Monday, November 9, 2009

The Stations of the Crass

How appropriate that Milan Kundera's novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, was published in 1984.  This was the date George Orwell chose as a kind of benchmark date by which we moderns would have stopped the questioning-thinking process by which we continue our education and in its place come to acceptance as belief (or belief as acceptance).  By 1984, we collectively would have come to a simultaneous juncture of a political state where what the state told us became fact, and an intellectual state where we were no longer able to separate fact from actuality.

Kundera drew upon Neitzsche's posit of eternal recurrence, meaning in apercu that events will recur endlessly, that reality is tidal or, if you will orbital, ebbing and flowing or passing a fixed point with some regularity, suggesting the heaviness of being in the sense that there is little we can do to effect the fabric and structure and meaning of life experience. Neitzsche was in good company, having drawn on Giambatista Vico and his construct of the cyclic nature of reality way back at a time when even expressing such a notion in contrast to the more prevalent one of God's will could get one variously banished, tortured, drawn and quartered.

How quick we are to listen to rant, misinformation, and conspiracy theory, process it, take it in, then believe it.  All bad enough, but the badness does not stop there.  Part of the calculus is that, merely because we believe it, we accept our belief that it is true, from which point we become evangelical in wanting to not hear opposing views. 

Your own take on the effect of Kundera's novel is that he is positing a closed system, this is the time, this is not likely to be repeated, even venturing onto the carpe diem approach, although pointedly not abandoning some ethical template.  Close to, but not congruent with, existentialism, at least in the sense of the individual needing to take responsibility for his or her activities and a willingness to bear the consequences as well as the benefits of action.

This whole wave of thought was brought about by Paul Krugman's column in the NYT today, wherein he levels scorn on those two blatherers, Limbaugh and Beck.  Your own take on this growing phenomena is that it is not so much Limbaugh and Beck as rabble rousers as it is us as believers.  From there you move forth with tantivy to religious and secular evangelists who are so smug in their certainty of being right as to make the religion of the twenty-first century certainty.  We are so certain of our certainty that any disagreement from you is unthinkable because, poor wretch that you are, your disagreement cannot be right; it is an abomination that must be prayed for.

Thus do you begin the week with the energy of a rant at their certainty and a pang for all you do not know and can only hope to engage in the years to come.  The notion of writing as discovery is a healing balm to your cynicism; through writing, you stand some chance of education. 


Querulous Squirrel said...

I'll bet you didn't think of that last sentence until you discovered it at the very last minute. And a great sentence it is. I think I'll go back to my blog and discover something.

John Eaton said...

Yes, indeedy, Shel.

See you later.


Anonymous said...

Shelly, sorry to use your comment box as a coffee shop but ... hey, John! (I was thinking about you last night and wondering how you've been.)

re Kundera: what you write in your fourth para is how I read it. The interesting aspect being that, whether you posit a system as open or closed, you can use the notion as an excuse for falling into 'that's the way things are' or as a challenge to make something sing through it all.

cheers from Graulhet.

Anonymous said...

Makes me think of the current in-vogue obnoxious saying, 'It is what it is.'
-Karen D