"How can I go forward if I don't know which way I'm going?" (The Beatles)
Lux in tenebris. (Light in the darkness.)
Ever since I was a young person and my manager took myself and the other two members of his team out on his boat on summer evenings on Chesapeake Bay (Maryland), I have had a vision of a good world in which to live.
In the darkness out on the water of the bay, there are few lights. Some are marker buoys telling sailors where to stay away from shoals to avoid running aground. Others are individual ships' lights telling each other where to steer to avoid collisions. (My manager was legally blind; a coworker was his seeing eyes.)
An 800 foot 100,000+ ton container ship and a 22 foot pleasure boat are not equals, but both must equally follow the rules of who steers which way to avoid collisions. Other lights are homes and other buildings on the shore, but there blessedly were still few of them several miles from any human agglomeration. Each light matters. I have always found this beautiful and hopeful. Not some particular kind of lives matter. Not all lives matter. 'Each life matters. I am an each, not an insignificance in an emulsified all of Where's Waldos, even Where's Waldos coagulating for some "Good Cause". Let every person send emails to protest. How do you feel about yourself vis-à-vis large numbers, my reader?
Last nite (03 October 2020), I conducted an experiment: At midnite, I took a walk around the block where I live. There are no "street lights." There were a few night lights on at some of the houses. I did not deploy any additional light, not even the light of my cellphone. Bright moon near the zenith in the clear early autumn air softly but limpidly lit up everything except where trees were blocking the moonlight, making the road look something like the spotted coat of a dalmation dog. Recalling the title of Akira Kurosawa's film, I thought that the bad were sleeping well -- hopefully the good, too. It was beautiful almost exactly like the Chesapeake bay at night, some now almost 50 years ago.
I abominate crowds. Dr. Joseph Goebbels' propaganda rallies, Soccer mobs, but also, especially having read the insalubrious working conditions of symphony musicians, classical music symphony orchestras and their audiences, too. There was one Lamb of God who took away the sins of the whole world (John 1:21); and He got a pass for His efforts after all.
Any human relation which is not I-thou peer-to-peer is evil, at best, tragedy, unless one side of the relation cannot enter into discourse. That would include infants and persons under general anesthesia/comatose, but not many more. (Those relations need to be fiduciary.)
I would like to live in a social/physical world in which each person counts, including myself, and yourself, my reader, and each other with whom each of us would come into contact. And where such interaction is not possible, let there be none, except under duress, e.g., Mt. Vesuvius is suddenly and entirely unexpectedly erupting and we are in Pompeii and we gotta go → Now! Then, all aboard any ship available, probably the bigger, certainly the faster, the better.
But, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn perhaps begrudgedly admits: "So long as we wake under a peaceful sun, we must lead a everyday life." I wish to awaken each new morning under a peaceful sun. I long to live in uninteresting times. You, my reader?
You, my reader, probably know by now that I abominate useless travel, e.g., Las Vegas on ocean aka vacation cruises. However not all travel is baleful. Medical doctors go all over the world to bring healing to persons who have no access to modern medicine. Their travel is good. Otherwise, peregrinatio in stabilitate.
One of these compassionate medical organizations is Smile Train, which specializes in cleft repair surgery. Children with cleft lip and/or palate not only suffer physical problems but also are often stigmatized or even shunned by their social surround. Anyway, Smile Train apparently does good work. Their CNN ad (19 July 2020) is heartbreaking, like all too many are/have to be. But what hooked me on Smile Train is something "selfish" (I believe I have a right to have a self!): the song in the ad: "Everywhere I go, I'm going to let it shine...." How evocative of honorific peregrination! (I did give a small donation, as much for the song as for the service.)
I think Political Correctness is a danger only a couple steps behind what validly malign causes it opposes. It is ethnic cleansing-Lite. America is so much increasingly soul constipated from "Political Correctness". I am a "Polack": Let me breathe!
Read Harper's magazine: "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate". This Open Letter is geistige (spiritual) Ex-Lax; it makes me feel a bit relieved from the loud noise of those who, if I may adduce an image, behave like they have their digestive systems reversed.
