On Listening to Lectures (De auditu), in Plutarch, Moralia, Vol. I, Loeb Classical Library No. 197 (1927)
It is not enough to learn to speak well. If we want to benefit from the words of those who intend to convey knowledge to us, we also need to learn to listen well. This, briefly, is Plutarch’s main thesis in “On Listening to Lectures”. It is quite remote from the current discourse on listening, which defines it almost exclusively as the condition of an authentic relationship to others, as this quiet action that could open us up to the subjectivity of others so that we may grasp their needs, desires and frustrations. This short essay examines listening as a “necessary condition to learning”. In other words, how shall we listen to those who know (or pretend to know) in a way that will allow us to take in what we need and thus progress in the knowledge—so dear to Plato’s followers—of truth and good? Read more
The art of being kind—or how to demonstrate that kindness, contrary to what society often claims, is not a weakness but an ethical quality. This is no easy task but Stefan Einhorn, an oncologist at Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, makes a very convincing point in his book The Art of Being Kind.
Stefan Einhorn begins by observing that kindness has a relatively bad reputation, and is often likened to weakness, simple-mindedness or just plain stupidity. Einhorn, however, defines kindness as a form of intelligence: “kindness as I understand it […] is not the fruit of stupidity but rather of common sense”. It is a quality that enables us to live according to an ethics of the heart by taking the well being of others into consideration. Kindness redefined then as “the art of being human among humans”, gives it new depth.
There is more to Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) than the American icon we know today. A printer by trade, he became famous as a successful businessman, a gifted inventor, a scientist, a civic leader, a statesman, a diplomat (he was the first American ambassador to France), and the author of several essays on matters ranging from politics to marriage or the game of chess. Now, besides having invented the lightning rod and counting among the Founding Fathers of the United States, Franklin led a personal quest into the spiritual roots of morality—an aspect of his life which is perhaps less commonly celebrated. Wary of all religious dogma, and yet deeply attached to the basic tenets of natural religion (the existence of a “Deity,” the immortality of the soul, the retribution of the good, etc.), he devoted several essays and collections of aphorisms to the issue of morality and the importance of civic and personal virtue. More than that, his passion for virtue was an integral part of his daily life, as made clear by several passages of his Autobiography.
Bahram Elahi, Paraview, 2005
The latest version (2002) of The Path of Perfection by Bahram Elahi is a profoundly reworked reissue of a book already published four times between 1976 and 1992. In addition to the content of the book, briefly reviewed below, it is the pertinence of a thought in progress, demonstrated in these successive publications (and their extension into the Foundations of Natural Spirituality series), that markedly engages the attention.