Posted in book review, Miscellany

On Philip Pullman’s Republic of Heaven

A great writer of our time is Phillip Pullman in his moment of pleasure.

Great writers are great because they know how to tell entertaining and enduring stories without religious and didactic overtones. Moreover, they are unafraid of speaking their minds without a qualm of conventional belief or sectarian principles. Yesterday, I read an essay called “The Republic of Heaven” from Demon Voices by Philip Pullman, a renowned British best-selling writer whose intelligently tongue in cheek styled narrative raises the dander of the Catholic Church for his acerbic view of the orthodox teaching. With my reading of Candide by Voltaire still fresh in mind, I find Pullman and his philosophy of free thought familiar with that of Voltaire and realize that true intellectuals think among people and live in social companions of public spirits for the good of humanity. Thus, here is my discursive impression of Pullman’s “The Republic of Heaven.”

Pullman urges us to step aside from habit, a banal molded frame of life, to see the world outside the box, which will lead to an immense world of delight, the Republic of Heaven, for we are worthier than we think we know because we are such stuff made of wonder. Pullman’s heroine is Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, who has resisted against the magistrate of grim and gray puritanical ethos that decries an expression of feelings and emotions under religious disciplines. She remonstrates against the cold-hearted Mrs. Reed thus: “You think I have no feelings and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness, but I cannot live so.” Her demand for love stems from her need for it, which is an essential food for the soul that serves a purpose and pique for life. This sense of love so wanting in Jane cannot be quelled by false optimism that such distress is the best for the best of all possible world. On the contrary, it is an outcry of the soul desirous of warm and soft human touch that thrills the heart and invigorates the mind. Human beings cannot live by Reason alone, forced to utilize when the right of five senses is forfeited and bound by misconceived religious concepts and false moral measures.

The founder of Logotherapy, the third Viennese school of psychotherapy, Viktor E. Frankl, witnessed a learned Jewish woman in his concentration camp killing herself despite daily recitation of wise sayings of the Torah supposedly being a consolation. Frankl affirms that we humans cannot live without the joy of life, that is, an appreciation of pleasure to the senses because otherwise, we will degenerate to a provisional being living day to day like prisoners of dreary dungeons in the darkness of hopelessness. Pullman agrees with Franklin the creative and experiential values of pleasure that keep a journey to live a purposeful and meaningful life.

The creation and experience of art spark the joy of moments that can be synonymous with a meaning of happiness in life. Some find consolation in religion, but it does not give them whys to live for, nor kindness to show hows. Pullman’s concept of the Republic of Heaven comes to a head prominently when we are stranded in the chaos of existential vacuum, the kind of which the loyal and conscientious butler Stevens felt when he lost his faith in his idealized employer in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. However, if Stevens pursued his love for Miss Kenton and appreciated the pleasure of love he consciously denied, he would not have felt the sudden void in his life. The sense of delight in the physical world is the essence of the Republic of Heaven that he and we are conditioned to ignore. The point of Pullman’s philosophy is that we are too serious about the pleasure our physical world provides. And it’s not a chemical-induced euphoria for escape from the world but a new attitude toward our perspectives of it. Elenore Roosevelt also knew how to become a citizen of the Republic, thus: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I should try that.

Posted in Film Review

Hakuna Matata! ‘The Lion King’ (2019) – film review

Whether animated or dubbed, good movies are conversant with more delicate tissues of conscience and spirit than others replete with vehement manifestos. I am talking about ‘The Lion King’ (2019 film),’ that is. It is a wholesome movie with simple adages of friendship, love, patience, and courage—only the more vividly alive and visually superb with the Cute factor. The film is also what Plato says in the Republic, a work of art that best imitates the objects and events of human life, a good entertainment.

The a priori reasoning is sometimes apt, and so was the movie. I admit that had it not been for the cute Simba’s face in the movie’s advertisement on my newly subscribed Disney Plus channel, I would have passed it. Besides, living with nature in the form of thirteen-month-old tabby cat Toro at home perfected the inclination to watch it. What captured my eyes most was the realistic animals and landscape that rendered undoubtful verisimilitude of natural wildlife in Africa. It’s a hybrid of the 21st science and timeless imagination that created the world’s awe-inspiring symmetrical view of natural beauty in cinematography. Contrary to unwelcome and acerbic opinions about the movie for its lack of fluid emotions and spectacular action scenes, I find it genuine and honest. It illustrates the natural habitats and habits of the animals in the wild as authentically as possible, which may seem less than what today’s audience inured to gratuitous special effects and outpourings of dramatic gestures. However, nature is simple, and Leonardo da Vinci saw it as the ultimate sophistication of beauty.

If Aesop’s Fables are the ancient Greek’s way of teaching morals or virtues to people of all ages, this film follows the tradition of teaching the good in the audience’s hearts. There are four types of love subtly construed as thematic subjects in the movie: (1) Eros – passions between lovers; (2) Philia – friendship; (3) Storge – love between parents and children; and (4) Agape – humanity. Furthermore, the Homerian code of honors that Simba and his father Mufasa possess and the eponymous virtue of arete consists of moral integrity and physical finesse. The goodness described above incarnates in the pride of the lions and alludes to human characteristics laid bare in the majestically untamed landscape of the Pristine Wild.

‘The Lion King’ (2019 film) is thought-provoking and entertaining. Plato, whose view on the best of art as the best imitation of the physical world, would approve of this film as a wholesome entertainment in the constellation of the great minds. But, notwithstanding his approval, the film is worth watching when you feel lonely and need some pick-me-up spirit with smiling cheer. After all, a good mood in the buoyancy of a cheerful soul with hope for an uncertain future is what makes our lives pleasant. Hakuna Matata!