A brick can be objectivation of a person's empathy: empathy by proxy. (Objektive Geist). Not altogether satisfying like a caress from a gentle soul's hand, but at least the brick attests that some sentient creature at some time lived who cared about "things", so the world and its universe(s) for all eternity had not been entirely worthless.
A person, on the other hand, may have no empathy at all. Therefore the lifeless brick has more life (spirit) than the sum (Σ) of all the instances of that kind of metabolizing hominid. How sad that people like that ever had to have been born alive, or have wasted uterine time + energy! But they were born and they do not not generally die at the right time ("stat!"); many of them become adults with social power to treat other persons worse than bricks, because they pay their money to buy a brick whereas they may get power to abuse the persons at no cost to themselves and so, unlike the brick, which if they break it they lose their investment, if they break the person it's no skin off their ass, as the saying goes.
Now let us praise empathic men (and women and others, including dogs, cats and horses...)!
Carl Schorske calls Loos one of "the last puritans" in Vienna. That sounds pretty awful to me, for I think of Puritans as being pure hypocrites. Therefore, let me make use of Schorske's thought about Loos to illustrate and reiterate my stance that all the symbols in the world are just raw material for me to construct my own world of living (you may wish to do likewise, my reader? or would you rather be an ethnic?).
I read many years ago the Loos had syphilis. I don't give a damn (except to feel sorry for him...) if he frequented prostitutes, even in such an ignoble way as to report them to the police after visiting them. All I am interested in anent Adolf Loos is that he wrote that, in the 20th Century, any person who indulged in ornamentation was either a degenerate or a criminal, which is an indictment of one of my favorite public figures to loathe: Robert Venturi. Orgasms are not ornaments. Unlike postmodernism architecture, they do not decorate sheds. So much for my feelings and thoughts about Adolf Loos. Next?
Both The New York City Department of Public Health and The BBC are advocating joy in life (I (BMcC) was childreared in the Dark Ages of "in loco parentis" aka: parents are insane). Items: Safer Sex and COVID-19 (NYC Health), and Sexual Revolutions (The BBC). I also delight in a little apothegm I thought of: A pox on all prudes!
One thing I learned about as an undergraduate student at Yale (1964-68) was art history and somewhat about conoisseurship.
I previously had a paragraph here about my college Freshman Art History course. Then I found a webpage about this on my old personal website. It contains interesting information I now forget. Therefore, my reader, please click the link, here immediately following, to go to my new page, and to then return here.
I learned about Marcel Duchamp. I learned about R. Mutt's epochal standard issue male urinal sculpture, which Duchamp created simply by signing the urinal: "R. Mutt", and laying it on its back (current value at auction ca. US$1,500,000 or more). I also learned about Duchamp's "large glass" (The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors Even), a painting on glass that had shattered and been made more valuable than when previously undamaged by the damaged glass sheet being sandwiched between two new glass sheets.
I learned about Duchamp's "L.H.O.O.Q" Mona Lisa postcard. There were Renaissance paintings of tortures of the damned in hell (hypertrophied versions of my childrearing). But also Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion, with no decoration ("Less is more")! I discovered that there were more things in the universe that were not kitsch than I could ever have imagined! (I learned about the Barcelona Pavillion in auditing Scully's class. I think I kind of awed my professors in my Art History I final exam when the assignment was to discuss a certain modernist building which we students were not expected to be able to identify, and I began my answer to the question with something like: "Here, in Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavillion...." For myself, even if not for the students who were taking his course for credit, Professor Scully had a use. Scully instructed the students to not take notes on his lectures because they would only be tested on memorizing pictures of some 300 art objects displayed in a different building. So why bother to attend his lectures?)
Ever since, in my life, I have loved fine art, including, when I worked at The Baltimore Museum of Art, wondering about the relation of the two spinster Cone sisters, Etta and Dr. Claribel, with Henri Matisse's in-your-face "Blue Nude" and "Pink Nude"paintings which they owned. (Did they or didn't they?) Perusing Janson's "History of Art" book in college, which, again, was not a course requirement for myself, I came across a small picture of a Donatello sculpture of David (right), which, unlike Michelangelo's interpretation, is even today, over 50 years after, probably the most erotic material artifact I have ever laid eyes upon (my eyseight in college was ophthalmologically better than 20/20, but maybe the picture itself contributes to the effect? I have not visited the Bargello National Museum, Firenze).
