There are thoughts that live in the minds of any given thinker in the world today (American, white, Daniel, perfectly general), the reasonable thoughts, the general thoughts, the common-sensical. Clean them up with a bit of bite and a reasonably mean-spirited bonne-mot against any and all anti-Hobbesian or two and you can live in a tower of money and pulp. Such is the case of any professional ethicist, political philosopher, opinion writer, or prosecuting attorney you might come across. It is a decent life, but it will come to nothing.
There are other thoughts, dustier thoughts, locked-away thoughts, those existing above (abstract, transcendental, critical) and behind (historical) the world of common-sense. To devote one’s life to these thoughts without looking outside is to live the ideal of the academic quadrant. It is a cramped life, filled to bursting with stability, but while there may or may not be joy, it will come to nothing.
There remain the thoughts of abstracted, critical, brutal engagement with the reasonable thoughts of the everyday world. These have the chance to ruin every well laid plan and every common sense. This life will be hard, and there are no guarantees of joy or hope or anything at all, it is the only path that leaves a meaningful possibility of any detritus being left behind when you have disappeared; it is the only possibility of passing beyond the laws of economical life.
translated by me from Der Kommunismus ist das Mittlere, by Bertolt Brecht (http://www.nrhz.de/flyer/beitrag.php?id=10146)
To call for a revolution against all presently existing orders
But this present existence has no order.
To take refuge in violence
But there, where violence is practiced every day,
It’s nothing special.
Communism is not the most radical proposal,
Of which only the smallest part can be made real, but rather
Before it is completely, utterly made real,
There is no situation which
(Except for the truly heartless) would be bearable.
Communism is really the very least demand
The obvious next step, the middle ground, the reasonable.
Whoever places themselves against it isn’t a dissident,
But rather a diffident, selfish, unthinking little rodent,
An enemy of the human race
Wanting the most radical proposal, to make even the smallest part of it real,
All of humanity would charge into the grave.
The box is named public consciousness.
I’ve drunk an age of coffee and held the world in my eyes, sold a book to a child and bought a pig from an Austrian prince. There have been better days before now, but only one that is deservedly called today.
I wonder every now and then what the point of all this sadness is. Am I learning something? Does someone, somewhere, have it all in hand? Because I know the prompts for sadness are only ever going to get worse. I’ve read enough books to see this, known enough lives. I’ve read the bibles, of course, the recitations, the constitution, but those big old men in the sky never quite seemed to have the things under control, truly, more Sunstein than Lenin, is what I mean, and look how that turned out.
I suppose what I’m really asking: is Robespierre still alive? How about Joyce? Sontag? Susan Sontag always seemed to have the feel of the bend of the world in an important way. This is certainly the best guide I’ve had these last 8.5 months: https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/08/27/susan-sontag-rules-for-being-24/
Although Dylan Thomas isn’t too bad. https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/twenty-four-years/
Well, The Experiment is The Experiment, I guess,- Song, Dance, Dance, Repeat, Bed.
This is a poem I memorized at work a few weeks back. It’s very lovely, and while it’s mostly just a sweet little frippery, there’s some very important work done in it staking out a conception of what it means to describe a person metaphorically. The rules are different for poetic description than prosaic description, but once you’ve set out the metaphors that are always true of a subject, the ones that are never true of the subject, and the ones that might be or sometimes are true of the subject, and once you introduce a second position into the metaphorical landscape (namely, me, Billy Collins), then we’re pretty darn close to a respectable topology of the world.
Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope you’re all feeling splendidly.
Names of Trees
Why the Violin is so Very Awkward to Hold
Active Enjoyment of The West Wing, Benjamin Britten, or Charles Dickens
Why All Children are Surnamed After Fathers
The Appeal of Car Ownership
The Appeal of Private Property
The Study of History
Contemporary Academia, as a Material Situation
The Wall Street Journal
I would greatly appreciate any answers.
I do not like him, but he has done nothing wrong, so I have to let him stay. His name is capitalism.
I am filled with sickness and unpleasant nose juice and have had to spend the day in bed, so have not been going to protests at airports to stop one of the most abominable actions my country has taken in the course of my entire life.
I feel ashamed of this inaction, even though I can’t really control it. Does this make sense? What do people recommend a failing body do in this moment when bodily presence is demanded by events?