America, Dolphins, Ancient Greece, Philosophy, Zohar

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What Unites And Divides America

Kim Parker et al | Pew Research Centre | 22nd May 2018

How urban, suburban and rural households in America see themselves and one another. Suburban poverty has increased by 51% since 2000, almost reaching urban and rural levels. Drug addiction is seen as a major local problem by roughly half of all rural and urban households. Two-thirds of rural households say they don’t have enough money and don’t ever expect to have enough. Most Americans think that most other Americans “don’t understand the problems they face” (3,200 words)

What Is It Like To Be A Dolphin?

Maggie Ryan Sandford | Nautilus | 23rd April 2018

“You move in all directions — up, down, left, right, in and out of water — all the time. Your respiration isn’t automatic, like a heartbeat. To take a breath you have to make the conscious choice to find the edge of the water every five minutes or so. Because of that you never sleep, not really. One half of your brain is active all the time. You sleep with one eye open. You can ‘see through’ things, using sonar: Different materials return sound differently, so you can find the fish hiding in the sand” (1,170 words)

Ancient Greece

Sophie Roell | Five Books | 26th April 2018

Christopher Pelling, Emeritus Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford, talks about Ancient Greek literature, history and society. Interesting throughout. On Homer’s Iliad: “It’s still a bit of a mystery how and when it was written down. It wasn’t even physically possible to write down works of that length in 700 BC. You’d need a lot of papyrus. People have sometimes thought that it might have been written on leather, but you’d need a whole herd of cows to write the Iliad on” (7,475 words)

Progress In Philosophy

Agnes Collard | 25th May 2018

Philosophy does make progress, but not by reaching consensus, as science does. It makes progress by generating more and better disputation on more aspects of life. Modern philosophers study earlier philosophers in order to challenge their conclusions, not to build on them. “If someone is willing to do the work, she can have thoughts about common sense, intuitive claims that are better than anyone could have had 10 or 100 or 1000 years ago. What greater gift could one possibly ask for?” (1,580 words)

A New Ancient Zohar

Daniel Matt | Stanford University Press | 22nd May 2018

Daniel Matt talks about translating the Zohar, a mystical commentary on the Torah from 13C Spain. “The Zohar is notoriously obscure — perhaps the most difficult Jewish classic to translate. The authors concocted a unique blend of Aramaic out of traditional sources, especially the Babylonian Talmud and the Aramaic translation of the Torah. The subject matter is mysterious, elusive, and ineffable. Words merely suggest and hint. An unfathomable process may be stated, then immediately denied”

Video of the day Ode To The Overlooked

What to expect:

Tribute to the lesser-known inventors of things that we use every day — the fridge, the ballpoint pen (2’40”)

Thought for the day

Most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence
Salman Rushdie,

Podcast The White Room | Poetry Foundation

Charles Simic introduces and reads his poem, The White Room
(3m 00s)

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