I also learned a bit about fine films in college (Yale film society screenings), although these would all have been "G" rated (I did learn about "Le Chien Andalou" with its famous razor cutting eyeball scene, but never saw that film; the most violent film I have ever seen is "Le derniere combat" or maybe "Night and Fog" -- Alfred Hitchcock? No, thank you --; the most nudity film: "Betty Blue", which is more focally an indictment of the institutional psychiatric establishment). My connoisseurship of fine handcrafts was to develop after college, as well as discovery of serious pro-living literature (e.g.: Barbara Tuchman's "A distant mirror").
For myself, I learned that the highest value in the hierarchy of fine arts was to get an acceptable grade for my college transcript in exchange for a couple hours writing in a "blue book". Second to that, the masterpieces produced by European and other cultures' master artists. Below that, varying levels of lesser grade art, kitsch, consumer products and other things.
For others, such as Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo da Vinci, mutatis mutandia, the highest value was
perforce, to earn their living -- to get a few buck$ [or whatever other medium of exchange] from those who surely had many buck$, and hopefully
as much as possible appreciation of
lower higher cultural values and ideals. Those who have much can, I believe,
have honorable relations with thoss who have less, if they reach their hand down
to help them up and not press the sole of their
shoe down on them or just not care (I personally knew at least one of the latters).
Maybe Duchamp missed an opportunity? Maybe he should have signed a urinal in the men's room of an office building (e.g.: MOMA HQ), in situ. Then the whole skyscraper would have had to go on the auction block for a collector to acquire it. Context enriches; decontextualization is at best equivocally amnesiac.
Midinght (ca. 00:00). I (BMcC) have just awakened for my new day (another day, more CNN). Family watching something on cable TV. Two very sweet but also very hungry cats following me around like I'm the Pied Piper of something.
Cats have their food [half] dishes and
their litter box in basement which resembes a small-time Medieval dungeon. There is a door to the
dungeon basement in kitchen, with a hole in the door just big enough for the cats comfortably to squeeze through. Family dog resting directly in path to door. Dog is bigger than the cats (also too big to fit through cathole in door, so cats are safe in dungeon basement) and great animosity between one of the cats and dog, but dog is bigger than cat so cat is afraid of dog. I collect scaredy cat in my arms (other cat so avidly lusts to eat that she will get past the dog by hook or by crook in her quest for: more food). I walk warily past dog on way to door with scaredy cat in my arms. I spontaneously exclaim:
"Is Cerebrus on guard at the Gates of Hell?"
I find my remark amusing, and it me helps console myself to negotiate getting scaredy cat past dog to the cathole in the door so she can get down to the
dungeon basement for her breakfast and I can get down there, too, to feed the two cats. My remark is not well received by family, getting a response something like that I should not make crazy obscure references when people are getting ready to go to bed. But neither, in family's opinion, should I make crazy obscure references when people are waking up, nor does any time of day seem right for welcoming crazy obscure references, and anyway, what am I talking about? I have learned that I often fail to provide context for people to understand my references, so I start explaining how "In ancient Greece, Cerebrus guarded...." "Yes, we know...." I wonder: What, then, can be the problem with my reference?
I proceed to the
dungeon basement, and feed the hungry cats, who are much appreciative of their breakfast (unlike humans, for whom variety is the spice of ife, a parade of cats have never tired, over decades, to eagerly anticipate the same f[l]avor of Fancy Feast for every meal). I come back to the surface of earth, think some more, and cannot resist making one final crazy obscure reference for the nite/morning: "I thought what I said was pretty funny. I'm trying to be Johnny Carson." (It is now just past midnight -- The Late Show?)
