All posts tagged: big questions

The Truths Only the Dying Know

As winter begins to shut down on us like the white lid of a box, so too death is shutting down on my mother, bringing an end to her story. Death is something we don’t give much thought to anymore. Besides for our loved ones, we pay little attention to people once they grow to a certain age, and once death comes to knock they have already practically disappeared from our society’s conscience. Meant to spur on a belief in God, medieval reminders of death – like the memento mori in artworks — lasted through the Victorian era as moralizing aides-mémoires that life is short and the afterlife is infinite. The Ash Wednesday proclamation, “Remember, Man, that you are dust and unto dust you shall return” attempted to convey the absolute lack of power humans have within the scheme of history. With death ever looming we should think about the afterlife.

Why We Love Quotes

Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake.” She said “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” which actually means, “Let them eat brioche.” No one in Casablanca ever says, “Play it again, Sam.” Ingrid Bergman actually says, “Play it, Sam” — but that seems less lyrical, less romantic. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never wrote, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” In fact, Sherlock Holmes never said anything even close to this until the 1929 film The Return of Sherlock Holmes, but by that time, he was simply uttering what Holmes fans had long been misquoting. In Wall Street, Gordon Gekko never said, “Greed is good.” He really said, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” — but that sounds labored and unnecessarily wordy. Patrick Henry didn’t say, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” That was misquoted by his biographer William Wirt, who wanted to add a bit of embellishment, a bit of zip. And Winston Churchill, oh Churchill, well let’s just say he was famous for adapting other people’s turns of phrase. But is this even a big deal? …

Fiction, Morality, and the Science of Reading

  Books are much more. They are a way of being fully human. — Susan Sontag Anyone who has ever cozied up in a corner with a fascinating novel knows the pleasures of an afternoon spent reading. Perhaps it was when you whizzed through breezy books like the Harry Potter series or spent time (and a great deal of energy) grappling with the more serious concepts put forth by the likes of Dostoevsky or Safran Foer. Either way, finding that truly engaging novel is a beautiful moment, and is always something to be cherished. As C.S. Lewis said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” But what if reading is more than just a simple pleasure, more than something that entertains, teaches and engrosses?

Does Speaking Different Languages Give You Different Personalities?

Learn a new language and get a new soul— Czech proverb When Jacques was twelve years old, his mother began speaking to him only in French, his father addressed him only in Greek, and he was sent to an English-speaking day school in Paris. Of course, Jacques* was the same person whether he was discussing physics with his mother in Greek, economics with his father in French, or chatting about James Bond and the latest Die Hard with his friends at The American School of Paris. And yet, his personality seemed to ebb and flow. “I felt probably ruder and more aggressive in Greek, clear and concise in French, and creative and longwinded in English,” he said. “You don’t really feel the difference while you’re doing it, but you do after.”