“What I call Platonicity, after the ideas (and personality of the philosopher Plato) is our tendency to mistake the map for the territory, to focus on pure and well-defined “forms,” whether objects, like triangles, or social notions, like utopias (societies built according to some blueprint of what “makes sense”), even nationalities. When these ideas and crisp constructs inhabit our minds, we privilege them over other less elegant objects, those with messier and less tractable structures….Platonicity is what makes us think that we understand more than we actually do.” -Nicholas Nassim Taleb, The Black Swan page xxv.
“Dialectic, in fact, is the only procedure which proceeds by the destruction of assumptions to the very first principle, so as to give itself a firm base.” Plato, The Republic 533d, Lee Translation.
You’ll find a lot of this kind of back and forth flipping through NNT and Plato.
What I try to remember in fitness is that you should apply the fundamentals (the “first principles”) relentlessly: hard work, consistency, attitude, team work. But also be flexible and innovative in how you do it. Keep what works, throw out what doesn’t. Also remember, the more you learn the more uncertain you should be about what the “right” answer is.
“It was late evening when K. arrived.” -Franz Kafka, The Castle
“For a long while now the revolt of the Risach breaking with his civil-service life has no longer been possible. Bureaucracy has become omnipresent, and nowhere can it be escaped; nowhere would one find a “Rose House” and live there intimate connection with “things as they are in themselves.” We have moved irrevocably from Stifter’s world to Kafka’s.” – Milan Kundera, The Curtain
Charlie Black was a U.S. Marine who served in World War II and Korea. He later became a journalist for the Columbus Ledger Inquirer and spent most of 1965-66 in Vietnam with the 1st Cav, the same unit written about in “We Were Soldiers Once…And Young” .
A great book that was passed to me during The Basic School, “From the Horses Mouth“, has an article by Charlie called, “Fourteen Proverbs Gleaned from a Damp Foxhole”. You’re going to want to read them all, but be sure to check out #14.
1. All military doctrine is intended for level, paved roads on pleasant June days. Other situations demand field expedients.
2. No other military equipment has the perfection of the C-ration can opener.
3. Men can go anywhere despite anything, except opposition by better men willing to go anywhere despite anything.
4. Night belongs to he who claims it. It is a friend to weak armies because strong armies are usually lazy.
5. Given a 15-Minute break, an Eskimo army will build air-conditioned igloos, Indian soldiers a Taj Mahal, American field model pentagons.
6. Infantryman can live through many battles with only average luck if they have a keen curiosity about what the enemy does and why he does it.
7. Scouts have an implied warranty that quick and effective use will be made of information.
8. A small unit in violent contact gives a commander with helicopters two choices, both immediate and with no excuse for delaying decision: 1) He can pile onto the fight, or 2) Accept possible sacrifice of the platoon
9. Complicated plans become simple later from necessity. Start them that way.
10. Every 30 minutes, remember this from Major General-designee Hal Moore, “Ask yourself what you aren’t doing that you should, and what you are doing that you shouldn’t.”
11. The best trick is to help the enemy believe he sees what he wants to see.
12. Adversities are simply a new, normal situation. See them in this light and find an advantage.
13. Plans which work exactly right must be relentlessly investigated.
And most importantly….
14. There are only four kinds of officers:
(1) The clever and energetic who make admirable staff officers.
(2) The clever and lazy who make magnificent generals.
(3) The stupid and lazy who can be used to grand effect by staff officers and generals.
(4) The stupid and energetic who must be executed at the first possible moment in order to check their breed.
When I talk books Orwell often comes up. I have an (odd/varied) Anglophobe bent (Woodhouse, O’Brien, Rushdie, Naipal, Hardy) which is partly due to the fact that the language is just different enough for me to have to engage the forebrain.