Saturday, March 31, 2012

The King Must Die by Mary Renault

Cruise Ships

I have nothing against cruise ships really - except for the fact that I never want to go near one. Other people seem drawn to these massive boats for reasons that I can't quite understand. The idea is that you can have an actual vacation on one of these traveling resort hotels in exchange for making yourself a voluntary prisoner to the buffet table, the slot machine and the shuffleboard tournament, with the occasional "shopping binge" on the mainland if that "floats your boat." Theoretically it all makes sense, I guess, except that a few of us suffer from a condition known as CLAUSTROPHOBIA so that spending time on a boat that is actively not trying to reach a final destination is sort of akin to being on a crowded elevator with the same lack of ambition. But fortunately for us (fellow claustrophobics), at this particular stage of human history,  in the year 2012, cruise ships have become, oddly emblematic of the places where lightning is most likely to strike. Just say the words "cruise ship" and you are virtually inviting unforeseen mishaps, disasters, epidemics, and negligent, cowardly handlers of bad situations to come your way. Not sure what any of this means, but there you have it. I'm filing away cruise ships as my weird symbol of the year .... #314.... following closely by etch-a-sketch toys and sweater vests.

Breach of Decorum (I wanted to say something, but...)

If you're one of "those people" (and I hope you are) that others have branded as "uptight" just because you happen to have standards of basic decorum that rise above sea level, you've had one of those moments when you wanted to say something, anything, about someone else's bad behavior in public, even though, technically there's no law against the activity you were witness to (against your will), and you just couldn't find the right words on the spur of the moment to get your point across. And, as you've heard a million times before, the minute you try to point out that breaches in decorum do have negative side effects on the average variable civility quotient, here in North America someone always stands up and hollers: "It's a free country, bub, don't tread on me!" and "Who are you to impose your morality on the rest of us?" But this time, you were pushed over the edge, for whatever reason. Oh, maybe it was something as simple as a few folks (probably young, restless and festive junebugs) talking throughout a seriously intense movie that you were trying to enjoy - i.e. pay close attention to - with them checking their lighted cell-phones in the dark; or perhaps someone was belting out one of your least favorite songs - a cacophonous screech-fest of a tune - while cutting in front of you in line somewhere, and you didn't really appreciate that maneuver, so you sighed loudly and groaned audibly but to no avail. Hey (what the other person did) - it's not a felony - am I right? Or perhaps it was that menacing group of "youths" (a.k.a derelicts, a.k.a hoodlums) who were moving rapidly in your direction, knocking over merchandise as they grazed past your torso with their hard-to-miss stone-cold stares and drug-infested bravado. (I'd be surprised if they didn't remind you that YOU were staring at THEM...what's your problem, bub?) Or maybe it was that crazed-looking fellow having a mysterious hygiene malfunction (involving hands, nose, mouth, lungs, arm pits, pant legs, who knows?) that you thought might lead, somewhere down the line, to you contracting malaria or even worse (although the mere thought of that gave you intense feelings of guilt for even harboring such anxiety, despite the high empirical likelihood of that being the case), or perhaps it was that fractious, vituperative haggard-looking woman, off-duty from being a real parent, you know, the one with the perpetually bad attitude, who was continuously (operative word) - scolding and berating the uncomprehending toddler with the far-away look in her eyes; or the young hyper-active couple on crystal meth, making their way through the fabric store, looking for God-knows-what type of yarn, dropping F-bombs as they went and calling every clerk in the store by their first name (arrgh!), or that guy waltzing with the mop on aisle #6 at Walmart, and making weird noises. (Well - maybe weird to you, but who are you to judge?) And let's not forget people who don't watch what they're doing or where they're going and are trying (it seems) to run you over or bump into you in narrow shopping mall corridors or in crowded restaurants or at the Gap. They almost seem to overshadow the assorted loiterers among us, who, always, busy doing nothing in particular, can be seen, at regular intervals, milling about on side streets, whooping it up, having spontaneous parties and make-out sessions as they go, shouting and cavorting and losing most of their bodily inhibitions in parking lots or other open venues not designed for such exhibitionism.  For me, it was being surrounded by a horde, nay a dangerous "flock," of hungry-looking shoppers, affectionately known otherwise as "pod-people," all reaching for, clutching at, those hideous yellow and green marshmallow candies, I mean those foamy, inedible, processed, padded-insulation-like candies (!) that I just can't ever seem to digest (!) - and their hands reaching out in unison, grabbing blindly at me, mistaking me (!) for one of those squishy packages (!) - having to absorb numerous "gropings" without making a peep - for a good cause at least (?) - this all happening at a certain time of year (a time that is typically referred to as "Easter," although out of respect for the Almighty, I'd prefer to instead to call it the "first-glimpse-of-spring equinox shopping corridor") and me looking for the green and yellow "plastic grass stuffing" to fill baskets with so as to hold the Cadbury chocolate along with something that I could digest, and feeling really down about the whole ordeal and wanting to scream (What are we all doing here in this forlorn, god-forsaken warehouse pretending like we're celebrating some profound, sacred holiday???) Come to think of it, this also happened at a Walmart store. Could it be?  Do you see a common thread developing here? But some would say that I'm just a highly sensitive person, and that episodes like these come and go, so there's nothing to be done about it....

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cosmology Happens...

 Thought-Provoking yet Accessible Books on Cosmology

The State of the Universe: A Primer in Modern Cosmology by Pedro Ferreira
The Big Bang by Joseph Silk
The Whole Shebang by Timothy Ferris
The View from the Center of the Universe by Primack and Abrams
Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe by Simon Singh
Origins: The Lives and Worlds of Modern Cosmologists by Alan Lightman
Wrinkles in Time: Witness to the Birth of the Universe by George Smoot
The Shadow of Creation: Dark Matter and the Structure of the Universe by Michael Riordan
Measuring the Universe: Our Historic Quest to Chart the Horizons of Time and Space by Kitty Ferguson

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Behind the Wall of Nice

Behind this wall of nice, wherein,
with many polished stones, built up,
adamantine and unyielding,
sunlit, smooth, foreboding to the touch
of newcomers, I have housed a labyrinthine path
for climbers, seeking solitary green,
past thicket of trees, dilapidated fence,
down stony path with hanging branches,
narrow and severe,
with rush of river,
through fog and mist,
promising little except
shared respite from the crowd.

Rage Against the Elites! #$@$%^&)!+=$?

"Can you believe what those "elitists" are up to now? Did you read the headlines today? Did you see that clip on youtube? Were you at the rally downtown? Guess who got acquitted (again) for bilking their own shareholders? Did you hear what our "favorite talk-radio host" had to say about them? He really pummeled them. She really hung 'em out to dry. Those jerks! Yeah - I'm talking about those insufferable, unmeritable, snooty-snobby, self-appointed "few" who think they're all that. Zounds and begorrah - it doth boil my blood to see them preen and strut about, patting themselves on the back, hogging the spotlight, monopolizing the conservation, spending their disposable income on narcissistic self-worship equipment, voting "liberal" to assuage their guilty consciences, voting "conservative" to keep their golden parachutes safe in the bank...those goatish, toadish poseurs, made-over twice, three-times, facially plasticized, tucked and lifted, dressed to the nines, hiding out amid their entourage of servants, wallowing inside their privileged gated enclaves, with their fancy cars driven by dutiful chauffeurs, and their subtle "I'm better than you..." assumptions sneaking out from behind liltingly cheery voices. How many times do we have to hear about where they went to school and who they grew up with and when they married their "perfect soulmates" and how they're busy now, purchasing a third home in the tropics (!) and why their children are superior to ours and where they plan to "summer" next year and which celebrities they've had dinner with recently and when their latest "how-to" book will be coming out? Who are they you ask? And what did they ever do to me? And why am I getting so riled up about them, when there are so many other things I could be doing with my precious time? You want to know why I'm getting so upset? And don't I have anything better to do? And can't I just "live and let live" while these frauds and cheats are out there on the loose - scamming the system for all it's worth? And why do I begrudge them their stellar education and their impeccable resumes and portfolios, their undeniable beauty, charm, intelligence, cunning, guile, ambition, energy, vitality, patience, persistence - qualities no doubt partly responsible for  their bountiful success in life? And doesn't that reflect poorly on me and my basic attitude toward the powers-that-be, when I'm the one defending the relentlessly competitive capitalist system of life-ain't-fair "winners" and "losers" so follow the money if there's a market for it and let the chips fall where they may morality? Or am I the one who's going-off-the-deep end about the 1% at the top of the ladder and jumping on a completely different band-wagon to boot just because my populist ire has been unleashed? And isn't it somewhat embarrassing that I sound so envious and resentful all the time? But isn't that a raison-d'etre for myself and many other "dregs" and "underlings" - who, after rousing ourselves from fretful sleep every morning, waiting upon our  "20-minutes hate"  - continue to suffer from that slow, sinking feeling of having been "out-played" by people we consider to be our social inferiors? The wretched middlebrow ascendancy!  Question: So what should we do then? Is all this ranting and raving really working? Answer: [calming down at last] Whew.... I suppose you're right. No, it isn't. What should we do? Question: Keep venting until nothing continues to not happen? Answer: Alright, sounds good to me. Question: Why such a cynic? Answer: Not a cynic, simply a very, very tired realist. Question: So, what I want to know is who's the real enemy? Does there have to be one always and everywhere? Answer: That's politics, kid. When in doubt, blame THEM. Question: And who would "they" be? Answer: You know very well (depending upon your mood). Just fill in the blank.

The Ambassadors by Henry James

Victory - A novel by Joseph Conrad

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A "Bonnard to Vuillard" Exhibit

'Girl in Red Kimono, Geesje Kwak' by George Hendrik Breitner
George Hendrik Breitner, Girl in Red Kimono, Geesje Kwak, 1893–95. Noortman Master Paintings, Amsterdam, on behalf of private collection, Netherlands

Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard
(February 4–May 6, 2012 - Phillips' Collection, Washington D.C.)

The invention of the Kodak handheld camera in 1888 energized the working methods and creative vision of many post-impressionists. Several of the leading painters and printmakers of the day used photography to record their public spheres and private lives, producing surprising, inventive results. Combining over 200 photographs with approximately 70 paintings, prints, and drawings from renowned international collections, Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard focuses on the dynamic relationship among the artists’ work in various media. The exhibition features experiments made with the camera by seven figures. Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Edouard Vuillard, and Félix Vallotton were leading members of the Nabis, a group of French avant-garde artists who sought a new kind of painting inspired by Paul Gauguin. George Hendrik Breitner, Henri Evenepoel, and Henri Rivière responded with equal enthusiasm to the possibilities inherent in the new medium. Snapshot is the largest selection ever assembled of photographs by these post-impressionists.
The artists recorded everything from bustling street scenes and the building of the Eiffel Tower to nude models and family trips to the countryside. Although they collectively produced over 10,000 photographs, most of the photographs in the exhibition are unknown and previously unpublished, and none of the artists thought of themselves as photographers. These were private objects, often made for the same reason people use cameras to this day: to commemorate events or capture precious moments with friends or loved ones. The artists sometimes translated their photographic images directly into their work in other media, and when viewed alongside these paintings, prints, and drawings, the snapshots reveal fascinating parallels in foreshortening, cropping, lighting, silhouettes, and vantage point.

"Golden Verses" by Gerard de Nerval

Do you believe that you alone can think...
Free-thinking man?
In this world,where life bursts forth in everything?
In your power you dispose the forces at your command
But the universe is far from all your plans.

Honor in each creature an active spirit,
Each flower is a soul blossoming in Nature;
In metal there dwells a mystery of love:
“Everything is sentient!”
And everything has power upon you!

Beware of the blind wall with watchful eyes:
Even matter itself is imbued with a word.
Do not therefore put matter to impious use.
Often within the most obscure being there lives a hidden god,
and like a nascent pair of eyes veiled by its lids,
a pure spirit grows beneath the husk of stones.

Kafka's Saddest Paragraph

 That most unfortunate Hunter Gracchus - drifting invisibly through time, eternally stranded between this world and the next -  no one knows about him, no one thinks about him, no one will seek him out, no one will find him or hear of him or be able to offer him help or commiserate with his plight...It's quite a symbol that Kafka invokes for us, and it makes me wonder about the type of isolation he was really referring to. It's enough to make deep-thinkers seek out more mundane distractions to lose themselves in...

