Sunday’s Symposium

Richard Fader Lazar

Left to Right: Richard Cocks (philosopher and writer); Richard Fader (ex-city worker and philosopher); Lazar Sokolovski (Russian expatriate resident of Oswego; poet and philosopher). The scene is Old City Hall (cornerstone laid 1832; building completed in 1836) in Oswego, on Water Street. Old City Hall is the cultural heart of Oswego, which was in the Eighteenth Century America’s first frontier. The City of Oswego perches itself on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, at the mouth of the Oswego River.  I tell my visitors, if your feet are wet, you have gone too far to the north!

The Occasion: The usual Sunday-afternoon symposium at Old City Hall; and I am learning to use my new digital camera. Topics of conversation: Nicolas Berdyaev (Russian philosopher); Vassily Kallinikov (Russian composer); Dmitri Shostakovich (Russian composer); Boris Pasternak (Russian novelist); James Fennimore Cooper (American historian and novelist); Edgar Allan Poe (American poet and philosopher); Konstantin Balmont (Russian translator of Poe).

Fader TFB Lazar 02

Left to Right: Richard Fader (see above); Yours Truly (TFB); Lazar Sokolovski (see above).

Fader TFB Lazar 01

Three Old Guys (see above).

Lazar & Max

Left to Right : Dick Fader; Max Sokolovski (Son of Lazar and Tech Guy Extraordinaire); Lazar.

16 thoughts on “Sunday’s Symposium

  1. Pingback: Sunday’s Symposium | @the_arv

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  3. Very nice waistcoat. You need an umber mantle to complete the set, though. Maybe just for cold days, but sacrifices must be made for fashion.

    • In the last two days the sweltering ninety-degree weather of August has given way to a cool, dry climate. My outer garment yesterday was a gray frock-coat in the Dodge City style, but once indoors I hung it on the back of my chair.

      • We have enjoyed the annual break from oppressive summer weather in Oklahoma, too. Our Fall baseball teams (girls and boys) have taken it all in with a new degree of moxie, and, I, too, at 52, and as their coach, have begun to realize that I might well be “only as good once, as I ever was.” The interesting thing is that one of our (female) coaches is, apparently, a big believer in egalitarianism. When all is said and done, she won’t be, I can assure you all of that. Onward!

    • Conviviality is a good word for it: The good humor of the Sunday Afternoon Symposium gains greatly from the atmosphere of Larry Klotzko’s Old City Hall Tavern and Restaurant. Larry is generous to his “characters,” as he calls us.

      • There’s a similar place near my Alma Mater, called Galway Bay. Imagine that: an American Irish pub that’s not also a sportsbar, and has no televisions.

    • Berdyaev is currently for me a kind of crystallizing node. Richard Cocks and I believe that Berdyaev — although he died in 1948 and wrote from the late 1890s until his death — describes the reigning insanity of the West today as well as any contemporary writer. Berdyaev was professedly a fierce admirer of Dostoevsky and a sharp critic of Tolstoy. Our friend Lazar leans more towards Tolstoy than to Dostoevsky — so in our conversation we try to reconcile the differences, to the extent possible. Concerning Dmitri Shostakovich, we are in full agreement: He is one of the towering artistic figures of the last century.

      (Incidentally, wrote about Berdyaev here at The Orthosphere back in August:

  4. I want to avoid Poe because I believe so much of his writing is bad. But – as he has been described by others – Poe is inescapable. “The Raven,” though it sounds to me like a square dance in hell, I have loved since I was a little kid. Anyway, Poe as philosopher?? I wasn’t aware, and google offered little help. That would have been an interesting discussion to hear.

    • Poe was a far-sighted analyst of the cultural condition. He foresaw the devastation that an emergent democracy would wreak on American society. (See his stories “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion” and “The Dialogue of Monos and Una.”) Poe regarded his prose-poem Eureka as his greatest achievement. Eureka is a speculative synthesis of cosmology and theology. In it, incidentally, Poe scoops the singularity theory of cosmogenesis by more than a hundred years.

  5. I hope your symposium continues to prosper. It is hard to make these things work, and very hard to make them keep working for a long time. I started a somewhat similar group last year and it hasn’t failed yet, but most people at the university are not interested in activity that does not lead to a LOV (line on vita). Maybe we should make the old Beatles song our new academic anthem: “All you need is LOV! All you need is LOV!” I call my group the Oyster, since each discussion begins with the “irritant” of a quote, image or map. The work of the Oyster is to transform that irritant into a pearl of wisdom. This seems to work well because it gives us some structure but keeps prep time very low. If you ask participants to read a whole article, they either won’t or they will drop out.

    • Thank you for your comment, JM. I can happily report that the Symposium is about ten years standing. The group varies in number. Last Sunday was relatively small, but on occasion it will grow to eight or ten people. There is no formal structure. We depend on the fact that we are all inveterate readers and political and cultural observers with many interweaving interests — and that makes the conversation easy. Richard Cocks and I are affiliated with the university, but our friends Larry Klotzko, Dick Fader, Vinnie Ponzi, and Mark Hoogers have all earned their living in the real world. The Symposium is our alternative to the triteness of the campus.

      The Symposium works because in its origin it was spontaneous. It is based on friendship and no one minds being ribbed by anyone else. (That’s part of the pleasure of it.)


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