Related On This Site:Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’
The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”
Somewhere from the old aristocratic Russia softly speaks a keen mind in beautiful, strange English: Michael Dirda At The Washington Post Reviews ‘Nabokov in America’
How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’
After you’ve undergone our seven-night welcome session, your white initiation robe will be given a red band. ‘Redbands’ have full access to the dormitories, performing hall and two on-site cafeterias.
Six months and two bluebands later, you’re officially a member of the Session UN.
Two years and two global tours after that, a recital of the Global Human Rights Charter will be scheduled.
Five yellow stars means a Merit Leader will have emerged, with full access to the Staff Budget, Policy Handbook, and Equity Index.
After a successful Global Human Data & Trust Mission, a soulful chorus of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ will fill The Stadium Of (M)an.
Three extraordinary, beautiful humans will take the stage to receive their Golden Diplomas.
If you view the modern project as sailing the gulf between Nature (wonderful spring days, happy babies, Pompei, The Plague), and human nature (love, mercy, humility, hatred, cruelty, egoism), then a certain depressive realism seems reasonable.
Part of my journey has involved being interested in the arts, making my way to Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, Leo Strauss and Plato early on. After giving the arts a go, I made an attempt to broaden my scope, trying to better understand a particular set of problems.
While attending Penn State, I sat-in on a lecture by Jacques Derrida. He discussed his work on the work of Romanian Jewish poet Paul Celan. Listening to the arch-deconstructionist spending an hour discussing Ashglory was interesting, if a bit baffling. There was a lot of brilliance, gibberish, insight, ambition, and hubris in that room. Looking back, if I’m honest, I suppose some of it was mine.
I didn’t take notes and kept wondering why so many did.
In bearing witness to the modern quest of wringing every last drop of meaning from the Self (Self-Help books, confessionals, gurus), I get worried. When I look around and see so much energy spent ‘deconstructing’ comedy, cartoons, pop-culture and political ideals, I worry deeper trends are playing out (see the confessional postmodern poets of the 1950’s).
It’s not so much (R)eason, but the attempts to define Man’s (R)ational Ends within political doctrines I worry about. The less people have in their lives about which to feel purpose, the more many will look to political movements.
I worry that trying to synthesize the arts and sciences in popular fashion will not halt the turn towards postmodern anti-reason and irrational modern mysticism.
It’s not so much neuroscience and psychology as expanding fields of knowledge which worry, but the oft smug certainty of many institutionalized folks justifying personal and political interests in the wake of such thinking. It’s all too easy to mistake the edges of one’s thinking for the edges of the world.
It may be meritocrats all the way down, lightly tapping upon the heads of radicals.
It’s not so much progress which bothers me, but progressivism writ large (and so many other ‘-Isms’) uniting in-groups against out-group enemies insisting change ought to be the default position.
Where your thoughts are, your actions and hopes tend to follow.
The Railway Children
When we climbed the slopes of the cutting
We were eye-level with the white cups
Of the telegraph poles and the sizzling wires
Like lovely freehand they curved for miles
East and miles west beyond us, sagging
Under their burden of swallows
We were small and thought we knew nothing
Worth knowing. We thought words travelled the wires
In the shiny pouches of raindrops,
Each one seeded full with the light
Of the sky, the gleam of the lines, and ourselves
So infinitesimally scaled
We could stream through the eye of a needle.
I’m in another U.S. city for work. Guess and win a non-existent prize.
A few decades ago, while visiting D.C., I saw Thomas Cole’s ‘The Voyage Of Life:‘
One person’s life, and all of our lives, can be broken-down into four allegorical stages, pregnant with visual and universal symbols.
From Cole’s bio:
‘Although Cole had ample commissions in the late 1820s to paint pictures of American scenery, his ambition was to create a “higher style of landscape” that could express moral or religious meanings.’
‘In the late 1830s, Cole was intent on advancing the genre of landscape painting in a way that conveyed universal truths about human existence, religious faith, and the natural world. First conceived in 1836, the four pictures comprising The Voyage of Life: Childhood, Youth, Manhood, and Old Age fulfilled that aspiration.’
These scenes in the Romantic style can have an emotional pull for me, as generally does the work of the Hudson River School. Such allegory certainly tends to function as a vehicle into memory (Cole’s work has really stuck with me…in a sort of haunting way, mixed with some thought of how I’m supposed to live and what might be coming next).
Also, the wild, untamed nature we Americans have often faced is perhaps requiring of a spirited and grand attempt at putting our experiences within Nature into some context: To soar as high as our hopes often do.
Or at least, to find in paintings: Familiarity. I like to see the roll of a hill like I’ve seen, or an opening of clouds, sky and light like I’ve seen.
Perhaps Wild Nature can be ordered in a Romantic, neo-classical or more modern way. Perhaps Nature can be made, with the tools at our disposal, to conform to some of our deeper ideas about Nature, mirroring our hopes in some recognizable fashion; giving some basic comfort and meaning.
