Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Via media or an illustrated book about birds

After a stormy and, truth to be told, quite comical intellectual journey, I settled in my later student years for this extreme middle way that I have supported ever since. It has been quite an old-fashioned attempt to connect, to cohere, to reconstruct a rational, enlightened way to think, to live. (At least it used to be very old-fashioned in these postmodern times but it seems that finally this dissatisfactory, semi-irrational mood is lifting even in the humanities.) In politics it has been informed by Burke, Keynes and the young Walter Lippmann: highly pragmatic liberalism with a strong awareness of the base human nature and the rarity of historical structures that do actually function. I guess in my more conservative modes it has been Burke that has had the last word and in more optimistic, more forward looking moods, Lippmann and Keynes with their pragmatic, stubborn belief in progress, in the possibility of progress.

But politics is such a narrow field - art, philosophy and religion are much more meaningful perspectives - art comes always first, encompassing philosophy, but with my native Pietism there has been also a living connection to an older world, rural and Christian. Without that it surely would have been more straightforward, more superficial to exist in this blindly commercial, materialistic civilization with no history and no future. How to meaningfully connect such extremes? A strange, strange experience of the world we have: our passionate, disconnected existence seems impossible to be made to cohere, to be wholly rational. In a sense it no doubt is impossible, so this personal project will end in failure - but that's the way of this world: we will remain incomplete here. Thinking now back my own experience has been at times even cruelly limited: who needs action when you got words... Still, I evaluate life based on how unconditionally, how compulsively it is lived, and I can say that I have surely lived mine unconditionally, compulsively - I have not wasted this limited time as painfully much as I have lived it in error, in helpless confusion. It does feel strange to write down these words, remembering the times when having a conscious, self-assured voice seemed such a terrifyingly distant prospect, a hopeless dream.