* An Essay Concerning Human Understanding; a novella

Prefatory Remarks

Here we are in the garden of my vanity, and across the lawn we go. The grass is high, has not been cut since I do not know when, and down the hole we go with the whole of human history, anonymous me I can say with impunity . . . .

Where and when are here and now. All writing has immediacy, an unavoidable presentness about it, and what I say here in words on a page, printed for easy reading because my handwriting is shit, is in the moment. I am who I am even when I am not being the me I have been before, a me correlative only to a contingent I, an I that others I know might not recognize. I am me with every stranger I meet even if with that stranger I lie through my teeth and tell no truth in the factual sense of truth we sometimes hold too pedantically dear, close without feeling.

I am. This is simple enough because all lists of attributes are modes of subtraction, really. I am unable to be sum-totaled; I am macrocosmic to all microcosms, the microcosm of history, the one of state, of government, of gender, of sexual orientation, of religion, of politics, of political affiliation, of job, of class, et cetera.Who am I? I do not ask this question because as I have said above, I am that I am when I am who and what I am wherever I am however it is that I am me. I am subject and object and subject complement and every other way of stating my being in words, which means language, which means in grammar, which exists independent of politics, if you will, before it, although rhetoric is not.

Do you need an answer to each of these questions now that I am herein mentioning them as not having the relevance you insist they have. Now that it has come to the fore that I have not before answered or even attempted to answer any of these questions you think are useful–unless what I have thus far said could be said to have some say in the matter of my who and my what, at least in the ways you prefer to frame discussions of being, because you do discuss being even when you argue that being is impossible, or improbable, and the only thing we have is perpetual becoming into becoming into becoming yet again, all of it without gain.

You have decided you do not need to ask yourself the once pressing questions of being, whether existence precedes essence or vice-versa, and all the essences, the prefab essentials of our being precede the existence I have, and determine who I am, certainly what I am. You probably haven’t realized that you decided this, or why you might have, if that is in fact what has been done. The only determinism of your being, though, is the fact that you believe your life has been horribly determined, which coincides with a culture that gorges itself on victimhood and philosophies of victimization. These determinisms you believe you uncover, are in fact created by a system of belief you have firmly placed yourself inside of, and this self enclosure masquerades in your diction as inescapable determinism.

I am who I am that I am when I am how I am where I am even why I am, I say, I think, therefore I believe; belief displaces dialectic in me. What then do I say about all the interrogatives that can be extended from eacc relative pronominal relationship to my I. Everyone thinks that who what when where and why are important, very important, but then I am who I am, as I am what am I, where I am, and so on. I have not answered these questions in any way that proves overarching to my becoming; to my being is another thing, another essay, perhaps. You probably haven’t asked yet these questions ontologically. What are our theories of being? Do we have them, or do we only have theories of becoming, perpetual, endless becoming.

To philosophize is to learn how to die we know from Montaigne, but imagination is necessary to philosophize I learned from Doc Green as I called him, Doc. Imagination most people do not associate with philosophy, nor do they with eternity, as Blake reminds us time and again that imagination is the doorway to the eternal. Imagination was a faculty of mind most highly prized by the Romantics, suspicious of rationality as they were, or how the rational was used s a tool against humanity, the great human humane when human is only human when humane, as the French distinguish duality between the two in one word, humaine, and we Anglo saxon speakers create dichotomy with our tongue. But then I suspect this is why in a country so seemingly committed to democracy and freedom we can speak out of the mouths of our leaders with forked tongues. The Nazis and the Bolsheviks were both hyper-rational, not imaginative, unless it was in the expenditures on torture, oppression, and murder.

Yet, who I am, when I am, where I am, with whom I am, how I am before I become what I am–yes, I am and I am not simultaneously. All is lost to other loses. I will be, but I will not be as well. This question of identity; you know Identity spells ID entity. The it within; monsters again arising inside of me. Round and round I go, the Italians say, gira, gira . . . each pose I take posits somewhere outside of me something imposed inside of me. Imposing, posing, positing, depositing, a repository of a kind, this Self of selves within. What do I gain by the poses I take? Each intake, each out-take, put as it might be. Again, who am I? is the question who are we? I am once again . . .

Monster me, monster me, when is it that I am this monster me? Yes, when, not how. The how of my monster is easily determined. There is duality in my nature; it is easy for me to understand this dualism that is my humanity and my animality. As a Christian I am taught to accept the dual nature of Jesus Christ; a duality that is one hundred per cent human and one hundred per cent divine. You do not need to be Christian to understand this; however, Jesus for Christians is not like Apollo or Dionysus for ancient Greeks no matter how many reductions the traditions have been forced to fit.

Jesus had free-will to reject his divinity, I presume. I am not certain of the theology here, what the official word is on this in my Church. I wish I were more sure, that I knew more than I do on this. Nonetheless, it seems to me that his divinity would have had to have been an option for him. The significance of free-will in the three great monotheistic religions is impossible to overlook and demands inclusion in any assessment. The whole point of the Son of God who had been begotten not made before time and creation to incarnate in the person of Yehuda ben Miriam was so he could experience life as a man, live as a man, choose as a man, suffer as a man. This is integral to the entire schema of Christianity whether there is Truth or nothing true in the whole of it. Jesus had to choose to be engaged with the divinity of his nature; even Jesus at the start had only divine potential. The actuality was distinct. Christ contends with his humanity and his divinity, a duality, not a dichotomy. Likewise, I contend with my humanity and my animality. I am not human by simply having been born. Humanity is a choice. Humanity is not then an inherited nature except in potential. Remember, Jesus is one-hundred per cent human and one-hundred per cent divine, not fifty-fifty like Dionysus or Apollo, as alluded to above.

Likewise, I am animal; I am human. I am both, each one-hundred per cent worth. I am also neither human nor animal in that by being both simultaneously I become yet something else–someone else, all within one body. Another monster me to be? One flesh; many persons; many yet one; I am we. The actuality of humanity is a process, a nurture within the animal who chooses this option, an election. I am capable of Reason, this related to knowledge, thus the Sapiens of my species. This choice to be human, that is, humane, is by comparison, a monster me coexisting with the animal me. My animal nature would reject the humane; it despises the human potential in me; it resents the pull of humanity. A species of animal is a species of animal–here I separate animal from human; here I make a distinctions between what is human and what is simply animal.

Human nature coexists with the animal nature that precedes it, if you will. Thus, our humanity is exceptional; it is not a given.  The Homo sapiens is a species of animal with an animal’s nature, of course. We must not, though, confuse this animal nature for our human nature, no matter how many Venn Diagrams may show us how the human and the animal overlap. If being human in the way we mean when being human is to be humane–and this here is key–is what it means to have humanity as a quality and not a category to belong to, then having been born an infant homo-sapiens is not enough, although in potential, I can be human. If being this human is different from being the co-existing homo-sapiens as another species of animal, one among many in Nature, then it might qualify as a monstrosity, as Darwin defines monstrosity in Chapter II, right  early in his civilization changing On the Origin of Species. By monstrosity is meant “some considerable deviation of structure, generally injurious, or not useful to the species.” What we call humane is something other than what we call animal, when what we mean by animal is brutal, nasty and red in tooth and claw, if I might borrow from Darwin’s great contemporary, Tennyson, in the latter’s reference to Nature, the Naturalists nature, not the nature of the Romantics. Yes, humanity is a deviation in the structure of the homo-sapiens, when it is the sapiens part of the species that distinguishes it as a species among others. The fact that being humane is in itself, when it is itself, non-utilitarian, there is no part of our humanity, when we mean acting and being humane, that is useful to the homo-sapiens. For a Christian, the primary nature of Jesus is divine; he grows into his humanity and through choices, perhaps fostered by his conscious or preconscious or unconscious knowledge of his divinity, develops that humanity into the living human Jesus. 

Humanity, as an exception, is thereby a monstrosity in the development of the Homo sapiens; thus, to be human is to be a monster. When I am humane I am, in contrast to the homo-sapiens nature I am born with, the monster me. Yes, in contrast with the nature of the Homo-sapiens, human, as we mean when human is humane, is a monster, a monstrosity. This sense of monster is reserved for Victor Frankenstein’s monster, at one time called his being, that which in his “living’ context, is Victor’s creation–but it is this sense of monstrosity he bears into the world, a monstrousness framed by his otherness among other humans–for it is a human Victor Frankenstein tries to create–that the being succumbs to, is destroyed by. He forgets, though, that humans are not created but nurtured and chosen; Victor and his being both ignore the native monstrosity that is a human being. Victor’s being was desperate to have this human modifier placed in front of his reference as a being. He did not recognize that his overt and exteriorized monstrousness was native to all of humanity in each and every member, perhaps only interiorized, the alienation each of us suffers in our selves within the Self, the many selves Self suffering monstrous alienation from each other, in some, so severe as to crack the veneer of singularity and break out in a multiplicity of warring selves too the destruction  of any sane personality–what we also forget is our maskality. His creation is on the lines of the homo-sapiens, but is it really his disfigurement at the hands of his patchwork making? His true monstrosity arrives from Victor abdicating his responsibility to his creation. The being calls him on this by saying that he could have been Victor’s Adam. But the crime of hubris has already overcome Victor and he recoils, as I recoil from this monster me, a monstrosity of my nature, this human I choose.

To be me is to be many, to be one, to be someone never having been, to be who I have always been, to be someone I might have been once, someone I could yet be, someone I might be if. I am another self and another self and another . . . I am other too. What other I do not know yet; this other is chosen, embraced by necessity otherwise it becomes another monster set to destroy me. There are many monsters within me. To be many might seem confusing, but it is not. I am who I am whenever I am anyone I am, wherever I might be, with whomever I am.

Wondering who I am within who we are, this who we are by who I am all about when I am or where I am, and when and where I am going; to come and go. I become when I be-go. I am a cosmogony that does not get repeated; yet I am also all of humanity. The fact that I am cosmogonic allows me to stand in for all human beings, a posture I take, and I do take postures as well as pose them, put them on as I put on everyone else–all the world’s a stage . . . I do become anyone I need to be. I am many; thus I am we. But what I need to be is often a mystery to me.

Every time I look in the mirror with the question, who am I, I get a different answer. The I I am depends on coordinates of time and space drawn by another hand. Eternity lurks in me, I have assumed, like a trace of the background radiation on spectral analysis of the cosmos. To be or to become is present in my choice now, and we always choose to be or to become, we cannot avoid choosing. Choice is always for the taking; each choice a chance we encounter; every chance results in our fortune or misfortune. Who I am trips me up. I’m not especially clumsy, but all this wondering about who I am what I have been when I will be what and where, how or why . . . I never watch my feet as I walk down a flight of stairs. You know why the lisper lisps.

I determine who I am, or what I become, I assume; I am as much Everyman as I am unique in the entire history of the cosmos. I am unique in this way. No one who has ever lived, who lives now, or will ever live is me. No one in any of these times or places–no one–occupies the coordinates of space and time as I do in this spot at this moment. All is ephemeral, though.

I stand at the shore in Montauk looking up at the swath of white in the night sky, looking dead center into the galactic plane, a squirt from Hera’s tit, my father had told me when I was a boy. In all of the North eastern United States, Montauk Point is one of the darkest spots at night, great star-gazing.

My to be or to become arises like a particle in the vacuum of space-time. The question crosses my mind from time to time, has crossed my mind, has crossed everyone’s mind. I look to the stars as I had when I was a boy and I feel a strange peace and yet a familiar one, first one then the other then the other again and then a mixture of both, awash in the vastness of the night sky, its depth, something that tears away the consciousness of flesh, at first thought, a liberation, at next, transcendence. What do I know in my mind; what do I know in my soul . . . this latter idea is a notion many in our culture take as a symbol, not actual, tangible . . . could it have tactility?

Mind and soul are dichotomy in English. In French they are a duality, l’ame is the one word for both in French, in English–it is clear they share no etymology. Closing one’s mind in French is closing one’s soul. I remember having missed this once when a French woman had asked me about a book she was looking for, The Closing of the American Soul. I did not know what book she was talking about although I knew, somewhere in my mind that day that there was a book which had been recently published, The Closing of the American Mind.

Duality is two-ness connected, perhaps even contingent. Connection and contingency are not identical; they do not share absolute synonymy, no, perhaps only a loosely tethered connotation. Things in dichotomy are too disconnected, perhaps even without the ability to connect or re-connect. There is distinction in these terms we need to understand, that we need to define whenever discussions of our humanity arise. We face, confront, create, manipulate, examine, analyze, talk about many dualities and dichotomies throughout the course of our lives. One such duality, or is it a dichotomy–and this is another very interesting and important fact in our discussion of duality and dichotomy; through one lens, things under examination might be seen as a duality, through another, as a dichotomy. Two such things are mind and soul.

Duality is what it says. Dual is two. A duality is something in two; there are two parts, perhaps of one whole, but if one whole, the sub-parts must be exclusive. When light can be said to maintain the properties of both wave and particle; this is duality. Duality focuses on the twoness of one thing. Duality is an expression of parts. Dichotomy is an expression of distinct entireties. They are two separate whole things even if they are related, maybe even contingent in some ways, connected by something physical or metaphysical; but they remain apart in other ways, under other analyses. When this is the case, as drawn here, this is dichotomy.

Dichotomy is the contrast between two things that are either different, as in distinct, or related in some way, yet maintaining a distinction that is contrastive. Delineating contrast, thus revealing dichotomy, might have the effect of placing two things under analysis in juxtaposition. Yes, two things represented as being opposed or distinct is what we mean by dichotomy. And here “representation” is key. How things are presented again in the process of comparison is also part of what appears to be duality and what seems to be dichotomy–comparison, here, is used in the fullest sense, that is, predicating contrast. Any comparison that does not contest is a limited and restricted way to compare. The language we choose is implicit in the representation of dichotomy and the representation of duality.

Can two parts of duality be made to appear dichotomous? I imagine this might be possible–probable, even. For Americans, mind and soul are a dichotomy; they are two separate things, perhaps related, perhaps cross-functional, but separate and distinct. For the French, they are a duality. Mind and soul share one word in French and therefore are expressed by different connotations, not separate denotations. In English, mind and soul have separate categories of inclusion and therefore remain, under some analyses, mutually exclusive; they possess different denotations. In other analyses, mind and soul in English language explications might share overlap, as one could express using one of those Venn diagrams teachers in Middle Schools across the United States are so in favor of using to show contrastive states and mutual states, states where conditions for one or the other thing are separate and where they might overlap or share mutability. Articulation in explication is not  denotation.

Mind and body in most understandings are a duality; so much more the suffering of a person if they are in dichotomy. The twoness of each is distinct from the other. It is only in this twoness that they share any likeness, but it is not enough for them to share any synonymy. There is no synonymy for the two. In the sense that mind and soul share categorically defining criteria, they are in duality. Where they are separate, mutually distinct, they are dichotomous.

The answers to the questions that arise lie with the process of analysis, the analysis itself being the lens of refraction, the boundaries of representation. Nonetheless, in the French language, mind and soul are a duality, their mutual category of inclusion announces this; any distinction between the two is expressed by the one word having different connotations in distinct contexts of meaning. In the English language, the two ideas begin in separate categories and come together at certain or less than certain points where we can express likeness, similarity, something mutual and perhaps even reciprocal between them.

Thinking in the English language, we imagine that we can close the mind and keep the soul open, or vice-versa, close our soul, as we sometimes mean when we talk about opening and closing the heart. We do imagine we can keep the mind open and the soul closed, but we also imagine that closing the soul narrows the mind. We say things like, keep an open mind about keeping your heart opened to love, for instance. But soul as something deeper? bigger? whatever have we in words that can handle the theological construct that is soul, soul in the religions of the world, and herein I am not going to go in for a closer or more articulate examination of the differences or the similarities between spirit and soul. Her we are examining the words in English, ‘soul’ and ‘mind,’ and how they  are related, how they are even a duality in other cultures, read languages, namely here, French. Again, in French, there is one word for both, each one never veering too far from the other. In English at best they are a dichotomy, otherwise they stand as mutually exclusive categories of mind, each one what Kant would call noumena. Interesting how the mind conceives of itself not as phenomena, but as noumena, at least as I understand this. Soul is an idea in the mind as mind is an idea in the mind.

Linguistically splitting mind from soul into a dichotomy has had dangerous repercussions for our humanity, how we elect to be human, or what we call being human and thus set as a choice to be fulfilled in determining the human.  I’m talking about meaning, not what the French practice. We too have to connect to the meaning of our humanity, of our being human because we cannot set our sights on our practice alone, we’d drown in the hypocrisy.

Mind is the cognitive faculties that allows for consciousness in itself, allows for perception, judgement, thinking, memory . . . many of the characteristics we associate with humans exclusively or predominantly or in hierarchy within. We are not going to discuss the mind of dolphins or collective mind, which we could call mentality, as I have always separated mentality from psychology. The former is what a people have, the latter, an individual. Soul is an incorporeal essence of a person, it is in many traditions, the immortal essence, in some, a transmigratory one. Both in duality leaves each contingent with the other, both mutual and reciprocal. For French, for example, there is no soul without consciousness; in English, we can soul without what we call consciousness, or so it seems. Higher elections in thought do not directly affect the progress of the soul, at least as far as their existence as a dichotomy goes. Where mind and soul are a duality, higher election in one directly affects the other; this is unavoidable through their duality, their contingency, their mutual and reciprocal metaphysical state. One is not better than the other, one can only be preferable in a subjective way to anyone disposed to thinking about mind and soul and the existence of these non-locatable essences.

The most intelligent way of handling these ideas is the most articulate way of handling them, and is to employ the What if. What if mind and soul are a dichotomy, then what? What if they are a duality, then what? Thought takes place in language I was taught, no word, the thought in itself, no word itself the thing. I remember the imagists. I remember Pound and H.D. I should say H.D. and Pound. I like her better than I do Pound. I spent some time in imitation, I tried to mean, myself already having discovered something of the Imagists before discovering them. Their mark on 20th century American poetry was profound.

Is there a way to say what I think? I used to believe that I only know what I think when I write; it would be absurd to say that I am going to continue to write to find out what I think about what I think. Maybe not. To think or not to think has been many a man’s to be or not. How do I make someone feel what I feel. I can’t make someone feel what I feel. I cannot force someone to stand under me, to hold me up.  Who would let my weight press down on him her it? She lets this be my weight on her? All understanding is standing under; underlying needs lying under how I have been taught to fall. Falling, falling, I remember last fall the leaves that were falling. All is tumbling down when I fall; the tomb is the final fall; tomb from the French, to fall. I wrote in a poem how the season does what it says, says what it does–English is truly colorful–what does this have to do with what we say when we say it how we say where we do? The same is true for the spring, what nature does in the spring. There is a spring in my step in the spring with life springing back. Spring is life is living renewing itself?

To fall in French, again, is tomber, the origin of our word tomb, as I have said above. It is also the origin of our word ‘tumble.’ When we die, we take the final fall, we tumble into our tomb no matter if we are entombed or not. I recall a song about a room being a tomb. Our rooms are our tombs; how many of us stay indoors, indoors, indoors. We wonder why we get fat. How can we avoid raping the environment when so many of us who assume we should be concerned stay indoors, inside, inside, noting outside, and then we deny objectivity, endorse one overarching subjectivity and wonder how we have become solipsists.

