Take It All Off
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 28, 2022

One of the best known, not to say notorious, celebrities of the 1920s and ‘30s was a buxom blonde actress and writer named Mae West. One of her best-known lines came in the 1933 film, I’m No Angel, in which, in a starring role, she says to her maid, “Beulah, peel me a grape,” which […]

Has it Got Legs?
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 31, 2022

Here is a riddle for you: What goes ninety-nine CLOP, ninety-nine CLOP, ninety-nine CLOP…? Answer: A centipede with a wooden leg. I don’t want to go into all the biological reasons concerning the numerous varieties of centipedes, showing that, even apart from the wooden leg, this story can’t be true. What I do want to […]

 

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Ages and Ages
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 24, 2022

How old? The answer to that question is usually expected to be in terms of years – that is, of Earth journeys around the sun. We owe that idea to a Polish monk named Copernicus (1473-1543 AD). But even before Copernicus, in those good old days when the sun still went around the earth, the […]

Innards
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 17, 2022

Different parts of our bodies have come to be associated with a variety of emotions and characteristics. Love supposedly springs from the heart, integrity is in the backbone, and inquisitiveness in the nose. But, when it comes to truly deep-seated feelings, for some reason, we commonly attribute them to our intestines. And it’s not only […]

Help
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 10, 2022

Most of us need help of some kind, at least occasionally, and there are, of course, many different ways of seeking it. In an emergency, we immediately think of sending out an “S.O.S.” Contrary to popular belief, those letters do not stand for “Save Our Ship” or “Save Our Souls” – nor, for that matter, […]

That’s Entertainment
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 3, 2022

Believe it or not, the original meaning of “to entertain” was “to hold together.” But, when you come to think of it, that isn’t so far from what it still means today. People are held together by watching the same show, enjoying the same songs or jokes, admiring the same performers, feeling the same emotions […]

Loss
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   April 26, 2022

We have it on good Biblical authority that Humanity’s whole story started with having Paradise, and then losing it. Of course, nobody ever died in Paradise – but since then, everybody has. One of my favorite poets is A.E. Housman. And I particularly like this four-line epitaph he wrote, honoring some of the British volunteers […]

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Something’s Got to Give
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   April 19, 2022

Although it has now become a somewhat ritualized procedure, particularly associated with Christmas and birthdays, the practice of gift-giving has a long and colorful history in our culture. According to a leading authority (St. Paul, quoting Jesus), “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Far be it from me to question anybody’s holy […]

Come to Your Senses
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 22, 2022

You have probably heard the story about “The Princess and the Pea,” which was made famous in our culture by Hans Christian Andersen (but is, like most fairy tales, traceable far back to other times and places). The essence of the tale is that a girl who has claimed to be a Princess is subjected […]

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On the Side of the Angels
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 15, 2022

One of the religious ideas I find most attractive is that of divine intervention – particularly in the form of guardian angels. How wonderful to feel that, if things get really bad, there is a specially appointed agent of the deity who is assigned to protect you personally. Many religions and cultures promulgate ideas of […]

Gorilla My Dreams
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 8, 2022

On November 25, 1864, in a famous speech at Oxford University, the British statesman Benjamin Disraeli addressed himself to a matter which had been convulsing intellectual society since the 1859 publication of Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species. As Disraeli put it: “The question is this – is man an ape or an […]

Have Arms, Will Hug
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 1, 2022

The activity called boxing may not have contributed much to the field of athletics, but it has certainly enriched our language. The fighting once took place outdoors, in a “ring” made by the encircling spectators. Indoors, that area became a roped square, which – however – is still called a “ring.” In many nations, it […]

Sad Beauty
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   February 22, 2022

Why do we like watching the sun set? Is it the beauty of changing colors and shapes? Or is it rather the emotional impact of experiencing the passage of time, the ending of another day of our lives? These two closely interwoven themes, the sad and the beautiful, permeate our culture. Three of my favorite […]

Learning From the Young
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   February 15, 2022

A friend who was about to turn 50, knowing that I’m in my late 80s, asked me what advice I might have for a person reaching that milestone. I had to tell him that I thought all such “landmarks” artificial and insignificant, being based on our arbitrary counting in tens, which in turn derives from […]

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