26 June 2013: Que Puro Ciel…
Workout: 20 mn doing actual workout including some rest time: 150 aerobic steps interrupted at 67 owing to exhaustion, two difficult flights of stairs. Very tired out perhaps by starting the workout, doing the steps, sans shoes?
Plan: the usual goals (150 steps alternating feet, two flights stairs) tomorrow, monitor exhaustion and results. Wear shoes.
The lovely and learned Doctor Chiu (the second in a rotating series of docs which started with the lovely and learned Doctor Wong last winter and is due to change again this week) warns me that my condition will “fluctuate” and indeed, today is the roughest it’s been in weeks, with extra butt pain and a stressful run to the Circle K for chocolate just now. The Lamma Death March last Sunday is another reminder that I’m in this for the duration, and like a pilot in a plane in distress, like Captain Flip and his Sky Dog Beano, I must fight to stay aloft for as long as it takes.
Captain Flip: Well, Beano, it certainly looks like we’re screwed!
Beano: Woof! Woof!
It’s lunch I have chocs but I also endure a sharp hip pain and a screaming nerve pain in the ankle. Old friends at this intensity. I hope that I don’t have to endure more. I spend less time in the day-room now.
Kant: “Kant” Understand Kant? Use Sentence Diagrams!
In Manchester University’s Adamson Lecture back in 1953 (Blanshard 1953), the American philosopher Brand Blanshard writes
“Lord Macaulay once recorded in his diary a memorable attempt—his first and apparently also his last—to read Kant’s Critique: ‘I received today a translation of Kant . . . . I tried to read it, but found it utterly unintelligible, just as if it had been written in San-scrit. Not one word of it gave me anything like an idea except a Latin quotation from Persius. It seems to me that it ought to be possible to explain a true theory of metaphysics in words that I can understand. I can understand Locke, and Berkeley, and Hume, and Reid, and Stewart. I can understand Cicero’s Acade-mics, and most of Plato; and it seems odd that in a book on the elements of metaphysics . . . I should not be able to comprehend a word.’”
or, in my favorite formulation, “I have a Master’s degree”,
“I have a MASTER’S degree. In science!” – Ask Mister Science, Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater
“but I don’t understand this. Clearly, this is someone else’s fault. Get me Rewrite!”
I’m not saying that verbosity is good and the more words the better. I am saying that in many charges of verbosity density of words w is confused with density of ideas i, and that a “verbose” text is one with a low ratio of ideas i to words w: i/w. A text with high i (many ideas, especially disorganized ideas), might suck but it’s not “verbose”. Such a text needs outlines, not a word count target.
Now, note that this critique of the Critique, of countless graduate theses more or less independent of their worth, of political speeches especially in times of economic or physical crisis when you’d think the niceties of style would be relatively unimportant, is an excellent way of evading the issues raised by Kant’s Critique which are indeed themselves rather hard. Asian kids swot things of great complexity willingly in a competitive environment. You’d think it wouldn’t do for us grown-ups to rest on our laurels and Master’s degrees.
This essay will take a single long sentence from the Sage of Konigsberg and use an old-fashioned sentence diagram such as I was taught to draw back in school and such as grave and intelligent children master today. Let’s see how that shows that Kant first and foremost does justice to his material which task is “lexically prior” to an elegant, breezy style, of which Hume is justly famous, but which in Hume and elsewhere sometimes breezes right past important objectives.
But first, let me describe how I construct simplified sentence diagrams.
Sentence diagramming is part of traditional grammar and uses traditional categories which are becoming unfamiliar. For the specialist, phrase-structure diagrams as developed by Chomsky et al. in the 1950s are best.
However, few philosophers can be expected to know how to construct phrase-structure diagrams whereas the theory in my diagrams is easily explained.
Rather than get embroiled in the names and categories of traditional grammar, I describe a simplified approach. It is based on the core grammatical idea of dependence: a word or phrase depends on another word or phrase if removal of the second leaves no place for the first.
For example, if we remove the noun ball from Peter threw the red ball we get nonsense (Peter threw the red) and, since our brains always charitably try to make sense of prose, jokes and poetry by way of repeatedly parsing texts until a parse works and we “get it” in the case of jokes, we wonder if perhaps red has a new usage as a noun in the argot of the gratin.
