Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Food for thought

Mafia and food. What is their fascination with food? I have seen so many pictures of mafia bosses and soldiers eating their food with so much concentration and purity. Coincidence?

  • They just love food - like everyone else?
  • Moment they are not at work?
  • Russian roulette? Risky - the food could be poisoned?
  • Childhood memories? Remembers them of the days - before they entered the mafia - they were at home not being afraid they could be murdered any moment?
  • Something to do with 'blut und boden'? They do their business always on a certain territory (italian 'mandamento'). They love home made products, more than Others, just because they fight with their lives - day in and day out - for the territory/ ground/ 'boden'/ homeground they feel entiteled to?
  • ... or?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Will You Go?

13 days left! Only 13 days left for visiting @VonderandBloom's 'Around the World in 80 Days Tour' at Schiphol Airport (Amsterdam).  I would love to go and see those two girls playing their lovely music: Brilliance of You and Little Dreamer.
Would love to but I think I never will. For me there's no need to visit Schiphol this year. Next to that there is no urgency for me right now.

'What to do next?' must be one of the most puzzling questions of our time and age. Work. Kids. Partner. Book. Film. Concert. Meditation. Hobbies. So much to do. So much distraction. And still only 24 hours in a day.

Question: 'Visit VonderandBloom at Schiphol somewhere in the next 2 weeks?' What to do according to Epicurus (341-270 BC) and Stephen Covey (1932-)?

Epicurus: Satisfy Your Natural Needs
According to Epicurus we should strive for natural needs. When these needs are satisfied we should stop striving. Is visiting VonderandBloom a natural need? Is friendship, listening to music a natural need? I can't tell. Can you?

Covey: Put First Things First
Our tasks  should be based on importance rather than urgency according to Covey. Evaluate whether your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you towards goals and enrich the various roles and relationships of you. Prioritization is the key to the success of any business or in any walk of life. Is visiting VonderandBloom important? If I visit them recreational with my wife or a friend I would build on a relation (Q2). Or is it just trivia or pleasure (Q4)? It's all up to me. It's all up to you. Isn't it? Isn't it always? 

Sources. Epicurus: natural needs.  Covey: first things first and time matrix.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

He was an outsider

A couple of weeks after I wrote my blog 'River crossing' I wrote an e-mail to professor Fik Meijer (University of Amsterdam). I asked him "Why did  Julius Caesar  cross the Rubicon and wanted to stay at the top in old Rome and was not satisfied that his consulship finally ended?" He wrote that there is not an easy (in dutch "niet zo maar") answer on this question. He pointed me at the biographies on Caesar of Luciano Canfora and Christian Meier.

Best biography on Caesar (100-44 BC)
Last week I finished reading Christian Meier's 'Ceasar. A biography' (1982). Bookjacket "Of the maybe half a dozen books on Ceasar that are worth reading, Meier's is the best."

Points of interest in Meier's biography on Julius Caesar:
  • Caesar's world was dominated by two principles: care (latin 'cura') and competition. This accorded with his thinking in term of honour (latin 'dignitas') and fame. (p. 449)
  • In Caesar's eyes no one existed but himself and his opponents. It was all an interpersonal game. He classified people as supporters, opponents or neutrals. (p. 359)
  • Compared to his aristocratic senatorial peers Caesar was an outsider and alien. (p. 358)
  • In Caesar's time the old institutions, designed for a city state, had been "overstretched", as Rome now ruled over a world-wide empire. In a way the Senate didn't recognise that their institutions were out of date and had to be transformed. The ancient thinking about social structures was static. (p. 12, 50, 195, 357, 361, 479, 483 and 491)
  • For Caesar the senators were mainly Sullans: the heirs of the winning party of the civil war. Not representatives of the whole commonwealth. He could only see them as selfish instruments of the interplay of forces. Caesar had no feeling for the power of institutions to guarantee law and security. (p. 358-9, 449)
  • Civil war, by crossing the Rubicon:
    • Caesar was not in principle opposed to the Roman order. He acted against it because he put his own interests above the rules of Rome. (p. 219)
    • He wanted to free the Roman people, Senate from the small clique of Sullans. (p. 358-360 and 364)
    • Must be an "expression of the greatness" of Caesar's personality. Throughout his career he displayed an extraordinary ability and strength of mind, staying power and steadfastness. (p. 362 and 483)
    • Plea for his personal right, for the honour he was owed on the basis on his achievements. It was Caesar's claim for honour against the defence of the Republic.
  • After he won the civil war Caesar was not able to remove from the scene because he had not eliminated his opponents. He had to defend himself and consolidate his position. (p. 431)

Crossing Rubicon? Personal honour more important than Republic
The career of Caesar can't be understood without Sulla (138 BC - 78 BC). Sulla was the first Roman general who crossed the Rubicon for a march (91 and 87 BC) on Rome with his army. After his victory Sulla eliminated his opponents. Caesar belonged to the circle of Sulla's victims but relatives obtained a pardon for him. It made him an outsider.
Caesar crossed on his turn the Rubicon (49 BC) after the Senate refused him the honours he owed after he conquered Gaul. For him the Senate was a biased set or clique of opponents who refused to him the honours he felt entitled to. His personal honour (latin 'dignitas) was more important than the Republic. The Republic was low on his list of priorities.

Old Rome's static social structures
I read this biography because I want(ed) to understand why Caesar was so selfish. In a way I want to understand why our democracy is or should be worth fighting for.
The ancient roman world is strange to us. It's a world of Others. For Rome the social structures were static. And they didn't notice that themselves. And for us? We know that we have to adapt. We know that we have to fit social structures and conditions if it's urgent. We know - don't we?

Monday, May 9, 2011

You and I

It's the nothing special, routine things that string the days. And build relations. Small and ordinary things, words, looks, smells and touches. Sharing a thought. Silence. Tell why you are frustrated. Sing a song. Walking hand in hands. Exchange a few little kisses. Look via the shopwindow at you. Buy something sweet. Give a compliment. Sipping coffee from the same cup as you.