Monday 18 July 2022


Mountaintop to Mountaintop

Aphorists in Dialogue

Yahia Lababidi and Fraser Logan

Yahia Lababidi: We live and unlearn. 
Fraser Logan: Few learn the difference between critical thinking and criticising without thinking. 
YL: When the student is not ready, imposters appear.
Torment is a prerequisite of intellectual growth, not something to stifle in students. 
Let humiliation be your teacher. 
Mockery exposes falsehoods, but truth is already naked. 
Desert: the spiritual sensuality of the world, denuded. 
Alone, the heart denudes itself of pleasantries and splatters forth vulgarities. 

Style is the garment we shed on our way to nakedness
Stylised nakedness puts the art in cathartic. 
Art for art’s sake is a dead end; art for heart’s sake is the way out. 
Art today defies old masters and defiles the world with new disasters. 
Good artists are heralds of the world to come. 
A few artists hear the echo of an ancient starting gun; but we deem them rigid and unfree. 
Being hostage to beauty: the strength and weakness of artists. 
The best artists love morals as much as they hate them. 

We inhabit a moral universe—amorality is immorality.
Truthfulness is moral, but there are immoral truths. 
The best and most dangerous lies are mixed with truth. It’s truth that attracts others and allows them to accept untruths. 
Speak the truth, or speak to soothe. 
We are granted different powers to help one another. 
Socialite virtues are troglodyte vices. 
Some human sins, such as jealousy and pride, are Divine virtues. 
We sinned against the earth—by inventing sin. 

Strange, how what is life-giving―if not handled with care―can become life-threatening.
Those who contradict life, invariably suffer from life—until they are contradicted by death. 
Those with apparent contradictions are better equipped to understand Life’s inherent paradoxes. 
Fear of contradiction ties the tongue. 
If you cannot do good, practice biting your tongue. 
There are nowadays no individual palates, only tastebuds on a common tongue. 
Silence is a powerful punctuation mark. 
The talkative hiker spoils the view. 

The straight path is available to all who forsake crookedness. 
Beware the will which never wandered. 
We are unfree when we stray from Divine Will. 
True freedom oscillates between anarchy and constraint, tires of oscillating, tires of being tired… 
The path less trodden is harder on the feet, but better for the soul. 
When we advance on our enemies, we often use their paths and lose our friends along the way. 
To despair, hate or seek revenge is to be seduced by evil. 
Honesty marries hatred in the prison cell of love. 

When we love our prison, we no longer see the bars. 
Man is carried in the wind, like a leaf; but the wind is also carried in man. 
One day, leaf. One day, branch. One day, root. 
Youth climbs up single branches, hoping to be seen at the top of the tree. Adolescence longs for the all-encompassing view, but ends with a snap. 
Doubt, as a season of the soul, is like a strong wind that prunes trees — loosening dead leaves and weak branches — to fortify our foundation against future storms of the spirit
Maturity stands back to contemplate the tree, judging that every branch can bear fruit. Wisdom seeks out new seeds, advising youth to do the same. 
Wisdom is recovered innocence. 
The sight of youth upsets the old, but overjoys the elderly. 

Much of the suffering in our world is the result of wounded children, parenting. 
Man can suffer from pleasure or take pleasure in suffering. 
Spiritually understood, everything can be used for our development and advantage. 
The eradication of pain would be insufferable; the maximisation of pleasure miserable. 
The punishment for avoiding suffering is superficiality; the reward for embracing it is spirituality. 
Even stars have blackspots. 
We inhabit ourselves more fully when we find our inner light switches in the dark... 
Honesty is strike paper, and we are pyrophobic match-heads. 

Metaphors, like all possible explosives, should be handled with care and by those who know what they’re doing. 
Honesty erupts at the election booth; scholars hide away in yellowing ivory towers. 
Imagine if presidential candidates were required to be well-versed in moral philosophy. 
Politics is a zero-sum game in which dishonest politicians represent an alethophobic electorate. 
Nations fail for the same reason that people fall: they lose their balance. 
Most political arguments stem, not from curiosity, but from the impression that lopsided people need to be righted—or lefted. 
Birds use their wings, not only to fly, but also for balance―just like us. 
There is virtue in being a vole, if one is a vole; but life amongst soil and shrubbery is a cage to those with wings. 

Anything freed from the marble is an angel. Never cease chiselling... 
Greatness is sculpted. 
Better to be good than great. 
Only those who fall from great heights ever make a sound; but we are flattening the earth. 
If you ask to be raised in spiritual station, expect trials to match such an elevation. 
Hardship accelerates maturity. 

In imperilled states, the soul defends itself with poetry. 
The best writings begin with misery and find merriment along the way. 

Poetry is what happens to prose at boiling point. 
Aphorisms are muses brought to climax. 

Aphorisms are the sushi of literature. 
Aphorisms should be chewed on and swallowed—or spat out. 

Yahia Lababidi, an Egyptian-Palestinian author of ten books, has been called "our greatest living aphorist". He has contributed to news, literary and cultural institutions throughout the USA, Europe and the Middle East, such as: Oxford University, Pearson, PBS NewsHour, NPR, and HBO.

Lababidi’s latest work includes: Revolutions of the Heart (Wipf and Stock, 2020), a book of essays and conversations exploring crises and transformation, Learning to Pray (Kelsay Books, 2021) a collection of his spiritual aphorisms and poems as well as Desert Songs (Rowayat, 2022) a bilingual, photographic account of his mystical experiences in the deserts of Egypt.


Fraser Logan is an M4C-funded PhD student in Philosophy at the University of Warwick, UK. His project examines Nietzsche's views of honesty. Fraser’s aphorisms have been commended by the Oscar Wilde Society, and he has written a book, titled Eruptions, of 600 original aphorisms.


Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Thank you Fraser and Yahia. It seems that the aphorisms would deserve a page each. There is much wisdom here. Perhaps we could see one of the photos and reflections behind Desert Songs?

Keith said...

Thank you, Yahia and Fraser, for such a thought-provoking poem.

There’s much there that one could pull out for a little chin scratching and further comment. Just one among them is this:

‘Imagine if presidential candidates were required to be well-versed in moral philosophy. Politics is a zero-sum game in which dishonest politicians represent an alethophobic electorate’.

First off, I confess the need to have googled the word ‘alethophobic’.

That done, I was struck by the truth of the two main thoughts in this quote. Not just presidential candidates, but many politicians aren’t ‘well-versed in moral philosophy’, instead acting in their self-interest exacerbated by the ‘zero-sum game’ you refer to.

Might, in fact, politicians and the electorate alike suffer incurably from alethophobia when prioritising, shaping, and funding local and national policy?

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