"...Nobody will read what I say here, no one will come to help me; even if all the people were commanded to help me, every door and window would remain shut, everybody would take to bed and draw the bedclothes over his head the whole earth would become an inn for the night. And there is sense in that, for nobody knows of me, and if anyone knew he would not know where I could be found, and if he knew where I could be found, he would not know how to deal with me, he would not know how to help me. The thought of helping me is an illness that has to be cured by taking to one's bed. I know that, and so I do not shout to summon help, even though at moments - when I lose control over myself, as I have done just now, for instance - I think seriously of it. But to drive out such thoughts I need only look round me and verify where I am, and- I can safely assert- have been for hundreds of years." - from "The Hunter Gracchus"

Monday, March 26, 2012

Newman on "Higher" Education

The following is John Henry Newman's famous description of one* of the major pitfalls of so-called "higher" education" these days, namely, people with "views" and "opinions" on every topic, who the august Newman explains are in fact somewhat discursive in their thinking - even scatter-brained. Such scholarly dilettantes have been trained to dabble in various subjects with the result that they know precious little about almost everything.  They collect data and information as they go and are capable of reciting many facts and snippets of current events, but lack the power to process the empirical data. It scares me to think how much of the following critique applies to me and this somewhat discursive blog of mine, but I do believe Mr. N. has an excellent point to make about our present-day world with its relentless 24/7 news-cycle, where instantaneous "views" are demanded from us on subjects for which we have had precious little time to reflect.  Postscript: The other* serious pitfall of education that Newman mentions is that of narrow specialization - i.e. immersing oneself in a single area of study and fallaciously using that as the benchmark by which to judge other areas of knowledge.

"In like manner, we sometimes fall in with persons who have seen much of the world, and of the men who, in their day, have played a conspicuous part in it, but who generalize nothing, and have no observation, in the true sense of the word. They abound in information in detail, curious and entertaining, about men and things; and, having lived under the influence of no very clear or settled principles, religious or political, they speak of every one and every thing, only as so many phenomena, which are complete in themselves, and lead to nothing, not discussing them, or teaching any truth, or instructing the hearer, but simply talking. No one would say that these persons, well informed as they are, had attained to any great culture of intellect or to philosophy.
The case is the same still more strikingly where the persons in question are beyond dispute men of inferior powers and deficient education. Perhaps they have been much in foreign countries, and they receive, in a passive, otiose, unfruitful way, the various facts which are forced upon them there. Seafaring men, for example, range from one end of the earth to the other; but the multiplicity of external objects, which they have encountered, forms no symmetrical and consistent picture upon their imagination; they see the tapestry of human life, as it were on the wrong side, and it tells no story. They sleep, and they rise up, and they find themselves, now in Europe, now in Asia; they see visions of great cities and wild regions; they are in the marts of commerce, or amid the islands of the South; they gaze on Pompey's Pillar, or on the Andes; and nothing which meets them carries them forward or backward, to any idea beyond itself. Nothing has a drift or relation; nothing has a history or a promise. Every thing stands by itself, and comes and goes in its turn, like the shifting scenes of a show, which leave the spectator where he was. Perhaps you are near such a man on a particular occasion, and expect him to be shocked or perplexed at something which occurs; but one thing is much the same to him as another, or, if he is perplexed, it is as not knowing what to say, whether it is right to admire, or to ridicule, or to disapprove, while conscious that some expression of opinion is expected from him; for in fact he has no standard of judgment at all, and no landmarks to guide him to a conclusion. Such is mere acquisition, and, I repeat, no one would dream of calling it philosophy.

Instances, such as these, confirm, by the contrast, the conclusion I have already drawn from those which preceded them. That only is true enlargement of mind which is the power of viewing many things at once as one whole, of referring them severally to their true place in the universal system, of understanding their respective values, and determining their mutual dependence. Thus is that form of Universal Knowledge, of which I have on a former occasion spoken, set up in the individual intellect, and constitutes its perfection. Possessed of this real illumination, the mind never views any part of the extended subject-matter of Knowledge without recollecting that it is but a part, or without the associations which spring from this recollection. It makes every thing in some sort lead to every thing else; it would communicate the image of the whole to every separate portion, till that whole becomes in imagination like a spirit, every where pervading and penetrating its component parts, and giving them one definite meaning. Just as our bodily organs, when mentioned, recall their function in the body, as the word "creation" suggests the Creator, and "subjects" a sovereign, so, in the mind of the Philosopher, as we are abstractedly conceiving of him, the elements of the physical and moral world, sciences, arts, pursuits, ranks, offices, events, opinions, individualities, are all viewed as one, with correlative functions, and as gradually by successive combinations converging, one and all, to the true centre.

To have even a portion of this illuminative reason and true philosophy is the highest state to which nature can aspire, in the way of intellect; it puts the mind above the influences of chance and necessity, above anxiety, suspense, unsettlement, and superstition, which is the lot of the many. Men, whose minds are possessed with some one object, take exaggerated views of its importance, are feverish in the pursuit of it, make it the measure of things which are utterly foreign to it, and are startled and despond if it happens to fail them. They are ever in alarm or in transport. Those on the other hand who have no object or principle whatever to hold by, lose their way, every step they take. They are thrown out, and do not know what to think or say, at every fresh juncture; they have no view of persons, or occurrences, or facts, which come suddenly upon them, and they hang upon the opinion of others, for want of internal resources. But the intellect, which has been disciplined to the perfection of its powers, which knows, and thinks while it knows, which has learned to leaven the dense mass of facts and events with the elastic force of reason, such an intellect cannot be partial, cannot be exclusive, cannot be impetuous, cannot be at a loss, cannot but be patient, collected, and majestically calm, because it discerns the end in every beginning, the origin in every end, the law in every interruption, the limit in each delay; because it ever knows where it stands, and how its path lies from one point to another." - from The Idea of a University by John Henry Newman

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Calling All Introverts: Hey...Uhm...Let's...Unite...Yeah

Hello. I'm really glad you could make it to this little blog post of mine - for the type of gathering that we introverts can really appreciate without feeling "drained" or "depleted." Uhm...I just want to say that if you do consider yourself one of us and you are dealing with certain stress points throughout your day - such as the burden of mingling and making "small talk," or navigating your way through crowds, back-slapping and hand-grabbing, offering painted smiles to one's fellow actors, or having to attend another "meeting" or "party" or getting uncomfortable while people-you-don't-really-know and don't want to know decide to "unwind" and "open up" in front of you,  or keeping your "game face" on for people in authority,  not to mention having to explain "one more time" to someone who "just doesn't understand" that you're really not in a bad mood or trying to be mean, that what you really need right now is just a little space to "catch your breath" and "re-charge your battery" ... be aware that the rest of us are dealing with the VERY SAME ISSUES and are having a hard time of it. The good news is that we do understand what you're going through and we affirm your amazing talent and creativity in various areas which are only now (perhaps) beginning to emerge. We hope you have a wonderful day - and keep fighting the good non-violent fight until such time as the forthcoming REVOLUTION shall break out and go public, however gently, however mildly, if not too-too gradually, and we shall at last garner our fair share of well-deserved "acclaim" and "respect" from members of the otherwise recalcitrant, incorrigible "extrovert majority."  