We can’t love Nature because we have no contact with her; it is she, her, hers, this Nature. And the journey in that we should take, the one inside ourselves, we avoid like we think we need to avoid AIDS. Our reclusiveness gives us the illusion we are in contact with our interiority.

I suddenly realize that I can’t help anyone. A person needs to help others help him. You can’t wait for others to help you while you do nothing, and not only nothing, but everything in your power to undermine another’s help. Gravity, gravitas; the gravity of things, of people, of events, of experience, of the earth, of death, of living, of seeing, of remembering, where is this weightlessness I used to seek. Our fascination for speed and flight and violence is one or another breaking out or breaking free. But in the final analysis, no one really helps anyone. A person would have to be able to let go of himself in order to let someone help him; if he could do that, he might not need the help he would have to be able to help in order to receive. My life sometimes seems as if it has become a falling into the grave, a grave is grave, all about grave matters, I remember my Catechism on Mortal Sins–with these we kill the soul.

I promised an essay, and I had intended that it be an essay in a form most were familiar with, at least the traditional essay, not the academic ones we had entertained since our matriculation, no. The form of the essay as initiated, we do like to say, by Montaigne, but there have been others I have read frequently and over and again; others who have left their marks on the form, on my ideas of the form, their imprint on my style, if you will, perhaps more or less obvious in this or that essay . . . who may they be? The essays of Orwell, of Camus, and Baldwin, to name only a few––I am a man. There are of course many, many others. How many other? Who has written at least one literary essay of any merit that I have read? The list would be very, very, very long; virtually endless. More on these names and the merits attached to them upcoming. What is it that I intend herein could be assessed through the reading . . . that being the doing which completes the understanding rather than the diving most of us do when we should be reasonable. I do not think I can pretend as Monatiagne more successfully had, wearing the masks of privacy and domesticity in his writing Les Essais, The Essays, from essayer, in other words, to try, to put on trial . . . an essay being that, a trial of ideas . . . a test of their worthiness, appropriateness, soundness, what else have we in words that express the notion that ideas must have quality?

I will have to have this published in parts. It will be too long as it is for any one printing? How many others I have read at least something of, from, by . . . prose non-fiction? I have supported the writing of fictional essays . . . even what could be called fictional essays NOT for the purposes of presenting fiction but  a mask for the essay form to wear? Counting the essayists or prose non-fiction writers I have read is not what I intend to accomplish here in this author’s preface–myself the author of the essays, but then what does that have to do with or say on the facts of exposition because every exposition has an expositor, I guess as everyone has a Self of many selves, each writer is many authors? No, not exactly. Every author is many, what? She has many voices––which voice is contained herein? A series of essays might have each one of them a separate expositor, no? Yes, she. In this, the actualities of gender by birth or by personal assignation––and choice does carry assignation, the assigning of identity from within or from outside the person (itself cognomen with the Latin for “mask”) is either one either way, any way, assigning in itself assignation.

To mask is to conceal something from view, we understand easily enough. Can masking be separate from the act of disguising or hiding. Are there forms of concealment that are neither of the latter two meanings we could attach to the named action, to mask? More questions will ensue. Questions about whether to mask is to protect; we know that we have in use a connotation for the verb to cover that entails protection. I see a neighbor cover his motorcycle from time to time; he is attempting to protect it from the elements as the cycle stands outside in front of his home.

A mask is a thing, not an action. It is something that covers all or part of the face. Masks have been worn in religious rituals; masks are worn at Halloween; masks are worn as part of a costume at masquerades; masks are worn at Mardi Gras or Carnival.  Masks are also worn by criminals. Masks cover the face, hide the face from view, remove it from recognition; their intention is to give a different appearance to the public gaze, to perhaps, although not by necessity, to conceal one’s true intentions or feelings, for there is no culture on earth, in history, that has not associated the face with what one feels or is feeling or intends towards another.  A mask removes the wearer from some recognition of his or her person, which we have by custom and culture associated with the face, although the eyes may present personhood, there are expressions of face that are accepted parts of personality and mood that masks hide. masks are worn b y catchers in baseball, all players in American football, and by goaltenders in ice hockey; these are masks of protection.  We know of the use of masks in rituals and in forms of drama, in Ancient Greek and Roman drama, as well as in KaBuKi.

Wearing masks cannot be removed from all of these at once and which of these can be separated from the others entirely is not something I believe is possible, so if one wears a mask of any kind at any time, he or she is engaging in an act of concealment, an attempt to hide or protect, and unless there is a pre-negotiated context for wearing the mask, yes a socially negotiated context for wearing one, the act is one of hiding and disguising which is in itself asocial at least, antisocial at worst. Sociopathic it might be. We shall see.

A Muslim woman who wears the niqab as a way to let others know she is unavailable is in effect a context that could be understood outside Muslim society/ies, and especially so in non-Muslim societies. Muslim women, though, must understand that in civil contexts where a face must be put to a name for the purposes of official communication and identification, the niqab must be removed. I know as a western man, that if a woman is wearing a niqab, even if I do not know why, she appears unapproachable by all the negotiations of social contact and interaction that I understand. This is what some married Muslim women wear to signal their unavailability which is more overt than a wedding ring.

A Muslim woman cannot take an ID photo while wearing a niqab; to think she should be allowed to is less than idiocy. The presence of niqabs in public forums in many European countries is not an act of discrimination against Muslims because the niqab has its roots in culture and not Holy Koran. To imagine that a public school system should have to tolerate the wearing of the niqab by teachers or students is absurd. To imagine that women wearing the niqab is not a symbol of women’s continued marginalization is ridiculous. Even I think shawls or head coverings should not be worn in ID photos and that there might be a need to remove head coverings for the purposes of identification because I am sure that hair color and hair length and hair style and the face outside of head covering goes further in positively identifying someone. What if a western woman has a different hair cut from her ID photo? I’ve experienced this with my wife at Kennedy. Never mind what happened. The fact that her hair cut and color were different enough for her to have to step aside before she was allowed back into the United States from France was understandable to us; asking Muslim women to remove their head covering should also be required and for both the taking of the photo and the identifying of the subject. Suffice it to say that there were questions about her identity that were eventually resolved without much ado.

I still have the initial sense of being put off by the niqab. There is no necessity for it; again, it is a cultural affectation and not a religious one mandated by Holy Koran. I know that if I wore a mask, the police would stop me, perhaps even arrest me. If I am wearing a hat, I am asked to remove it to take an ID photo and would be asked to remove it by anyone who wished to positively identify me in comparison with my ID photo. The feigned naivety concerning the responses from non-Muslims about Muslim women wearing the niqab in western societies that many Muslims present seems often disingenuous. I don’t think they want inclusion, and the niqab says that loud and clear. In this way I believe it is an impediment to pluralism even. There is no desire for a multicultural society from someone who wears it. It speaks loud and clear that “I don’t want any part of your culture or your civilization and don’t approach me because I don’t want any part of you or yours.” But then what should we say about tattooing or body piercing or being a   transvestite. Is it more acceptable for a man to dress as a woman as long as he does not cover his face . . . but he is covering his face if he is making himself up to appear as a woman might appear to others looking at him/her, appearing in a way that we have accepted as womanly? What is make-up but a fictionalized face. Is wearing eyeliner and heavy compact and lipstick not wearing a mask or a veil, in as much as make-up veils and does not mask? If women, though, are allowed to wear make-up for their driver’s license photo, then they also should not be surprised if a police officer who has pulled them over at 7:30 AM after having dropped off their child at school and before they have taken the chance to put on make-up, that the aforementioned police officer might need them to step out of the car for a longer scrutiny in comparison betwen photo with make-up and unadorned face.

But what then does this or do these have to do with what I read, how I read, when I do for what I do for whom? Again, the many selves Self does perform multiple readings in a single setting, endeavor, if one has trained one’s Self to do as such . . .

I know I have read or studied Addison and Steele, Hazlitt, Benjamin, Arnold, Swinburne, Johnson, Eliot, Woolf, Traherne . . . a paper on Centuries of Meditation . . . who else, how many else, other forms read, critiqued . . . adjuncts to the essay . . . to essay on the essay form . . . trials, and trials of ideas, of course, who did not include Donne’s Meditations or his Sermons . . . how many philosophical essays have I read? How does a man like myself forget to add Francis Bacon or Thomas Moore or Erasmus or the letters of Keats to his sister and brother, or the letters of Van Gogh or Frncois Truffaut or the journals of Cocteau, or the non-fiction of Marguerite Duras or who else? I have been keeping literary journals, literary reviews on line now for a decade or more . . . the words herein having been written over the last twenty to twenty five years . . . you will feel the in and out of that time place, that space in text devoted to inferences of time, time as continuum, time as all of ti one, time as the tunnel we move through; time as the arrow that flies by; time as represented or indicated in the mind by how thought moves, shifts, shuffles along, remains still . . . I am a man; I am what I am how I am when I am wherever that is that I become myself or someone else, something else, what is there to say about the many selves Self in relation to the many masks the selves wear by their nature . . ., what is it we must understand about mask wearing . . . how we wear masks by nature independent of how we put on masks for ay one of a number of reasons, some or many of them having nothing really to do with anxiety or fear or subjection or subjugation or repression or oppression , , , ? Yes, many . . . and this is the norm, and it is also normal in any of the ways we intend to mean something positive, affirmative, additive, helpful, what is it we mean when we say, pro-active? I do hate so much of what we virtually turn immediately into cliché . . . trite, trite, trite is your tribute.

A singular vision is an exceptional one. A singular person is a person of exceptional qualities.  Now a singularity in astrophysics is another term for black hole, an exceptional occurence in stellar evolution. The matter of a particularly massive star at the end of its life collapses, thus increasing its density where then its gravitational field is increased to a point where no radiation can escape. Light is held “inside,” as laymen like to say, by this intense gravity, thus its apparent blackness, at least as viewed from outside the “event horizon.”  Now what’s at the heart of the human soul, or however dark one’s life or mind or experiences may or may not be, there is something of the physics of stars that is correlative to the human soul.  There are fires and motions for sure; there is a whole thermodynamics of human soul; there are rotations, revolutions, fusions and fissions, supernovae and singularity events.

Now, I have not given up on the existence of soul, nor have I decided that mind is of greater valency than any of the ancient or traditional notions of soul, regardless of what my contemporary world might view as correct and dogma, at least in one or another cultural variations on its pseudo-scientific understanding of its science. We must remember that what psychologists refer to as mind is not more tangible than this thing soul, which can still be understood as transcendent and absolutely irreducible, as I believe it is. The mind is not more empirically verifiable just because psychology has hegemony over philosophy or religion in American culture.  But all psychology began as philosophy of mind, and most philosophical inquiry had an inception or parallel rise along with theology.

Mind is certainly void of any tactility as is also the human soul–and I reassert herein the tangibility of both mind and soul irrespective of either having no tactility. Tactility, we must remember, is not the sole verifier of the real. I am not going to play ping-pong between the idea of soul and the idea of mind. It is important to note that neither soul nor mind can be touched in the way a body can be, or a rock, or any thing that has this ability to be known through the senses; but then neither does freedom nor love have this tactility, although both are tangible and have their effects that we feel, as we say, language sometimes limited in how it expresses experience, limited in how it expresses our emotions, our thoughts, our perceptions, the extensions of these in one or another of the others, each mutually reciprocal in human experience.

Mind has not been located by psychologists any more than soul has been by theologians. Once more, each is tangible, yes; yet, both are non-tactile. This is crucial. Tangibility is not dependent on tactility, and we do know things without the evidence that phenomenology could bear, and apart from epistemological investigation. We can experience each of them, though. Nonetheless, mind has come to surpass soul in believability. The former has virtually universal acceptance; the latter a great deal of hesitation in accepting the idea, or varying degrees of incredulity in any discussion of its existence.

The French resolve the mind/soul distinction in one term, a clustered idea of a soul-mind/mind-soul contingency. The French say l’ame (circumflex over the ‘a’) for both. In this way, the French language has framed them as contingent entities, mutual, if not interchangeable. There is duality present in the French; there is dichotomy, if we understand dichotomy as bi-relational yet separate, or with some divergence. How is it that we have to insist on a hierarchy for two things that should not have been a dichotomy to begin with; we do have in English a dichotomy where the French understand duality.

For greater human understanding, we must set our linguistic experiences of things in the world or things in human interaction or things of mind and soul as we have herein done so far, as well as how we express them, in a forum of competing acceptance with other linguistic experiences and how they are expressed. What though is the Self? Could it perhaps remain distinct categorically from what we mean by psychology, mentality or personality? Who am I inside? Who do I become outside? Outside in this place, at that time, here or there, then or now . . . wherever however whenever? Should I ask, what are they, when I am asking about this who I am?

They is the appropriate pronoun for the many selves inside of me, of course.  I have taken the idea of a many selves Self as evident. Each self in the Self is integral, though, which leads to confusion in some, as well as confusion for how to articulate their existence and their interplay in mind–just what the relationship of the Self to soul is has been could be must eventually be determined for a greater understanding of the nature of mind, the nature of soul, and these things can and do have nature. I am not so disintegrated that I cannot understand a person wanting to have himself referred to as they . . .

The difficulty anyone faces when trying to connect with another is that the I is already a plurality.  I am we, for sure.  There is no room left for anyone else, it seems, or so I believe.  Of course we are familiar with Shakespeare’s all the world’s a stage . . . all the Self as well. The many parts we play in the world are multiplied by contexts, with whom, for whom, by whom, about whom, to whom? Possiilbe contexts are variegated and multiplied. I am different with men than I am with women, different with my wife than I am with women colleagues, different with women colleagues than I am with women friends, different with elderly women than I am with young girls, different with pre-pubescent young girls than I am with young women who are of adult age, different with Arab Muslim women than I am with American women, different with women in my class than I am . . . and so on and so on and so on. The many masks we wear . . . do you talk to a police officer who has pulled you over for an alleged traffic violation the same way you do the officer you approach for directions in Lower Manhattan? But there are masks we wear on the selves––I had a friend of mine ask me if it were not the selves themselves that were the masks?

The confusion about the nature of the Self leads us to believe that there can be one and only one self we choose, need to, have to, should . . .  but when is this singular plurality, or plural singularity; how does it function in an individual?  Yes, the coordinates of time as well as those of place have some bearing on my options, the choice I make, who I become, who I am, how I act, which self is allowed prominence, what masks I wear, both outside in the world and inside in the Self.  Relevance is not everything; but context is a variable in a person’s choice of self.  Where then do they reside, you might ask? They are non-locatable, as we have concluded for mind and for soul. I know we have a prejudice for empiricism, or at least we have succumbed to the dogmas of our own empiricism (and there can be many), whereby our epistemology has been held hostage by this empiricism to the disadvantage of traditional metaphysics. The only knowledge is knowledge verifiable by data collection, a scientific parallel of book keeping, which I have no interest in admonishing or denigrating, could have no sane interest in doing either. However, Our abilities to draw inferences or use metaphors to describe experiences that cannot be quantified, although they may be qualified in any one of a number of linguistic ways, has grown in proportion to the kind of science, as I have said, that mirrors accounting–no irony in this totalitarian capitalist America.

There are always problems of selection, whether they be problematic in the way that creates dilemma or not. Problems in making a choice exist, even when the choice is easy to make. 2 plus 2 equals 4 is a solved problem.  Which one of our many selves do I decide is primary, is predominant, is the one and only one in this situation or that situation or another and another and another creeping in petty paces every day until the last bell of recorded time? The I that everyone or someone else sees, hears, has revealed before her, him, you and me–what is this I? I am plural, I am multiple, I am variegated and variable.  I am we, as I have said elsewhere in other essays; to essay these ideas of Self, of my I-ness, of what mind and soul are and where they have points of contact, where they may be mutual and reciprocal, where they diverge and remain distinct. Let’s not insist on locating them because what we find might be entirely different form the metaphors we use to communicate these notions, articulate these ideas, express our experiences of them to others.

We can understand the dilemma any person might face in however many situations where dilemmas could arise concerning who to be what to become . . . Hamlet’s to be or not to be is also this (thermo)dynamic between being and becoming; it is not simply a pondering of suicide or the primary philosophical question, as Camus has expressed at the opening of his Myth of Sisyphus. I confront dilemmas as well in any articulation of soul of mind and now of Self. So then, an individual human life is plural–singular, certainly, yet plural.  A paradox; a conundrum? Of course this is both. Any choice a person makes in determining his I-ness amounts to an oppression of his many other selves, but for how long; if protracted, if one and only is persistently chosen, as if this were the best, the only, or the most natural and thus healthiest choice, it would amount to a Self too repressed in its attempts to reach out to others, themselves like himself, cut off from the many that populate his Self, their Selves, as well as others outside of him, family, friends, neighbors. The pressure on identity a person suffers when the natural inclinations of the many selves Self are denied is enormous; many of our psychological maladies are inherent from a mentality that does not support this healthy plurality of selves in our personality. To express these in metaphors familiar to us from Freudian psychology, personality is to ego what mentality is to super-ego. Yet a question arises in the practicalities of our confusion.  How is it that someone so awkward in mediating the fundamental nature of his Self could allow another to enter his being, to ask another to become a part of him?  Desire here would not be enough to countermand this faith, and faith it is as long as it remains part of my beliefs, part of that structure of inferences from premises without direct tactile evidence.

How could he or she, or you or I dance without tripping up his partner and himself, her partner, yours, mine?  Everyone in the world dances; few of us dance well. This I is persistently we; of this I am certain, but then certainty often masquerades as science, but again I know it mostly by faith.  I do not want to put one or the other above either in any ascendancy, faith or science. We becomes each one of us.  I am we the people as you are we the people, as he is, as she is, and only if each one of us is we the people simultaneously with every other person in the whole collection human-beings in this world can there be any validity to our Freedom or our freedoms.  I have known this for too long, have understood this from Jefferson since I was a teenager.  The rhetoric of singular and plural herein is clear; the politics of it is integral to American Democracy and our philosophy of individualism.

To be or not to be is the fundamental philosophical question; it is not only a question of suicide; it is to mediate being, to choose an actual existence, thus to remove oneself from becoming, from the flux of perpetual becoming which has always been non-being, as close to a primordial nothingness as anything related to annihilation. In order to be, one must choose being in direct opposite tension with becoming. One does not do this by resisting the will of one’s plural nature, resisting by artificially imposing a self to the psychic displacement of every other self that seeks mutuality in the many selves Self.  There is harmony that comes out of this seeming chaos of selves; this harmonic Self is not achieved by imposing one self among many to be the one and only, but by conducting a symphonic coalescence of all of the selves in a harmonious Self of many selves, macrocosm to all exterior being.

