Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Passages To Eternity



Philosophic meditations in poetic form on the meaning of eternity for 72 famous persons


Date Published: January 15, 2024


As a philosopher once surmised: talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius, he insisted, hits a target no one else can see. The greatest artists and thinkers are the greatest seers. They do not imagine ... only and merely. They study the facts, they think the facts, they feel the facts, until the facts, the acts of faith, the articles of invention, dissolve in the naked light of the hitherto unseen, until fact, faith, and invention fall away like Halloween masks, like swaddling clothes; and then, leaving behind the tricks and the treats, they teach us what to hallow: the nakedness of a newborn joy, perpetually born anew, a joy that can never die, because it never quite knows, but never fails to enjoy, how early it already is, and how young it was always going to be.

All thinking, carried far enough, ends in paradox: trying to think the unthinkable. All feeling, carried far enough, ends in paradox: trying to feel the unfeelable. But one can feel the unthinkable, and think the unfeelable. To do so is to think with one's feelings and to feel with one's thoughts. Then, and only then, is it possible to hit a target that no one else can see. To experience deeply (profoundly and creatively) is to think with your feelings and to feel with your thoughts. And there's a first and last to every thought, to every feeling. To think the first, to feel the first, as if it were the last, and to do so intensely is to know nothingness, to experience death. Yes, this is paradox. To think the last, to feel the last, as if it were the first, and to do so intensely is to experience life, a life that never ends, precisely because – like a box without sides – it is without beginnings and without ends. Yes, this is paradox too.

This book continues the conspiracy of significance, the dialectic of nowhere and now here, that began with The History of Eternity. Read this sequel, Passages to Eternity, and follow, if you will, the destiny of this paradox as it unfolds in the lives of 72 historic individuals, including Rilke, Peirce, Aeschylus, Pythagoras, Wordsworth, Ibsen, Santayana, Wilde, St. Teresa, Melville, Whitman, Beethoven, Godel, Michelangelo, Leibniz, Thucydides, Ovid, Empedocles, Mann, Plato, Borges, St. James, Baudelaire, Bradley, Arendt, Auden, Maistre, T.S. Eliot, Democritus, Bruegel, Unamuno, Flaubert, Girard, Calvino, Holderlin, William James, Tacitus, Jaspers, St. Paul, Pater, Anaximander, Solzhenitsyn, Nicholas of Cusa, Picasso, Joyce, Berlioz, Marcus Aurelius, Tolstoy, Rose, Kant, Tennessee Williams, Amos, Crane, Toynbee, Wharton, Hegel, Cavafy, Schmitt, Celan, Shankara, Heisenberg, Gibbon, Luther, Frost, Anaxagoras, Nabokov, Adorno, Conrad, Naipaul, Euripides, Ramanuja and many others.

About the Author

Mr. James E. Winder was born on June 16, 1953, in Athens, Tennessee, and graduated summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 1975 with a B.A. in philosophy and literature. He earned an M.A. in philosophy from Purdue University in 1980.

James Winder spent the lion’s share of his career as a mid-level manager and intelligence analyst for the National Security Agency (NSA), where he retired in 2013 after 30 years of service. At NSA, Mr. Winder’s most noteworthy assignment was in 1991-1992, when he served as Assistant Director of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB). During that time, he co-authored a report for President George H.W. Bush on intelligence lessons learned during the first Gulf War and provided extensive research and documentation on a wide range of other matters of great interest to the PFIAB board members. In a special commendation, then Acting PFIAB Chairman, Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, cited Mr. Winder for his “expert advice to the President of the United States” and for his “extremely incisive and timely contributions on some very complex issues.”

During three decades at NSA, Mr. Winder produced three classified, book-length studies, most notably including a comprehensive report on an important topic, which won NSA’s annual Cryptologic Literature Award. In addition, he wrote a wide variety of other in-depth reports on Soviet intelligence, terrorism, and technical threats to U.S. telecommunications.

Mr. Winder is also the author of The History of Eternity, a series of philosophic meditations in poetic form, which is, according to Mr. Winder, the cryptic story of his life and the lives of many others. There is – in the history of philosophy and literature – no other work that is akin to it in nature and scope.

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