Writing lessons we can learn from Vincent Van Gogh

Photo by Ståle Grut from Unsplash

Writing, for some, for those who do a lot of it, may seem like a mechanical process. A formulaic procedure, a technical exercise. But for those who do it not as a profession, but a pleasurable pursuit, writing takes time, inspiration, and great thought. Writing, for those who truly love it, is a humanist endeavour: a way of making sense of the world in which they live. In this way it is art, and should be treated and understood as such.

Vincent van Gogh was an artist, but was also a writer. His heartfelt letters to his brother have been…

It is within human nature to look to things greater than ourselves for answers. Some turn to religion, some turn to mathematics and/or philosophy. Some worship God(s) and pray they will provide us with guidance. Religion is unknowing, but it is a way of knowing in a world in which we know nothing. Having faith in mathematics is similar to having faith in religion: it is to believe in something intangible which yet is tangible in the minds of believers.

Photo: Alex Block from Unsplash

Math and religion are the same in that they both aspire to a sort of grace. They are conscious endeavours…

The Apeiron Blog Newsletter

Philosophy in the news and our picks of the week.

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Hey Fellow Philosophers!

Here are our team’s selected philosophy resources this week. I hope they provoke deep thought!

Philosophy in the News: Moral Philosophy

As I’m currently taking a course on Jane Austen and her canon, I’ve been looking a lot at her character’s morality. Anyone who has read Austen knows that, despite some characters being genuine, there are many who are not. Mansfield Park is the book I’m currently studying, and its characters with the exception of its heroine are all self-governed by questionable morals.

So I wanted to focus on moral philosophy this week, and Olivia Goldhill’s article for The New York Times attached…

What makes us, us, and what makes our lives our own

“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett. Image from The Attic on Eighth

“You don’t have to explain yourself,” is what Stella Vignes imagines Loretta Walker would say. She imagines marching across the street, gaining confidence with each step. Standing in Loretta’s living room, stage lights shining on her face. As if ready to receive applause for how convincingly she played her role.

What Stella is imagining is revealing who she really is. Opening the formidable stage curtains to a platform unknown. Stella knows that, despite her prejudice against Loretta’s Black family moving into her white neighbourhood, there isn’t much difference between them and herself. That if Loretta were to peel back her…

The Industrial Revolution(s) and their romantic resistance.

A Japanese Stroll Garden that dates back to the 1670s. Image from Architectural Digest

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods,” Lord Byron writes in his poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.” “There is a rapture on the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.”

In the 17th century, industrialization began its rapid sweep, a transition that gave the industry a new governing rule. Abandoning the traditional hand production ways of manufacturing for machines, the Industrial Revolution was a period defined by booming populations, economic prosperity, and smoke. Steel-making processes, assembly lines, and mass-production dominated the manufacturing…

The Apeiron Blog Newsletter

Philosophy in the news and our picks of the week.

Image by Thomas Bormans from Unsplash

Hey Fellow Philosophers!

Here are our team’s selected philosophy resources this week. I hope they provoke deep thought!

Philosophy in the News: Philosophy and the Plague

This week I wanted to focus on plagues and their relation to philosophy. Plagues, like any catastrophic event, have the capacity to elicit unrest. This is especially clear today; as the current pandemic has prompted social, but also mental unrest. It has forced us to abandon our individualistic mentality and embrace the collective. In a neoliberal society, of course, this would come as quite a shock.

Albert Camus’s The Plague reflects on this notion both philosophically and narratively. The story takes place…

Using the literary form as a means to heal.

Image from The Jakarta Post

In her essay “On Being Ill,” Virginia Woolf laments the “poverty of the [English] language” when it comes to describing illness. She writes:

“English, which can express the thoughts of Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear, has no words for the shiver and the headache. It has all grown one way. The merest schoolgirl, when she falls in love, has Shakespeare, Donne, Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry”

I was first introduced to Woolf and this body of…

The psychology of the cult experience and why members come and go

Lana Del Rey and Father John Misty in Del Rey’s music video “Freak.” Image from Harpers Bazaar

In her music video “Freak,” Lana Del Rey sways with Father John Misty, a narcotic haze clouding the scene like smoke. She sits on the dusty ground in contemplation, listening to the twang of his guitar. She crawls over to him and smiles, pressing a patch of acid on his tongue.

The song, with its sultry strings and sexiness, is quintessentially Lana. After years of nurturing an aesthetic of dark sensuality, it's hard to describe her music as anything but. “Freak” allows us to descend with her, further into her world of 1960s nostalgia, all focused through the lens of…

Using Emma Cline’s “The Girls” to explore the dangers of girlhood vulnerability

The Manson Family girls from left: Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten, on their way to court for their involvement in the murders. Image from CNN

The story begins in the sultry summer of 1969; blonde hills, dusty air, ragtag girls. Evie Boyd sits on a bench in a Northern California park, eating a hamburger alone.

I looked up because of the laughter, and kept looking because of the girls,” she tells us. Their laughter echoing across the fields, the hems of their dresses fraying, dirty, dissolving into a halo of light. Garish girls, careless girls, overt girls, “like sharks breaching the water.” As the book ping-pongs between her adolescence and adulthood, Evie’s gaze doesn’t falter for a second.

Emma Cline’s The Girls is described as…

Writing Tips

Lessons from Zadie Smith on authenticity, betrayal, and failure in writing

Image by Thought Catalog from Unsplash

In her essay “Fail Better”, Zadie Smith gives us “The tale of Clive”. Clive aspires to write the perfect novel, and seems to have all the skills to do it:

“He’s intelligent and well read; he’s made a study of contemporary fiction and can see clearly where his peers have gone wrong; he has read a good deal of rigorous literary theory — those elegant blueprints for novels not yet built — and is now ready to build his own unparalleled house of words”

So he begins. He writes. And three years later, Clive has finished his novel. …

Mallika Vasak

Lover of classic lit, drinker of red wine, believer in magic • mallivasak@gmail.com

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