It makes no difference in my experience of the world whether Xris continues to consume deep-fried chicken five nights out of seven, playing Zelda every evening with his wife and childhood friends, working at a dead-end job and visiting with his mom every day. It only bugs the hell out of me because of my unspoken assumption that you have to do something remarkable with your life.It’s easy to believe, given the sheer volume of literature out there touting perennial self-improvement and excellence as the gold standard, that you are a failure for not contributing to civilization.
Shouldn’t someone at the forefront of the poetry movement try to discourage the misconception that poetry is highbrow? Poetry kicks ass, and if I were Billy Collins, I would do everything in my power to convince others that it does, using the most powerful verses to get my point across, which naturally include — come on, poets, let’s get off our high horses — song lyrics. At least I can get away with saying this: Billy Collins, you have made a grave mistake. The poetry muses should string you up and throw pointy paper quills at you.The truth is that lyrics are often the most pervasive way to bring words to a person’s attention. Walk into a restaurant or a clothing store, and likely you will hear lyrics playing in the background. Attend a sports event and lyrics will likely be sounded from the loudspeaker during half time. This is reality — yes, it’s a far cry from hearing Keat’s odes sounded from somebody’s car audio system, but it is far more helpful to focus on the similarities between lyrics and poetry than to polarize the two genres. After all, songs and poems were at one time the same thing.…Most important of all, both lyrics and poetry are composed of language, one of the true wonders of human development. Lyrics and poems are linked in the way all genres of the written word are, the beauty of language and artistic expression leveling disparity — both lyrics and poetry are literary arts with equal merit. Though naturally I’m biased to say that poems are superior, doing so would only harm the mission to bring poetry into the mainstream. Rather, one should focus on how song lyrics can be a gateway into poetry by making words the focal point, and as such, a person can then realize how powerful words can be by themselves.
The lyrics of pop songs are so banal that if you show a spark of intelligence they call you a poet. And if you say you’re not a poet then people think you’re putting yourself down. But the people who call you a poet are people who never read poetry. Like poetry was something defined by Bob Dylan. They never read, say, Wallace Stevens. That’s poetry.
“Graffiti,” like all the “graph” words (ultimately meaning “scratch,” as in clay tablets), is related to English “carve” (and “writing” itself has this primal meaning)… Surely, the place of writing is part of the meaning of a piece of writing. Ancient shamans wrote or carved or painted in out-of-the-way places so that readers–acolytes, et al.–would have to go out of their way to read them. The remoteness of the place and the effort and sometimes danger required to get there was part of the experience of the sacred. “Sacred” means “set apart”.
I’ve enjoyed reading Juliet Lapidos’s series of essays on platonic friendship. My best friends have usually been women, come to think of it, and knock on wood, I have yet to experience a cross-gender friendship being ruined by sexual frustration or unrequited love. It’s never seemed like a complicated balancing act in my mind, but as one of those friends once said to me:
Society at large, however, seems to feel that if you share a passion for anything — well then! Eyebrows are raised, sly glances shared.
Eroticizing everything, as is their wont, Freudians find that much close male friendship is at its core homoerotic, while the notion of male-female friends outside sexual interest is generally inconceivable to Freudians, who not so secretly believe that all men wish to do with women is jump their bones.…If I believed in Freud, I could not have written a book on friendship, because friendship doesn’t quite exist for Freudians; sexual appetite, evident or obscured, washes it away. Fortunately, I do not believe in Freud. In fact, I have come to believe instead that Freudian psychoanalysts, like Germany after WWII, ought to be made to pay reparations to their poor patient-victims.…The notion that two healthy people of the opposite sex cannot meet regularly and talk about important things without eventually falling into bed with each other is part of the fading but still enduring Freudian heritage. All other Freudian ideas – from the Oedipus complex to feces being symbolic of money – have been laughed out of the court of reason and empirical science, but the notion that at bottom (also at middle and at top), we are sexual beings, ready at the least chance to have at it, has not. A good Freudian is likely to consider most friendships between a man and a woman as erotic, and for that matter close friendships between people of the same sex as homoeroticism, more or less disguised.
When blogs first appeared, they were compared unfavorably with newspaper and magazine articles. They tended to be shorter, were written more quickly, were light on research and heavy on opinion. But to those growing up on Facebook and Twitter, they must seem ponderously slow and long. For those who value thoughtful, crafted writing, this is a worrying development. However, paradoxically, microblogging might actually help longer, more thoughtful writing. The ever-shortening nature of social networking communications could help revive ‘proper writing’ by re-opening the gap between off-the-cuff jottings and thoughtful prose which blogging temporarily blurred.This could easily occur as a result of a kind of Darwinian struggle. Those teletrailers who manage to be interesting and pithy in short tweets and messages could attract followers away from those who take 400-word blogs to make their point. Natural selection could result in the survival of the briefest. But, as we’ve seen, the distinctive feature of teletrailing is that it provides a constant streams of hyperlinks to more substantive material. Since people are going to receive many such links a day, there will be another evolutionary struggle, from which a few victors will emerge.
The possibility of cashing in on social networks is potentially making many more people commodify themselves. Authors for example, are encouraged by publishers and agents to think about themselves as “brands”, and to blog, twitter, make friends on Facebook and so on. They are not alone: bands, artists, even therapists are turning into their own mini-PR departments, increasingly concerned not just with what they do, but how they can sell it to as many people as possible. High profile but actually quite rare tales of great success encourage creative to go along with this.I would be a liar if I said I was not caught up in this trend. I would say I have more instrumental reasons for using Facebook than I do other ones, and while I see my twittering is a fun, creative challenge, I’m not sure I would have even started doing it I hadn’t thought that it might be good for my profile. Anecdotal evidence suggests that if I am unusual, it is only in my candour. The problem is that being high-minded and opting out looks like a luxury few can afford. Being active on social networking sites may be far from sufficient for success, but it looks increasingly as though it is necessary.
But the Maher strategy is a little disturbing, as well, since that she was a religious seeker in her youth is not actually very relevant to her contemporary candidacy. O’Donnell’s story is a sad reminder that many religious seekers, who experiment with a number of traditions, are not actually so much open-minded as in search of a narrative about life that will give them certainty (the Society of Krishna Consciousness is as close as Hinduism gets to fundamentalism in its own right). Once O’Donnell settled on right wing Christianity, she became insufferable. And that is what should damn her politically– that she wants to impose her sectarian morality on all of us– not that she tried out other fundamentalisms when young.
A very popular error – having the courage of one’s convictions: Rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack upon one’s convictions.Even if we were mad enough to consider all our opinions true, we should still not want them alone to exist: I cannot see why it should be desirable that truth alone should rule and be omnipotent; it is enough for me that it should possess great power. But it must be able to struggle and have great opponents, and one must be able to find relief from it from time to time in untruth – otherwise, it will become boring, powerless and tasteless to us, and make us the same.