Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Nobody Said it Was Going to be Easy

Dostoevsky in Notes from the Underground might have had a point when he suggested that for the living, suffering was the point.

Then again, Tolstoy might also have had a point when he suggested in The Death of Ivan Ilych that we are all Ivan Ilych.

What, one wonders, did Nathaniel Hawthorne mean when he wrote in his classic, The House of the Seven Gables, "In this republican country, amid the fluctuating waves of our social life, somebody is always at the drowning point."?

Who would venture to say that using his Yankee ingenuity he was subtly hinting that it might not be a bad idea to manufacture more life-rafts to keep the sharks at bay?

If You See Something, Say Something

In his magnum opus, World of Our Fathers, Irving Howe wrote:

"The inevitable law of sectarianism--that in the absence of mass participation and social power it is ideology that becomes the substance of politics."

While that might be true, the word 'substance' seems to have relatively little meaning today, because, sadly, both the issues that politicians choose to discuss, and tragically, the politicians themselves, are found spectacularly lacking in the stuff.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Monkey Sees, Monkey Tells

In his splendidly original and lyrical novel of Magical Realism, "Red Earth and Pouring Rain", Vikram Chandra leads the willing reader on a journey to places usually discovered only in dreams. Good dreams.

When asked the following important questions, Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, answers wisely:

Q: Why are there hypocrites in the world?
A: Because it is hard to bear the happiness of others.

Q: When are we happy?
A: When we desire nothing and realize that possession is only momentary...

Q: What is regret?
A: To realize that one has spent one's life worrying about the future.

Q: What is sorrow?
A: To long for the past.

Q: What is the highest pleasure?
A: To hear a good story.

In Chandra's sweeping novel one hears many a good story.