In a sentence diagram, all and only nouns, verbs and “predicated adjectives” (red in The East is Red) go on straight lines because in traditional grammar as opposed to argot, no noun, verb nor predicated adjective as such can modify another word or phrase. All other words and phrases are placed on diagonal lines tangent to what they modify.
Vestigially (which is to say unnecessarily for our purposes, altho we’ll adhere to the vestigial convention) the subject of a sentence is separated from the verb (predicate) by a vertical line that cuts the main horizontal line. The verb in the predicate is separated from the rest of the predicate by a diagonal line, above the horizontal line and tangent to it.
Beyond this (see Fig 1 now if you dare) it would be nice to have a ruler or even better a drawing program which can do object-oriented sentence diagrams. But hand-drawing has its charms if one has a reasonably steady hand and a vestigial ([sic]) arts instinct in that it brings Kant down to earth.
Diagram of Kant’s Whopper
This diagrams the whopper on page 246 of Guyer/Wood 1998 (call it the Page 246 Whopper from now on): “I call it the pure apperception, in order to distinguish it from the empirical one, or also the original apperception, since it is that self-consciousness which, because it produces the representation I think, which must be able to accompany all others and which in all consciousness [sic] is one and the same, cannot be accompanied by any further representation”. This Whopper is found only in the second edition of the Critique.
The Page 246 Whopper is the very type of off-putting Kant prose, I claim, which gave Kant his reputation with Blanshard, Macaulay and countless others as a gasbag. There are two reasons, structure, and word count.
The above chart, besides being sloppy, might be thought a species of ignotus per ignotum, explaining the unknown by means of the unknown. As we (software developers) discovered in early programming, a “flowchart”, a two-dimensional representation of programming logic, could never be used except in the simplest cases to educate the user in the ways of any program. Artificial flowcharts for simplified problems made sense; real flowcharts for real software looked like Rube Goldberg’s overcomplicated inventions, or the contraption that feeds Charlie Chaplin his lunch in Modern Times.
But sentence diagrams, like flowcharts in the context of a witty and urbane Power Point presentation conducted by people like me, can illuminate the logic of philosophical prose when the person who seeks to understand the software or philosophical text draws them herself, or, at second best, is “walked through” the diagram in a presentation or meeting by someone like me who knows what he’s about.
Kant believes that we understand a given line fully when we can draw that line and this demurral from full-on Platonism generated his invention, in the Critique, of mathematical intuitionism, that philosophy of mathematics that later was found useful in addressing the Frege/Russell “antinomies” (as Kant would have called them) or paradoxes. Likewise, to diagram a sentence would be, I believe, his way of understanding a given text.
As to word count, the Whopper clocks in at 58 words. Is that “many” words? Of course, the question is silly. It’s not many for a news article. It might be “many” if I am penniless in Hong Kong, it is 1910, and I must telegraph my father for money, but have to pay Chang’s Telegraph by the word. That is, “many” depends on many things.
However, we do know that better sentences are generally smaller ceteris paribus (we are also told that good writers no longer use Latin tags but I demur since anyone can Google the phrase if she likes). The fault of Kant’s Whopper is only partly redeemed by its good structure in which deeply nested phrasing is used to express a complex thought (what that thought is will be divulged later to those who don’t know it: indeed, we’ll figure it out here).
The main part of the sentence starts at the horizontal (left to right) middle of the illustration and it is the “clause” I call it the pure apperception or also the original apperception, where a “clause” is a chunk of words in a sentence that itself is a complete sentence (a chunk of words containing a verb that has a tense).
At this point the Kant student knows, or better know, that “apperception” in Kant means perception plus the awareness that one is doing the perceiving. We share with computer input ports, and unicellular and other organisms that clearly don’t have excess equipment supporting anything like apperception, the ability to generate physical events that clearly constitute sensing. But higher phyla (in all probability) and we ourselves go beyond perception to apperception in which we’re conscious of our perception, and we “say to ourselves”, “hey, I’m … “ (seeing, hearing and so on).
Our brains in particular appear to brain scientists to have the excess circuitry to “apperceive” and to be able, at any time during or after a perceptual act, to retrieve the thought “it is I who is having this experience!”.
