The Soldier And The Policeman’s Trained Attention And Its Pathologies

In the chapter ‘Focus’ in his book of essays,The Examined Life, Robert Nozick writes: The ability and opportunity to focus our attention, to choose what we will pay attention to, is an important component of our autonomy. [p.122] In a footnote appended to this sentence, Nozick continues: What we presently focus upon is affected byContinue reading “The Soldier And The Policeman’s Trained Attention And Its Pathologies”

The Hidden Pain Of Others

A few years ago, as I walked down the street that I live on in Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park, toward my home and my waiting family, past a row of restaurants and coffee shops with their happy and contented consumers, I spied a pair of friends and neighbors of ours. They were sitting outside a localContinue reading “The Hidden Pain Of Others”

Parenting As Refuge From Writing

Writers who are parents love to complain about how parenting takes up writing time; so many great books, essays, plays, short stories, screenplays and the like remain unwritten because caring for a child is time-consuming and emotionally draining. Other members of the writer’s tribe–or sometimes the same folks–will readily admit that parenting provides great materialContinue reading “Parenting As Refuge From Writing”

Walking Far Enough To Find Our Way Back To Ourselves

In ‘Running Through Fear,’ an extended excerpt from her memoir Running Home, ultra-marathoner Katie Arnold writes of the aftermath of an assault she suffered while out on the trail: Afterward, in the disorienting fog of sorrow, everything scared me: my babies, so small and vulnerable and precious; my own body, once so strong but nowContinue reading “Walking Far Enough To Find Our Way Back To Ourselves”

On Becoming A Second-Class (Train) Citizen

I was nine years old when I became a second-class citizen. At least as far as train travel was concerned. Before then, before another day of infamy that lay in December, the date of my father’s retirement from the air force, my family and I had always traveled by first-class on our train travels. MyContinue reading “On Becoming A Second-Class (Train) Citizen”

A Constitution Should Help A Country Govern, Not Hobble It

My short essay ‘A Constitution Should Help A Country Govern, Not Hobble It‘ is up at Aeon Magazine. Comments welcome. (Many thanks to Sam Haselby, my editor at Aeon, for all his help.)

Leaving Neverland Is Not An Indictment; It Is a Plea For Safety

For almost three decades (if not more), millions of people watched Michael Jackson perform, on stage, in video. They also saw him alight from planes, from cars, and from there, walk into hotels and stadiums, living the life of a peripatetic, performing celebrity. On almost all of these occasions he was accompanied by his ‘sexualContinue reading “Leaving Neverland Is Not An Indictment; It Is a Plea For Safety”

Goethe On The Artist’s Supposed ‘Originality’

In Conversations with Goethe With Johann Peter Eckermann, Goethe says, People are always talking about originality; but what do they mean? As soon as we are born, the world begins to work upon us and goes on to the end. What can we call our own except energy, strength, and will? If I could give anContinue reading “Goethe On The Artist’s Supposed ‘Originality’”

A Rarely Realized Classroom Ideal

Last night, in my graduate seminar–which carries the snappy title ‘From Schopenhauer to Freud (Via Nietzsche): Depth Psychology and Philosophy‘–my students and I spent the entire two hours of our class meeting time reading and discussing Section 354 of Nietzsche‘s The Gay Science. We each had a copy of the section in front of us; IContinue reading “A Rarely Realized Classroom Ideal”

T. S. Eliot’s ‘Is That All There Is?’

In The Idea Of A Christian Society, T. S. Eliot wrote: Was our society, which had always been assured of its superiority and rectitude, so confident of its unexamined premises, assembled round anything more permanent than a congeries of banks, insurance companies and industries, and had it any beliefs more essential than a belief in compoundContinue reading “T. S. Eliot’s ‘Is That All There Is?’”