Every artist was first an amateur. Ralph Waldo Emerson
The words and life of Ralph Waldo Emerson had a profound effect on me when I was just a schoolboy, so much so that during my senior year in high school I lobbied and won the right to name the new black labrador puppy we had brought into the family, Waldo. Back then everyone my age knew about Emerson's long friendship with Henry David Thoreau and their famous exchange. According to some accounts, Emerson visited Thoreau in the Concord jail for refusing to pay his poll tax and asked, “Henry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?" Thoreau was refusing to finance the government war machine of his day.
Although having nothing to do with Thoreau or what many have called "his hippie politics" run amuck, I have since tried to find the precise language shot from the brow of Mr. Emerson that had pierced me, words that I paraphrased with aplomb and a surety to others for years, but I have not been able to locate the exact words. However, at the other extreme of this entry, I will do my best to reconstruct the thought.
Meanwhile I did find these several contiguous paragraphs I immediately embraced because they not only reminded me of something I think I read in Henry Miller about Kierkgaard, but they are so similar to the lines I'm looking for I was surprised when I couldn't find them in the essay from which I lifted the following words:
The characteristic of such verses is, that being not written for publication, they lack that finish which the conventions of literature require of authors. But if poetry of this kind has merit, we conceive that the prescription which demands a rhythmical polish may be easily set aside; and when a writer has outgrown the state of thought which produced the poem, the interest of letters is served by publishing it imperfect, as we preserve studies, torsos, and blocked statues of the great masters. For though we should be loath to see the wholesome conventions, to which we have alluded, broken down by a general incontinence of publication, and every man's and woman's diary flying into the bookstores, yet it is to be considered, on the other hand, that men of genius are often more incapable than others of that elaborate execution which criticism exacts. Men of genius in general are, more than others, incapable of any perfect exhibition, because however agreeable it may be to them to act on the public, it is always a secondary aim. They are humble, self-accusing, moody men, whose worship is toward the Ideal Beauty, which chooses to be courted not so often in perfect hymns, as in wild ear-piercing ejaculations, or in silent musings. Their face is forward, and their heart is in this heaven. By so much are they disqualified for a perfect success in any particular performance to which they can give only a divided affection. But the man of talents has every advantage in the competition. He can give that cool and commanding attention to the thing to be done, that shall secure its just performance. Yet are the failures of genius better than the victories of talent; and we are sure that some crude manuscript poems have yielded us a more sustaining and a more stimulating diet, than many elaborated and classic productions.
We have been led to these thoughts by reading some verses, which were lately put into our hands by a friend with the remark, that they were the production of a youth, who had long passed out of the mood in which he wrote them, so that they had become quite dead to him. Our first feeling on reading them was a lively joy. So then the Muse is neither dead nor dumb, but has found a voice in these cold Cisatlantic States.
Here is poetry which asks no aid of magnitude or number, of blood or crime, but finds theatre enough in the first field or brookside, breadth and depth enough in the flow of its own thought. Here is self-repose, which to our mind is stabler than the Pyramids; here is self-respect which leads a man to date from his heart more proudly than from Rome. Here is love which sees through surface, and adores the gentle nature and not the costume. Here is religion, which is not of the Church of England, nor of the Church of Boston. Here is the good wise heart, which sees that the end of culture is strength and cheerfulness.
In an age too which tends with so strong an inclination to the philosophical muse, here is poetry more purely intellectual than any American verses we have yet seen, distinguished from all competition by two merits; the fineness of perception; and the poet's trust in his own genius to that degree, that there is an absence of all conventional imagery, and a bold use of that which the moment's mood had made sacred to him, quite careless that it might be sacred to no other, and might even be slightly ludicrous to the first reader.
One more thought on Thoreau and what my sources call his poll tax. Seems as if one didn't always have to be a poor Negro languishing in the Southern Disguise under Jim Crow to be smacked with a poll tax in this man's United States of America. As for knocking Thoreau and his Walden Pond fantasy, I made my own Walden Pond fantasy some to pass down in Florida, Lofton Creek, east of Yulee, where my blistering education really got a kickstart away from the slow gentle death I had been suffering since leaving highschool, my glory years of school confinement grades 1-12 which I loved, for married life and the strong American red, white, and blue work ethic which I loved considerably less...
But Emerson made plain my future to me when he described the world as full of young wits who have a measure of both skill and resolve. However, they burst upon the stage, and soon are spent, wasted, with nothing else to say, and not much of what they did say will stand. However, wrote Emerson, one should prefer to be the man who exercises patience, disabusing himself of the notion of early riches and fame only to flame out. This man would rather hone his skill, his talent, his art, his learning, and then when the time of maturity has arrived, he will have something more substantial to say, something more lasting, something more beneficial.
