Nick, I’m glad we share the same regard for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I wish I could remember who it was who led me to Plato’s new Academy. (I tried commenting on your blog, you know, a few times, but each time I get a funny message, telling me to quit fooling around and go on my merry way.)
Angela, many thanks for responding to the “Humanae Vitae” column. I tried to write it from the perspective of faithful disobedience. I got a ton of letters in the mailbox, most of them long, thoughtful responses. I was bowled over, in part because they (the letter writers) knew more than I did. Several wrote in the spirit, shall we say, of fraternal correction—-but except for one letter they (the letters) were all polite, patient, even-tempered. It was rather a different experience.
Mong, thank you for posting the link. Your insights on torture are a little hard on mass media, but I think I agree with many if not most of the points you raised. (Is that good or bad?)
And Hao-wei: Great question. I like Scott Fitzgerald’s one-line advice on writing because, at least in the eyes of a man privileged enough to write for a living, it rings true. “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” I’ve tried this exercise in workshops and classrooms. I ask the participants or the students to explain what the piece of advice means, and the answers they come up with—-writing is an immersion, writing has a beginning and an end, writing is about surviving, writing is a skill that can be learned, writing is entering another world, writing sharpens the senses, writing is a task, writing is a stunt, writing involves pleasure, writing requires discipline, and so on and so forth—-make the ringing last a whole lot longer.