Four Photos & A Poem By Robert Duncan

Childhood’s Retreat

It’s in the perilous boughs of the tree   
out of blue sky    the wind   
sings loudest surrounding me.

And solitude,   a wild solitude
’s reveald,   fearfully,   high     I’d climb   
into the shaking uncertainties,

part out of longing,   part     daring my self,
part to see that
widening of the world,   part

to find my own, my secret
hiding sense and place, where from afar   
all voices and scenes come back

—the barking of a dog,   autumnal burnings,
far calls,   close calls—   the boy I was
calls out to me
here the man where I am   “Look!

I’ve been where you

most fear to be.”

Robert Duncan

A Link To Thomas Sowell And A Few Brief Words On Capitol Events

Thomas Sowell at Creators.com: ‘Is Truth Irrelevant?’

Sowell is pretty old-school, and he’s got a big problem with the new schools (not the nieuw school, mind you):

Many schools are closed because of the corona virus and the teachers unions. And many schools in minority neighborhoods failed to teach children enough math and English, back when they were still open. So it is incredible that school authorities have time to spend on ideological crusades like removing names and statues from schools.

Moving along, what can I say about recent Capitol events, and the clear failures of so many institutions and leaders? What can I say that you might not be thinking yourself?

If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you’ll know I’m something of a depressive realist, and that I tend to use many models: The one found in Plato’s Republic (timarchy–>oligarchy–>democracy–>tyranny–>see step 1), the Straussian reaction to Nietzschean nihilism, and the Idealist philosophy of Michael Oakeshott as picked up by Kenneth Minogue, to name a few. This generally puts me center-right, or small ‘c’ conservative here in America.

I’m also a bit of a loner, a would-be artist using the blog as a means to seek solitude and connection. I’m grateful to have readers. So, thank you.

The ride for all of us may be pretty bumpy up ahead. But, we’re all in this together, and we still, I presume, love our country.

Benjamin Jowett’s translation of Plato’s Republic can be found here.

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.… Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

The ACL-Who? Modern Times Come And Go-Some Links

The F.I.R.E is, perhaps, the new ACLU. As for the old ACLU these days? A free-speech mission, becoming a legal business, devolving into an anti-speech racket is something to behold.

You stand up for the neo-Nazis right to speak and assemble, because you may need those rights, too. Did you think you’d drive on by?

-Melanie Phillips writes on watering-down the Holocaust. Keeping these horrible truths in view requires dedication and a sense of mission, she argues, not necessarily another exculpatory shrine. Hmmm….

Freedom is next…

-Via Mick Hartley, about that London SOAS (School Of Oriental & African Studies). If it has ‘studies’ in it, you’ve been repeatedly warned.

Many people, volunteering as our betters in the U.S., have been busy institutionalizing a rather anti-establishment ethos. The problem is, many of these people are now the establishment. Many 60’s boomers (hanging in there, baby) are something like idealists. ‘This’ll all work out’ is something I’ve come to doubt much more through age, experience and time, though I doubt I was ever fully not doubting.

Some of this, of course, is just age, experience and time. The rest comes from observing the clusterf**k of our politics, media and public-square discourse these days.

Times come and go: I remember visiting my father’s small, Connecticut hometown. Many factories (spooled-thread, fabric, cutting tools) had become derelict. ‘What did they used to make there?’ we’d ask, driving along, visiting his old haunts. The shallower valleys, stony soil and New England village greens were foreign to me. We’d pass by busted, boarded-up windows and out-of-use smokestacks. ‘Did they actually make these things by hand?’

Most of that industry never came back.

Now imagine losing larger: The rise and fall of automobile manufacturing in Detroit, and all the supply chains throughout Ohio; whole towns dwindling down. Much of that industry isn’t coming back.

Wherever you are, you should keep building yourself up, your loved ones, and all within your orbit.

Perhaps if you imagine Seattle in about 100 years or so, with a few boarded up Amazon buildings and some locals huddled in an abandoned ‘hot yoga’ studio, it will become true.

Such is the price of innovation, it seems, and all sorts of people are offering remedies (politicians want your vote, companies your skills and potential, Christians generally want your soul, and Leftists want you to join ‘The People’s Revolutionary Movement. Ignore the Bodies’.

Ah, well. Some people offer you ideas, and books, and want parts of your time and mind.

Choose wisely.

Repost-Where Shall Meaning Be Found? Some People Are Deeply Concerned With Your Pop, Funk & Soul Interests

The more one starts digging around at foundations, the trickier it gets. It’s good to seek-out different opinions, and often knowlegeable opinions, to augment our vital pop-music discussions. The future of the Nation may be at stake!

NY Times/Vox contributing USC musicologist, Nate Sloan, instructs a meaning-starved nation, turning its lonely eyes to him, that the Jonas Brothers have opened a ‘musical wormhole’ back to a funkier time.