I would love to stumble across Emerson's exact words, but for now...
Or, in other words, "Don't Idle On The Grass" I thought to myself as I wondered what kind of person started communications like this girl did. Australian punk rock girls? Just my luck that she was on the other side of the planet. Okay, I'd give her a shot at sanity.
The following record tracks the well-worn path of most of my ordinary attempts at communication with the generalized world, whether online, in print, or over a beer in the barnyard back in the day. I will attempt to re-create the original form of the communication, in this case, to shine ample light on a very swift but exciting blitz of misunderstandings and its ultimate smiling defeat, by including both sides of the exchange until the point of what was lost in translation is more clear. These amusing messages shot back and forth across the globe from Washington, DC to Australia over a few weeks in May & June, 1998, initiated when a young lady named Olivia Pantelidis found my online bookstore, and filled out the suggestion box form.
At 9:52 PM -0700 5/20/98, WWW-server wrote: mail_dest = storemaster rmailreq = true subject = Suggestion Box name = olivia rmail = okimmikko bookworm = 3-5 books author = grass, i am trying to contact him can you help me title = topic = comments = PLEASE IF YOU CAN HELP ME EMAIL ME AND LET ME KNOW. hE IS MY IDLE
Sorry Olivia. I sell books. I am not a literary agent or detective. You'll need to find Gunter yourself, and do learn to spell your words. I hardly think GG is your "IDLE", but rather like Billy he might be your "IDOL."
Literary folk don't usually cotton to such linguistic haziness. But on the positive side, you are now entered in the Bookskellar Book Giveaway.
Gabriel Thy Graphic Solutions Ink Systems
At 9:16 PM -0700 5/21/98, Olivia Pantelidis wrote: How dare you!!!!!!! I ask you for help and you come back at me like some kind of know it all. Well fuck you!!!!! People like you are so above arrogant it is amazing. Don't flatter yourself either it is quite obvious that you have a high estimation of your own worth well you can shove it up your arse!!!!
Bye for now shithead, and take me out of your stupid contest or whatever it is.
How dare ME??? Get a life Olivia! Do you storm into a bookstore and DEMAND they give you all sorts of information on some author you are asking about? Hell no, they might DIRECT you where to get it, if at first they understand what you are asking (after all, you did say please). I had to take pause at your language because your orthography was a bit out of kilter (and I saw a handful of jokes just waiting to be mined). But you, in turn, decide to drop your pants, aim, and squirt wickedly juicy darts in my direction when I gently point out what was rather obvious in the context of my website. Well BABY (HERE'S WHERE YOU SHOUT BACK, FUCK YOU MAN, I AIN'T YOUR BABY!) you dear Olivia are on record as behaving according to your own nature. Punk THAT little sister! I'm sorry my reply offended you, but I guess YOU know how to take care of YOURSELF. You certainly SHOWED me, didn't you?
I get two or three notes a week similar to your first request from kids obviously wanting me to do homework and all sorts of tasks more suited to themselves, when my site is so obviously a bookstore. Perhaps since I so angered you, I should resort in all these cases to the standard reply most folks would useindifference, simply ignore the letterwriter. Then I guess I could just dance with myself, and nobody would notice. But go ahead and FLATTER yourself all you care to indulge. And are you saying that you don't have a high estimation of your own self-worth? Ummm, that's odd, I would SWEAR that you do.
Nothing I say is ever enough...
"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
"A good friend who points out mistakes and imperfections and rebukes evil is to be respected as if he reveals a secret of hidden treasure."
Buddha (B.C. 568-488)
Quite the wit you have there Gabe, I must say i am impressed. Takes a lot for me to get shitty and well hey you did it. I enjoyed your email so thank you for pointing out to me what I so stupidly neglected to see. (I guess it's a chick thing). I was wrong about you I admit it. I was hoping to speak to somone who would be a little more sympathetic and not someone so caught up in my grammar, (who's the one telling WHO to get a life?) I think it is you my friend who requires a little more excitement in your life if when a person comes to you for honest help all you can give them is grammar lessons. So I apologise for the harsh language but I still believe that you were exceptionally rude and should consider apologising to me. If you do not feel you need to apologise that is fine because then my point will be proven. See ya Grammar Geek Olivia ;)
Whew! We made it past the swirling torrents of raw personality nerve and now can smile and laugh like old friends. That was SOME ride, Liv. Now that we're on the same page, I hope you continue to check back at the Bookskellar, but tell me, who is this Calvina you mention? Perhaps you could recommend a few authors to help supplement my online shelves. It takes a lot of work to put an author online, so I AM selective of course, but in turn I'm always looking for new names I might have unintentionally missed, or authors I may not have previously known, but might welcome to the Skellar, if certain criteria according to my secret list of intangibles no one can decipher but myself [inane iconografia], are met. Anywaze, glad to have weathered the storm with you. And by the way, I love your name!
