Aug 11, 2013
me+ME: Crisis + rereading Boswell and Lucretius
1. Can American's Change the Agenda of Extreme Spying?
2. Rereading Boswell
3. Rereading Lucretius
About ME/CFS


This is apart from the first item not about the crisis.

My reasons are that I could find little about the crisis; that I am tired; and that, therefore, I want to write about something else today, though my guess is that it will interest few.

Anyway... if I sleep better and there is more material tomorrow, I'll return to that tomorrow.

1. Crisis

There is one item on the crisis, and it is this, namely a video by TYT aka The Young Turks of some 5 minutes:
My main reason to list it is that the questions of secrecy and the completely deceptive use of language by the U.S. government are at least posed and commented clearly.

As to the question posed: Joe Average, with an IQ of 100 or less, is not worried about being spied upon, if indeed he understands it, and his reason is that he runs no risks.

And this is probably true: The ones running risks are the minority who have higher IQs than close to 100, and who try to use their gifts creatively. Thanks to the democratic average there may be soon a lot less of the higher gifted, in so far as these are not born among the rich and have original ideas. (I do not know, but this may well be what it will come down to, with an NSA that knows everything about everyone: only those with the right mental attitudes may live in "liberty".)

2. Rereading Boswell

I have written about Boswell and Johnson in Nederlog before: The last link gives the proof.

It is from 2008 and in Dutch but it does mention the tomes by Boswell that I have been rereading lately, for I mostly spend my life in a large room that also contains around 4000 books, that I mostly have read, at least once.

The tomes are really by Boswell and are also mostly about Boswell. I mean the following four, all published in the 1950ies:
"Boswell's London Journal",  "Boswell in Holland", "Boswell on the Grand Tour", and "Boswell in search of a wife". 

I bought these, second hand, as I almost always buy non-mathematical books, in the early 1980ies, when I also read them. There are more volumes in the series, but I never found them in a second hand bookshop, and probably the other volumes are (or were) also less popular.

So now I have mostly reread them, with an interval of some 30 years between the two readings, and it turned out that I had reasonably well remembered the important events.

Why did I buy these books, read them, and after 30 years read them again?

I suppose the main answer is: curiosity, plus the facts that Boswell was a fairly  interesting man and that the 18th Century was a quite interesting age.

Also, he has a somewhat interesting tale to tell in these books, that includes meetings and discussions with Rousseau and with Voltaire; Boswell's repeated fights with his melancholia, that was quite real; and also what he did do during the days, including his visits to prostitutes (which are not fully described, in case you were curious).

My guess is that very few will be interested, and that the very few who are presently need a good university library (that may not exist anymore, e.g. in Holland [1]). I have given my reasons to read them, that included the idea that
the 18th Century was an interesting age, and especially in Great Britain and France, about which I have learned rather a lot, mostly accidentally, namely through my interests in writers of that age.

I think that life then was rather a lot like life now, except that it was tougher, less clean, on average shorter, and also, among the gifted, far less given to idiotic propaganda - "public relations" - than this time is, even though there were more believers.

3. Rereading Lucretius

I was not certain whether I wrote about Lucretius in Nederlog, but I just did a search and found he was mentioned 62 times in Nederlog, but only as an aside, as someone worth reading.

Well, I have reread my Loeb Classical Library volume of him, that I bought and read in 1986, though that was after missing an earlier version, also not in Loeb, that I probably had from the early 1970ies or the late 1960ies.

Or rather, and unlike Boswell, in which there are no underlinings: I reread my underlinings, for that is why I buy books: to underline and comment them, which I know is quite uncommon.

I do not do this with all books, but I do it with many, and it turned out to be most helpful: I really do not need to (re)read anything else, and anyway it is a good idea to read a book with a pencil ready, and to mark or annotate what strikes one. Also, I have been doing this for over 40 years, and indeed I know of very few who did the same: most "lovers of books" try to keep them unsullied, if possible also with the original wrapping, and neither annotate nor underline, all with the effect that of the great majorituy of readers you can neither be sure what they have read nor what they thought about it.

Lucretius I have reread several times, the last 40 years, and the main reason is that he really is good, even though he seems to have died at 55 B.C.: His ideas of doing science, and indeed of doing philosophy, only got picked up the last 150 or 250 years or so (and never by "the public").

This does not mean that he didn't miss quite a few things - electricity would have fascinated him, for one example - but it does mean that his outlook is mostly scientific, and it also shows that the scientific outlook does go back a long time (and before Lucretius there are Epicurus and Democritus, and it is especially Epicurus's philosophy that Lucretius tries to explain, clarify and apply).

And again my assumption is that he is for the few only, but I find it inspiring that a man who lived at the same time as did Caesar and Cicero - even before Christ's birth, and before the Bible - had such very sensible ideas and explanatory schemes. How much might have been different if his ideas had triumphed, instead of those of the Christians!

Here are two quotes, both from the same page 273 in the edition I use, which is from 1975:
Just as men evidently feel that there is a weight on their minds which wearies with its oppression, if so they could also recognize from what causes it comes, and what makes so great a mountain of misery to lie on their hearts, they would not so live their lives as now we generally see them do, each ignorant what ge wants, each seeking always to change his place as if he could drop his burden.
Thus each man tries to flee from himself, but to that self, from which of course he can never escape, he clings against his will, and hates it, because he is a sick man that does not know the cause of his complaint: for could he see that well, at once each would throw his business aside and first study to learn the nature of things (..)

Which is what Lucretius tried to do and to expound - the nature of things - though it should also be kept in mind that only few have the mind to do this well, for otherwise more would have tried, in the over 2000 years that he has been dead.



[1] I do not know, except that the university library for psychology in the University of Amsterdam has been mostly ruined, for quite a while now, while there is, to my knowledge, no serious interest of any kind in old books in Holland.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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