more than 95 theses

Sep 22

“The spirit of truth can dwell in science on condition that the motive prompting the [scientist] is the love of the object which forms the stuff of his investigations. That object is the universe in which we live. What can we find to love about it if it isn’t its beauty? The true definition of science is this: the study of the beauty of the world.” — Simone Weil, The Need for Roots (1943)

In the essay On the Greatness of Richard Wagner, [Thomas] Mann explains that Wagner was incapable of working without “palpable expressions of an extravagance of taste” which included, “wadded silk dressing-gowns” and “lace-trimmed satin bed-covers embroidered with garlands of roses.” Buttressed by these things, Mann writes, Wagner “sits down mornings to the grueling job, by dint of them he achieves the ‘atmosphere of luxury and art’ necessary to the creation of primitive Nordic heroes and exalted natural symbolism.” Is this a tacit admission on Mann’s part that the artist cannot create until first he is properly dressed?

Mann described the clothing of his fictional characters so impeccably not out of empty volupté, but because he knew the world he described was going extinct. His craftsmanship is an homage to another kind of craftsmanship. The disappearance of handmade clothes and furniture as a result of mass manufacture, and the erosion of the material culture of old Europe had in William Morris its utopian denialist, in Thomas Carlyle its Jeremiah, and in Mann its quiet, bourgeois eulogist.

Mann was willing to fight for discernment in clothing, food, manners, and furniture, all of which he grouped together in the phrase bourgeois competence in a June 1926 speech given on the occasion of the 700 year anniversary of his home city, Lübeck. “Bourgeois competence” as Mann deploys it signals a sort of spacious capacity for the leisurely, deliberate prosecution of one’s affairs in a world where appreciation for the arts is central…. It is presented as a positive spiritual value (the speech itself is entitled “Lübeck as a spiritual way of life.”)

” — Sofi Thanhauser on Thomas Mann, fashion, “Bourgeois competence”, and fascism


Josh Riek | "Untitled" A Song About Chaos, 2014


Josh Riek"Untitled" A Song About Chaos, 2014

The Quantified Self, sixteenth century edition: from The Clock and the Mirror: Girolamo Cardano and Renaissance Medicine, by Nancy G. Siraisi

The Quantified Self, sixteenth century edition: from The Clock and the Mirror: Girolamo Cardano and Renaissance Medicine, by Nancy G. Siraisi

Further irrelevancies


I made a radio documentary for the BBC about the influence in the 1930s of a cult book, An Experiment with Time, that seemed to rationalise spirituality and to promise a very peculiar form of fatalistic consolation, just right for an age of dread.  Contains early aircraft design, a chocolate box of achingly British voices, and umpteen different versions of ‘As Time Goes By…’

“How is it that for a person who cares about the way things look and feel more than anyone else in the world that iTunes looks like a spreadsheet?” — Bono to Steve Jobs (from the same interview)

“No one has deleted more U2 songs in the last five years than the four members of U2.” — Bono

Sep 19


Sep 18

Geeks claim to know what it’s like to love art that’s been neglected or reviled by their culture. Well, this is the status of fans of traditional high culture now; those who like opera, jazz, experimental fiction, theater, and other types of traditional high culture are generally ignored in our mass media. When they are thought of at all, it is as snobby and irrelevant. Geeks now need to recognize their great fortune, enjoy it and extend a little sympathy in the direction of us sad few who prefer other things.

Yet I wonder if any such recognition is even possible at this point. My fear is not merely that the geeks will never come to acknowledge their triumph, as comfortable as they are in their self-professed victimhood. I fear too that we have come to so thoroughly associate fandom with grievance that the two are now inextricable. That, I suspect, is the long-term consequence of the rise of the geeks: that we no longer know how to enjoy art without enjoying it against others. That’s a bitter, juvenile way to approach art, and if it’s the real legacy of the rise of the geeks, it’s an ugly legacy indeed.

” — Geeks, You Are No Longer Victims. Get Over It.

Sep 17




“In other words, the Christian alternative to the post-religious spirituality outlined earlier is not simply ‘religion’ as some sort of intellectual and moral system but the corporately experienced reality of the Kingdom, the space that has been cleared in human imagination and self-understanding by the revealing events of Jesus’ life. Standing in this place, I am made aware of what is fundamental and indestructible about my human identity: that I am the object of divine intention and commitment, a being freely created and never abandoned. Standing in this place, I am also challenged to examine every action or policy in my life in the light of what I am; and I am, through the common life of the ‘Assembly’, made able to change and to be healed, to feed and be fed in relations with others in the human city. Faced with the claims of non-dogmatic spirituality, the believer should not be insisting anxiously on the need for compliance with a set of definite propositions; he or she should be asking whether what happens when the Assembly meets to adore God and lay itself open to his action looks at all like a new and transforming environment, in which human beings are radically changed.” — The Spiritual and the Religious: Is the Territory Changing? - Rowan Williams. I can’t imagine a more important paragraph for today’s Christians to meditate on. Seriously, this whole address is absolutely vital.

“Instead of accepting a common opinion that Twitter is slowly replacing RSS readers, we should flip that around. What kind of changes could be made to RSS readers to embrace microblogging and make Twitter itself less important? Because once we do that, we get back control of our own short-form content and at the same time encourage open tools that will survive independent of whatever happens with Twitter and Facebook in the future.” — Microblog links | Manton Reece. EGG-ZACTLY.

Revolutionaries readily sacrifice living people to achieve the glorious future. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, they tell us, but while the eggs are surely broken, the omelet is never made. If people are sacrificed for an ever-receding goal, Herzen argues, then sacrifice is all there will ever be. The greatest tyranny results from the attempt to abolish it altogether. In the book’s most quoted passage, the skeptic asks:

If progress is the end, for whom are we working?… Do you truly wish to condemn all human beings alive today to the sad role of … wretched galley slaves, up to their knees in mud, dragging a barge filled with some mysterious treasure and with the humble words “progress in the future” inscribed on its bows?… This alone should serve as a warning to people: An end that is infinitely remote is not an end, but, if you like, a trap; an end must be nearer — it ought to be, at the very least, the laborer’s wage, or pleasure in the work done.

Each present moment, and each human life, is precious in itself, not just as a means to some exalted goal. This is a lesson revolutionaries never seem to learn.

” — "The Minister of Paradox," by Gary Saul Morson - The New Criterion