Therefore given the first clause there is an original apperception that is “pure”. The use of the word pure can be checked in a German 2nd edition of 1787 (note that the passage fdoes not appear in the first edition of 1781) owing to the ease of matching Guyer/Wood 1998’s literal translation and we confirm that for pure, Kant wrote “reine” his term of art meaning completely logical…with no empirical accidents.
The next feature of the diagram are two adverbial clauses that modify the main verb of the whopper sentence, one with respect to the pure apperception and the other with respect to the original apperception despite the fact that these are two names for the same apperception.
The first adverbial is in order to distinguish it from the empirical one. Unfortunately for a pronoun-hater like your correspondent, this phrase makes just a little trouble for us by containing two pronouns: it and one in the empirical one. But resolving the antecedent (an important task in close-reading any text not only Kant), we find that it must be the pure original apperception and one will be any actual apperception.
All we care about in apperception would be the logical recognition of an “I” doing the perceiving; this is what makes it pure-original, whereas the empirical apperception would be one or more brain events. They might (indeed they probably do) have a different, measurable, electric pattern when a person has an apperception as opposed to a stimulation that does not wake his conscious mind (but maybe not). But what we care about is what we’re aware of when we have an “I” perception and when our fellow-creatures have one.
They (and we, and I) don’t look down and see a chap’s trousers, ladies’ skirt or child’s small clothes when we have apperception unless of course we’re having one of our dress.
The clause headed “since” is much more complex: “it is that self-consciousness which, because it produces the representation “I think”, which must be able to accompany all others and which in all consciousness [sic] is one and the same, cannot be accompanied by any further representation”.
This reveals a minor typo in Guyer/Wood 1998: all consciousness makes no sense and Kant probably meant all consciousnesses, clumsy as that seems. “Consciousness” has both “countable” variants (where it makes sense to speak of consciousnesses) and uncountable variants (where consciousness is like water, never properly plural). But if pure, logical I-recognizing apperception is the same for all, then we have to use the clumsy countable plural consciousnesses. It might be best to translate to “minds” here.
Kant clearly is drawing attention to the fact that he’s only interested in what’s common to all apperceptions, a non-sensual feature such that when we repeat an apperception with the same empirical content (the Mte. Saint-Victoire as seen every morning by Cezanne) we non-sensually just know (in a primitive way that cannot be analyzed further) that we, nous, I, Je, Moi, Cezanne, an artiste-peinture of 19th century France finally freed by his father’s legacy To Paint, see the Mte. Ste-Victoire. We don’t “see” ourselves seeing; that pretension to an ontological assay would lead to infinite regression. Instead we know that there’s a seer and this us, as something we dare not analyze further.
And then the Windows failed,
And I could not see to see.
Emily Dickinson, “I heard a fly buzz/When I died”
As Emily Dickinson knew, “seeing” is a highly general and useful verb. When for her “the Windows” failed all “seeing” fails including the second-order seeing of apperception: the soul (“with Blue, uncertain, stumbling Buzz”) becomes (perhaps in an unconscious or conscious channeling of Hindu reincarnation as a sailor’s tale) the fly trying to escape through the windows.
Actually drawing the sentence diagram is the best way to understand key sentences in Kant (and in most other “difficult” texts such as law books). Looking at one helps in an attenuated way. But notice I’ve de-emphasized neatness in the sentence diagram, for a reason. I have no time to draw a neat sentence diagram with straight lines, ninety degree angles and no erasure shadows, and a sloppy one emphasizes the dangers of neatness, and, as we used to say at IBM, letting the process get in the way. That is, I use my training in the sloppy arts of painting and dance to avoid PowerPointing beautiful diagrams, preferring instead semi-straight lines and strange acute angles.
This shows the listener that something idiosyncratic (as opposed to idiotic) is taking place and this is showing how Kant’s own “crooked timber” doesn’t have to be neat and precise to be true. Every apperception is different as regards its content but shares the I-knowledge and that is so identical across perceptions as to be one thing. This is ontology at work: we’ve found a Something that drops out of experience that is not experience.
