[Photo by Timothy Barlin at Unsplash] To love your neighbor is to see your neighbor. To see somebody, really to see somebody, you have to love somebody. You have to see people the way Rembrandt saw the old lady, not just a face that comes at you the way a dry leaf blows at you down the path like all other dry leaves, but in a way that you realize the face is something the likes of which you have never seen before and will never see again. To love somebody we must see that person's face, and once in a while we do. Usually it is because something jolts us into seeing it. - Frederick Buechner in The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life
[Photo by Cristina Gottardi at Unsplash] The beginning of the Peloponnesian War is now 2,436 years in the past. Yet Athens and Sparta are still on our minds and will not go away. Their permanence seems odd. After all, ancient Greek warring parties were mere city-states, most of them smaller in population and size than Dayton, Ohio, or Trenton, New Jersey. Mainland Greece itself is no larger than Alabama, and in antiquity was bordered by empires like the Persian, which encompassed nearly one million square miles with perhaps 70 million subjects. Napoleon's army alone had more men under arms by 1800 than the entire male population of all the Greek city-states combined. In our own age, more people died in Rwanda or Cambodia in a few days than were lost in twenty-seven years of civil war in fifth-century B.C. Greece. - From A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War by Victor Davis Hanson
Around the time that he reached the unnerving milestone of turning thirty, Leonardo da Vinci wrote a letter to the ruler of Milan listing the reasons he should be given a job. He had been moderately successful as a painter in Florence, but he had trouble finishing his commissions and was searching for new horizons. In the first ten paragraphs, he touted his engineering skills, including his ability to design bridges, waterways, cannons, armored vehicles, and public buildings. Only in the eleventh paragraph, at the end, did he add that he was also an artist. "Likewise in painting, I can do everything possible," he wrote. - From Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
[Photo by Jason Briscoe at Unsplash] If life is one damned thing after another, then let that be your strategy and take them on one at a time. Not two or three at a time. Just one. And then another. And another.
George Washington was dying. The rumor spread quickly through Manhattan neighborhoods ravaged by influenza, the "contagious distemper" first diagnosed on Roman streets half a century earlier. Impartial to class, color, or politics, the disease was more democratic than the young American republic whose ruling elite it threatened. At a boardinghouse on Maiden Lane, Congressman James Madison took to his bed, too sick to argue with Alexander Hamilton over the secretary of the treasury's audacious plan to consolidate federal power by having the government in New York assume the debts and revenue sources formerly reserved for individual states. - From Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation by Richard Norton Smith
I know it is possible to find this program on cable. I was always a fan and it was particularly heartening to see a show where the bad guys lost and the good guys had clear values. But take a quick look at the show's beginning and ask if a new program of that nature would have a chance today. Far from being a threat, the hero was a walking "safe zone." In those days, to borrow a line from Churchill, people knew the difference between the arsonist and the fire brigade.
Around a year ago I had a passport renewed and received the sad news that I could not wear eyeglasses for the passport photo despite the fact that, being as blind as the famous bat, I wear glasses almost all of the time. The result was a photo of some leg-breaker straight out of The Sopranos; not the sort of person you'd want to let past Customs. I recently went in to renew my driver's license. Once again, the no-glasses rule was applied. This time, a photo of a villain from one of the Ghostbusters films emerged. It will be interesting to see how this works out in the field. In the old days of IRA bombings in London, whenever I went to Britain I was invariably and politely taken aside for questioning; an interruption which amused friends and family. Now that I have a passport photo which could be reasonably described as menacing, the old days may be revived.