We all “know” we need to be organized, to develop good, consistent study routines, to find a quiet place and avoid distractions, to focu Why So Serious
We all “know” we need to be organized, to develop good, consistent study routines, to find a quiet place and avoid distractions, to focus on one skill at a time, and above all, to concentrate on our work.
What’s to question about that?
Carey begins this book with the allegation that most of our instincts about learning are misplaced, incomplete, or flat wrong.
It goes like this:
Want to procrastinate? Good! Can’t focus? Good! No fixed schedule? Good! Can’t study in a fixed place? Good! Forget stuff too easily? Good! Crave distractions? Good! Lazy and sleepy? Good!
Our worst habits, the ones we try so hard to overcome, it turns out, are our brains shortcuts to super learning. Yaay!
Carey tells us that we need no longer think of these “bad” habits as evidence of laziness, or a waste of time, or, worst of all, a failure of will. You can think of all of them as learning too, with your eyes closed while sleeping, for example! It is when we push against these natural learning mechanisms that we go sub-optimal in our efforts.
In short, we misidentify the sources of our frustration: that we get in our own way, unnecessarily, all the time. That is why learning becomes difficult. We just need to learn to get out of our own way more often and let our naturally greedy brain gorge itself on all the learning it needs.
Think about it for a second. Distraction, diversion, catnaps, interruptions—these aren’t mere footnotes, mundane details in an otherwise purposeful life. That’s your ten-year-old interrupting, or your dog, or your mom. That restless urge to jump up is hunger or thirst, the diversion a TV show that’s integral to your social group. You took that catnap because you were tired, and that break because you were stuck. These are the stitches that hold together our daily existence; they represent life itself, not random deviations from it. Our study and practice time needs to orient itself around them—not the other way around.
Let go of what you feel you should be doing, all that repetitive, over-scheduled, driven, focused ritual. Let go, and watch how the presumed enemies of learning—ignorance, distraction, interruption, restlessness, even quitting—can work in your favor.
Get out of your own way, and INDULGE! That is when you will learn best.
Learning is, after all, what you do. Learning is Life, and nothing comes more naturally to you! ...more
Great background reading for anyone contemplating the epic task of taking on the fifteen (and more) volumes of Science and Civilisation in China -- on Great background reading for anyone contemplating the epic task of taking on the fifteen (and more) volumes of Science and Civilisation in China -- one the greatest compendiums of knowledge, a supreme feat of imagination and will power, and one of the most lasting bridges built between the east and the west.
Winchester provides the historic and political backdrop for the composition and allows us to understand why it was such an important work — why it was so necessary and so brave an undertaking, and how challenging a task it really was. Winchester also brings alive for us the eccentric and lovable man behind the work and thus makes the forbidding work more accessible by humanizing it, since we now know the moving will that animates it. It is a grand narrative and quite befitting such a grand achievement....more
Comprehensive and detailed, a wonderful resource. Each topic covered (such as urban life, international trade, coinage, city organization, employmentComprehensive and detailed, a wonderful resource. Each topic covered (such as urban life, international trade, coinage, city organization, employment structure, urban lifestyle, administrative techniques, military organization, tax structure, agricultural production, prices, etc) is discussed from a three-fold perspective: first looking at North India, from the Indo-Gangetic plains to Bengal, then at Maharashtra and the Deccan together and then at the South, including Karnataka, TN and Kerala. This shifting allows us the reader to constantly compare the topics under discussion within India itself. it would have ben better if some comparison was also afforded with the rest of Asia and Europe under each division. The biggest takeaways are the role of cities in promoting trade and maintaining caste distinctions, the importance of the tax regimes in setting the tone for an empire's economic wake, and the insignificance of political changes as far as long established trade practices are concerned.
Most of the discussion centers on the Mughal period and on the early European phase, primarily due to the limitations of sources. The mature sultanate period is discussed cursorily and pre-1300 is barely touched upon. Pre-Vijayanagara in the south also gets no coverage. In fact, as far as the south is concerned, the book is not very useful. The North-East (Assam) comes in only as an after-thought, in a long appendix.
Despite all this, this Cambridge History is as comprehensive as it could have been with the limited space, though more could have been covered by limiting the amount of repetition that peppers this book. Beyond that most of the faults that can be found with it arise from the unfortunate limitations of source-material and scholarship in the Economic history of India. ...more
Does not succeed in representing Jung’s notoriously disorganized work in a coherent fashion. Instead this VSI is content with being a maximally shorteDoes not succeed in representing Jung’s notoriously disorganized work in a coherent fashion. Instead this VSI is content with being a maximally shortened summary of Jung’s autobiography (Memories, Dreams, Reflections). The later chapters dedicated to the character types are cursory and, to be honest, wikipedia does a better job. Read Jung's Map of the Soul by Murray Stein instead for a better concise introduction. ...more
`Ultimately,' wrote Jung, `every individual life is at the same time the eternal life of the species.'
This is a readable (almost) introduction to the`Ultimately,' wrote Jung, `every individual life is at the same time the eternal life of the species.'
This is a readable (almost) introduction to the whole of Jung’s cosmology. Partly defensive in its arguments, the book proves useful when it sticks to just presenting Jung’s thoughts and not trying to show how it is still in sync with latest research (esp when it tries to link psychology to modern physics!). Jung and Freud are best read as imaginative writers and it would probably be even more fun to read them while viewing them as collaborators or co-myth-makers. Stein tries his best to hold back from attacking Freud and explaining Jung, but the proverbial slips are a few too many.
The good part is that Stein is a good cartographer. Stein constructs the cosmology slowly with a lot of care and precision. He starts with the Ego and slowly introduces us to its Shadow. Then the Persona and the Animus are introduced. Finally the Self is brought in, the most delicate and easy to misunderstand concept kept for the last. Then we move out of the mind and into the realm of the outer world via Synchronicity and start exploring ESP and such phenomena. In the end, we conclude with the awesome picture of the Collective Unconscious that stretches from inside our psyche to encompass and create/effect the whole universe. It is myth-making at its magnificent best, who wouldn’t be impressed? I was....more
This book is a highly selective and impressionistic view of/guide-book to Aristotle's philosophy. Ackrill’s aim in this book is ARGUING WITH ARISTOTLE
This book is a highly selective and impressionistic view of/guide-book to Aristotle's philosophy. Ackrill’s aim in this book is not just to impart information, but to arouse interest in the philosophical problems Aristotle tackles, and in his arguments and ideas.
To Ackrill, what really characterizes Aristotle as a philosopher is not the number and weight of his conclusions / ‘doctrines’, but the power and subtlety of his arguments and ideas and analyses.
It is as well that this should be so. For having to learn a doctrine is a boring task, and specially depressing when you know that it is false; but interesting arguments give pleasure and profit whether or not they really establish the alleged conclusions. Aristotle's key ideas have provoked and stimulated philosophers over many centuries, precisely because they are not cut and dried doctrines, but can be applied and interpreted and developed in various ways, still relevant to problems that confront us.
Ackrill shows us how enjoyable and rewarding it is to engage in philosophical arguments with Aristotle. Even as we enjoy the refinement, conciseness and suggestiveness of Aristotle's arguments — we should know that we would enjoy them even more, the more we engage ourselves in them.
Ackrill’s next point was what I found very personal and invigorating:
Now if our aim is only to understand Aristotle, this 'engagement' will have to be carefully limited; we must enter into his thoughts but not go beyond them, we must try to relive his intellectual journey, taking care not to carry with us any twentieth-century baggage or equipment. To achieve such an understanding is certainly a worthwhile aim, calling for both imagination and intellectual power. However, we may desire not only to gain some understanding of Aristotle, but also to understand better some of the philosophical problems he confronts. In this case we are entitled to engage him in argument as if he were a contemporary.
It is not in itself a fault to use modern notions in discussing arguments in ancient philosophers, and to argue with them as if they were contemporaries. It is a fault (the fault of anachronism) only if one's aim and claim is to be doing purely historical work.
To argue with Aristotle, and to learn from him, is not difficult. For the problems he struggled so hard to formulate are still central to philosophy, and the concepts and terminology he used in trying to solve them have not lost their power. Keeping to the aim of the book — to rouse active interest in Aristotle’s philosophy — Ackrill raises many philosophical questions and makes philosophical comments of his own, in order to remind the reader that what Aristotle says is there to be argued about, and to provoke him into further thought on the various problems.
