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relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 6 January, 2021 09:58AM
Thinking more about ideas I'd gotten from the recently recommended Lovecraft documentary, "Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown", I began to consider to what degree the universe(s) presented by fantasy/horror authors are "personal". This is to say: to what degree does the author use his cosmic landscape to project, or to exorcise, his own personal view of the universe?

The documentary made a decent case that in some ways Lovecraft was profoundly influenced by a relatively distorted family life: his mother was clinging and unrealistic; his father died of syphilis when Lovecraft was still young, leaving him without an effective daily and constant male role model. Because he was of "old stock" New England lineage, as the family's financial situation grew more precarious, he gravitated toward an elitist worldview, which was reflected in his cosmic vision as a fear and dread of the totally *alien* element from the cosmos (in his stories), or from eastern Europe and Africa and Asia (in his life).

If true, he sounds a lot like a nativist, like Bill the Butcher in "The Gangs of New York".

HPL appears to have had little to no sexual experience, and married an older, more sophisticate woman who was, ironically, Jewish. When the marriage predictably unraveled, he seems to have retreated into his past surroundings and habits, with the exception of doing a bit of traveling.

And a *whole* lot of corresponding with like minds---CAS among them. In short, he was doing compulsively what we denizens here at ED do more casually: weirdos exchanging ideas with other weirdos... ;^)

Now contrast this with CAS' early life and upbringing. While very idiosyncratic (did not attend formal school, was an only child, lived in a rural area of CA), it was free of the sort of social stress that HPL faced daily. I'd contend that CAS was more organically rooted in well-defined, role-oriented traditional western European sensibilities. He knew physical labor and work, first-hand, and he seems to me to have likely been something of a ladies' man, on occasion. I have little doubt that he was getting all the female attention he wanted, and then some, perhaps.

So based on these assumptions--which are in no way set in stone, but are here to spur discussion, lest we wither and die, intellectually in the new year--I'd say that while HPL's output was something akin to a psychic purging of the ever-replicating personal demons of a distorted and basically unhappy personality, CAS's prose output was simply a means to an end: making enough to meet his living expenses, while he expressed his inner-most artistic vision thru poetry, the visual arts, and sculpture.

So, HPL was deeply, personally, committed to his vision--which was a re-casting of his personal worldview, filled with fears and uncertainty--while CAS's prose was a commercialized outward expression of his artistic joy, which he most freely expressed in poetry.

Your opinions, fellow-weirdos?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my Grandpa, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car."

--Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Oldjoe (IP Logged)
Date: 6 January, 2021 10:20AM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> So, HPL was deeply, personally, committed to his
> vision--which was a re-casting of his personal
> worldview, filled with fears and
> uncertainty--while CAS's prose was a
> commercialized outward expression of his artistic
> joy, which he most freely expressed in poetry.
>
> Your opinions, fellow-weirdos?

This makes perfect sense to me Sawfish, especially since I recently read the extant letters between CAS and August Derleth in Eccentric, Impractical Devils. In the letters from the 1930's, when CAS was actively writing short fiction, much of the discussion deals with the practical aspects of getting published. In the letters from the following decades, up until CAS' death in 1961, Derleth frequently cajoles CAS to write new stories, but from CAS' side of the correspondence, there is either a great silence, or simply a changing of the subject to talk about his recent work in poetry or sculpture.

So while I love CAS' fiction, I think you are absolutely correct in that it constituted a means to an end for CAS, rather than a consuming passion, as it did for HPL.

Re: relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 6 January, 2021 11:00AM
Oldjoe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > So, HPL was deeply, personally, committed to
> his
> > vision--which was a re-casting of his personal
> > worldview, filled with fears and
> > uncertainty--while CAS's prose was a
> > commercialized outward expression of his
> artistic
> > joy, which he most freely expressed in poetry.
> >
> > Your opinions, fellow-weirdos?
>
> This makes perfect sense to me Sawfish, especially
> since I recently read the extant letters between
> CAS and August Derleth in Eccentric, Impractical
> Devils. In the letters from the 1930's, when CAS
> was actively writing short fiction, much of the
> discussion deals with the practical aspects of
> getting published. In the letters from the
> following decades, up until CAS' death in 1961,
> Derleth frequently cajoles CAS to write new
> stories, but from CAS' side of the correspondence,
> there is either a great silence, or simply a
> changing of the subject to talk about his recent
> work in poetry or sculpture.
>
> So while I love CAS' fiction, I think you are
> absolutely correct in that it constituted a means
> to an end for CAS, rather than a consuming
> passion, as it did for HPL.