Gabriel Thy Creative Director Graphic Solutions Ink Systems
Thanks so much for your email Gabe it put alot into perspective i Guess you are right in a lot of things and i am sorry i took your humour the wrong way. (This cyber world muddles everything sometimes. I do agree with you my knowledge of grammar and spelling is not the greatest but i have an enormous passion for reading and i know that counts for something, to me anyway and i hope you can understand that. You should read 'the tin drum' it is one of his finest books ever. I have not read them all but a few more and i'm nearly there. I don't contest to being some kind of know it all but i do know that I admire him tremendously and he too would find your wit quite amusing, now that i understand it i find it very funny. If you have any books you could suggest let me know, i am a big fan of European literature. Thomas Mann, Milan Kundera, Calvina etc thanks Liv (my friends call me that) :)
Hi Olivia! I'm not avoiding you. I've been very busy, exhaustingly, work til I drop busy, no damn room at all on my plate for plain restful relaxation or literary chat, but I did appreciate your last letter, and will respond in kind very soon.
Hey Liv. Broadcasting from WASHINGTON, DC. Olivia Pantelidis is the name I immediately loved, and loved with the prattling passion of history. I presumed it to be Greek in nature. Perhaps I am wrong. Yes, Olivia Pantelidis, I just had to write it again, the other names are all so lovely and fine, Liv and Okimikko (Japanese-flavor I note), but it was your whole given name which drew first blood. Thanks for writing back. This has actually come to be much fun playing words like a deck of cards with you. Meanwhile I live in DC, a block away from the stadium where the REDSKINS footballers used to play until moving to a new expensive facility in the suburbs last year. Good riddance I say, but I'd really love to see a baseball team play there for many reasons which I will spare you for now.
Perhaps the title was not indicative of Gunter's other work, but it reminded me of Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, and although I love Pynchon's earlier work, Vineland and this latest book, Mason and Dixon (a much difficult read, and I have read very little of it frankly.) leave a lot to be desired. Vineland sucked as far as I'm concerned, a pale shimmer of past literary glory, this book. Mason and Dixon is something altogether different. Written in Olde Englische, I don't know if it's worth the read or not. But for now it remains on my shelf, a gift from Sue, barely opened, a scholar's maze.
There's also a public hospital, a large highschool, a single small Ma & Pa grocery store, and the National Guard facility in my immediate neigborhood. Nothing else but old rowhouses, many in slum condition, offer my life much urban immediacy. Litter and glass plague these neighborhood streets and alleys. Gunshots are not so rare. Graffitti slang, not EVEN artistic, is sprayed wildcat upon this wall or that building. Wearing my social engineering cap, I lust for new business sections to open up down here, designed heavy commerce worthy of a vibrant city just bursting to emerge from this neighborhood. My property is about half a mile from the River Anacostia flowing just the other side of the stadium. We are prime commercial, but alas, the city suffers and rages and dies, arguing poorly for residential nothingness. There are few wise men here. A city of imposters and ugly metaphors. Fakes and spastic manipulators. Tyrants and suit salad liars. The city is withering on the vine of potential growth. Down here they call it a race issue. It's really an ego issue. Meanwhile we wither.
It's no secret I too curl up among my words and the books that publish them. My own few favorites are scattered around my website. You can visit the Scenewash Project 20003 and click to THE LITERARY CHIP. Still not a whole lot there yet, but I aim to establish a little here, a little there, and take heed that I am slowly bringing it all together. This is practically all I do in my miserable life among the mobs of malcontention, but that might be exaggerating ever slightly, like a whisper among the rapids.
I write many words on many pages and build my websites one page at a time. Desperation is the poet's business. And my poems rot because I haven't put very many online yet, but the space is there, and some poems are there. Check around. Be my Australian friend. I don't have one yet. It seems like we've damned near established some sort of literary correspondence, and while I get really busy sometimes, I do appreciate an interesting correspondence. I freelance, and work several current clients on a sporadic basis. I work and take great peace and ponderance in my garden, and am enlisted in the minds that matter to fight back all the garbage entropy and grime have a way of bringing to my attention . . .
