I sit down to write something about play, and its importance for human life. And as I write, I ask myself: Am I working? Or am I playing? Sometimes, it is hard to tell.
In a previous piece, I wrote about how to think more deeply about work. In that piece, I talked about how philosophy can help us understand our relationship with work more deeply. But the more I think about work, the more I find the boundaries between work and non-work, between work and play, become blurred and fuzzy.
So if we want to understand human activity better…
We spend much of our lives working. And much of the time we are not working, we spend talking about work, recovering from work, fretting about work, or wondering if we should work more or work less.
But less often do we stop to think more deeply about work. What, after all, is work? Why does it loom so large in our lives? And when it comes to questions like these, philosophy can help throw more light on what work is and why it matters.
In his book on the philosophy of work, Lars Svendsen says that work, at the…
Q: Why are trees different?
A: Trees are different because of the evolution of plants, dating back to the dinosaurs. Trees were actually sporous plants, much like giant ferns, and they were purple as they had not yet developed chlorophyll. Eventually the taller plants began crowding out the big fern plants, and they choked the life out of them by blocking the sun. Now we have deciduous trees and coniferous trees — deciduous trees marking young growth, where there is a lot of space and less competition for sunlight. Once the conifer trees infiltrate, though, they grow taller and blot out…
The sun’s path appears to be bending south, adding a dull hue to summer’s bright skies. The last efforts at growth showcase the skills of plants not yet ready to die. Humidity vacates the air, replaced by a crisp breeze. Even the sun seems compelled to offer new ventures of color — bending light among increased clouds, resulting in vibrant displays of reds, oranges, and the occasional purple on the horizon at the end of a now-shortened day.
It is the one time of year those of us living in temperate climates take pride in our weather.
There is nothing…
It was Christmas Eve, but it sure didn’t feel like it.
The previous Christmas Eve, I’d watched a midnight Mass outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. I suppose it couldn’t get any more “Christmas” than that. But there had been snipers on the rooftops protecting the gathering from an ISIS threat — their eerie silhouettes surrounding Jesus’ supposed birthplace (which I’d recently learned was up for debate). And even without that added touch, the truth was that the Palestinians just didn’t celebrate Christmas like we did at Gramps’ condo in Sacramento.
But I was back with my family…
The strangest thing about reality is how un-strange it actually is.
Let me explain.
When Newton discovered the laws of gravity in the 17th century, this was a fundamental departure from the prevailing paradigm at the time. Prior to Newton, people believed that celestial bodies orbited around one another in a “natural motion” without understanding why.
We like to believe that Newton updated the nature of reality, and that we were all better off for it.
But here’s the thing.
Reality itself didn’t change one bit as a result of Newton’s discoveries. The world was always governed by gravity, whether…
The setting is New York City.
A subway train full of 50 passengers has been hijacked, and the tracks have been rerouted so that the train will soon crash into City Hall. There’s nothing the police can do, as there are only a few minutes left before the moment of impact.
As the passengers fear for their lives, one of them looks up and sees a faint glimmer in the sky. This little speck is moving at a dazzling speed, and it appears to be getting larger as it circles around toward them.
A passenger screams, “It’s a bird!”
Carl Jung once made the tragically accurate statement that Hitler was akin to the mouthpiece of the German people’s collective unconscious.
It is more common to think — as well as nicer to think — that Hitler was simply a madman run amok on Germany and that his influence alone spoke for all of Nazism’s crazed, manic, and ruthless aspects. “He was evil,” people say, their eyes widened, their heads shaking in disbelief, and they leave it at that.
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