Art speaks...I listen

Direction of the Modern Novel

I wish Mr. Lukacs would offer more specific examples of books that illustrate what he's saying here, but I like where he's going with this description. I think it's accurate as far as it goes. What say you?

"In the nineteenth century novel, the other type of necessarily inadequate relations between soul and reality became the more important one: the inadequacy that is due to the soul's being wider and larger than the destinies which life has to offer it. The decisive structural difference is that here we are not dealing with an abstract a priori condition on the face of life, a condition which seeks to realize itself in action and therefore provokes conflicts with the outside world which make up the story of the novel; but rather a purely interior reality which is full of content and more or less complete in itself enters into competition with the reality of the outside world, leads a rich and animated life of its own and, with spontaneous self-confidence, regards itself as the only true reality, the essence of the world: and the failure of every attempt to realize this equality [between interior soul and outside world] is the subject of the work....
...Whereas abstract idealism [i.e. the epic form of the novel from Cervantes onwards?] in order to exist at all, had to translate itself into action, had to enter into conflict with the outside world, here the possibility of escape [from an alien world] does not seem excluded from the start. A life which is capable of producing all its content out of itself [norms, values, accomplishments, etc.] can be rounded and perfect even if it never enters into contact with the alien reality outside. Whereas, therefore, an excessive, totally uninhibited activity toward the outside world was characteristic of the psychological structure of abstract idealism, here the tendency is rather towards passivity, a tendency to avoid outside conflicts and struggles rather than engage in them, a tendency to deal inside the soul with everything that concerns the soul." - From Georg Lukacs, Theory of the Novel

Note: This description really reminds me of Kafka whose "passivity" - as far the the narrative goes - if that's the right word - is produced by a constant bumping up against an alien, outside world whose logic and customary demands are totally at odds with what the individual requires for sustenance.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


You know the person I'm referring to here. You remember him from second grade, the one with the interesting "shock" of hair, the quirky, disheveled kid, somewhat evasive and "mumbly" in speech, obtuse about gravity, unaware of his own body, often roaming about, staring off into space, day-dreamy, neither confident nor entirely phobic. His teachers shook their heads at him because he would always find windows to sit by and stare; he enjoyed drawing birds, liked watching birds and following birds around, hoping to fly.  Colorful exotic birds enchanted him: robins and red jays, bullfinches, grosbeaks, cardinals. He made funny gurgling noises for no reason; he was a savant in a few areas (math, spelling), but quite average in others. He had a fascination for cookies, although he never ate them.  Besides birds, he was drawn to clouds, to trees, to ladders, to roofs, ceilings, kites,  escalators, elevators - to anything moving in an upward direction.  Many of the other children found him amusingly strange; some were annoyed with him and reprimanded him; some found him tedious. A few felt sorry for him and became his confidants. When he was not caught up in his day-dreams of flight, he was an intense observer of other people. He stared at them without staring; he sized them up and found them wanting, but was not judgmental. He accepted them. He seldom cried. He had a rather pleasant laugh - a high-pitched chortle echoing up into space. People learned that they could trust him with their money or their marbles. He was refreshingly honest, without malice, without greed. He did not have a sweet tooth. He was not a pariah, not the prey of bullies - more like a "novelty act" with few friends, but enough allies. Ambition existed for him, but had nothing to do with amassing power (no future there) or acquiring a fortune or building any kind of empire. He was not a hoarder or a collector. His best friends were two girls, who happened to be twins. Their names were (oh, I forget...), but their nicknames were Appie and Zippy. They were twins, but they were very different. Appie liked to pinch people as a way of saying hello; she collected flower petals and bug samples. She loved gardens and any kind of organic life forms. She railed against pollution. Zippy was more the indoors type; she studied music and played the cello until she discovered books. Along with books, she enjoyed arranging and organizing little souvenirs on the shelves in her room. I guess you could say she had a menagerie of miniature animal-vegetable-and-mineral specimens. And stuffed animals. And little men that were too small to be called dolls. She had no dolls. She was the most literate of the group - precocious was the word people used. She stared at people with the same old-soul wisdom. She shared that quality with the bird-watcher and with her sister. The twins had "theories" about everyone and everything, yet they considered these quite dangerous and "top secret." Some of the theories involved alien visitation, but many others were astrological in nature. The twins believed that birthdays were important and could predict how a person's life would unfold. The shape of a person's face was important too as was eye color combined with arm length, shoe size and manner of walking. Entire reservoirs of thought and feeling were condensed into nods and winks about certain individuals, who conformed to certain patterns under the twins' watchful gaze. Aside from the bird-watcher, Appie and Zippy spoke mostly to one another and a girl down the street - Tessa - who had a garden. The most dramatic thing to ever happen to the trio happened during the summer of 1978 when something terrible almost happened to Tessa. The others witnessed the event that almost was and after that it became their secret legacy.  Tessa recovered from the near tragedy that did not happen, but she was nervous afterwards. The bird-watcher liked Tessa quite a bit (especially after this big event) and she felt the same way about him; he would stop and talk every day almost - walking past her garden - but never when the twins were around. He spoke to the twins when they went on nature excursions and he was "hunting" for birds to draw. But he almost never saw Tessa when the twins were there or vice versa, although the twins considered Tessa their good friend. After the near-tragic event almost occurred, the friends spoke of "before" and "after" as a way of charting time. Before referred to those "innocent, carefree, giddy times," while after meant those "subsequent, heavy-laden, cynical days." Tessa was the bird-watcher's confidant, on equal par with the twins, but different nevertheless. Her ambition in life was to be a prophet, to see into the future; she believed that, although the twins had their theories, which she very much respected, she had her special intuitions. She just knew about events-yet-to-happen. She could discern good omens from bad. There was one awkward boy in the neighborhood, Jerry,  an artist of sorts with a large sketch-book - who the bird-watcher got along with despite the fact that Jerry was waylaid in bed with severe allergic reactions and other, possibly psychosomatic ailments. Jerry would come to the window of his upstairs bedroom and show the bird-watcher various drawings from his sketchbook. Jerry liked to draw monsters, but he always gave the bird-watcher helpful tips on how to sketch bird faces, bodies, silhouettes, etc. and how to add in plausible bucolic backgrounds.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunter Gracchus (a fragment)