This approach of argumentation is precisely what Plato allows through his Dialogue form, and it is encouraging to hear from Ackrill that a reader might expect the same from Aristotle as well, even if with extra effort.
While I am sure that the exposure Ackrill provides will come in handy, I have a feeling this sort of engagement with Aristotle’s ideas would be more useful for a seasoned reader than for a mere beginner like me. I will be coming back to this often as I go through Aristotle’s works....more
Armstrong tends to view all of history through the prism of the specific conflicts of our day -- to be accurate: from a vantage point situated near thArmstrong tends to view all of history through the prism of the specific conflicts of our day -- to be accurate: from a vantage point situated near the Arab-Israeli Conflict. That is helpful, but also distorting, occasionally. Not a good book to learn about Islamic history, but useful as a corrective read for those already familiar. It gets quite tiring to be repeatedly referred back, even if with every justification, to the crusades and to the colonial harassments when referring to the west, and to the cultural superiority and religious universalism of Islam... ...more
In The Choephori, the bloodshed begun in the first play is continued (see Agamemnon for details, and for a discussion on translations). The theme of revenge and blood-curse continues to haunt the House of Atreus. At first glance it might seem as if there is indeed no end to this recurring tragedy that has been playing itself out in these intrigue-filled halls, but despite all the mirroring Aeschylus effects between the first and second plays (both have legitimate avenging missions, both weave a web of deceit, both murders the unsuspecting, both murderers are accompanied by unidimensional accomplices, both murders leave everlasting stains, both think that the buck will stop with them) that is supposed to show the inevitability of this tragic course/curse with no scope for a resolution, there are significant differences:
1. Clytaemestra acted alone, under her own sense of right and wrong; Orestes acts under the express direction and protection of Apollo himself. 2. Clytaemestra makes a token gesture of atonement by promising to give up her wealth but instead establishes a tyranny; Orestes is racked by guilt and renounces his position and wealth to atone for his crime. (I wonder who ruled the kingdom in his absence...) 3. Clytaemestra defends her actions and takes no steps to alleviate them by rituals, etc. until a nasty dream shakes her up; Orestes accepts his guilt immediately and takes protection under Apollo and does all the ritual cleansing and prostrations required. 4. Clytaemestra is probably egged on by Aegisthus's greed and allows him to benefit by her actions. Orestes turns to Pylades just once who only repeats Apollo's words and has no personal stake in the business. (though could it be that he becomes the regent in Orestes absence?) 5. Clytaemestra never hesitates in her deed of revenge and as an add-on murders an innocent (?) Cassandra too; Orestes shows his reluctance till he very last moment and had to be driven to his deed. He murders only the expressly guilty. (One has to wonder if Apollo was in fact avenging Cassandra and not Agamemnon!) 6. Most importantly Clytaemestra thinks she can be the final arbiter while Orestes is willing to allow himself to be judged by greater powers, be it the Gods, or the Law.
All this allows for hope that the ending of this second installment, of Orestes' story, and the punishment for his crime need not be externally imposed but might in fact be sanctioned by this modern man himself.
How exactly this will play out Aeschylus leaves for his climactic play, but the Greeks of his time would have been in no doubt as to where it was all leading and would have been eagerly awaiting the mythical re-imagination/show-down it would entail. Society is progressing, and like in Hegel it was all going to culminate in the Perfection of the Present!...more
Each of the plays that make up The Oresteia tetralogy are supposed to be stand alone pieces as well as perfect complements to each oth The First Strike
Each of the plays that make up The Oresteia tetralogy are supposed to be stand alone pieces as well as perfect complements to each other. All the themes that The Oresteia is to explore later are planted and ready for internal development at the end of Agamemnon. Aeschylus works magic with the triadic structure of the plays and of greek rituals (the fourth was probably a conventional satyr play and is lost to us) by going for a feeling of tit-for-tat of conventional revenge stories in the first two and a ‘third and final’ resolution in the third (though I feel game-theory wise a tit-for-two-tats additional play would have made for a good thought experiment!).
