Rocket and Lightship
I get some of my best reading done on the bus going to the next large town on my weekly shopping trip there. This week I read this article, one that I had looked at earlier online. This proved to me, once again, that reading (for me) is best done from paper.
Here is the final paragraph:
“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” On the contrary: it is what we cannot speak of in the sense Wittgenstein means, what we cannot point to and scientifically describe, that we speak about most and best, and always have. What can be wholly comprehended and demonstrated is “trivial” in the sense that mathematicians use the word: even if it is very hard to understand, once understood it does not provoke further discourse, does not point anywhere. But authentic speech and writing are always productive of more speech and writing—indeed, that is the point of discourse, not to describe reality but to avoid silence.
How can I add to that? But, being a writer, I must – if only to take exception to this paragraph:
Literature operates on the premise that humanity can be transcendent; but it now looks increasingly likely that humanity can only be transcended, that is, left behind. Like all culture, literature is a matter of directing the will inward, to create an inner life; this was a necessity for most of human history, when the conditions of outer life could not be changed. But the future will be defined by the ever more successful direction of the will outward, in the form of technology and power, which is now genuinely able to transform the conditions of life. In this sense, culture is an obsolete technology, a sunk cost that we keep adding to only because we lack the courage to write it off.
This makes me want to scream, and become violent!
This is precisely what American thinkers and writers (they tended to be both) such as Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, and Whitman missed entirely. Their world was fast falling apart – and they never noticed! For all his brilliance (typical of our time) he is as stupid as he can be.
I am reminded of the character Aron Jastrow in The Winds of War. He didn’t realize what was going on until a Nazi thug nearly kicked him senseless – then he got the message – too late.
I just listened to his death scene, where he was gassed to death in Auschwitz. Another brilliant man (and a writer) who was also just plain stupid.