I spent the afternoon gardening. Last Monday it snowed, so this might have been foolish. But it’s almost the end of April, and I just decided I would act like it was Spring, whether the weather thought so or not. It was a nice day for it. Cloudy at first and then the sun came out. Last fall, I raked leaves into the flower beds, so this spring I raked some up and tried to turn some of the beds over to keep the nutrients from the leaves. I bought flowers and planted some in the ground and put others in pots and put them along the porch steps. I put some new plants in the garden bed in the back and spent some good time with my hands in the dirt.
I feel satisfied. But I’m wary. Last year I also planted things. Some plants returned. Others did not. I brought a bunch of plants into the house through the winter and was happy that most of them made it, but my hanging plants especially made it outside in the sun in the nick of time. Planting, I was thinking, requires hope.
I’ve been teaching a seminar on Hannah Arendt this semester. Much of the class has been working through her Life of the Mind treatment of the faculties of the mind, first of thinking, then of willing, and now, judging. The judging part didn’t make it into Life of the Mind, but she indicated she had plans for such a section and a seminar she gave on Kant’s political philosophy that focuses on how judgment is a political project, edited by Ronald Beiner, was published in 1982, soon after her death. In the first volume on “Thinking,” Arendt describes the project of thinking as a dialogue with oneself, a dialogue that she describes as one between an actor and spectator. In the second volume on “Willing,” she suggests that the will is what we call the faculty that begins something new. She spends considerable time addressing the critiques of the will in the history of philosophy and the ways that the will is saved by some thinkers only to have very little latitude or effect on human life, as when Epictetus counsels to will only that which you can control, which is to say, well, very little. And Nietzsche makes of the will the capacity to reaffirm what one might have regretted of the past in a way that serves to overcome the regret, if not the past. Arendt concludes by describing the will as that which allows for a new order, but she does not dismiss the great difficulty if the impossibility of a world in which chains of causes determine what is to follow. The will is what we call the specifically human capacity to break the chain. For something that was not expected, not determined by a previous series of events to occur, that is to say, for human beings to act. Read more
I just returned from a weekend camping at McCormick’s Creek State Park in Owen County, Indiana. The first night was likely the hottest and most humid night of the summer. The second night it rained and thundered. It was likely the weekend with the worst weather of the summer. Still, we had a good time. This trip was the first time we went camping in Indiana, and so first time at McCormick’s Creek. I wished I had had some of this information before going and was surprised that I couldn’t find some of this online.
So first, the primitive campsites are quite decent. There are pretty regular water pumps around the loop. The best sites seem to me to be the farthest ones on the outside of the ring, furthest south on the map (213, 214, 215, 218). The sound carries through the ring pretty easily and quiet hours are not really enforced. It was difficult for me to sleep because I could hear people talking late — like until 2 or later. Sites from 190-202 are on the paved road and might be more exposed to noise from cars but seem more isolated from one another. There is an outhouse on the top of the ring. I read that there are showers at the electric sites, but I couldn’t see that on the map and didn’t go looking (there are showers at the pool, which you have to pay $3 to enter, but the entry fee lasts for the whole day and you can come and go). Some sites do say that the bathrooms at the electric ring have showers, so I guess you could drive over. Read more
I just got back from a run outside. It’s 25 degrees. I would so much rather run outside, if it’s say, over 20 degrees, than run on a treadmill. Last winter was the first winter I got serious about running outside and it was awesome-sauce, as the Greeks say. There’s just something about being outside that spurs me on, while to be honest, it’s easier for me to give up on a treadmill. And even though I’ve been running 3-7 days a week for about twenty years (which you can read about in Pt. 1 of this series), I still give up sometimes. Especially on treadmills. There’s two things I don’t like about treadmills. The first is associated with one of the greatest fears every runner has: forgive me for being graphic, the treadmill makes my bowels seem looser and the possibility losing control of them more looming than running outside. I can’t really explain why this is the case, but it does make me feel like that. I speculate that it’s something about the way the belt gives in, nah, ok, I really don’t know. But anyway, that happens. I don’t like it.
The other thing about treadmills is that I don’t feel like I can adapt my pace and my stride to whatever is happening with my body in the moment on a treadmill. That work of adapting my body and paying attention to my body to make microadjustments as I run became important to me after reading two books, Chris McDougall’s Born to Run and Matt Fitzgerald’s Brain Training for Runners. While McDougall’s book gives the larger anthropological and evolutionary account of why that’s important, Fitzgerald’s gives the specific advice about how to do it well. Read more
Let me just recommend first, philosophy conferences in Vancouver; second, starting your conference off with a good night’s sleep and a long run in the beauty of nature. I ran 11 miles through Stanley Park and then Vancouver this morning where I’m attending the Pacific American Philosophical Assoication (APA). As I ran, the view changed from the seawall and evergreens to mountains. It was beautiful. It was stunning. I thought of C.S.Lewis’s claim that beauty produces a need to share it with someone else. I was out there, running through Stanley Park, thinking, this is amazing, do the others not know about this? I need to capture this so they can see it. I kicked myself for not taking my phone with me.
And it was in that moment where I recognized my desire not just to share it, but to capture it that I was brought up short. I was running without any music or podcasts in my ears so I had plenty of time to think this through. It struck me as I continued to run and to think that beauty exceeds apprehension, not just, as we know from Kant, because it exceeds the boundaries of the concept, but also, because it cannot be had. It cannot be owned. It cannot become a commodity that I can have that shows something good about me on the basis of having seen it. I reached out to grasp this beauty and I could not hold on to it. I couldn’t master it. But I wanted to. Beauty is liberating because it disrupts the drive to mastery.
Image above does not do justice, give the proper due, to the beauty of my morning. Taken from the balcony of my room.
We just got back from a week in Yellowstone. We stayed in cabins in the Cinnabar Basin right outside of Gardiner, Montana along the Yellowstone River with my husband’s parents, sister and brother-in-law, their three kids, his aunt and uncle, their two kids and their families and one of his cousin’s husband’s parents. For twenty-one separate wills vying for satisfaction and recognition, it was a remarkably pleasant week. Read more