"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Trees, Trains, and Idiots

BONES, TREES, HOUSES ~ ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
"Bones...trees.....houses"
Cartoon by Michael Lipsey
Prequel: A few weeks ago, when writing about the Guayacan Tree (and shortly thereafter on the Vernal Equinox) there was one quotation that kept eluding me, something I read somewhere about trees and houses made of bones. After an hour of fruitless searching for the lost thought, I gave up locating the passage and posted the essay without it, even though it would have made such a perfect connection. I lamented the failed memory recall, filing away the almost but not quite remembered line under "maybe one day I'll relocate it."
Yesterday was the day!
Early in the morning I came across this comment:

" . . . [at] no time in American history have so many idiots
been exposed to other idiots Thanks Facebook . . ."

reminding me of the old / new, negative / positive [take your pick] adage that "the internet has given everyone a megaphone."

Only the day before, I had encountered these wise words from George Washington, describing the 18th Century version of "megaphone syndrome." I.e, you're going to have to listen to a lot of idiots:

"In a free and republican government,
you cannot restrain the voice of the multitude.
Every man will speak as he thinks, or, more properly,
without thinking, and consequently will judge at effects
without attending to their causes."

Stepping back in time, American historian Sarah Vowell explains: "Washington was reminding Lafayette that even though the establishment of a free and republican government comes with half - baked tomfoolery and half - cocked bile, every now and then someone who has something to say gets to say it" (203, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States). I.e, you're going to have to listen to a lot of idiots, but eventually you might hear something worthwhile.

But, getting back to yesterday, later in the afternoon, while re-reading high - lighted passages from my new favorite novel, I came across these lines:
"Gustave [Flaubert, 1821 – 1880] belonged to the first railway generation in France; and he hated the invention. . . . he hated the way it flattered people with the illusion of progress. What was the point of scientific advance without moral advance? The railway would merely permit more people to move about, meet and be stupid together" (108, emphasis added).
Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes

Wow! Flaubert's 19th Century concern matches right up with the 21st Century image of the megaphone and the internet: "so many idiots . . . exposed to other idiots." Synchronicity! Except for one slight problem: where did I read that about the idiots? Somewhere on facebook. Only a few hours ago. Was it on my nephew's page? He had recently been expressing annoyance with facebook users who refuse to accept accountability for their own participation in the great communicative enterprise. I skimmed his page and reread his important, imperative advice: "STOP blaming people and be accountable for your own self"! But I didn't see anything specifically about "idiots."

On to my next lead, the page of facebook friend, artist and writer Michael Lipsey, who had also expressed misgivings about various issues of privacy and profit. I clicked on his page just in case but saw nothing about "idiots." However, you may have already guessed what was there, patiently awaiting my rediscovery: one of Lispsey's classic cartoons: "Bones...trees.....houses" -- as seen above! After congratulating myself on this fortuitous, serendipitous (No, I'm not going to choose! Yes, I'm going to use both words!) rediscovery, I was also able to retrace my steps to the subject of my original search -- the observation about exposure to idiots -- in a conversation between my brother and one of his facebook friends.

Just as a bonus, facebook decided to show me another glimpse of brilliance from Michael Lipsey before I turned off my laptop for the evening. Thanks Michael for your initial share (one of the good things about facebook!) and for allowing me to reshare here on my blog! Thanks Flaubert for predicting the 21st Century internet in your description of the 19th Century trains. And thanks facebook for the synchronicity!

Further thanks to Jean - Paul Sartre for referring to Flaubert himself as The Family Idiot (reviewed by Frederick Jameson; and to Hazel Barnes for her study of Sartre and Flaubert (reviewed by Julian Barnes).

As the song says, is it coincidence or connection? Or both.

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, April 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT ~ Coffee With Flaubert ~ Imposter Syndrome
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

1 comment:

  1. I have also accumulated two personal collections of favorite quotes. Regarding this topic:

    “There are ways of curing madness, but none of righting the wrong-headed.” — La Rochefoucauld

    “No people are more often wrong than those who cannot bear to be.”
    — La Rochefoucauld

    ReplyDelete