Ah, the NY Times.

A piney backwoods, black-preaching, soul-screeching musical legend ran his band hard and got results. A real innovator.

Rick Beato, musician, music producer and potential Youtube purist, says no, the Jonas Brothers use quantized drum machines, so while syncopated and seemingly funky, like so much recorded music for the past twenty or twenty-five years, the feel is lost. It’s all digitized.

Real music is real people in real time, speeding up and slowing down, often intuitively, in response to other real people in the band and out in the audience. There are better standards.

You have to be there, man, or at least listen to Clyde Stubblefield recorded as he played.

Actually, Jonathan ‘Sugarfoot’ Moffet, who worked as a drummer for Michael Jackson, among others, is having a moment.  He’s very precise with his time, and he plays to the song.  Good art looks easy:

What’s going on with all the attempts at meaning and all this ‘explanation,’ almost if saying something ‘performatively’ will make it true?: Have you noticed how so many of the writers are talking about writing, and the comedians about comedy, and the cartoonists about cartoons?

Part of this can be explained by explosive growth in technology and a relatively open marketplace of ideas. There’s just a lot of stuff out there.

Some good advice I’ve received in dealing with all this potential knowledge; to help protect your valuable time: Learn something and keep learning. Go pretty far in at least one field or area. If you aren’t learning new things you aren’t doing it right. Even if you are a bit of a loner, or relatively deep, keep your family, friends, and professional and personal development active. Have many irons in many fires so no single loss becomes catastrophic.

Other problems possibly afoot: There sure is a lot of talk about the person and not the person’s achievements. There sure is a lot of focus on celebrities and so many of them famous just for being famous. There are all these media outlets are presuming to tell you how to understand the world, even though they can’t even pay reporters to get basic facts.

Everyone gets a trophy!

Some of these problems, I think, are related to what I’ll call the ‘postmodern’ problem, and I’ve been digging around at it for a while. This blog is still trying to work towards a definition of modernism:

Interesting piece here.

‘Like many scholars of modernism, I’m often asked two questions: What is modernism? And why is modernist studies, it seems, all the rage right now? I don’t have a good, succinct answer to either question — and I’ve no doubt frustrated plenty of friends because of that — but the reasons why I don’t are pretty telling.’

From the comments:

The most useful definition of modernist fiction I’ve encountered comes from Brian McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction. He says modernist fiction tends to “foreground epistemological questions” such as “How can I interpret the world I’m part of? What is there to be known?Who knows it? What are the limits of that knowledge?” In contrast, postmodernist fiction tends to “foreground ontological questions” such as “What is a world? What kinds of worlds are there and how are they constituted? What happens when…boundaries between worlds are violated?’

As previously posted:

Repost-‘Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?’

Land Art Links Along A With A Quite Modernist W.S. Merwin Poem

William Logan At The New Criterion: ‘Pound’s Metro’…Monday Poem: ‘A Pact’ By Ezra Pound

-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

Via A Reader-Isaiah Berlin’s Lectures On The Roots Of Romanticism. Romanticism–>Modernism–>Postmodernism–>Wherever We’re Heading Now

Maybe it all started with Beethoven: Everyone’s a (S)elf.

I’d argue that this ‘postmodern’ problem also likely bleeds out into other causes, and abstract ideas, like the Climate.

Media issues: Aside from the knowledge problems faced by all of us (oh, how little we know), but especially the knowledge and truth problems faced by people peddling information and influence or writing for money, there are other challenges. There are problems of looking to political and ideological beliefs to define one’s (S)elf. The showcasing of activist concerns and the consultation of ‘experts’ has become the glue of much academic, media and bureaucratic life.

To my eyes, the below is not necessarily the sign of a healthy movement, nor a movement properly grounded in the pursuits of knowledge and truth. Some people are desperate to be a part of something, to have a righteous cause in common (one more protest), and to hate enemies if they must.

There’s actual binary logic, and systems of computation, models of the world, using data input channels to re-create and hopefully predict the world. Sometimes when you think you know something, as you close-in on a higher level of resolution, the model can simply give way. Christopher Essex discusses ‘Believing In Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, And Climate Models.’

This stuff is complicated, but it’s a lot like the music discussion above.

It seems obvious that some climate radicalism has hardened into an idealism guiding much establishment conventional wisdom, producing an enormous gravy-train of special interests, regulations and questionable incentives. At present, it would seem a vast majority of people busy scribbling for media outlets believe in climate change as much as they believe in anything.

But merely believing in something, having a guiding ideal and becoming politically active around that ideal, may not actually enough to actually be grounded in knowledge and truth.