Too often, we (or at least I) read Kant and other difficult philosophers in a fog, a watch, a prose or a complete stupor. Sentences wash over us as Gonzago’s witty counsel washes over the grieving King of Naples who thinks he’s lost his son in The Tempest: “You cram these words into mine ears against/The stomach of my sense”. When we we find ourselves in a stupor reading Kant or any difficult text it may be time for a break, and then to do a sentence diagram or two of the most difficult parts of the text.
The above sentence isn’t important except as a lemma, but it helps to chart it for better understanding.
The sentence itself can now be rewriiten as a modern educational text as a gloss on Kant:
There’s only one type of apperception that is of interest to Kant, the pure or reine kind. Since it’s a logical, non-empirical and non-sensory attribute of our perceptions then it just is from the start. It is always the same because it’s “simple” and has no parts. It’s not as if we look down and see the front of our dress or T-shirt; that would be what Kant would call an empirical perception, eg., not an apperception at all.
That’s a separate perception with its own apperception instance attached (“I am looking down”). We have thousands of these each day, in one to one correspondence with acts of perception but less in number than our physical perception instances, for all acts of perception are physical perception instances but not all PPIs are APs. When we’re asleep, or, more poignantly, in a lecture on the Critique, and sensation washes over us, provably causing physical events without apperception as, in a stupor, we no longer are an “I” [teacher may now throw an eraser at a student obviously sleeping] we are less human that she who can always call to mind the fact that she’s listening to a lecture on Kant.
Parenthetically let’s remind ourselves of the dangers of this state of hyper-awareness. As Adorno showed (Adorno 2007) music “appreciation” can create the under-educated listener who as a “snob”, whether about classical music or esoteric jazz, anhedonically not so much listens as takes pleasure in his apperception that he listens to quality music, unlike his mates, who mindlessly dance to tunes they like.
We can as behaviorists, factoring in our introspection that when we take responsibility for perceptions and say “you may feel this way but I don’t” (something most children and many grown-ups don’t say), theorize that autistic children don’t have apperceptions as we know them but may simulate them, with striking success, with external rituals.
Even the non-autistic do the same in boring lectures like this one; for example, taking notes reminds us of our responsibilities, as apperceivers, to remember; for apperception in our case as human beings may be a necessary if not sufficient precondition for memory. A digital camera can “remember” in a different sense than we “remember” where when we recall a memory image we also remember apperceiving but we never seem to “remember” in this way: we seem to have to “be in the room” as Billy Blanks reminds us in his workout video (Blanks 2007). Attentive and therefore, apperceiving.
And as to Brand Blanshard and Lord Macaulay, the suspicion grows that overeager charges of verbosity are a tool of ruling class control (and you can take this as read); part of the aristocratic and haute bourgeois pretense that for their caste, It Is All So Simple whereas the rest of us, being scum, must swot to apprehend this Simple Truth; something that ignores the complexity of society, saying ultimately wih the late Mad Baroness Thatcher, “there is no such thing as society” as its problems overwhelm us.
Complex texts challenge this pretense especially when the wife or graduate assistant has of old mastered complex texts. You find building superintendents (such as the technical staff of the World Trade Center) knowing an incredible amount of things about their buildings with this dedication being typically ignored: “They broke their backs lifting Moloch to heaven”, as Allen Ginsberg writes in Howl.
It’s as if Macaulay had criticized Newton for not being as easy to grasp as Archimedes. Of course, Newton has to incorporate Archimedes just as Kant incorporated most major Western philosophies as a condition of calling himself a privatdozent. Macaulay had lacked humility. As a Whig, he prided himself in being free of Old Corruption and its illusions, and like Thomas Reid and Samuel Johnson felt it necessary to splutter and expostulate.
This has become, especially in academia, the only acceptable, canned response to complexity above a low upper bound. Whether or not it’s true, it expresses a world-weariness as if there are only a finite number of meaningful texts and (as in Arthure Clarke’s short story The Nine Billion Names of God) history shall end when all such texts have been uttered. Macaulay may have forgotten how hard his Greek texts were back in school.
Kant specifically states in the introduction of the Critique that his work is for specialists and people with a certain level of commitment, making a series of shrewd observations about the contested issue of complexity and prolixity in the Preface to the first edition of the Critique:
“But then I looked at the size of my task and the many objects with which I would have to do, and I became aware that this alone, treated in a dry, merely scholastic manner, would suffice to fill an extensive work; thus I found it inadvisable to swell it further with examples and illustrations, which are necessary only for a popular aim, especially since this work could never be made suitable for popular use (my emphasis); and real experts in the science do not have so much need for things to be made easy for them…”
“The Abbe Terrasson says that if the size of a book is measured not by the number of pages but by the time needed to understand it, then it can be said of many a book that it would be much shorter if it were not so short.”