If we view his impetus in this light, it implies that his prose talent was a sort of "spillover"--techniques/aesthetic sensibilities brought over--free of charge!--from his poetry.

I wonder: does this then make CAS more of a prose "craftsman" rather than an inspired artist? You know--really *REALLY* good, skilled work, but not spiritually inspired, as in HPL?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my Grandpa, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car."

--Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 6 January, 2021 11:03AM
I’d agree - although I reckon Lovecraft could have done with the money as well! My understanding is CAS wrote to pay his parents’ medical bills, something given further credence by how he stopped after they’d passed on.* Both authors have a certain tongue-in-cheek element to their work, but I think HPL’s worldview was coloured by a fear of the unknown and that this in part was due to his hermetic life-style; the world was a largely unknown quantity to him. CAS may have had a limited social circle, but he was very much rooted in his immediate environment, his life was characterised by a certain (albeit impecunious) stability and - by extension - he never suffered any of the radical change in circumstances that HPL had to undergo.

* and as Sawfish points out, there is nothing wrong with that! I only recently heard Alistair Cooke’s definition of a professional: ‘a professional is somebody who can do his best work when he doesn’t feel like it.’

Re: relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 6 January, 2021 11:58AM
As much as these two authors hated psychology (or at least Freudianism), I don't think anyone can entirely escape the influence of their surroundings and upbringing. Their lives sounded like night and day to me, almost like their fiction. HPL lived in cities, while CAS lived in the lonely wilderness on the margins of a small town. HPL detested menial work and sought to live in as much comfort as he could possibly manage, while CAS seemed to think of work as an unfortunate but natural thing he was good at. And from the first-hand impressions of their friends, HPL was a highly refined gentleman with somewhat awkward expressions but a strongly cultivated identity, while CAS seemed perfectly relaxed around those he knew, singing and laughing with them, though he always had this melancholic expression and avoided socializing if it made him uncomfortable.

HPL's stories tend to be written with journalistic detachment, and he constructs clearly defined borders between what is wholesome and un-wholesome, setting up his fear, awe, and melodrama when those borders are momentarily shattered. His characters feel a calling toward the unknown, but shriek and pull back at the last minute, in the cases that don't annihilate them! His characters tend to be monotonous, in the sense that most of them have scholarly inclinations and aren't very emotional outside of the most shocking scenes. Even the adventurous fantasies of Randolph Carter aren't written with the gritty harshness of Howard or the emotional range of Dunsany.

I recall several letters in which HPL felt fascinated by the folklore of other cultures, but expressed a somewhat amusing disgust toward them, like a kid who would poke an unknown substance while going "eww!" with a smile. In one letter to REH, he was enthusiastic about Voodoo lore, but said he would never want to be near a gathering of negroes. In two separate letters to Barlow and CAS, he showed interest in Japanese folklore but disliked the idea of being among the natives a la Hearn (as half-japanese, I was more amused than offended!). And it's well-known that aside from his feeling of displacement in time, he was quite proud of his home and culture. Like his characters, he was fascinated by the other world, but he wouldn't be caught dead embracing it. So I think there's something to what you say.

I would say more about CAS but I'm suddenly busy right now, so I'll leave that to others. All I can say is CAS seemingly had a good work ethic even when he disliked his jobs, so churning out stories when he needed the money isn't too far beyond him! We're just fortunate he felt enough passion to produce the likes of "Isle of the Torturers", "Genius Loci", etc.!

Oh, also, this doesn't seem to be common knowledge, but in a few letters and personal notes on this very site, CAS expressed a belief that there was more to a human's personality than psychology, an immaterial or staunchly un-scientific influence that goes beyond the womb and the body. Wish he could have fleshed these thoughts more.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 6 Jan 21 | 12:02PM by Hespire.

Re: relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 6 January, 2021 12:18PM
Cathbad Wrote:

{Much good stuff elided)

> * and as Sawfish points out, there is nothing
> wrong with that! I only recently heard Alistair
> Cooke’s definition of a professional: ‘a
> professional is somebody who can do his best work
> when he doesn’t feel like it.’


Hah!

On reflection, this is the key to living in the modern world as an effective contributor in a larger (read "paying") organization. In truth, thinking back, I seldom really *wanted* to do what I needed to do for a living at the time I was asked to do it; however, I learned how to do a decent job, anyway, and thus escaped the constant purchase-reorg-layoff cycle that plagued the industry worked in for almost my entire career.

