“If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle…”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
It is natural at this time to focus on “The Sum of All Fears” as the recent movie trumpets. But fear implies loss—of life, health, fortune, love, liberty—and in troubled times it is truly more important to remember and ponder blessings, and chief among these is freedom.
Added on September 10, 2002
“When the world is storm-driven and the bad that happens and the worse that threatens are so urgent as to shut out everything else from view, then we need to know all the strong fortresses of the spirit which men have built through the ages.”—Edith Hamilton, The Greek Way. We are about to enter a period—dare I say orgy, as least as far as the media is concerned?—of reminiscense and mourning as we approach the first anniversary of that black day in September which affected each of us in so many ways. At the time, I was in Bermuda at a travel writer’s convention, and shortly after catching a glimpse of the chaos and carnage on a tv screen, I went snorkeling.
Added on August 22, 2002
As mayhem continues in the Middle East, and Indians and Pakistanis face off over Kashmir, I’m finding it a fascinating exercise to read Fouad Ajami’s Dream Palace of the Arabs at the same time as Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory. The incredible complexity of history is so very daunting, but events can also be seen in a much more simple light: nations, communities, religions and individuals constantly falling back into the cesspool of revenge and greed, racism and intolerance of the stranger. Pundits and politicians of all stripes always seem to forget that all pain comes from breaking, well, the 10 Commandments. Added on July 22, 2002
After ten days in Panama, publisher James O'Reilly puts a few impressions in a nutshell… As I drained the best cappucino I've had in my life at the Janson Family Coffee ranch on the slopes of Volcán, in western Panama—just shortly after having the pleasure of seeing hummingbirds thick as a cloud of mosquitos at Los Quetzales Lodge above the town of Guadelupe—that was when I really began to be not just amazed, but even disconcerted, at just how under the radar Panama is as a great place to travel. Panama is a naturalist's heaven, but for those who enjoy gazing upon man-made wonders, the Panama Canal is among the world's most impressive. Added on February 22, 2002
France is, of course, the heart of Western civilization. And much as the heart gives life and meaning to the rest of the body, so France gives life and meaning to what we call culture, history, and worthwhile experience; France is the loyal guardian of civilization with a capital C, despite constant assault by the spreading global monoculture and its twin engines, television and advertising. Much in France and French culture is immediately familiar to the first-time visitor: we have all been exposed one way or another to its exquisite art and architecture, to images and stories of Paris or the south of France, to memories of the invasion of Normandy and the battle of Verdun, to French cuisine and wine, and to manifold stereotypes of the French people. Added on January 22, 2002