by Pablo Neruda To all those who hear not the crashing of waves this Friday morning, who being bound to … Continue reading The Poet’s Duty
Unselfish excellence & a commitment to always-active learning
The Historic 2016 Season
The Villanova University men’s basketball team not only won the 2016 NCAA National Championship; they did so with elegance, grace under pressure, and a deep commitment to quality ethical play. The easiest thing you can say about why the Villanova Wildcats are a fun team to watch is that they give you a riveting, energetic, and beautiful display of how the game is supposed to be played.
The poet Jane Kenyon was known for her mastery of the style known as “the luminous particular”. The phrase is a reference to imagery, expression and ideas, that ground us in the local, personal, intimate, in ways that illuminate our experience of existence and of truth. She can define the undefined by writing that happiness “comes to the woman sweeping the street / with a birch broom”, “to the boulder in the perpetual shade of pine barrens”, or “to rain falling on the open sea…” Her excellence in bringing the reader into the intimate space of detail informs my own thinking about writing, meaning, and what we value and how.
The particular is what we tend to find most luminous, but our political language is full of the assumption that the opposite is true and correct. This often leads to conflict between what we talk about and what we value.
“where the hummingbird, wherever there is a fuss,
just rises and floats away”
To make the attempt
at something more
than the least and the longing
somehow to venture upward
into blue fine ethers
where wanting is not misfortune
where time does not steal
where happiness is an aching
and the shine of history
turns new and nubile
every morning by sunlight
spilling over sunlight
and without lament
The loss of Robin Williams leaves a great void. Of a few artists, it can be said they are both truly unique and also gifted with an ability to reach virtually any human being through their work. He was one of these. He had an unbelievable ability to make you pay attention, to watch him just be; he seemed to wear his thoughts like an aura of light and haze. He dazzled with life, and when he became quiet, he could break your heart with just a syllable, a word, a whisper.
When I heard Robin Williams had died, it hit me with a shocking amount of force. I was not ready for that, nor had I ever thought about what it would feel like. I realize now it had never occurred to me that this comic genius would leave us. Friedrich Nietzsche explained that the origin of comedy was in our fear of mortality. Because without the benefits of civilization we were once so vulnerable, surprise tends to carry with it a moment of terror. When the surprise comes, and nothing happens except curious quip, or something funny and unexpected unfolds before our eyes, someone is playing the clown, it unleashes a wave of sudden good feeling.
Public broadcasting in the United States is not like state-run television in other countries, where the ruling party often influences the editorial stance and the quality of reporting. In the United States, there is an absolute wall of separation between politicians for elective office and the editorial process that shapes what is produced by public broadcasting.
We are all familiar with the conservative complaint about “liberal media bias”, which stems from a survey of voting habits that found many newspaper reporters were more liberal than the average American voter. There was never any evidence shown, however, that this influenced their reporting. Reporters, as a profession, are duty bound to report fact; it is editorialists, the kind of commentators that rule cable news networks and talk radio, that tend to infuse their “informational programming” with political bias.
A great and resonant thinker dies, and a great and resonant newspaper publishes an obituary dismissing his work as destructive and “abstruse”. It is an unjustifiable communicative travesty. When Jacques Derrida passed away, in October of this year, the New York Times wrote that his work was an attempt to undermine Western culture, despite his work being one of the most successful and persistent efforts of the last century to revive, clarify, enliven and apply Western thought to the problems of meaning, justice, creative work and political order.
The obituary was full of factual errors and infected with a hard-line bias against complex and rigorous thought. The facile and mistaken point of view that to distinguish between meaning and truth is to call for nihilist or morally bankrupt agendas in thought and politics… it failed to look at the work itself or the man himself and instead paraphrased poorly wrought critiques and conceptual gossip to try to discredit a monumental life of study in Western philosophy.