A literary web journal dedicated to the literary essay [of which I include this as a representative example . . .] sounds pretentious enough to too many who imagine that they are reading when they are only superficially skimming the pages of the texts they throw their eyes at like dice at a craps table. I am not optimistic enough about the fate of our pedagogy, or how it is we teach reading and writing, in fact, what it is we call reading and writing, to imagine that anything remotely similar to what I call reading takes place when most Americans–college educated Americans–point their eyes at a page of words having been written or printed. Teaching as become a craft without apprenticeship although it supports, professes, mandates internships . . ., whereby the state does mandate perpetually what it must then opportunistically adhere as apprenticeship . . .  through one or another inane curriculum development scenarios set for teachers to talk-talk out their asses or shit from their mouths about classrooms that do not exist, have never existed, not even for them, except in their fantasy lives lived imagining what wood or should sound bureaucratically correct within State mandated protocols for pedagogic correctness or dogma . . . , principally designed to make teachers more bureaucratically correct than better teachers. Teaching is no longer a profession. People who want to go on to teach literature in High School are better prepared, or so the thinking goes today, if they study not literature, obtaining an M.A. in English Lit, but if they study the pedagogy of teaching lit and get an M.A. in Education with a minor in literature. The absurdity is clear to me, but then the bourgeois Paris audience at the premier of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot rioted in the theater, perhaps unable to unconsciously adjust to having themselves satirized(?) as they were–I would not actually call Beckett’s theater satire, but that is another argument, another essay.

My lack of optimism in the manner and matter of our reading does not mean I am a skeptic in other things, other areas of life, living, reading and writing–my own reading and writing for that matter. I know with confidence that I do read better than many of the educated people I find myself working with, working for, suffering the impossible fears and neurotic responses and reactions that some people have that they might not even be aware of when they interact with someone who is more literate–literacy is feared; actual literacy when it means something other than alphabetics or superficially skimming pages, has always been somewhat feared by those outside the loop of reading deeply and broadly and with an acumen increasingly remote and diminished in numbers toady. I do not know exactly what it is that I should say in defense of a Review written in the manner I write this Review–and that is the assertion of assertions here: I do not write for this Review; I write this Review. But what I should say–what I could say to those whose responses are rooted in fear of the unknown–what they cannot know, reading as poorly as they do, as they permit themselves either out of laziness or another fear, that of discovering who they are, what might be lurking i the shadows that persist inside of them, as dimly lit as they keep that inside, their minds are caverns with tiny candles being blown out in the drafts.

A literary review dedicated to the proposition that all of humanity is created equal would mean what for whom where or when, how?  There are still too many who presume being educated when at best they have been indoctrinated. How is this proposition managed in this world where mediocrity has masqueraded as special talent for so long we have really loosened our grip of comprehension on what literacy is, what literacy can do, what literacy has done and should do in a civilization? Yes, a civilization? Literacy has been one of the propelling forces of civilization, that is until the management of civilization was left to bureaucrats and money changers. Beware all money changers everywhere–Jefferson’s proscription against banks being more dangerous to a people than standing armies has its origins, in his residual Christianity, in the parable of Christ whipping the money lenders out of the temple. But so much for a society controlled by banks and bureaucrats.

Are we all of us equal? Again, how, in whose eyes, before what when where? Certainly we are not all equal as readers, are we? Are they crazy, the editorial staff? I could ask–but again, I am the staff, I am the writing, I am the review. How can I ask, with a straight face, what this review is, can be, will be?  The review; this thing meant to capture the conscience of a nation–now that is grandiose, is it not? Nevertheless, this review, it is me, yes, c’est moi. I could say say the same for this review as Flaubert had said for Madame Bovary, the character, not the novel (so sans italics).

Created equal? Puzzling today, is it not? Another mantra of the humanists in their outdated humanism, no? But if equal, how equal, when equal, where equal, under what scrutiny, equal? How are we all of us created equal when what we see day in day out through the entire world is inequality inequality inequality. I am not going to ask how we rationalize our having been created equally? I am not saying it is impossible; I am genuinely asking. There will always remain skills some can perform better than others. Our ethics here at The Falling Leaf Review do not pander to arithmetic or the ledger book or statistics compiled in studies better suited for straw cats, but there is a hierarchy of achievement, of ability, no? Of course there is. I am committed to this idea and ideal.

But what could anyone be thinking who is attempting to publish and promote something like a literary review on line? I have no clue–I expect you suspect where I am going with this. A literary journal, a critical journal, as I have said before in other posts, as part of other essays is something that has a large responsibility; there are obligations in publishing one.  There are even more questions to ask and answer than there are obligations and responsibilities; these questions might be straight forward or they may be in the manner of others suited to different angles of perception, perspectives–what are the differences herein assumed for what a journal of this type could be? The posture I take here whe asking these questions is part of the rhetorical and stylistic postures I take when writing for the review. I wear many vests at work. Is there a market for the kind of reading demanded by the level of writing sustained by any review that assumes the role of a literary review? I hope so, but I am not very optimistic. I am, though, optimistic about my attempts in this review, how I can maintain the level I have assumed is necessary for this review. Can anyone only be a little optimistic. Is optimism really scaling? I know that this contemporaneity has a different idea of what constitutes a literary review than I have. This fostered by what the culture maintains in its standards of literacy or even what it calls literacy, what i other cultures would not ever be referred to as literacy.

How we define literary today must be different, only in as much as how writing and particularly more traditional ideas about literature have come under critical attack. I recall an interesting essay written by Toni Morrison on the absence of reading in our culture, how we are becoming a society, perhaps she meant, of pseudo-educated men and women who have never been taught to read, or how to read, or how one could engage a text, how one could stand alone in face of what literature could mean to any simple separate person coming to grips, terms, an understanding or a truce with his or her mortality, identity, consciousness, citizenship, and so on.

Yes, Michel and Toni, to philosophize is to learn how to die, and the profoundest way we as simple separate persons can philosophize is to read, to sit alone in a room for hours just reading a text and engaging the text and being transformed by the text, not just playing at deforming the text, as so many readers do who really resent what a text could be, or what they fail at even trying, because they have been trained, in an intellectual wrestling for hegemony, that the kind of reading once demanded by the traditions of writing and reading in the humanist west, not the corporatist west, has lost its relevance and valence. The great intellectual lie supported by a generation or more of disingenuous academics has lead to another generation of anti-readers.

Now, the internet often does not lend itself to the kind of writing and reading the literary essay form demands, and that is whether we defer to our contemporaneity on what is literary or we defer to my notions on what constitutes the literary. I am not really as sure that mine differ so greatly from those that are current. I would be deluded, though, if I said yes to the question above about the internet being or not being a medium of higher intellectual exchange or election. When my family made it to my maternal grandfather’s farm in Pittsfield (where Melville had written one-third of Moby Dick; that is, in Pittsfield, and not on my grandfather’s farm), after his funeral, I saw just four books on his shelf. Two were the bible, one in French and the other in English; one was a copy of complete Shakespeare, a large serious looking volume I think I recall having once remembered of it; and the fourth was a rather large volume of Montaigne, but I do not recollect if it were in French or in English or whether it was bi-lingual, as had become more available in the second half of the twentieth century.

Yes, the Bible, Shakespeare and Montaigne; they were it for my grandfather. Anyone literate–that is, anyone with pretensions to being literate or considered literate–only needed to have read the Bible, Shakespeare and Montaigne. That was my mother’s father’s Canon. Mine of course had become broader, but I understand the thinking involved in what my grandfather had left in wordless sign.

We have, in this America of ours, been so systematically undereducated–and we really have been under educated–that we have been left at the mercy of our passions, fires and motions from within that have been malnourished by how we read or dis-read. As semi-literate as most of us are who have been what we call educated, we have little idea what it means to be literate, truly literate, which does point to the possibility that someone can be falsely literate, that is, a man who masquerades as someone literate. We have lost our focus. We have lost sight of the target. We are completely of target.

I do still hope against hope that this could change, that at some time in the future there would rise a generation who decides to throw off the shackles of complacency, and not-enough-as-good-enough, to raise the levels of literacy unilaterally and universally. Then we might see something spectacular in the democratic process and manifest a true democracy instead of the one the monied and power elite hold before us with the help of the media who are fully aligned with money and power elites. Carrots and mules, no?

Is there a market in America for the literary essay? I doubt it; that is, I suspect that reading is not performed very often at the level necessary to engage what we call the literary essay, what I call the literary essay. I am we. The doubt that pervades our thinking in general–and our thinking about what reading and writing are, especially in the ways we separate them as if they were not mutual and reciprocal endeavors–has left us intellectually and cognitively weakened. These mental weaknesses are as debilitating as one or another form of muscular atrophy are to the body.

Ours is a crisis in epistemology, where we are left to believe that knowledge is impossible. Where knowledge is impossible, the man or woman who knows something is held in suspicion; he quickly becomes excommunicate in whatever group, institution, level of society he operates. Let you who is without knowledge cast the first stone. And we stone, don’t we?

This critical journal, this literary review, with its pages of Essays and its blog, where some of the essays are initially worked out, expresses the views of its author, Jay Ruvolo, who is also the Publishing Editor, sometimes referred to as the Editor-in-Chief. The essays are all of them literary in form, and this means what to the reader? There is an epistemological lens that accompanies the kind if reading literary writing demands. Literary writing demands literary reading, no? There are also many essays that focus attention through social and political commentary, although the essays are not primarily or ultimately commentary. There are also critiques of culture, of language, of art, of music, of history, of historiography, of philosophy, of religion, of media, of film, of people, of behavior, of psychology, of pedagogy, of bureaucracy, of ethnicity, of love, desire, reason, knowledge,literacy. . . what else should I include? Everything? Critique is everything herein. I have collected the essays herein on my desktop in one file titled Critical Condition. I liked the play on words for a collection of literary essays that included social and political critique and exposed social and political problems in a society on the brink, as I would say, at least in one of my more virulent Jeremiads.

Everything is always troublesome; there is no thing closer to nothing than everything. Whenever government administrators say they are going to do something for everyone, they have no one in mind, no one in their sights, no one in their rhetoric, no one is no one is no one. I will not include everything. One could not include everything herein, but in attempting toward everything–and the toward here is important to note–the journal achieves its perpetuation, realizes its purpose. In perpetuity is the desire of its editorial staff, whether that be many or one. All criticism levied against any of my reviews must of course fall in my lap–on me–and so, here at present, this review is one, myself. [montaigne’s preface]

Yes, questions beget questions I have said before, many times before, before even having come to an understanding what could be meant by the phrase, the history of history. One must not avoid the prose fiction forms represented in the continuum of the novel, what is there to say . . . the generic boundaries of the novel; its plasticity? Is that true––however, when discussing the many styles of prose fiction narrative in the novel . . . form? one is also understanding diversity in prose narrative structure and style in historiography.  What are the intents; what are the results, the culminations? Compare and contrast narrative and expository prose; return to an examination of the notion of expository fiction. If letters most often find themselves falling within the boundaries of the essay, themselves being what? What do we say of the essay as form––genre meaning? The essay and the novel––the great modern genres, contributions to modernity, as one would mean in a millennial conception of modernity. The essay as  more expository than narrative means what for the essay that narrates or the novel that exposes . . . , ; yes, what do we make of the epistolary novel?  A great deal of the epistolary novel must be expository; as any novel, of course, could not eschew, avoid, side-step, deny, withhold, stand stalwart against expository prose––think Tolstoy great historical essays . . . lengthy, lengthy essays on European and Russian history inserted in the narrative of War and Peace

What can I say to my contemporaneity about having contacted Joan Didion, Simone de Beauvoir, Susan Sontag, Francoise Sagan, Gertrude Stein, Mary Wollstencraft, Mary Shelley . . . the letters of Elizabeth Bishop to Robert Lowell . . . Oriana Fallaci . . .  Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan . . .  when the very contemporaneity I speak of has now been so subsumed by not only identify politics, another name for tribal politics, but identity epistemology and thus identity ethics . . .  how is it anyone can avoid  the current intellectual bigotries  of our contempo-cenetrism? Of course I would have had to have. misread the aforementioned . . . just as you just now ask, How could I have ever understood or have read appropriately, the poetry of HD, of Marianne Moore, of Gabriela Mistral, of .Sylvia Plath, of Anne Sexton of Diane Levertov, of Akhmatova, of Dickinson, of Rosetti, of  Elizabeth Barrett Browning . . . I could go on; I will go on; convenient for a man to say? Do I have the same set of trepidations about not completing this extensively? The list; the litany; what is it we say when we do do this . . . listing––when a ship lists, what is it? How so these homophones related, if they are at all in any other way except a happenstance of sound?

I loved Donne’s prose as much as his verse, and I knew some English majors who questioned why Donne wrote as he had–I cannot tell you how many impossibly inane questions were posed by supposed lovers of language and literature . . . who would exclude the speeches of Lincoln? The Lectures as well as the essays as well as the criticism of Oscar Wilde. Every person who pretends to love wit and satire and biting irony and eloquence in language . . . I am verbose, am I not? What English major (male, heterosexual, euro-American?) has not read Johnson, Samuel. If you have read Johnson, perhaps you have read Bloom–I adore reading Bloom. Perhaps today we should disregard everyone I have ever revered in forms and the matters of writing? Throwing puppies out with flea bath water is a premium past time in today’s intellectual marketplace––not really a market place, but fully subsumed by marketing; certainly not the same things, the twain never colliding let alone meeting. I have not gotten to the writing of Swinburne, of Carlyle of Nietzsche or Kierkergaard; of Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx, Engels, Bakunin, Mill . . . who else? Understanding does not mean agreement; having read does not mean convinced or converted.  I can read Quran and remain Catholic?  Of course, I can.

No one, anyone, everyone as of late–we have become quite the iconoclasts. [. . . and this was written before any of the protests ensuing the George Floyd Aftermath . . . ; or the presence of ISIS in our lives . . . I’ve  read Bradley’s lectures on Shakespeare, as well as Blooms great collection of the greatest essays written on Shakespeare . . . The Invention of the Human . . . personal preference is what it is and I do not doubt its veracity, nor its valence for me, because you may have succumbed to the current dogma that Doubt is the Highest Wisdom. Shakespeare has taught me most of what I do, and need to, know about the human, about being human, about how we are human, about what it means to be human, about what it means to be a dialectical Self, a Self of many selves, a diverse self, a man, a woman . . . what else is there . . . who else is there, was there among my reading, I remember Sir Tomas Browne, of course. What lover of the 17th Century could forget Browne and his Religio Medici or his Urn Burial. I intended herein to insert a piece on Grteenblatt and some of the things he said in his introduction to Browne’s work mentioned above . . . but I never got around to composing it.

The whole of the prose of the seventeenth century I would love to sit down to one summer, if it were possible to do nothing but on the beach before I die . . .

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep in books . . . I remember Borges saying something about Heaven for him being something like a library, book stores my favorite places to pass time, next to museums,. of course bars and cafes, bistros, wine, poetry, painting–of course? Why of course? Not in this time. Not at this moment in our history.No, I won’t say what I want to say that alliterates with poetry and painting, that I love above most things in the universe. I am that I am with my books–I have so many of them on the shelves at home.

Essays and more essays and more essays until the last syllable of the last word of the last line of the last essay. .[writing them since well before the second millennium; how many of the essays written before now, before Trump, before Obama . . . {titles, summary, quotes}. I have over fourteen thousand pages of notebooks in boxes in storage, as well as reams of papers for classes in college undergraduate and graduate, ABD in literature . . . what means this or anything else herein said on anything said, what I do try to say––itself the essaying of essaying. Critical on literature, critical on politics, book reviews and other magazine articles, simple reporting and investigative journalism . . . theater criticism, COVER Arts, New York . . .  I do not condescend to journalism as do some of my classmates . . . I have accumulated another 100,000+ words in on-line reviews . . . I am impressed by the numbers of essays and words I have accumulated on line in three separate literary reviews . . . even the political one is literary and does employ many fictional essays––yes, fictional essays. Never mind the more than 10 or 12 or 14 thousand pages of journals I have kept for decades now already.

The ‘we’ you find anywhere in my essays is the conventional editorial we, the we of most social commentary, the we that sets before it, as a rhetorical strategy, you and I, not solely the collective plural. I am not separate from you, another form of the I and thou we all need to understand better in our politics and our ethics. Any critique levied in my writing is not an attack but a corrective, or so I say, although I do not take contemporary hyper-sensitivity or the temperamental as a barometer to read the weather of what should and not be said. What the pronoun ‘we’ says that the pronoun ‘I’ does not, cannot, we might understand as something inclusive, inviting, softening . . .

When I criticize and say you or they instead of we, I set myself apart from the critique. I am not subject to the corrective I pronounce. This is simple enough to comprehend. I will not venture a discussion of the rhetoric of I and the rhetoric of we; the implications should be clear. Yet, what we do here at The Falling Leaf Review is answered by the things I do, the things I say, words, words and more words formed by me here on the virtual page–I do miss writing with a pen, how the pen and word-processor do not write the same, do demand a different syntax?. Everything herein is I; I am the review, I am the editor, I am the publisher, I am the chief writer, I am every word, every thought, every opinion et cetera. So, what does this the have to do with the pronoun ‘we.’

Being is plurality; the Self is one of many selves. I steal from poets. I wish to make this review as literary as possible. I have not degraded my understanding of literacy by confusing it with what the French call alphabetisme; you have heard me refer to this before. yes, the French do not call be able to write your name and address correctly on a mail envelope literacy, no. This perfunctory dexterity with letters is not literacy but a from of alphabetics, circus tricks like acrobatics, only with letters. Being able to negotiate the alphabet is what it is as it allows you to read the tabloid newspapers written on the third and fourth grade level; it allows you to fill out applications and other forms from the bureaucracy. This, though necessary for base level social functioning, is not what anyone with any higher level of reading would call literacy. That is, being able to spell one’s name correctly, being able to read the tabloid newspapers with efficiency, being able listen to and digest TV journalism with its sound bite reporting and commentary, being able to fill out the forms and applications supplied by the state and institutional bureaucracies are all of them necessary skills, you could say, but are hardly literacy. Yes, these abilities are the mark of being alphabetically correct, not having attained what could be called–should be reserved for naming, literacy.

The brand of literacy we sponsor in this culture has everything to do with pre-packaged ideas about freedom, about democracy, nothing in the way of thinking when we mean something that takes place in language and not randomly passing images in the mind. The only understanding that happens with the kind of literacy that gets sponsored by our pedagogy is found in merely recognizing, or simply being able to repeat, slogans, even allowing one’s self to be moved by them. Politics is all about slogans, as it has been for how many countless centuries–no? Political campaigns are all about the trite, the cliché, the insipid, the surface of text, nothing but what can be reduced to one or another soundbites: slogans, slogans, slogans. Our acumen in literacy, with literacy, for literacy, is the same as the kind we use to discern advertisements. We are often in line with how they are expected to be understood. All of us can read ads, can’t we? We can even copy them as if in dictation, but can we write when writing means to engage in a more highly elective literary exchange? negotiation? Can we defend an argument in the simplest of ways, with reason and not demagoguery, as we see one President of the United States after another do, that is, use demagoguery to persuade the masses or give them what they want to hear? Can we defend literacy and thus democracy with our words, with how we read, how we write, one or the other never better than either? If we cannot, how can we hope to defend freedom? We will not with how we read and write and we have come to a point where we are at risk of not being able to see that, and not so much being unable to see it, but only able to respond with vehemence and violence against those who do see it, who do remind us, who might write about it, who may be passionate about the need to regain what is fast becoming a lost ability to read at a level that humane civilization demands.

