"Another lost intuition from before the time of the progressive hegemony is the principle that people do not respect those who fail to respect themselves. An individual who hates himself is in the end not trustworthy, because his interpretation of the golden rule is likely to be counter-intuitive. Yet, for the middle-class as it enters its terminal phase, self-respect is precisely what must be sacrificed if one is to be able to demonstrate, both to oneself and to others, that one holds the correct values. For such sacrifice to be binding and meaningful, something precious and vital must be given up. In the recent past, it would have been easy to condemn Calvin’s self-recrimination as a false gesture, that no man or woman will truly give up the advantages he or she enjoys. But today, the signaling has become profitable, in a symbolic sense. "
I ask Frank if he is optimistic about the future of the book. “Right now, we’re at a moment when, for political reasons, there is a tendency to see art entirely in terms of its representativeness,” he says. “I could imagine that slowly unmaking a certain understanding of art. If you see all speech as an action, then speech could become really limited.” He goes on to say that “books exist in a larger cosmos of information, which seems to be expanding at a terrifying speed that could make art as it emerged between the 18th and 20th centuries seem like a relic.”
Glancing around Frank’s office, its shelves containing many first editions of future NYRB Classics, I point out that the bound book, like the bicycle, has proved to be a surprisingly hardy technology. “It’s sort of vaguely reassuring,” he says, “to think that at the end of civilization, amongst all the plastic bags, there’ll probably still be some books too.”
The 36th birthday of my favorite performance of my favorite Dead song...which is saying something.
Why is it, Solzhenitsyn asks, that Macbeth, Iago, and other Shakespearean evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses, while Lenin and Stalin did in millions? The answer is that Macbeth and Iago “had no ideology.”
Besides literally quoting the silence of biblical figures, in what way does silence mimic God? Here, interestingly enough, Cardinal Sarah’s thought shares something with the French mystic-philosopher Simone Weil’s notion of “The Void.” Weil explained in Gravity and Grace: “All the natural movements of the soul are controlled by laws analogous to those of physical gravity. Grace is the only exception. Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void. The imagination is continually at work filling up all the fissures through which grace might pass.”
The cultivation of this interior void, a renunciation of self in order to let God enter, is itself, Weil thought, a parallel to God’s own original creative act and the crucifixion of Christ. Weil’s “void” and Sarah’s “silence” seem to me to be analogous. As Sarah writes, “In reality, true, good silence always belongs to someone who is willing to let others have his place, and especially the Completely-Other, God. In contrast, external noise characterizes the individual who wants to occupy too important a place, to strut or show off, or else who wants to fill his interior emptiness….” Both the void and the silence are interior spaces we create in order to let God find us. They are the same space.
"By the time they reach high school, nearly 20 percent of all American boys will be diagnosed with ADHD. Millions of those boys will be prescribed a powerful stimulant to "normalize" them. A great many of those boys will suffer serious side effects from those drugs. The shocking truth is that many of those diagnoses are wrong, and that most of those boys are being drugged for no good reason—simply for being boys. It's time we recognize this as a crisis."
My friend, the brilliant critic Tyler Malone, writes about Eureka, Poe's prophetically impressive (and beguiling) work on the nature of intuition:
In Eureka’s opening pages, Poe offers his “general proposition”: “In the Original Unity of the First Thing lies the Secondary Cause of All Things, with the Germ of their Inevitable Annihilation.” His goal is to simulate in textual form a man atop a mountain rapidly whirling on his heels “to comprehend the panorama in the sublimity of its oneness.” Poe continues:
We need so rapid a revolution of all things about the central point of sight that, while the minutiae vanish altogether, even the more conspicuous objects become blended into one. Among the vanishing minutiae, in a survey of this kind, would be all exclusively terrestrial matters. The Earth would be considered in its planetary relations alone. A man, in this view, becomes mankind; mankind a member of the cosmical family of Intelligences.
Early in the book, Poe introduces a strange science fiction conceit: a message in a corked bottle is set adrift in the sea by a future man (from the year 2848). This future “letter-writer” asks of his correspondent, “Do you know that it is scarcely more than eight or nine hundred years ago since the metaphysicians first consented to relieve the people of the singular fancy that there exist but two practicable roads to Truth?” Poe satirizes these two roads—the “deductive or à priori philosophy” of Aristotle (whom the future man calls “Aries Tottle”) and the “à posteriori or inductive” philosophy of Francis Bacon (whom the future man calls “Hog”). The letter-writer continues: “… you can easily understand how restrictions so absurd on their face must have operated, in those days, to retard the progress of true Science, which makes its most important advances—as all History will show—by seemingly intuitive leaps.”
Probably the best brief (relatively) summary I've read:
Many statesmen warned from the outset that British ideas of liberty would not survive a merger with the E.U. The most eloquent early diagnoses came from the Labour Party, not the Tories. That is because the fundamental disposition of the E.U. is to favor technocratic expertise over representative government, and the Tories have not generally been the British party that placed the highest priority on the passions of the masses. In 1962, as Tory Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was eying EEC membership, Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell warned, “[I]t does mean the end of Britain as an independent nation state.... It means the end of a thousand years of history. You may say ‘Let it end’ but, my goodness, it is a decision that needs a little care and thought.”
Gaitskell was right, but it is only in recent years that people have begun to see exactly why he was right. It was always understood that joining the EEC in 1973 compromised Britain’s national sovereignty. All countries that joined had to acknowledge the supremacy of E.U. law over their own. This was a deadly serious thing if you reasoned the consequences to the end. For one thing, it deprived Britain’s monarchy of its (already somewhat vestigial) logic. Monarchs are not underlings: in joining the EEC, Britain could be said to have deposed its queen. Pro-E.U. politicians assured their voters that it wasn’t as serious as that. Britain, they said, had to give a little bit of its sovereignty up in order to receive the benefits of cooperation, the way it did in, say, NATO. Other European countries had done so without wrecking their systems.
But this was a false analogy, as the political scientist Vernon Bogdanor explains persuasively in his recent book, Beyond Brexit. NATO was a treaty. The EEC was a merger. What is more, the EEC that Britain joined had been designed by the major countries of continental Europe in line with their own traditions and interests. It was not in line with Britain’s. Britain had no institutions like the European Commission, an unelected body that could (and still does) initiate legislation. Britain’s politicians didn’t understand the rules intuitively and were less able to work the system. British political institutions were unsuitable as a “farm system” for training E.U. politicians.
And there was an even larger problem than the loss of national sovereignty, Bogdanor shows. The E.U. destroyed the system of parliamentary sovereignty at the heart of Britain’s constitution. For all its royalist trappings, Britain has traditionally been a much purer representative democracy than the United States, because it excludes courts from reviewing legislation on any grounds. British politicians tried to calm the public with assurances that, where British law and E.U. law clashed, British law would prevail. But the acknowledgement of E.U. legal supremacy in the treaties meant that E.U. law was British law. In the 1980s, British judges began finding that parliamentary laws had been invalidated by later British laws—a normal and time-honored process, except that these new “British” laws had been imported into British statute books not by legislation but by Britain’s commitment to accept laws made on the continent. Bogdanor, who is a Remainer and a defender of human rights, does not necessarily condemn this development. But it meant that, through the back door, judicial review was being introduced into a constitutional culture that had never had it.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor