It's a sunny spring morning here in Sofia, Bulgaria. Outside the window in the square, a busker is playing the kaval, the Bulgarian flute. And it definitely feels like winter is finally coming to an end. So, it seems a good time for another Wayward Things newsletter.
In this edition, we've got some advice on writer's block, Maya philosophy from Mesoamerica, medieval robots from the Islamic world, some spring-like thoughts on love, a story by Tove Jansson read by Jarvis Cocker, and lots more.
Happy reading, Will
Thinking about Love: A New Course on Looking for Wisdom
I'm continuing to have a lot of fun with my new project, Looking for Wisdom. As well as sending out weekly philosopher files, I'm running ongoing courses, each course exploring the philosophy of one aspect of everyday life.
The second season course, on the philosophy of love, started last Monday. I'm really excited about this: we'll be looking at love from Plato to bell hooks, from the Chinese Mohist philosophers to the rainforests of the Amazon.
Interview with Alexus McLeod on Maya Philosophy
One of the delights of running Looking for Wisdom has been having the chance to interview other philosophers, and find out about what makes them tick. I'm particularly excited by this interview with the brilliant and prolific Alexus McLeod: about Maya and Chinese philosophy, and why all traditions ultimately belong to us all.
Remember that you can subscribe to Looking for Wisdom for free to get weekly philosopher files and updates, bringing the world's philosophy to your inbox.
A Love Letter for Myanmar
One of the things I've been most preoccupied with over the past month has been the horrific situation unfolding in Myanmar. After the coup, I wrote this very personal piece about grief, love, and my friends over in Myanmar. Read the full piece.
Also, if you want to support those in Myanmar resisting the military coup, try Mutual Aid Myanmar.
Some Other Recent Pieces
Weaving the net of argument: Three women philosophers
I had fun writing this piece for Curious magazine about three women philosophers from the ancient world, Gārgī Vācaknavī from India, Jing Jiang from China and Hipparchia from Greece, and strange links between philosophy and weaving.
The solitude of books
I wrote this piece over on Medium recently about books and solitude, and how — as the poet Erín Moure puts it — books are emigrants in that they belong where they end up.
Bad Diagnoses: What's writing with writer's block?
And finally, a practical piece about that strangest of all maladies, writer's block, and how we might better diagnose our creative ills.
Here are a few good things from elsewhere online: some Medieval Islamic robots, why Zoom is so weird, and Jarvis Cocker meets the Moomins for a wonderful spring story.
Medieval Islamic Robots
The inventor Ismail Al-Jazari was born in 1136 BCE. His Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices sets out one hundred inventions from the practical to the whimsical, including a troupe of programmable robot musicians.
You can read more about this fascinating thinker and tinkerer over on the National Geographic website.
The Weirdness of Zoom
“Many online workers are now experiencing how people start to talk at the same time, then apologize, then start to talk at the same time again...”
Why does Zoom feel so weird? Read this piece from linguistic anthropologist Elizabeth Keating, published over on the excellent Sapiens.
Jarvis, the Moomins and Creativity
As it's spring here in Bulgaria, here's a spring treat for you: Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker reading Tove Jansson's wonderful story “A Spring Tune.” It is about creativity and solitude and connection, and it's wholly wonderful.
What I'm Reading
This one is really all kinds of fun. A collection of writings by the Ming dynasty scholar Li Zhi called A Book to Burn & a Book to Keep Hidden, translated by Rivi Handler-Spitz Pauline C. Lee and Haun Saussy.
Li was a fascinating and ferociously independent-minded thinker. As the authors put it in their introduction: “Strong-willed and opinionated, wild and unrestrained, Li embraced contradiction and revelled in scandal and self-dramatization…” And his writing still makes for bracing and entertaining reading today.
What I'm Listening To
This is a fabulous discovery. Excavated Shellac offers an alternative history of the music of the last 100 years across the world, from Bulgaria to Myanmar to Zanzibar.
It's a brilliant, breathtaking ride through genres of music “that aren’t jazz, blues, country, rock ‘n roll, R&B, or classical” — in fact, that aren't like anything you've heard before.
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 and is free of affiliate links. 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!