Archive for May, 2015

Time enough

May 29, 2015

The blog and I have been on hiatus, that annual gap in May between the submission of Spring grades and the hectic end-of-month crowding of two insistently-special Occasions: our anniversary (we’re now well into our third decade, my Better Half and I) and Younger Daughter’s birthday. As for the latter, it’s a big one: she’ll now be legal to solo behind the wheel. Yikes!

So there’s no denying, time’s marching on. Maybe that’s why I find myself strolling again with former poet laureate Donald Hall. His Essays After Eighty are an inspiration and a caution, beginning with the New Yorker essay I noted awhile back in which he gazes contentedly from a treasured ancestral perch in New Hampshire. “I sit in my blue armchair looking out the window. I am eighty-three, I teeter when I walk, I no longer drive, I look out the window,” begins the widower Hall, appreciative spectator of birds and life.

I have decades to go before I catch the poet, I don’t think I teeter, I do still drive. I still have a wife to share our anniversary with.

But I won’t still be driving Younger Daughter to school every morning when it begins again, and that’s a bit saddening.

This, though, is a celebratory weekend. No time or place for sadness today. We’re all happy, in the blue armchair and out. We older birds still perch together. As an even older poet said, we have all the time we need to appreciate the gift of the present. Butterfly as role-model? We could do worse.

And oh, Younger Daughter, the places you’ll go!

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Time’s arrow

May 19, 2015

I’ve not met many thirty year olds as wise as Maria Popova. Or any.

You know, we never see the world exactly as it is. We see it as we hope it will be or we fear it might be. And we spend our lives going through a sort of modified stages of grief about that realization. And we deny it, and then we argue with it, and we despair over it. But eventually — and this is my belief — that we come to see it, not as despairing, but as vitalizing.

We never see the world exactly as it is because we are how the world is.

She’s wise because she puts in the time, takes no shortcuts.

I listened to her On Being conversation with Krista Tippett late last night (this morning), waiting up on Older Daughter and meditating on temps perdu. Spent a lot of time yesterday after school with Younger Daughter, too, running errands all over town and secretly rueing the rapidly-approaching day when she won’t need me for that.

And that’s the way it is. Tempus fugit. “The only way to glean knowledge is contemplation. And the road to that is time. There’s nothing else. It’s just time.”

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David Hume, Don Draper, and a happy conclusion

May 18, 2015

(But of course “nothing has concluded, that we may conclude in regard to it.”)

Older Daughter’s home from college, Younger Daughter’s wrapping up her High School year , and Don Draper’s been to Esalen. Changes abound. Forward!

I’m looking forward in particular to the return of Happiness class in August, and to a new David Hume independent readings class. Decided we’ll begin the former with Daniel Haybron’s Very Short Introduction, which skims his most impressive earlier and denser Pursuit of Unhappiness.

What is happiness, anyway, and what really matters in life? What should our
priorities be? Consider your own case. You are, let us suppose, on your
deathbed. What from your life would you most like to have just one more
experience of?*

Umm (or do I mean Omm, Don?)… Mad Men? Maybe not. But it was fun while it lasted, those seven years that spanned the decade of my own most formative years. Coke was it, in 1971.

David Hume has been falsely maligned on the Internet by cuckoos who want to picture him and everyone like him (which would include myself and my impending Hume CoPhilosophers) “in flames.” In fact, as Darwin’s Bulldog Huxley observed, his exit was as placid and composed as Don’s meditation, “one of the most cheerful, simple, and most dignified leave-takings of life and all its concerns, extant.”

So, a toast to Le Bon David and to a happy life! (And to Don, who should drink more Coke and less liquor, and who never really believed in happiness.)

*To answer Professor Haybron’s question: I’d like the experience of one more semester, please. But first, one more summer. And one more chorus.

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At the ballgame

May 12, 2015
Grades officially posted yesterday, another semester in the book! 
It was a beautiful night to celebrate endings and beginnings out at the old ballgame, at the new ballpark. The threat of harsh weather lifted, a lovely wispy-clouded pinkish sunset dabbed the sky, and a small but eager crowd (held down by that earlier threat) settled in for what William Carlos Williams called a sporting crowd’s delightful “spirit of uselessness.”
And the evening unfolded in just that spirit, up until sometime in the middle innings when the leather-lunged moron in our section apparently imbibed his tipping-point swallow of expensive cheap beer. (There’s also expensive craft beer to be had at First Tennessee Park. I recommend the Turtle Anarchy Red, to complement the “Band Box” Quinoa salad, hummus veggie plate, or -traditionalist that I am -the  loaded nachos.)
Everyone who’s been to many games at all has encountered this guy, who isn’t always an obnoxious boor. 

There really is a fine art of hecking. But “the vast majority of hecklers, to borrow their term, suck at it. The truly gifted ones—those talented few who understand the rules, the etiquette and the point—are as rare as a .300 hitter and, for my money, just as enjoyable to watch.”

Sometimes, it’s true, The Heckler can be entertaining and amusing. Last night he was not. He just about ruined my evening and, to judge by some of the many expressions of disgust and annoyance I saw, also that of others in section #111. Especially the dad and his little boy two rows in front of us. If my friend hadn’t been there to join me in amusing ourselves by  quietly berating TH, I might have had to relocate far away – maybe to the left field berm, from our choice location behind the plate. 
As it happened, we decided not to stick around for bonus innings when the score remained knotted at two, after nine. I could not have listened to the oaf for even another minute. 
The home team collapsed in the tenth. Honestly, it gave me considerable satisfaction to think of TH going home a literal as well as figurative loser.
Mike Matheny, the Cardinals’ manager who’s issued a manifesto to youth league parents, says kids want their parents to be quiet in the stands. If your read, Heckler, put that on your summer reading list. If you don’t shut up, some of us are going to find out where you work and we’re coming over to holler at you. “You suck.”
I woke up this morning with almost a feeling of guilt-by-association, merely for having sat in the same section as TH. The spirit of uselessness is not a delight, when it forces you silently to absorb such verbal invective as though it were your own.

But it wasn’t. It’s a a new day, it’ll be a new ballgame. Delight always returns.

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Standing by

May 6, 2015

I don’t think Nigel @philosophybites is talking about grading here.

Nigel Warburton (@philosophybites)
If things get bad, I’d like a doctor like Freud’s standing by with an overdose of morphine.… #assisteddying

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Grading in the cloud

May 4, 2015

My final report grading this year has gone paperless, practically, and early results are very good.

Instead of the traditional daunting, demoralizing stack of printed papers destined to be abandoned and forever forgotten by their student authors, I face a rolling series of blog post installment waves from my co-philosophers. What’s lost in scholarship (if anything, frankly) is more than replaced in interest, visual appeal, and collaborative possibility (a possibility I may have to actualize, in the future, by making student comments on one another’s work mandatory and not simply-but-repeatedly requested).

It still takes lots of time, cloud-grading, but feels less like a trudge and more like idea-surfing. I’m diving in. No excuses!

(More comic distraction)

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