“It’s said that college is not the real world, and in a sense I’m happy to affirm that. But I don’t see it as mere preparation for the things of real substance and value — that’s not the mode of its remove from reality. I see it instead as a kind of polis apart, with a few permanent members and an ever-changing citizenry of youths. What happens in this polis, when it’s in good working order, is a kind of intensification of a form of reflective self-cultivation that can and ought to be a continuous life activity. It is the stuff of a good life, not some mere instrumental means. It can be intertwined with, and can deepen, almost any subsequent life activity (including many forms of work and political engagement). This parallel polis provides an important counterweight to the culture-shaping effects that arise from the melding of corporate capitalism and contemporary communications technology. Because the academy encourages an open-ended form of self-cultivation, and because it provides an important counterweight to an outlook on value that threatens to render us a monoculture, it can be defended in the name of liberal pluralism, and the liberal should not adopt standards of public argument that prevent us from bringing the value of the academy into view. It would be a devastating loss if we remade this parallel polis in accordance with the guiding values of the corporation. This is not at all to say that we have no need to remake this parallel polis. But we ought to remake it in the image of its best self.” — Talbot Brewer, “The Coup That Failed,” The Hedgehog Review 16.2 (Summer 2014): 64-83
Monthly Archives: August 2014
“For fantasy is also a harsh mistress and includes its own ironclad reality principle. You cannot satisfactorily daydream about living forever without first settling the practical matter of how those who do not live forever are going to be handled: fantasy demands a certain realism in order to gain even provisional or ephemeral libidinal an aesthetic credit, and this is indeed the deeper truth-mechanism of narrative itself (and the source of the adage about trusting the tale rather than the teller and his own personal ideology). However a story may originate in private wish fulfillment, it must end up disguising its private subjectivity and repairing all the non-functioning machinery, building a village behind the Potemkin facade, dealing with the sheerly logical contradictions the unconscious has left behind it in its haste — in short, shifting the attention of the aesthetic spectator from the gratification of the wish to its far less appealing preconditions in the Real, and thereby becoming in the process transformed from the expression of an ideology to its implicit critique.
In the case of longevity or immortality, I would not want this critique to be taken in any moralizing sense. I am indeed astonished and appalled at the degree of residual moralism still inherent in this topic. It surely has some relationship to the traditional anti-Utopian motif of ultimate boredom I referred to, although the scarcely veiled motivation of this is political and thereby a little less complicated than the insistence of so many writers on the subject that it would be evil to live forever, that true human existence requires a consent to mortality, if only to make room for our children’s children; that hubris and egotism are to be denounced as prime elements in this particular fantasy about the supreme private property, not merely of having a self but of having it live forever. All that may be so, but I would be very embarrassed to argue it this way, and there is certainly an aroma of ressentiment or sour grapes to be detected in this extraordinary puritanism, which may simply reflect the greater facility accorded to writers by simple religious and ethical paradigms, as opposed to the more strenuous business of imagining the social itself.” — Fredric Jameson, “Longevity as Class Struggle” from Archaeologies of the Future
“But two days after my operation, rumors swept through the camp that the battlefront had suddenly drawn nearer. The Red Army was racing toward Buna: it was only a matter of hours.
We were quite used to this kind of rumor. It wasn’t the first time that false prophets announced to us: peace-in-the-world, the-Red-Cross-negotiating-our-liberation, or other fables… And often we would believe them… It was like an injection of morphine.
Only this time, these prophecies seemed more founded. During the last nights we had heard the cannons in the distance.
My faceless neighbor spoke up:
‘Don’t be deluded. Hitler has made it clear that he will annihilate all Jews before the clock strikes twelve.’
‘What do you care what he said? Would you want us to consider him a prophet?’
His cold eyes stared at me. At last, he said wearily:
‘I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.’” — Elie Wiesel, Night
“The hundreds of references to time were complementary, in that keeping track of the rhythms of the universe was another way of comprehending the interventions of the supernatural. Sewall actually lived amid several modes of time. As a merchant he had slow, uncertain communications with his business partners overseas. Months went by before he knew whether ships were lost or safe in port (LB 1:86). But while the rhythm of the world of work was irregular and slow-paced, the rhythm of historical time was fixed in a certain pattern. The bits and pieces of news that reached Sewall from abroad fell in order as evidence that the sequence described in Revelation was rapidly unfolding. Historical time, like the phases of a war and events in Massachusetts politics, was really prophetic time, and Sewall struggled to decipher the relationship between the two. Time for him was also a complex structure of coincidences. And time was finally GOD’S time’ (2:660) in that he alone determined what would happen. As Sewall lay in bed at night listening to the clock tick way the minutes, this sound was cause for reflection on the profound contingency of life. To know this, to know time, was to feel that life could end abruptly, without warning.
Yet Sewall sensed that time was never to be understood as permanent or regular. Though prophecy unfolded, though the clock ticked away the hours by an unvarying beat, though the seven days of Genesis were stamped immutably upon the calendar, the will of God stood over and above any structures, even structures God created. All existence was contingent, all forms of time suspended, on his will. The unexpected crash of a glass to the floor (1:378) was like the crash of God’s anger breaking in upon the flow of time: ‘How suddenly and with surprise can God destroy!’ (1:418). The diary entries pile up as Sewall notes the happening of the unexpected — the roaring of a cow in the street (1:288), the cry of fire, the ‘amazing News’ (1:564) of someone’s sickness, and most frightening of all, the deaths that happen without warning. Sewall was fascinated by such cases…” — David D. Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment
“Human rights are being violated on every continent. More people are oppressed than free. How can one not be sensitive to their plight? Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere. That applies to Palestinians to whose plight I am sensitive but whose methods I deplore when they lead to violence. Violence is not the answer. Terrorism is the most dangerous of answers. They are frustrated, that is understandable, something must be done. The refugees and their misery. The children and their fear. The uprooted and their hopelessness. Something must be done about their situation. Both the Jewish people and the Palestinian people have lost too many sons and daughters and have shed too much blood. This must stop, and all attempts to stop it must be encouraged. Israel will cooperate, I am sure of that. I trust Israel, for I have faith in the Jewish people. Let Israel be given a chance, let hatred and danger be removed from their horizons, and there will be peace in and around the Holy Land.” — Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 1986