Archive for January, 2009

Habits of the Soul

January 25, 2009

“Soul and body, body and soul — how mysterious they were! There was animalism in the soul, and the body had its moments of spirituality. The senses could refine, and the intellect could degrade. Who could say where the fleshly impulse ceased, or the psychical impulse began? How shallow were the arbitrary definitions of ordinary psychologists! And yet how difficult to decide between the claims of the various schools! Was the soul a shadow seated in the house of sin? Or was the body really in the soul, as Giordano Bruno thought? The separation of spirit from matter was a mystery, and the union of spirit with matter was a mystery also.

He began to wonder whether we could ever make psychology so absolute a science that each little spring of life would be revealed to us. As it was, we always misunderstood ourselves and rarely understood others. Experience was of no ethical value. It was merely the name men gave to their mistakes. Moralists had, as a rule, regarded it as a mode of warning, had claimed for it a certain ethical efficacy in the formation of character, had praised it as something that taught us what to follow and showed us what to avoid. But there was no motive power in experience. It was as little of an active cause as conscience itself. All that it really demonstrated was that our future would be the same as our past, and that the sin we had done once, and with loathing, we would do many times, and with joy.”

From The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde.


January 24, 2009


This one’s for raincoaster. Maybe I’m crushing…

“To Choose Our Better History”

January 20, 2009

A line, perhaps the most poignant, from President Barack Obama‘s inauguration speech. He is, clearly, emblematic of that “better history.” I hope for the best, and for change, but also ask: Do we choose history, or does history choose us?

It’s Alive!

January 18, 2009

Saw a fascinating lecture connected to a new exhibit at the Art Gallery of Windsor dubbed It’s Alive: Bertram Brooker and Vitalism. The curator spoke with pointed insight about the thought of French vitalist philosopher Henri Bergson and his influence on Canadian modernism and Brooker in particular. A transplanted Brit, Brooker explored various media, and was influential in early film as well as being an award-winning author. In the 1920s, he started working in the advertising business, integrating vitalist understandings into his work, emphasizing dynamism, movement, and the quest to animate the inanimate.

Brooker manifested elements of Bergson’s philosophy in his exploration of ideas like “organic memory” and an unconventional, life-based understanding of the ineffable nature of time. He broke barriers in the Canadian “high” art world with his representations of the nude, and was a key link between European modernist movements (Futurists, Vorticists, etc…) and the Canadian scene (i.e. The Group of Seven). It was also suggested that his work had an impact on famed Canadian theorist Marshall McCluhan and his “organic” perspective on the nature of communication.

Intriguing stuff. Odd synchronicity to have run across it in this milieu. Reminds me I need a deeper appreciation of the way vitalist philosophies emerged and flourished in the early 20th century art world…

Page Turner

January 16, 2009

A recent article from The New Atlantis discusses the decline (by some accounts, utter disappearance) in the practice of reading books. This is a discussion (not a new one, of course) that makes me despair for the future of ideas, thought, discourse and, arguably, civilization. Not to sound like a grumbling 21st century Oswald Spengler, but the trend is alarming. There is, undeniably, a deep irony that my hand-wringing is being expressed on a blog…

This is an issue that has been discussed before. Perhaps it’s even become a trope. Regardless, it is a curious and unprecedented historical phenomena. The book has been a boon to thought, knowledge and ideas since the middle of the 15th century, and this 500-year tangent is being diverted by the new phenomena of electronic media in all forms. Many have speculated about this decline in literacy. What are its impacts on citizenship, politics, even notions of individuality? Who knows.

To bear witness to the transformation as an educator and a scholar is a curious thing. Powerless as a single individual to effect change in the flow away from books, one can only watch in a combination of sadness and amazement. This is no mere nostalgia, either. Something really will be lost, even if it is only the sense of the deep narrative of our culture or the capacity to follow and maintain complex arguments. Would be interesting to witness the transformation over a longer time frame. See the bigger picture. Will probably be a real page turner…

Article by way of Arts & Letters Daily.


January 13, 2009


Something very alluring and erotic about this luscious sculpture of an Asian goddess. Taken last week at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

…But Teaching is the Devil’s Work

January 11, 2009

My pithy response to a church billboard near the university announcing, with nary a theological justification, that “God loves students”.


January 9, 2009

So many voices. Such desire and determination to be heard. White noise out to the limits of the known and beyond. An unending cacophony

But is there really anything left to say?


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