• Greg Ross, “Turnabout”
In the early 20th century, medical students often posed for photographs with the cadavers they were learning to dissect — in some cases even trading places with them for a tableau called “The Student’s Dream.”
• Alan Bellows, “Let Us Be Joyful”
Evidently Mozart composed Leck mich im Arsch as a humorous canon intended to play with friends at gatherings. The lyrics were later rewritten by Mozart’s publisher for public consumption.
• Samuel Kronen, “The Prescience of Shelby Steele”
A great writer shows us how to think rather than telling us what to think. By taking us on a journey through their own thoughts, experiences, and revelations, we come to see, step by step, how they arrived at their own conclusions. There’s nothing mystical about it. It’s a matter of clarification, of revealing reality rather than coercing or intimidating the reader into accepting certain premises, of bringing to our conscious mind that which we already knew in our depths but hadn’t yet recognized. Shelby Steele is such a writer. His ability to state obvious but politically unfashionable truths resonates in an era when moral courage is a scarce resource. “This is not rocket science,” he has said of his work, “it is just common sense, applied in a social way. Anyone can see these things.” And yet common sense is not so common at the moment. At a time of intense political and racial division, Steele’s work is invaluable. If only his warnings had been heeded 30 years ago.
• Blake Smith, “The White Scare”
We might therefore call our contemporary moment “woke McCarthyism” or the “White Scare”—a moment defined by a paranoid search for, and hysterical denunciation of, traces of white supremacy in a society where actual white supremacists are no more powerful than actual communists were in Dwight D. Eisenhower’s America. In its alliance of political, corporate, and cultural power, directed toward revealing the secret sympathies of relatively powerless individuals who were then publicly denounced, humiliated and made unemployable in a theater of persecution that could be alternately terrifying and absurd, the Red Scare is a more obvious model for White Scare than the communism it opposed.
• Meng-Hu, “Favorite Hermits: 3. Paul of Thebes”
And here is the essential question of history and human affairs, whether asked by an observer east or west, ancient or modern. That which the average person finds permanent, enduring, important, are for deeper souls reflective of impermanence, temporality, even poignant in its short-lived presence on earth. This wide contemplation of a trajectory that transcends the concerns of average people is what the hermit catches on to. The hermit pays heed to and takes to heart, the lesson of life and death, watching as the world passes.
• Spotted Toad, “Shadows on the Grass”
As we approach the election, each day will offer more disruption, more confusion, more noise, more incoherence, an iterative intensification that may not end anytime soon. If you believe that the set of social arrangements being promulgated is unstable over even the shortest time horizon, the wisest course may yet be not to argue against their spread but to get far away, to make for the territory, intellectually or socially or physically. An endless game of Calvinball- in which rules are continuously rewritten ad hoc, and the game is not to play but to make up the rules- will be interesting for some, forever, and will pay some for its continuance- but for most it is better to walk away. If that cannot be done- if you are obligated by vocation or location or the expanse of the all-seeing, all-telling internet into every corner of your life- to keep playing forever a game you will never influence or understand, the risks will be great not just to the quality of daily existence but to your sense of self as continuous and integral over time. The task to come will be to find ways to see in yourself, your tasks, your immediate circle of human beings who are your life, as your own, that which is persistent, turn away from the dueling shadows to the endless grasses that wave in the timeless wind.