Thursday, January 31, 2013

Well, they had a computer room electrical problem...
I forgot all about my foreign bank account...I'll ask Mitt Romney how he keeps track of his foreign bank accounts...
So if they hadn't had a computer room electrical problem they could have seen my bank account information? Really?  I'll ask Mitt Romney about that too...

The bank manager is a doctor. Wow. My bank manager isn't a doctor...Not that I know of anyway...
But the doctor bank manager didn't capitalize her first name...
Maybe she was in a hurry...
Maybe the computer room electrical problem disabled the capital K on her computer too...
It could happen.

Http.Citi Exchange Trust Bank PLC 
3:24 AM (6 hours ago)
to bcc: me
Dear customer,

Please kindly confirm to us without delay if you are the owner of the US$1.5M left in our floating
suspense account ready for transfer but we cannot immediately see the name and bank particulars
of the receiving customer due to our computer room electrical problem.

Hence this bank is here to serve our foreign customers better,we will be very honored to get your
particulars back for an onward transfer.


Yours faithfully,

Dr.kathy Edwards.
10:23 AM (0 minutes ago)
to Http.Citi
Yes, I am the owner. Please send the check in the mail to Benjamin Harris, c/o Revolution Books,
146 W 46 Street, New York, NY, 10001.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


This Thursday at Revolution Books
January 31, Thursday, 7pm
Is it crazy to think that revolution could actually be made in a country like this?  
I'm not done with you, Stevie.

The "Lion of God," Ariel Sharon, former Prime Minister of Israel is sentient. Mr. Sharon suffered a devastating stroke, thought to have resulted in irreversible brain damage over seven years ago. Doctors said he had been in a "permanent vegetative state" since.  His sons however always maintained that he recognized them. Now a team of Israeli and American doctors have confirmed and say he shows "significant brain activity."  I guess nothing is new under the sun but this is close to being a miracle. Sharon was--is--a man who cannot get enough of life. He loves everything about life, and showed it in his eating and drinking which led to his stroke. My favorite anecdote about Sharon was his meeting with Anwar Sadat during the Camp David Accords. "I tried to kill you," said President Sadat. "You failed, Anwar." Sharon was a major figure in all of Israel's wars. I once asked rhetorically in these pages if I could write in Ariel Sharon's name on my ballot for president of the United States.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

repply this mail

Yeung Lap Ming 
7:09 AM (9 hours ago)
to undisclosed recipients
-- i have a transaction for you

How our Rooski brethren and sistren. Rooskis third in view pages.

Rooskis, how it does go? How Vagina Uprising, eh?  Free yet?  No. :(

I read biography of Stalin. Strict, yes?

Poot-poot, swine, no?  He lift face?  Look like wax, ha-ha-ha-ha. Like Lenin corpse, ha-ha-ha-ha. But Poot-poot live. Swine.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What protests in Egypt?  I don't see any protests in Egypt.  Haven't heard nothin' either.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

There is the clueless priest...There are dumb priests...There are many tales about seductive friars and lusty hermits...There is the quack doctor who claims that he can produce children of different types--merchants, soldiers, generals--depending on how far he pushes his cock in...A foolish rustic, bargaining for a soldier, hands his wife over to the scoundrel, but then, thinking himself sly, comes out of hiding and hits the quack's ass to push his cock further in:  "Per Sancta Dei Evangelia," the rustic shouts triumphantly, "hic erit Papa!"  "This one is going to be pope!"
The Facetiae was a huge success.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

Greenblatt speaking through Poggio Bracciolini:

[Poggio] went back to his desk and, in his best Latin, fashioned the conversations he had had in the Lie Factory into something he entitled the Facetiae.
These relics [The Facetiae, et al], like the remains of long-dead insects, tell us what once buzzed about in the air of the Vatican.
There is the woman who tells her husband that she has two cunts (duos cunnos), one in front that she will share with him, the other behind that she wants to give, pious soul that she is, to the Church.  The arrangement works because the parish priest is only interested in the share that belongs to the Church.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt

But perhaps compiling this inventory of the vices of the curia was something more [for Lapo] than an expression of ambivalence.
There is a moment in the work in which Lapo praises the gossip, obscene stories, jokes, and lies that characterize the conversation of the apostolic scribes and secretaries. No matter, he says, whether the things are reported are true or false.  They are all amusing and, in their way, instructive...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

On the Excellence and Dignity of the Roman Court (Greenblatt via Lapo da Castiglionchio):