We understand the slogans we hear everywhere all around us, slogans for political campaigns, slogans for products sold through TV advertising, slogans from our teachers, our bosses, the bureaucrats from the city, state or federal administrations. Slogans are all around us, surrounding us, deafening us, really. We are deaf to the Truth. We are at last like that man who escapes Plato’s cave–no? At least we know the words in the slogans; we can spell them because it helps to perpetuate them to write them. We recognize them one after another; we repeat them, these slogans that tell us what to say because they are presumably pithier or wittier than anything we could say. Our intelligence is socially judged by how we use them, repeat them, carry them with us into nearly every pseudo intellectual forum we find ourselves in, by accident, most often, because we would never seek anything presumably intelligent, requiring a verbal skill we will always lack if we continue to educate as we do across America.

Yes, the most we get from our literacy is the literacy of advertising; the best is what is sometimes found in Hollywood script writing, itself a step up from advertising, but a fall from what I would call the literary–and herein lies an elitist prejudice of mine; although, I do not assent to the idea that this is a prejudice: to say that the literary is elite and that higher and higher elections in the literary are elitist, unavoidably so. The government pushes for this kind of literacy, embedded in a pedagogy of failure, of systematic under-education because it is always in favor of indoctrination rather than education.

All informing by government sponsored education will carry with it the indelible stamp of in/formation; to inform is to put or place in/form. This is what information really is: in/formation. To receive information is to receive one kind of stamp of being put in form, formation. Freedom drowns and dies in the pool of functional literacy. Everyone who helps this is also helping to kill democracy, to forestall her in her helping to make all of us free. Bureaucrats would prefer if elites controlled, which is why they have no problem adjusting to one or another totalitarian regime. Totalitarian slaughter in the form of death camps is right out of the bureaucratic imagination. State sponsored education is always aligned with one or another forms of indoctrination

Our politics, our brand of democracy, as well as Democracy itself in its beginnings, all these are rooted in literacy, the advancement of the written word, and the transformation of both individual psychology and general mentality that literacy had brought about in antiquity; however, political leaders have been, are, and will remain hostile to the presence of the literary, contemptuous of any literacy that is anything more than perfunctory, mainly because they must be antagonistic to the freeing agency of literacy if their power or the consolidation of that power despotically is the aim of any and all politicking.  Literacy, theater and democracy together had a collateral rise in BCE Athens.Advanced literacy is a solitary adventure, a confrontation with one’s mortality, the ability to die in peace, at rest, and how to deal with one’s inescapable isolation; it is everything contrary to the mass-man, the great en-masse, a collective more easily controlled by the agents of state if they remain semi-literate, which they invariably will, as here in America we see year by year, November after November.

Semi-literate is semi-free.

It was true and remains an is true that however enamored we are with the notion that a text can be other than what is literary, that it can be not only anything written, but can also be film, photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, a song, an audio recording, any form of communication or expression, including dance and mime and gesture–my middle finger up at the state is also a text. Yes, however enamored we are by this idea of text, it has been the literary that has advanced the cause of freedom more than any other; in the category of the literary I include the “Constitution of the United States,” “The Bill of Rights,” “the Declaration of Independence,” “The Gettysburg Address,” “I Have a Dream,” “A Vindication of the Rights of Women,” and The Federalist Papers,  just as examples of the kind and yes the level of literacy that has championed freedom. [. more        ]

Now even if power is shared, or perhaps even more specifically, if it is an oligarchic power, then the pedantic, the myopic, or whatever else humans have by way of narrowing the mind that reads and writes, placing one form of state endorsed stricture on thinking after another until the vice of state control or moderation is felt and its existence is grown accustomed to–these will be the only efforts in literacy endorsed by the state; note well how still, fifty per cent of New York City High School graduates leave their final four years of state education reading below grade.  Still a full 20% of all in-coming freshman will not make graduation. However, not much more than eighth grade is needed to fulfill the tasks the state sponsors; the governing body of state has determined “functional literacy” is enough.  A person is fully and functionally literate if he reads at the eighth grade, which means far below my seventh grader, perhaps with no more psychological maturity than a burgeoning adolescent, and we continue to wonder about our politics, our elections, our governing choices.It is we who have shared in the onslaught against literacy, and literacy is under attack from a popular culture barely semi-literate; it is we who have undermined the teaching of literacy with one pedagogy of failure after another in public school systems across America, but most surely here in New York City, leaving the bulk of graduates still reading and writing far below grade level. 

Check how many in-coming Freshman to CUNY still need remediation, and that’s with having made the writing assessment test not only easier in its requirements, but easier to achieve a passing score.  I had taught Freshman Composition for nearly fifteen years in CUNY colleges.  You will find the bulk of us who teach retreating back into our caves of self-delusion, preferring the shadows of our opinions to any truth or truths in the light of day. In our presidential elections, we continue to pick a winner as you would in Lotto or at the Race Track; voting booth as betting window.  We thus support the status quo; and in this we ensure that things as they are will continue to operate as is regardless of promises of change–which every politician promises.  We have agreed to nothing changing by not changing anything about how we vote.   

State administrators will never maintain a faith in literacy that would guarantee good writing or anything remotely akin to good theatrical wrighting (there is an intrinsic relationship between organic theater and democracy). Nothing above the perfunctory will be tolerated in any state design for the improvement of education.  This is an anomaly to my understanding of what advancing through stages of literacy could mean, or what achieving advanced literacy should subsume, because I had aligned myself with a traditional, historically verifiable level of advanced literacy as the only hope for people to be free. It has astounded me that many from those who call themselves the academic or educated liberal elite have either opposed Free speech or others of the four freedoms in the First Amendment, or support a worldview, an anti metaphysical metaphysics, that leaves them opened to the reduction of freedom. 

How many of George Bush’s American liberal opponents will see their view of the world, or their theories of knowledge (what is knowable), particularly at their challenged level of literacy, as part of our problem. The left cannot see itself as ever being part of the problem anymore than the right.  I have heard and seen as much if not more hypocrisy from the American left than from our right; which is not a rebuttal for the left’s opposition to the right, nor is it an endorsement of American conservative politics as it has been played over the last thirty years, since Reagan, and it has been three decades, so with our degraded literacy and pathetic sense of history, we remain blissfully or not so blissfully ignorant of the politics that are strangling us.

The American liberal political establishment has supported the kind of pedagogy that has ultimately undermined education in America, leaving us with the idea that students in schools and colleges are patrons to be appeased and not instructed or taught or expected to achieve.  It’s as if your gym teacher said do five push-ups every day in gym class and that’s enough, you’ll be fit. Our notions of what is teachable and what can be learned and what expectations we should hold for students has also lead to  a debased ability to read and write. Democracy and freedom require students to be able to achieve at higher stages of literacy than we seem capable of en masse.  Is this the point managed by power elites; divide and conquer Machiavelli had said.  But even among our elites literacy is waning.  This might serve our vanity; feel good all around; gold stars for everybody, principally for showing up to class. We sought to empower by not asking anyone to achieve.  By no longer demanding anyone to rise along a hierarchical  vertical axis, we hope to encourage everyone to feel better about not failing until such point when we simply ask less of ourselves and start passing those students who would never have passed in the past. 

All this runs hand in hand with an attack against thought itself, what thought is, what are its limits, where and when we can know it has taken place; all these questions run parallel to one another in any epistemology, whereby the limits of knowledge are drawn, and we begin to articulate or debate just what the limits of knowledge are, just what in itself is knowable.  Not many would see how American liberal mis-steps have left us opened to the kind of politicians we have had these last forty years, and the politics we suffer today.  We still play a political ping-pong in America. Playing hop-scotch with Truth is another past time we adore.

How is it that we expect other than George Bush, Donald Trump, Barack Obama or the latter’s favorite President, Ronald Reagan  . . . or Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter or any of the pathetic mayoral candidates this year (2013) when we read as awfully as we do. We have been the victims of a liberal elite sponsored pedagogy bent on under educating to ensure its own intellectual hegemony. We have also been victimized by an economic hegemony from those who have been weaned on so much pervasive doubt and uncertainty as a form of wisdom that the only outcome could be an ever pervasive greed, a nihilistically solipsistic hedonism. When doubt and unknowing are the only certainty, what did we think was going to fill the void.  When debased literacy is all too many can aspire, what defense against these obsessions do we have?  What a man or woman thinks, better said feels, nowadays, is the only verifiable reality in our world, the world in our minds and only in our minds.  Subjectivity will always succumb to passions, always be inundated by materialism . . . what kind of State do we expect when We the People have been degrade into We the Public, the basest of a State serving Public ever in our history.

Statecraft and stagecraft are inextricably linked as texts; the former drawing its energy from the latter. All the State is a stage. The birth of the modern state  runs collateral with the resurrection of theater in Europe.   This claim of shared energies becomes more clearly drawn when you understand that the term energy comes from the Greek energeia, and that term was one from Greek rhetoric, one which was subsequently borrowed by physics.  The energy of theater (the theatrical also being a branch of rhetoric) and the energies of politics could run parallel without either necessarily enduring the full presence of the other.   

When we began to recoil from literacy because it was deemed an elitist endeavor, one perhaps, as we imagined, in our misconceived democratizing imaginations, to repress us, we condemned ourselves to the mind forged manacles of ignorance we should have known better to fear and foresee.  It was no accident that theater in Athens and democracy had a collateral rise, both elevated by literacy, the advent of alphabetic writing–although, the mere ability to spell or read one’s name or fill most forms necessitated by our bureaucracy is not in itself what is herein referred to as literacy.  In fact, the French have a separate term for this perfunctory literacy, it is l’alphabetisme, or the ability to handle the alphabet, spell one’s name correctly.  The state here in America does not honor much more than this rudimentary literacy, a, b, c, d . . . this alphabetism has ruled our pedagogic constructs of literacy development. We should nevermind about anything near good journalism, fiction, or poetry in a culture such as ours where even the protectors, the guardians of literacy have so degraded their understanding of it and their taste for it as to leave them unable to champion anything other than superficial skimming of the page as the best reading has to offer. What we have today is fast-food academia at best; instant intelligence, instant knowledge, barely of the dilettante’s order; we suffer a consumerist brand of learning where students are patrons and teachers are bureaucrats or businessmen. News is entertainment.

Pomp, yes, circumstance, of course, and a flair for melodrama, certainly, are the best any State can hope to sponsor in writing; that is, all that they will tolerate, actually.  demagoguery reigns supreme in American politicking for President.  Obama was the better demagogue. And we must understand that writing is the other half of literacy; those who read but do not write are only half literate.  One cannot really read above the level one writes at, or vice-versa.

Reading and writing are a linked pair, each contingent, mutual, reciprocal.  One does not become a writer without mutually becoming an equal reader; no reader ever succeeds at reading above the level at which he can successfully write, which isn’t to say one must have the talent of the writers one reads, or their creative power if you will, for want of a better term at present. Most of what we teach in the way of reading is no more than that superficial skimming of pages Melville had warned us that all great writing seeks to deceive.  Great writers go out of their way to fool the superficial skimmer of pages . . . most bourgeois for the last five hundred years equating the literary with business, reading with a form of accounting, book reading with book-keeping.  A horribly degraded class that places the highest value on utility and/or profit; art as engineering, art as another form of business, thereby prostitution. 

Am I too harsh in my appraisal of bourgeois civilization?  Of course, I say no; all literary pimps and whores say yes.

She and I. Subject compounded. He and she. Myself removed as I am sometimes from others, alone in alone. With a pen. The mirror is. Another subject. You and I.  Plurality and singularity. In the mirror is on the glass.Who am I? Who are you? Questions. I ask in the mirror––I ask the mirror? Similar is not the same. You understand this well enough. Who am I with you? With her? Now the objective is clear?

Pre-positions. Placed. Names? What’s in a name? Hers or mine. Adam names. One of the primodial privileges. Yours in the mirror. My name is whatever I choose it to be when I need a name other than the one I was given––. Call me who I am today. I am not my new name tomorrow. A load of dog shit by the name rose still smells like shit. We have come to resent roses for not smelling like shit. We have for so long been calling shit a rose . . .

Do you think she is beautiful? I asked. Who? She asked. The Mona Lisa, I said. I guess, she added. Do you, really? I asked.  I imagine she must be beautiful to someone, she said. Who? I asked. Does it matter? She asked. Who do you imagine imagining her beautiful? I added. I imagine that she must be to many, many people. She is to me, she said. To you? I asked. I didn’t think you thought so. Maybe you have to be Italian? Or more largely, Mediterranean?  I don’t know, she said, I said, who said what to whom when? What do we know? I just know that she is not ugly, she is not hideous, she has something someone might find cute, might even think is pretty, but what’s the problem?  She asked. Who is really interested in whether she is beautiful or not?

That’s true for everyone, he said. He––not I––said every one of the other farm animals when the little red hen asked for help. Attraction has little to do with aesthetics, she said. If aesthetics has anything to do with attraction, he said. Pause. I’m not talking about having sex with the Mona Lisa, he said. Actually, you are. Sex is love, sex is attraction; this attraction is then reciprocated, it is love, and this love is in turn expressed through sex, she said. He remained silent.

I just know that you cannot only be attracted, even very attracted, to someone who fits what you think is the standard or the acceptable or the appropriate aesthetic representation of Beauty here on earth in another person, she said. I thought aesthetics and attraction do not have anything to do with one another? He asked. They’re not contingent. Contingent? She asked. That does not mean there is not some standard of beauty you yourself adhere to, he said. So then attraction and aethetics do have everything to do with one another, she wondered. Just because a person has not formulated an aesthetic philosophy or articulated his aesthetics within a standard philosophical view we could call or recognize as aesthetics does not mean the person does not have an aesthetics, at least on the level of response to stimuli, which aesthetics must entertain because this would be true if one were looking at statuary.

I was silent. There is a lot more in the heaven and earth of human beauty and human attraction and human sexual relations, good, healthy sexual relations than could be handled by anyone’s aesthetics, she said. What we have in the way of an understanding of Beauty is too weak to do anything with but hide when we confront how articulate Romance cultures are in aesthetics, I said. She said nothing. In the Roman mind, as in the Greek, beauty was always in form, only in form could beauty exist, I said. Yes, form is Beauty, Beauty form; if this, then Truth is also Beauty because Truth is in form. To inform would then be a way of bearing of Truth—to inform would then be about all the little ‘t’ truths in our lives. It would be to carry minor fragments of the Truth . . . by the Truth and for the Truth itself the Truth absolute. There are transcendental realities, but then I still believe metaphysics has something to teach us, something to show us in how to approach reality, understand reality, and represent reality in how many different possible and appropriate ways. You can’t imagine that biggest problem in dealing with Muslims comes from the fact that we no longer know how to talk metaphysically about anything, nor do we know how to talk about metaphysics, nor do we believe that metaphysics has any veracity, exactly in the same way we have abandoned a commitment to Truth and to Beauty.

To bear the Truth is to carry Beauty; to bear Beauty would be to carry Truth. They are mutual and reciprocal, contingent in ways we are unable to understand, again because we cannot talk metaphysics. Is it any wonder that we have continued to uglify the world, continue to lie our way through our lives as if there were no consequences for our conscience—except for those without any conscience, there is no consequence to their lying and their lying and their lying in every petty way creeping along through their lives until the last syllable of their final lie. We no longer believe in Truth, how could we not fumble Beauty? To inform in our education has become entirely about indoctrination, itself having a unique form. Information would be a way to put in form, a formation of some kind has an aesthetic value, I imagine. I don’t want to know exactly what military leaders around the world consider beautiful, or how battles can be fought beautifully. Aesthetic considerations cannot be excluded from any talk of form. This, however, is not what we have in the matter of our infotainment whereby news is made to match standards of entertaining and amassing the largest audience irrespective of aesthetic or epistemological or ethical concerns. Information is handled without respect or integrity; they are used as our caveman fore bearers used rocks. I have betrayed my preferences and my beliefs. Beauty and Truth do require belief, a faith of a kind; they are always in form just as anything in form has matters of Truth and Beauty at its core . . . and yet, I do understand the integral role faith plays in understanding this, knowing this, handling theses defining them when necessary––the matters of necessity adjoined with discussions of Beauty and Truth . . . yes, capital ideas, is foremost. However, what then must we do about information as IN formation, as it has always been, but without the far-reaching or overarching consequences, impositions of our contemporaneity?

There is too much exchange of information today, a thing a little less than kind. [I wrote this you would not believe me, if I told you, now nearing sixteen years ago . . . this passage . . .] There is too much permeation from institutions wanting information about us, on us—always on top of us.  How can we think that media in America is not a Capitalist oligarchic flip side of the Soviet Communist Pravda. I’m not so certain today we even know what exchanging information means. Anything kin to a philosophy of beauty would be lost on us. You think we articulate Beauty, we admire Beauty, we know what is and is not Beautiful? And I’m not talking about the women or men you might be attracted to–how we conduct our lives and manage our information should be offensive to us, as offensive as what passes for informing people through most of our media outlets. Aesthetics has long lost its influence in the academies of learning in America, somewhere now in an intellectual graveyard with philology.  We have given up on ever perfecting this special acumen, I said. We have lost the feel for beauty; we may never again have it for truth–they should be Beauty and Truth, but I have succumbed to my culture’s desire to denigrate Beauty and Truth in our minds. Now, the exchange of our personal facts is too free and too easy.

The kind of information exchanged today is the kind we kept close or offered only to our kin.  We will spend more time discussing the aesthetics of how the leaking of sensitive State information about us through NSA spying than the degraded sense of Truth we have through our grotesque understanding of Beauty and Form, and how this has led to an ethical relativism that is dangerous and serves only to make power more powerful, the moneyed elite more moneyed and further elite. Do you imagine Zuckerberg serves anyone other than power? We have made this possible and have allowed this to happen, making acceptable unacceptable negotiations of information and intimacy–they are practically in our beds–no, they are in our beds if you are stupid enough to leave the camera on in your open laptop. Close the lid.

American Civilization––and American is a Civilization in exactly the ways other imperiums could call themselves civilizations, for, by and of the good and bad of them, the right and wrong of them . . . the way Soviet was a civilization . . .

To be bourgeois is to be capitalist, even if you are a worker, and this is one of the hallmarks of American Civilization, the making of bourgeois clones from the organic material of the proletariat. To be bourgeois capitalist is to be western, even if you are Asian in Asia.  In fact, to be western is also to be American, in a way; the American transfiguration of Western Civilization has been ongoing, if not in assault, for a hundred years or more, she said.  And yes, there is a Western Civilization, one that precedes 18th century Oxford Professors and British revisions in the name of their hegemony. The material of our civilization is not a complete fabrication, a mirroring of the emperor’s new clothes, but a wonderful and true fabric of many intricately woven threads—that is so fucking cliché. But you do get the point. The world is fast becoming one kind. Even if we have yet to raise our ethical consciousness to the level where we can see clearly the oneness of our human kinship. One world––the dream of every fascist, Nazis, Islamic terrorist and communist The scariest thing I noted in Paris the last time I was there was how much like everywhere else even Paris is becoming.  Every city in the world is an island in the American Bourgeois Capitalist Archipelago, a chain of Post-post-Modernist American Islands in a sea of everywhere else . . . the State has taken the place of God.

