I’m reading Manning Marable’s biography of Malcolm X and I was surprised to learn just how little he had actually done before the FBI opened a file on him. It was 1950, he was in prison, and he wrote a letter to President Truman opposing the Korean War and…
Is “importance” - however such a vague notion is conceived - what merited the FBI’s establishment of a dossier on X? How “important” was he - and to whom was he “important” - when he sent this letter? Or, was it the views X expressed that were important?— insofar as they were interpreted as sentiments potentially minacious?
I’m reading Manning Marable’s biography of Malcolm X and I was surprised to learn just how little he had actually done before the FBI opened a file on him. It was 1950, he was in prison, and he wrote a letter to President Truman opposing the Korean War and declaring himself a communist; that’s it.
It makes me wonder if I or any of my friends are being monitored by the government.
That question betrays an incredible trust in the virtue [of] our elected centers of power, or, about the same thing, an arrant naïveté. If this is a question that must be asked, sadly, you haven’t been monitoring the ledger.
—Listen … , he said. He’d withdrawn his hand on the table top automatically. —That’s what it is, this arrogance, in this flamenco music this same arrogance of suffering, listen. The strength of it’s what’s so overpowering, the self-sufficiency that’s so delicate and tender without an instant of sentimentality. With infinite pity but refusing pity, it’s a precision of suffering, he went on, abruptly working his hand in the air as though to shape it there, —the tremendous tension of violence all enclosed in a framework, … in a pattern that doesn’t pretend to any other level but it’s own, do you know what I mean? He barely glanced at her to see if she did. —It’s the privacy, the exquisite sense of privacy about it, he said speaking more rapidly, —it’s the sense of privacy that most popular expression of suffering don’t have, don’t dare have, that’s what makes it arrogant. That’s what sentimentalizing invades and corrupts, that’s what we’ve lost everywhere, especially here where they make every possible assault on your feelings and privacy. These things have their own patterns, suffering and violence, and that’s … the sense of violence within its own pattern, the pattern that belongs to violence like the bullfight, that’s why the bullfight is art, because it respects its own pattern …
He stopped speaking; and after a moment Esther, who was looking down now too, repeated the word, —Suffering … suffering? Why … don’t you think about happiness, ever?
—Yes, did you hear what that woman said? … I think it’s the artist is the only person who is really given the capability of being happy, maybe not all the time, but sometimes. Don’t you think so? Don’t you think so? …
—And what did you say?
He put down his empty glass. —I said, there are moments of exaltation.
—Completely consumed moments, when you’re working and lose all consciousness of yourself … Oh? she said … Do you call that happiness?”
“Dead corpses, the rotting body of a brother man, whom fate or unjust men have killed, this is not a pleasant spectacle; but what say you to the dead soul of a man, — in a body which still pretends to be vigorously alive, and can drink rum?”—Dril (via crematedadolescent)
I think my problem is I’m a fundamentalist. I make the good the enemy of the perfect. Which means, deep down, I’m probably an idealist, a perfectionist; though my life—the way I live it, and the choices I make—violently, sorrowfully screams the total opposite. I want what none of us can have: the guarantee, and utter security, and absolute trust, faith. No one can supply that. I don’t think it’s possible. But I want that, and in the absence of it—or, when forced to face the grave unlikelihood that I can attain it—I recoil to the extreme opposite and say, “well then nothing’s worth it…if the perfect isn’t attainable, then the good isn’t good enough…fuck the good!” That’s a fundamentalist mentality, I think. A childish one too. But that’s also, I think, how I’m thinking about this issue of love/romance/partnership.
“You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world… The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even but a millimeter the way people look at reality, then you can change it.”—James Baldwin (via dialecticsof)
if you’re floating through what Kierkegaard called the aesthetic stage - the first of three on life’s way - why would you not be, or aspire to be, only the most nuanced, sensual, dynamic, electric, and seductive deipnosophist?
“You don’t owe people the person you used to be. You don’t have to talk to people who are speaking to the old you. If they want to drag old you out, and you’ve already left that person behind, they don’t get to talk to you. When you’ve gone from weakness to strength, you don’t owe a show of your former self to someone who just can’t wrap their head around your change.”—Dig Yourself (via howitzerliterarysociety)
“Societies are never able to examine, to overhaul themselves: this effort must be made by that yeast which every society cunningly and unfailingly secretes. This ferment, this disturbance, is the responsibility, and the necessity, of writers. It is, alas, the truth that to be an American writer today means mounting an unending attack on all that Americans believe themselves to hold sacred. It means fighting an astute and agile guerrilla warfare with that American complacency which so inadequately masks the American panic.”—James Baldwin, “As Much Truth As One Can Bear” (via sonofbaldwin)
With all this pain and suffering in the world - planes being blown out of the sky, nations barraging others because they can, people dying of hunger, poverty, and disease (and the rest of the harrowing litany of prevailing evil and suffering) - and with me, lucky me, in good ole America, sitting on a laptop, in relative peace, ease, health, and quiet, typing this long ass message.
You ask me to see divinity in the midst this utterly forsaken, human morass. You ask me to discern divine providence in this arrant disorder; this skewed balance. I simply cannot. Dare not. How could a God be worthy of this?; or, more impossibly, we of God?
And yet, I hear the old churchgoers of those good old Baptist congregations in which I grew up, telling me, “But for the grace of God…”
Tragically, and very sorrowfully, I don’t know anymore…
Concerning democracy, what is your position about the debates concerning communitarianism and liberalism?
I think that the dichotomy between liberalism and communitarianism is a misleading one. My position is close to Dewey who was a radical democrat, a radical liberal and who also appreciated the significance of public communal debate for a creative democracy. Much of contemporary liberalism has been a rights obsessed liberalism. Dewey was well aware that liberalism, which once was a radical doctrine, has become rigidified and frequently used as a defense of the status quo. And Dewey also thought that a “business mentality” was undermining democracy. From his earliest work he attacked (in a Hegelian manner) the “liberal” idea of the isolated individual. Individuality is an achievement and the quality of individuality is itself dependent on the type of communities in which we live. Dewey’s vision of what democracy can become overcomes the division between liberalism and communitarianism. And I agree with him.
Richard J. Bernstein in interview on pragmatism, philosophy, and other things...
“What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music…. And people flock around the poet and say: ‘Sing again soon’ - that is, ‘May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful.”—Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or
It's not about you and it is about you. You are important and you are not important. You matter to the world and you don't matter to the world. The painful human oscillations that dizzy back and forth for as along as we live. Until we die.
"The timid and the prudent (as has been intimated) of that day, were, of course, shocked and alarmed by it. Such people lived then, had lived before, and will, probably, ever have a place on this planet; and their course, in respect to any great change, (no matter how great the good to be attained, or the wrong to be redressed by it), may be calculated with as much precision as can be the course of the stars. They hate all changes, but silver, gold and copper change! Of this sort of change they are always strongly in favor."
~ Frederick Douglass, “What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?” (1852)
It throws the old saw, “Fail to plan, plan to fail” a banana peel, by acknowledging the flux and dynamism of life— “…there is nothing that remains the same for two successive moments of its existence,” Miguel de Unamuno writes in his Tragic Sense of Life. All is in the throes of flux—flux, paradoxically, the only constant.
“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”—J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (via quotes-shape-us)