Earth, Italy, Kant, India, Games

I Am Being Unmade

Paraic O’Donnell | Irish Times | 11th February 2020

A writer describes the advance of multiple sclerosis, and the consolation he derived, while he still could, from his garden. “By spring I was planting my last garden. My strength was failing faster now. In the medical literature, the onset of progressive forms of multiple sclerosis is said to be insidious. Early symptoms can be slight, or go unnoticed altogether. The toll of damage mounts slowly, often over many years. It’s a good word for it, insidious. All cool sibilants and Latinate hauteur” (5,830 words)


Italy On The Brink

Walter Mayr | Der Spiegel | 18th February 2020

Spiegel’s correspondent in Italy asks what many must have thought, but few have stated quite so bluntly. Why is this country such a mess? And not even an exuberant mess, as it once seemed, but a miserable mess: 46% of Italians claim to be profoundly unhappy. Rome is “less livable than Bucharest or Sofia. if you ask the city's own residents”. Venice is “a city facing cardiac arrest, petrified, with no identity”. Everywhere, there is a “deep disgust with everything having to do with the state” (3,100 words)


What Lies Beyond The Senses

Allen Wood | TLS | 18th February 2020

Accessible introduction to the ideas of Immanuel Kant. “Kant’s philosophy tells us to take responsibility for our own lives. It sees human understanding as the law-giver of nature, morality as resting on autonomy, aesthetic experience as dependent on our experience of our faculties and our moral vocation. We might think of it, therefore, as secular, anti-religious or irreligious. Kant would protest against this interpretation. He seeks not to reject religion but to understand it and reform it” (2,950 words)


India: Intimations Of An Ending

Arundhati Roy | Caravan | 21st November 2019

On the rise of Hindu nationalism, and of the Indian far right. “Here is a continent seeking to shrink itself into a country. Not even a country, but a province. A primitive, ethno-religious province. This is turning out to be an unimaginably violent process — a kind of slow-motion political fission, triggering a radioactivity that has begun to contaminate everything around it. That it will self-destruct is not in doubt. The question is what else, who else and how much else will go down with it” (10,900 words)


Where Be Dragons

Anton Howe | Age Of Invention | 13th February 2020

We’ve been using dice, or something like them, since 3000 BC. We’ve had chess for millennia, and card games for centuries. So why did nobody get around to inventing role-playing board games until the early 19th century? “Physically, there was nothing that actually stopped the invention of such games centuries or even millennia earlier. It required no special level of science, skill, or materials. Rather than there being any constraints, I think it’s simply because innovation in general is so extremely rare” (1,370 words)


Video: Dans La Nuit | Agathe Simoulin. Gripping animated adaptation of a story by Maupassant, in which the dead return to tell the truth about their lives (4m 24s)

Audio: Ode On A Grecian Urn | Poetry Foundation. Keats, you are thinking. But no. This Ode is by Patricia Lockwood, and has a vivacity all its own (4m 13s)

Afterthought:
”Believing in progress does not mean believing that any progress has yet been made”
— Franz Kafka

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