Let me make a Venn diagram of the above delineated social surround. Draw one circle and label it: "A", with a note: "BMcC's [or: crazy obscure referencer's] Lifeworld". Draw another circle and label it: "B", with a note: "Family's [or: "normal people's"] Lifeworld". Asumption: Neither A nor B is the null set. Question: What is the relation between A and B? Optional, for extra credit: Describe and evaluate each partition in your selection, inluding the implied set of everything that is not in the union of A and B. Pick one:
(1) B is a proper subset of A.
(2) A is a proper subset of B.
(3) A and B are mutually disjoint.
(4) The intersection set of A and B is not null, and the set A not included in B is not null and the set B not included in A is not null.
(5) The intersection set of A and B is not null, and the set A not included in B is not null but the set B not included in A is null.
(6) The intersection set of A and B is not null, and the set A not included in B is null but the set B not included in A is not null.
(7) Other (Pease specify).
Especially in present grim time of pandemic and now apparently incipient new Civil War (CNN), I find crazy obscure references joy producing -- for myself at least. Ancient Greek Heracitus butts in: "Waking men share a world in common but the sleeper turns to a world uniquely his own." BMcC: "Ah, Professor Heraclitus! I think much about what you have admonished me to appreciate. I wonder: What is waking and who is awake? What is sleeping and who is asleep? What do you think. Professor?"
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote:
"Why so hard?" the charcoal once said to the diamond; "for are we not close relations?"
[The diamond responds to the charcoal:] "Why so soft? O my brothers", thus I ask them: "for are you not -- my brothers?"
Have I here given you some safe, wholesome pleasure, my reader, or are my references just crazy and obscure, in your opinion/judgment? If there are afterworlds (Heaven, Purgatory and Hell, e.g.), will The Judge of All Creation ask me at the entrance gate: "What is wrong with you, BMcC? Why weren't you normal?" email@example.com
Ad for hearing aids. This does not sound auspicious, does it? Let's imagine that the ad gets choreographed on a baseball diamond (it takes place in a big kitchen). Paterfamilias is at Home Plate. Clearly he is a member of the Social Security club. Mother at Second base, but she plays no part in the proceedings and could just as well be a potted plant. Daughter at First Base. Potential son in law at Third Base. Daughter and potential son in law are probably both in their early to mid twenties.
Daughter whispers something across the room to potential son in law, who can't hear it. Potential son in law signals to daughter to repeat. She does repeat. Potential son in law still doesn't get it. Paterfamialas at Home Plate loudly declaims: "Condoms, Charlie. She wants to know if you brought condoms." Daughter is slightly taken aback. Potential son in law indicates in the affirmative. Message: These hearing aids work.
Question: Is the word "classy", or, a fortiori, what it means, deprecated in 2020CE? I do not seem to hear persons using this word. Do frogs and toadies croak or do they woke?
I'm cultivating my imagination, while yet I have one. Many of the things I fantasize are, I hypothesize, not accessible to most "people" for whatever not necessarily pecuniary reason(s) (and, in reality, many are not accessible to me, precisely for pecuniary reason(s)). But I have blue-collar fantasies, too.
If I had to have a blue-collar job, and could not be a master tool and die maker ("machinist"), I think I might like to be one of the persons who hand signal to jumbo jet pilots where to bring their plane to a stop at exactly the right spot on the tarmac, at the gate (the pilots cannot see the ground in front of their plane; this job is meaningful and responsible, but not, like the pilot's, too responsible). We have a housekeeper who comes once a week. (I do laundry, but am in no physical shape these days to do much else in the way of cleaning the house).
One day I needed to keep the driveway open, so the housekeeper would have to park on the street (which she often did anyway). Seeing the driveway blocked (which it almost never is), she started trying to turn around in the street but that was not easily going to work (the street is too narrow). I improvised hand signals to tell her to go up the street and turn around at the wide intersection there:
(1) I raised my right hand with finger pointing animatedly left. Then (2) I turned my hand quickly in a tight circle, again pointing left.
Housekeeper got the communication, ceased futilely trying to turn around in the road, disappeared up the street, soon reappeared coming back toward my house, and parked with no problem. Not quite bringing a 747 in, but good enough to satisfy this fantasy. The persons who do simultaneous translation into American Sign Language (ASL) for the deaf probably have a pretty decent job.