Do you believe in God? She asked. In God? I responded. Yes, God? Do you believe in Him? She asked. Him? I said. Yes, Him, she added. Him? I asked. Him, she said, Alice did. Not Her? I asked. Her? Alice asked. Yes, Her, I said. Her? She asked, puzzled.Yes, her––are you deaf?

[Pause.]

Alice: God is not Her.

Myself: Not Her?

Alice: No, not Her. God is He.

Myself: He?

Alice: Yes, He.

Myself: Only He?

Alice: Yes, He and only He.

Myself: Not She?

Alice: She?

Myself: Yes, she.

Alice: God is not She.

Myself: Never She?

Alice: Never She.

[Pause.]

She said,  God is He.

I know that God is he, but what is the Holy Ghost? I asked.

The Holy Ghost? She asked.

Yes, the Holy Ghost; the Holy Spirit. What is the Holy Spirit? I asked.

I don’t know. What is the Holy Spirit? She asked rhetorically.

The Holy Spirit is It, isn’t It? I asked rhetorically.

It?

Yes, It. Not He. Not She, just It.

It?

Yes, It.

The Holy Ghost is It?

Yes, It.

So, God is then He and It.

At least He and It.

At least?

Yes, at least.

I don’t see how I am supposed to come to God is She because the Holy Ghost is It.

So, God can be Father Son and Holy Ghost but God cannot be He, She and It?

Father, Son and Holy Ghost is one thing; this He, She and It is another.

I’m not saying they are the same thing. It’s just, if one, why not the possibility of the other?

I don’t know. All I know is that God is he and that now you say God is it.

Why is it I say? The Holy Ghost is it whether I say so or not.

I guess.

You guess?

I don’t know.

You do not know?

He and She and It?

Yes, He, She and It. No problem with Father, Son … Holy Ghost; so, why the problem with He, She and It?

He, She and It? She asked.

It, yes, He, She and It.

It is ID in Latin. Freud’s Id? The ID in identity, as I have said before, will say again, a common theme arising in course of my inquiries . . . plural by necessity, as it was for Herodotus in The Histories. History from the Greek Istoria, inquiry . . .

Kierkegaard said in his journal well over a hundred years ago that it was a “positive starting point” when Aristotle asserted that “philosophy begins in wonder.”  Wonder, not doubt was the place for all love of wisdom to begin.  What child does not know that life begins in wonder. Socrates was no nihilist; his I know nothing presents an affirmation of what little is known in face of what could be known; however, today we affirm that we cannot know anything, that there is nothing that could be known, or worse, should be.  Ours is a Song of Ignorance, not Innocence. Socrates, the Platonist ever (anachronism intended), asserts knowing nothing as a positive starting point. What can I know? is the flipside of this epistemological coin; what are the limits of knowledge? I might ask in turn.  I understand how difficult it might be to stand firmly under this form, from a generation drunk on indeterminacy.  Current trends in philosophy have cut deeply to the heart of doubt, eclipsing any glimmer of wonder.  Darkness ensues everywhere; the horror, the horror.

To wonder, it must be recalled, was the starting point of everyone’s love of wisdom; and wisdom was something to love, but like anything or anyone loved, it must always be too much to be enough.  Where then does doubt as the new highest form of wisdom leave us, where is it leading us; we are fully exclusive of wonder and with that our culture and its civilization have run amiss. Socrates’s position reminds me of the one a Buddhist monk takes in an anecdote I learned many years ago, I think I was an undergraduate then, majoring in one or another of the useless majors, at least according to one or another of the more simian of those I grew up with.  If there ever was a completely non-utilitarian life, it’s been mine. The anecdote was one about a professor who decides he must learn all there is to know about Zen. This professor decides he must visit a resepcted Zen Master to learn what he can.  The professor is after all an intelligent man, a curious man, a respected man himself.  He is also gracious; the Master should want to explain Zen to him. When the professor arrives at the home of the Zen master, the monk invites him in to sit, as the monk has been expecting him.  The professor is anxious to ask questions, but the  monk first offers the professor to sit and have some tea. The professor accepts.  He sits and waits; the monk prepares. As the professor sits patiently, the time for brewing passes.  The monk then pours tea into the professor’s cup that he had placed in front of the professor before he boiled the water to brew the tea.  So, the monk pours the tea to the rim of the cup and over, spilling the tea onto the table.  As the tea overflows the cup, the monk continues to pour.  The professor, in disbelief, stands and shouts for the monk to stop pouring.  “Stop,” he says, “can’t you see that the cup is full and that no more will go in.”  And with this, the monk stops, he pauses.  He then puts down the pot.  The professor stares silently at the monk.  The monk then says, “You are like this cup, full of your own opinions and speculations.  How can I reveal Zen to you unless you first empty your cup?”

At the heart of Kierkegaard’s critique is what he called the childishness of the philosophy of doubt, and I agree.  His criticism rested on the simple maxim that philosophy was to begin with the positive, and that it couldn’t begin with the negative and still be philosophy, and I agree.  Skepticism is not a viable philosophical position even if it uses all the tools and methods of philosophy, much the way that atheism is a disingenuous theological position. I agree.  The atheist employs the methods of theology but denies a God; yet in denying God, he has asserted a great metaphysical certainty, and with the tenacity of many atheists to go along with their belief, atheism becomes a religion in the same way as Judaism or Christianity.  That’s me.  How can we disunderstand the inquisitions of the Bolsheviks or later, Stalin. Nevertheless, Kierkegaard further suggested that any philosophy of doubt could not really give itself over to doubting as a beginning because to do so would implode itself.  This philosophy of doubt, as he said of the then current tradition in philosophy, never really gave itself over to the negative, thus, they never did what they said they were doing.  They were disingenuous from the start.  At best, it was just, as fore mentioned, child’s play, a child’s game.  Socrates on the other hand had emptied his cup.

I wonder if this childishness that Kierkegaard had noted in western philosophy at the time is what persists today, or is it more, is there a serious nihilism at the core of what was once our philosophical tradition.  Has the twentieth century, along with the dogmas of empiricism given a weight to this special form of nothingness that is displacing or has displaced our wonder.  The density that doubt has acquired can draw its analogy to the astrophysical phenomenon of what happens when a star collapses. We have all of us fallen into an intellectual black hole?

My pessimism for our future is not the nihilism that maintains itself as the center of our intellectual life, particularly our contemporary American anti-intellectual intellectualism, part of what allowed American liberals to believe Obama was the answer. The fore mentioned nihilism pervades the hedonism of our popular culture; but more than our popular culture, I’m talking about the college educated man and woman in America.  We are intoxicated by our passion for doubting as well as by our hedonism.  I am, though, far, far from ascetic myself.  However, I do wonder what will be, but I wonder first of being. But whose being, what being, where, when, how and why?  Wherefore am I at all?  I ask and wait again for someone to respond, but even echo’s voice has vanished.

Call me a man, I say. Of course I do. What else should I say here? Call me Ishmael? What is that you say have said will say? You ask. I say again, Call me a man. What kind of man? You ask. A man not so unlike any other man, I say. I wonder how any other man could be like any other man? I pause.

That’s what I am saying, I say . . . what I say I have said, did say before now, a man not entirely like any man you might imagine, or any man you might see, might meet, might speak to and get to know differently than you have me or any other man you might happen to see, I say. I have seen him, you say. I am and am not like any other man, every other is another set of something I can not get to the end of . . . of what? I wonder again. No loss or gain in wondering.

I pause. I say nothing.

To remain silent or not to remain silent; what is not said is often heard as clearly as what is said. And then again, I bellow, I cry, I howl, I speak to  you–to whom? To you. Yes, you and you and you . . . where are you, one and more . . . I recall a man named Ishmael–you recall him too.I pause a long time this time. The waves continue here on the shore beneath the bluffs out at Land’s End.

Call me, Ismael, he said, or so we have recorded him having said. One-third of Moby Dick was written on a farm in Pittsfield, my mother’s hometown. What is it about hometowns? It is nothing about hometowns–my hometown is New York. What then does this say to you about me? to me about myself? Saying to you should say something to me–of course it does. We imagine we know something about someone b y what he says, how he says it, diction is revealing. But this man Ishmael–this man myself–this Ishmael myself–what if I were Ishmael–I recall my Stanislavski. What if I were Hamlet, how would I order a hamburger in White Castle. Who was this man Ishmael down and out in a November of the soul–I used to say things like November gray for moods almost melancholic–the poems I have written. I recall how Ti Jean’s narrators sounded an awful lot like this Ishmael, yes Call me he cries out in the great vocative by any other name I might appear the same.

I too remember quite a number of Novembers in my own soul. What do I call myself in any of the many selves that shelter me–how did Hawaiians endure typhoons in their homes? But what would it mean to say Call me . . . a man? I am a man. I am like no one and I am like everyone or too many and sometimes not enough of any–to be alike; to be liked; I like me I say looking in the mirror; I mirror me is another self harbored by . . . I do not know what it is harbored by. I am a man, I say, although not as if I said everything. What is it that it does say?  What is a man? you might ask, as I do. What is a horse? I could ask too, but do not. They are the same question. They are the same question? The only thing that is the same is the same thing–similarity is not sameness I used to say. We are too loose with how we use language. What more do I understand–to stand under is understanding–post and lintel is everything. I’ve said this before as well. I repeat myself frequently. Everyone does I imagine.

I recollect a woman having said that men do not question their manhood or their maleness the way women question their being, their womanliness, their femaleness, their adherence to the construct of femininity . . . under revision. Do women question themselves to such an extent?  Is that true? I do not really wonder what other people wonder. How many times do I have to listen to women lamenting being women. I respect women who do not lament being women. I respect women who lament this. It does not bother me unless it bothers me, the way most things bother me, in the moment more than categorically.

It seems as if it would be an exercise in futility–imagining this futility–a useless task to set myself to–if I were to wonder about being a man the way women wonder about being a woman, what? Men do not wonder about themselves as women do about themselves. Women have been trying to make this a weakness in the human for decades, men not bothering to be as neurotic as women have been for the most part? Is that even true–I do not venture this either because too many generalities are too absurd for me to waste any time considering. Women  wondering about themselves the way they do has been made a human weakness for centuries by men. Is it neurotic, though? We will never have enough time to find out all we need to find out, let alone what we want to find out, when the latter is greater than the former. Time is what time is when time is what it is how it is–no one has any theotretical knowledge about time–do I, really? No. I recall the way we were taught to reorder our sense of time when we were studying geology.

Time in the mind is not time on the clock; time remembered not time endured; time in pain and time in joy; time in sorrow and time in gladness; time in the surf and time on the grass; walking is walking, walking–not all walking are alike. Time is a river; no, time is an ocean. History is an ocean. Time is not prgressive; neither is history progressive. History is like an ocean, not a river. Oceans are not progressive. You cannot step into the same ocean twice?

Ping pong is one of humanity’s favorite past times. We love to play hop-scotch with the truth. I have said this before and will likely say this again . . . a man’s maleness is not derogatory the way a woman being called a female might be–what the fuck is that supposed to mean I could say, probably have said one time or another–I remember the Valentine’s we spent in the Village . . . I think she meant to say–what could she have meant to say? Meaning always in fucking–how can there not be any meaning in fucking. There is no meaning between two lovers except in fucking.

When she said what she said about men and women and what the status of women socially might be in the matter of appearances, how we act, not how we look–to ask the right question, or not to ask the right question–we all must suit word to action, action to word, but also states of being and words must meet in some measured way. We must all be very careful about how we frame our questions. Frames are occlusions; frames are means to set off, to set apart.

All questions infer something of our rights to ask them, no? Our right to an answer comes with the question–but what of interrogation, a special sense of questioning, not simply the interrogative, Are you from Colombia? What do you like to have for breakfast? Everyone wants to know, not knowing is often unbearable; inquisitors are usually intolerant about not knowing what they think they need to know. Inquisition has connotations that questioning does not–questioning is another case other than asking a question. Answers to our questions are not as frequently offered as responses to them are. Answer and response are not the same things. This question about what a man is may come to many a man’s mind, it has crossed women’s minds too by many a circuitous route.

Woman is the world, woman cannot be the world; woman is angel, is devil, is whore, is Madonna, is woman, is no one, is someone, is anybody, is a body, is her cunt, is her tits; she is whole and hole and incomplete and complete but finished, ended, named, renamed, formed, reformed, informed for what she is becomes could be but will never realize. Woman is real, woman is fiction, woman is woman and not woman but women. Woman cannot be all women; woman can be every woman, any woman, which woman, who, when, where, how? Woman is no one but who she is even when she forgets who she is, becomes what men want her to be, how they want her to act–all is an act. Every woman is a poor player who struts her stuff upon a stage? And then is heard no more––after playing the role of woman to be wife to become wife is no longer to be woman, no longer to heard; Nevermore! Woman is an actor in her play her life. Life is a play; life is dream; life is life, not life but what it is minute to  minute, Life lived in the minutes, not the hours. Woman is anonymous. Anonymity becomes her. Unnamed; depersonalized when she becomes a misses. She loses her name, she loses her personhood in marriage . . . woman is greedy, woman is loving, woman is generous, stingy, cheap, gregarious, warm, cold, hot, passionate, dispassionate, removed, involved, attentive, distracted, responsive, sexual, a-sexual, de-sexual, non-sexual, sexy, attractive, unattractive, beautiful, ugly, hideous, gorgeous, grotesque, tall, short, fat, obese, skinny, slim, round, pear-shaped, what else have you . . . how many shades of brown  is she . . . shades of pale, pink, what is it about white and black I find so offensive––do I find them offensive; why so defensive on this? To be a woman or not to be a woman, what woman when woman why woman how woman this woman or that woman, mother, woman,  married, unmarried, widowed, divorced, separated, separated from her other selves, fractured, woman; woman broken, woman abused, woman used, woman as object; woman as bearer of the gaze––a woman’s gaze and a man’s gaze––woman in the gaze of men; women in men’s cinema’s, male cinema––woman as female and only female––wife––what it means, how it means, what it poses, imposes, disposes of woman . . . what is a woman? About 51% of 7.5 billion persons are women––there are more than. 3.75 billion ways to be a woman . . . woman is; deus est; femina est. No sense; non-sense; what sense is there in being a woman as woman has been defined by other than she? But then what do all other woman know of about for this woman, that woman, singular woman in her singularity, plural? The many selves of the woman, this one, only this one her and then another this one and another this one and another after that one and so on and so on and on and on in perpetuity . . .

What is a man and who fits the profile? What do I need to be to be a man? I could ask, What should I do? I could also ask, Are there shoulds? There used to be; are there any now? The parameters have been redrawn? We use both ends of the pencils more often than ever. We no longer have a universal answer; the world never had one answer, did it? There are profiles, but these fit the person in the way a man’s profile fits his face. [de beauvoir on defining . .. a woman being a writer is not an incidence of penis envy, nomatter how many pens she holds, she follows . . . following the pen . . . I do follow it, you know. It leads me as often as I take it with me to where it is I am heading, going, winding up.

There were a multiplicity of answers, even more of responses to the question, depending on the time, the place, the class, the family the position in the social order, no? I have my own responses, a string of points made, one or another divergent from the rest.  I am not, though, asking this question to receive an answer from you. What is a man? A man is, we might say, but then that would be man playing God. It was man who created  God, a woman I once knew said. She said, without man, there would be no punishing God. She obviously never examined females in nature.

I am looking for other questions that will provide other answers than the ones I have received. Most of us cannot think outside the box of our contemporaneity. Tempo-centric, contempo-centric? Responding to questions is not in itself answering them. I must repeat this. I have said this elsewhere, another essay or two, within the confines of a Review we publish.

We know this, though, don’t we? I have drawn one or another conclusion to how we often respond without answering the question asked. Avoidance is key. It is a sophisticated form of irresponsibility, the latter about not responding to questions about behavior, about choices, an effort to elude consequences, always an act of futility. To respond comes from the French reponser, or, to put again. What is it that is put again? The question replaced is not answered, it is posed once more how? We do love to respond in America, always having some nothing to say, sound bites everyone can chew like morsels at a cocktail party, the great anti-intellectual soiree. Answers escape us, though; they take more time, more effort, more thought. We have neither the endurance nor the tenacity to persist in forming them. We would have to know something and we are convinced we cannot, so why even pretend an answer can be had. We do so love to play ping pong. What then can I say, do I say, will I . . . what?

About this thing, man–and man, what he is, is a thing, no? I am a man; I am a thing called a man; I am a person called Job. Is man a thing? yes, no, perhaps. But man is a person; a person is not a thing. So then what is this about a man; it. Man’s it could be said to be his Id, as we would say if we wanted to take cues from Freud about identity, what it means to be a man. But this idea of what it means to be a man must be cultural, which speaks to mentality and not specifically to psychology, except in how individual psychology adapts to or adopts the guiding mentality of a culture. Who is this man named Job?

I am a man who is both like and unlike any other man, from anywhere, not a question as to which man. In comparison I could provide a certain set of responses, a list of characteristics, what I am, what I like, what I think, what I do, what I say. I ask again, wait again, look at when and where and how, what is a big part of who. The ‘who’ in the former relative clause speaks to my personhood and not my itness; who is it, a question; it’s me, I say how many times a day? It’s Job. Job is it, what is it, the name ‘Job” is it. I am a grammatical reference? This then is my it. To be it or not to be it–who was the It girl in silent movies?

Identity spells Id Entity, I recall, as you might as well, how this was framed in another essay on identity. Identity is Id Entity. It is spelled right there in the word. Which one where, the man, a response, an answer, this person, person means mask, personality is then maskality. The masks I wear; identity cannot be exterior to one’s Self? When is another determination, all the world we recall, stage after stage, when I enter and exit. Time and place are the complete boundaries of my being. This man or that man another man who is who he is; I am that I am; of course, a man like and unlike every other man. I am we; I am many. Doesn’t Satan say something like that?

I was exactly like my father in all the ways we were different. Each of us is like everyone else and nothing like anyone else simultaneously. I am speaking as a fellow person when I say man, the male counterpart to a female person, in anglo-saxon, the origin of the word ‘woman,’ wif man, or, literally, female person. It is intersting again, as I have said before in other essays, that the word ‘wife’ comes from the anglo-saxon for ‘female.’ If we recall theses other essays of mine, I not only delineate that female person is exactly what the word woman means–but just what this naming does to woman and how it changes in the marriage ceremony. We need God and ritual initiation to change woman’s already modified nature, as our language testifies, and thus our psychology unifies and universalizes, to the wholly other than person sex/gender distinction, female. She goes from wif man to wif: what they are to men, have been to men, where and when, cultures and epochs, all of them theme in variation, but the English is stark and interesting in how it manages woman’s nature in words. .