I do all this from home, and in fact, rarely leave the Dollhouse & Grillyard [our pet names for the house & yard], and am somewhat agoraphobic in that way. I live here with two others. Peter and Sue. You can read about them on the website as well. I'm currently trying to finish Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. You really should read this book, without question. It is a rare instant classic, better than Grass's The Rat, which I only mildly found amusing or interesting. In fact I was disappointed, I must say. Perhaps the title was not indicative of Gunter's other work, but it reminded me of Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, and although I love Pynchon's earlier work, Vineland and this latest book, Mason and Dixon (a much difficult read, and I have read very little of it frankly.) leave a lot to be desired. Vineland sucked as far as I'm concerned, a pale shimmer of past literary glory, this book. Mason and Dixon is something altogether different. Written in Olde Englische, I don't know if it's worth the read or not. But for now it remains on my shelf, a gift from Sue, barely opened, a scholar's maze.
Don't use Netscape, eh? Which browser DO you use? Tell me about your computer, if you've a mind to go there. I work from a Power Macintosh, an 8500/120, but I hope to upgrade to a G-3 soon. Anywaze, it's been fun chatting widja . . . keep it cool, and we'll just play this mystery word by word. As some unknown poet wrote some time ago, twig by twig we build a language. That reminds me, my mother wants to discuss a poem I just had published, but one I had written a while ago. She's a 63 year old junior at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, down in the state of Georgia, so go figure. She loves school, and has never been happier in her life! She studied Nietzsche this past quarter and now feels driven to discuss this called poem with me, so I must oblige her. I've got to write her now, so tiddly widdly, until the next time we meet, Olivia, just call me...
Hey GT, Glad you mailed me. i thought you were not talking to me anymore. Well i made a mistake with the authors name (i really should read back over my emails). Anyways his name is Italo Calvino. He wrote 'If on a Winter's night a traveller' it is probably one of the greatest and most frustrating books i have ever read. I have only read three of his books so far but he is a fascinating writer. Very much like Kundera, happy to go off on tangents and take you on that for awhile, i love a writer who can do that. Currently i am reading Grass' 'Dog Years' and it is bloody hard. It requires and inordinate amount of concentration, i haven't had to focus like that since 'the divine comedy' so it's feels good. Hey what did you think of the 'Rat' that is one i am yet to read so let me know what you think, i hear it is quite strange. Unfortunately on this damn computer i have trouble finding anything on the net. Because i do not have netscape it makes things a lot harder. I must learn to download. Can't think of any others at the moment, my reading comes in waves of authors, at the moment it's Grass, but if i think of anymore i will let you know.
Which name are you reffering to? Olivia, Liv or kimmikko? Must say yours is quite cooli as well. By the way i am in Australia, Melbourne. Where are you? See ya GT Liv
And just to put the sharpest point on all this linguistic flummoxing, two other notes found their way into my inbox during my little frackus with my new pal Olivia. Read, and cherish. Remember now, I am an Amazon affiliate, a mere online bookstore, one of the first, by the way, launching the Bookskellar on April 1, 1997, just weeks after Amazon announced its revolutionary program. I certainly did not offer any summaries or Cliff notes on the site, nor did Amazon itself in those first years. I think I ignored their requests. It was obvious that Blondi and Alisa needed to learn that a library was a girl's best friend during these times of dark scholastic horror. But, despite the positive outcome of the Oliva Pantelides, I was hesitant to step into that shark pool again. I had my own work to do, and that didn't include doing homework for young ladies I didn't even know, much less stalk their favorite writers for them. If I had that information, I would share it, but to have to explain that I didn't have it, just didn't make sense to me. Life must not be much more than a sunny easter egg hunt in some parts of this inglorious world.
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 18:08:19 EDT To: storemaster From: Blondi2927@aol.xxx
PLEASE SEND THE SUMMARY ON THE BOOK "UNCLE TOM'S CHILDREN"
Date: Sun, 31 May 1998 01:56:28 EDT To: storemaster
i need some sort of address to gregory corso, because i'm doing a project for school, for monday june 1st, and if there is any way you could help me, thank you, even a publishers address would be fine, just something....
Whether a work is a piece of fiction, or one man's peace is a work of truth matters little here nor will long be remembered. Feelings can be hurt. Names can be changed. But in the end, no reader ever becomes the wiser after the petty shuffle of literary camouflage has been cracked like a giant oyster. If an author dubs his contribution a work of fiction, while based on reality, then why change the names of those characters who fit the billing as clearly as any emperor's new array of clothing fits the emperor? It's already been declared fiction, after all. Whether the Joe Green in a work of fiction resembles a Joe Green kicked to the curb in Hometown USA matters nary a nub.
Again I ask, how can curbside Joe whine about slander derived from a work of fiction? The simplicity of this question and its even simpler solution is easily discovered: Should the likeness an author paints upon his own fictitious Joe Green prove false as it concerns the real Joe Green, so be it. No harm, after all, work of fiction, right? A work of fiction is confined, defined and refined by its author's creative biases, not the concerns of some curbside Joe Green. Are names and situations in a bustling planetary grope, like fingerprints or DNA samples, unique and proprietary? If however an author's fictitious Joe Green does indeed resemble the real Joe Green, how can Joe Green sue for libel and slander on matters of truth even if depicted in a work of fiction? Truth is truth, and not a matter for libel and slander. The old ways of passing judgment on humanity are evaporating. Imperative truth is imperative fiction and all fiction is soon written into truth. Considering this mighty truism, can't we just get on with it?
Iknow artists and writers those latter-day Lorenzos ought to be supportingif they knew what's good for them, and for their posterity. But they mostly don't. So they whip out the checkbooks for Harvard, for Yale, for Princeton, for "peace studies" and for "art" that isn't art, and for teachers of literature who do not teach literature but rather about the ethnic, racial, and religious background of authors, and so on.
The preceding words of Hugh Fitzgerald, as idealized by this writer, are worth at least a dozen warm meals in harsh times, a triumphant song on an Olympic-sized sound stage, a fully loaded Glock 23 in a plastic picnic knife fight, a grain of sugar in a dirty ocean of whale screams. Don't mock. Just ask anyone who's not invested nostrils first in cherry pits and dark chocolate. Understanding what makes us each different is not just understanding the past but understanding the future each of us will achieve because motivation is always measured in personal steps. Civilizational performances, like the water and blood of life itself, is a snapshot of biophysical strategiesmolecules in actionand we, the seventy year set, ebb and flow with or without the consent of our forebears or our neighbors, except to the degree we consent, bow or scrape, a mere pellet melting and mixing into the ocean of time. So according to some, why bother?
My response. If these people claim to be your friends, they are imposters. Know them by the arc of their sucker punches.
Gleaned from a online post published by Matthew Z:
Reading is almost always an aesthetic preference, unless it[sic] has permission through certain jargon, both "legal" or "political" to engage in praxis. The politician assumes himself to be beyond art because he actually has the power at his fingertips to physically move his ideas around. The artist has no such power of course and is reduced into the realm of aestheticsthat motionless form of subjective preference.
For starters, despite the strategic blandness of a general political attempt at writing, I think it might be useful to consider their words and actions as more along the lines of an aesthetic preference as well. The artist might gasp at this notion, stupidly assuming, through hand-me-down compartmentalizations, that the "brown bagging suit" is not worthy of being even considered in an aesthetic sense. [But, the politician]... is beyond aesthetics because he can actually make things move.
Art is otherwise, happily motionless and heavily protective of its specialized terms in the name of priority and approbation of course, more than anything else really ("Pick me, pick me, I am the best aesthete in the room! This term belongs to me and me alone in order for me to be able to sell my persona, and if you try to apply to something else, my chances become lowered on this front.").
From the first sentence forward, I detect poor writing, poorly constructed sentences, enough ugly grammar to frighten off all but the strangest bird, and a keen need to escape the mundane by driving straight through it with a Mac truck, but that is it's charm, and I jest, only because this first sentence is not true, but is often directed at me and anybody else who struggles to break out of the box of rote linguistics, or worse, profess literary interests for their own sake, with or without the harsh harness of originality further enslaving the urge to explore.
The message, however, is on the money, and yet, one is left with the question of what's next? Most activist aesthetes eschew art in favor of radical politics, but what has radical politics done for us lately? Today's radicals don't seem to realize the frontier has been vanquished. There are few words, and fewer ideas which require our blood sport devotion. We have long since accepted that the golden ages of idealism have passed us by, and now we are left with little but the grunt work of making our lives count one by one, each to our own strengths of reason, inspiration, and passion to make it so. We have certainly been given fair warning.
This call to action is what Matthew Z means by poetry being replaced or fulfilled by praxis, but like so many others before him, his plea falls not on deaf ears but upon cowardly spirits and the cacophony of competing interests. This is not a resolute failure but the patient and conservative spirit of Nature conferring to us its most preferred role. Time is not man's play toy.
But will the poet of today accept this understanding of his own unspectacular clockwork, keen to the literary profilers and the horses they ride?
