“The rest is silence.”

This will be my last post on the Word Warrior for the foreseeable future. Probably, hopefully longer. I retire of blogging.

This has been a long time coming, but I can only finish it impulsively. I’m fine; I’ll be better for this. A part of me regrets doing this. Some part of me will regret it tomorrow. But some part of me, mayhap a majority of my psychic parliament, regrets not doing this a while ago. This blog has always been an achingly inconstant source of pleasure, and a regular purveyor of frustration. I have lost untold hours to its distractions when I could have been engaged in the sort of writing I really want to do (and also homework). But the occasional reward of a meaningful dialogue inspired by my comments or postings kept drawing me back.

Never again; for this blog is a project that has outlived its purpose. When Femmemeister and Dash started this blog, they challenged us to: 

[C]ross visions.  Let’s engage in some real political dialogue. Let’s advance the debate and truly engage with the issues rather than simply picking sides…This blog’s goal is to take on the challenge of using words to connect, progress, and enlighten.   Look forward to some quirky yet informative banter, global, national and campus news, thoughtful critiques, and some real engagement with the issues…

And this went splendidly, for a time. The blog hosted vigorous discussion by conversationalists from every walk of the Marquette community, though many participants were of the co-blogger’s immediate social circle. Both our founders eventually moved on. I stepped up, and brought no such battery of engaged friendly readership. Comments died down to a trickle, only occasionally sloshing over when a troll pounded at the floodgates. Then, that great impetus to conversation, the election, resolved itself in such a way as to minimize all friendly complaints. The troll fell silent as stone, and anyway we had not been taking the time to respond. Comments died again, and debate, conversation, cross-visioning, stopped. Yet I kept talking to myself, from atop my electric soap box.

It is perhaps cowardice, or a stroke of Burkean prejudice for tradition which inspires me to continue to withhold my Christian name, even now in departing. Most of you already know it. For those of you who don’t, it is a barren fact. You would learn nothing about me; my blogging here is a more complete archive of my opinions than I have ever before assembled. With no one person had I ever discussed women’s issues, gay rights, my discontents with the Democratic Party, compatibilism, legal positivism, Spinoza, Santayana, Dollhouse (of which season 2 premieres this Friday, Sept. 25 @ 8/9 c. on Fox, and which will be available on Hulu 11 a.m. Saturday ), religion and irreligion, the travesty to our society that is the condoning of torture by the highest offices, my childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder and persisting social phobias, my reading lists and favorite paintings. I even blogged my revelation about possibly having Asperger syndrome before committing the datum to my personal journals.

I’ve proffered myself with a more thorough introduction to my readers than I’ve ever been able to do in person. Who am I? I am Bento. I was, am, shall be Bento. Yet I have always been more than him, want to be more than we are now. I hope now to get to know some of you better, without these monitors to distract us.

Thank you for making me a part of your day.

Cheers.

Rene Magritte, 1937, "La reproduction interdite"

Rene Magritte, 1937, "La reproduction interdite"

Guys, guys, CRAZY healthcare demonstration happening in front of AMU right now!

Okay, so there are like 25-40 people on Wisconsin as I type this chanting

Healthcare for all!

and waving posters at drivers-by that read

BIG INSURANCE SICK OF IT (sic)

, even though the current proposals (the House’s and Baucus’) would leave the industry intact, but regulated. A public option is looking less and less likely, so the industry probably wouldn’t even have that to compete with.

Couple of DPS officers standing by. The silent generation is well represented among the demonstrators, despite the warnings of one (1) counterdemonstrator with a leatherbound Bible and big yellow sign sign quoting John 3:3, saying of Obama’s plan

It’ll deny healthcare to old people, and all sorts of people!

I have no idea why any of these people are here. What do they hope to accomplish by waving signs at cars and chanting mechanically until their slogans have lost all meaning? Are they targeting students? (As if they’re not overwhelmingly in the tank with Obama’s “reform” agenda; it’s a university, for G—‘s sake.) If so, why not point the signs at them, and not motorists? I do not understand.

The subtle feminism at the heart of America’s fairy tale

Slate’s Meghan O’Rourke has a fascinating review of two  recent biographies of Frank Baum, creator of Oz:

If Oz and its sequels are shaped by Baum’s sharp eye for the theater of commerce, they are also shaped by his wishful revisions of social conflict. Notably, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz offered a paean to strong women at a moment when suffragettes were agitating for the vote. The book’s hero-protagonist, obviously, is a girl. In Kansas, her lively laugh repeatedly startles her worn-down aunt. In Oz, she effortlessly (and intuitively) kills the evil witches subjugating the natives. Indeed, all of Oz’s strongest figures are women—Glinda, the Good Witch of the South; the Good Witch of the North (not in the film); and the two Wicked Witches.

Baum, who publicly supported women’s right to vote, was deeply affected by his beloved, spirited wife, Maud, and her mother, Matilda, an eminent feminist who collaborated with Susan B. Anthony and publicized the idea that many “witches” were really freethinking women ahead of their time. In Oz, Baum offers a similarly corrective vision: When Dorothy first meets a witch, the Witch of the North, she says, “I thought all witches were wicked.” “Oh, no, that is a great mistake,” replies the Witch of the North. In sequels, Oz’s true ruler is discovered; it turns out to be a girl named Ozma, who spent her youth under a spell—one that turned her into a hapless boy. One can imagine Baum winking on the page at his wife and mother-in-law. In his own life, Maud was the strong, practical one who kept things running. By comparison, he must have seemed the feckless humbug, trying one endeavor after another before succeeding as an author.

