Thursday, July 19, 2007

Passion at the End of the Age of Reason

It all started here
in a corner of Salon during a discussion of sycophancy and selling in the kaliyuge of the days of Bush the Younger. Frustration turned to dreams of the coming of the meteor by Svensker, and I replied by giving a brief overview of Medieval history as it is learned by high school students. At issue is whether the Age is going Dark. In the course of history, a spouse and four bloggers was related to a possibly previous spouse and four drunken philosophers. Wonderful what an inflamed mind can do if it studied too much of Li Po embracing the moon, and never really understood the Fall of Rome.

Svensker felt that the problem was reading -- how ironic in the days of the internet, when people do so much communication by reading, ironic in the days of the cell phone, when text messaging is the lingua franca of the technological beast, ironic in the days when there are more pages of journal publication and book print than ever before in the History of Man -- that Man's eyes should grow dim not from reading to much, but from reading too little: that words of ancient texts, the New Testament in Greek, grow lost, that science numbs itself and cowers before the passion of a new theory, unable to make business sense out of taking the chance of ridicule, unable to spread its wings lest they turn out to be made of wax.

William wonders if the language can change the feel once the culture in which the language grew has been lost -- does the language need its Age and its Place to hold the meanings, and do those meanings grow approximate with time? What is it that the language imparts, what the culture? Is it so very bad to have approximations define the past? Approximations are the staple of the healthy mind, embellished with details or not, but King James seems authoritative after so much time has passed.

For that matter, Karen muses, what of the Visigoths, those latter day nomads from the land of the big bad guys in the East? Lingua franca indeed, they settled in the lands of Languedoc, the cradle of the Great Heresy come west. Ambassadors of destruction bringing with them the end of the Golden Age when Caligula partied and Nero practiced his ├ętudes. Vandals and Huns, Goths and Visgoths, Bulgars and Bogomils lampshades on the light of the Classical world.

Svensker sees the New Testament drifting as it is cut from its roots, and holds out hope that China and the Mystic Subcontinent will keep the light burning a little further, keep us seeing in the night of perusing without reading of slipping into the existence that isn't quite life. I don't know my scriptural religions, a Puritan turned to the bosom of the Heart Sutra, but culture is important, and text perhaps drifts as much as language does when cut off from its written roots?

Cycles, endless cycles, a thought gets dislodged from its moorings low down on the tree and pushed like a kite to where it can mingle with other branches -- it is in our blood this drift, it takes all memory and finds new patterns, new ways to express. It hates to be tied down, and flares with haunting images of a nightmarish past. Could our fixation with destruction and empire that pulls us closer into the maelstrom that neoconservatism brings be the social cyst of fixation, the post-traumatic stress of failure to allow a culture to evolve? I go off topic even for chocobang.

How does the Age grow dark just as authorship reaches the masses?
How does the loss of language become the loss of meaning?
How do social pressures lead us downward when so many can see so clearly?
How do you spend your time, as you see a world go gray but do not act?
Where has all the passion gone? (gone to young girls, every one...)

Note: Due to a privacy problem with blogspot, I had to delete and repost this entry. When I did that the comments disappeared.
Note Update: Karen M was able to resurrect the comments to the original post and append them as one comment. Thanks!

1 comment:

Karen M said...

I found them in a Google cache...


Karen M said...

Thank you for this, ondelette!

When I wondered about the Visigoths, it was because I felt that their re-appearance and their looting of our culture is just one more thing about which we are in Denial.

And then, today at TPM, I read this post, which seems related to yours here, and then tonight on the NewsHour, Dana Gioia and (librarian) Nancy Pearl discussed the impact of Harry Potter on our culture in general, and reading, specifically. Both seemed to agree that reading anything is better than not at all, especially books one loves. However, they also agreed that we read less and have been growing progressively less literate... [sigh] as if we needed to have that intuition verified.

And, I do have a few writing projects of my own that need more frequent attention... except that I spend too much time reading and commenting on blogs (along with trying to keep my own going). So, I took a shortish break and read a novel by Alexander McCall Smith, and wondered if I might prefer living in Scotland...
July 20, 2007 8:50 PM

Karen M said...

p.s. I couldn't find much on kaliyuge, but was redirected to kali yuga:
Am I on the right track? It certainly seems apt.
July 20, 2007 9:06 PM

ondelette said...

I caught the part about the Visigoths destroying, but missed their reappearance. I'm a hard won third of the way through "In search of Zarathustra" by Paul Kriwaczek. In it, the Visigoths are among the good guys painted bad by the church.
July 20, 2007 10:31 PM

ondelette said...

kaliyug/kali yuga, that's the one. I saw kaliyuge as a transliteration someplace, it seemed to fit better, though less accurate. I'm not sure that the distinction between Kali's made in the Wikipedia entry, though no doubt very accurate and of great scholarship, is believed correct by the followers of the goddess Kali, though (in fact, I'm sure it's not). Hence the interpretation as "Dark Age".
July 20, 2007 10:36 PM

Karen M said...

That reappearance may only be in my mind... ;~)
July 21, 2007 8:37 AM