Welcome! Thank you for being here
Lots to tell you, but you can tell what's going on in my life by what I write about. I'm definitely being asked for my input on the development of an Honors Program. Hence, the long take on advising. And yes, the takes on Aristotle's "Ethics" and Plato's "Meno" stem from my thinking through what I teach. Currently I'm teaching Kant, so you might see more about him.
There's a lot to share with you. Carlos Maza's video, "Critical Race Theory and Moral Panic," is first-rate media criticism. It can be difficult to make the case that the culture war merely serves cynical corporate interests. I think one can credibly have some questions about that case. But Maza's arguments are more than convincing. He musters an incredible amount of examples to make his point, and he connects the dots carefully.
CW: parental abuse, graphic violence. The other thing is about something I'm really beginning to wake up to. The United States of America is a brutal, violent society. I know, we all know this, but we really don't. People will still think the other party stands for "common sense" over against the other party flirting with communism (which, in this case, means anything remotely to the left of Margaret Thatcher) and not have a clue what they're endorsing. Reading these stories of decades of child abuse in evangelical households will make you sick.
Sorry for the preaching, but those are the things on my mind. If you like what I write, or absolutely hate it, feel free to spread the word and get this little newsletter more subscribers! I appreciate all efforts to help me build the audience. I'm aiming to write 10 times at least this month, so any suggestions on what I should tackle are welcome.
Boris Pasternak, "The Wind"
The Wind Boris Pasternak (translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France) I am dead, but you are living. And the wind, moaning and grieving, Rocks the house and the forest, Not one pine after another But further than the furthest Horizon all together, Like boat-hulls and bowsprits In an unruffled anchorage, Rocked not from high spirits Or out of aimless rage, But with a sad heart seeking Words for your cradle-song.
"I am dead, but you are living."
There's a lot of advice for writers sitting in my journal. I struggle to use it, any of it. Write for your audience. For your students. For yourself, a decade ago. For your dead.
Your dead. Some days, I remember those who were giddy to play with a young child. Who were eager to give, eager to share. It was fun to be loved, to be spoiled simply because I was there.
Those who showed unconditional love are gone. A woman who gave me seashells after her trips to the beach, another who embroidered a keepsake for my birthday. I don't know if they're my dead, truth be told. Their families were large, and plenty have other memories of them. Other memories which lead other directions, to other lives and loves.
My apartment sits on the second floor. Sometimes I'll sit on the couch and I'll feel like I'm floating. Like I'm empty, hollow. I'll try to speak to the past but there doesn't seem to be much of it. It won't speak back. And I've seen enough of the present to know the future. A constant stream of bullshit and grift breaks even the best minds because of its insistence. It attacks from all angles, flooding the head.
I am trapped. I can make an utterance, but it won't carry. It will fall and have to be picked up. Someone, if they care, will have to put it together with another utterance. Maybe then I'll have said something. I might be gone.
"I am dead, but you are living." I want to speak to the infant, too. The one I'll never know, the one I didn't know.
I can't say anything which makes sense. I have a feeling, but it seems both powerful and ridiculous.
Something like this I've actually witnessed. "And the wind, moaning and grieving, / Rocks the house and the forest." If this were just in the poem, I might not believe it. I've heard the wind making noises while moving massive objects, as if it were a giant, sad child. Pasternak makes the connection I've never made: this is what the feeling inside me wants. This is the echo it desires.
It wants to be a wind, rocking every thing on Earth. "Not one pine after another / But further than the furthest / Horizon all together, / Like boat-hulls and bowsprits / In an unruffled anchorage." No ruffles, no destruction. Just every object moved all at once. Every thing knowing there is a power that could, perhaps, fling it beyond the horizon. But that won't happen. The power does not look to be a force. It wants articulation. It wants to address to be addressed.
What does it want to say? "I'm sad?" I mean, yeah, I am.
You write for your dead knowing you will die. You write for your dead knowing your few readers are looking for anything. Anything that might prove useful for a moment.
What I want, what many of us want, is enough time to communicate a love which persists. Where one does not have to guess they are welcome or needed. Where the wind lifts all objects but is understood.
No one will ever get that time. It's still strange to watch people who just don't think this means anything. A father who thinks his kid is spoiled because he indulges them, who refuses to see the bully shove them to the ground. An executive who thinks longtime employees getting a pension should shut up and be grateful they ever had a job at all. A bishop who believes their mother's paranoid ramblings are religious truth, over against the actual needs of the laity. It's hard to believe the grief the wind carries can be ignored, but it is ignored all the time. It's hard to believe parents forget the wish they first have for their children—that everyone will take care of them like they're their own—but they do forget.
There's a real need for a lullaby that won't be forgotten. The "sad heart seeking / Words for... [the] cradle-song" is the only heart there is. "The Wind" is ultimately a prayer, not that we won't be forgotten, but that we won't forget. Life cannot come to be without attention, without listening. When I put it that way, I wonder about our age, not just my own.