The convergent mindset

The great river of Being. The metaphor of all things in the universe being connected, ordered and networked within and without the human person ran from the ancient period right through the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Then it died. What we inherited is a framework which seems integrative, the scientific framework, the view from... Continue Reading →

The excitement of insight

There are great times and places to be alive, to be breathing, and learning and knowing, and building things, and trying new things, and reading new texts, which are nothing but old texts written by forward-thinking but historically-minded scholars, ideas forged in extreme-temperature foundries, hearts moved by innovative minds, minds moved by compelling new ways... Continue Reading →

The Rubik’s cube of rubrics

The rubricated capital letter N and heading opening a theological text in a 12th-century manuscript, Engelberg, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. 2 Solving a problem only creates more room for more problem-solving. Literacy didn’t just solve the problems posed by a wordless world. It created many more. The invention of writing was one of the most significant revolutions... Continue Reading →

Struggle and digestion

If there is an epistemological Occam’s Razor, that things should not be multiplied beyond necessity and theories streamlined to an optimal minimum - there should be a cognitive Occam’s Guillotine as well. Things ought not to be accepted without a struggle. Everything which presents itself to consciousness as a convenient, frictionless truth ought to be... Continue Reading →

The exhaustiveness imperative

The annals of Burton Abbey (Staffordshire, England), showing the entries between 1154 and 1189 AD. Each entry is preceded by a coloured 'pilcrow' or paragraph sign and the chronological year in Latin numerals, British Library, Cotton MS Vespasian E III, f. 5v. Writing is a choice. What gets written is the result of a choice.... Continue Reading →

The sweetness of elevated existence

La Dolce Vita - Dante style. The words 'dolce vita' appear in all manuscripts of Dante's Paradiso, canto 4, verse 35. Here they are in one of the most celebrated illustrated manuscripts of the Commedia, British Library's Yates Thompson MS 36, produced in northern Italy in the 1450s. A contextual image showing where the text... Continue Reading →


It's the eyes, silly. George Cochrane's illustrated manuscript of Dante's Divine Comedy There are only a few works in world literature whose density is so great that they can, on their own, incapsulate and manifest the entirety of the culture which produced them. Dante’s Commedia must stand as chief amongst these. The Divine Comedy is... Continue Reading →

The way out and the way in

Five hundred years ago, only about 11% of the Western European population was literate. Today it is 99%. But, in 1500, general education and access to books were the leading source of social mobility. Today, that is unfortunately not enough. A non-noble pupil who was lucky enough to learn how to read and write was... Continue Reading →

Eyes on target

Quinten Metsys, (1465-1530), Virgin and Child, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels I recall reading my first word. It was STOP on a traffic sign. My parents remember it as a winter’s day, as the car pulled into a side street and my nose was glued to the backseat window, marvelling at the moving cityscape.... Continue Reading →

Showing due respect

Master of Flémalle (Robert Campin?), Anunciation (15th c.), Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels Scarcity makes everything more valuable. We make more efforts to preserve and protect that which is at risk of not being around anymore. Fragility and rarity. In our culture, we are not known to make a strong individual effort to preserve... Continue Reading →

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