"Gracchus, one request. First, tell me briefly but coherently how things are with you. To
be truthful: I really don't know. You of course take these things for granted and assume, as
is your way, that the whole world knows about them. But in this brief human life -- and life
really is brief, Gracchus, try to grasp that -- in this brief life it's as much as one can do to
get oneself and one's family through. Interesting as the Hunter Gracchus is -- this is
conviction, not flattery -- there's no time to think of him, to find out about him, let alone
worry about him. Perhaps on one's deathbed, like your Hamburger, this I don't know.
Perhaps the busy man will then have a chance to stretch out for the first time and let the
green Hunter Gracchus pass for once through his idle thoughts. But otherwise, it's as I've
said: I knew nothing about you, business brought me down here to the harbor, I saw the
bark, the gangplank lay ready, I walked across -- but now I'd like to know something
coherent about you. 
Ah, coherent. That old, old story.All the books are full of it, teachers draw it on the
blackboard in every school, the mother dreams of it while suckling her child, lovers murmur
it while embracing, merchants tell it to the customers, the customers to the merchants,
soldiers sing it on the march, preachers declaim it in church, historians in their studies
realize with open mouths what happened long ago and never cease describing it, it is
printed in the newspapers and people pass it from hand to hand, the telegraph was
invented so that it might encircle the world the faster, it is excavated from ruined cities, and
the elevator rushes it up to the top of the skyscraper. Railway passengers announce it
from the windows to the countries they are passing through, but even before that the
savages have howled it at them, it can be read in the stars and the lakes reflect it, the
streams bring it down from the mountains and the snow scatters it again on the summit,
and you, man, sit here and ask me for coherence. You must have had an exceptionally
dissipated youth.
Possibly, as is typical of any youth. But it would be very useful, I think, if you would go
and have a good look around the world. Strange as it may seem to you, and sitting here it
surprises even me, it's a fact that you are not the talk of the town, however many subjects
may be discussed you are not among them, the world goes its way and you go on your
journey, but until today I have never noticed that your paths have crossed." - Franz Kafka

The Pain of "Small Talk" - Pt 1

From an early age we are all taught the simple joys of social interaction, beginning with the most rudimentary exchanges.  Such "verbal niceties" make up the first step in learning how to venture out of our respective shells and begin exploring (one hopes) our enchanting social environment: Hello, how are you? I am fine, thanks. Do you like school? Yes, I like school, especially recess. I have a sister. I have a pet iguana. I can ride a bike. I'm not afraid of the dark. Is pizza your favorite food? Mine is ice cream. My favorite show is Sesame Street. Do you have any goldfish? etc. etc. And, as this pattern continues, presumably, we learn to associate fun and adventure with such glib, unself-conscious banter, and gradually, so the theory goes, we become more at ease with these harmless little banal conversations that recur so frequently - minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, every time we turn around, it seems. Because it's normal to be chatty and to use our vocal cords to good effect, to observe, to opine, to share information with our peers. Ah, who is there so cold of heart as to not enjoy the sound of innocent, guileless jibber-jabber in hallways, on playgrounds, at shopping malls? So then, naturally, irrevocably, as day follows night, at some point during this gestation period of youth, we come to learn that this basic ritual of human correspondence known as small talk - this wonderful, bountiful, inescapable prelude to serious dialogue - is, in fact, the easiest thing on earth to master, the most direct way of establishing much-needed contact with persons of whatever social station who happen to be standing or loitering nearby. Any fool can make small talk and I use that word advisedly (see blog title). America runs on small talk because America is full of extroverts and the easiest thing for an extrovert to do is make small talk: Hi. Hello. Nice weather we're having. Don't you think? Supposed to rain next week.  Didya see that story in the paper about the missing cat caught in the storm pipe? Oh yeah, that was funny. Here it's only March and I can't wait for football season to begin again. Those dang Celtics are trading away their best players. Think this economy is gonna turn around? Don't know. Hope so. Well, I aim to find myself a good pancake eatery. Yep. That sounds good. Heh, heh, heh, that's a funny shirt you're wearing. Bought it at a yard sale. No way.  I swear. Is that one of them tye dye shirts? I believe it is. But for some of us, odd as it may sound, these very ordinary encounters are enough to produce excruciating levels of stress and discomfort - not to mention perspiration and momentary mental paralysis. We make a good faith effort to "jump in the pool" and sometimes we're in the shallow end....and sometimes we're not. Sometimes it's like floating, and sometimes it's more like keeping one's head above water or just treading water, counting, slowly, as the minutes pass, until one of our interlocutors lures us toward the deep end or else decides to splash water on us. And sometimes it's like gasping for breath and feeling the oxygen not being replenished in our lungs. (Not to exaggerate but, that is what it feels like.) And of course the "pool rules" are not prominently displayed anywhere - so now we have a problem.  The conversation hits a snag:  Hey, chief. What? What the haps? Why so serious, there, chief, what's wrong? Nothing...what are you...getting at? Just kiddin, but hey, you DO look uncomfortable, there dude... what gives? Gotta roll with the punches, chief. Are you saying... am face, my shoulders [awkward pause] they bother you? Relax, I'm just teasing, chief. Anyhow [yawn...stretch...looking around...] Think I'll be on my way now. See you later, worried guy.  It's hard to completely analyze what goes wrong in these simple conversations - I think it has a lot to do with the feeling of being scrutinized and summarily judged - albeit provisionally and superficially -  by another person acting without a search warrant. And if that's not weirdly problematic and insufferable enough, just add a few more high-energy sentient beings to the mix.  That's when the warning lights really start to go off in the brain, predicting danger, danger, danger. We introverts  - we agitated, "highly sensitive ones" - can almost smell the moment at which people come together for the dubious, open-ended,  scary purpose of "letting their hair down" in public - sharing unseemly laughs hitherto unshared, boasting of vices previously kept hidden, losing inhibitions recently sequestered in warehouses, fidgeting like frogs in a bucket, exchanging sordid tales of lust and gluttony, trading insults and put-downs that only add to the festivities, surreptitiously competing to out-do one another in swagger and bravado, making light, making merry, laughing and snorting and cavorting until the room begins to spin and I - must - seek - fresh - air - immediately. What is wrong with this picture.... that anyone (like me) should feel so forlorn and oppressed? Oh Lord, why do we (my fellow introverts and I)  feel so bent-out-of-shape in the middle of all this frivolity? Why does it unsettle us so very much when all sense of gravitas and sobriety is swept out of the room? A convention of stand-up comedians could boast of more stability than this. Because these situations are normal, right? People gathering and feeling "comfortable" with one another, talking about neither this nor that - nothing that's you'd want recorded for posterity's sake...all that is good and salutary...and to be encouraged. So says the majority, so goes the way of the world. I get it....because people out there need to talk, to relax, to unwind, to regale, to laugh, to share, to tease, to reveal, to get wild, get crazy, go nuts, get jiggy as part of what they do.  And if the majority is happy with that, we'll you know what that means, my fellow "aberrant weeds," my fellow "third wheels," my fellow "biological errors." We become the de facto kill-joys, the nay-sayers, the party-poopers, petulantly pining away for a pity party. But supposing it was really quite unnerving and somewhat traumatic for a certain portion of the population - oh let's say 17% for starters  - to endure these common episodes. What if such experiences only served to disorient and confuse, to frazzle and to fluster, to place our nerve-endings on overload, to de-moralize and discourage those of us who are wired, at such moments, to look around (in desperation) for more serious, structured forms of philosophical conversation, which never seem to break out? What then? Oh, I could go on squawking about this incontrovertible issue for the next week and a half, but action, it seems is called for. Two choices remain for us - if any of this stuff happens to resonate with you: pity party in my room (5 minutes), be there, be square or else....we...could... start ...a... REVOLUTION!