Right now I'm having difficult discussions with a male relative in his mid-30s. After exchanging with him extensively, I see that he is intelligent and industrious *when motivated*, but thus far in his life he has done his best work (which is *quite* impressive) only when motivated by personal interest.

Like many of his generation, he refers to it as being "passionate" about given activities, failing to recognize that this "passion" (I'd de-tune this phrase to being "personally interested", or "intrinsically engaged"--to me, "passion" is entirely another matter--essentially do-or-die) is not a prerequisite to a satisfactory survival.

Like wagyu beef, nice, but non-essential.

It's an odd situation: I can recall in the late 60s/early 70s a sort of sentiment sweeping over us college-age folk: that the reason our parents were like they were--which we saw as being a lot like the Robinsons in "The Graduate"--was what they had never figured out that a) they needed to splice their working life tightly around their the core of their personal life--a happy life composed of inspired and satisfying work which was an intrinsic aspect of one's personal life. A sort of highly idealized notion of what a successful artist must do, as we conceived of it.

So what I can now see clearly as adapting to necessity was archly termed "selling out".

This worked out about as well as the idea of free love--also prevalent at the time, rendering intimate personal relationships about as stable as liquid nitroglycerine.

It's really funny how this works, too: each generation since maybe the early 20th C has deeply believed that the previous generation overlooked some very elementary stuff about life, thus missing out on life's fullest enjoyment. Simply put, we thought that they must have been stupid, when in fact they were simply more practical and more resigned to life as it seems to play out.

So we have yet another emergent generation who thinks that what's happening to them is either a) the first time it's happened to any human, ever; and/or b) the previous generation(s) were profoundly unimaginative. Never understood that all that was keeping humanity from Utopia was good will, ignoring "All You Need is Love" and like sentiments of the 60s

To paraphrase Vonnegut: "So it goes...".

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my Grandpa, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car."

--Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Oldjoe (IP Logged)
Date: 6 January, 2021 05:23PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> So what I can now see clearly as adapting to
> necessity was archly termed "selling out".

This is a really interesting thread, and gets to something I've always admired about CAS, because I've never had the courage to do it myself. CAS pursued paid employment only in bursts, whenever he had a pressing financial need. But the idea of a holding a steady, ongoing, permanent position must have seemed like anathema to him, since it would be too much of a distraction from his creative passions.

I grew up in a creative circle myself, but made the decision to pursue a career that would let me live comfortably, so now I'm one of those creeps who watches the stock market throughout the work day to figure out what's happening with my net worth. I have my creative pursuits outside of work, but at the end of the day I'm a dilettante.

In truth, I could never live the way that CAS did, with practically no financial security and little remuneration from his artistic endeavors. So I admire all the more the fact that he left behind such an impressive body of work, so much of it created in a cabin with no electricity or indoor plumbing. He followed the more difficult path, and the rewards were something much richer than a fat wallet.

Re: relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 6 January, 2021 06:43PM
It's really funny how this works, too: each generation since maybe the early 20th C has deeply believed that the previous generation overlooked some very elementary stuff about life, thus missing out on life's fullest enjoyment. Simply put, we thought that they must have been stupid, when in fact they were simply more practical and more resigned to life as it seems to play out.

Very true. But I also think the ground rules change as well. Promiscuity had far more serious consequences a hundred years ago - ie, rampant venereal disease, pregnancies etc - so understandably society was a lot more censorious about it, as it undermined social stability. It’s a lot easier to be liberal about sexual values in a culture in which (a) most STDs are curable & (b) contraception is widely available.

Plus one generation often reacts against the next. People might marry relatively late in life because they saw the downside of marrying too young, only to discover that marrying late in life has its disadvantages, too.

Re CAS. I think CAS may have had a better temperament than HPL, but I also think he was luckier, despite spending most of his life in relative poverty. Also, his lifestyle is pretty representative of most artists I’ve known. That said, I don’t think poverty is a prerequisite!

Re: relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 6 January, 2021 06:44PM
Oldjoe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > So what I can now see clearly as adapting to
> > necessity was archly termed "selling out".
>
> This is a really interesting thread, and gets to
> something I've always admired about CAS, because
> I've never had the courage to do it myself. CAS
> pursued paid employment only in bursts, whenever
> he had a pressing financial need. But the idea of
> a holding a steady, ongoing, permanent position
> must have seemed like anathema to him, since it
> would be too much of a distraction from his
> creative passions.