In the Prologemena, Kant says of the Critique that “the work is dry, obscure, opposed to all ordinary notions, and moreover long-winded “. For certain types of readers, often the ones who know how to make sentence diagrams, this may be a recommendation; the long-windedness of the text may be a challenge to develop or apply methods for getting at its meaning, such as sentence diagramming.
What would be strange would be this anti-intellectual and at worst Fascist insistence on a folkish simplicity. This silent Gathering as seen in the troubling Heidegger of the bearded and solemn, where the main event is the hanging of Till Eulenspiegel for verbosity.
Two Virtual Talks at Harvard Law School
David Wilkins of the Harvard Law School gives, on a free downloadable video for iTunes University, a lecture on the future of global law. It looks like I can now buy $200 & $500 App purchase cards for the Apple store at Circle K here at Grantham. My favorite stuff (such as uni lectures) is free but perhaps with an App card I could buy full seasons of Mad Men, war games and other time-wasting crap that your more typical retiree may have.
Heck with that. I’d be ashamed to ask my Fiduciary Guy for the money. My savings plan embeds my fears of being found wanting by blokes and father/Elder Brother figures which can now include somewhat younger chaps … altho I mentor a 30 year old poet who reminds me of me and my late son; he shows up spontaneously, without warning, with his guitar, he’s a real troubadour who crosses the Pyrenees between song and speech. But for the most part my friends are in their fifties and forties as we all await the hammer blows of cancer and other tribulations.
Things go on sale and I buy them. Heah come de homeboy. Well screw that.
HLS seems to be pervaded by benign nepotism; in the two hour-long videos I’ve seen, David Wilkins and John Palfrey both bring their extended families to their talks.
Wilkins’ concern in talking about global law is preserving the special status of the legal profession. Gee, I remember people blowing smoke up their ass about the special status of the data processing profession and I also remember how that went up in smoke as “professional” programmers were set, by management, in the 1970s, “in deadly hate the one against the other” as Dickie Gloucester sets Edward IV and Clarence against each other i’th’old play.
Everybody wants to work hard and joyfully at meaningful things that make a difference and that’s part of the attraction of medicine and law: yet capitalismus seeks to downsize all professions and para-professions (data processing, dentists, beauticians) and have them accede to the corporation’s “rationality”. It needs us to be in a constant competition because you know, they shoot horses.
Wilkins is concerned with the global future of his profession. In China, lawyers are seeking what American lawyers won in the 19th century, against higher odds in China, owing to lack of rule of law outside Hong Kong. Microsoft Word and other software packages expose the shortcomings of lawyers who used to bat out briefs on their trusty IBM Selectric, knowing by heart what are now the skills of the paralegal or in the software.
Today the lawyer cannot escape orality and admonishing the corporation as to the legal risk of policies…in contexts such as BP (the corporation that trashed the Gulf) where non-lawyers have nothing but contempt for the law, because they’ve risked everything on ignoring it and its pettifogging safety regulations. Real men drill, after all.
I am ever so slightly plagued these days, and was much more plagued in the past, by the image of a wet and oily man inappropriately wearing a suit (such as Wilkins’ silver custom number in the video, about which he brags, but which I find not quite the thing, being on the overslick side, not right for a gentleman). In the bright hot sun of the Gulf where I sailed much more appropriately clad in 1991. The wet and oily man is screaming at the crew to drill you fuckers drill.
I’m afraid that independent of the corporation the lawyer has no traction. If she doesn’t use her skills to destroy the corporation (a daemonic legal person as we know) the corporation will destroy her. We know this.
Michael Klarman gave a talk about “The Supreme Court and Race” for the iTunes Uni series. Sadly, he repeats a fallacy re Taney and Dred Scott.
Roger Taney was a great believer in “states’ rights” as were many people even inside the Abolitionist movement, who decried the “states’ rights” of the Southrons to own slaves but who were concerned about the rights of Northern states to pass anti-slavery laws without those being trumped by the fugitive slave return clause of the Constitution.
