An amazing unexpected gift of poetry. I'm not a critical reader. But, I feel I should respond. I put some weight on the line of thought suggesting art, poetry, performance is not complete without a viewer, reader, audience. And if that reader can respond, that’s all the better.
Aphorism | A pithy, instructive statement or truism, like a maxim or adage.
The word comes from the Greek aphorismos, meaning “to delimit” or “define.”
From what I read, The term was first used in the Aphorisms of Hippocrates, a series of proposals concerning the symptoms and diagnosis of disease and the art of healing, around 400 BC.
Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience deceptive, judgment difficult.
To highlight the nuances of translation, I put the Greek, Latin and some English below (from Wiki)
This was written around the time of The Tao, which is threaded with aphorism and literature through the ages has been full of it.
It hones in to poetry at certain times, for instance 16th century Japan and the haiku of Basho. I see many haiku as both poetry and aphorism.
An old pond Furu ike ya
A frog jumps in — kawazu tobikomu
the sound of water. mizu no oto
Or in my version
A frog jump
plop-splash in the water
And so fast forward until today and it's still a heavily used form. Not only the terse maxims that spread like pollen on social media, but by writers from risk philosophers to poets still.
The mathematician risk philosopher I think of is Nassim Taleb (commencement speech here, a thought on Greek ethics here and climate change risk here) who wrote a book of aphorisms, riffing from Greek thought;
I digress back 50 years and note that Wittgenstein wrote a set of remarks, under the heading Aphorisms – to my mind showing the continued use of aphorism form for philosophers over the last 2000 over years.
Witt: " 11. Think of the tools in a tool-box: there is a hammer, pliers, a saw, a screw-driver, a ruler, a glue-pot, glue, nails and screw.—The functions of words are as diverse as the functions of these objects. (And in both cases there are similarities.)
Of course, what confuses us is the uniform appearance of words when we hear them spoken or meet them in script and print. For their application is not presented to us so clearly. Especially when we are doing philosophy! "
Zipping forward again, I've read the work of Sarah Manguso. She calls her aphorisms, arguments in her work 300 Arguments. (cf Wittgenstein's remarks, James Richardson’s Vectors is “Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays.” Jenny Holzer uses the word “truisms.”) Manguso answers some questions with MIchelle King here.
It seems along with the notion of aphorism, it has many second meanings.
Coming to my gift, Rishi Dastidar has written 95 Reminders. These reminders are aphorisms and are rooted in Martin Luther (the original priest of Lutherans).
On 31st October 1517, Martin Luther, a professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg in Germany, posted 95 theses on the door of All Saints Church. They were his arguments against what he viewed as corrupt practices in the Catholic church.
This act is now considered the start of the Protestant Reformation.
500 years on, the following reminders are offered in a similar spirit: indulgences to help you avoid sin — or not.
You can see his 95 Reminders here,
but I have to admit the book is more beautiful to me.
The reminders are less opaque than Mancini on average but still full of wit.
The overall thread is coherent. It has limited caesura (cf Mancuso), some jaunty juxtaposition for wit but seldom competing ideas.
That on some level puts it into the sphere of Taleb. Mancuso and Taleb compound their aphorism arguments, Rishi is lighter than that but perhaps that brings his points across more cleanly and accessibly.
I’m not a full time reader of poetry or literary form. I do flit across many fields but it seems to me Rishi’s addition is worthy and a delightful read to me.
More thoughts: My Financial Times opinion article on the importance of long-term questions to management teams and Environment, Social and Governance capital.
If you'd like to feel inspired by commencement addresses and life lessons try: Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; or Nassim Taleb's commencement address; or JK Rowling on the benefits of failure. Or Charlie Munger on always inverting; Sheryl Sandberg on grief, resilience and gratitude or investor Ray Dalio on on Principles.
Cross fertilise. Read about the autistic mind here.