KUBHLAI: Like me, he is markedly unimpressed with the intellectual sincerity of Man. Where he immediately impressed me was by identifying precisely that there is a distinct duality between *Worldview* (''weltanschauung'') and *Philosophy* or supposedly objective human reasonings in general. Now I have never clearly made this distinction between philosophizing and worldviewrather leaving it as an assumption I suppose, that thought (along with other attitudinal modes) is but the building bricks of the total Worldview. In Hulme however, they are at odds from the very start; philosophizing (by which is meant human thought and judgement in a wider sense) lays claim to the humanist value of ''Reason'', but all the while the Worldview, which is defined as the grand picture we have of where our "satisfaction" lies, is exerting a gravitational force tempting us to construct complex arguments which, by an amazing coincidence' as it were, arrive at a point which is ''satisfying'' , which provides an apparent justification for the often crude and simplistic desires which were there a priori.
GABRIEL: Here is an interesting piece I found somewhere under a napkin not of my own choosing, a piece quaintly reviewing Kundera's TESTMENTS BETRAYED: "Kafka, Stravinsky, Rushdiethe modern artist confuses and often outrages critics looking for the clarity of orthodoxy. Kundera, whose talents as a literary and music critic almost match his formidable gifts as a novelist, defends the artist against obtuse or perverse critics, disciples, and allies. Thus he rescues Kafka the artist from the embrace of disciples who want to remake him into a thinker. Likewise, he brings the genius of Stravinsky out from under the shadow of the misguided criticism of a close friend. Similarly, Kundera reclaims Rushdie's Satanic Verses as an imaginative work from progressive intellectuals who have never read it but have claimed it as a political symbol of the need for a free press. Discipleship, friendship, and comradeship can all turn into betrayal. Against such betrayal, Kundera insists upon the creative autonomy of the novelist and the composer, whose works live in an ambiguous sphere outside of all history except the capricious history of human creativity. Though he offers keen insights into music and literature, it is in his celebration of humor in the European novel that Kundera's genial brilliance burns most brightly."
Sorry about that last truncated line. Somehow in the typo editing process the line was chopped off, but is rather irrelevant at this time. Thanks for your offer to clue me in to your Muscovian mysteries. Over here I read about gangs of organized crime taking over the Russian economy which has improved little in recent years as the transition to capitalism is proving much more difficult than the populations are willing to tolerate. What is your opinion on this matter? Is my news source a distortion of the facts? Or is the typical conservatism of the old in desiring the status quo and the old ways while the radical youth and professional criminals embracing the chaos of change as part and parcel of their own power grab simply "expected in these transitional years" by the Russian people as a whole, however begrudingly or exuborantly, dependent upon one's own demographic?
Other than cross-cultural chitchat of a very superficial nature, my knowledge of Russian culture is decidedly very shallow, Anni. In my ignorance, or perhaps in my enthusiasm to wish peace and tolerance among the people of the world wherever conflict reigns among classes and races and political intent, I don't view the Russian people any different than any other European-derived culture. Here in America, the racial problems inherited from several hundred years of slavery, have divided the populations in political polarities quite unnatural and observedly bogus, exploited by unsavory types for reasons of treasure and treason, collective usurpation and individual flaw alike, but they exist and thrive nevertheless. It's very sad. Language is subverted in these politically-motivated causes, and while I would like to think this is simply an American or a class warfare phenomenon, something that ideology could cure, I know better. Human greed, envy, corruption and frailty; these are the culprits, and the clock keeps ticking away as mankind destroys itself, its homelands, and its authority to proclaim itself a truly rational creature.
Great literature sums it up for us. But false saviors devour us in our beds, in our workplaces, polluting our minds and enslaving our bodies. We are never satisfied but consistently look over our shoulders to exploit our neighbors in the name of love, and if that doesn't work, in the name of fear. There seems to be no peace. Our finest writers are either arrogant and ruthless or they are timid all-seeing inversions of the truths they discover. Thus, even literature is part of the problem with its hero-worship and cold formulas of perfection, yet those of us who have rejected all else, savor literature as the last vestiges of sanity in a world gone mad with desire and deadly with gratuitous delusions of rationality.
Oh silly me, why am I tottering on the brink of my own blather? Anni, thanks for writing. I am glad to have helped you perhaps sell your Russian language books. Now that I think about it, maybe I can buy a small collection from you. A Nabakov, a Tolstoy, a Dostoevsky, one other? That would be fun. Four books I would like to buy from you. Even though I don't read the language. You suggest a fair price. If I can afford the price, we then need to create a formula and map the logistics for transferring funds and books. Please think about this. Who knows what might develop? But do follow up on the Kamkins address. It is a very large warehouse, and is a true business opportunity for you. I am a very small unimportant Internet author, a lover of books, but of no great consequence to your business ambitions.
