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Posts Tagged ‘Tolstoy

“It is far better to foresee even without certainty than not to foresee at all”*…

 

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Humankind is facing unprecedented revolutions, all our old stories are crumbling and no new story has so far emerged to replace them. How can we prepare ourselves and our children for a world of such unprecedented transformations and radical uncertainties? A baby born today will be thirty-something in 2050. If all goes well, that baby will still be around in 2100, and might even be an active citizen of the 22nd century. What should we teach that baby that will help him or her survive and flourish in the world of 2050 or of the 22nd century? What kind of skills will he or she need in order to get a job, understand what is happening around them and navigate the maze of life?…

“As the pace of change increases, the very meaning of being human is likely to mutate and physical and cognitive structures will melt”: “Yuval Noah Harari on what the year 2050 has in store for humankind.”

* Henri Poincare, The Foundations of Science

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As we agree with the Marquis of Halifax that “the best qualification of a prophet is to have a good memory,” we might send insightful birthday greetings to Leo Tolstoy; he was born on this date in 1828 (O.S.; September 9, N.S.).  Widely regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time, he first achieved literary acclaim in his twenties with his semi-autobiographical trilogy, ChildhoodBoyhood, and Youth, and Sevastopol Sketches, based on his experiences in the Crimean War.  But he is surely best remembered for two of his novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction.

220px-L.N.Tolstoy_Prokudin-Gorsky source

 

Written by LW

August 28, 2018 at 1:01 am

“All profound distraction opens certain doors”*…

 

We are used to hearing that attention is good for us, and that bad things happen when we are inattentive. On the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, Rebecca Solnit wrote of a hypercapitalist culture 
that had helped to create a “pandemic attention deficit disorder.” But the culture’s vocabularies for attentiveness are not exactly uncapitalist (we pay or invest attention, spend time, take stock). In The Attention Economy, Thomas Davenport and John Beck sought to counteract “organizational ADD” in corporations, and it seems reasonable to assume that the $100,000 advertising campaign that drew attention to their book was, as it were, “good for business.” This particular economy shows no signs of shrinking; last year MIT Press published The Distracted Mind, in which the coauthors (a psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist) offered strategies for changing our behavior so that we might function more successfully “in our personal lives, on the road, in classrooms, and” — last but not least — “in the workplace.” The book concluded with the hope that “a neuro cross-fit training” program might soon be developed to minimize distractions.

People have been in training for attention for some time. “Attend upon the Lord without distraction,” Paul advised in Corinthians. Darwin would later stress the importance of attendances less spiritual and altogether more adaptive. “Hardly any faculty is more important for the intellectual progress of man than the power of Attention,” he observed in The Descent of Man, “animals clearly manifest this power, as when a cat watches by a hole and prepares to spring on its prey.” This watchfulness is certainly useful, but it may need to be watched; Darwin adds that “wild animals sometimes become so absorbed when thus engaged, that they may be easily approached.” So perhaps it’s hazardous for me to pay too much attention; as an easily-approached attender, I may myself become prey. And there still appears to be some confusion about what kind of attention is the right kind; computer games have often been seen as lamentable distractions, and as contributing factors to poor attention levels, but that was before researchers began lauding the superior attentional capacity of those who played them.

These complications notwithstanding, distraction has tended to
 get bad press…

Matthew Bevis on the rewards of the tangential, the digressive, and the dreamy: “In Search of Distraction.”

* Julio Cortázar, Around the Day in Eighty Worlds

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As we let our minds wander, we might recall that it was on this date in 1855 that Ivan Tugenev and Leo Tolstoy first met.  Earlier that year, Turgenev had written to Tolstoy, who had already published Childhood and Boyhood, but was at the time fighting at the front in the Crimean War: “Enough! There’s a limit to everything!  You have proved that you are no coward, but your instrument is the pen and not the sabre!”

Tolstoy, who admired Turgenev immensely, took those words to heart.  On this day 162 years ago, he appeared on Turgenev’s doorstep in Saint Petersburg.  The writers embraced each other in Russian style and Tolstoy stayed for a month… the beginning of a tempestuous but loyal friendship that lasted until Turgenev’s death in 1883. [source]

left to right (seated), Goncharov, Turgenev, Druzhinin, Ostrovsky; standing, Tolstoy, Grigorovich (1856)

source

 

Written by LW

November 21, 2017 at 1:01 am

After only 145 years: overnight success!…

In the “Emerging Authors” section at Target: Anna Karenina, by that young upstart, Leo Tolstoy.  (Readers will note, as well, the inclusion of Julian Barnes and Diane Ackerman…  as for the Jane Austen Marriage Manual, it is presumably by an actual emerging author…)

[TotH to The Consumerist, from whence, the photo]

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As we fulminate on the fragility of fame, we might note that it was on this date in 1635 that Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII, established L’Académie Française, the oldest of the five académies of L’Institut de France.   Its forty members– almost exclusively writers who are known, after election, as immortels– are the highest authority on all matters pertaining to the French language… a group to whom Tolstoy might well have been admitted had he not suffered the ignominy of being born elsewhere and writing in a different language; individuals who are not citizens can be admitted, but rarely are.  (The Divine Jane would likely not have fared well even had she been born in France:  the first woman member, Marguerite Yourcenar, wasn’t elected until 1980.)

L’Institut de France building

 source

Written by LW

January 2, 2013 at 1:01 am

(Big)foot in the mouth…

Picture of a Ghillie suit like the one worn by Randy Lee Tenley in his attempts at creating a stir of Bigfoot sightings.

44-year-old Randy Lee Tenley of Kalispell was apparently trying to provoke reports of a Bigfoot sighting in northwestern Montana; the Montana Highway Patrol reports that he was wearing a military style “Ghillie suit” and standing in the right-hand lane of U.S. Highway 93 south of Kalispell when he was hit by a car Sunday night. A second car hit him as he lay in the roadway.  Tenley was pronounced dead.

“Alcohol may have been a factor,” Trooper Jim Schneider told press. “Impairment is up in the air.”

Read the full story in the Daily News.

[TotH to NextDraft and friend KL]

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As we muse on monstrous motives, we might recall that it was on this date in 1864 that Count Leo Tolstoy, author and mystical anarchist, was seized by a panic attack in a country inn– an episode that became the basis for “Notes of a Madman.”

 source

Written by LW

September 3, 2012 at 1:01 am

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