Thursday, March 29, 2012

Against despair

Four entries ago, I proposed a resis-
tance to rapture misplaced by mis-
comprehension of a beautiful thing;
and I cannot think of anything more
profoundly the reason, to adopt a 
resistance to despair. It's trouble-
some, that these ostensible antipodes
are so alike in their derivation, and
so similarly an alienation in their
effect. In winespeak, a vain debris
blocks the arterial connection wine
has with human right and human hope,
in the form of exclusionary arcana
of often erroneous, merely prejudi-
cial judgment. In the desperate if
not compulsive travesty of affection
portrayed here, I think I need say
nothing more than that it should
excite a general sympathy, yet draws
promises of its extirpation from 
a political movement, to seize
power to rob society blind of its
capacity to govern itself humanely,
and to set a standard for corros-
to resist war and industrial rape.

But what is true of rapture's reformation
is true of despair's; there are people we
love to be looked out for, before we worry
about the legitimacy of other speech. This
pricelessly authentic image, we could say,
does not reflect our famous progress today;
but that is a denial with which I won't ev-
en trifle, so long as its legibility is as
instantaneous as it is. Anyone may listen,
anyone may read the papers, for transcripts
of the competition for this political move-
ment's leadership, to confirm their zeal to
restore this desolation.

It is a good thing, that one of our leading
Western religions has named despair, a sin;
it would have been wonderful if it had done
the same for rapture, that repulsive image
of certitude run amok in the verities of the
occult. But the problem of despair is left
to be ministered to by reinforcements of it-
self, so that despair is communicable while
rapture is only emulated. Despair is not on-
ly permitted to exist, it is propagated so
that it can be condemned; and tragically 
worse, palliated so that it can be pursued.

Everyone who is in a position to make these
observations knows that despair is not a
style, though it is clothed and conducted
as one; that it is not a preference, but
a historic bond of an entire social class. 
It is, like wine criticism's arcana, an ac-
cretion of blockage from style, blockage
from affection, blockage from truth.

We are all born to experience delight, yet
how far we have come, where rapture and
despair so plainly share a common face.
In the United States, conspicuously, all
of us have seen the falsehoods of rapture 
as well as those of despair, and we have 
observed their uncanny correlations more 
than many times. 

These are catastrophes of a cultural 
inheritance which have throttled the 
nation’s progress since long before
Patrick Buchanan urged Richard Nixon 
to devote himself to their exacerba-
tion. We know the rapture of those 
who exult in this, the despair of 
its recurring targets. The wretched
binomial is alive and well again in
this season, and there are those we
love, to be looked out for, in stren-
uous vigilance and prayer that the
beast will dissolve, some day. 

Yet we know there are private elec-
tions being held every day, uncon-
sciously, between these indistin-
guishable choices. To write it down, 
to speak it audibly, can be to think 
it out; the fresh page, the unseen 
listener, like the dog-eared Horace
and the sudden injury, are often 
better counselors than we know.

This land is your land ..    

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