Classical Sunday: By the Brook

Welcome May! Nature’s music once more on this beautiful Sunday morning in our neck of the woods.

Spring in the woods.  Is there a better place to be on earth?

We are indeed people of the woods, with our families coming out of the hills of the Appalachian and the Harz mountains.  Old hills…

This is what the little water fall looks like this weekend.

Enjoy your first May weekend.

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Herbal Household Remedies: Reconsidering Over-Socializing

‘Social distancing’ appears to be a scary thing for many.

No herb talk today – again! – because I have something else on my mind.  In these days of virus fear and quarantine, people are told to practice ‘social distancing’, even that social distancing is something they might have to continue practicing after the immediate threat of this virus has passed.  It seems that the term ‘social distancing’ has become something dreaded, as though life were over when one cannot freely socialize (or travel, for that matter) anymore.

Maybe instead of dreading what is to come – a very unhealthy attitude indeed – we can ponder what was because we do know what was, whereas what is to be is altogether speculative.  In other words, instead of fretting about ‘social distancing’, ponder the amount of socializing that people have become accustomed to.

Is it truly necessary to spend every waking moment in the company of ‘friends’, physical or virtual?  Or indeed, in the company of people other than your immediate family?  How about enjoying some quiet time all by yourself?  Do you even know, let alone have any control over what is going on inside your head?  It is the only thing you truly COULD have control over, you know, if you just put the effort into it.  How much time do you normally spend pondering things, or reading for meditative purposes rather than entertainment or education?  Any at all?  This time of ‘social distancing’ could be a wonderful time for turning inwards, if only you dared.

At least, let this time of ‘social distancing’ be a time to reconsider the over-socializing that has become the new normal.  Social distancing is what used to be normal.  Only then, it was called discretion, indicating a cautious reserve in word and deed.

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Herbal Household Remedies: Comfort

The Stoics knew: Being bothered is unhealthy.

Reading about Sebastian Kneipp with his cold showers and cold wading exercises probably made some of you, esteemed readers, shiver.  And rightly so:  Shivering is part of the benefit!  So today, I would like to elaborate on this a little, more precisely on (dis-)comfort, and your comfort zone.

Before you turn away bored or disgusted:  I am not talking about comfort zone in contrast to ‘where the magic/money/success/life’ is, as in, everything that’s worth achieving lies outside of your comfort zone.  Surely you have heard enough about all that.  I am talking about your tolerance for physical discomfort, particularly with regards to temperature and surfaces.

The Stoics already knew:  If you subject yourself to discomfort every once in a while, voluntarily, your tolerance for this discomfort will increase and your comfort zone will grow, in other words, you won’t be bothered by discomfort so easily.  Too much comfort makes us soft and unhealthy; a bit of discomfort makes us more resilient: a good thing.

Concerning cold water, Kneipp operated on a similar principle.  If you learn to endure and even enjoy cold temperatures for short periods of time, your personal comfort zone with regards to temperature will expand.  The result:  The cold will not bother you as much anymore.  After all, if we lived with nature and did not try to avoid the outside at all costs, we would experience a lot of different temperatures and be used to them all to a degree.  Living in an evenly ‘climatized’ environment and avoiding nature as much as possible has very little to do with how we were designed to live and is, hence, unhealthy.

Another example that points in the same direction concerns how we sit and sleep.  If your bed as well as all your furniture is soft and deep, you will quickly become much like the Princess on the Pea:  Every little discomfort will bother you.  Sitting on hard chairs, preferably the kind without back or arm rests, throwing out your couch in favor of furniture that does not encourage slouching, and sleeping on a hard bed or on the floor every once in a while, especially when you do not have to, will improve your posture, strengthen your muscles and increase your tolerance for physically uncomfortable situations.  Feeling comfortable leads to peace of mind (and good breathing!).  It pays to broaden your physical comfort zone.