But I do look forward to your next reply. Best wishes,
Gabriel Thy Creative Director Graphic Solutions Ink Systems
Hey Laura, although I had no problem opening with the previous two graphics you sent me, this most recent one, SKELETONS.BMP would not parse for Adobe Photoshop 4.0. Do you have any other more cooperative save options available to you?
Today is Sue's birthday. Mine was two weeks ago. Our 12th wedding anniversary fell two weeks prior on the 13th, so this is truly our most favorite time of the year, and despite not being raised a Jew, I certainly give a nod to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, at least in passing. We are driving to southern Maryland to a bayside crabhouse with friends this afternoon. Tomorrow we are having a small backyard gathering to roast a few birds. If you and Gary are interested in metroing into DC, we live a mere block from the Stadium-Armory metro station in the pink house at 109 Eighteenth Street, SE. We'd love to see you guys.
Did you ever get that homejob you were aiming for? My web design/Internet consulting business is finally taking off. High hopes for a real income may finally be paying off the piper, and that piper is me. My own two sites have not grown much since we last chatted as I've been so busy with business concerns. We've moved the studio down to the basement and have taken on a tenant for the other upstairs bedroom, formerly known as the Computer Room. I've known Peter for a decade, so while he's no stranger, we are finally able to stand each other's company after years of feigned consternation at the mere reputation of the other. He is currently looking for a job after leaving American University after six years of work towards his BA in Literature. Meanwhile he's putting in time at the Mac trying to prove himself worthy of support staff status should the business truly take off.
So that's our story. I know this is short notice, but I do hope you guys can put aside any possible fears I've encountered in most suburbanites of the "city" and drop on by to see us. If not, we'll catch you down the road. Take it easy.
Thanks Peter for the essay. I read it, and agree with your prefacing remarks "that the essay which follows does not answer the question, `what is evil?' but it does point strongly towards my core belief that evil is an ever-resurgent human drive which operates when other drives are given free reign without ethical obstacles..."
I have just finished the piece. With so little percolation time I really don't know if I am capable of voicing anything but superficial remarks, but I will give it a shot. While during my own 20s I wretchedly galloped through many of the classics you cite in my own feeble attempts to "find God" and "become a writer", my education was certainly sporadic and without the depth which hopefully one achieves submerged at the university level in a bonafide literary curriculum, such as you apparently have engaged. Professorial tuteledge, classroom debates among peers, and mandatory paperwriting obviously all play their part in bringing the student to a better understanding of what she reads than an existential romp through the local library classics section.
That said, I must suggest that your take on the Judaic-Christian influences on Western thought were rather understated. Despite several centuries of overt rebellion against the ancient writings of "a few good Jews", each of the examples you gave of shimmering evil with its heavy accents on the will to power using such longstanding notions of battle as deceit, deception, and devastation grieve me as I realize that each passing generation pretends to dismiss the ancient only to mimic it by fluffing up the language a bit and calling it a new coin.
Gazing out from my own humble subterranean watchtower I can only chafe at the most recent camouflages of antiquity as modernity seeks to gouge its tusks into the body of the old Jewish tales of good and evil, a few skip and hops beyond the gaffs of French existentialism and even further past the pro-Capitalist ho! ho! ho! objectivists. I am talking about the Situationists International and their pre-apocalyptic tug at the deadbolts keeping man and god and law all outside the fabled gates of Eden. As poetic as Debord and his small band of merry blatherers of negation were, titillating with such rallying cries, as NO MORE WORK! FREE LOVE! and ALL IS SPECTACLE! one is left pondering just how close to the gates of Eden modern philosophy dares to ride before the feckless myth of the serpent finds its way back into literary and the psychogeographer's chic...
This culture seems to be moving toward a system where individuals are held unaccountable, while past ages and past groups in some nebulous transference are held responsible retroactively for crimes committed in the present?
Boredom is a sad excuse for bombing the biscuit eaters.
I'm sorry but I cannot apologize for my heavily weighted Dylanista leanings. Just like the prophets of old, however, Dylan sets no man free when any fair thought can in a twinkling of a cobra's eye set the world stage on fire, instant corruption this foul revolutionary fervor, all in the name of setting men free. I wonder out loud why Jesus didn't make the cut in your literary glance at evil? He quite boldly denounced the well-spoken finely-garbed religious leaders and pretenders of his day as followers of THAT EVIL ONE, SATAN, and in doing so drew their wrath upon himself, of course with proper considerations.
