Writer’s block

…so I haven’t been writing much at all lately.  I haven’t been reading much, either.  Mostly I just watch episodes of old TV shows or listen to old songs, or putter around the home, attempting not to clean anything – every layer of dust marks its era.

 

We had a shake-up at work recently, but while it didn’t lose me any money, it did lose me some prestige, and the job’s taking more time than it has, while yet being ever more boring….

 

Then of course, there’s politics.  Trump is worthy of satire – and I’ll post some of my own soon – but the very fact that he could be the candidate of a major party in the US is shameful.  I suppose one can fear him as a kind of Mussolini of the digital media age; or laugh at him as reality TV clown pretending to be a politician; or gloat over his demolition of the Republican Party; or hate him for his tastelessly open bigotry.   But his very presence on the national stage reminds me of how dumbed down, uninformed, anti-intellectual, bigoted, unreasonable and unreasoning people there are in this country – not just among the voters, but among the politicians who managed to generate the conditions that have allowed this walking stink bomb onto center stage, but also among the media that has pandered to this fool.   This country has been working its way down into a ditch out of which it can never dig out, for quite some time, but this is the lowest Its gotten by far.

 

But it’s ben a downer couple of months, for sure.  A friend of mine, suffering from psychological difficulties has also recently developed physical issues.  My dog is going blind.  The shake-up at work has left the future uncertain.  I don’t like the used car I recently bought, but am stuck with it now.  (“It seemed like a good idea at the time” – oh, that fatal judgment on our supposed powers of judgment.  And on some of the websites I read, I seem to be seeing the same discussions with the same arguments ad nauseum.   Can’t we find something new to say?  Can’t I?

 

I should also mention my last two major writing efforts, my posts on Hegel here, and the essay I wrote about Heidegger on http://heideggerpolitics.wordpress.com.  The Heidegger essay was a bit of a downer because it concerned Germany in the 1930s, and that’s always a downer.  But the Hegel essay had an odd lingering depressive effect – partly because I was unable to complete the series, but also because as I posted it, I grew saddened, and somewhat frustrated, because I know that Hegel was one of the great writers in philosophy of Modernity, even when largely wrong, and he has certainly been one of the most important.   But the fact is that almost nobody in America reads him anymore, not only his texts but his influence have largely been forgotten, the kinds of lively discussions one could have about him are all quieted, and while some of this is just the general movement of history in one direction rather than another, what is especially upsetting about it is that this is not really a result in the trends of the history of philosophy, so much as it is the result of the trending toward a post-literate culture.  People have lost interest in reading difficult texts.  As far as the texts of the past are concerned, we’re essentially a ‘Cliff’s Notes’ culture – that is, a culture of interminable redactions, simplifications, and half-baked generalizations about what someone said about what someone else said, about some book written by someone or other sometime when.

 

Yes, it is true that I am somewhat waxing nostalgic for the age 0f the book.  But it is also true that the post-literate culture has allowed the anti-literate, the anti-intellectual, the proudly ‘know-nothing’ to thrive – indeed, become the presidential candidate of the Republican Party.

 

At times like this, I wonder – what good is writing?  What good in speaking?  why even think?

 

So anyway, as must be clear here, I am suffering a relapse into chronic depression.  And that makes sitting down to write very difficult.  It’s simpler to sit and stare at a blank piece of paper.  Eventually, you know, the mind projects patterns where none can be found.  I have found great entertainment staring at blank monitor screens and letting the pixels cause my optic nerves to generate illusions.   Perhaps one of these illusions will prove to be that I have written something interesting.  We’ll see.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Writer’s block

  1. Don’t know if this would help but you may consider getting rid of your TV. I enjoy not having one.

    Working on something may also help (see “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just saying hello. Hope things improve on the personal front. (I feel they won’t improve in terms of the national trajectory or in terms of the broader culture (the decline of reading, etc.). Your satire is very clever but not really to my taste (too scatological?). Hegel is not to my taste either. How could he believe that his little culture, his local history was so significant? Pieter Bruegel. Icarus. Crucifixion. Auden wrote a nice poem about it…

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    • Mark,
      Thanks for stopping by.

      “How could he (Hegel) believe that his little culture, his local history was so significant?”

      Well, that question could be asked of almost every European thinker of the 19th Century. I once came across a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace to Darwin, in which he complained he was bewildered that apparently Africans could learn mathematics, which clearly transgressed the evolutionary hierarchy which placed white men – particularly British white men – as the crowning achievement of evolutionary progress. If I remember correctly, Darwin had to remind him that evolution did not necessarily imply any ‘progress.’ But it must be admitted that the anthropology, and its implied ethics, of “Descent of Man” is clearly developed from the perspective of a British gentleman. But again, such notes could be remarked of most of the major players of the 19th century: When Marx addresses “workers of the world,” he means workers of Europe – that was the world, the rest is only planetary background noise.

      Further, my comments concerning the disappointment I feel at the loss of interest in Hegel, applies equally to a wide range of authors and thinkers that had major impact on their time, but are now left to footnotes. Take even Darwin: Evolutionary theory is still a hot topic, but only specialists read Darwin, although he wrote with clarity (relative to the time) and with some style.

      We were introduced to J.S. Mill in high school; do they still teach Mill these days? Beyond excerpts?

      Anyway; finally, on my satire (I take it my Trump piece.) I actually do have a sense of taste when it comes to satire; but when an issue especially inspires wrath, my template is Petronius (“Satyricon”), who reveals more about the real culture of ancient Rome in a few fragments than all the politicians, poets, and philosophers of his days in their many volumes.

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  3. “… when an issue especially inspires wrath, my template is Petronius…”

    Even Swift made departures from ‘good taste’ at times. But you can’t beat the Romans.

    On Hegel etc., amongst thinkers of that general sort (philosophers associated with idealism) my sympathies are more with the likes of Schopenhauer and Bradley.

    I take your point about the equal neglect of more empirically-oriented thinkers, but I think that what matters more in such areas (and would have mattered more to them) is that sound science (like evolutionary theory) is taught. In those areas the original texts are not so crucial.

    Liked by 1 person

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