The Stoics valued above all their peace of mind, their inner tranquility.  Being bothered by such trivia as uncomfortable chairs or a cold breeze was among the first things that needed to be overcome if a joyful mindset in all situations was the goal.  They knew what they were doing.

talb on stoicism

The Thanksgiving in Boston Harbor

Your prayers have crossed the centuries wide / To this Thanksgiving Day!

… and a Happy Thanksgiving to y’all.

The Thanksgiving in Boston Harbor

By Hezekiah Butterworth

“PRAISE ye the Lord!” The psalm to-day
Still rises on our ears,
Borne from the hills of Boston Bay
Through five times fifty years,
When Winthrop’s fleet from Yarmouth crept
Out to the open main,
And through the widening waters swept,
In April sun and rain.
“Pray to the Lord with fervent lips,”
The leader shouted, “pray;”
And prayer arose from all the ships
As faded Yarmouth Bay.

They passed the Scilly Isles that day,
And May-days came, and June,
And thrice upon the ocean lay
The full orb of the moon.
And as that day, on Yarmouth Bay,
Ere England sunk from view,
While yet the rippling Solent lay
In April skies of blue,
“Pray to the Lord with fervent lips,”
Each morn was shouted, “pray;”
And prayer arose from all the ships,
As first in Yarmouth Bay;

Blew warm the breeze o’er Western seas,
Through Maytime morns, and June,
Till hailed these souls the Isles of Shoals,
Low ’neath the summer moon;
And as Cape Ann arose to view,
And Norman’s Woe they passed,
The wood-doves came the white mists through,
And circled round each mast.
“Pray to the Lord with fervent lips,”
Then called the leader, “pray;”
And prayer arose from all the ships,
As first in Yarmouth Bay.

Above the sea the hill-tops fair—
God’s towers—began to rise,
And odors rare breathe through the air,
Like balms of Paradise.
Through burning skies the ospreys flew,
And near the pine-cooled shores
Danced airy boat and thin canoe,
To flash of sunlit oars.
“Pray to the Lord with fervent lips,”
The leader shouted, “pray!”
Then prayer arose, and all the ships
Sailed into Boston Bay.

The white wings folded, anchors down,
The sea-worn fleet in line,
Fair rose the hills where Boston town
Should rise from clouds of pine;
Fair was the harbor, summit-walled,
And placid lay the sea.
“Praise ye the Lord,” the leader called;
“Praise ye the Lord,” spake he.
“Give thanks to God with fervent lips,
Give thanks to God to-day,”
The anthem rose from all the ships,
Safe moored in Boston Bay.

“Praise ye the Lord!” Primeval woods
First heard the ancient song,
And summer hills and solitudes
The echoes rolled along.
The Red Cross flag of England blew
Above the fleet that day,
While Shawmut’s triple peaks in view
In amber hazes lay.
“Praise ye the Lord with fervent lips,
Praise ye the Lord to-day,”
The anthem rose from all the ships
Safe moored in Boston Bay.

The Arabella leads the song—
The Mayflower sings below,
That erst the Pilgrims bore along
The Plymouth reefs of snow.
Oh! never be that psalm forgot
That rose o’er Boston Bay,
When Winthrop sang, and Endicott,
And Saltonstall, that day:
“Praise ye the Lord with fervent lips,
Praise ye the Lord to-day;”
And praise arose from all the ships,
Like prayers in Yarmouth Bay.

That psalm our fathers sang we sing,
That psalm of peace and wars,
While o’er our heads unfolds its wing
The flag of forty stars.
And while the nation finds a tongue
For nobler gifts to pray,
’T will ever sing the song they sung
That first Thanksgiving Day:
“Praise ye the Lord with fervent lips,
Praise ye the Lord to-day;”
So rose the song from all the ships,
Safe moored in Boston Bay.