And for those whose tastes do not run in the direction of Ganymede, there are the abundant pleasures of Venus. Mistresses, adulterous matrons, courtesans of all descriptions occupy a central place in the curia, and appropriately so, since the delights they offer have such a central place in human happiness.  Lewd songs, naked breasts, kissing, fondling, with small white lapdogs trained to lick around your groin to excite desire--and all for remarkably low prices.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

On the Excellence and Dignity of the Roman Court is Stephen Greenblatt speaking through the voice of Lapo da Castiglionchio, just as he does through Poggio Bracciolini:

Just think of the dinner parties at the papal court--witty gossip, along with fantastic food and drink served by beautiful, young, hairless boys.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

The atmosphere [Poggio Bracciolini] breathed is most brilliantly conveyed by a strange work of the 1430's, written when Poggio was still very much at the center of the curia.  The work, entitled On the Excellence and Dignity of the Roman Court, is by a younger humanist contemporary, the Florentine Lapo da Castiglionchio. 

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

This was the world Poggio entered and in which he hoped to thrive.  A position in the curia could serve as a step toward highly remunerative advancement in the Church hierarchy...

The Roman curia was, from a moral perspective, a notoriously perilous place...
Poggio had established himself at the very center of what he called "the Bugiale," the Lie Factory.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

Chapter Six: The Lie Factory.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt

It had taken a thousand years to win the struggle and secure the triumph of pain seeking...But in a world in which Christianity has triumphed, we have to do the whipping ourselves.
This is no mere sadomasochistic fantasy:  a vast body of evidence confirms that...the ritualized heirs to St. Benedict's spontaneous roll in the stinging nettles, were widespread in the late Middle Ages.

The ordinary self-protective, pleasure-seeking impulses of the lay public could not hold out against the passionate convictions and overwhelming prestige of their spiritual leaders.

The "ordinary self-protective, pleasure-seeking impulses of the lay public" had held out for a thousand years, according to the author.  The same man did write those three entries, really; on pages 107-9;  as part of one passage.  He just breezily says after "a thousand years" "the public could not hold out" any longer.  ?

How much more do nettles sting after 1,000 years? 

Greenblatt does not argue well.  If what he says is true, the argument should be easy to make: Start with "the vast body of evidence" of early monastic sadomasochism and end with the acceptance of sadomasochism by the society at large. Connect the dots, two dots; how hard can that be? What proves nettlesome is those 1,000 years. Maybe there's no argument to make: Maybe his starting point is wrong; maybe his ending point is wrong; maybe both. Instead of argument from evidence Professor Greenblatt offers tautology.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt

What follows the last entry is Professor Greenblatt's account of how Christianity attempted to prevent the "unraveling" of its "whole fabric of morality:"

What had to be done was to refashion the account of the founder Epicurus so that he appeared no longer as an apostle of moderation in the service of reasonable pleasure but instead as a Falstaffian figure of riotous excess...And his principal Roman disciple, Lucretius...the main problem [for "Christian polemicists"] was the core ethical idea: that the highest good is the pursuit of pleasure and the diminution of pain.

Hmm, "the diminution of pain;" Professor Greenblatt is in pain, Chinese are in pain. In most instances Greenblatt uses the p.o.h. and its synonyms; a very few times he links it with "the diminution of pain."  Pleasure is the opposite of pain. Pursuit of pleasure is not. One can fail, as Greenblatt has, to obtain pleasure in the pursuit, in which case one suffers, as Greenblatt does, a double dose of pain. There are not many Chinese Epicureans. No, in the entire frigging country there is not one frigging Epicurean. Nor are there many T.J.'s:  there are slave-holders, as T.J. was, but Chinese slaveholders and non-slaveholders do not obtain much pleasure and do not much pursue it. They are too "involved in the community," an avocation which Epicurus dismissed, to be much taken by the Orgasmatron.  Pleasure is not the soul of China, the survival of the Han-Chinese is. It is that which Chinese pursue. Back to Greenblatt:

What had to be undertaken [by Christianity] was the difficult project of making what appeared simply sane and natural [the p.o.h.]--the ordinary impulses of all sentient creatures--seem like the enemy of the truth.

"Impulses:"  In Christendom acting on impulses is...discouraged. Some homos have impulses to murder and rape. We in societies dominated by endlessly reiterated, prominently displayed images of the bloody, murdered son of God have adjudged such interesting individuals insane.  In Epicurus-dom and Greenblatt-dom they are sane instantiations of "the truth."

