a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Arthur Silber - Wonderful Cats, and Awful, Awful Men
First, a report on what's up with me. I almost called this a "progress" report, but, eh. You be the judge.
Reihan Salam - Garett Jones and Lane Kenworthy on Taxes, Scandinavian Exceptionalism, and Much Else
I continue to be in pretty terrible shape. Since I can't access the traditional medical care my crappy heart and related problems require, I've begun exploring some "alternative" remedies, or what purport to be remedies. One of them is helping a little bit! I feel somewhat better, but, you say (as I might have said, too, especially in bygone days), that's all in my head. To which I suppose one might reply, with some justification: So what? If you feel better, you feel better. This is a problem? But more than that: a few of the symptoms I've had for years have almost gone away entirely. I'm talking about quantifiable shit, here. Hey, that looks like progress!
I still don't feel "good" precisely. But better than I did a month ago. So, "good," with an explanatory footnote.
The cats. With a multitude of thanks still another time for the extraordinary generosity of readers, the cats and I have shelled out close to $500 to our friendly vet. Something is still going on with Wendy, but she, too, seems to be getting better. . .
. . .But we'll almost certainly need to go back to the vet at least once more (for a followup at a minimum), and maybe more than that. So, with profuse apologies for using Wendy as a begging cup, if you have any spare change jangling noisily in your pocket, we could use it! I have very little money left for vet bills. . .
. . .I understand all the objections that might be made to my making a home for Sasha with Cyrano, Wendy and me. Given my health, it might seem terribly irresponsible. (And I myself have made the argument that it's very irresponsible for me even to keep Cyrano and Wendy given my own problems.) But since I'm feeling a bit better, I'm beginning to believe that I just might not die in the near future. And as I noted, Sasha can easily go back to the neighbor if circumstances change. But I think that Sasha joining our little group will be a lovely vote of confidence in the months, and hopefully years (a few of them, at least), to come. . .
. . .Does that mean you should despair and give up? It means that only if you think of what is most important in life -- in your particular life, that is -- as involving politics in a significant way. Why would you do that? See "Passing on the Sense of Wonder" and "Cultivate Your Sense of Wonder -- and Live Ecstatically" for more on this.
I'll explain more of what's been on my mind next time.
C.S. Lewis - The Problem of Pain (1940)
Anders Chan-Tidemann: ". . . I think one reason why Danes and Swedes are fairly productive, despite high taxes, is simply because they don't have to live in fear of having no health care, and in the know that their children can get a great education whether they are rich or poor. That somehow frees the mind a bit I would say. I bet it would work for Americans as well. . .not all social programs increase productivity, and Scandinavia have certainly not always had the right balance (sometimes erring on the side of too much Government control), and there are many things Scandinavia could learn from the US - not least when it comes to immigration. But those 2 great pillars - health care & education - really does seem to be 2 social programs that nearly every Western democracy seems to agree is necessary in a modern society. And that is not just true in the West - or in democracies. Look at Singapore. It's not a democracy, it's not Western, but they also have universal health care. . ."
. . .the only purpose of the book is to solve the intellectual problem raised by suffering; for the far higher task of teaching fortitude and patience I was never fool enough to suppose myself qualified, nor have I anything to offer my readers except my conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all. . .
. . .God may be more than moral goodness: He is not less. . .
. . .If the world is indeed a "vale of soul making" it seems on the whole to be doing its work. . .
An analogy which seems to me true, between "God" and "moral goodness" in the Lewis quote, and "entrepreneurship/innovation" and "line responsibility". i.e. "Entrepreneurship and innovation may involve more than line responsibility. They do not involve less."
Or putting it another way, I think "What am I able and willing to take line responsibility for?" is often a better question to ask yourself than "How can I be an entrepreneurial change-agent of innovation?".
Or putting it yet another way, based on this Lewis quote
"In the author's mind there bubbles up every now and then the material for a story. For me it invariably begins with mental pictures. This ferment leads to nothing unless it is accompanied with the longing for a Form: verse or prose, short story, novel, play or what not. When these two things click you have have the author's impulse complete. It is now a thing inside him pawing to get out. He longs to see that bubbling stuff pouring into that Form as the housewife longs to see the new jam pouring into the clean jam jar. This nags him all day long and gets in the way of his work and his sleep and his meals. It's like being in love."