Posted in book review, Miscellany

Philosophical investigation of education

“I’ll teach you differences,” said King Lear as his motto of philosophical investigations in Shakespeare’s eponymous play. I imagine the ghost of King Lear would utter it again when he deigned to come to our realities of universities in this time. The importance of responsible education to remove the social ills and carbuncles resulting from dissentious political domination has never been more conspicuously called for in our high learning institutions as a recent consequence of the George Floyd incident, and the following the Black Lives Matter movement. However, this doesn’t mean that universities should be a breeding ground for training gladiators equipped with political syllabuses and dogmatic agendas to fight against the public foes. Instead, education should disabuse the ignorance of the unenlightened for our society’s universal betterment.

Professor Benjamin Y. Fong, in his NY Times article “Teaching Racial Justice isn’t Racial Justice,” addressed the issue of education as the fighting tool. It has become fashionable that most American universities have competingly added courses on social injustice to the Black Lives Matter movement. However, the idea of education is to provide students opportunities to learn and actively engage with conflicting thoughts and various real-life issues in a place enriched with knowledge linked with the fellow members of the human race from antiquity. In this environment, a university is a place for education that can improve social conditions in the fight against social, political carbuncles, not for the battle itself, training students for social gladiators.

Many universities are focused on the quantitative quota of educational syllabuses aimed for the universities’ reputations as the most liberal and forward-thinking higher-learning institutions for the socially recognized prestige, not the qualitative aspect of the education of the minds. It is not the textual syllabuses filled with political ideologies and social campaigns. Still, the practical teaching of various conservative and progressive considerations enables students to incorporate the learning to their perspectives. Education serves to articulate ideas based on the standard of reason and taste universal in all human creatures regarding the principles of judgment and sentiment common to all humankind.

Suppose we want our higher learning institutions to remedy the existing ills of our social and political realities by implementing more social justice courses. In that case, we must first understand the fact that education itself is not the fight itself. Neither Plato’s academy nor Aristotle’s lyceum was a place for the battle against the absurdities of Man. Or even the beloved, peripatetic Socrates did not use his open universities in Athens as a place for campaigning against the government hostile to his philosophy. Remember that there is no new thing under the sun as long as we as the collective enterprise called Humanity continue to voyage in the Universe.

Posted in Poetry

Chariot and two horses

6561-roman-charioteer-wit

The soul of man has his own chariot

With a driver and two winged horses:

The one eager for honorable praises;

The other intent on becoming corrupt

That only flogging and bawling can quell.

With the driver’s free rein on the mares,

The noble horse goes AWOL,

The ignoble heads dominance,

The chariot loses control,

All fall from the fantastic race

To the parched land of ignorance,

Then begins the rebirth of the race

Again, and again forever and ever.

Author’s Note: I remember reading about Plato’s Chariot Allegory that illustrates our journey to the end of enlightenment with its vividly dynamic images of the aerial chariot race too compelling to reserve for a silent appreciation in my mind’s reservoir. I wonder what my chariot race has been like thus far…

Posted in book review, Miscellany

The etymology of black friday

black-friday-space-for-rent

There were long lines of people everywhere today here in this otherwise peaceful sunny Californian city. As I swiveled my head in wonderment to figure out possible causes for the formation of the lines, my eyes directed me to a sign posted on a window of one of the outlet stores bearing “Black Friday Sale.” Hmm, so it was that time again. In fact, the word ‘Black Friday’, I think, always renders me an ambiance of Dystophia where desperate citizens resulting from a carnage of  wars and great famine are hell bent on looting stores for a paucity of goods. Besides, it is named so very dull, tawdry, and crude that the very sound of the name boasts a lack of cultural sophistication of its obscure name-giver who seems to me nothing but a philistine following a cult of Mammon.

That being said, to come upon an article about the origin of this consumerist feast day from a magazine seemed pat in the paradoxical sense of animosity colluding with curiosity on this whimsically leisurely Black Friday. It’s rather unsurprising to discover that the etymology of the term ‘Black Friday’ is ambivalent  in origin. There are four a posterior grounds of the birth of the term as follows:

  • Black Friday was the day when financial markets collapsed on September 24th, 1869, as a result of the disclosure of a Wall Street conspiracy to raise the gold price.
  • It was the day after Thanksgiving Day when police in 1950’s Philadelphia, having sacrificed their holiday leave, concentrated the force on the cresting influx of shoppers and American football fans into the city.
  • In 1961 retailers in the selfsame city foresaw the potential to galvanize business by choosing the term “Black Friday” as a catchy-phrase.
  • The retailers saw it as the day by which they could have procured sufficient revenue for the year, so that they could move their accounts written in red to black, finalizing a profit for the year.

black-friday-pros-and-cons-cartoonIn my opinion, the third postulation seems the most plausible, which logically constitutes the fourth one as a basis for the etymology. It’s always this mercantile ingenuity that prompted cults of consumerism, such as Valentines Day, White Day, and Christmas Day. Inevitably, in our modern capitalistic society such promotional encouragement of spending money on consumer products is the grist to the mill of market economy and greases the wheel of monetary circulation for the behoof of the vivaciousness of societal atmosphere in general. Yet, the hustling and bustling of the mindless shopping spree blindly egged on by the media prompting to buy things that you really do not need in frenzy appears to live beyond the principle of the Golden Mean, the virtuous moderation of restraining yourself from indulging in lavish expenditure, as advocated by Plato in corporation with the inscription written on the terrace at Delphi, “Nothing in Excess,” which chimes the bell of our ethos embroidering on conspicuous consumption.

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