Centuries were required to accomplish this grand design, [It was a premeditated scheme by swine Christians.] and it was never fully completed.  But the grand outlines may be seen blah, blah, blah, in the works of Lactanius. [I bet he turns out to be a VILLAIN.]  Lactantius wrote a series of polemics against Epicureanism [I was right. Yes!]...Christians must refuse the invitation [to pleasure] and understand that pleasure is a code name for vice.

A hatred of pleasure-seeking and a vision of God's providential rage:  these were death knells of Epicureanism, henceforth branded by the faithful as "insane." [See above]
In one of the great cultural transformations in the history of the West, the pursuit of pain triumphed over the pursuit of pleasure.

How? In between those two sentences is Greenblatt's answer:

Lucretius had urged the person who felt the prompting of sexual desire to satisfy it:  "a dash of gentle pleasure sooths the sting." (4.177).  Christianity, as a story rehearsed by Gregory demonstrates, pointed in a different direction.  The pious Benedict found himself thinking of a woman he had once seen, and, before he knew what was happening, his desires were aroused:

           He then noticed a thick patch of nettles and briers next to
           him.  Throwing his garment aside he flung himself into
           the sharp thorns and stinging nettles.  There he rolled
           and tossed until his whole body was in pain and cov-
           ered with blood.  Yet, once he had conquered pleasure
           through suffering, his torn and bleeding skin served to
           drain the poison of temptation from his body.  Before
           long, the pain that was burning his whole body had put
           out the fires of evil in his heart.  It was by exchanging
           these two fires that he gained the victory over sin. [That would do it!]

What worked for the saint in the early sixth century would, as monastic rules made clear, work for others.


Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, WHOA: "What worked for the saint would work for others?"  That's Greenblatt's explanation as to how "the pursuit of pain triumphed over the pursuit of pleasure."  I do not wish to argue ad hominem here as Professor Greenblatt and the learned pageviewers of Public Occurrences deserve--and expect--more so I will keep this discussion on an elevated plain and say that Professor Greenblatt has tweety birds flying around in his head, that in his current stay in Rome he lowers the IQ of the city, nay of the entire Italian peninsula; I say, Stevie, that is no argument, you have left out the argument part there, Stevie.  Professor Greenblatt has set up a duality: in his words, the triumph of the pursuit of pain over the pursuit of pleasure. He gives an example of Saint Benedict rolling around in the bushes to conquer his sexual desire and then says vacuously what worked for Benedict worked for all Christians.  If that duality is accurate, the question is how (or why) would pain triumph?  This is not scholarship, it is not even cogent argument.  As an undergraduate term paper this is a fail. This is sloppy thinking, half-baked exposition grounded on fear, anger, and hatred, hatred of Christianity. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt

Jews, likewise, termed anyone who departed from the rabbinic tradition apikoros, an Epicurean.

But Christians particularly found Epicureanism a noxious threat.  If you grant Epicurus his claim that the soul is mortal, wrote [Father] Tertullian, the whole fabric of Christian morality unravels.

Here, Professor Greenblatt conflates Christianity as a religious "system" with Christian morality. That is wrong. The two are not identical, that is, one can believe not in e.g. the Incarnation, in the Resurrection,--even in God--and still find the morality of Christianity profound and sublime. 

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt the early fourth century, the task had become clear: the atomists [i.e. the Epicureans] had to disappear.

Here, Professor Greenblatt foreshadows the Holocaust. Both Stephen Greenblatts, the Jew and the Epicurean, were victims of Christian attempts at extermination.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

Christians could try, of course, to reverse the mockery.  If such doctrines as the Incarnation and the resurrection of the body seemed absurd-"figments of diseased imagination," as one pagan put it, "and the futile fairy-tales invented by poets' fancy"--what about the tales that pagans profess to believe...

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt


We are up to page 98; as you read his words is Stephen Greenblatt's hatred not jarring?  It is astonishing.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

The Incarnation, Epicureans scoffed, was a particularly absurd idea...Why should anyone with any sense credit the idea of Providence, a childish idea contradicted by any rational adult's experience and observation?...Christians are like a council of frogs in a pond, croaking at the top of their lungs, "For our sakes was the world created." 

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

Some of the jibes were common to all of Christianity's polemical enemies--Jesus was born in adultery, his father was a nobody, and any claims to divine dignity are manifestly disproved by his poverty and his shameful end.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

When Christianity had completely secured its position, it managed to destroy most of the expressions of this hostile laughter.  A few traces, however, survive in the quotations and summaries of Christian apologists. 