I go to the CVS drugstore (drive thru ℞ pickup; no contact). The line is very long. If you only have lemons. make lemonade. I'm listening to WFUV, Jesuit radio (Fordham University). I think about Walter J. Ong, S.J., who writes astutely about sex. Add in Dr. François Rabelais. I start connecting the dots. There is apparently no limit to how deep the Freudian/Alice Miller unconscious of the repressed (which is not the Husserlean unconscious of the naive attitude of pre-reflective life) goes.
Let me begin at my lowest level so far dug up: that in my childrearing the idea of sexuality was absent. (That social surround was effectively anti-sexual, and the notion that my body could ever give me pleasure was absent.) What you don't have an idea of you cannot experience. Now add to that the impression I was later given of nuns and monks in a life of denied sexuality which they presumably knew of but expent much energy trying to do a (FLOTUS №40) Nancy Reagan on ("Just say no" -- why not just say no to urination, too? -- Tycho Brahe tried that at least according to legend, dying from being too polite to leave the dinner table to relieve himself). Sounds pretty grim, doesn't it? The not-brutalizing rock music I'm listening to on Jesuit radio doesn't sound exactly like it's wed to just-say-no-except-for-the-duty-of-procreating-to-produce-more-believers.
Now, add in The New York City Department of Public Health (NYCHealth)'s guidance that you are your own safest sex partner during pandemic. First, however, let's throw out of consideration the persons who apparently really enjoy self-mortification, and I doubt not there are some. Also throw out those immoral nuns, monks, abbots, abbesses and non-cloistered clergy who did/do engage in extra-marital liaisons. What we have left are lots of decent cloistered and secular clergy. In times of danger, there can be less salubrious places to be than a cloister. Why not monks and nuns meditating? For the nuns, I have never read of any Biblical injunctions against female orgasm. For monks, there may be needful some refinement of pious practice if they are determined to follow every letter as well as the spirit (refer to oriental Tantric technology of the spirit if necessary).
Now let's connect the dots, and then we can get on to thinking about happy things. Why did those who had fiduciary responsibility for raising me from infancy (etymologically: unable to speak) to citizenship ("my" -- I didn't ask for them to be what they were and do what they did or not do -- parents and
prep? perp school "masters") not teach me the above? There can be only two options, it seems to me: (1) ignorance, or (2) wilful ideological manipulation (like is bugbeared with or without good reason was done on the other side of The Iron Curtain, to make persons here afraid of ☭communists and thankful for capitalist wage-slavery and to want at all costs to eschew ☭communist thoughts and be ready to pro patria mori for The Free World True Faith). I'll give my parents the benefit of the doubt and hypothesize that they knew almost nothing about anything. They came from non-college educated blue-collar background. But my tormentors in perp school were different. They all had college degrees. Some had masters degrees. One even had a Doctor of Corporate law degree (from somewhere in The Netherlands, I believe; Why was he teaching Spanish in a second rate perp school? What was he hiding from or hiding?).
These persons can claim ignorance only from a Higher Power, i.e., higher education. They are either an indictment of Harvard, Yale and University of Pennsylvania, et al. or else failed products of same. In any case, to the present day, they do not want to be outed/educated. I've tried: I've emailed the new CEO or whatever his job title is, maybe it's still Headmaster, of St. Paul's School for Boys, Brooklandville, Maryland? No answer, even though I graduated first in my class. But, please, my reader, notice the gender perversion in the school's very name. Leave the dead to bury the dead. As Thomas Kuhn argued: Old scientific theories die off because the adherents of the old theory who all eventually die, and new persons no longer find their old questions interesting and consequently no graduate students sign up to carry on their superannuated work. God's hell is eternal, but hell on earth can be depopulated, the surviving inmates liberated, with ministrations from medics as needed.
