Archive for October, 2009

A life well lived?

The film Synecdoche, New York has been released on DVD recently and I highly recommend it. I managed to catch the film while it was still on at cinemas and I was very impressed. Written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, who wrote Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it is characteristically innovative and unusual. The film has polarised audiences and this doesn’t surprise me. Synecdoche, New York has a difficult theme and no clear resolution. Running throughout the tale of one man’s attempt to create his lifetime masterpiece is the context of death and the threat of obsolescence. It is a very powerful tale of human struggle and mortal frailty with the underlying questions: What has he done with his life? Was it a life worth living?

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The pleasures of bad arguments

I have recently moved to a new neighbourhood and while taking advantage of the free wifi at my local library I also took the opportunity to dig around in their shelves. There I made the pleasant discovery of a small and somewhat random philosophy section where I unearthed a recent offering from the British philosopher Julian Baggini. Baggini is a member of the Humanist Philosophers Group and one whose work I had not yet read so I decided to check him out, literally. The book I selected was The Duck that Won the Lottery: and 99 Other Bad Arguments published in 2008 by Granta.

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A life based on reason and compassion

One of my favourite ways to define Humanism is to say that it’s the belief that we can live good lives based on reason and compassion. The British Humanist Association also refers to ‘shared human values’ which adds another dimension to the discussion. While that’s a nice succinct description of the philosophy I use to live my life, it begs the question of how one lives a life based on reason and compassion. We’d all like to think that we’re perfectly rational and reasonable individuals with a clear idea of where to draw the lines but how should I hone my reasoning skills and open my mind to the perspectives and experiences of others?

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Ritual for a new mother

Recently, I was reading Aya of Yop City by Marguerite Abouet. It is the second in a series of graphic novels telling the story of a young woman, Aya, growing up on the Ivory Coast during the late 1970s. The joys and worries of the characters are themes universal among people growing up anywhere but the pages are rich with the colours, styles and sounds of the author’s childhood home. As an extra in the back of the book, Abouet includes some recipes, tips and explanations relating to the story and its environs. One part of this is an explanation of the attitude to raising children and the ritual that happens when a child is born. I thought the ritual sounded like a great example of a non-religious cultural ritual or ceremony so I’ve included an excerpt below.

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