The bubbling ferment of desires to do something can peter out unless the desires find the Form of a line responsibility.
C.S. Lewis - A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942)
Dedication To Charles Williams
To Williams. . .
. . .it is a reasonable hope that of those who heard you in Oxford many will understand henceforward that when the old poets made some virtue their theme they were not teaching but adoring, and that what we take for the didactic is often the enchanted. . .
I. Epic Poetry
. . .Every poem can be considered in two ways - as what the poet has to say, and as a thing which he makes. . .
. . .It is easy to forget that the man who writes a good love sonnet needs not only to be enamoured of a woman, but also to be enamoured of the Sonnet. . .
. . .The matter inside the poem wants the Form: in submitting to the Form it becomes really original, really the origin of great work. The attempt to be oneself often brings out only the more conscious and superficial parts of a man's mind; working to produce a given theme as justly, delightfully, and lucidly as possible, he is more likely to bring out all that was really in him, and much of what he himself had no suspicion. . .
II. Is Criticism Possible?
. . .As regards a skill, such as medicine or engineering, we must distinguish. Only the skilled can judge the skillfulness, but that is not the same as judging the value of the result. It is for cooks to say whether a given dish proves skill in the cook; but whether the product on which this skill has been lavished is worth eating or no is a question on which a cook's opinion is of no particular value. . .
III. Primary Epic
. . .in an age where when every one puts on his oldest clothes to be happy in, you must re-awake the simpler state of mind in which people put on gold and scarlet to be happy in. Above all, you must be rid of the hideous idea. . .that pomp, on the proper occasions, has`any connexion with vanity or self-conceit. . .The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender's inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for every one else the proper pleasure of ritual. . .
V. The Subject of Primary Epic
. . .[in Homer] No one event is really very much more important than another. No achievement can be permanent: today we kill and feast, tomorrow we are killed. . .We are in a different world here from Virgil's mens immota manet. There the suffering has a meaning, and is the price of a high resolve. Here there is just the suffering. . .Only the style - the unwearying, unmoved, angelic, speech of Homer - makes it endurable. Without that the Iliad would be a poem beside which the grimmest modern realism is child's play. . .
VI. Virgil and the Subject of Secondary Epic
. . .In Homer. . .You were unhappy, or you were happy, and that was all. Aeneas lives in a different world; he is compelled to see something more important than happiness. . .To follow the vocation does not mean happiness; but once it has been heard, there is no happiness for those who do not follow. . .
VIII. Defence of this Style
. . .I do not think (and no great civilization has ever thought) that the art of the rhetorician is necessarily vile. It is in itself noble, though of course, like most arts, it can be wickedly used. . .It is honestly practiced when the orator honestly believes that the thing which he calls the passions to support is reason, and usefully practised when this belief of his is in fact correct. It is mischievously practised when that which he summons the passions to aid is, in fact, unreason, and dishonestly practised when he himself knows that it is unreason. The proper use is lawful and necessary because, as Aristotle points out, intellect of itself 'moves nothing': the transition from thinking to doing, in nearly all men at nearly all moments, needs to be assisted by appropriate states of feeling. Because the end of rhetoric is in the world of action, the objects it deals with appear fore-shortened and much of their reality is omitted. Thus the ambitions of Philip are shown only in so far as they are wicked and dangerous, because indignation and moderate fear are emotional channels through which men pass from thinking to doing. . .
. . .By a Stock Response Dr. I.A. Richards means a deliberately organized attitude which is substituted for the `direct free play of experience.' In my opinion such deliberate organization is one of the first necessities of human life. . .A number of causes may be assigned for the opposite belief. . .3) A confusion (arising from the fact that both are voluntary) between the organization of a response and the pretence of a response. Von Hugel says somewhere, `I kiss my son not only because I love him, but in order that I may love him.' That is organization, and good. But you may also kiss children in order to make it appear that you love them. That is pretence, and bad. The distinction must not be overlooked. Sensitive critics are so tired of seeing good Stock responses aped by bad writers that when at last they meet the reality they mistake it for one more instance of posturing. They are rather like a man I knew who had seen so many bad pictures of moonlight on water that he criticized a real weir under a real moon as `conventional'. . .