Posted in book review, Miscellany

Samuel Johnson Rambles on Dictatorship over Feelings

VFS109729 Dr. Johnson (1709-84) at Cave’s the Publisher, 1854 (oil on canvas); by Wallis, Henry (1830-1916); 49.5×59.7 cm; Private Collection; English, out of copyright

Temperance is not an abnegation of sensuous pleasure that is innate to our human nature. It is one’s willingness and ability to rein in his or her horse of impulsive id under moderation lest the driver of the mind chariot lose the control and fall by the wayside of life’s journey and leave it in the lurch of spiritual anomy. Yet, to obliterate the pleasure of the taste that our sense requires for nourishing the body and soul will only produce counterintuitive consequences, leading to noogenic neurosis, chronic depression, or existential frustration that life is nothing but a vast vacant lot. That is what Samuel Johnson, one of the great writers of the English language and a trailblazer of the English dictionary, discerned in his brilliantly unbridled and witty essay ‘The Rambler, No. 32, written on Saturday, July 7th, 1750.

Johnson was an intellectual of the best kind: erudite in the scope of knowledge drawn on his wealth of reading, artless in expressing his views on the Pooterish lettered caste that prided themselves on the florid display of arcane words and difficult syntax, and charitable in recognition of the vicissitudes of human life without prejudice. Perhaps, such admirable traits contributed to creating a dictionary of the English language, which required the universal understanding of humanity to comprehend the origins and meanings of a language of any kind. According to Johnson, Stoicism seemed too puffed up with its lofty philosophical principles of restraining feelings that would only beget misapprehension of the old school of thought for denying the most natural human emotions.

Emotions measure changes on a continuum of arousal on the one hand and the pleasantness and unpleasantness on the other. For example, High Arousal and High Unpleasantness produce Fear, whereas High Arousal and High Pleasantness equal to Ecstasy. Low Arousal and High Unpleasantness beget Misery, but Low Arousal and High Pleasantness lead to Satisfaction, which is a positive emotion. It is this physiological state of feeling that Johnson deemed it desirable in the face of existential frustration. One in despair can not eradicate the low tide of an emotional wave but can divert it in a direction that gives a fresh viewpoint on the heart’s malady, thus making life worthwhile to continue with every new try. It is logical reasoning because consciousness predicts the world we live in, a constant revolving hypothesis of reality triggered by neurons in the visual cortex. Since the brain does not have a function to think of itself, it uses a template of emotional scripts based on experience. Thus, instead of willing away unpleasant emotions, one can translate it on a different emotional template, measuring it on the arousal continuum for positive emotional affects. 

While Stoicism advocates the puritanical governance of the sense and taste for Reason’s eminence, humanity’s natural law revolts against the unnaturally philosophical dictatorship under the disguise of decency and propriety. Stoicism is a school of philosophy that distinguishes the cult from “the sensibilities of unenlightened mortals.” Johnson was right in saying that repressed feelings about pain could only lead to a dormant sense of guilt in a denial of physical reality and later erupt into violent tantrums or perverted forms of debauchery. Pain is part of life, and the way to relieve its severity is by way of finding its riddle with fortitude through doing things that channel the concentration on the pain to something meaningfully pleasant, creating a sense of fulfillment. This concept is also parallel to Viktor E. Frankl’s Logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy about willingness to meaning in life as a result of responding genuinely and humanly to life’s challenges. Both Johnson and Frankl denied no tactile sense of pain, emotional or physical, and prescribed a palliative solution for mitigating a malady of heart.

Johnson’s essay on criticism on Stoicism agrees with my idea of expressing genuine feelings about sadness to effectively communicate to listeners’ hearts in a compassionately empathic way so that pains will be less burdened, griefs shared in halves, and loneliness complemented in companionship. Likewise, I believe that suicidal feelings arise from that utterly helpless loneliness alienated from the world. They are usually concealed by the actor’s self-made barriers, where the emotions are despotically imprisoned. And I believe that Johnson would have agreed with me.

Posted in book review, Miscellany

The bio of seventeen weeks old Tabby Tom

Hi There. Nice to meet you!

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. How rightly so. Despite my sixteen weeks of life thus far, my feline instinct feels that there are unpathed waters and undreamed lands within me. So I deem it high time to unravel the mystery of Me.