Chance by Joseph Conrad

Something about this late novel is downright hypnotic, partly because of how the narrative is constructed and partly because of the incantatory quality of Conrad's prose. The story is told through multiple narrators - the main voice belonging to "Marlow"- Conrad's famous alter-ego. The main character, Flora de Barral, is one of those elusive people we keep trying to get to know,  but never quite come to see clearly, reminiscent of  a far-off figure in some impressionistic painting that never comes fully into focus. Our curiosity follows Marlow's lead becoming more and more obsessed with her strange, traumatic childhood and adolescence; we follow her personal transformation from helpless, unfortunate waif to self-assertive survivor to mature, contented adult, but she remains a mysterious "figure" (if that's the right word) more than "character" throughout the book. Many critics have faulted this late novel of Conrad's for its shadowy presences and thinning plot-line, but the narrative is truly remarkable, unique, experimental, cutting edge - if that makes any sense. The story is not so much about the people themselves as it is Marlow's attempt to unearth the truth. Marlow is the strong presence here. Very high-modern.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Newman's Apologia (Excerpts)

Whether you call yourself religious or not, whether you belong to a particular house of worship or find yourself going "free-lance," whether religion defines or perplexes you or "spirituality" enamors you, whether the traditional forms of "God-talk" have grown hackneyed and stale or else you simply seek for newer, more compelling descriptions, you could do far worse than having John Henry Newman - supreme thinker, artist, prose stylist - on your radar screen. The following passage is another one of those gems that I collect as models of eloquence and profundity:

"Starting then with the being of a God, (which, as I have said, is as certain to me as the certainty of my own existence, though when I try to put the grounds of that certainty into logical shape I find a difficulty in doing so in mood and figure to my satisfaction,) I look out of myself into the world of men, and there I see a sight which fills me with unspeakable distress. The world seems simply to give the lie to that great truth, of which my whole being is so full; and the effect upon me is, in consequence, as a matter of necessity, as confusing as if it denied that I am in existence myself. If I looked into a mirror, and did not see my face, I should have the sort of feeling which actually comes upon me, when I look into this living busy world, and see no reflexion of its Creator. This is, to me, one of those great difficulties of this absolute primary truth, to which I referred just now. Were it not for this voice, speaking so clearly in my conscience and my heart, I should be an atheist, or a pantheist, or a polytheist when I looked into the world. I am speaking for myself only; and I am far from denying the real force of the arguments in proof of a God, drawn from the general facts of human society and the course of history, but these do not warm me or enlighten me; they do not take away the winter of my desolation, or make the buds unfold and the leaves grow within me, and my moral being rejoice. The sight of the world is nothing else than the prophet's scroll, full of "lamentations, and mourning, and woe. To consider the world in its length and breadth, its various history, the many races of man, their starts, their fortunes, their mutual alienation, their conflicts; and then their ways, habits, governments, forms of worship; their enterprises, their aimless courses, their random achievements and acquirements, the impotent conclusion of long-standing facts, the tokens so faint and broken of a superintending design, the blind evolution of what turn out to be great powers or truths, the progress of things, as if from unreasoning elements, not towards final causes, the greatness and littleness of man, his far-reaching aims, his short duration, the curtain hung over his futurity, the disappointments of life, the defeat of good, the success of evil, physical pain, mental anguish, the prevalence and intensity of sin, the pervading idolatries, the corruptions, the dreary hopeless irreligion, that condition of the whole race, so fearfully yet exactly described in the Apostle's words, "having no hope and without God in the world,"—all this is a vision to dizzy and appal; and inflicts upon the mind the sense of a profound mystery, which is absolutely beyond human solution.What shall be said to this heart-piercing, reason-bewildering fact? I can only answer, that either there is no Creator, or this living society of men is in a true sense discarded from His presence. Did I see a boy of good make and mind, with the tokens on him of a refined nature, cast upon the world without provision, unable to say whence he came, his birthplace or his family connexions, I should conclude that there was some mystery connected with his history, and that he was one, of whom, from one cause or other, his parents were ashamed. Thus only should I be able to account for the contrast between the promise and the condition of his being. And so I argue about the world;—if there be a God, since there is a God, the human race is implicated in some terrible aboriginal calamity. It is out of joint with the purposes of its Creator. This is a fact, a fact as true as the fact of its existence; and thus the doctrine of what is theologically called original sin becomes to me almost as certain as that the world exists, and as the existence of God. And now, supposing it were the blessed and loving will of the Creator to interfere in this anarchical condition of things, what are we to suppose would be the methods which might be necessarily or naturally involved in His purpose of mercy? Since the world is in so abnormal a state, surely it would be no surprise to me, if the interposition were of necessity equally extraordinary—or what is called miraculous. But that subject does not directly come into the scope of my present remarks. Miracles as evidence, involve a process of reason, or an argument; and of course I am thinking of some mode of interference which does not immediately run into argument. I am rather asking what must be the face-to-face antagonist, by which to withstand and baffle the fierce energy of passion and the all-corroding, all-dissolving skepticism of the intellect in religious inquiries? I have no intention at all of denying, that truth is the real object of our reason, and that, if it does not attain to truth, either the premiss or the process is in fault; but I am not speaking here of right reason, but of reason as it acts in fact and concretely in fallen man. I know that even the unaided reason, when correctly exercised, leads to a belief in God, in the immortality of the soul, and in a future retribution; but I am considering the faculty of reason actually and historically; and in this point of view, I do not think I am wrong in saying that its tendency is towards a simple unbelief in matters of religion. No truth, however sacred, can stand against it, in the long run; and hence it is that in the pagan world, when our Lord came, the last traces of the religious knowledge of former times were all but disappearing from those portions of the world in which the intellect had been active and had had a career." - John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Chapter 5

