Thursday, June 07, 2007
I currently have the pleasure of reading a collection of Edmund Wilson's essays (published in 1950). That confident, coherent, serious tone does bring back feelings of regret. Surely in that tone, in that moment, our liberal Western civilization achieved its peak. I do not see any other competitors to moral seriousness than this great liberal tradition of literature and literary criticism. Certainly not organized religion with its feverish and comforting, undisciplined imaginations, as much as it has been a historical source for meaningful ethical thinking. Nor really in the artificially abstract, dry formulations of formal philosophy. But it is 2007 now, and books don't matter any more, or no-one any longer believes or pretends that they do - instead the chorus of primitive Bible (or Koran or for all I know Bhagavad Ghita) thumpers is actually growing ever louder. Loud they might be, but not serious, there is no seriousness in that atavistic escape to wishful thinking. The kind of ethical, secular, austere tone that is so proudly ringing in Wilson (among many others) has mostly disappeared. Naturally one should be careful when establishing glorious pasts, Eliot himself being a good example, but I still would argue that something valuable has been lost in the relentless onslaught of postmodern all-doubting scholastism. Essential foundations have been needlessly undermined and nothing really ethically and morally serious and durable has been built to replace the current ruins. Ruins are all we have left, if you don't count the entertainment industry, of course.
It is strange to think back to times when I did not pursue the origin and course of love but was instead so hopelessly lost in the abstract maze of my mistaken lordly studies. Now, having found my person, my place by finding another person, every aspect of life has come so integrally together that those once so vividly dark days seem distant and hazy. I can't now easily recollect that frigid, frozen atmosphere where no quick thought was ever quick enough to escape through the impasse. Of course, this present brightness gives most distinct shades: bitterly, relunctanctly offered hostages to indifferent fortune, but to have achieved this, to have this, to have arrived here, is still an incredible, indescribable feeling. There is such joy in this moment having survived the desert of years that constituted my intellectual education: come what may, and perhaps mainly good things will come, I have found my person, my place by finding love. And that's such a huge thing that it is scary even to acknowledge it in language - so much importance, meaning in someone other, protected by no special providence.