I have a cousin, slightly older at 78, who has lived his life like that. He recently retired to the Dalmatian coast, fr what it's worth.

In honesty, I can't say that he is significantly more happy than I am, and since his father (my dad's brother) advanced himself into a large net worth, to the point that none of the three kids ever had to worry much about money, at any point down the line, he did not have CAS's lack of financial security drumming constantly in the background, as it would have for me, and perhaps for you.

>
> I grew up in a creative circle myself, but made
> the decision to pursue a career that would let me
> live comfortably, so now I'm one of those creeps
> who watches the stock market throughout the work
> day to figure out what's happening with my net
> worth. I have my creative pursuits outside of
> work, but at the end of the day I'm a dilettante.

I am a dilettante at everything, and what's more, most people who claim expertise seem to me to qualify as dilettantes, also.

I see nothing wrong in objectively recognizing one's limitations: in fact, it's a problem to *not* recognizes this about one's self. It's what's called "denial" and it freezes one into his/her present level, because if everything is just peachy-keen and fine, why work at it? What's the point, huh?

Also, there is every hope that one can always improve one's way out of abject dilettantism thru effort... ;^)

>
> In truth, I could never live the way that CAS did,
> with practically no financial security and little
> remuneration from his artistic endeavors.

Me, too, and it's *good* to honestly recognize this.

> So I
> admire all the more the fact that he left behind
> such an impressive body of work, so much of it
> created in a cabin with no electricity or indoor
> plumbing. He followed the more difficult path,
> and the rewards were something much richer than a
> fat wallet.

Let me ask: do you have any kids, Oldjoe? I have a daughter, and it was not until I was almost 50 that she was born. This makes all the difference, in my opinion. It changes *everything*, and neither HPL, nor CAS had any such influence in their lives.

Now, because I had lived 49.5 years with nothing other to think of than fulfilling my own wishes and appetites, I had by then a real good idea what an entire childless life would be like. In fact, my first wife and I made a pact to have no kids and to live like Nick and Nora Charles from The Thin Man, to the best of our abilities, but more like Nick and Nora if they had done piece work on the side as porn stars...

;^)

But after my second marriage and my daughter's birth 7 years later, after a 6 months period to adjust to being a father, I could actually see/feel the profound difference having blood offspring can make. At an earlier point in my life it would have been constrictive: I wouldn't have liked it. But after I had basically tired myself out with immature self-indulgence, I could see and feel what had been missing for a while.

E.g,, speaking to immaturity, I frequently boasted, when I was well into my cups, that I hoped to spend my last dime as I draw my last breath. By age 60, with a kid, I could see how vapid this sentiment was, actually.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my Grandpa, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car."

--Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 6 January, 2021 07:31PM
Good discussion, Cathbad. My comments, interleaved below...

Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> It's really funny how this works, too: each
> generation since maybe the early 20th C has deeply
> believed that the previous generation overlooked
> some very elementary stuff about life, thus
> missing out on life's fullest enjoyment. Simply
> put, we thought that they must have been stupid,
> when in fact they were simply more practical and
> more resigned to life as it seems to play out.
>
> Very true. But I also think the ground rules
> change as well. Promiscuity had far more serious
> consequences a hundred years ago - ie, rampant
> venereal disease, pregnancies etc - so
> understandably society was a lot more censorious
> about it, as it undermined social stability.
> It’s a lot easier to be liberal about sexual
> values in a culture in which (a) most STDs are
> curable & (b) contraception is widely available.

Well, that's true for sexual relations, but the differences were not primarily about sexual relations--they were about social responsibility and adherence to an existing code of conduct not so much for morality's sake (although often the counter-arguments were framed that way for simplicity), but over the individual's adherence to the social contract, as it had been commonly understood up to that point.

Take for instance the Vietnam war and the draft. My parent's generation had trusted leadership when they called the young men to arms, and drafted those who did not volunteer. They *believed* that it was the social responsibility of the young men to trust the judgement of the older men; concomitantly, it was the older men's responsibility to properly judge it the issue at hand properly required such a level of sacrifice, for the good of the entire society, as a whole.

In short, US culture was at that time much closer to a Confucian social system than it has evolved to today.