Okay, I am a person, I am a man–man meant person in anglo-saxon, at least what we mean by the word perosn because, as we have noted in other essays of mine, ‘person’ comes from the Latin, persona, which meant mask. A person is always one of the people, the people in the small case variation is a collection of all the persons anywhere in the simplest possible reference. But politically again,

The People are not just people in their simplest reference, moreover, this People, this We the People, is an important political reality fro democratic politics. In as much as I am one of the people, and it is initially this people from which we form the idea of The People, I am a part of The People, the energy of The People resides with me, in me, for me, but also by me. In this democratic referencing, each and every simple separate person in a democracy is We the People; The People receive their valency and validation by my being The People. I am We the People as you are the People as I am also apolitically one of the people as you are one of the people anywhere we are together with others. If I cannot be We the People, then We the People means less than it intends. There is only democracy for each and every one of us, not this all of us, a sum total of everyone added to everyone else in a never ending sub-totaling that signals democracy is for the future and not now. This is unacceptable–I am We the People; you are We the People; he is, she is, they are and lastly we are We the People. Alaways capital ‘P,’ always manifest in every single person. I am macrocosm as you are and she is and he is and so on and so on.

This idea mentioned above, of person as mask, is linked with what we mean by personality, or as I have asserted before, maskality. Yes, person from persona meaning mask. Person means mask, so every person is a mask, the many masks we wear in the world, yes, everywhere a stage. There are also the many masks we wear inside, as O’Neil had said: we have to get behind the masks we wear inside, or something to this effect. The person I am depends on the mask I wear on the stages I enter and exit in the world. The same is true for you and for him and for her and for everyone everywhere. There are many stages within me too.

Who, in the many attributes we might call human, is, as aforementioned,  like me and nothing like me, everyone, no one, anyone? I am like you in all the ways we are similar, more than similar in the ways we are the same, if sameness can ever be achieved by any two human beings, with as many variables, if I am permitted to make metaphors from the material of mathematics–yes, with as many variables in the equation that sums each of us, if that too is possible, this kind of summation, no human-being can be sum-totaled I had been taught. I am we, and in this we, there are many more than can be discovered by me at any one time, a nearly inexhaustible number of selves. I know many, I have the experience of them.

The many selves Self, Milton had imagined; each Self a totality of other selves . . . a totality? A a non-totalizable number of selves . . . fluctuating mutually reciprocally macrocosmic/microcosmic selves? I am a part of humanity; I am larger than humanity, or I am also a Self inclusive of humanity. I am each of these mutually as everybody is each of these mutually. There are a perpetually increasing number of centers to this individual macrocosmic realtionship each person has with the humanity he is a part of and greater than simultaneously, only in his inclusiveness of everybody in his Self as he also houses many microcosms of himself. Each human being is a macrocosm set against the microcosm of humanity, as he is also a microcosm of the macrocosm of humanity. Both are true. Now this macrocosmic relationship that each person has to humanity is true for all people; every person is an amalgamated cosmos larger than that of all the people considered together, humanity.

I am macrocosm to humanity as you are macrocosm to humanity, as each individual human being is macrocosm to all others together. There are enough questions aimed at what it means to be human, to have humanity, to posses the latter as one is also possessed by it. The questions of what it means for a person to be singular, to be plural, to be part of a collective and to be that collective in a larger more singularly aggrandizing inclusion.

What does it mean to be general and to be specific, to be unique, to be exceptional, or whatever else we have in words that expresses what human is, what humanity is, what it means to be human, to have humanity when humanity is a quality and not a quantity as all collective nouns are, quantities. What can I say, and what can I not say that leads us to discuss or determine, within the context of defining, the limits of our knowledge of the human, of humanity, of having this thing humanity, on being Homo-Sapiens.

You know I have established in other inquiries the idea that to be human is something different from being Homo-Sapiens. I am born Homo-sapiens; I must choose to be human. And the choices are not infinite, you know. Infinity is the greatest irrelevancy in our lives.

I am just like you. I am. I am similar or the same in all the ways you and I are different or appear different, just as I was exactly like my father in every way we were not alike, as I have said above and repeat by necessity here . . . everywhere I go is here, each step is here, here and here. I am different from you–completely other than you–in every thing we share, all categories of likeness, of course, whether it be race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, gender, level of education, job status, money, whatever have you in forms to compare and contrast one human being with another–in the manner of defining our species, we are alike as Homo Sapiens, the way one chimpanzee is like another chimpanzee and is in ways like all chimpanzees. Nonetheless, at my position in space-time, my place in the world, the world of phenomena, I see the world of things and objects, hear sounds, taste tastes, smell smells uniquely.

There is no one who has ever lived, who is alive now or who will ever live in the entirety of the future who occupies my position in space-time, thus this location here where I sit or stand or lie down, from where I look at the world of objects, of persons, of places of other things as impositions on the world, world after world of perception, of seeing the way I do when I do how I do where I do. I look for, I gaze at, every thing around me. This coordinate point in what we colloquially call time and space (apart form all references to the physics of space-time) no one but myself sees what I see.

No one thinks what I think. No one is in my head my brain thus my mind, and yes I have held onto the viability of the thing called mind in spite of our inability at locating it. I wish there were a way that this was understandable for more than those I have already assumed will understand–I have no way of knowing if my estimates are or are not accurate, to whichever degree they may or may not be.

The perfect human is the humane one, one who is endowed with the fullest faculties of his or her humanity intact, fully realized in his or her ability to be compassionate and forgiving, fully capable of loving his fellow woman and his fellow man, yet one who bears the marks of this humanity  as wounds, each of us blessed by and for this humanity as Francis was by the wounds of Christ.  If human, humane; if not humane, never human. But perfect means complete, and no one is complete until he is dead? If the origin of the word  ‘blessing’ is understood in its French etymology, whereby to bless is blesser or to wound, then this blessing by the muses, as any blessing from God or Gods, would also be a wounding. How too make out what I make up . . . I recall having said something once about a woman and her make-up; the fictional Self of . . . what is it that lies inside––it is interesting how selves lie inside of us, inside of me, of her . . . who else . . . to make or not to––to make up what we do when we do, the fictions of our lives, not just in the making things up, but in the actual making of things, to make or not to make––a poet in Greek was a maker.

The poet suffers a divine malady when infected by the spirit of the muses, what the ancient Greeks called enthousiasmos. This enthusiasm is of divine proportions.  The poet is infected by the muses, instilled with something of their energy; they do invade and pervade the poet.  It is a form of spiritual possession whereby in their cohabitation of the poet’s mind and body the muses bestow their quite literal blessings on the poet.  But wait. A poet is one who makes, but not just anything anywhere any way he or she chooses.  A poet invests something of the spirit of the muses in what he does, how she makes. A poet is not a mere craftsman, although a craftsman can elevate what he makes to the level of poetry, if you do pause to understand how poet is used herein.  Nonetheless, how we talk about art and how and when we become an artist in our culture only shows we know too little about what we fail to mean at with the words we garble in our mouths and on our pages.

There must be this special attention to perfection. ‘Perfect’ comes from the Latin perfectum, and perfectum in Latin was anything complete in this metaphysical way; and metaphysics is not simply a way to talk about the real, it is of the real itself, it is by the real and for the real.  Whatever a poet does do he does with enthusiasm, but more than the mere enthused we get about a new movie coming out starring our favorite actress, or how we get when the Yankees win the World Series, although there has always been poetry in the way Derek Jeter plays ball. A poet can only make in this special way inferred, and only with that  special attention toward perfection which we must understand is a special kind of completeness, one that does not come from perpetual doubt or praising mediocrity or insisting that the one who does know something is pretentious.

The culture of ignorance in America has been upon us for almost two generations at least; a fear of knowing collateral in its rise with the desire to abdicate responsibility. We do take humanity today as something given and not something to achieve or to build; yes, our humanity is something to make, and that’s to make in a special way, becoming a unique maker, someone who is, yes, a poet. ‘Poet’ comes from the Greek poeta. Herein we can say that poets are for humanity and that humanity is in poetry; poetry is something more than verse on a page or verse spoken, recited, sung.

This of course is contingent with thinking about poetry in a deeper, more comprehensive, or simply a broader way. But humanity for us is no longer a poetic endeavor, if I am permitted to return to the Greeks and understand making in this ancient yet viable way.  For them, humanity moved along lines seen parallel with the development of arts and letters.

I recall from boyhood, the colloquial expression, “touched,” used for anyone who suffered mental illness, someone who had been  touched by the angels a great-Aunt from the Berkshires had once said to me. There are lessons to be learned by us from each of those who cross our path, and on his or her path, either bears his or her cross. I can still see the heavy, think, carved wooden crucifix affixed to the wall above the bed upstairs at my Great Aunt’s in Pittsfield, my mother’s mother’s older sister, the latter having taken care of my mother after the former, my grandmother, found she could not be a mother in the way others expected her to be a mother.

She abandoned her daughter and sons and left her husband with three children and a farm. Il a ete touche par dieux, my grandfather used to say in French whenever he saw someone whom we used to call lame; he has been touched by God as Francis was touched by the Holy Ghost. Yes, wounded are we who have been blessed; to carry the cross, as it had been taught to us, as it has a million applications to how we enact compassion in the world day-to-day.  In his lameness, the wounded man becomes a poet of compassion; his affliction itself the poetry of compassion.  We who behold, the students, the apprentices.

To be human or to be humane is simply enclosed in the one French word, humaine, ; there is no humanity without being humane, of course is the correct inference. This weds the idea to be humane with the notion to be human; in the French mind.  The latter cannot become without first the former coming to be. Nonetheless, what the French language understands clearly, and what the French people understand individually or collectively has often been at odds.

French semantic duality, though, should lead to a holistic understanding of our human being, in other words, our humanity, whereby we could allow this French view of what it means to be human to inform our cultural understanding of our humanity; that is, if we were serious about diversity and multiculturalism, as something other than what we practice, which is multiculturalism as a costume to wear and only valid if it maintains allegiance to contemporary dogmas on what it means to be a liberal American bourgeois capitalist bureaucratic intellectual–any perceived contradiction notwithstanding. English, in its lexical plenitude has two words for being human whereby French has one.  The English words ‘human’ and ‘humane’ both come from the French humaine; the ideas referenced by the two English words find their expression in the one and only one French. The semantic dichotomy in English leads us to mismanage our metaphysical construction of what it means to be human; it’s a wonder we do not all go off an ontological cliff. How much humanity I have has everything to do with how humane I am; this has been said before by me in other essays within the OR; however, it must be said again, repeated as much as motif will permit–and herein so far we are talking both qualitatively and quantitatively, each reciprocal with the other; human/humane.

Now whether I am human or not depends on factors that we assume are not quantifiable, at least in our current dogmas of empiricism.  Yet, empiricism is essentially an anti-rationalism, if rationalism is understood as it has been in our civilizations philosophic traditions: the supremacy of reason over sense perception. Okay, my humanity then is what? Anyone is homo-sapiens just by having been born; this is clear.

Cousin to the Great Apes is our birthright, and this is for reasons other than the empirical conclusion that I am very hairy. I am human, or so I have assumed, and allow me to assume so for the time it takes me to complete this notion that I am something at least akin to human; that is, as human stands in contrast with what it means to be homo-sapiens, one of many animals here on earth. But I repeat myself; I have had the habit of repeating long before I became a teacher.

Repetition at best is called motif, at worst it becomes redundant, how plodding does speech become with unnecessary repetition . . .philosophy used to be a love of wisdom, as set by its Greek etymology, philo sophia; however, the highest wisdom nowadays rests in doubt, and not merely a mistrust of what we know, thus testing the limits of knowing, but a conviction that we can never know as we once believed was possible.  We have been, for about a century and a half, or more, playing an epistemological Russian roulette. Anyone who asserts anything categorically or absolutely, anyone that has conviction for what he knows, becomes immediately suspect. What is it that I am trying to say you might wonder? Who would have to wonder, why? I do not, not now after I have . . .  we are going to have lunch at the Shagawong in Montauk. A fried fish platter with a pint of Toasted Lager . . . I am hungry after walking this morning past the Hoo Doos below the cliffs of Shadmoor to Ditch Plains . . .

I do not surf as I am not a chair, nor a rock, nor a gorilla.  There is enough evidence to the contrary of anyone of these, enough quantifiable evidence excluding me from categorical membership with any inanimate thing and other animals.  I do however, share categories with them, especially the gorilla.  As matter, the rock and I are one in some ways, but then elementally, the sun and I share commonality. The stuff of the stars.  There have been opposite turning strands of RNA found on asteroids, that is, building components in DNA that differ from all of those found on earth. I wish I knew better the implications–I’d say something about them, but I cannot because I do not have what I have wished I could have . . .

So, yes, I am not a chair; I am a man, a man not so unlike any other man, one entirely different from every other man. How many times can I repeat myself about my Self, about me, about who I am and what I am? More questions begetting questions.

Humanity is perfectible; being a Homo-sapiens is froth with imperfections and flaws, many, many flaws. The perfect human is the humane one. You know left handed prehistoric man could shake hands with his right hand, a gesture once believed to be a way to show non-aggression by showing that there was no rock in the hand . . . a left handed Cro-Magnon could hide a rock in his left hand while shaking with his rockless right hand, and then take the rock in his lewft hand, and with the prowess of his left-hand in his left-handedness hit the other prehistoric man in the head and kill him . . . and how evil is that, it is evil, all lefties are evil, the spawn of the prehistoric human who was able to kill his foe while shaking hands.

Chimpanzees have been known to raid baboon nests. They have been observed doing this where they would then chase off the adult baboons, beating them up, off and away from their babies. The chimpanzees would then capture the baby baboons who they would then beat against trees until the baby baboons were sacks of mushy, pulpy flesh and shattered bones. The chimpanzees would then, after beating the baby baboons to death, stand in a circle, where they would play catch with the sack that was once a living baby baboon. This is not a response to any aggression by the baboons. This is not ancillary to a fight for food or for survival. This is only because the chimpanzees had nothing else to do, which is a behavior that can be determined through observation. It was for sport. I do not want to venture an inquiry about who watches chimpanzees do this. I am sure naturalist observations of animal behavior must have no human intervention. The naturalist cannot feel bad for the gazelle that the lions take down and eat.

The chimpanzee is the species of animal that is the closest relative of the Homo-Sapiens. We are Homo-sapiens first and often times in the final analysis. We are 98% identical in our DNA with our chimpanzee brothers. Our specialization in this killing for no reason is that we blindly and senselessly kill one another; even the chimpanzees do not do this to themselves. Of course, we have ways of separating ourselves from our commonality; we look at people from other religions, other races as if we were chimps sizing up the baboons. But this is actually the anomaly when it comes to human violence and inhumanity to fellow humans.

Everywhere humans are found, Cain is Abel’s brother. If any examination of the murder statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Justice is made, anyone can see clearly that African-Americans kill African-Americans and White people kill White people, the former at rate of 96 out of every 100, the latter at a rate of around 80 out of every 100. For every 100 murders where an African-American is the victim, the perpetrator is another African-American. For every 100 murders where the victim is white, the perpetrator is white around 80 times. These are from the 2012 Department of Justice statistics on murder broken down by the categories of race, gender and ethnicity.

There are reasons to kill. I was once reminded by a Hasidic Jewish ESL student that the commandment is not, Thous shall not kill, but Thou shall not murder. And this is the point here. The above ratios are for murder, not killing. We murder not only our own, Homo-sapiens to Homo-sapiens–I still insist that human is a choice, human is something Homo-sapiens can become, but is not something they are born–but we murder more often those who the bureaucracy tells us are our own. African-American murders African-American, Asian murders Asian, White murders White, each murdering another of his own at a rate significantly higher than another other not of his own. To kill or not to kill has been the last centuries guiding question; yes, Albert, the century of murder.

Of course, this idea of his own has to be spread across the bureaucratic and other social barriers built between races and ethnicities, gender, religion, and class. Nonetheless, although I support such moves by our society, I do not have the optimism that others might have. The day we have no consciousness of these distinctions, however, is the day we might have free-for-all murder across all former barriers. The horror of existence might be that as soon as we eliminate all distinctions, we will then broaden the pool from which we choose to murder. This is not a corrective against any forward movement toward a less racially and ethnically divisive society, but a satire on our nature as Homo-sapiens, and how feeble our humanity really is in face of the nature we misunderstand and mismanage. It is, though, important to note how the media manages inter-race murder as if it were an endemic problem. The media insists we live not in the world as it is, but the world as they present it, represent it, manage it and package it. We are all bound by the bows and strings they use to wrap up events.

I am that I am as I am when I am where I am how I am that I am. What does it mean in this world to say I am human?

We no longer begin with doubt to orient ourselves in a pursuit of Truth. We once believed in the existence of Truth, even if we knew we would never arrive at Truth here and now. The journey toward Truth was nonetheless maintained, and it existed as an absolute, a fixed constant to manage the horrors of potentially living in perpetual relativity. The idea that all things were not relative because if they were there would be nothing for anything to be relative to held as a constant in all discussions of Truth. The idea that there were ideas both absolute and transcendent was not difficult to hold, and most Post-Structualist critiques were understood, but then so were their own inherent limits and limited validity. It is not the existence of Truth in a tactile sense of existence that anyone should adhere to, believe in, have faith for. The tangibility of ideas in the mind as themselves real although non-tactile was also part of our faith for the existence of Truth. Here we have the Kantian dichotomy separating those objects of sense perception and those objects of pure thought. Of course, in this context of referring to real objects, Truth (especially the capital ‘T’ variety) is an object of pure thought.

The Truth we speak about is also, if I may borrow from Scholasticism and Aristotle, a Potentiality as opposed to an Actuality. We had not yet lost our compass when I was an undergraduate. Moreover, we maintained faith for therefore a belief in objectivity as a possibility for what we also understood was an overbearing or overarching or overly determining  subjectivity: the individual human mind at work experiencing, perceiving, thinking, calculating, understanding, remembering and recollecting . . . I know we no longer have faith for Truth in the possibility of it because we have grown weary maintaining faith for what we mostly assumed would never reach. Even faith in God is supported by the possibility or is it the potential for arriving at God. The journey to Truth has been abandoned.

All or nothing seems to be our ultimatum with life; yet I understand the problems in epistemology caused by a misuse of or a mishandling of or a misapplication of, or a misalignment of the sets of illogically drawn inferences from (rooted in a misunderstanding of the tensions drawn mutually back and forth between objectivity and subjectivity, how each has its limits as well as each has its veracit(y/ies) our notion of Truth as well as the contingent ideas of transcendence and absoluteness.  I cannot, though, understand that doubt of all knowledge is the same thing as Socrates asking “What do I know? What can I know? What are the limits of knowledge?” I know nothing is the beginning of philosophy, the starting point in all epistemological inquiry. Inquiry here the key. However, it seems we have drawn I know nothing as our final conclusion, having no patience for explication, definition, or persisting in inquiry. It seems the post-post structuralist world is more elitist and absolutist in its intellectualism than ever had been claimed for the metaphysical tradition(s) preceding Structuralism or Post Structuralism.

