Saturday, December 22, 2018

Hungarian saying:

One should always drink wine when eating a fish so that the fish will know that it was not a dog who ate him.

In the Monastery

I think that I get it now -- the vow of silence.

The principal deprivation that it entails is not to be deprived of the lively company and conversation of your comrades, of what the Irish call "craic."  It is to be deprived of your own voice.

Your voice is the medium through which you express your individuality, your humor and pathos, your insight and humility (or else that you were not blessed with any of these things).

Losing your voice is a forced meditation, a forced looking within, a forced coming to terms with your circumstances in the world, which are the same as everyone else's, and which are not mollified by either your humor or your pathos.

Of course, there is the internal monologue that is retained, at least for a while.  "I think I will give Brother Francis the rest of my bread," you might say to yourself.  And in times set aside officially for meditation, the monologue may be commandeered, as in Eastern religions, by a mantra, one that may be meaningless or may be meaningful but with a certain relentlessness -- "The Lord is My God."  The purpose of the mantra is to displace the internal monologue.

But if the discipline is maintained, I suspect that even the monologue is set aside.  I myself would approach this condition with terror, but I am not a monk.  (One of the great modern poets, Leonard Cohen, tried it out for a good while under the tutelage of a Buddhist master, but not even he was able to abandon the Word.)

If In the Beginning was the Word, then passing on to a true vow of internal silence puts one in a state prior to the beginning, which is to say of pure being with no qualities.

So what I really mean to say is that there are men and women who have vowed to pass their time in poverty and meditation.   If, among them, there are those whose meditation mantra is pure and empty silence, then they are the ones who deserve to be called saints.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Clive James on the Shaping of the Post-War Order by John McCloy and Other Visionary Washington Bureaucrats

It would help if the world's very large supply of anti-American commentators could decide on which America we are supposed to be in thrall to:  the Machiavellian America that can manipulate any country's destiny, or the naïve America that can't find it on the map.  While we're waiting for the decision, it might help if we could realize the magnitude of the fix that America got us out of in 1945, and ask ourselves why we expect a people rich and confident enough to do that to be sensitive as well.  Power is bound to sound naïve, because it doesn't spot the bitter nuances of feeling helpless.  The East Coast foreign policy elite were as bright as can be.  In their young manhood, they had seen a lot of the world in which America, they correctly guessed, was bound to play a big part, although not even they could guess how big.  They had the mental resources to sound as sophisticated as Talleyrand and Metternich put together.  If, in retrospect, they look like big, clumsy children -- well, they didn't yet know what it was like not to get their way.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Is there progress in academic philosophy, or are there only metastases?

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Clive James on Jean-Paul Sartre and Both His Progeny and One Important Forefather

Sartre's first and most famous treatise shows all the signs not just of his later mummery, but of the mummery of other pundits who came to later fame.  Foucault, Derrida and the like shouldn't have needed scientific debunking to prove them fraudulent:  the pseudo-scientific vacuity of their argufying was sufficiently evident from the willful obfuscation of their stylistic hoopla:  and the same could have been said of their progenitor.  Where Sartre got it from is a mystery begging to be explained.  It could have had something to do with his pre-war period in Berlin, and especially with the influence of his admired Heidegger.  In Sartre's style of argument, German metaphysics met French sophistry in a kind of European Coal and Steel Community producing nothing but rhetorical gas.