Time and money

I’ve been spending quite a few of my mornings running through the centre of Cambridge. A lot of it is beautiful – especially the colleges. And they’re very wealthy: the total endowment of Cambridge’s 31 colleges works out at a little over £4 billion, and their net assets run closer to £7.5 billion. There are many stories to tell about…

Victor Hugo on right, reality and the morality of the past

The July Revolution is the triumph of right in the overthrow of reality. A splendid thing. Right overthrowing reality. Hence the magnitude of the 1830 Revolution, hence also its mildness. Right that triumphs has no need to be violent. Right is that which is just and true. Characteristic of what is right is to remain eternally beautiful and pure. Reality,…

In search of nuance

In an age of polarisation, we need nuanced understanding of people and issues more than ever. What does nuance mean to you? To me it means things like: Knowing some of the shortcomings of your side of the debate; Seeing – and not excusing – the failings (and worse) of people on your side of the debate; Looking for reasons…

C.S. Lewis on reading old books

Here’s more from C.S. Lewis on reading old books – this time highlighting their virtues as lenses for helping us to spot and evaluate the biases of our age: It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much…

Solon of Athens (via Herodotus) on looking to the end

Solon, the great law-giver of Athens, is visiting Croesus, the rich and poweful King of Lidya. After showing off his wealth, Croesus is disappointed when Solon declares three unknown men of middling rank to be the happiest he’s ever seen. Croesus snapped, “That’s all very well my Athenian friend, but what of my own happiness? Is it so utterly comtemptible…

Worse than this change

Change – especially change that feels beyond our control – is often unsettling. Will things ever be this good again? When people talk about change being the only constant,* it isn’t just change in the world around us and in the culture that we’re talking about: at an individual level, change is written into our DNA. The clock is ticking.…

Alcuin of York on ageing and the human condition

“We poor wretches!Why do we love you, World, when you’re running away from us?You keep running away from us,and yet we still love You.” Alcuin of York (AD 735 – 804)

Recommendation: In Our Time on Alcuin of York

Alcuin (AD735-804) turns out to be the most important Anglo-Saxon (specifically, Northumbrian) you’ve never heard of. A swerve in Western culture He was a crucial educator, preserver and sharer of knowledge at a time when a rich tradition of learning was in danger of being entirely wiped out in Britain (thanks to the Vikings) and in wider western Europe: According…

Karl Marx on automation and job losses due to disruption

“In these spacious halls the benignant power of steam summons around him his myriads of willing menials.” Andrew Ure Marx’s rage against the machine Another thought about the rate of change and “distruption,” this time from Karl Marx. I love Marx’s writing and his desire to do better for the working poor, even as I sigh at his wrong economics…

What’s the story? (1)

We’re always telling stories about who we are, where we’ve come from and where we going. We tell stories about what’s good and what’s bad, what should be and what shouldn’t. We tell ourselves stories about what’s possible and why and how, and about which things that will never happen, or which things we’ll (or they’ll) never be able to…