As Socrates had noted, philosophy begins with a posed doubt to determine what is known, what is knowable, and what the boundaries of knowledge are. These cannot however be determined within a persistent doubt that is the summit of all-knowing. I know nothing is now the same as saying nothing is knowable, or what is knowable cannot be known. Erasing categorical boundaries, a persistent hobby among all Post Structuralists including their post-post inheritors seems too much like the carpenter throwing away his hammer and saw.  There is a subsequent ineptitude that leads us into one intellectual confusion after another. Confusion is like cacophony, cacophony a state like that of the ancient chaos, the rude and shapeless mass within which there is no light to discern anything. Chaos is the total absence of knowledge, herein metaphorically expressed by light. However, light has its literal and optical connection to seeing and what is seen. Definition in objects and all colors of objects, for instance, are determined by light. The reflection of light; the refraction, that is, the diffusion of light as well determine what and how we see. A red shirt is black in the dark, it is gray to the colored blind. Where there is no light, all things are black; black defined as the absence of light; white the coalescence of all bands in the spectrum. Everyone to his own dark night of the soul. I understand the limitations of perception, of its subjectivity as well as the nature of subjectivity in itself subjectivity.  I understand perspective and perspectivim, as well as I do the values and dangers of drawing consensus from multiple subjectivities. It is how well I understand these that demands in me an attention to, and an articulation of, objectivity, its meaning, its definition, thus its limits, the possibility of it and the potentialities for it. I understand too well the limited inferences to be drawn from one’s perspective, as well as the limits of individual perception (something Cubism tackled in representation, both unique perspective on the plane and the limits of a point-of-view.  I must maintain, though, at least as a potential, the validity of a capital ‘T’ Truth; I must have faith for the possibility of objectivity, as I must understand the veracity of objects of pure thought. However, when a civilization rests its epistemology on doubt as we do, this dark night referred to above pervades the mind and affects all thinking, thus the mentality of any culture so adhered.

Doubt, as I have said before, has become the highest wisdom.  Another fools errand we run; ignorance being a turning away from understanding, comprehension being a turning toward the light. Doubt is a kind of darkening of the world, a return to the cave (herein referencing Plato and his Allegory of the Cave in his Republic) .We have not examined the consequences of this ever-growing doubt, of this further darkening of the world. We cannot stand the light of the day and how much more definition is articulated by light, just in the perception alone. Correspond this light of the world for a light of the mind, and yes, the analogies should be clear.

We do doubt that anything can be known, or that there is anything that is knowable. All ignorance begins with a simple act of ignoring. Doubt is, again, a darkening of the world There are people who doubt knowledge can be attained, or that knowing is possible. They do, by their actions and thoughts, insist that we must doubt our epistemological traditions, or narrow them, or deny them, or ignore them. For these people the only veracity is in their minds; their minds darkened by their persistent doubting, doubting, doubting. They live in a shadowy world with shadows of things for the things in themselves in the light. Knowledge is light. To reject knowledge is to reject the light. Doubt is a preference for shadows at best. Doubt can be healthy at times, to an extent. Doubt helps us avoid hubris, arrogance, assumptions. But what we have done instead is to open the void, the abyss, and leave all prey to that horrible vacuum Nietzsche warned us that Nature abhors.

Part One

Woman’s Rights are Human Rights, a Primer

I

Facts are fictions in as much as they are things made as are all things we think, made in the mind, characters performing on the pages of our fictions no more so fictitious than the facts we teach our children in a world where The Earth is flat was once a fact. Yes, the earth is the center of the solar system no less a fact that the sun is the center of the solar system, in as much as facts are often social constructions. Yet there is a truth about what is factual, as there is also a fictional truth that stands independent of or apart from verisimilitude, which is another thing altogether, and conforms to one or another of the many, many naturalisms––because there are many of these––that sometimes function in ways that allows me to delude myself about what is natural, or confuse myself about what I am, what I should be––as much as it allows me to gain a better understanding of who We are as a People, or who I am as a person, or whatever the many microcosms that my singular, simple separate personhood stands macrocosmically against or in support of . . . .

Who I am might be important. Being a woman might be important to you. It might not be significant to another and another and another each one of them creeping in her petty paces until the last syllable of recorded human history is rung, spoken, said. My rights are everyone’s rights and everyone’s rights are mine; but be certain that I am macrocosmic in the generalities of race, of gender, of ethnicity, of nationality, of economic status, of job, of religion . . . and there cannot be any acceptance of any infringement of my rights or any woman’s rights under the erroneous pretext of religious freedom–there is no room for Sharia Law in the United States of America, and when I see women wearing hijabs and niqabs in Brooklyn, I cringe. It does not matter that they choose to do so; if a woman says she has chosen to submit to or endure a man’s physical brutality–what are we saying. There are plenty of women who we could say choose to stay with an abusive spouse. Meaning?

There is no going back to the middle ages––and there are metaphysical systems in our contemporaneity that are medieval in all the negative connotations we like to give the term. Now, just because too many people do not want to offend Muslims out of a mistaken conception of what diversity is and means, we cannot Tell it like it is––. As a woman, I find too much associated with Islam offensive––I’m sorry, but to tolerate intolerance is not my idea of freedom.

Now, let it be said that a man or woman has an unalienable right to life, liberty, and sole proprietorship over body. Who disagrees? Can anyone? I am sure we could find a few–in a world of 7.5 billion people, how many would a few be? Should we develop an argument from the position of advocatus diaboli, whereby we assert that a person does not have an unalienable right to life or liberty or proprietorship over body? There are enough variations of culture in the world. I am certain we could find a devil in the cause of curtailing respect for a woman’s unalienable rights.

We cannot, however, loosen our grip–and it is our grip, both men’s and women’s–on the advances we have made in the cause of women’s rights, in the matter of her freedom and the respect and defense of her rights that our laws have accomplished, I have said, and said before in these and other words. Too many of those I count among my friends–too few my intellectual equal irrespective of maleness or femaleness (––I do hate using the terms of gender or of sex to distinguish each of our categorically yet minimally distinct human-ness–what then must I say? I should just say whatI have intended herein to say and get it over with with fewer or no interjections . . .). There is no more to say in the ways our distinct genders mandate we say, but in the way our common humanity allows us to say, clearly and boldly.

Reversing the social advances we have made in the cause of women’s rights––and we have made them irrespective of how many from among the cult of resentment think they see otherwise . . . reversal cannot be tolerated based on a mistaken understanding of religious toleration–it does not matter what anyone thinks the Bible tells him that contradicts any respect for universal human rights, which, of course, any discussion of a woman’s unalienable right to sole proprietorship over her body must include . . .

To be a woman or not to be a woman every woman must decide? Of course she must. Men are not put in the position of choosing their maleness or of whether or not they should be a man or not be a man . . . It certainly cannot matter what Muslims imagine Holy Koran is saying, most specifically when Muslims try to make Holy Koran responsible for their culturally bred misogyny and backwardness.

Just as Christians in Europe used the Old Testament to enforce a misogyny the Ancient Romans would have found abhorrent. Have you ever had a look at just what Sharia Law entails, what it codifies–we cannot let this happen anywhere in the United States, even if Muslim women say that it is okay for their men to enforce their culturally narrow misogyny under mandates given to them by Sharia Law. No way; never. Just saying no to medievalism is not going to be enough.

Nonetheless, turning back the steps women have made jurisprudentially in our society must never be endured. I have said this before–and I am likely to say it again, and again (repetition in such a way becomes motif; so, herein, let the motif of a woman’s rights be drawn)–a woman’s unalienable rights are basic human rights, not lesser for being basic, that is fundamental, that is foundational, to all of humanity. Certainly not fundamentalist.

II

Humanity, as a collection of human beings being humane, acting humanely, cannot persist where human rights are not respected, or where they are actively disrespected. Where human rights are not honored or protected in the course of their being chosen by all persons, we have something less than what is humane, something other than the only way we should define our humanity–there is no humanity in cultures that do not respect the basic human rights of women. “Where is our humanity when we tolerate the infringement of a woman’s basic human rights in the name of variations in cultural norms, mores, attitudes,” Alice said to me one day . . . “and with respect for my Muslim colleagues, Sharia Law, specifically in the matter and manner of women’s rights, has no place in our society, and should gain no foothold in our thinking,” she added..

Alice went on to say, “If perpetually revising our attitudes toward women is necessitated because people of an alien mentality have come to our shores intent on continuing one variation or another of their culturally enforced misogyny, we will be lost. Now, the endemic misogyny of some cultures in the name of Holy Qu’ran cannot be permitted to endure. It is more than too much when the narrow and the ignorant who have never read Holy Qu’ran, or could not in their semi- or il-literacy, tell us that Allah wants women to remain in darkness and ignorance, that He wants them to remain virtual chattel, a being for no other purpose but the breeding of a brood while they are made to cover themselves as would lepers, made to believe that they, by doing so, are best serving God . . . I get sick just saying this in rebuttal,” Alice said..

A woman’s unalienable rights do not depend on my say so or anyone’s say so for their veracity or validity. Believing in the necessity of repeating that women’s rights are basic human rights  is not in accord with the counter assertion that if these rights are not articulated, not repeated, women lose them. it is not even the Law that gives a woman her unalienable rights; it is not even her belief in them that does that.

A woman has unalienable rights irrespective of her belief system or her personal understanding; it does not–again–depend on the law. We do, however, have to repeat that a woman has basic human rights the same as a man if we are to insure we remember that she does, to insure by remembering that a woman has unalienable rights to life, liberty and sole proprietorship over body we will thus disseminate these ideas in our talk, in our discussions, in our debates on policy, in our writing, in our editorials, in our letters to the editor, in our Op-Ed pages, in the passing of our laws, and in the mediations of bureaucracy in the matters where State is expected to manage or administer affairs and/or services for the People.

III

Let me now reassert that a woman cannot lose her rights in the ideal, but forgetting her unalienable rights can lead to customs and laws that stand as impediments to their protection in an active practical way. Yet again, let me say that a woman’s unalienable rights exist whether the laws that govern her say so or not, but without the Law, protection of unalienable rights might become moot. Her freedom cannot become contingent on what the law says or does–her being at liberty to move about as she chooses can be curtailed; her choices might come at a high price, physically, economically, socially (interactively); but her rights as a woman, thereby, a human being, are universal, absolute and transcendent, and the latter is true with respect to time, place, culture, religion, or social contracts agreed upon by parties, including herself, contracts such as marriage.

A woman has un-ablienable rights even in face of what religious laws might say–once again, Muslim Sharia Law cannot be allowed to violate a woman’s unalienable human rights as an adjunct to what some think is religious freedom. There is no religious freedom that violates human rights. “Unenlightened Muslim men beware–and we must be as willing to understand that there may very well be a great number of Muslim men who are backward and unenlightened as we must also be wary of our prejudices and perhaps our culturally determined propensity to believe more Muslims are backward than might be so,” Alice said. “Any other man bent on violating a woman’s human rights must also beware,” she said. “No Mormon, Fundamentalist Christian––no one, anywhere, any-when, anyhow,” Alice said.

We must be very clear on this issue of a woman’s unalienable rights–there is no cultural norm or religious dogma that can be tolerated in the United States if it violates the simple separate woman’s human rights, even if she does not protest in her defense. Men acting under what they have interpreted as their God given right to intercede in the matters of a woman’s life, supported by Sharia Law, cannot be tolerated, and remains a human rights violation independent of what the Muslim woman/wife suffering under such bondage does or does not say. And this goes for any backwardness here at home from whatever quarter wherever. I do not want now to rail against our own fundamentalists, and the steps backwards they want us to take with respect to or for how we are going to go forward with the human rights issue of Gay Marriage and the Human Rights of Roe versus Wade. But please let us not imagine that “the ghettos of the North are any smarter or wiser than the trailer parks of Texas . . . let us not imagine that Protestant poor white and black are not flip sides of a singularly minted coin anymore than. we should think that the Black and White American Protestant Bourgeoisie are not one coin,” Alice said.

I cannot get to a place where I think I have said this enough times, and human history has shown us that constancy is necessary, that vigilance is for-always required. This idea of constancy is a human virtue: constance in faith, constance in trust, constance in knowledge, for and of God, for and of Truth, for and of light, yet mostly for and of humanity. Human Rights need constancy from us. They need our belief and our faith. We have to believe they are metaphysically constant, which they are. Without our belief in them and our faith that they exist, we disconnect from them; although they still have permanent veracity. We must, though, connect with them actively to help them thrive, grow. Yes, they are always present, perpetually viable in spite of what we say, or do think about them here and now; but constant vigilance is required for these ideas to grow and flourish in our practices. Our Founders understood this vigilance for this great experiment in Liberty and Democracy we call the United States, what we have invested in our Constitution. The same was and is true for Human Rights.

I understand that there are many voices and points of view in the Muslim world, but a great deal of it is semi- to il-literate, backward and medieval when it comes to women’s rights. I am sorry if some Muslims do not like the truth. I am sure that there are enough Christians and Jews and Hindus for whom this would be equally true. I do not want to discuss the culturally enforced misogyny in China, or how five-hundred women a day kill themselves in the People’s Republic of China, or how China leads the world in sexual slavery. Imagine that. What has the People’s Republic done to eliminate that?

IV

Now, as I have said above, no law gives us our human rights. The law may or may not uphold them adequately, but it cannot give us what we are endowed with by birth. And do not tell me that you are naive enough to think that there is no universal human nature–or that there are not enough commonalities by which we can determine things that are natural for all people, or at least habits of a commonly observed civilization or civilizing energy . . . Jefferson and Madison understood this expressly, even in spite of the persistence of slavery; but also deeply and broadly enough to have created a system and a context for liberty and democracy to win out over slavery. We must not allow ourselves to use the gross inconsistencies in the matter of slavery to undermine the veracity of their other arguments for and of democratic government. Throwing the puppy out with the flea bath water seems to be what we do most often. We wonder in bewilderment as to how we have come to where we are politically, but it is our liberals as much to blame as our conservatives. 

I may not qualify as a humane human-being, with the kind of humanity inferred herein, simply by having been born–I must act humanely; I must choose humanity. I am certainly deserving of respect by virtue of having been born, certainly worthy of humane treatment by others and by the State and its government agents meant to manage and administer that State; but I must also act humanely conversely. We cannot allow ourselves to imagine we are human-humane just by being born–so much of our nature–or what we might call natural inclinations–is simply and directly attributable to our nature as Homo-sapiens, one of many species of animals in the world, all of them with animal natures.

Human, like civilization, is a choice. Human, like civilization, sometimes stands opposed to Nature, at other times must mediate Nature, modify the animal and the instinctive. My humanity depends on my humane actions and treatment of others; these others and their humanity depends on their humane treatment of others including me. Our animal choices, guided by our purely homo-sapiens nature, is NOT good enough to qualify as human. This sense of humanity is broad and sweeping, universal and transcendent, it is absolute.

Now any ethics that proscribes humane treatment of others because they are not of one’s own is inhumane. To only be guided by ethical treatment of another because they are of your faith is a corruption of the Good; it is inhuman because it is inhumane to say because I am Christian, I must only respect Christians; or because Jewish, only Jews; or, because Muslimset cetera. No amount of cultural relativism in these matters is helpful. Other as well as another must be respected; a careful examination of the rhetoric of other and another should reveal the inference herein.

V

Humane living, humane choices, humane being are what the human requires; to be human or not to be human, this is the question, this is the choice. We must be then very careful when we want and try to make things more natural–nature and civilization are not equal or equivalent; they are not mutual in the ways we imagine, or assume. Yes, we have imagined by making things more natural we will make things more humane, closer to being truly human, when in fact we often make the things we do, the ways we act and react, more closely aligned with a purely Homo-Sapiens way of responding to the world, which includes all the ways aggression becomes rationalized in our behavior, sets itself within normative behavior for the species, even in matters that have been extended to social interactions. But this connection we have made for nature and civilization whereby one is wholly and in every instance interchangeable for the other, is not by necessity. The validity of such is in question. What we really need is to make things more civilized in our lives–understanding that there is a broadly defined sense of civilized that extends to Lakota teepees and council fires as well as bedouin tents, et cetera, et cetera. This should be helpful.

By civilized, we must understand humane. This is not a scaling adjective. Big, bigger, biggest are scales in size. Something is humane or it is not humane; there is not a less or more humane–circular is an effective analogy–circular is also not scaling. Something is not really more or less circular, no matter how many times you say so or think so–if one thing is less circular, it is not a circle and therefore not circular. Circular is simply the adjectival form of the noun circle. Thus, every circle is circular; in fact, only circles are circular. Ovals are not circular. Humane and inhumane have no monochromatic scale between their black and white.

Now, I am born is not enough to ensure I will develop humanity in the ways I have drawn herein; although anyone having been born is enough to mandate others respect his life and his liberty with this humanity–I will continue to repeat myself. I have herein restricted to the meaning of human, the following: humane treatment, humane actions, humane being. This means that one must have an active respect for and must maintain a vigilant defense of a woman’s life, her liberty,  her proprietorship over body, thus for her choices that concern her and ultimately only concern her. Marriage is not a contractual agreement where a woman gives up her personhood to become a breeder of a man;s brood, thus incurring certain obligations on the man to support this woman in all matters of sustenance, livelihood. She has not become the man’s brood-serf.

Yes, I must respect the right of choice of others–although only insofar as the choices made do not violate another human being’s humanity (his human rights, his integrity as a simple separate person whose irreducible singularity stands macrocosmic to all pluralities and generalities).  

I must for always respect the space necessary for others to cultivate their choices; I must stand in defense of humanity when another’s choice violates or infringes on the rights of another human-being. And here is the rub: all human-beings are another to me; no one is ever other.

I can choose to corrupt my humanity by being inhumane. This is what the traditional religions of The Book have insisted is Free-will. Our lives are not determined by God. We must be careful in delineating just what is human and just what is Homo Sapiens, as much as we must be cautious in delineating what comes from God in the matter or manner of how we punish or abuse others because they do not follow our path, our ways, our choices.

VI 

Human Rights need our help to manifest their forms in the world and function as more than ideals we hope for or strive to achieve in practice. Ideal rights and the practical application of ideals are not one in the same thing. Our biggest mistake has come from abandoning all notions of ideal rights for what we thought was more practical, only to suffer the constrictions and limitations of topicality and situation. We need to be able to handle both the ideal and the practical, the noumenal and phenomenal aspects of our rights in order best to manage them in the world. Instead we love playing hop-scotch with our values, our half formed ideals (a malfunction derived from our inability to think or speak metaphysically because we have abandoned metaphysics).

Humans rights in as much as they are universal rights are always everywhere the same; they are never contingent on culture or history or experience. A woman’s unalienable rights are the same for her in the United States as they are for her in Saudi Arabia, the same in France as they are for her in China. The difference is in how these unalienable and universal human rights are handled by her society, by the men in her culture, by the practices of her religion or the toleration of infringement by the State or supported by the State or social traditions.

VII

As alluded to above, a woman’s unalienable rights are absolute and true even in face of whether the woman in question understands her rights or not, understands this argument herein expressed or not. No one can abdicate his human rights. A person does not have an unalienable right to say: I want to be a slave.

