I began blogging on this site on Jan 8, 2003: twenty years ago. I’ve posted 4,114 short essays since then. To celebrate, I have selected 70 posts that I think retain some value, and all of which relate to one issue: happiness. What does it mean? Is it attainable? Is it the best objective? If we should pursue it, how?
I have edited, trimmed, and organized these 70 posts into a book, entitled Cuttings, that I’m making available here as a draft or version 1.0. I hope to revisit and expand this draft in the years ahead (which is one reason that I am not seeking a publisher for it).
You could download a PDF version of Cuttings, click to view an un-editable Google doc, or download an .epub version, which looks better in readers like iBook and Kindle. If you want an .epub version emailed to a regular email address or directly to a Kindle, please enter that address here.
Because Cuttings assembles short essays that address closely related topics without explicit connective arguments, it resembles–in its genre, although certainly not its quality–the aphoristic works of authors like Nietzsche and Wittgenstein. It fact, it begins with a mini-essay about why aphorisms are apt for describing the “unwedgeable and gnarled oak” of human nature.
Very few of the entries are original, and some could be described as advocating cliches. In numbers 27-29, I reflect on the moral pitfalls of striving to be original and the benefits of absorbing well-worn ideas.
Most of the entries wrestle with texts in some way. Michel de Montaigne gets the most frequent and positive attention. I am happy to see him play that role, although he is a better guide to individual happiness than political justice–a topic for other books. I also frequently address the Hellenistic schools (Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Skepticism) and classical Indian authors whom we classify as Buddhists or, in one case, possibly a Jain. These authors from the Mediterranean and India practiced what Pierre Hadot called “Philosophy as a Way of Life”: that is, philosophy as a set of meditative practices closely related to abstract arguments. I treat selected modern philosophers in a similar way–whether or not they would appreciate that treatment.
Many of the remaining entries comment on poems. Ovid, Keats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Anne Carson are among the poets I consider at length.
As always, comments–including critical ones–are appreciated and are really the best reward.