Saturday, 10/1/16

  1. Lost in the Cosmos
  2. Is Donald Trump successful?
  3. Gloom, despair and agony on me …
  4. Stuck in The Shallows
  5. Zir Majesty
  6. Shy police?

1

Assume that you are quite right. You are depressed because you have every reason to be depressed. No member of the other two million species which inhabit the earth—and who are luckily exempt from depression—would fail to be depressed if it lived the life you lead. You live in a deranged age—more deranged than usual, because despite great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.

(Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos)

2

How did we ever get to the point where Donald Trump is considered a “success” rather than a “celebrity” or “notorious”?

Deliver me and save me from the hand of the sons of foreigners,
Whose mouth speaks empty things, And their right hand is a right hand of wrongdoing,
Whose sons are like new plants Matured in their youth, Their daughters beautified, Adorned like a temple;
Their storehouses are full, Bursting forth with abundance on all sides;
Their sheep give many births, Multiplying in their streets; Their oxen are fat; There is no gap in their fence or passage, Nor outcry in their streets.
They call the people blessed, whose lot this is; But rather, blessed is the people Whose God is the Lord.

Psalm 144:11-15 (Psalm 143 in Septuagint)

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

(Edward A. Robinson)

Can’t we come up with a better concept of succeeding?

3

Entirely anecdotal evidence received that there’s a lot of despair out there, and it’s not directly and exclusively about this election. More specifically, two depressing blogs were shared by young people on Facebook Thursday night/Friday morning, namely Unnecessariat and Long Drive Home.

The former, published in May, went viral and the author hasn’t fully recovered yet. Of the latter I’m a bit suspicious: if her life is that relentlessly packed with soul-searing toil to care for her child, where does she find the time to write long blogs? Am I being gaslighted? Is she a writer of fiction and I alone am not in on the conceit? Maybe it’s creative writing more than “dear diary,” but Kim Dot Dammit got my attention.

I’m not dwelling on these two essays in print because I am not terribly oppressed yet and it would feel like affectation or sentimentality to do so. The extent to which such essays haunt me, or don’t, will remain between my ears.

A person who, feeling himself curiously depressed despite the benefits of science and technology, despite the highest standard of living in Europe, finds solace in the twentieth-century literature of alienation, poetry, art, and film depicting just such a predicament as his.

(Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos)

4

This year I am seeing something, especially among the young of politics and journalism. They have received most of what they know about political history through screens. They are college graduates, they’re in their 20s or 30s, they’re bright and ambitious, but they have seen the movie and not read the book. They’ve heard the sound bite but not read the speech. Their understanding of history, even recent history, is superficial. They grew up in the internet age and have filled their brainspace with information that came in the form of pictures and sounds. They learned through sensation, not through books, which demand something deeper from your brain. Reading forces you to imagine, question, ponder, reflect. It provides a deeper understanding of political figures and events.

If you get your information mostly through the Web, you’ll get stuck in “The Shallows,” which is the name of a book by Nicholas Carrabout what the internet is doing to our brains. Media, he reminds us, are not just channels of information: “They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought.” The internet is chipping away at our “capacity for concentration and contemplation.” “Once I was a scuba driver in the sea of words,” writes Mr. Carr. “Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

If you can’t read deeply you will not be able to think deeply. If you can’t think deeply you will not be able to lead well, or report well.

(Peggy Noonan, The Politics of the Shallows)

5

The University of Michigan now has a way officially to register one’s preferred pronouns: a Website called Wolverine Access.

For the benefit of those descendants who, in the spirit of Motel of the Mysteries, unearth this blog centuries from now, “preferred pronouns” was a notion in the early 21st century so absurd that only intellectuals could swallow it. Men and women who deviated from sexual stereotype, and concluded that they were someone other than man or woman, began to demand that they be addressed by pronouns other than “he” or “she.” There being no alternate terms in coinage among the sane, they coined new terms like “ze,” the possessive of which was “zir,” the alternatives limited only by the imagination.

Then they came up with idiot theories like “you’re denying my existence if you don’t use my preferred pronouns” (I’d say “you’re microaggressing,” but that would open a whole new bag of worms), which was a magic incantation that invoked the aid, genie-like, of Assistant Executive Supernumeraries in Orwellian “Diversity Offices.” These are the jackasses who created Wolverine Access and let it be known that there could be unpleasant consequence if any Wolverine faculty did not master this crap.

Well, back to Preferred Pronouns. A delightful provocateur named Grant Stobl registered his Preferred Pronoun as “His Majesty.” This presumably is how professors henceforth must address him.

On a larger scale, the State of Tennessee has acted preemptively:

The Tennessee legislature solved this problem earlier this year. They passed a law defunding the University of Tennessee Knoxville Office of Diversity and Inclusion and instead moved the dollars over to a fund for minority Engineering scholarships.

To which another replied:

EXCELLENT! Deftly handled! (And way to drive a wedge between the black and white SJW’s).

Woe be to Tennessee if Apple, the Chamber of Commerce or the NCAA hypocrites catch wind of this!

You’ve got to wonder, if you’re sentient, why you would ever spend a dime to enroll your child in such a surreal setting, or allow him or her to take on a dime of student loans to attend. There actually are some institutions that provide education, which truly is a precious thing made all the more precious by its paucity.

6

Heather Mac Donald and others have focused lately on a so-called “Ferguson effect,” the idea that increased scrutiny and accountability for police has made them shy. As a result, Mac Donald argues, police officers aren’t doing the sort of vigorous police work they used to …

[T]he “shy police” theory always had a rather unsettling implication. That we couldn’t expect police to perform their jobs adequately if we were actually paying attention to them.

(Andrew Fleischman, Why Police Perform Poorly Under Scrutiny)

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.