Too, the willing sharing of private property seemed somehow more correct and caring, but when, as a college student you either have little or nothing to share (as in my case), or your parents are supplying your material wants/needs, it's much different than 5 years later, when you are trying to wedge your way into independent adulthood, and can see by then that some of your contemporaries have no intention of ever having anything to share, but are more than happy to live, hand-to-mouth, on your level of generosity, and that of other caring and sharing and employed young adults.

But if we're talking about the Free Love movement--which is a sort of sexual socialism, if you think about it--where this blew up was not over morality--oh, no! It was over the predictable (now) fact that you could say with deep conviction, at age 20, that all individuals show be free to spontaneously choose sexual partners on a completely open basis. It was cool and hip to think and say this.

But--by god!--if you formed an attachment to a certain girl, and she turned around and blithely slept with your room-mate, this tended to test the living hell out of the proposition, which on the whole failed to pass the test in at least 8 out of ten cases.

Oddly, it seemed as if everyone was willing to share a plain girl, but the *really* premiums ones, well, not so much so.

And no, this supposition did not commonly include the idea of homosexuality. That came much later, and was not a part of the mainline early/mid 60s Free Love movement, as I understood it.

>
> Plus one generation often reacts against the next.

They *might*, but you don't see nearly as much of this in traditional societies. Again, Confucian cultures are the clearest example of what I'm saying.

> People might marry relatively late in life because
> they saw the downside of marrying too young, only
> to discover that marrying late in life has its
> disadvantages, too.

In my experience, those who purposely marry late are not doing so according to a plan or perception of any downsides, but more along the lines of deferring the idea of personal commitment.

My best old-time friend, my college room-mate, whom I remained close to until his recent death, married at 46 for the first time. While he could best be described as a 1980s hardcore LA womanizer of no small accomplishment, he was a deeply principled man. He realized that new women were to him like a trip to a candystore for a 4 year old with 2 dollars to spend: he was not going to be able to walk by the counter without trying some. Now while he was hell on some of his girlfriends, he saw no deep commitment that required his exclusive fidelity, but once married, he dropped the hammer on his former behaviors. Extirpated it, tout suite.

Me, I would have bet $1000 that he could not do this, but to the best of my knowledge, he did, although you could see the strain at times.

>
> Re CAS. I think CAS may have had a better
> temperament than HPL, but I also think he was
> luckier, despite spending most of his life in
> relative poverty. Also, his lifestyle is pretty
> representative of most artists I’ve known. That
> said, I don’t think poverty is a prerequisite!

Agreed.

Or maybe HPL was just *really* unlucky in a profound way, rather than CAS being lucky.

Good discussion, Cathbad!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my Grandpa, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car."

--Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 7 January, 2021 04:47PM
Some interesting discussion here, people.

The writings of Lovecraft and Smith, whatever their shortcomings may be in some respects, may generally be read without pain due to solecisms, and, of course, they are free of the ideology-driven, ongoing assault on language that emanates from today's "progressives." As an example of the latter, I refer to House Resolution 8 (1 January 2021), from Pelosi and McGovern, which requires changes such as these:

“Parent, child, sibling, parent’s sibling, first cousin, sibling’s child, spouse, parent in-law, child-in-law, sibling-in-law, stepparent, stepchild, stepsibling, half-sibling, or grandchild’’ as substitutes for “‘father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, half sister, grandson, or granddaughter,” respectively; and “themself” for “himself or herself.”


Lovecraft and Smith could have told Pelosi and McGovern that there is no such word as "themself" and that "themself" is a barbarous cant-word. But then these two gave a rip about language and poetry.

Re: relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 7 January, 2021 05:19PM
“Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen before, and hope never to see again. He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath: ‘The horror! The horror!'”

;^)

Good to hear from you, Dale!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my Grandpa, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car."

--Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 7 January, 2021 05:24PM
Sawfish: I guess every contract between the citizen and the state is a trade-off between rights and obligations? Confucian society (the little I know about it) seems to place a bigger emphasis on your obligations as a citizen than on your rights. On the other hand....
I wasn’t a child of the Sixties (well, in a literal sense, I was, as I was born in the early sixties). It certainly seems to have been a very creative, very exciting decade, but maybe a very selfish one? That mind-set is now endemic. Becoming a parent seems to be one potential antidote, but in general I don’t think it’s an attitude that is reversible. I’d be more than happy to be proved wrong, though!

Dale - my big bugbear would be the use of ‘they’ when referring to any individual who is transgender. I mean, seriously? The word already has a very specific meaning. I also think you can’t have a minority arbitrarily change the meaning of a word and expect everybody to follow suit.

