The mirror of the past is the only way to peer at the image of what is human. The reflection is darkened by time and sin. Specters of the dead, haunting the dusty stacks of long-ago thoughts, turn up repeatedly, if indistinctly, on library shelves and in the dens of archivists. Storytellers such as the Greek Homer, abstract philosophers such as the Athenian Plato and John the Evangelist, poets such as King David and the Italian Petrarch, historians such as the Romans Livy and Tacitus, biographers such as the Greek Plutarch and the Physician Luke, essayists such as the Roman Seneca, the emperor Marcus Aurelius, and the Frenchman Michel de Montaigne, lived the past, made it their own, spoke to it and heard a response. Such writers expressed empathy toward past lives that span the ages. They engaged in a dialogue with the past, a discussion of self in light of others, creating a sensitive portrait, based on the varied experiences of humans at particular places and times, of the image of God in human, apparent throughout the ages. This is true history.
This site is called The American Plutarch as a paean to the writer, philosopher, historian of ancient Greece, Plutarch, whose lives of ancient heroes drew me, many years ago, into the world of the classical past, made me yearn to resurrect past lives, to find in the past the clues to contentment in the present and ways to meet the future. Plutarch’s ability to empathize with past lives became my goal as a writer, philosopher, and historian: to empathize with human lives, those of the past and present. As the years have passed, I have come to realize that empathy to past and present lives should not be limited to human lives, but should be expanded to all lives: all that lives, has lived, will live, on this Earth. Plutarch, too, believed in respecting all life on the Earth–he continues to be a model for what I believe.
The bits and pieces of writing and thinking at this site, The American Plutarch, represents a variety of turns of mind I have experienced during my previous scores of years living on Earth. You will find a bit of the skeptic, a bit of the humanist, a bit of the naturalist, a bit of the existentialist, and a bit of the theist. Life has taught me that what we think we know is more of a shadow of reality than reality. These shadows can be haunting, darkening, hiding the true light of reality. I am unprepared to say that something does not exist just because I have not seen it. I have experienced the presence of the supernatural in my life that discounts all of the pretenses of the skeptical humanist and atheist, who appear downright arrogant and misguided to me. I believe in keeping an open mind about everything. How can anyone, living moment to moment in time, actually know very much? I’ve learned this lesson over the years, and feel content in thinking, listening, learning, seeking wisdom with the perspective of a child, which, after all, is what we all are, no matter our respective age.
Please read my thoughts, ponder them, respond to them if you will, and help me to engage in a dialogue with the past (and the present)!
I have written quite a few books!
My most recent books are a Kindle book, God is Love: Reflections on the Psalms, which is an ecumenical, spiritual, meditative, historical reflection on the 150 Psalms of David. The book is meant to inspire reflection on the historical and existential purpose of the Psalms, an active search for and communication with God, a meditative dialogue with God’s words that links the meditative person with so many like seekers and thinkers over the centuries. The book can be purchased here:
Also, Science in the Ancient World: From Antiquity through the Middle Ages, which is a full narrative account of ancient thought. It can be purchased at Amazon at this link:
In 2015, I published a complete reappraisal of Captain John Smith, in which I examine Smith’s role as an explorer and ad hoc missionary: The Sea Mark: Captain John Smith’s Voyage to New England.
Published in June, 2018, a biography of the explorer and missionary Daniel Little, who repeatedly journeyed to the eastern Maine frontier before and after the American Revolution: Apostle of the East: The Life and Journeys of Daniel Little.
Several ambitious publications include a book juxtaposing Jesus of Nazareth with his time, 2000 years ago: Metamorphosis: How Jesus of Nazareth Vanquished the Legion of Fear.
Why does fear continue to overwhelm humans, even today, in the 21st century, with our many labor-saving, health-generating, information-gathering, and technological savvy devices? Why should not happiness and contentment be the dominant feelings rather than fear and foreboding?
Like so many today, I believe that ancient wisdom has something to say about this perplexing question. Ancient philosophy and religion provide so many answers to the questions that face us.
And yet … As I have spent many years studying Eastern and Western Scriptures and books—the Taoists, Buddhists, Hebrews, Platonists, Stoics, and Skeptics—I never really quite arrived at the answer.
Then I discovered, largely by happenstance, and unexpectedly, that one ancient source summarizes, even is based on, the knowledge and wisdom of the ancients: the New Testament and its great teacher, Jesus of Nazareth.
Seeking to understand how the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus reflect ancient thought, I wrote this book:
My argument is that the New Testament writers, following the life, teachings, and actions of Jesus, represent a culmination of ancient thought and provide a solution to vanquishing the legions of fear that still plague humanity today.
All of the blog posts found at this site are copyright Russell M. Lawson. If you use words and ideas from any post please site them accordingly.