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Nobodaddy - Part 2

Lest anyone intentions here are rather simple and straightforward,  if somewhat experimental... and far (very far) from wanting to come across as impious or derogatory. The following is simply an attempt to unpack an experience that many of us have had and continue to have, which is quite existential, but not always gleeful or inspiring. I refer to it simply as "that existential feeling" (with emphasis on the word "feeling" as opposed to a "logical conclusion" based on "empirical evidence")  of being "alone among the elements," of having been cut off from any consistent form of divine protection, of being "abandoned" and "forsaken" -  made vulnerable to the [autonomous] forces of Nature. Or as Simone Weil would say (see prior post), made beholden to the "gravity" of blind necessity, prey to accidents and random disasters, fodder for "extremes of heat and cold" - as if we had expected some better deal...(yeah, I get it)...but yet we do expect a better deal. Like Job before us or the author of Ecclesiastes, or King Lear on the Heath, like William Blake (see prior post), Matthew Arnold, Alfred Lord Tennyson, even Charles Darwin, along with many prior poets and countless slaves, we've experienced that weird, awkward, one-way dialogue, that "Nobodaddy" moment, that strange "conversation" with the abyss.  We've undergone our angry interrogation/denunciation of the deus absconditus  -  the non-responsive agency, the absence-in-place-of-a-hoped-for presence, the void that we cling to like a person,  our ever-absent, silent interlocutor, who is not sitting above the clouds watching over us, is not keeping tabs on us, has no dealings with us,  no correspondence with us, cannot hear us, does not heed our cries, cannot intervene on our behalf or send signs and omens, or make amends for past injustices, neither wishes us well or ill, cannot remember us or compile facts about us, provides no response or condolence, is not cognizant or awake or sentient, offers us only ambiguous silence and a blank (invisible) stare from the great beyond. Granted it's hard to feel safe with someone like that not watching over you...although many millions of people nowadays feel relatively nonplussed by it all (or so they claim, or so I hear), but the good news for the rest of us who do agonize over these matters, as I believe we should, as I believe we must, in order to become worthy of calling ourselves truly religious-minded creatures,  is that by sweeping aside this idolatrous expectation - of a deity poised to step in and tamper with the outcome of every waking moment,  ready to prevent us from misteps, errors, failures, confusions, miseries and regrets, there on call to chase away the ghouls or else bind up our hurts, and give us unambiguous moral guidance and support every step of the way as we believe He should (!), one can (perhaps, just maybe, and with some degree of probability) make room for some far-off preliminary to a correspondence with the one true G __ d with whom a relationship of genuine concern (both ways) may actually be envisioned.

Nobodaddy - Part 1

Why art Thou silent and invisible
Father of jealousy
Why dost thou hide thyself in clouds 
From every searching Eye
Why darkness & obscurity 
In all thy words & laws 
That none dare eat the fruit but from 
The wily serpents jaws..." - 
 from "To Nobodaddy" by William Blake

"What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?" 
-  from "Sunday Morningby Wallace Stevens

Klee's Angelus Novus

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Shakespeare After All by Marjorie Garber

An Encounter with Simone Weil

"God causes this universe to exist, but he consents not to command it, although he has the power to do so. Instead he leaves two other forces to rule in his place. On the one hand there is the blind necessity attaching to matter, including the psychic matter of the soul, and on the other the autonomy essential to thinking persons.‟ - Simone Weil (from Waiting for God)

a theology for the modern world???

Monday, March 19, 2012

Revolt of the Masses - Ortega Y Gasset

"Civilization is before all, the will to live in common. A man is uncivilized, barbarian in the degree in which he does not take others into account. Barbarism is the tendency to disassociation. Accordingly, all barbarous epochs have been times of human scattering, of the pullulation [sprouting up] of tiny groups, separate from and hostile to one another. " - Ortega Y Gasset