So in Agamemnon we are presented with the first strike -- and the tit-for-tat is ready, prophesied and waiting inevitably for the reader/viewer in the next part. It is the bleakest and most ominous ending to a play that I have witnessed because unlike a Hamlet, here there is no cosmic meaning to give us solace either. Agamemnon ends ominously and without significance-in-itself, leaving us with the feeling that the tragedy has just begun and there is a long road yet to be traversed before we can glimpse any possibility of a resolution.
A Note on the Translations
I have over the past several months read the whole play (only Agamemnon) in multiple translations. A few thoughts on each:
The Richmond Lattimore Translation: is sonorous and grand — quite impressive. You feel like you are really reading an ancient master, unlike in the Fagles version. However, it uses complex structures and hence the reading is not quite smooth. With Fagles you can just read on and on and never stop due to a complex phrasing or unclear meaning, but with lattimore you have to pause and rewind often to catch the exact drift.
The Robert Fagles Translation: is immediate and easy on the ear. It is also quite easy to grasp as the words do not form confusing structures as it does in the Lattimore translation. However I felt a certain something missing and couldn’t put my finger on it. I prefer the Lattimore version.
E.D.A Morshead Translation: Rhythmic but compromises on ease of reading to achieve the metric scheme. Could hardly grasp a thing on first reading of most verses. Has the advantage that it demarcates the Strophe, Antistrophe & Epode of each choral ode and that helps the reader visualize better. None of the other translations do this and I felt it was very useful.
The Alan Shapiro Translation: Written in beautiful blank verse, this is probably the best placed to merit first rank as a poetic work. Shapiro injects new power into the verse by his poetic take and provides a fresh perspective on almost all important scenes and imagery. But needs to be a supplementary read since it departs often from the other translations in sometimes subtle and sometimes significant ways. It tries to be an improvement on the Lattimore version but in my opinion it can at best be read as an additional indulgence by the reader already well acquainted with Lattimore.
The Headlam Translation: is bilingual and gives the Greek text on the facing page. This is useful in clarifying doubts arising from conflicting translations or interpretations. The translation itself is slightly long winded and pompous and does not strike the fine balance that Lattimore strikes between majesty and simplicity. Does provide the most elaborate stage directions and that is a plus as an aid to accurate visualization (which in my opinion can make or break your reading of almost-exotic plays).
The Denniston Commentary, the edition under which this review appears: is one which I have not read (and do not have access to) and in the interests of neutrality I have selected it — since it has no translation and is in fact the Greek text itself with english commentary, which seems to be widely accepted as some of the best scholastic commentary on the play.
I will add notes on other translations if and when I track them down....more
This book should be read along with Levin’s Great Debate. That will allow a right wing perspective to balance out a left wing persp The Shifting Lights
This book should be read along with Levin’s Great Debate. That will allow a right wing perspective to balance out a left wing perspective. It is very interesting to note how two authors with different viewpoints approach the same two protagonists and mould them to their requirements. With Paine and Burke this is easier because they lived through such momentous events that their ideas and actions can be seen differently depending on where the author chooses to stand.
Levin chooses to stand and judge both from a post-revolutionary viewpoint and exult in the fact that Burke knew the French Revolution would be disastrous while naive Paine precipitated the disaster by not realizing that human institutes and traditions can’t be just pulled down so easily without consequences.
In fact, Levin chooses to examine Burke’s attitudes towards the American Revolution to show his progressive nature and then his attitude to French Revolution to show his wisdom; and Paine’s attitude during the pre-Revolutionary zeal to show how he was just a revolt-monger who has grand plans and no sense of the reality.
Hitchens on the other hand chooses to view the debate from a pre-revolutionary position. This allows him to praise Paine for his contribution the American Independence and Constitution, showing his skills as a spokesman and influencer par compare. When Hitchens comes to Burke, he focuses on his opposition to the French Revolution and ridicules his passionate defense of monarchy. This allows Hitchens to show Paine as a progressive future-oriented leader who changed the course of history and Burke as a reactionary who just wants to hang on to the outdated age of chivalry.
Of course, neither Paine nor Burke were consistently right throughout their political engagement. Both were probably right in supporting the American Revolution and both were perhaps wrong in their over-the-top attitudes to the French Revolution. But Hitchens and Levin combine to show us how just by shifting the viewpoints we can see them in such different lights — the naive and the wise keep shifting before our eyes like in a hall of mirrors. It is a spectacle....more