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Watched several episodes of Burke's "Connections" which I used to love years back, and oddly they left me a little cold.  I still like Burke who appeals to my similar Clan of Helena (according to Sykes research) celtic good-looks.  And now with my white hair, we could be true bro's.  But no, I expect more out of  "Connections" than I did years ago.  I want instead-- "Revelations."  I get it that things are all connected up.  History and life are woven in a tapestry of innumerable threads.  But what, if anything, is most significant about it all?  Unlike fellow blogger Joculum, who at least has a grip on what his subject is, and may indeed be stealing a march toward his ultimate essay, I have no grip, no subject, just noting this and that and trying to put two ideas in a single sentence, which like stubborn puzzle pieces that may have never formerly embraced,  resist mightily, and perhaps should be left well enough alone.

Clearly, it takes a certain generous "compost pile" of material to cook up your reading into a meaningful essay.  It is sad that one's erudition can fade so quickly without continuous re-reading, and how large complicated works read years in the past  can be reduced to a few, often wrong, faint echoes in your brain, like a message relayed through a series of partially deaf messengers in some Kafkian scenario proving that the truth can never be reliably known. 

Still, essays written by those few savants that can keep dozens of intellectual platters spinning simultaneously are  probably my favorite form of reading.  And in fiction, I like tales wherein at least some egghead of vast erudition serves as ringmaster to the show.  Reading in John Fowles' Wormholes, I find him saying "I've always wanted to write (in this order) poems, philosophy, and only then novels."  But he says that first and foremost he wants to impact society, other human lives.  Perhaps the novel allows for greater impact than a book of philosophical essays, taking the cue from Plato that conversation is far more lively, and putting that in combination with imagined situations that seemingly effortlessly display how one should live?

Aldous Huxley produced a whole pile of essays which I find pleasant enough to read,  though most are not particularly world shattering.  But they are pleasant because they are indicative of a literary and human comprehension at work in a process basic to the growth of the intellect.   Every human being (according to me) should be engaged in this sort of activity (even when not taking the time to jot it down), and it is exaclty the absence of this process that is the most glaring omission  of our contemporary society.  I would have good feelings about the chances for a US full of Huxley-like thinkers carefully surveying the challenges ahead.  Unfortunately, such skills seem to be forgotten or be even now deemed unnecessary for life as we know it. Thinking is for eggheads, nerds.  What kind of society is it where one has to apologize for being smart?  The question is no longer-- Will we survive?  It has become instead-- What will we wear to the extinction?


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 23rd, 2009 07:24 am (UTC)
> What kind of society is it where one has to apologize for being smart?

Well, precisely the kind that Huxley describes in his Brave New World. I just finished rereading it, after, oh God!, 30 years. It turned out I didn't remember anything at all correctly. Strangely enough, some passages made me remember exactly how I felt when I first read them back there in then freshly baked revolutionary Nicaragua, a world now lost forever.
All in all it left me somewhat scared and wondering; If anybody used the novel as a manual for manipulating society they've been doing a great job.
May. 23rd, 2009 07:26 am (UTC)
That was me above.
I was logged out for some reason.
May. 23rd, 2009 02:04 pm (UTC)
I think I saw a book on Amazon or somewhere called roughly "The Ten Books that Most Harmed the World" or close to that. Marx, Hitler, Plato etc. were all cited for how their writing was used in ways to justify atrocities against mankind. Well, the atom comes to mind too-- examples of how man seems to lower himself to his worst impulses claiming "it's only human."

Obviously it is harder to achieve Utopias than Dystopias-- it takes a village to make a Utopia work, but it only takes one madman in a world of non-participants to get murder accepted as common sense (take your current or historic pick of villains), and to create a hell on earth.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
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