If black men are led in chain gangs and slave “coffees” through the streets of Boston for return to the South this makes a black joke out of Massachusetts’ free soil laws; the only “states’ raaaaghts” Southron bullies then and now care about are the “raaaaghts” of “right to work”, anti-choice, racist “Blue” states to go back to the American Dark Ages.
However, Taney did not mean and didn’t say that “black men have no rights that a white man need respect”. He wrote as an “originalist” like Scalia that under the Constitution as it existed in 1857 as far as he could see that black men havdno rights that a white man need respect. He did not say that this was a good thing.
Klarman knows that the SCOTUS is not (as it may still be to many liberals) some sort of great friend of the downtrodden. It was in Brown v Topeka Board, and for some silly ass reason it was Yick Wo’s best friend in the 19th century, that being the only person aided by the Fourteenth Amendment before Brown; Yick Wo was a Chinese man who sought to open a laundry, and, white-Asian relations being poor only in the Far West, the Supreme Court frivolously decided in Yick Wo to redress one real violation of the 14th amendment.
But Klarman then overpoliticises the law saying that its meaning is found in political struggle which will cause the courts to certify the winners as perhaps the SCOTUS did in 1937, when the Justices finally caved into the New Deal idea that James Madison was right; the working man should have access to Federal power so that the boys back home lay off oppressing him.
The law is not an illusion, and the experience of Snowden (the CIA agent who’s revealed NSA spying) is that in a country or statelet like Hong Kong you can check into a fine hotel (nice touch that, I’d do the same), and check out only to be stashed (in all probability) in another nice hotel by the cops and then given a ticket to see your best bud Julian, all the while cocking a snook at the USA.
Snowdon, I’d hazard, was probably walking down the Nathan Road, duffel suitcase in hand, being pestered by touts to get a fine suit or another room, when plainclothes cops gently steered him to the Peninsula (the finest hotel in all of Asia) and to a room with an all you can eat dim sum buffet (sigh) and an open bar (sigh) and a Jacuzzi (flute notes), saying “not worry, kiddo, we your friends, you like moo shoo?” as they indeed were. Hong Kong’s leaders in a commendable fashion got rid of a man who’d embarrass them with the USA very quickly making Snowden someone else’s problem. Statecraft indeed.
My own situation, where the policy as regards hospices is clear (I can stay as long as needed or check out and return as needed) is rule of law driven. I’d imagine it might be less clear in the USA. One wonders why they so nice to me. But as the proverb goes, lick the honey off the thorn, and ask no questions.
But I digress. Taney’s misplaced but real originalist courage got the miraculous Reconstruction Amendments (the 13th for no slavery and payment for work, the 14th for equal protection of the laws and the 15th for black male voting rights) passed. Lincoln learned from Taney that nothing short of the 13th in particular would work, and as chronicled (by Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book Team of Rivals, and Steve Spielberg in his great film Lincoln) Honest Abe, devious as always, kept the Civil War going long enough to get the 13th passed.
Taney probably did not believe in his heart that the Constitution was a covenant with death and an agreement with hell as did the crusading Abolitionist jurist William Lloyd Garrison but given his decision this may be the case as Taney, along with many Southroners, evolved out of racism when he saw how racist the Constitution was, in which the black man had no rights that the Constitution need respect.
It’s as if Taney forced a drunken and out of control Constitution, lying on the whiskey-bespattered floor of the saloon, raving that “a black man’s got no raaaghts a white man like me need respect!!” to take a look at itself in the mirror and Amend its ways.
Political Correctness in this regard be damned. My reading of Dred Scott could probably float were I a real historian, and resolve at least one North-South divide in American history.
In Wilmette house trying to find a computer that worked in order to finish a work project. Then, running from the south side of Chicago to the north. Stopped in a neighborhood of beautiful old homes (resembles my ex-wife’s neighborhood) offered a drink of water, and went to a meeting at the neighborhood church.
With the fond blessing of, and to the tolerant amusement of, the congregation I had a smoke during the meeting. Made me feel lousy.
Found it hard to leave the church because the steps down from its main door had turned into giant steps or I’d gotten smaller as in Alice in Wonderland.
