Christianity, Alexander Gardner, Karen, Cats, P.J. O'Rourke, Slavutych


Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

When Christians Were Strangers

Michael Kulikowski | Aeon | 30th January 2017

How Christianity grew from a tiny cult to a great religion. Paul was the key, taking Christianity from the Jewish into the Roman world. “When he was arrested as a threat to public order, Paul needed only two words to change the balance of power – cives sum, ‘I am a citizen’ – a Roman citizen. Unlike Jesus, he could neither be handed over to the Jewish authorities for judgment nor summarily executed by an angry Roman governor. A Roman citizen could appeal to the emperor’s justice” (3,200 words)

Kilt For Hire

Bijan Omrani | Literary Review | 3rd February 2017

Highly entertaining review of Tartan Turban, John Keay’s biography of 19C mercenary Alexander Gardner. “Straight-backed and clutching a sabre, he is clad in tartan trousers, a tartan jacket and a tartan turban finished with a regal plume of egret feathers. A huge beard conceals a long-unhealed sword slash across his throat, which he had to secure with metal clamps whenever he wanted to eat or drink. His gaze is haunted but steely, as if he were well accustomed to dealing with horror” (1,050 words)

The Garden Of Refugees

André Gallant | Oxford American | 30th January 2017

Encounters with a community of Baptist refugees from Myanmar who are thriving in rural Georgia. “Eh Kaw explained that the Karens’ ability to keep gardens, trap rabbits in nearby woodlands, and slaughter chickens helped his people retain their cultural identity. I loved Pa Saw’s food: roselle green and chicken skin soup, eggplant and anchovies in turmeric. The debtless and quasi-agrarian lifestyle she and other Karen adhered to stirred a primal gene somewhere within me” (2,300 words)

What Cats Can Teach Us About Life

John Gray | New Statesman | 5th February 2017

“One of the most attractive features of cats is that contentment is their default state. Unlike human beings, they do not spend their days in laborious pursuit of a fantasy of happiness. They are comfortable with themselves and their lives. When they are not eating or sleeping, they pass the time exploring and playing, never asking for reasons to live. Life itself is enough for them. If there are people who can’t stand cats – and it seems there are many – one reason may be envy.” (2,200 words)

The Revolt Against The Elites

P.J. O'Rourke | Weekly Standard | 6th February 2017

“The election of 2016 was terrible because it wasn’t an election, it was a rebellion. America is having a civil war, or, to be more accurate, a War of Incivility. A person of libertarian inclinations can understand a revolt against the elites. But, so far, the revolt is not promoting an increase in individual dignity, individual freedom, and individual responsibility. It’s doing the opposite. Trump is vowing to build a wall between individual dignity and the United States” (Metered paywall) (3,000 words)

The Last Soviet City

Owen Hatherley | New Humanist | 25th October 2016

Notes on a visit to Slavutych, a new town in northern Ukraine built in 1986 to rehouse evacuees from Chernobyl after the nuclear meltdown. Intended as an “ideal city”, and designed by a consortium of architects from across the Soviet Union, even by this sympathetic account it falls rather short. “Past a derelict, never-completed hotel is a forested park, containing a memorial for the first group of relief workers, all of whom died of radiation sickness within days of the explosion” (2,014 words)

Video of the day: David Chalmers on Virtual Reality

What to expect:

Philosopher of mind argues that virtual reality will teach us much about perception (5’17”)

Thought for the day

If you are afraid of being lonely, don’t try to be right
Jules Renard

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