Today is World Philosophy Day, and it's synchronicity time again. Last night – had discussions with friends about the film 300 - tales of ancient Sparta. This morning, 9.00am, Radio 4, In Our Time: Melvyn Bragg and various pals were talking about . . . Sparta.
Also on the radio (R4) this morning – a news item about introducing 'philosophy' into the school curriculum.
How can schoolchildren be introduced to thinking in a philosophical way, rather than just learning by wrote? Peter Worley, founder of the Philosophy Shop which introduces young children to philosophy, and Anthony Grayling, professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College London, discuss how philosophy can be made to appeal to children.“wrote?” - whooooops!
Grayling and co discussed the way in which 'philosophy' lessons develop thinking, speaking, listening, communication and concentration. These are even more fundamental skills than literacy and numeracy.
Deepening understanding, learning how to ask important questions, considering the wisdom of the ages. Learning that it takes effort to answer difficult questions, like 'How can I be happy?' 'Is there a God?' 'What is beauty?' Learning that some questions don't have easy answers.
Grayling reminded listeners that Jim Rose's curriculum review has said that it's vital to promote the capacity to carry out research, to make connections between things, to evaluate information, and to think creatively. To generate ideas, and to critically evaluate them.
Philosophy is essentially thinking about thinking, about why we think what we think, and about whether our thinking is valid.
Last week, down in Devon, I chatted to friends about the pub/restaurant in Tuckenhay that used to be owned by Keith Floyd – The Maltsters. All this week on Radio 4 – the serialisation of Keith Floyd's autobiography as the Book of the Week. What a bizarre guy. I always wondered how he appeared from nowhere to become a huge TV star. He's an amazing character, but a rubbish writer. He writes exactly the same way as he talks. The talk is great. The writing isn't. “Just being Floydie.” He did 23 TV series.
He was very keen on Vietnamese food, and described filming in Vietnam, including a visit he made to the 'food store' at the back of a restaurant, where there were many cages containing bats, cats and rats. Also frogs and cobras. Now there's food for thought. We now have a very large Vietnamese community in London, and lots of Vietnamese restaurants in places like Hackney. Ratney. Makes you think.
Incidentally, one of the best and funkiest things about Floyd was the choice of music for his programmes, examples of which are on the Book of the Week 'listen again' iPlayer – different tracks at start and end, Waltzinblack and Peaches..
Floyd was a big fan of rock group The Stranglers: the tracks "Waltzinblack", an edited version of "Peaches", and an instrumental version of "Viva Vlad" were used as theme music for most of his TV programmes. Former Stranglers guitarist and vocalist Hugh Cornwell used to play guitar at Floyd's restaurant during his student days in Bristol and the two remained friends. In his book Floyd's Cockney Cuisine, Floyd also claimed to be a huge fan of 1980's punk/indie act Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine. - WikipediaThe Stranglers were a great band, and produced several classic tracks, like Peaches, No More Heroes, Golden Brown, Hanging Around, Waltzinblack, Nice n Sleazy, and The European Female (Celebration Of), which has a great melody and fabulous guitar and keyboard licks.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bn8se4LXhY - The European Female
The band also recorded a great version of the Kinks' “All Day and All of the Night” - an all-time rock classic.
On this video there's a funky horn section . . . . but does that make them a jazz-punk rock band? Answers on a postcard to Anthony Julius. And it's a MUCH better track than 25 or 6 to 4.
Walk On By -
a superb performance
great shots of JJ Burnel and Hugh on guitars, but keyboards solo missing
crap video quality but great keyboard solo
The Walk On By(Edit) on Spotify has fantastic sound quality.
The Stranglers also recorded 96 Tears - a great cover of the original by Question Mark and the Mysterians.
The group is best known for its song "96 Tears," a garage rock classic recorded in 1966 that reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and would go on to sell over one million copies and receive a BMI award for over three million airplays. ? and the Mysterians was perhaps the first band to be described as punk rock, and also may be the first Latino rock group to have a general audience hit record in the United States. The group named itself after the 1957 Japanese science fiction film The Mysterians, in which aliens from the destroyed planet Mysteroid arrive to conquer Earth.(Aretha Franklin has a superb cover of 96 Tears on Spotify!)