Let me add just one more data point for living: Chartreuse liqueur, which is produced by Carthusian monks. Good bread, good spirits and the company of good friends. What more does a person need? A little privacy, such as, in my perp school, was not granted to students whose bathrooms had no doors on the toilets (nor do I think the room was ever cleaned, at least in the Upper School, where masters did not use it as a shortcut between two floors of the building and so provide extra possibly prurient surveillance of the boys), and the showers in the athletes' locker room which could have served as the setting for scenes in a movie about The Final Solution.
I now fantasize not monks involuntarily tormenting themselves to frustrate their bodily functions, but some who enjoy self-mortification, and others who discretely pursue their sacred studies and prayers,. The Abbey of Théléme may be no more impossible than that Professor Jan Szczepanski () somehow lived in Iron Curtain Poland (I have not found his biographical details; I have foumd that the sociology of religion was openly studied in Warsaw Pact years). A pox on all prigs! Laborare est orare, and peregrinatio in stabilitate, everywhere and always! Ojala!
It seems to me that a woman should have the right to manage her own body and that those who would manage the bodies (or minds) of persons not themselves should mind their own business. On the other hand, while I think abortion should be available on demand, it should seldom need to be demanded. Those who wish to minimize abortions should work to make contraception as safe, secure and convenient as the most advanced medical science can develop. Those persons who want women to be factories to produce worker-soldier males and more worker-soldier factory females should just say they are fascists and go live in a fascist state.
Abortions should be like parachutes: persons are free to travel or not travel by air, and only in the case of an impending crash does a crewperson or passenger deploy a parachute. The goal is to make airplanes that are easily available and never crash. Ditto sex. The whole abortion debate may be a red herring to distract from the two important things:
(1) in a civil society, women should not be baby factories to further the aims of an ethnicity or nation state. If the ethnicity or nation state depopulates, what harm does that do to anyone except a person who has a vested interest in the perpetuation of that ethnicity or nation state? If one is worried about the loss of a culture, should persons be living specimens? Cultural extinction romanticizers: Become ethnographers in a hurry! Individual persons have genetic and socio-cultural origins, but they can transcend them. Help persons look down on their origins and, as the ACOA dictum goes: Take what you like and leave the rest.
(2) Every person should have optimal opportunity for sexual satisfaction. Among other things, this should make males less bellicose by using up testosterone in a constructive way. Mankind's closest animal relatives, the pygmy chimpanzees (bonobos) are sexually promiscuous; they enjoy themselves and make love not war. If you are a war monger, say so, and go to a desert island with your enemies and kill each other where nobody else will be bothered by you. As Wilfred Owen observed, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (Sweet and fitting it to die for one's native land) is a big lie, especially while you are hurrying up to get your gas mask on. Males may be evolutionarily expendable but perhaps human beings can do better than the survival of the meanest and sneakiest. For those who believe in a free market, let your infirm grandparents compete for survival against the healthiest young adults -- don't deprive them of the opportunity to compete on a level playing field.
Abortions, like parachutes, should be always ready at hand to use if needed but never have need to be used. Fly high! Fly far! But not so high that your wings melt (Icarus). And may each and every hypocrite/prig live to see the day when he or she or other wished they had a parachute but did not have one.
It is. I think of Henri Matisse, who painted refined joy (not kitsch, as in: "Somewhere, over [BMcC interpolation: under] the rainbow, blue [depressed] birds fly...."), and Wassily Kandinsky (If Matisse painted life worth living on earth, if Heaven is like Kandinsky paintings, I want to go there, too!).
Where are artists doing this kind of art in 2020CE? It can't just be blamed on bad times, since Matisse survived the Nazi occupation of France and crippling intestinal surgery in later life did not stop him from creating joyous art (he also loved cats). Without luxe, calme et volupté, what is there in life? Heroism? As the title of military historian Richard Gabriel's book indicts: "No more heroes." Many pandemic "essential personnel" (e.g., nurses and doctors) are: involuntary martyrs, which latter locution I think honors them better than the easily sentimentalized word: "hero". Happy the land that does not need a hero!
Why not even a felicitous automobile, if only the world was more reasonably populated so that a little
pollution would not be so bad (to fire salt glaze pottery, I believe, is now illegal in many places), a ca. 1975
BMW2000CS (or similar model id) → "class", not drowned in high-tech: