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
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?‘
Border between Greece and Bulgaria
There were three men against the back wall with AK-47s. They were unshaven, unmoving, and looked as if the last time they smiled there was blood on the ground. They glared at me and there was an even chance that I was the first American they’d ever seen. Communism had just fallen and, since no system of law, order or enforcement had yet taken its place, these men had become all of those things.
They were guarding the ‘businessmen’ that I was meeting with in a rural village in Bulgaria, businessmen who were money changers, importers/exporters, and a rural ex-party mafia rolled into one. I was here to sell a tractor, the first modern western tractor in the country as far as any of us knew, and though I didn’t want to be negotiating with ‘businessmen’ like these, there was no choice. They could move large equipment; they had money; and they had protection. Continue reading
After the first few weeks, I didn’t know what day it was.
By that, I don’t mean that I didn’t know if it was a Monday or a Tuesday. I didn’t know if it was a Monday or a Saturday. The only day I ever knew that summer was Sunday, which was marked by church bells and the voices of the psaltes (singers) in the nearby churches.
Once the churches quieted, that day unraveled like every other day, until again, on some seemingly distant and arbitrary morning, the psaltes would be heard and I would know it was Sunday again. Continue reading
“If your age could understand, children,
Full many counsels I could give.”
Greek tragedies play out like no others, as if to remind us of the work of their ancient masters. As there once was a plague in Sophocles’ Thebes, there is now a plague upon the Greek economy. Continue reading
My LA agent had been sitting on my book for a couple of months. I’d gotten no feedback from him, only the studied silence of a poised insect. I decided to breach the stillness and give him a call.
The Phone Call
David: Happy New Year. It’s David.
Agent: Know how many Davids I know?
David: I know my full name shows up on your phone.
Agent: So kill me. What’re you calling me for?
David: Did you read my book yet? Continue reading
Manifest and Shining
I stared at the ceiling and thought that each of us has our own unshakable, fundamental truths that we cherish and from which all other thoughts and emotions derive. My own truths were passionless and simple: that this world is cruel and predatory, that human greed and selfishness are appropriate and, perhaps, even necessary responses – and that redemption is the delusion of fools. I thought I knew Kerryn’s truths as well: despite all she’d been through, she believed this world to be abundant and benevolent, a manifest and shining sanctuary meant to be shared by all its sentient creatures.
I wondered if we were both wrong . . . if we were both right.
You can purchase ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.