Yet he also rejected the claims of the patriotic Zealots, and Barrabas. While suggesting with Dante, or was it Milton, that worldly organization (the Satanic impulse) is a positive step in human evolution, and what political modernist would disagree, many former refugees under Hitler and Stalin now working to sustain liberal policies in this country will plead in quite colorful terms that these very same organizational talents who rise with great promise of social order and prosperity to the Machiavellian ideal are the very antithesis of what political modernists would call good, while most certainly most might call these regimes quite evil, and without social redemption.
Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and later Sartre, despite their own personal gentility, would propose that right makes might, while differing vastly in impetus of resolve. Camus, less eager to play bully, suggests (not as an original thought, mind you) that right inspires the absence of might, exemplified in his phrase, NEITHER VICTIM NOR EXECUTIONER. Will there ever be a peace upon which all can agree? Shall we ask if evil is merely the only face of goodness humanity can suffer for any sustained length of time, which thus far seems an eternity, and thus appears to us as mere imperfection? That thought presents quite a thorny when not an entirely flaming bush of terminologies in conflict, now doesn't it?
But we come full circle in the sense of your original premise that the absence of moral obligation leads to all sorts of behavior most warm-blooded human beings can no doubt in good conscience dub as evil acts, while still reserving the right to soften any accusational language against the originator of the evil act. But I ask you, is an eye for an eye, an inherently evil doctrine? Why is it considered evil for the state to carry out a punishment to an unremorseful murderer of innocent flesh on the bone, while the victim remains dead, and the victim's dependents remain ill-disposed?
This culture seems to be moving toward a system where individuals are held unaccountable, while past ages and past groups in some nebulous transference are held responsible retroactively for crimes committed in the present? Is this moral advancement, as the hordes rush to gain entrance to this new city of refuge? But is this not the result of the very doctrine of passive evil that Bertrand Russell wrote of in his WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN. He couldn't quite stomach little old ladies who smiled the christian smile while hiding behind the badges of a police state.
Don't get me wrong Peter. I am not advocating christianity in its clerical sense, nor its overthrow, but I do think discussing the perils of evil without noting that man has proven himself quite an evil caricature of his own stated anti-evil ambitions, somewhat more preposterous and ill-conceived the more he insists on his own self-image, despite any parameters a college course may have invoked. Does evil require the self-consciousness of the doer of a misguided deed? Even Jesus suggested this was true. Do you, or do I agree?
Oh well, I see now that intriguing threads are cropping up everywhere, but I really must close this out. Hope you can appreciate the fact that I appreciated your efforts in allowing me to read your article. And by the way, as strange as it sounds, the eighty-four pages condensed to a mere six after I edited out the PC-Mac translation garbage appended at the end of the writing.
As Tim Shipman has been known to say, "Go figure..."
Sorry to hear about your proposal-writing failures. They'll come around again. With strange interference, league sales down, membership slows. Coping mechanisms recruit unplanned tyranny, shiteating boyfriends, drowning fetishes, and other elite behaviors of the damned and frustrated, while soggy ground rules for cobweb cities are just plain up for grabs, so it's no wonder you have a tough time keeping a perfect scorecard...
That was some blood rant you passed along, craven, colonic, spunky, brutal, pure sewerage but spanking brand new for you, sister, true to the core you rushed as word games go. Of course the coagulating flaw in this "what if" scenario is that women have carried that blood thang in their blood all along, and yet they still cry foul at the way this world has managed to position them to be just what they are: women, nothing more, nothing less. If humanity had never learned to talk or write, thrust or blight, the intrinsic hierarchical wiring we know today would as I see it change very little, pending sale of the calculus operators. Sweet or salty. Whatever touches you when I touch you there is awkward consumerism. Just plain up for grabs. Retail, not fire sale. The strengths of beauty and the beauties of strength are only slightly persuaded by raw intelligence in just how material progress is sold to relinquish the powers nature has bestowed upon THEM...
All the stinking philosophical rant in the world falls pathetically short of the complementary powers of beauty and brute strength. Sex appeal in a nutshell. Beauty is its own brute strength and brute strength is gaming's own beautiful persuader. Crap is crap. That's not a fantasy, that's a nightmare...
I charge pennies on the doubt among supple minds that notions I put forth here today are what has made the world exactly as we find her today. Eh, Shelley? Howeversince rewiring my supply side sadomasochist, I am willing to listen to characters of insight, but to test my patience these are supply, demand, and haplessly derivative. I tire easily of them...
Because the semantics of any idea attracts buzzing gadflies not unlike snorkles stuffed into the mouth of a beautiful loser.
"Ignorance and virtue suck on the same straw. Souls grow on bones, but die beneath bankers' hours.""