French Enlightenment and Scottish Enlightenment

Adam Smith and Rousseau are both considered writers of the Enlightenment. Except the Enlightenment was purely French, wasn’t it? Rousseau, Diderot, Condorcet, Voltaire were the primary writers of the Enlightenment, brushing away the cobwebs of superstition and medieval thinking to cast a new light on how people thought about education, society, politics, and the law. At least, that’s what the textbooks and popular wisdom insist. Except…

There were actually two groups of thinkers working at almost the same time, and they went in rather different directions. I’m omitting the Germans (Die Aufklärung) and Italians for the sake of brevity and because English-speakers are far more familiar and more influenced in many ways by the French and English/Scottish Enlightenments. A lot of what was refined by the Germans—for good and for ill—was seeded by the French and either disproven or elaborated upon. The Anglo-Enlightenment went a different way, much as England and Scotland were charging away from Continental political thinking at the same time. Continue reading


The Itchy Foot Itches

I did not want to go back to work on Tuesday afternoon. I wanted to put my pick-up in four and just keep going west, over the horizon, as the cold, crisp air blew into the cab, heading into the grasslands that lead to the edge of the Caprock and then down into the mesa country. It had nothing to do with the classes I was substituting for, nothing to do with the students per se, and everything to do with a cold front’s passage, the brisk afternoon air, the clear skies, and an old, old itch. The westering urge had been woken, the whisper of “Something hidden. Go and find it… Something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!”* Continue reading

Statism and the Anointed

I was once informed that I was one of fifteen intellectuals in a small city. My first reaction was to balk, then look for the closest exit. I’m not an intellectual! I’m well-read, curious, and I’m coming to slowly acknowledge that I’m a polymath (but not nearly as much of one as most of my friends), but I’m not an intellectual.

Which is funny, because most people, if told they are intellectual, would take pride in this. Why did I recoil? Because to me, even 20 years ago, Intellectual has political connotations as well as cultural, and I wanted no part in either of them. Only later did I learn the words I wanted to explain my reaction. They come from Thomas Sowell, and describe “the Anointed.” Since then, I’ve watched the Anointed race to be the first to embrace the philosophies and dreams of statism, and I am even more unhappy when someone calls me an intellectual.* Continue reading

One Foot in the Past

I freely admit that I live in the past. Following in the sartorial footsteps of a professor who was voted “Best Dressed Faculty” for five years running, I lean toward the Victorian and Edwardian in my clothing.* I read about history. I write books with strong historical elements. (OK, I steal from the past.) And it feels as if I have one foot in the past, as if I am closer than I really am.

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A Vocationless Life?

One of my wandering, meandering musings follows, as I wade into matters far outside my ken. You’ve been warned.

What happens when experts, teachers, cultural leaders, and others tell people that they have no vocation and can not have one? When a generation is informed that not only can they not follow the paths of their fathers and mothers—especially fathers—but that such plans and dreams are outdated and pointless because the world has changed and the now-vocationless are doomed from birth? When there is no other option suggested, or perhaps no option that does not mean becoming dependent and being reminded of that dependence on a near-daily basis? I would posit that we may be seeing that today in the US, and possibly Europe as well, although various parts of Europe have their own problems that date back to WWI if not somewhat farther. Continue reading

Leo Lionni’s Frederick

There are a few illustrated children’s books I grew up with that left a very deep mark on me. Tomi di Paola’s books, Ashanti to Zulu about the peoples of Africa, dinosaur and paleontology books, Three Trees of the Samurai, Holling C. Holling’s books, and one called Catundra about an overweight cat and how she slims down.

Leo Lionni’s story Frederick was one of these. The book is fifty years old this year, and is a wonderful story about the importance of Odds in societies. The author was Dutch, and did many children’s books, a lot of them about mice, including Frederick. I discovered it as a audio-tape and read-along book Mom and Dad got at the library. Continue reading


That’s what happened with the largest private airlift of relief supplies to date.

People with planes saw a need. A gent with trailers sent out word. From there it grew through volunteer labor. Not unlike the Cajun Navy and similar efforts. People forgot that they are supposed to sit and wait patiently for the government to come to assist those in need, or to assist them. Oops. Continue reading