Learning Arabic from a Syrian wanted by ISIS

I just spent an invigorating hour with M., a refugee language teacher from Syria. I found him through Chatterbox, a social enterprise that matches refugees with a talent for teaching with language students like me. Fantastic idea.

I haven’t spoken Arabic properly since the last time I was in Egypt in January 2010. That’s a heck of a long time for a language to lie dormant, but I was surprised by how easily some of came back to me, and M. was amazed – ‘You’re half Egyptian,’ he very much joked. Continue reading “Learning Arabic from a Syrian wanted by ISIS”

Meditations on Meditations: Contentment (10.1)

O soul of mine, will you never be good and sincere, all one, all open, visible to the beholder more clearly than even your encompassing body of flesh?

Will you never taste the sweetness of a loving and affectionate heart? Will you never be filled full and unwanting; craving nothing, yearning for no creature or thing to minister to your pleasures, no prolongation of days to enjoy them, no place or country or pleasant clime or sweet human company?

When will you be content with your present state, happy in all about you, persuaded that all is and shall be well with you, so long as it is their good pleasure and ordained by them for the safety and welfare of that perfect living Whole – so good, so just, so beautiful – which gives life to all things, upholding and enfolding them, and at their dissolution gathering them into Itself so that yet others of their kind may spring forth?

Will you never be fit for such fellowship with the gods and men as to have no syllable of complaint against them, and no syllable of reproach from them?

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 10:1

Read in front of a raging fire on a frozen starry night in the Tomsleibhe bothy on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. With grateful thanks to the Mountain Bothies Association.

Tomsleibhe, Isle of Mull

Inspired by Robert MacFarlane’s book Wild Places, I’ve spent the last few days tramping about the Inner Hebrides, specifically the isles of Mull and Iona.

First, for any doubters out there: the weather has been glorious – which for this country means only a couple of rainstorms. Other than that, only drizzle and sunshine.
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Meditations on Meditations: Praise and Service (4.19)

The man whose heart is palpitating for fame after death does not reflect that out of all those who remember him every one will himself soon be dead also, and in the course of time the next generation after that, until in the end, after flaring and sinking by turns, the final spark of memory is quenched.

Furthermore, even supposing that those who remember you were never to die at all, nor their memories to die either, yet what is that to you?

Clearly, in your grave, nothing; and even in your lifetime, what is the good of praise – unless maybe to subserve some lesser design?

Surely, then, you are making an inopportune rejection of what Nature has given you today, if all your mind is set on what men will say of you tomorrow.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.19

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Meditations on Meditations: Core Beliefs (3.5)

In your actions let there be a willing promptitude, yet a regard for the common interest; due deliberation, yet no irresolution; and in your sentiments no pretentious over-refinement. Avoid talkativeness, avoid officiousness.

The god within you should preside over a being who is virile and mature, a statesman, a Roman, and a ruler; one who has held his ground, like a soldier waiting for the signal to retire from life’s battlefield and ready to welcome his relief; a man whose credit need neither be sworn to by himself nor avouched by others.

Therein is the secret of cheerfulness, of depending on no help from without and needing to crave from no man the boon of tranquility. We have to stand upright ourselves, not be set up.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 3:5

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