Monday Evening Surrealism

Gave a presentation on Tom Stoppard and the Theater of the Absurd today. We volunteered to do brief talks on various topics we’d be encountering. Even though I listed Absurdism as my third preference, after Flaubert’s realism and the symbolic use of Rembrahnt in Zadie Smith. I was the only one to sign up for it at all. Suprising. College students usually find existentialism to be one of the edgier, sexier literary paradigms. But no one signed up. Again, quite by accident, I find myself attached to surrealism.

Spent most of the weekend agonizing over the presentation. You’d think it would help that my apartment, with its bare walls and sparse furniture kind of looks like the set of a Beckett play, but it didn’t. Never did get around to the accompanying Powerpoint, which would have distracted the audience from my mechanical recitation I delivered as quickly as possible to get the thing over with. But the end result apparently impressed my instructor.

Yay.

Now to write another paper in three hours.

TONIGHT: “The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo”

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For the first event of Sexual Violence Awareness Week, the award-winning documentary will be shown tonight in Cudahay 001 @ 7p.m.

Please do try to make it! I won’t be able to, being swamped as I am; but many hoops were jumped through to bring this to campus, and it really will be worth the time.

Monday Morning Surrealism

Salvador Dali, "Swans Reflecting Elephants," 1937

Salvador Dali, "Swans Reflecting Elephants," 1937

Stanley Fish does not believe in the university

There is, I believe, in most advocates of campus speech codes an unconscious or unrecognized inconsistency in the valuing of free expression. If speaking in purely theoretical terms, they will strongly come out “for” unfettered expression, but when faced with practical policy proposals, they will claim free expression must sometimes be subjegated to the interest of traditionally disenfranchised demographics, at least in a university setting. (This I find wrongheaded, but that’s not the point I’m driving at.) It is an easy but important distinction to make between such inconstant freethinkers and those who genuinely hold liberal ideas of freedom of thought in contempt.

University of Illinois literary critic Stanley Fish is of the latter camp. In past political writings, he claimed the ideals of free speech, multicultural accomodation, impartial justice, academic freedom to be incoherent. The entire liberal project since Locke he takes to be something of a sham or confusion. Now, in a NY Times editorial, Fish has attacked the very impetus to his own profession, to say nothing of the sciences and more whimsical speculations which account for such a great part of the pleasures of life. Curiosityhe says, is an isatiable vice:

Give this indictment of men in love with their own capacities a positive twist and it becomes a description of the scientific project, which includes among its many achievements space travel, a split atom, cloning and the information revolution. It is a project that celebrates the expansion of knowledge’s boundaries as an undoubted good, and it is a project that Chairman Leach salutes when he proudly lists the joint efforts by the University of Virginia and the N.E.H. to digitalize just about everything. “The computer revolution,” he announces, “holds out the prospect that the digital library could be become an international citadel for the pursuit of curiosity.”

That’s exactly what Paul Griffiths, professor of divinity at Duke University, is afraid of. Where Leach welcomes the enlargement of curiosity’s empire, Griffiths, who is writing a book on the vice of curiosity, sees it as a sign of moral and spiritual danger: “Late modern societies that are fundamentally shaped by the overwhelming presence of electronic media and the obscene inundation of every aspect of human life by pictures and sounds have turned the vice of curiosity into a prescribed way of life” (“Reason and the Reasons of Faith”). The prescriptions come in the form of familiar injunctions: follow the inquiry as far as it goes, leave no stone unturned, there is always more to know, the more information the better. “In a world where curiosity rules,” Griffiths declares, “unmasking curiosity as a destructive and offensive device . . . amounts to nothing less than a . . . radical critique of superficiality and constant distraction.”

Griffiths builds on the religious tradition in which curiosity is condemned because it distracts men from the study and worship of God, shackling them, says Augustine, “to an inferior love.” But curiosity can also distract men from secular obligations by so occupying their minds that there is no room left for other considerations. These men (and women) fail to register the pain of animals subjected to experiments in the name of knowledge, pay no heed to the social consequences of their investigations, and take no heed of the warnings issued in Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus,” Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau” and Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (not to mention the myth of Pandora and the Incredible Hulk).

They are obsessive and obsessed and exhibit, says John Henry Newman, something akin to a mental disorder. “In such persons reason acts almost as feebly and as impotently as in the madman: once fairly started on a subject, they have no power of self-control” (“The Idea of a University”). They have no power of self-control because they have no allegiance — to a deity, to human flourishing, to community — that might serve as a check on their insatiable curiosity. (Curiosity is inherently insatiable; its satisfactions are only momentary; there is always another horizon.)

In short, curiosity — sometimes called research, sometimes called unfettered inquiry, sometimes called progress, sometimes called academic freedom — is their God. The question, posed by thinkers from Aquinas to Augustine to Newman to Griffiths, is whether this is the God — the God, ultimately, of self — we want to worship. Given the evidence, including Chairman Leach’s address, the answer would seem to be yes.

This man has tenure.