Re: relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 7 January, 2021 08:26PM
Cathbad, below, interleaved...

Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish: I guess every contract between the
> citizen and the state is a trade-off between
> rights and obligations? Confucian society (the
> little I know about it) seems to place a bigger
> emphasis on your obligations as a citizen than on
> your rights. On the other hand....

The model is the structure of the ideal family, as had traditionally evolved in China and, significantly, elsewhere in a great many places, independently.

Central authority/responsibility rests with the benign patriarch, with a sort of venerated respect for those older than the patriarch.

But the buck stops with the patriarch. Duty is owed to the patriarch by all other members of the family, and to counter this is to suffer significant consequences.

Now scale this up to a nation-state: the emperor is the father, etc...

There is room for the individual but precedence in the case of a collision of direction rests with the patriarch, who represents the common, collective interest in all cases.

I'm not sure what happens if the patriarch violates this, but for the emperor, he could lose the mandate of heaven--a thing completely unthinkable and impossible, by definition, for the Japanese emperor.

Here, of course, since the advent of the Enlightenment in the west, this is largely flip-flopped. From it stems humanism, individualism, and romanticism--all of which have their own worth, but run contrary to the collectivized goals and priorities of Confucian systems, very often.

In my view, like with most systems, the middle, moderate, course is the most satisfactory and stable.

> I wasn’t a child of the Sixties (well, in a
> literal sense, I was, as I was born in the early
> sixties). It certainly seems to have been a very
> creative, very exciting decade, but maybe a very
> selfish one? That mind-set is now endemic.
> Becoming a parent seems to be one potential
> antidote, but in general I don’t think it’s an
> attitude that is reversible. I’d be more than
> happy to be proved wrong, though!

Proved wrong on what, exactly?

>
> Dale - my big bugbear would be the use of
> ‘they’ when referring to any individual who is
> transgender. I mean, seriously? The word already
> has a very specific meaning. I also think you
> can’t have a minority arbitrarily change the
> meaning of a word and expect everybody to follow
> suit.

It's already happened.

You know, there is a very pessimistic way of looking at where western cultures are right now, and it is that we are in s sort of neurotic self-destruct--the "tightening gyre"--rather like the French revolution, complete with a pervasive, non-centralized self-stated set of goals that reminds one of the Committee of Public Safety, but minus the extreme violence...

...yet.

I don't know how else to state it, but it has been downright scary for about the last 6 months living in close-in Portland. Gunfire on my street when the major networks announced Biden as the winner back about 2-3 weeks after the election: this was the middle of the day, and it *scared* me. I don't like being scared; it brings out my worst tendencies.

This is Irvington-Alameda, an area of older $1+M homes (not mine--servants' quarters, you see...), strongly opposing Trump. I thought that this sort of thing was supposed to get *better* after Trump, that shooting was what Trump supporters did (could it get much worse?, I had optimistically thought), but gosh, on New Year's eve the same sorts of crowds that had had carte blanche to demonstrate politically all summer/fall, looted and defaced downtown for no other reasons than the Droogs had in Clockwork Orange, when they did their thing.

Fasten your seat belts; we are in for turbulence, I fear...

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"I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my Grandpa, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car."

--Sawfish
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Re: relative personal commitment to authors' "cosmic vision"
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 7 January, 2021 09:25PM
I sympathise about what’s happening in your neighbourhood, Sawfish. And I’m really not sure where things are headed. Covid hasn’t helped, that’s for sure. I’d see Trump more as a symptom than a cause (one could say pretty much the same about Johnson in the UK) with globalisation being the big game-changer.

A benign patriarch is sort of like a good communist. You have a benevolent monarch or a good communist (who only takes what he needs) then you aren’t going to have a problem. Realistically though, I think any system of government should automatically factor in the worst possible outcome - ie, the citizen or the monarch who’s a bit of a sociopath.

‘Proved wrong on what, exactly?’

You create a culture that encourages people to always prioritise their individual needs over the greater good then one of the casualties is a sense of civic responsibility. Thing is, I’m not sure you can turn the clock back - ie, re-instil a sense of civic responsibility. That’s my suspicion, but - as I say - I’m happy to be proved wrong.

Re the hi-jacking of ‘they’. Various new words and terms are floated all the time. I do reckon the public are the final arbiters. If they don’t want to use a word, no amount of cajoling and threats is going to change their mind. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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