Some Holiday Readings from Around the Web

My Twitter feed has been the source of some wonderful holiday reading. Here are a number of the articles and essays I’ve come across:

Edmund Burke and the importance of manners: “Manners are clearly not the same as laws. They are generally unwritten (unless we are talking about ritual), and they lack the regular, codified sanctions that support institutes and decrees. However, they have a similar function: in our small social communities and informal relationships they lay down expectations of behavior that facilitate the smooth-running and therefore expedite the purpose of these various bodies from the nuclear family to the shopping mall. These very circumstances which make sense of our manners mean that they cannot be constituted and implemented like laws and they should not; but we commit a serious mistake if we allow the institutionalized power of the latter to diminish our respect for the former. It is the very superficial weakness of manners that actually constitutes their crucial importance in our lives.”

Roger Scruton on fake culture: “A high culture is the self-consciousness of a society. It contains the works of art, literature, scholarship and philosophy that establish a shared frame of reference among educated people. High culture is a precarious achievement, and endures only if it is underpinned by a sense of tradition, and by a broad endorsement of the surrounding social norms. When those things evaporate, as inevitably happens, high culture is superseded by a culture of fakes.”

Digital maps and the loss of imagination: “Though those who gratefully downloaded Google Maps on their smartphones last week might disagree, there is something valuable about getting lost occasionally, even in our pixilated, endlessly interconnected world. Children of the current generation will be poorer for it if they never get to linger over a vast paper map and then try in vain to fold it back into its original shape. They will miss discovering that the world on a map is nothing if not an invitation to dream.”

The philosophical underpinnings of Western music: “Music in the Western world was shaped by a shared conception of reality so profound that it endured for some twenty-five hundred years. As a result, the means of music remained essentially the same—at least to the extent that what was called music could always have been recognized as such by its forbearers, as much as they might have disapproved of its specific style. But by the early twentieth century, this was no longer true. Music was re-conceptualized so completely that it could no longer be experienced as music, i.e. with melody, harmony, and rhythm.”

We’re back home in Ontario now, enjoying some lazy afternoons:
LazyAfternoon

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