The Stranglers' great keyboards sound was down to Dave Greenfield:
“In July 1975, an advertisement in ‘Melody Maker’, produced one Dave Greenfield, keyboard player. Dave had already played in a large number of bands and it was immediately obvious to the others that he was a natural addition to the line-up. The unusual inclusion of swirling keyboards at the time was to give the band a very distinctive sound, setting them apart from their contemporaries.”http://www.stranglers.net/b_ground.html
The original Stranglers’ line up began to coalesce during 1975 and brought together four individuals with very different backgrounds and interests. This diversity was probably a factor in keeping them together during the band's first phase (up until 1990).Jet Black was a terrific drummer, and the twanging bass was so distinctive because the bassist, Jean Jaques Burnel, was originally a classical guitarist:
Jean Jacques (JJ) Burnel, was introduced to Jet & Hugh through a chance hitch hiking incident. Although an accomplished young classical guitarist, he had never seriously considered a music career -- his main passion being Karate. His ambition at the time had been to travel to Japan, in order to further his development in this martial art. JJ has since fulfilled this ambition and currently teaches at his own Dojo in the UK. His other passion, maintained throughout his career, was, and is, for motorcycles.
Hugh Cornwell was a Biochemistry graduate from Bristol University who had gone to Lund University in Sweden to pursue research. Here, he formed a band called ‘Johnny Sox’ with two American draft dodgers and a Swede. Disillusioned with the politics of research (and with a desire to make the band succeed) he persuaded the other members that London was the place to be; they arrived in London - minus the drummer - in early 1974.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Floyd
“A documentary Keith Meets Keith, featuring actor and comedian Keith Allen interviewing Floyd, was broadcast on Channel 4 on 14 September 2009 and watched by nearly one million people. In the programme, Floyd admitted that away from the cameras, he often drank too much out of loneliness. It later emerged that Floyd had collapsed and died shortly before the broadcast.”Incidentally, Rattus Norvegicus is a classic Strangler's album, and the Stranglers' website is called The Rat Lair. So there.
Anyway, as I was saying, it's World Philosophy Day, and as my contribution I'm going to post some more extracts from the Dalai Lama's 'How To Practice' – 'The Way To A Meaningful Life'.
First, though, readers might like to visit (or revisit) what I've already posted from this book in previous Layers:
The last paragraphs I posted on Oxzen say,
Since it is through sustaining mindfulness that you achieve a calm abiding of the mind, the practice of morality must precede the practice of concentrated meditation.
Looking at the three practices – morality, concentrated meditation, and wisdom, - we see that each serves as the basis for the next. Therefore all spiritual progress depends on a foundation of proper morality.
Part 2 of the book is simply called Practising Morality:
Identifying the Scope of Suffering
Overview of the Types of Morality
The main principle of Buddhist morality is to help others and, if that is not possible, at least to do no harm. This fundamental commitment to non-violence, motivated by concern for others, is central to the three types of morality in Buddhism.
Tell that lot to the Spartans.
- The morality of individual liberation (the subject of this chapter) is mainly practiced by refraining from physical and verbal actions that cause harm.
- The morality of concern for others – called the morality of Bodhisattvas – is mainly practiced by restraining the mind from falling into selfishness. The essential point is to refrain from self-cherishing, but also to refrain from ill deeds of body and speech.
- The morality of Tantra centres around special techniques for imagining a fully developed state of body and mind effectively helping others. It provides a way to transcend our limited perception of our bodies and minds so that we may perceive ourselves as shining with wisdom and compassion.
And as a final contribution to World Philosophy Day, something that appeared first appeared in Oxzen in Layer 181:
The greatest achievement is selflessness.
The greatest worth is self-mastery.
The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.
The greatest precept is continual awareness.
The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.
The greatest action is not conforming with the world's ways.
The greatest magic is transmuting the passions.
The greatest generosity is non-attachment.
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.
The greatest patience is humility.
The greatest effort is not concerned with results.
The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.
The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.
Atisha (11th century Tibetan Buddhist master)