Our fathers’ prayers have changed to psalms,
As David’s treasures old
Turned, on the Temple’s giant arms,
To lily-work of gold.
Ho! vanished ships from Yarmouth’s tide,
Ho! ships of Boston Bay,
Your prayers have crossed the centuries wide
To this Thanksgiving Day!
We pray to God with fervent lips,
We praise the Lord to-day,
As prayers arose from Yarmouth ships,
But psalms from Boston Bay.

Link:  Into the woods: how one man survived alone in the wilderness for 27 years

“Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius.”  Sir Edward Gibbon

“Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius.”  ~Sir Edward Gibbon

Knight said that he couldn’t accurately describe what it felt like to spend such an immense period of time alone. Silence does not translate into words. “It’s complicated,” he said. “Solitude bestows an increase in something valuable. I can’t dismiss that idea. Solitude increased my perception. But here’s the tricky thing: when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. There was no audience, no one to perform for. There was no need to define myself. I became irrelevant.

”The dividing line between himself and the forest, Knight said, seemed to dissolve. His isolation felt more like a communion. “My desires dropped away. I didn’t long for anything. I didn’t even have a name. To put it romantically, I was completely free.”

Source: The Guardian

Stoic Principles In Short

Since Stoicism is primarily practical, a list of its basic principles can help to stay focused.

On Massimo’s How to Be a Stoic site, you can find this morning

“a list of short phrases summarizing key Stoic teachings, to keep handy for everyday practice. Below is the list (which, I’m sure, could easily be expanded), organized according to Epictetus’ three disciplines of Desire, Action and Assent, with each phrase accompanied by a sourced quotation and a brief explanation.”


Since Stoicism is primarily practical, a list like this can help to stay focused.  Had over and have a look.  Incidentally, a link to a printable pdf version of the list (8 pages) is conveniently provided there as well.

Enlightened Hedonism

After our experience yesterday afternoon, I’d add Amish to the quote below, but also make sure not to limit the list to “Judeo-Christian” denominational flavors.  Buddhists, pagans, and secular humanists scurry & scramble equally in their endless quest for that elusive more as well, and they are every bit as “religious.”

My oldest son was recently asked “don’t you want more?” when he questioned the value of returning to university to finish his degree.  What a wonderful opportunity for the father in me!  My response to him was “more what?”  More gazmos and gitdgets?  More debt?  An increase in servitude?  That pursuit never ends.  I’d prefer more freedom.  In my philosophy, less is more.

See, I had the advantage of growing up in a home with scarce financial resources, and blessed to have never been fooled into thinking that more in itself is a valid solution to the challenges associated with living the human experience.

“…although Lutherans, Baptists, Jews, Mormons, and Catholics hold different religious views, they are remarkably alike when encountered outside of church or synagogue. They hold similar jobs and have similar career ambitions. They live in similar homes, furnished in a similar manner. And they lust to the same degree for whatever consumer products are currently in vogue.”  ~William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

On self-control, and what the Stoics really thought about emotions

Great post about controlling negative emotions on “How to Be a Stoic”

Great post on controlling negative emotions on “How to Be a Stoic”.  Here’s the conclusion:

“Do you know why we have not the power to attain this Stoic ideal? … It is because we are in love with our vices; we uphold them and prefer to make excuses for them rather than shake them off. … The reason is unwillingness, the excuse, inability.”

If you are ready to face your own excuses and start doing things differently, head over to Massimo’s for a solid dose of encouragement:


Seneca to Lucilius: on self-control, and what the Stoics really thought about emotions — How to Be a Stoic

Step 1, Step 2

Reason shows the soul the delusion of overrating worldly things, while faith teaches what alone can satisfy its cravings.

Reason shows the soul the delusion of overrating worldly things, while faith teaches what alone can satisfy its cravings.

Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle

Kreuzgang featured

The thirst of the soul cannot be slaked with material things because it is not of this material world.  It takes something of an altogether different nature than fame and fortune, the natural enemies of tranquility, to satisfy the cravings of that which has its home in the spiritual realm.


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