Updates from February, 2020 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Doug Belshaw 9:30 pm on February 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: merit, vanity,   

    However we may be reproached for our vanity we have never sometimes to be assured of our merits.


  • Doug Belshaw 7:30 pm on February 28, 2020 Permalink
    Tags: , novelty,   


    Sometimes when I wake up my mind is alert and active. I just want to get on with the day and get through everything on my to-do list. Other days, my mind is easily distracted. For example, yesterday morning, I spent what felt about ten minutes looking at the ripples projected on the ceiling from the light of our fish tank.

    It’s on days like these that I feel like sacking everything off and going for a long walk. In fact, that’s exactly what I did last month and, as a result, discovered a dismantled railway less than five miles away from our house. The real problem, it would seem, is that that anything that looks or feels repetitive is absolute anathema to me. I also can’t stand to be constrained, either by other people’s requirements, or by the straightjacket of self-imposed routines.

    Novelty is what I seem to be programmed to be on the lookout for. It’s certainly something I cherish. I’m not sure that I’m so different to everyone else in that regard, although I do sometimes wonder how people manage to stay in the same job for five years, or even a decade, at a time.

    The thing I seem to be good at is actually a side product of this magpie-like search for novelty. It’s an increased tolerance for ambiguity; an ability to swim around in ideas and concepts not fully formed, sometimes with others, sometimes by myself. I suppose I just don’t like jumping to conclusions.

    So on days like yesterday, when my mind seems to be particularly fond of pausing, looking around, and wondering, I’ve learned to just let it. Depending on how far down any particular rabbithole I’ve gone by breakfast time tells me whether it’s worth doing any productive work.

    As it happened, my routines carried me through yesterday. Do this, and then that, in this order. “Ninety percent of success”, someone once told me, “is showing up”. And therein lies the rub for people who don’t see themselves as cogs in a machine.

  • Doug Belshaw 5:30 pm on February 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    We spend our time envying people who we wouldn’t wish to be.

    Jean Rostand

  • Doug Belshaw 3:30 pm on February 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: authors,   

    We all have a dark feeling of resistance towards people we have never met, and a profound and manly dislike of the authors we have never read.

    G.K. Chesterton

  • Doug Belshaw 1:30 pm on February 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: antipathies, sympathies,   

    Personalise your sympathies; depersonalise your antipathies.

    W.R. Inge

  • Doug Belshaw 10:30 am on February 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Some actions are called malicious because they are fine by ugly people.


  • Doug Belshaw 8:30 am on February 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Empedocles, ,   

    You are composed of three parts: body, breath, and mind. The first two merely belong to you in the sense that you are responsible for their care; the last alone is truly yours. If, then, you put away from this real self – from your understanding, that is – everything that others do or say and everything you yourself did or said in the past, together with every anxiety about the future, and everything affecting the body or its partner breath that is outside your own control, as well as everything that swirls about you in the eddy of outward circumstance, so that the powers of your mind, kept thus aloof and unspotted from all that destiny can do, may live their own life in independence, doing what is just, consenting to what befalls, and speaking what is true – if, I say, you put away from this master-faculty of yours every such clinging attachment, and whatever lies in the years ahead or the years behind, teaching yourself to become what Empedocles calls a ‘totally rounded orb, in its own rotundity joying’, and to be concerned solely with the life which you are now living, the life of the present moment, then until death comes you will be able to pass the rest of your days in freedom from all anxiety, and in kindliness and good favour with the deity within you.

    Marcus Aurelius

  • Doug Belshaw 6:12 am on February 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    All the blessings which you pray to obtain hereafter could be yours today, if you did not deny them to yourself. You have only to have done with the past altogether, commit the future to providence, and simply seek to direct the present hour aright into the paths of holiness and justice: holiness, by a loving acceptance of your apportioned lot, since Nature produced it for you and you for it: justice, in your speech by a frank and straightforward truthfulness, and in your acts by a respect for law and for every man’s rights. Allow yourself, too, no hindrance from the malice, misconceptions or slanders of others, nor yet from any sensations this fleshly frame may feel; its afflicted part will look to itself. The hour for your departure draws near; if you will but forget all else and pay sole regard to the helmsman of your soul and the divine spark within you – if you will but exchange your fear of having to end your life some day for a fear of failing even to begin it on nature’s true principles – you can yet become a man, worthy of the universe that gave you birth, instead of a stranger in your own homeland, bewildered by each day’s happenings as though by wonders unlooked for, and ever hanging upon this one or the next.

    Marcus Aurelius

  • Doug Belshaw 6:49 am on February 27, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: introspection, , ,   

    Writing is a process of discovery 

    Unable, or perhaps unwilling, to do my usual exercise due to not being able to wear contact lenses at the moment, I sat down yesterday evening with my back to our bedroom radiator to read Stefan Zweig’s Montaigne.

    It’s a short book, and quite odd, in that it doesn’t really quote much from Montaigne’s Essays, nor does it go into a lot of detail about his life. Instead, what I appreciated about Zweig’s writing is that it simultaneously discusses the impact that Montaigne has had on the author, and the context within which Montaigne lived and wrote.

    I hadn’t realised, for example, that the famous circular tower in which Montaigne wrote (his ‘citadel’) was somewhere he’d retreated to aged just 37. Nor was I aware that, a decade later, Montaigne realised that he could never fully retreat from the world, and so set about on a tour of Europe, never planning ahead where to go next, but just going where he fancied. He was away (with a small retinue) for two years.

    Of course, all of this was possible for Montaigne because of his estate and the income generated by it. But I didn’t know that this was quite a recent thing, ancestrally-speaking, for the Montaignes. In fact, even that surname was purchased, along with a coat of arms. Only a couple of generations previously his family had been fish merchants!

    What I’ve always appreciated in Montaigne’s writing is that, as many others have said before me, he was a kind of 16th-century ‘blogger’. By starting from introspection, humility, and self-deprecation, he was able to write some of the finest essays ever written. Although he too had his foibles around fame and glory, it’s a reminder to me to write for myself, first and foremost.

  • Doug Belshaw 10:30 pm on February 26, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , free will,   

    “The robber of your free will,” writes Epictetus, “does not exist.”

    Marcus Aurelius

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