Human Rights are always, socially and linguistically, upper case: yes, we write, Human Rights. They must remain capital in our hearts and minds too–not simply in our ledger books, where we keep them today. Support for human rights is offered only where it can garner monetary support from enough people to pay other people to sponsor a call for a change in our attitudes, principally because yet others see that stabilizing respect for and protection of human rights just might mean more money for investors, who inevitably do not seed these regions with enough economic stability to match what they themselves get out of the region.

We are corrupt–so much so that it arises in everything we think, say and do. The tree by the root? A question? How now this question? I must follow the Baptist. Raskolnikov’s axe is the Baptist’s axe? The pawn broker must be cut out by the root? What am I talking about here?

VIII Before the Law, by Alice B. {A Woman Gives a Speech Before a Group from a Woman’s Studies Program Gathering at . . .}

Part Two

Doubt is Our Highest Wisdom

I

Facts, facts and more facts–give me nothing but facts, or so we could say Mr Gradgrind would say . . . did say in similar words, I remember Hard Times by Dickens. I read it in college for an urban sociology class, not a literature class. Ours is another call for needful things. The one truly needful thing in our world, our culture, our country, this civilization of ours–whose civilization is it? How long has this civilization been on-going? I have not disbanded with older notions of what our civilization has been, has meant, could have meant in face of what it has never meant, even if it tried to mean it for itself. Now, we can say that the highest wisdom is Doubt. Nothing but doubt will do. It is our first philosophy.

Yes, give us doubt and nothing else but doubt. Doubt, doubt and more doubt. Didn’t Socrates say, “I know nothing?” Didn’t Montaigne also begin with an inquiry rooted in doubt? Moreover, the only wisdom ever needed, or so we assume, is an overriding doubt at the end of the day. We do not begin with the rhetorical posture of doubt, but conclude it after all, ending with an oppressive doubting of knowledge and the possibility of knowing anything.

Necessary?

The new dogma complete–you find it at the heart of everything we do and think–thinking itself having come under assault even in the academies of higher learning. You could say that doubt has been instilled, imposed–no, that it has been planted to bear the fruit of a greater nihilism. But we wouldn’t like to hear that.

It must be facts for me; doubt is an end and not a means to understanding the limits of knowledge, of what knowledge is or could be, not what I know, but the end of all knowing. As a result, I have only things, facts as things, disconnected, more like confetti to throw into the air, the only effect being how pretty it looks as it falls in array. Facts, facts and more facts, of course only facts and the first and last fact of them all is that even facts can lie, even facts are uncertain. The one overarching and singularly guiding fact is doubt. I must doubt Truth, even all truths, any truth, minuscule ‘t’ truths accumulating in reserve. I only have to look at our contemporary civilization’s guiding metaphysics, look to my participation in my culture’s assault on reason, on truth, on, yes, dare I say beauty–or should I say in deference to a lost initiative.

II

Reason, Truth and Beauty?

Capital letters bear a specific morphology; yes, they carry with them a particular meaning. I reveal certain prejudices when I say Beauty–a neo-Romanticism we might conclude, but then the Romantics had more heart while yet keeping their heads.

I don’t have to look long to see how in love with doubt as a form of wisdom I have come to be in this culture–just reveal that you actually know something in a group of anyone you understand to have been fully formed by our systematic under-education over the last quarter of a century. Doubt, doubt and more doubt is all I ever need to know–Truth as Beauty or Beauty Truth has long been lost in the mists of Post-post Structuralist mystifications. Even in politics this is the only guidance we allow. It is the one overriding reason such trash gets accepted in our political campaigning, the levels of demagoguery and semi-literacy–alphabetics, all of us, yes, able to spell our names correctly. This of the possibilities–infinite possibilities–the true profit margin.

Of course, it is correct to assess that political campaigns have always been comprised of that which expresses the lesser of ourselves, the lower of our impulses, the baser of our instincts, an oversimplification at best, or at worst, the grossest in the simplistic that is possible without all campaigning falling down in an avalanche of fragments.

What is different, though, is the lessening of the critique; moreover, the remove from which anyone tries to levy an alternative to how we elect, how we campaign, or what the media does with our politics and politicking, how they package our politicians.

The media rarely critiques itself; that would be too much to ask, I know. The inarticulateness on our part has left us in a position where the potential for opposing politics as it gets played on the American stage is approaching impossible.

I, who do oppose contemporary politics as it has been played in the arenas of states across the globe, have also helped create a cultural weakness in itself a strength only in its power to debilitate. Weakness is weakness, though, just as strength remains strength. The latter can only cleave to the latter, never the former. This is immutable. I should look closely at our most recent historical precedence over the last one hundred or more years, particularly the last fifty or sixty here in America, but most assuredly in France as well as here in the United States–there is a pervading nihilism at the heart of our common Western culture, worse, at the core of our civilization, yes, Western Civilization.

III

Again, doubt, doubt and more doubt is what we teach, what we expect, what we receive from our ideas that there is no Truth, there is nothing transcendent, there are no absolutes, there is no Absolute, and, of course, that everything is relative, itself an error a lot less than human. We have become grossly irresponsible–I have my excuses.

The assault on Truth, the idea of Truth, and subsequently our persistent attack on the validity of truth after truth until the possibility of determining any truth has become so undermined that there is no truth and anyone can say anything because what I feel is the most important thing to express–and you do not even have to believe this to do this. It is preferably in the most spontaneous speech because what is spontaneously expressed will be the most honest, I assume, has left me unable to mount any defense of democracy and the assaults on democratic living here at home, while power gets more powerful and money more monied. But the trickle down theory (really Hypothesis) is something like cum out of cunt when a woman stands after having been fucked–or should I say, after she fucks . . . to fuck or not to fuck, all us fucked by the state–why do we insist in the word fuck for rape or even when getting screwed is the meaning. We’re always debasing sex by our more violent or criminal tendencies.

Here is another way of expressing either what some call natural and others call organic–either conception has become our nightmare, the ascension of a virtual adolescent world view where there are no hierarchies of value anywhere for anything and no experts in anything, all in an attempt to more widely disseminate opinions democratically, or, for everyone to be equal in his opinions. And I do endure the inane, the hopelessly foolish, because I want people to listen to my opinions, no matter how ignorant or poorly framed they are. Without truth there are no foundations for facts, so we–so I–persist in expressing opinions based on what we feel–I feel–and I am as in love with emotion and emotionalism as everyone else seems to be in this America perpetually seeking instant fame–fifteen seconds, not minutes, Mr. Warhol.

Emotion is not passion. Both passion and knowledge actually scare us.

Who’s to say became no one can say, and we all agreed with no one could say because everyone wanted to say something, and wanted even an immediate, yet temporary, validity assigned to his or her opinion. The only way we could get anyone to listen to our unqualified opinions was to undermine truth, the nature of evaluation, the notion of hierarchies and the fact that opinions do have quality.

Without authority everyone became an expert for fifteen minutes. No one but an elite are really famous, so we took having expertise for fifteen minutes, that is, until someone else disagreed and then we had to listen to him, no matter how inane the opinion might be. Without quality for opinions there remains quantity, and that’s not quantification, but a sum totaling addition of opinions.

IV

Popularity and plurality have taken over our ethics, which is why we always defer to star actors and actresses as spokesmen or spokeswomen. Truth is numerical, arithmetic, additional. This is the prelude to the will to power. This is what we suffer socially and economically today. We have no other reasons for why anyone accumulates the wealth that is accumulated by the rich and powerful; the monied elite are far too monied, but we no longer have access to the reasons why this should offend us. We do not, in our semi-literacy, have the ability to express our position. In fact, we no longer are able to discern a position as a People to stand in counterweight to the State or as a corrective for power.

The agents who are supposed to manage this in our media are so corrupted by having become so semi-literate that they do stand opposed to power but grateful to it the way those who served the Czar used to be grateful. We do not have freedom for all, democracy for everyone, but only for the oligarchic elite, the powerful and the insanely monied. We do not have freedom and equality for African-Americans, we have the privilege system of affirmative action, and like all systems of privilege, they either exist in systems of inequality, or they create inequalities to perpetuate themselves as privilege systems. Privileges cannot exist where there is equality. The use of privileges for some groups is also used as a means toward a Machiavellian end; power divides us and conquers us.

But I do not have to be concerned for this–after having been systematically undereducated, allowed to become so lowly semi-literate, I cannot see that as stupid as I have become is not smart enough to know what I should know

Part Three

The ABCs of Literacy

To be literate or to be alphabetic is a question that should be posed by any person in any society when the question of reading is discussed seriously toward what end it can serve, what end it should serve, or what end it does or does not serve. Now whether or not reading serves any end other than the one it does in itself serve needs to be addressed if not answered. Reading in itself reading serves no social nor economic nor political end–unless that end is the freedom of the individual, politically and psychologically. Now whether or not it does serve these mutually contingent ends, political and psychological freedom is another question for another essay. How the challenges of what I will herein define as reading will be articulated we will see; the challenges posed by reading do try men’s minds as well as their souls.

Any society that sees itself in conflict over just what the society is or should be or where it is going or where it has been or has come from has something to consider in the matter of how its individual members act, react, and interact with one another, this necessitating that each of them–each of us–has more than a night light on in the mind, that thinking is other than randomly passing images in one montage after another, that thinking is not playing hop-scotch with words. Reading, in the ways that will herein be discussed is not superficially skimming pages, allowing their flatness and virtual two-dimensional existence to impose itself on what exactly reading does, informing what we imagine reading is. The fact that words appear in lines on pages also imposes an unnecessarily linear dimension to how reading is accomplished. This superficial skimming of pages is the dominant result from our broad acceptance, or confusion, of alphabetics for literacy.

Literacy or alphabetics–what is it that we mean when we say someone is literate? To be literate or not to be literate–much of what we call literacy in America falls short of what should be named literacy.

Being alphabetic–what is sometimes referred to by me as having dexterity with the alphabet, able to handle words the way some handle dice, their speech or writing no different than tossing the dice. Alphabetic is not in itself literacy. It cannot be. This was, of course, inferred above–to read or not to read, to be able to or not, a foundation of civil liberty, a corner stone of all advances in civilization–and this is not hyperbole.

As I have said this before in other essays, and as I am saying this again in this one, I am convinced that repetition is not in itself redundancy when handled appropriately–it can be motif. The latter is also something I have said before and will repeat, how repetition becomes motif.

Literacy has to be more than merely being able to spell one’s name correctly, being able to negotiate a supermarket circular, being able to read road signs, address a letter, read the tabloid newspapers to gain the daily dose of state, media or capitalist propaganda–and that is what the media has become today in our Totalitarian Bourgeois Capitalist America. Tabloid presses often written on the third or fourth grade reading level–three in four criminals serving more than three years in prison read somewhere between the second and fourth grade–how is that we see no correlation between our debased standards of reading, of what literacy is or what it could be and crime?

A newspaper like the Nw York Times has traditionally be written on the 8th grade level–this is the level that the United States considers functional literacy and a level that too many graduates leave their high schools with as an accomplishment to applaud in caps and gowns at family parties–the poor deluded bastards.

Literacy must be something bigger than it is at present. It must be deepened, become more penetrating than what is allowed by our current deferment to the standards of universal alphabetics. How many High School graduates can actually read on grade, at least twelfth–and by the time one graduates, one should be reading higher than twelfth grade if one is to read on grade. But is it necessary for an auto mechanic, in order to be a good auto mechanic, to have to read above high school? Probably not. However, the mandates of American democracy and freedom –that which is organically truly democratic and free, and not the result of manipulated images managed by the protocols of American propaganda concerning freedom and democracy–do demand that he achieve higher and higher election in literacy.

What I am herein referring to as our tradition of and for democracy (our sense and sensibility for civil liberty, for democratic living, what we might imagine could be living free, that is, if we were allowed to be free in a way that organically respected individual freedom in a healthy way), is, what we would like to support, allegedly (and allegedly only because a good deal of what we think we should support concerning freedom and democracy amounts to adhering to state disseminated ideas about democracy and freedom, received through our many forms of media, which in turn are never fully supportive of the People as a People being free, but instead are in line with transforming the People into a state serving Public, the latter allowed to masquerade as a people being free, again, through one or another organs of our media, themselves directly receptive to suggestions from power and money, when they themselves are not the power and the money as many publishers or corporate publishing conglomerates are). All the manipulation of images and all the received ideas about democracy are aimed at one overriding result: that power becomes more powerful and monied and that money becomes more monied and powerful.

But a two-tiered society such as the one we are garnering today cannot persist long in masquerading as a free and democratic society, which is why, in part, this culture goes to great lengths to propagate bourgeois values and ideals through its media, making bourgeois capitalist drones out all workers and the poor. Union membership has dramatically declined–the right to work has been transformed by American Bourgeois Capitalist propaganda, thus then dogma, into the right to any job at any salary is better than no job, and that crumbs from the table of the rich and powerful are for what we should be grateful.

Those ideals inherited from the tradition of American civil liberty again do demand that that auto mechanic above, to be a rationally and intelligently functioning and participating member of what we purport is a free and democratic America–must read at a level higher than he has been allowed to achieve in our public schools., that literacy must not be debased and confused for what we do perpetuate in our schools, and that is an intellectually and socially enfeebling alphabetics instead of literacy. But then with teachers not having to gain a Master’s Degree in the disciplines they teach–that is, a high school math teacher can get his or her master’s in teaching, with a concentration not in math but in math pedagogy; with a teacher allowed to have a C average, which includes a c-, overall in all subjects; with teachers allowed to get a B- in their major–how do we expect pedagogy not to fail at achieving what it seems we can no longer imagine our students should have, although it does remain what they do need.

What has been sponsored in our public education over the last thirty to thirty-five years–and do not hold me hostage to the hypotheses of time counted; time on the clock or calendar and time in the mind are aspects of time imagined passing–has only managed to systematically under educate. Power has taken to heart Madison’s proclamation that education is the foundation of civil liberty; it has transformed education in direct proportion to how it must present the veil of freedom over the mask of democracy, a masquerade or a charade? Liberty is only a facade, a Hollywood studio set. It is no irony that education in my estimation has declined since the days of Regan–is it the fault of Regan and the Republicans? I would like to side-step the ping pong the parties play–although I do wind up rooting for one side or the other in any match I watch, even cricket matches I stumble on when switching channels on cable–I do root for Hilary Clinton over any Republican Candidate because any one of the Republicans would be tantamount to one of Satan’s following of angels ascending to the Oval Office. This is not hyperbole.

Obama, it must be said, in the seventies, would have been a moderate republican, with no change in his attitudes, his opinions, his thoughts, his rhetoric. This is what I find so scary about our politics and who manages our pedagogy–our pedagogy increasingly taking its cues from, while responding to the protocols of, bureaucrats in Washington, and here in New York City, from Albany and City Hall.

The fact that someone can spell his name, as I have mentioned above, cannot be the way we judge a person as literate or not literate. We have virtually come to this if we have not yet actually arrived there. It can be a measure of just how alphabetic he is, which is also the assessment of how well someone fills out bureaucratic forms or reads the tabloid press, never meant to do anything but inform in the crassest way possible–this informing, if you examine the words you use closely, is just that: to inform by the tabloid press is putting people unable to think In Form. But then, let me not lead you astray, in addition to the tabloid press, The NY Times, The LA Times, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe to name a few of the non-tabloid press, have come to place of semi-literacy and belligerent politicking no better than the traditions of the tabloids . . . The Great Yellow Press, all. Journalists never broker in the Truth, only some of the truths, today, the more the sensational, the better––yet, when was that ever really not the first ad the last of what was fit to print. Sensationalism fits the editorial policies better than anything else. Perhaps there was a time when the non-tabloids shied away from the amount or the extent of the sensationalism that tabloids indulged . . . greedily, lustfully, gluttonously?

Never the twain shall introduce one another to each other–alphabetics and literacy, how shall they meet? They have met in the manipulated images of one another confused and confusing many for a long time. They must be kept apart, though, in our appraisal, something that a healthy sense of and dexterity with or for categories could help. What I can do with the alphabet is always set against what a monkey cannot do with the alphabet, unless we give a group of them typewriters and infinite time, then, presumably, the monkeys will by accident type out the script of Hamlet. I am still puzzled as to what kind of critique this is, having heard back in grad school this argument on the periphery of critiques of Shakespeare as the center of what had come under attack for being too overtly political and politicized in favor of ruling elites, the traditional Canon of literary achievement. I understand the necessity for Canon revision, or broader inclusion, but never have understood the iconoclastic response, or worse, the same response the mob in Alexandria had with torches at the Library of Alexandria. Not so very different, I had understood; I still understand.

The study of literature is sometimes called the study of Letters, but spelling one’s name correctly is not what I had in mind when I would say someone is literate. Yes, you have to be alphabetic in this culture to become literate, but to be literate or to be literary or to read and write literature (the order is happenstance)–these are other than reading tabloid newspapers, other than filling out correctly a deposit slip at the bank. But then we do all know this, do we not?

I am safe in assuming that my to-do list is not what I would call literature, although the aesthetics of this to-do list could be employed in the service of the literary. No? Of course it could. I am not saying that what we understand to be literary forms could only have been fixed by writing. There are a number of what have come to know as literary forms, forms of literature, that were fixed, that lost their plasticity, if they ever had any, in antiquity, in a time before writing, or at the dawn of it when societies like Ancient Greece were residually oral and moving toward literacy, what Plato actually champions in Book Ten of The Republic. Rather than understand Plato’s stand against poetry as one against poetry as we think we understand it, read it as an opposition to a former Orality that opposed the early advances in Literacy, most dramatically in psychology, thus mentality [the former of an individual, the latter of a society].

A great deal of re-reading is necessary for any kind of advancement in stages of higher and higher literacy; and yes, this analysis does run along a vertical axis as does literacy and greater achievements in literacy run along a vertical axis. Also, we must understand that engaging in writing is a complement of reading in literacy. No one actually reads at a level considerably higher than the one at which he writes or could write if he engaged in the practice. The same is true and reciprocally so for reading on writing.

We are though mistaken about orality, what it is, where it is, how it functions, when it functioned, and how it stands in contrast to literacy, and how ours is not an oral culture no matter how many songs you listen to or how many Youtube videos you watch to learn something rather than read. We can only become illiterate not non-literate. The possibility of becoming a non-literate culture is virtually impossible. And this is the horror–the only result from not reading, from a decline in literacy is illiteracy, something always illicit, illegitimate in the matters of civilization, something born into the world half made-up, something of a grotesque nature more offensive to the manners of literate civil society than can be imagined, that is seen, by the dying of the light inside a person suffering this decline.

Epilogue

To summarize on point: It is necessary to disseminate the ideas of a universal humanity in order for many to act accordingly in relation to these rights which, again, are metaphysically unconditional, categorical, certain, positive and beyond any effort to eradicate them; as they can never be revoked. They can lose the vigilance of a People to respect them and maintain them, protect them and nourish them; they can receive active efforts against their protection, the ways they are disrespected can become paramount in a society; the laws of a society and its customs can also work against a woman’s free exercise of her unalienable basic human rights; but these rights are hers in face of the violations she suffers.  

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