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Will Buckingham's Wayward Things

Issue 10: Autumn 2020

An Irregular Bulletin of the Curious, Wayward & Intriguing
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Welcome to the autumn 2020 edition of Will Buckingham's Wayward Things. Suddenly, the year is almost at an end, and I'm wondering where the time has gone. But life here in Sofia is good, and since my last newsletter, it's been a busy couple of months of finishing up on old projects, and planning new ones.

In this edition of the newsletter, there's a link to my new philosophy project, and also a link to a piece I've recently published on the BBC about the city of Plovdiv in Bulgaria (from where the guardian angel/scribe above also comes). There are some interesting things from here and there — Japanese ghosts, snakes and ladders and the northern lights. And I've newly translated another Chinese poem, this time by the Tang dynasty poet Sun Shi. Finally, as usual, there are some recommendations for things to read or listen to.

I hope that you are bearing up wherever you are. And do shoot me an email if you want to say hello.

All the best, Will

Plovdiv: The Art of Making Space on BBC Travel

I've just had a piece published on the BBC Travel website on the city of Plovdiv, and the untranslatable local slang word, 'aylyak', which means something like 'the art of taking it easy,' or 'the art of making space.'

I went to Plovdiv a couple of months back to talk to locals, artists, anthropologists and street cats, and to learn from the best about the cultivation of productive idleness.

You can read the full piece here.

A New Philosophy Project

Over the past few weeks, I've been busy behind the scenes setting up a new philosophy project. I love teaching philosophy, and have always had the feeling that philosophy flourishes best when conducted informally. And this brings me to my new philosophy website, LookingforWisdom.com
The idea is this: to provide regular philosophy bulletins to subscribers by email. All you need to do is sign up as a subscriber, and you'll get emails landing in your inbox with my ongoing series of 'philosopher files', giving the low-down on history's greatest (or at least strangest) minds.

Alongside the free content, from January 2021, I'll also be running ongoing philosophy courses for the enthusiasts. The way it will work is as below:

For subscribers

(Free forever)

  • Regular free updates by email
  • 'Philosopher files' bringing history's greatest minds to your inbox.
  • Free forever.

For Members

($12 per month or $108 per year)

  • Ongoing philosophy courses (six seven-week courses a year)
  • Join a friendly philosophy community.
  • Guided group discussion and further reading.

From around the web

Here are a few of the things that I have stumbled on over the previous few months. Snakes, ladders, fox spirits and the flickering fires on the ceiling of the world.

Snakes, Ladders and the Vagaries of Karma

This piece by my friend Souvik Mukherjee over in Kolkata caught my eye recently. It is about snakes and ladders, and the strange journey it has taken on its way from India to Western Europe. Originally a way of explaining the complexities of Hindu theories of karma, as it headed west, it transmuted into a parlour game for children. Read the article here.

Aoko Masuda on the Female Ghosts of Japan

Here's a wonderful essay from Electric Lit on the female ghosts, spirits and monsters of Japan, by Aoko Masuda, and translated by Polly Barton.

"Okiku planted inside me the awareness that horror is all around us in our every day lives... Of all the ghosts living inside me, she’s always number one."

Capturing the Northern Lights

I love the Public Domain Review. And this piece is particularly good. It's about the efforts of artists down the ages to capture the northern lights on the page — what Louise B. Young memorably calls "firelight flickering on the ceiling of the world"

And another Chinese Drinking Poem...

And as a bonus, here's another Chinese drinking poem. I've just re-translated this one. It's by Lady Sun of Lechang, a relatively little-known Tang dynasty poet. The only account of her life and writing appears in a book by the ninth century writer Sun Guangxian. Although a prolific poet, she one day announced she was going to burn her poems, because the “power of the imagination” was not a matter for women. Then she consigned her works to the flames. Thankfully three of her poems survived. This one is lovely, and makes me sad for the poems that are lost.

Thank you for the wine...

Thank you for the pure wine
you sent me in my worrying:
clear and sweet,
it tastes like truth.

How strange — this green window,
this windy, moonlit night.
My cup sways, it trembles
in expectation of spring.




What I'm Reading

Mainly, I confess, I've been reading and rereading my forthcoming Hello, Stranger: How to Welcome the World, which will be out from Granta in 2021.

But now the proofs are done, I'm beginning to turn my attention to other things. And this means that I've at last got round to Christie Watson's wonderful, moving memoir of nursing, The Language of Kindness (Chatto & Windus 2018). It's beautiful and wise, often painful, and always deeply human.

What I'm Listening To

In this small corner of the world, Dubioza Kolektiv are big news. Because here in the Balkans, what we're into is politically charged avant-garde Bosnian dub-rock-reggae-ska. And once you've listened to it, you might be too.

Their album Happy Machine — like all their albums — is available for free download from their website. The happy machine in question is a rakiya still (featured on the cover), and the album itself is all kinds of good, anarchic fun.
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About Wayward Things

Wayward Things is an occasional newsletter from writer and philosopher Will Buckingham, an irregular bulletin of things I find curious, wayward & intriguing. The newsletter is free — it's just for stuff I like, and think there's a chance you might like as well.

Get in touch if you want to say hello!
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