Maybe, after all, we can find a home here.
On the other hand, allegory with overt moral/religious meaning can also come across as heavy-handed, sentimental, and moralistic. Too lush and pretentious; perhaps a bit anachronistic.
Do I really have to hunt for all the symbols and put the puzzle together?
‘So, you’re going to reveal universal truths, eh?’
This can seem distant from the experiences of the modern viewer, often finding himself a little further down the modern/postmodern ‘river’, where such attempts at universality might seem a wash.
Much more common these days are the very personal shards and glimpses of the inner life of an artist, attached to high ambition and great talent surely in some cases; as well to form and tradition, but generally making less bold claims to knowledge than ‘The Voyage Of Life‘.
In painting, I’m reminded of the abstract expressionist movement seeking meaning in reducing experience to the abstract in order to reveal something essential within Nature, or essential about our relationship to Nature: A transcendent place where shape, form and color can be isolated from anything immediately recognizable in the world.
Or maybe, I’m being too generous?
‘The movement’s name is derived from the combination of the emotional intensity and self-denial of the German Expressionists with the anti-figurative aesthetic of the European abstract schools such as Futurism, the Bauhaus, and Synthetic Cubism. Additionally, it has an image of being rebellious, anarchic, highly idiosyncratic and, some feel, nihilistic. In practice, the term is applied to any number of artists working (mostly) in New York who had quite different styles, and even to work that is neither especially abstract nor expressionist.’
The exploration of the Self is often pursued, as well as that of Nature, but the general hope that it might all make sense (life, death, Nature, purpose etc) in many more modern movements is often left abandoned.
Or so often, as we’ve seen in the past few generations: The pursuit of The Self can easily become subsumed to the pursuit of fame, celebrity, and money.
Towards a theme: Perhaps you’ve also heard of the Rothko chapel, in Houston, Texas.
Mark Rothko undertook the idea that within the modern context, one could create temples of universal meaning through aesthetics, art, and beauty:
‘The Rothko Chapel, founded by Houston philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil, was dedicated in 1971 as an intimate sanctuary available to people of every belief. A tranquil meditative environment inspired by the mural canvases of Russian born American painter Mark Rothko (1903-1970), the Chapel welcomes over 60,000 visitors each year, people of every faith and from all parts of the world.’
See Also On This Site: Trying to stick something against his poems: Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The Jar…Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens, The Snow Man…Friday Poem: Wallace Stevens And A Quote By David Hume
Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck;
And yet methinks I have astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well,
By oft predict that I in heaven find:
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert;
Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.
When You Are Old
When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face among a crowd of stars.
I Knew A Woman
I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I’d have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek).
How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin;
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing we did make).
Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved).
Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I’m martyr to a motion not my own;
What’s freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways).
Where is that coat?
Yoram Hozany takes two institutional data points, the NY Times and Princeton University, to argue that whatever you want to call it (‘Marxism’, ‘Neo-Marxism,’ Postmodern ‘Wokism’); these institutions increasingly have a new moral, ideological orthodoxy in place.
–James Bennet resigns as the New York Times opinion editor (pushed-out, really).
-Even ol’ Andrew Sullivan left the NY Mag (The ‘People’s’ vox media helping to push him out)
-Over 300 Princeton faculty propose a new ‘anti-racism agenda.’
From Hazony’s reasoning then, it follows that this new moral, ideological orthodoxy is driven by committed and competing factions of radicals and true-believers, ideologically purifying towards revolutionary praxis.
It also follows that on the American political scene many moderate, opposing groups will have to deal with this new reality: Religious believers, social conservatives, traditionalists, constitutionalists, economic conservatives, libertarians, classical liberals, moderate and reasonable liberals, and even the populist, union Left, will be in some kind of tension with this group of radicals and true-believers.
Is there some kind of New, new Left forming?: Towards A New Center? Ted Cruz & Eric Weinstein Have A Talk-Also, Alas, The Atlantic & Let Poetry Die
Ah well, it could have been about free speech and free thought, a morally decent center, but Twitter was more about about geekier white kids wanting to hang out with cool black kids.
Welcome to the new wealthy and woke:
Jay Z promoting his then new album alongside Marina Abramovic at MOMA, many years ago.
A lot of people I know resist such arguments, often because they’re caught up in the pro-Trump, anti-Trump battles of the day. Or they’re older and can’t process the levels of institutional capture, rot and over-build we’ve got.
Or they haven’t seen the glazed eyes and closed minds up close.
If you’ve been keeping tabs on this stuff, from a perspective like mine (small ‘c’ conservative), it’s been a long, depressing ride.
Did I leave it at the Oscars?
Is the exotic Oxiris Barbot, former people’s Health Czar of New York, wearing my jacket?
Meanwhile, as for policing in Seattle, something’s always gotta change (moral progress don’t ya know), and this means always reacting against what’s here, what works, and what’s basic common sense.