A Tiresome Magazine Editor
Rick Lewis of Philosophy Now, a British, generalist-Pop magazine of philosophy, evinced mild interest in my long-since blog-published article on the logic of conspiracy theory, but didn’t like the symbolism (on behalf of course of the Philosophy Now reader who might not) and said he’d get back to me…whenever.
However, I can remember the day when magazine editors would get back to authors in a fixed and published amount of time, with acceptance letters or rejection slips. I can also remember the day when symbolism was thought cool, and suddenly I flipped out.
I don’t need to write to survive. It would be a nice way to make a little extra savings, perhaps to travel to see the grandkids or to give them when I kick the bucket, and as you know, I am one goddamn hell of a terrific writer…who like Moe “Stooge” Howard, probably doesn’t know his own value…and as in the case of Moe, it’s in nobody’s interest to tell him so (Moe died broke having made Stooge shorts most of his career on a low salary).
Therefore when I received a sniffish Brit reply after my initial reply to the Lewis proposal, from one of Lewis’ dogs bodies, and to the effect that “we don’t choose to pursue this further”, I replied with finality that as a Yank I wasn’t to be kept on a leash, etc. … you get the picture. I am certain that the Limeys even more so “don’t choose to pursue” this fox any further as their hounds bay in disappointment.
I’ve had it up to here with a trickle-down society in which the creatives are so often treated shabbily, kept on a hook, not told their value, and in many other ways exploited by the dullards, the tools, the dogsbodies.
I might submit to academic peer-reviewed journals in the future but overall I am an instant gratification man…you know, one of those Baby Boomers you read about, who had every whim satisfied by Mom and Grandmother in the late 1940s and 1950s. As were my younger of several uncles starting in the late 1930s after Grandfather hit pay dirt; they’d take a candy from a box on the dining room table, bite into it, and, if it contained a fruit, carefully return the half-eaten piece to its place.
Of course, the Second World War, that Father who, according to Richard (“Revolutionary Road”?) Yates, could never be satisfied, intervened and taught at least that generation a few lessons, but we of the haute bourgeois were given the option of skipping “our” war in Vietnam. The Army needed stupid men for actual combat in Vietnam.
With the result that unfashionably according to authorities of succeeding generations, I seek instant gratification. Indeed, I just asked for a painkiller since my usual butt ache just generalized into pain in both hips.
However, I’d ask the psychometrics boys that even if the ability to defer gratification is correlated with social success, is it correlated with the things that used to matter? Thinkers as diverse as Slavoj Zizek and Malcolm Muggeridge have pointed out that saints might often be bad at deferred gratification; Zizek in particular says that the saint is a saint because she goes for what she wants and Muggeridge echoes this in a bio of a saint whose name escapes me.
Sure, my Chinese students can defer gratification and memorize law books and similar material as needed. On that production of Measure for Measure from which I was so unceremoniously booted in 2011 for being an “asubordinate” Yank (ahh, let’s coin a neologism) the star, the Duke Senior, memorized a large line load flawlessly before rehearsals started.
But when I met him after the production ended and attempted to exchange with him Escalus’s far fewer lines that I’d memorized, he said he could not remember a single line, since he memorized the line load, he said, in the same way he studies for examinations: cram and then forget.
I found this incredible. I still remember the Latin responses required of altar boys at Catholic Masses and Satan’s speech after his defeat from Milton’s Paradise Lost (“If thou be’est he, but O! how fal’n, how chang’d/From him who in the happy Realms of Light…) for a rote education should have some lasting value as opposed to checking off boxes on the way to le grande confort Americaine that we’re supposed to all want.
I find memorization hard but rewarding (among other things, a cure for addictions) because the very act seems to gently inscribe with the finger of God, whorls and curlicues into my aging brain tissue which is softened and made younger thereby. You can almost feel the physical effect of proper, permanent memorization as you dig down deep with a finger inscribe the material on your brain-mind.
My poor son Eddie who died, who died once fell on his arse and head when he was a little kid, and he said “I hurt my mind”. He was good. Too good for this world. I am certain he dances in Elysium. Wish I had the balls and lyre-playing skills of an Orpheus. I’d plead with the Furies to let me pass thru Hades to fetch Eddie.