DIBS AND DABS

THE INESTIMABLE VALUE OF LITERATURE

“Regarding, for instance, our strange immobility in the onrush of man-made climate change: the alarm is being sounded right and left. Economists and statisticians have one view of our failure to act, historians another, political scientists a third. The internet is bristling with opinions, informed and otherwise. But does anything come closer to helping us feel our way into the granular, organic complexity of the trap we’re really caught in than the sleepwalking heroes of Shakespeare?

Consider these dynamics. A good man, curiously enthralled by a conniving inferior, is hijacked by illusion and destroys what he loves most in the world (Othello). A young man of uncommonly lucid mind, who sees quite plainly the crime that must be righted, is somehow unable to pull himself together and do what must be done to halt the slow-motion disaster unspooling around him (Hamlet). A solipsistic striver, overcome with a self-loathing horror of his own ruthlessness, babbles to reassure himself of “a prophecy” that will save him even as he walks to his doom (Macbeth). A fourth, wailing eloquently of treachery and wrongdoing, is too entranced by his own elegiac grief to avail himself of more earthbound or statesmanly measures to save his kingdom (Richard II). A fifth, finding the mute dignity of the truth less gratifying than the shameless and flowery lie, banishes the truth-teller and, in doing so, brings down almost unimaginable ruin (King Lear). All five of these situations give fresh angles on the players and dynamics and moving parts of our own slow-moving planetary tragedy, as no statistics or policy analysis ever could—the ghastly awareness, in real time, of a demon-haunted present, the conflicting information, the false sources, the foolhardy hope and the lie not spotted in time, the hidden motives of power and the passages where self-importance and self-interest and fixation on trivia shade into inertia or ignorance or tragic self-deception. A work of artifice, intent on pushing the audience into a predetermined direction or point of view however well-intended, is incapable of suggesting a way forward through a dilemma of any complexity without being preachy and simplistic. But in helping us think with the world, instead of about it, art—which has no agenda other than being itself—always reminds us that all human-created systems are contingent, for if we wade around inside a great work of art, all sorts of rifts appear, ambiguous open spaces free of opinion and preconceptions, where light breaks through unpredictably, revealing trapdoors and hidden connections—and even possible escapes. Is it too much to say, in our worn-out and trampled landscape, that one of our most neglected paths might now be the only way out? Or that art may be the last untrodden and inviolable way of the psyche remaining to us?”

–Novelist Donna Tartt, in Harpers 


SAY YES WHEN YOU MEAN YES AND NO WHEN YOU MEAN NO

How ‘Misinformation’ Becomes Common Knowledge | The Free Press

“Fear of being punished by a crowd is…an innate human response to the dangers of being ostracized, to being cut off from friendships and privileges that are critical to survival. We are born with a need for social acceptance. That need is what drives knowledge falsification and preference falsification

Each of these—misrepresenting what you know and what you prefer—is a special form of lying.”


“Summer was also the time of these: of sudden plenty, of slow hours and actions, of diamond haze and dust on the eyes, of the valley in post-vernal slumber; of burying birds out of seething corruption; of Mother sleeping heavily at noon; of jazzing wasps and dragonflies, hay-stooks and thistle-seeds, snows of white butterflies, skylarks’ eggs, bee-orchids and frantic ants; of wolf-cub parades, and boy-scout’s bugles; of sweat running down the legs; of boiling potatoes on bramble fires, of flames glass-blue in the sun; of lying naked in the hill-cold stream; begging pennies for bottles of pop; of girls’ bare arms and unripe cherries, green apples and liquid walnuts; of fights and falls and new-scabbed knees, sobbing pursuits and flights; of picnics high up in the crumbling quarries, of butter running like oil, of sunstroke, fever, and cucumber peel stuck cool to one’s burning brow. All this, and the feeling that it would never end, that such days had come for ever, with the pump drying up and the water-butt crawling, and the chalk ground hard as the moon. All sights twice-brilliant and smells twice-sharp, all game-days twice as long. Double charged as we were, like the meadow ants, with the frenzy of the sun, we used up the light to its last violet drop, and even then couldn’t go to bed.”

–an excerpt from CIDER WITH ROSIE, a childhood memoir by Laurie Lee

2 Replies to “DIBS AND DABS”

  1. Shelli Hall says: Reply

    You had me at Shakespeare, and I’m glad I stayed for “the jazzing wasps and dragonflies” (which feels much like summer here in Minneapolis).

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Aw, well enjoy those Minneapolis dragonflies, Shelli! Hope your summer travels go beautifully…

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