Thursday, April 21, 2011

The catastrophic temptation

For my own peaceful lot and happy choice;
A choice that from the passions of the world
Withdrew, and fixed me in a still retreat;
Sheltered, but not to social duties lost,
Secluded, but not buried; and with song ..

.. open it where you please. First comes the thesis - ultrum - whether such a thing be thus or otherwise; then the objections - ad primum sic proceditur; next the answers to these objections - sed contra est .. or respondeo dicendum. Pure advocacy! 

And underlying many, perhaps most, of its arguments you will find a logical fallacy which may be expressed more scholastico by this syllogism: I do not understand this fact save by giving it this explanation; it is thus that I understand it, therefore this must be its explanation. The alternative being that I am left without any understanding of it at all. True science teaches, above all, to doubt and to be ignorant; advocacy neither doubts nor believes that it does not know. It requires a solution.

The distinction between arduous personal faith and ecstatic evangelism is often lost, to hoist another generation on a rack of endless horror. Look to your left, look to your right in its trial - the second fragment cited above is from a martyred Basque Professor of Greek at the most glittering college of Spain - and there is the hideous temptation he describes, in comments on Aquinas. This is the creed of the rabble in control of the American Congress, the present incarnation of the epistemology of Golgotha. What it will wreak upon us we already know. There is no shelter, Wordsworth knew, in any still retreat.

Homo sum; nullum hominem a me alienum puto.

I am a man; no other man do I deem a stranger.

ii, Ivan Terestchenko

William Wordsworth,
The Excursion

Miguel de Unamuno
Del Sentimiento Trágico
  de la Vida
J.E. Crawford Flitch, translator
Macmillan & Co., 1921
Dover Publications, 1954©


  1. Hello:
    We should all be afraid, very afraid. In the United States we are conscious of the popularity of the so called 'Tea Party' made up, or so it is alleged, of those who are better educated, frightening in itself.

    Here in Hungary Jobbik [jobb meaning right] are now, since the 2010 elections, the Nation's third largest party in Parliament, only three seats away from becoming the second largest. Their popularity is accounted for by policies which are, amongst others, anti-Semitic, anti-Roma, and homophobic, although to be accurate these are, from time to time, denied.. In our view little short of fascist.

    With the support of Jobbik, it is now an offence to criticise the government. An attempt to have all blogs registered with the government was recently rejected. Are we now seeing a return to a Europe of the 1930s? Just some thoughts prompted by your post of today.

  2. Your comment lends even greater urgency to the timely essay from István Deák in The New York Review of Books ("Hungary: The Threat"), issue for April 28th, 2011. His report focuses on Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister, but goes extensively into the specific inhumane policies you bring to our attention. On the strength of that article, one is seriously reluctant to implicate you in any public comment, other than what you have contributed today. I thank you very much and wish you a happy Easter.

  3. Paradise was a garden. When paradise was lost, what happened to the garden ?

  4. Dear Ivan, you prove yourself the master of the succinct conundrum again. If you are asking, what happened to that garden (I notice, you call it "a" garden, not "the" garden) after it was closed, one couldn't speculate. Very possibly, other forms of life could have been introduced to regulate it and nourish it, of which we would not know.

    But if you are asking, what became of "the garden," in the sense of a garden, then I think the answer is inescapable, that it was privatised. The garden which had been paradise became, then, a domain of anomie in relative terms, where the order created fulfills one's nostalgia for it - if you will. I am a gardener, you are a gardener; you are outstanding at it within the realm of your vision, I am miserable at it, even given my lesser imagination. But my answer is, the garden's closure meant its reconstitution by personal interest.

    And I mean no disregard, based on what we know in a world outside of paradise, for the wonders some minds have brought to bear upon the garden.

    Warm thanks for another beautiful sight, one I have kept since the day I found your collection online.

  5. we began to garden

    in earnest

    for paradise lost


  6. Mme, warm thanks for another beautiful visit, one I have anticipated since the day I found your collection online. And for the dunes of Bolinas.