Beneath the political idealists, in fact, are still many radicals, utopians and crazies (though, admittedly, some pretty damned good gospel improv):

As previously posted: Bathe in the bathos of a warming world:

A reader sends a link to a SF Gate review of poet Jorie Graham’s ‘Sea Change:

‘In “Sea Change,” Graham becomes Prospero, casting spells by spelling out her thoughts to merge with ours, and with the voices of the elements. The result is a mingling of perceptions rather than a broadcasting of opinions. Instead of analysis, the poems encourage emotional involvement with the drastic changes overwhelming us, overwhelm- ing the planet.’

and:

‘Strengths and weaknesses, flows and ebbs, yet every poem in “Sea Change” bears memorable lines, with almost haunting (if we truly have but 10 years to “fix” global warming) images of flora and fauna under siege. Jorie Graham has composed a swan song for Earth.’

Oh boy.

What are these poems being asked to do?

We’re Probably Beyond Everybody Getting A Trophy Nowadays-Some Ken Minogue And Charles Murray Links

Ken Minogue (R.I.P.) at Standpoint Magazine from March 2009: ‘To Hell With Niceness.’

Minogue:

Many social conditions have been identified as part of the change, but behind most of them, I suggest, is a massive change in our moral sentiments: notably, a rise in the currency of politicised compassion. This is a sentiment so much part of the air we breathe that it does not even have a name of its own.

and:

This sentiment is not, of course, the niceness and decency that we rightly admire when individuals respond helpfully to others. It is a politicised virtue, which means that it is focused not on real individuals but on some current image of a whole category of people. Correspondingly, it invokes hostility towards those believed to have caused the pain and misery of others. Public discussion thus turns into melodrama.’

Perhaps there has been much movement away from existing authority towards liberation (often against an oppressor), towards the feminine (often against the masculine), towards emotion (often against ‘rationality’ and ‘(R)eason), and towards ‘niceness.’

Well, then:

This does not mean, of course, that there will not be a backlash against politicised decency as its nastier consequences become intolerable.

Everyone gets a degree, joins the ‘middle-class’, and our institutions just maintain course?

What about the new moral orthodoxies?

Via Charles Murray via The Harvard Crimson:

They wrote that 24 hours had passed, and Kane had not addressed the allegations that he authored racist posts on his website EphBlog over the course of several years under the pseudonym “David Dudley Field ’25.”

Kane denied endorsing white supremacy and anti-Blackness but did not reference the posts in a Friday response on a Gov 50 Slack channel obtained by The Crimson.

It’s perhaps worth reminding many well-educated Americans: Movies, T.V. shows, and various image-based narrative platforms in many senses ARE the culture (used to identify, construct, visualize and communicate narrative reference points for people’s lives).

On that note, via Mick Hartley:

Click through.

Michael McCluskey has driven round northern Michigan to put together a collection of images of neon-lit buildings, distant floodlights, isolated houses, and misty interiors. They have the eerie feel of film stills where something is about to happen – an alien landing, perhaps, or a zombie lurching into view…

Sometimes the edge-cases reveal a lot of information about more central clusters of belief:

Around Seattle, I’ve heard talk of the Ramtha School Of Enlightenment:

Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment (RSE) is an American spiritual sect near the rural town of Yelm, Washington. The school was established in 1988 by JZ Knight, who claims to channel a 35,000-year-old being called Ramtha the Enlightened One.’

Let’s just say if you don’t believe there are lizard-people out there, waiting to remorselessly devour tasty, human flesh after the impending and catastrophic eruption of Mt.Rainier, well, buddy, you’re the one with problems.

This stuff is funny until you’re on your own, wandering an unknown road at dusk, just trying to find a source of warmth to regulate your body-temparature for the night:

Dear Reader, this means I may have to leave The Human Pagoda.  Please click through to read about our spiritual and material Leader, raised in the ducts of the United Nations.

-Nxivm is pronounced ‘Nexium,’ which sounds prettly classy (the purple pill) and legit (like something carved at Caesar’s Palace parking lot) : The ‘Sex Cult’ That Preached Empowerment

-Is Nxivm lower on the rung of ‘bad ideas’ than Heaven’s Gate (a steaming pile of scripture, New Age lunacy, weird sexual abnegation and half-baked astronomy..):

-Lawrence Wright on his book-Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & The Prison Of Belief.

Dorothy Thompson speculates who would go Nazi in a room full of people at a dinner party.

‘Kind, good, happy, gentlemanly, secure people never go Nazi. They may be the gentle philosopher whose name is in the Blue Book, or Bill from City College to whom democracy gave a chance to design airplanes–you’ll never make Nazis out of them. But the frustrated and humiliated intellectual, the rich and scared speculator, the spoiled son, the labor tyrant, the fellow who has achieved success by smelling out the wind of success–they would all go Nazi in a crisis.’

Wednesday Poem-T.S. Eliot

BURNT NORTON
(No. 1 of ‘Four Quartets’)

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.
So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

T.S. Eliot  

Full first of the Four Quartets found here.  Modernism makes an entrance?