14 February, 2002
( 11:44 AM )
Josiah changed planes successfully in Frankfurt (at about 6 in the morning CST) and Dubai (a little after noon CST), and is now in the air to Colombo–unless he got so severely lost that he hasn’t dared call us. Due to land in Colombo at 6:10 CST.
Just when I thought that David W., the Skip on the authenticity interblog curling team, had brought our bloggery to a graceful close after an exhilarating, memorable quartet (quintet, sextet, as various voices, authentic or in-, joined the chorus), all good things came not to an end, but to a new beginning. Well, one good thing, anyway. And maybe it came to two new beginnings.
What it is: Tom “Vice Skip” Matrullo rekindles the embers with tinder concerning the matters of continuity, memory and forgetting, and accountability. Nothing for it but to stir the blaze back to full flame, I suppose.
Oy, Tom! Memory, continuity, congruence, context: Another dimension of all this, towards which I didn’t want to push while we were still blogging through discussions of “authenticity,” is the basis for distinguishing a “self” from an “other.” Consumer Service Warning: I am not saying that there is no such thing as “identity” or a “self” as distinct from anyone else, that we all are one big blob of consciousness or whatever (though I remember a particular afternoon on the Maine coastline, lying on my back, when it all seemed so clear to me…). Nonetheless, our “selves” do shade off and merge into others, into our context, into shared identities, so that if we attempt to construct an absolute borderline–this side “Me,” that side “You”–we’re guaranteed to impoverish and deceive ourselves. So Tom, if I understand him aright, locates “authenticity” not simply in a relation between facade and interior, or in a relations among an indefinite number of manifestations of a persona, but also in the relation of persona and context. Right indeed, and all the more challeninging to any who would venture to determine whether this or that persona, voice, website, whatever , is “authentic.”
On the other hand, Tom points us back to parrhesia in the context of accountability (and accountancy). Perhaps one way in which this very powerful point applies to our friend Dave “First Sweeper” Rogers’s concerns might lie in the extent to which a web persona (whether personal or corporate) bespeaks a willingness to be held accountable for what it displays, says, offers. This sounds very Cluetrainical, and I expect you-all said it somewhere in there, implicitly if not explicitly (in the “inner” Cluetrain if not the “outer” Cluetrain). At least, in #22 on “straight talk” you might have said parrhesia if you had anticipated this discussion, and in #27, “By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build walls to keep markets at bay,” you state the contrapositive. Candor (my preferred translation for parrhesia in most contexts) and accountability aren’ t readily discernible from one’s first glance at a Web page–but their opposites , dissimulation and evasiveness, are prominent enough and common enough that cautious visitors can often spot them at first glance.
And candor and evasiveness figure also in David W.’s blog today. Phil Cubeta dresses David down for observing the ways language “cracks” under cultural stress, but doing so in the literary style of
the Country Houses of Ben Jonson, or the coffee house of Dryden, or the drawing rooms of Edith Wharton, or the pages of the New Yorker, when E.B. White was a star contributor.
(Sidenote to Phil Cubeta: don’t forget to afflict me with a bodyslam like that. “Oooh, compare me to Jonson again! Harder!”) David responds first, that his point wasn’t that the language or the style was cracking, but that specific words were. (Side note to David: I liked the amplification of these cracks in JOHO The Zine; I almost missed them, since I’ve been reading along in the blog, but I want to get back to those amplifications sometime. Not now.)
Then David, sounding a little ruffled, suggests that one can respond to stupidity and folly without necessarily starting (or escalating) a flame war. Some folks relish savage speech; David prefers to work with the materials at hand to build a productive staging area for mutual learning (if possible) and instruction.
My chief dissent from David’s position arises from the hint of defensiveness and regret that tinges his response, and if I were a different writer, I’d lambast Phil Cubeta from here to — well, in cyberspace I guess there isn’t a handy “to” to lambast him to, but I would if there were. But there isn’t and I’m not. David speaks the candid truth when he says that style and poltiics can be related, but that they don’t stand in a simple one-to-one relation. The point David cites is convincing (“You’ll find plenty of plain-spoken fascists, and there are Rush Limbaughs on the left as well as the right”), and Phil himself slips when he enlists Martin “I Dare You to Read This Prose” Heidegger as an exemplar of the kind of limpid lucidity with which he finds fault. What about George Orwell, patron of a prose all the more harrowing for its clarity? Presumably he, too, falls under Phil’s scourge. And while Foucault was not an Orwell, a Jonson, or Dryden, yet his prose and speech (in works like Discipline and Punish, in his copious interviews, and awkwardly enough, in his defense of parrhesia) line up closer to David W.’s readable periods than Yippie free-speech yowls. (By the way, did Phil mistransliterate the Greek word, or is he exemplifying subversive discourse by creating the illusion of mistransliteration?) And Peter Sloterdijk, sponsor of modern neo-cynicism (and allegedly a crypto-fascist, in one of those instances where you end up at one extreme by pushing far enough in the opposite direction), wrote an academic defense of the fart as social critique.
(I find myself in the odd position today of defending David against the charge of speaking too gently when a few days ago I was chiding him for speaking too snarkily.)
So I second David. The (literary) style does not determine the politics, nor does the end determine the (literary) means. If one has to apply crass measures, it would be tough for a leader to benefit more lives more dramatically than did Mohandas Gandhi–but he used the literary style that Phil decries against the forces that oppressed India. And in-your-face prose sells everything from reactionary politics to sneakers to syrup-flavored fizzy water.
So there–nyaah, nyahh, nyahh.
Si’s plane landed in Colombo, presumably with him aboard. Still waiting for a phone call to say he cleared customs, has his health and suitcase, and rendez-vous-ed with his godfather Jon.
( 7:55 PM )
Si arrived, groggy and thunderstruck by the beauty of Sri Lanka and exhausted and thrilled to be with his godfather Jon. We can sleep tonight.
Margaret’s Valentine to me today:
One need not blush or excuse oneself for being tender: it is an honor for which one must be proud, it is a grace that one must spread, for where there is no tenderness, neither is there joy given nor joy received. I know of course that one can misuse one’s heart, one can wither one’s body and soul in debilitating and sterile tenderness. It is the path that is opened wide to those entering into life. . .
It is the same with human tenderness as with all beautiful things: it must gain mastery over itself and free itself from its masks, just like the morning sun, leaving the mists of dawn. . . .
But one would be wrong to laugh at this word and this thing called affection. Do you think that the hearts of the great apostles did not overflow with this tenderness? Look again at the epistles of Saint Paul or at that wonderful passage from Acts that recounts the farewell of the saint to his faithful at Ephesus: tears stream on all sides from these eyes that will never see each other again here below. Meditate especially on the profound tones, the ardent rhythm of Paul, writing to his faithful, whom he has engendered in Christ and who are his children. . . .
Affection has its dangers, but the way to guard against them is not to hound it: one must educate it. Rather than destroy the sympathies, one must strive to universalize them. . .
If there is no love without tenderness, there is no tenderness without strength and purity. Wine that is watered down loses its quality, its vigor and its aroma, but wine that is cloudy is not longer wine. Water is better.
—-Henri de Lubac
Hot’n’heavy theological mash notes…. Me? I was going to send her an iCard, but the site was swamped today so I didn’t get around to it.