Small Men

September 12th, 1868

Dear Philip,

As you might imagine, I was quite surprised to see a notice in the Herald that you had returned to New York and opened your own practice. Congratulations! I do hope you are well otherwise. Indeed, the notice refers to a Mr. and Mrs., so double congratulations are in order. I am, myself, robust and quite sanguine over recent developments in my own practice, while having every expectation of further success here in Brooklyn. Regrettably, as of yet, I have not been so fortunate as to find my true helpmate.

I was disappointed at first that you had not been able to contact me straightaway, if only for advice, but now it has occurred to me that, sadly, you must have missed my previous letters and therein lies a better answer for your long silence and not some now forgotten slight. read more…

An Unusual Happenstance

You get to a point in life where you ought to make out a will. I’m passed that.

You get to a point in life where you wonder if any of it—all the things you did or did not do—will be remembered, and for how long. Not whether or not any of it should be remembered. That’s not for you to judge, after all. But it was important to you. That’s all.

Nevertheless, in the scheme of things, I think some of what I did is worth something, and worth remembering—especially by the grandchildren. My kids have heard it all, pretty much. Their mother has seen to that. And too, she was never good at most secrets anyway. It was always best, if there was something you wanted everyone to know about, to tell her first. But then again, you didn’t have to tell her all that much. She always knew, anyway.

So listen to this if you haven’t heard it before and listen anyway if you have. I might be able to add a thing or two.

This is the way it worked—still works, I think.

I was a freak of nature. Not like your grandmother true, but different, in my own way. Claire’s talents are just better known.

Now, if you speak too readily or too often about a circumstance like this you’ll be thought of as nuts, as in crazy, or mad, and thereafter ignored. It’s our way as a society, I think. What we don’t understand we dismiss as impossible or accidental or incidental. And what we do understand, or think we do, we quickly tire of. We give little value to the familiar.

So, there’s the trick, isn’t it? Ambiguity. Our attention is maintained then by the fact that we recognize some part of the matter but not another and it piques our curiosity. And curiosity is the best thing to pique. And in my time, I have always piqued a lot of curiosity.

Yet, outside of the immediate family, not many know. And funny thing, you can give credit to your grandmother for that as well. When Claire does not want something known, you might as well talk to a wall about it.

And it is for that reason that you might be surprised about a certain facility I have. Not an ability, mind you. I’d say, more of a predilection.

I fly. read more…

Bronze Age Collapse in the Time of Brady

The spawn of a recent article by Richard Fernandez ( is a rather gloomy extended thought on my part. It is my tendency to be gloomy, true, but that aside, I have the habit of seeing analogy in most of what I hear and read. This is like a constant echo going on in my head, a second voice not unlike my own, and often results in a stupid slack jawed look on my face when I am engaged in listening to others (either that or I’m just tired). I have even been known to drool on the page of a book in my hands—something akin for me to farting in church. But back to my thesis: The Bronze Age Collapse in our time. read more…

About American Philosophy

The occasion of this post is my recent discovery of a wonderful book by John Kaag entitled American Philosophy, a Love Story. Before I get to any criticism of the work, I should commit myself beyond the adjective ‘wonderful,’ and say that I think it is indeed truly excellent and worthwhile, but worth a great deal more to those who are interested in the genealogy of the ideas that drive our modern world. The rest of you may just get a kick out of the love story. read more…

On opening a bookshop

Opening a bookshop is akin, in some minds (my own, for instance), to opening a show—a sheerly theatrical event. There is no chance in hell that you will make much in the way of profit. There is a very slim chance of it succeeding longer than the requisite three year term limit for most new businesses. It is done out of hubris. Because you can. And you must. read more…


Children crave order in their lives. Given the seeming chaos aswirl about them, fixing on the specific edges of a particular blanket or a sequence of events that repeats regularly, like a nap time or snack time, offers them a sense of what and when. There is comfort to place and as they learn the words for the objects they encounter daily they are pleased to discover an identity to things. You can witness the joy of their recognition.

This is all very simplistic, of course. More is going on in those new minds that we can readily understand, but there is much that can be seen and heard that is common to any child, no matter the culture or circumstance. They enjoy the order of shapes and colors. And if they are given the chance, they enjoy changing the order when they are able, exerting some control over the objects about them. The more they discover they can manipulate their world, the greater joy they find in it, and the faster they learn. read more…