Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Overheard: An Invitation to Break with Cliche

I overheard this at school today:

"I can't do s---."
"Try excellence."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Not a Call for Sanitized Art

After listening to a certain popular song multiple times (sometimes from the burned CD and more than I would like from the auto-repeat in my mind), it made me think of hygienic art. This particular song struck me as painful and self-absorbed. I understand the idea of art-as-therapy; I understand the concept of catharsis. I also wonder if some art isn't like personal hygiene--essential to perform but best kept private.

"Sailing to Byzantium" with Pet Fish

On Saturday my son was saying how he would like a pet fish. I had a few very temporary goldfish once, and a betta that bore with me for several months, but I am not worthy of pets. I was thinking I could suggest an alternative to my son: perhaps of something like the mechanical fish tank I saw at a dollar store once, which lead me to Yeats's "Sailing to Byzantium" and an insight: the desire for the mechanical bird in an artificial tree is perhaps not only a desire for the invented immutable (a good received reading of the poem), but also for beauty without responsibility and risk.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sandy Smith on the Web

The following visual argument is shared by permission of its creator, Sandy Smith. I love the ambiguity.

Brothers Karamazov on Offended Language and Online Communication

On Offended Language: (yes, offended, not offensive; though what is offensive is so because it is offended)

"Stupidity is brief and artless, while intelligence wriggles and hides itself. Intelligence is a knave, but stupidity is honest and straightforward" (Ivan; a troubled soul, an unreliable commentator; book 5 chapter 3).

(Perhaps I ought not to have said this; honest and straightforward are the words "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Perhaps I wish to critique any abrasive words that come from a position of suspect moral certainty--including those heard on talk radio and from my own mouth.)

On Online Communication:

"For any one to love a man, he must be hidden, for as soon as he shows his face, love is gone" (Ivan, book 5 chapter 4).

"Father Zossima has talked of that more than once . . . He, too, said that the face of a man often hinders many people not practised [sic] in love, from loving him. But yet there's a great deal of love in mankind, and almost Christ-like love" (Alyosha, book 5 chapter 4). (Note: that Alyosha, and even more strongly, Zosssima corroborates Ivan, gives high credibility to the notion; Emerson's maxim resonates: "thy love afar is spite at home.")

(These statements help me understand why sometimes it seems so much
easier to be pleasant and compassionate online than in a face-to-face. Partially it's an issue of timing and control of communication/interaction. Better start studying Levinas again.)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ars Longa, Vita Longa

You can tell from my title that a little Latin is a dangerous thing.

On two recent contentious occasions I pulled the same cliché on my children: be nice to each other because "life is short." The same reply both times from the eight-year-old was no it isn't. She's right; it takes me directly to Flannery O'Connor's "The Enduring Chill," in which the aesthetically miserable protagonist is happy to be dying so he can make his mother feel bad; when he finds out he isn't dying but will be suffering from a chronic disorder, his reality shifts and he must (or is privileged) to deal with his family feelings.

Perhaps some unexpected event could separate us from our family members, in which case treating them right each day would certainly show appreciation for the other and minimize regret.

More realistically, we should be nice to each other because life is usually long, and to live it in hatred and contention, to live it without turning the heart, would leave the familiar world utterly wasted.