Thursday, November 24, 2011

Readings: Remembering the Artist as a Relatively Young Man

Photocopied from a seventy-year-old newspaper clipping discovered in the archives, this interview with poet and painter, e.e. cummings:

The poet's thoughts in war-time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rodak's Writings: Some Advice

The Queensberry Rules

Sound your trumpet at the crossroads
if you don’t want to be t-boned by a fiddler.

Blink your flashlight in the basement
where maybe something hairy lurks.

Carry flowers on your power walk,
you may be merging with a funeral.

Drape a black cloth on your mirror
lest it open on eternity.

Don’t take a neutral corner ‘til
you’re sure you’ve got that bad-boy beat.

Never be prepared
to shower with a scoutmaster,

or sit your son the on the lap
of a priest playing Santa Claus.

Don’t allow your daughter to shop
for mattresses with a pimp.

Remember that a whistle on a lanyard
is no guarantor of gonads.

Above all bite your lying tongue before you aim
‘I love you’ anywhere below the waist.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reflections: Only the Lonely Know

The edition of Miguel de Unamuno’s The Tragic Sense of Life that I borrowed from the library includes a rather long prefatory introduction entitled “Unamuno Re-Read” by Salvador de Madariaga. This piece is definitely not hagiographic. It seems to be quite objective in its assessment of Unamuno’s beliefs, works, character, and personality. Of the latter, Madariaga has this to say:

The chief paradox of Unamuno’s life…may well be that this apostle of life, this eloquent advocate of irrationality and experience versus reason and intellectualism, lived mostly in the mind, gathered but little outward experience, and often mistook his thoughts on life for life itself.

I photocopied two pages of this introduction and brought them home. I did this because, for good or ill, I was recognizing myself in what I was reading.

Madariaga goes on to say:

His life was all within. His experience was inner experience. Not for him those excursions to foreign lands, those adventures in the realms of danger, passion, the strange, the unfamiliar, the irregular, the shocking, the crags, peaks, and abysses which surround, fascinate, attract, and repel other men, and out of which they form their thoughts fed with the sap of reality. Unamuno spoke and wrote about life far more than most, but he lived far less than most.

*sigh* It gets worse:

Could it be that this formidable man, the uncompromising stand, the proud uplifted head, the glaring eye, and the stubborn mouth, could it be that this challenger was deep down a shy man? Yes. It could be. In fact he was. The forbidding mask hid untold shyness and even tenderness within. His search for retreat, solitude, the quiet of the countryside, the reflective and inward looking contemplation, possibly even that negation of outer life and that wish to unamunize it… He will roam in the vast spaces of his inner self, whose dangers he knows well and he can face, rather than risk adventures in that outer reality he does not actually know and he prefers to deny. …In Unamuno’s works, details of time and place are seldom given. Everything happens in people’s minds rather than in their fields, backyards, rooms, or kitchens.

What Madariaga has done here is take his critical scalpel to the psychic anatomy of an extreme introvert. In the process of chopping up Unamuno, he has cut me to the quick. If you’ve ever wondered why nobody seems to be able to get it on with me for long, now you know: people grow resistant to being dakinized.

Yes, now you know…

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reflections: To Be, Or...

Give  a bit of thought to this passage from Unamuno's magnum opus, The Tragic Sense of Life:

It has often been said that every man who has suffered still prefers to be himself, with all his misfortunes, than someone else, even without those misfortunes. For the fact is that unfortunate men, as long as they keep their sanity in the midst of their misfortune, that is, as long as they still strive to persist in themselves, prefer misfortune to non-being. Of myself I can say that when I was a young man, even when I was a boy, I was not to be moved by the pathetic pictures of Hell that were drawn for me, for even at the time nothing seemed as terrible as Nothingness. I was already possessed of a furious hunger to be, “an apprentice for divinity,” as one of our ascetics put it.  ~ Miguel de Unamuno, The Tragic Sense of Life

What Unamuno is saying here may, on the one hand, seem to some to be patently true. On the other hand, those persons who share with me what might be called "suicidal tendencies" may consider the idea that suffering is worse than oblivion to be utter nonsense.

I guess that it is the ferocity of Unamuno's desire for "divinity"--that is, for immortality--that makes him so willing to risk what Prince Hamlet called "the rub."  It was surely oblivion--dreamless sleep--that appealed to Hamlet as he found himself inextricably caught up in afflications for which he could find no remedy other than death.

Whatever your immediate take concerning Unamuno's thought on the matter, until you have contemplated death as the ultimate antidote, you can't really know where you stand.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rants: Picture-Booked by Whom?

I am unable to understand how any Christian—conservative or liberal--can look at the world today (or at any time in the past) and decide that “free market capitalism” is pretty much the best way for a morally-sound society to conduct business .

Even the giddiest of optimists can--at best--only say, “Things could be worse.”

Capitalism is a game of winners and losers; that’s how it works. The “trickle-down” inevitably dries up before it reaches the bottom. And then the “winners” bitch and moan about being asked to fund emergency waterboys out of their surplus, in order to keep the losers alive at subsistence level.

Can any of you show me one verse in which Jesus Christ says anything that would support capitalism as a way of life? Can any of you deny that the very first Christians–the men and women who actually walked with Christ and presumably lived as He taught them to live–set up a communal system?

I have to ask, along with Dylan, “You’ve been picture-booked, by whom?”