Monday, August 30, 2021

A Brief Introduction to Ideas

Filed under: General — Tags: , — m759 @ 1:06 PM

"The Greek hodos , path . . . ."  — Max Jammer, 1954

Down, or: A Black Box for Didion

Filed under: General — Tags: , — m759 @ 12:28 PM

From "Why I Write," by Joan Didion —

"I am not a scholar. I am not in the least an intellectual, which is not to say that when I hear the word 'intellectual' I reach for my gun, but only to say that I do not think in abstracts. During the years when I was an undergraduate at Berkeley I tried, with a kind of hopeless late-adolescent energy, to buy some temporary visa into the world of ideas, to forge for myself a mind that could deal with the abstract.

All I knew then was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was.

In short I tried to think. I failed. My attention veered inexorably back to the specific, to the tangible, to what was generally considered, by everyone I knew then and for that matter have known since, the peripheral. I would try to contemplate the Hegelian dialectic and would find myself concentrating instead on a flowering pear tree outside my window and the particular way the petals fell on my floor. I would try to read linguistic theory and would find myself wondering instead if the lights were on in the Bevatron up the hill. When I say that I was wondering if the lights were on in the Bevatron you might immediately suspect, if you deal in ideas at all, that I was registering the Bevatron as a political symbol, thinking in shorthand about the military-industrial complex and its role in the university community, but you would be wrong. I was only wondering if the lights were on in the Bevatron, and how they looked. A physical fact.

I had trouble graduating from Berkeley, not because of this inability to deal with ideas—I was majoring in English, and I could locate the house-and-garden imagery in The Portrait of a Lady  as well as the next person, 'imagery' being by definition the kind of specific that got my attention—but simply because I had neglected to take a course in Milton. For reasons which now sound baroque I needed a degree by the end of that summer, and the English department finally agreed, if I would come down from Sacramento every Friday and talk about the cosmology of Paradise Lost , to certify me proficient in Milton. I did this. Some Fridays I took the Greyhound bus, other Fridays I caught the Southern Pacific’s City of San Francisco on the last leg of its transcontinental trip. I can no longer tell you whether Milton put the sun or the earth at the center of his universe in Paradise Lost , the central question of at least one century and a topic about which I wrote ten thousand words that summer, but I can still recall the exact rancidity of the butter in the City of San Francisco’s dining car, and the way the tinted windows on the Greyhound bus cast the oil refineries around Carquinez Strait into a grayed and obscurely sinister light. In short my attention was always on the periphery, on what I could see and taste and touch, on the butter, and the Greyhound bus. During those years I was traveling on what I knew to be a very shaky passport, forged papers: I knew that I was no legitimate resident in any world of ideas. I knew I couldn’t think. All I knew then was what I couldn’t do. All I knew then was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was."

"I knew that I was no legitimate resident in any world of ideas."
— Joan Didion, December 5, 1976

"In the 1988 interview with Scripps Howard, Mr. Poynter mused
about the device he wanted to invent for his own tombstone.

'When you walked up to it,' he said, 'you’d activate
an electronic voice. And it would say, "Come on down."’”

New York Times  obituary yesterday

And add, "We all float down here"?

For other, better, remarks about ideas by Didion
see "Freeze the shifting phantasmagoria," a phrase
from her 1979 book The White Album.

Sunday, August 29, 2021


Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 10:52 PM

"As within, so without" — Mystic phrase from the previous post.

Ed Asner in Studio 60 S1E11, Dec. 4, 2006

Memento Mori : 1:47

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 2:35 PM

The above is from a New York Times  1:47 report of an August 13 death.

From this  journal on August 13Euclid's  1.47 —

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