My name is Toro, the co-editor at large of this blog with Stephanie. I am sixteen weeks old. I am a domestic short-haired tabby tom, but Stephanie believes that I am of an Egyptian Mau, admired by ancient Egyptians and the divine cat of Ra, God of the Sun, as portrayed in the Book of the Dead. I think Stephanie’s hypothesis of my suspected heritage is due to my beautiful turquoise eyes and dainty figure. She also seems to want to liken her and me to Cleopatra and her beloved Mau. (Wow!) Well, no one can blame her for regaling herself with such lofty imagination of my elated pedigree because – in all honesty – I look like one. What can I say? Seeing is believing, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Then the truth is to the end of reckoning, as the Bard chimed in.

As is the queen, so is the subject.

Despite my regal appearance, my biological and family background is that of an orphaned pauper, lesser than the pauper who exchanged his identity with a prince because he had mom and dad. When I was born, my mother left me alone, so a passing old lady took me to a nearby shelter where I met my sister Stephanie. I followed her because there was something that connected us from moods to tendencies and personalities. We share our peculiarities in mutual solitude shared by orphaned patronage of love and care.

How’s the writing going?

Because I was left alone to tend myself at so young an age, I am prone to frequent mood swings from high and low, which often makes me frantically run around the room back and forth, up and down, and left to right without stopping. I know this strange behavior of mine startles poor Stephanie, but I can’t help such impulsive pulsing as it is part of my irrepressible feline nature. However, one thing is sure that when I see Stephanie returning home from work, my whiskers are moving all withers, my tail rises to fortune, and my little feline heart fills with meows and more meows.

This much is the bio that I dictated to Stephanie for my new career in publishing. As I am excited about this new adventure with Stephanie on board, I hope readers will join us in our one of a kind literary enterprise in joyous spirit! Meow.

I am done with my share. So, I am taking a break.
Posted in book review

‘The Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind’, by Claude Lecouteux – review

The Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan MindThe Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind by Claude Lecouteux

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Salman Rushdie spoke of ghosts as the souls of the dead tending unfinished businesses on earth. Be it everlasting phantasmal whistling from the desolate fields of the buried or flickering of lights with sounds of footsteps in manmade abodes, but mind you that sometimes they come back. It is not about the fashionable New Age enlightenment advocating the veracity of paranormal activities involving ghost hunters, would-be, or self-proclaimed practitioners of occultic practice. It is academically certifiable, according to the eminent French Medieval Studies scholar Claude Lecouteux in his treaties on the formidable return of the souls departed.

The belief systems that the souls of the dead will and can come back to where they have left are universal in all cultures, including the dominant Christianity. Christianity, especially the Church of Rome, has drowned upon syncretism of pre-existing uniform pagan beliefs that paying due respect to the dead by offering food on their anniversary of death is an obligation and prevention of malice thrown upon the living. Lecouteux affirms in the discourse of the truth of revenants by the ecclesiastical records of Pope Gregory the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and Augustus. Even the ancient pagan luminaries, such as Ovid, Pliny the Elder, and the Younger, and Plato, corroborated the Wondering Souls’ existence roaming among the mortals. These great benefactors of humanity averred that sometimes, by the mysterious will of God, the dead are not entirely gone to the world beyond or occasionally permitted to manifest in reality. Therefore, it is worth giving such notions a preferential credit over the sensational testimony of ghost hunters, psychics, or gypsies.

Lecouteux illustrates peculiar funereal practices, especially of the Northern Europeans, such as putting the deceased’s head between the legs, sealing the roofs, windows, or any openings of a house of the dead lest the departed remain in the place of the living. After a breath of life leaves the corporeal temple, it ceases to exist and is, therefore, doesn’t belong in this world. Lecouteux’s treatise becomes a historical narrative of the deceased’s whys and wherefores in a confused state of spiritual anomy, refusing to cut a tie to the terrestrial world that they don’t belong any longer.

The book is my second read written by the French scholar following The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted, an excellent read in its multidisciplinary approach to validate the historical events of the fantastic phenomena in the narrative style conflated with Thucydidian objectivity and Herodotusian parataxis. Although this book retains the cracking narrative tradition of his, it is not as enthusiastically stimulating as the other book on the more popular noisy spirits for the sake of the subject itself. Perhaps, my being of the modern era accustomed to the sensory effects influenced by films and other visual aids may contribute to a rather unjust opinion on this book about revenants. Notwithstanding the preferential subject matters, this book will be a valuable textual source for historical, cultural, or social research about the universality of belief systems molded into a syncretism of the Church’s established religious doctrine. Or to put it simply, this book will pique anyone not easily succumbed to occult fad but equipped with a curious mind on the restless wandering souls, thus helping fortify his or her belief that sometimes they do come back.



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