An Urgent Need

Alexander_The_Great_and_Diogenes

Diogenes meets Alexander the Great

A great poet is always timely. A great philosopher is an urgent need.
— Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

In 1961, the philosopher Erich Fromm discussed ‘mobile truth.’  In his Afterward to George Orwell’s 1984, he proposed a fictional employee, who works for a large corporation, which claims that its product is better than any other.  This employee comes to believe this claim, whether or not it is justified.  It becomes his/her truth.  However, if that employee moves to a rival corporation, he/she will accept another truth, which is that this new corporation’s product is the best.  Though both beliefs can’t be possible, this new truth will be as true as the old one.  So much for cognitive dissonance.

Fromm saw this lack of objective truth as “one of the most characteristic and destructive developments of our society” as man “transforms reality more and more into something relative to his own interests and functions.”

He was prescient in his concerns.  Two generations out, America and much of the Western world no longer operate from an agreed upon set of facts, theories, or understandings.  Truth is personal and unmoored: an art form.  I paint my reality and you paint yours.  Each of us, a potential minority of one. Continue reading

Food in Modern and Ancient Greece

Modern Greeks start discussing dinner after the first bite of lunch and start discussing the next day’s lunch at dinner. For the unwitting visitor or in-law, like myself, there is a single escape from this circle of culinary obsession: breakfast. In the morning, you’ll find yourself on your own, consuming some undiscussed but nevertheless tasty yogurt, granola or figs.

Read more at ‘But What Are They Eating?

Breaking my Neck (Again)

LyingStill 2

I broke my neck in high school and spent the next ten weeks on my back, tethered to a hospital bed.

I wrote about this incident in a post called ‘Lying Still’ and recently, IrishCentral, the leading Irish digital media company in North America, ran the article:  How I broke my neck and learnt the surprising truth about life.

IrishCentral caters to Irish Americans and the Irish diaspora and is definitely worth checking out for those interested in Irish politics and topics.

Let’s Sell our Babies: A Modest Health Care Proposal

Health Care Costs

The solution to our health care problem is simple: Let’s sell our babies.

The United States currently ranks 169th in the world in infant mortality.  A baby born in the U.S. is less likely to see its first birthday than one born in Latvia or Cuba or New Caledonia.  And according to a paper by economists at the University of Southern California, Brown University, and MIT, this underperformance is driven “entirely, or almost entirely” by mortality among the poor, who have less access to health care.

Our babies are dying at a terrifying rate, an indefensible embarrassment for a country that spends far more than any other on health care.  But we are an inventive, energetic and practical people who are determined to continue with our market-driven approach to health care, so we need to find a way to turn these human liabilities into assets. Continue reading

JFK’s Last Speech

Kennedy

“In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason – or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.”

Excerpted from John F. Kennedy’s undelivered speech to the Dallas Citizens Council, scheduled for November 22, 1963, the day he was assassinated.

My novel is available here: The Last Island

 

An Elegy to the New York City Club Scene of the late 1980s

surf-cover

“The `80s were the last identifiable period.  If you see a picture from that era, you know it instantly.  The art, the clothes, the hair; they were unique.  After that, everything started to look and feel the same.”

That’s what the author Jay McInerney said (or something close to it) when I saw him at a book reading here in La Jolla.  He seemed wistful.  And why he wouldn’t he be, having hurdled like a latter day F. Scott Fitzgerald into the New York literary scene with his 1984 bestseller, Bright Lights, Big City?  As he spoke, I too waxed nostalgic for the time, the scene, and recalled a woman who once leaned against the bar of the Surf Club on the Upper East Side.  It was 1988, and I thought it was her birthday.

The Surf Club’s preppy, Wall Street trader vibe wasn’t for me – I preferred the scruffier downtown scene – but there she was: button nose, sneakers, shoulder-length blonde hair and looking like she knew something the rest of us didn’t. Continue reading