a church prevent the outside air, the ordinary air, from having its way.

Suddenly I am standing before an arbitrary structure made of stone; its mere presence alters the quality of what little air has managed to come in. This is no longer the air wafting in poplars and clover, the air that is moved this way and that in the breeze. This is church air, as invisible as the air outside, but different. Church-shaped air, permeating the space between the columns and, deathly still, like an absent element, rising up to fill the pointed vaulting constructed of rough-hewn blocks of stone.

There is no one in the church. Enormous columns rise directly from the paved floor, the position of the sun casts a strange, static pool of light through the oculus somewhere on the right of the church. It’s a little ghostly. I hear my own footsteps. This space distorts not only the air, but also the sound of each step I take – they become the steps of someone walking in a church. Even if one subtratcs from these sensations all that one does not in fact believe in oneself, then there’s still the imponderable factor that other people do believe, and especially have believed, in this space.

(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago)

Why Read the Classics?

In 1981, the Italian writer Italo Calvino wrote an essay titled Why Read the Classics?. It’s less than ten entertaining pages, so I recommend you read it if you can lay your hands on it. (It’s been published in a book form, in a collection of his essays, bearing the same title.)

What follows here is the 14 definitions of what classics are as put forward in the essay – 14 definitions worth thinking about:

Continue reading “Why Read the Classics?”

Pausanias and the Spoils of Plataea (Pausanias y los despojos de Platea)

Quote of the Week

In the Battle of Plataea (479 BC), the allied Greek army was led by the Spartan Pausanias, son of Cleombrotus. In the aftermath of the Greek victory…

When some people were amazed at the costliness of the raiment found among the spoils of the barbarians, he [Pausanias] said that it would have been better for them [the Persians] to be themselves men of worth than to possess things of worth.

(Plutarch: Morals, Vol. III, Sayings of Spartans)


La cita de la semana

En la Batalla de Plataea (479 a. C.), el ejercito griego fue mandado por el espartano Pausanias, hijo de Cleómbroto. Después de la victoria griega…

Cuando algunos miraban maravillados entre los despojos de los bárbaros el gran lujo de su vestimenta, [Pausanias] les dijo que hubiera sido mejor para ellos ser hombres de mucho valor que poseer cosas de mucho valor.

(Plutarco: Obras morales y de costumbres, III, Máximas de espartanos)

 

Seven Snowy Stories

The winter’s first – and in these parts possibly only – snowfall put me in mind of books in which winter features prominently. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ones that came to mind immediately were children’s stories. So here are seven snowy stories to surprise your children (nieces, nephews, grandchildren, your best friend’s horrible brat…) with. Perhaps for Christmas? 🙂

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Quote of the Week: Rainbow

From rain into sunshine: double rainbow (Dorset, England)

We get only transient and partial glimpses of the beauty of the world. Standing at the right angle, we are dazzled by the colors of the rainbow in colorless ice. From the right point of view, every storm and every drop in it is a rainbow.

(Henry David Thoreau: Journal, 11 December 1855)