The philosopher Hegel - following in the wake of Hobbes/Rousseau I should add - is famous for giving us the "master-slave" dialectic - a  theoretical "description" of how people in subordinate social roles gradually gain "recognition" and/or clout over the course of many toilsome centuries. To make a long story short, the slave's inherent work-ethic and burgeoning self-awareness gradually (as in very very slowly) win out over the master's complacency, lethargy and arrogance. The master learns (albeit reluctantly and usually at the end of his rule) that he's no greater than the slave, having depended on him/her (for services, for applause) all along; the slave, having already affirmed the master's full merit as a  human being, acting under compulsion, no doubt, yet still buying into the master's ideology,  learns to value his or her own worth, becomes the master's equal in the face of a mortality that each must fall victim to - so much so that the master (or ruling elite) can no longer maintain credibility with the masses he wants to subjugate. This is not the be-all-and-end-all of what Hegel has to say on the matter - and does not solve the problem entirely - precisely because when society as a whole finally comes around to recognizing the basic worth of every individual and the absolute wisdom (there's no going back...) of "equality under law," questions inevitably arise as to how to explain or justify the persistence of any remaining social inequities - the most important of which (for Hegel at least) would be disparities in social status. (In other words, the rhetoric gets perfected, old prejudices cannot show their face in public, but people continue to operate within the old pattern of things, leading to a ghostly hierarchy of sorts.) But this rift between rhetoric (equality) and reality (hierarchy) while signaling more subtle forms of exclusion, also ushers in new complaints and  demands.  The challenge for  modern "legislators' - both office-holders and opinion-makers - becomes that of promoting a system wherein everyone shall be sufficiently recognized (whatever that means) for their specific merits and contributions - to the common good, even if formal differences in wealth, education, power remain and (if we're being really honest here) can never be fully eradicated ... which brings me to the problem of the "also-ran" or modern-day "cubicle dweller" for lack of a better term. Theoretically, this person knows and feels that he or she is the equal of anyone else,* the standard-bearer and "judge" for what counts as "worth-while." Without this "average reasonable person's" tastes and opinions, presumably, the whole system would not be what it is. But the judge does not always receive affirmation for being one "participant" among many others, who nevertheless makes up the conglomerate of public opinion; the judge no doubt feels slighted that other, more "successful types"  (in whatever field) are busy reaping perks and prizes! The judge is out there, shopping, browsing, selecting, approving, buying, opining, posting, blogging, going online for some semblance of affirmation... And yet... even with a "celebrity-conscious" culture that prides itself on handing out numerous awards to an endless stream of talents and behaviors, it is on one level not surprising yet (rhetorically) somewhat shocking that millions still feel left out of the equation. These multitudes (myself, ourselves) have no recourse but to live vicariously through casting our votes ("I like this, I like that," "I shop here, I prefer brand X....") through judging (en masse), choosing among, deciding upon beverages, commodities, travel locales, fly-by-night media stars and otherwise bearing the burden of anonymity in the shadow of THAT constant stream of publicity out there, whispering incessantly ("Look who's more successful than you...").  Strange that the more outlets there are for acclaim or recognition on a local level, the more upsetting it becomes not to garner any sort of official status from said accomplishment in whatever field! (You may have done it, but that was in Pittsburgh. You may have won the title, but that was LAST season.)  Thus, for readers of Hegel, it's hard not to scratch our heads and wonder at what has happened apres le deluge with everyone technically pronounced free and equal so many years ago.  The rhetoric by itself - that  hyper-abundance of cultural self-awareness that is here to stay- was supposed to usher in some sort of golden age... right (?) ....a feeling of equity, a classless society with minimal hangups, yet having emerged from the epochs of slavery, into this era of middle class ascendancy, do people in general feel that much more affirmed for their labors? I wonder...

*= I admit I'm getting a lot of this from The Revolt of the Masses by Jose Ortega Y Gasset

Samuel Johnson - Prose Stylist

"The hostility perpetually exercised between one man and another, is caused by the desire of many for that which only few can possess. Every man would be rich, powerful, and famous; yet fame, power, and riches are only the names of relative conditions, which imply the obscurity, dependance, and poverty of greater numbers. This universal and incessant competition produces injury and malice by two motives, interest and envy; the prospect of adding to our possessions what we can take from others, and the hope of alleviating the sense of our disparity by lessening others, though we gain nothing to ourselves." - from Samuel Johnson's, The Rambler,  #183

Sunday, March 18, 2012

from "Church Going" by Philip Larkin

...A shape less recognizable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation - marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these - for whom was built
This special shell? For, though I've no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mercutio's Curse

Wondering about those final lines of Mercutio...

What is it about each household exactly that Mercutio's character takes issue with - aside from the fact that their feud got him killed? (Yes, I know I should mention that.) If, for example, the Capulets are demonstrably the more violent, honor-conscious clan (consider Gregory and Sampson at the beginning of the play, the fights that Tybalt starts or brings down upon himself, Papa Capulet's mercurial wrath and rash threats of "disowning" his daughter ("Out, baggage!"), Juliet's willful defiance of  her parents' wishes and fierce denunciation of Paris, the fact that Juliet stabs herself at the end) then the Montagues, their foil, could be described, by contrast, as the dreamy pleasure-seekers,  flighty, fickle, restless, impulsive, intense but not bellicose, hedonists extraordinaire - except for the fateful moment when Romeo is forced, one could say, out of guilt, out of loyalty, to avenge Mercutio's death. (Interesting that he should feel this imperative on a par with his own love for Juliet...) But with Romeo and Juliet paired off so problematically - even from the outset!- (despite our sympathies for their them), is it not Mercutio's role in the play, even if he be ignorant of R&J as a couple, to show Romeo some third-option of comportment, that he himself embodies beyond what is offered by the Capulets and the Montagues,  (mindless honor-seeking/languorous pleasure-seeking) and if so, would not such a path prove somewhat incompatible with these two options?  Mercutio - passionate as he is - seems at odds with where these passions lead. His remedy is humor, ridicule and games,  yet these are not necessarily intended to help him stay out of danger. On the contrary, he relishes his role as gadfly and antagonist. He ends up dueling with Tybalt! And perhaps he IS in love with someone... But, no doubt, he views these involvements as partial and problematic while holding out for something "other" - more thoughtful, more philosophical. This may seem like quite a stretch, but I see Mercutio as the forerunner to Lear's fool - standing apart from the enthusiasms that surround him, but  not entirely free of their influence. His mind remains invulnerable, but alas, not his body.

Emily Bronte - Prose Artist

Emily Bronte

One family - three great prose artists - and one brother. How does that happen?

The Bronte Myth by Lucasta Miller

Friday, March 16, 2012

Georg Lukacs' Theory of the Novel


"The contingent world and the problematic individual are realities which mutually determine one another. If the individual is unproblematic, then his aims are given to him with immediate obviousness, and the realization of the world constructed by these given aims may involve hindrances and difficulties, but never any serious threat to his interior life. Such a threat arises only when the outside world is no longer adapted to the individual's ideas and the ideas become subjective facts - ideals - in his soul. The positing of ideas as unrealizable and, in the empirical sense, as unreal, i.e. their transformation into ideals, destroys the immediate, problem-free organic nature of the individual. Individuality then becomes an aim unto itself because it finds within itself everything that is essential to it and that makes its life autonomous - even if what it finds can never be a firm possession of as the basis of its life, but is [only] the object of a search." - Georg Lukacs - Theory of the Novel