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

What flickers through such moments of [Christian] abdication is a fear of being laughed at.  The threat was not persecution--the official religion of the empire by this time was Christian--but ridicule...What was ridiculous about Christianity, from the perspective of a cultivated pagan, was not only its language--the crude style of the Gospels' Greek resting on the barbarous otherness of Hebrew and Aramaic--but also its exaltation of divine humiliation and pain conjoined with an arrogant triumphalism.

The "cultivated pagan" is, inter alia, Stephen Greenblatt.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

But, of course, as he approached his targeted monastery, Poggio would have buried these views in his breast.  He may have despised monastic life, but he understood it well.  He knew precisely where in the monastery he needed to go and what ingratiating words he had to speak to gain access to the things he most wanted to see.

That's Greenblatt too, the ingratiator. He and his wife are spending the academic year in Rome.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

With his friends in the curia Poggio shared jokes about the venality, stupidity, and sexual appetite of monks.  And their claims to piety left him unimpressed...Their whole enterprise seemed to him an exercise in hypocrisy.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

The Church was a landlord, wealthier than the greatest nobles in the realm, and it possessed the worldly power to enforce its rents and all its other rights and privileges.  When the newly elected bishop of Hildesheim, in the north of Germany, asked to see the diocesan library, he was brought to the armory and shown the pikes and battleaxes hanging on the walls;  these, he was informed, were the books with which the  rights of the bishopric had been won and must be defended. The inhabitants of wealthy monasteries might not have to call upon these weapons very frequently, but, as they sat in the dim light and contemplated their revenues, they knew--and their tenants knew--that brute force was available.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

Poggio did not like the monks.  He knew several impressive ones, men of great moral seriousness and learning.  But on the whole he found them superstitious, ignorant, and hopelessly lazy.  Monasteries, he thought, were the dumping grounds for those deemed unfit for life in the world. Noblemen fobbed off the sons they judged to be weaklings, misfits, or good-for-nothings; merchants sent their dim-witted or paralytic children there; peasants got rid of extra mouths they could not feed.  The hardiest of the inmates could at least do some productive labor in the monastery gardens and the adjacent fields, as monks in earlier, more austere times had done, but for the most part, Poggio thought, they were a pack of idlers.  Behind the thick walls of the cloistery, the parasites would mumble their prayers and live off the income generated by those who farmed the monastery’s extensive landholdings.

This is all Professor Greenblatt:  his likes, dislikes, hatreds. Professor Greenblatt expresses his views through the mind of Poggio Bracciolini. This is a technique that Greenblatt uses throughout the book.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt.

And there were the Jews, with the conical hats and the yellow badges that the Christian authorities forced them to wear, so that they could be easily identified as objects of contempt and hatred.  Poggio was certainly none of these.

The inbounds pass was deflected and the ball popped out to the point guard and they broke fast the other way, wingmen on the right and left, a defender between. The point guard passed to the trailing right wingman and he took the ball in his right hand and he rose. He brought the ball up in his right hand and he rose. His knees were at the defender’s face and he brought the ball down and his hand hit the basket as he jammed the ball through and the defender fell to the floor and the glass fell upon him. The cheerleader rose and stood and then stopped. And then they all rose.

Jerome Lane’s dunk, twenty five years ago today.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

“I remember my parents saying ‘Stevie, don’t strain your eyes reading, come and watch TV.’”
                                                                                                               -Stephen Greenblatt.

When Stevie watched TV, Did that conversation really happen? or just looked around him, he would have seen that Christianity changed its "logo."  The "endlessly reiterated, prominently displayed images of the bloodied, murdered son" of God had been augmented by a simple, sleek logo:

Cool. And perfect for the confined space of a Crusader's shield or breastplate.

Stevie, did your mother and father really say that to you?  C'mon. Watching TV was supposed to be bad for your eyes. I would like an affidavit, sworn before Almighty Epicurus, that they really said to you "Stevie, don't strain your eyes reading, come and watch TV." 

What is our goofball president doing now?  Why, of course, bowing to his wife, the first lady at the Inauguration Ball. And by the look on Michelle's face, she knows he's a goofball. Barack Obama is the most endearing, the nicest, the most likable, the most lovable man ever to be president. We're going to miss him and his presidency. We are going to look back on this time as Camelot.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Seeking the Soul of Judaism.

I don't know you did get over it.

Seeking the Soul of Judaism.

And anger. How could we lose to a company with a logo like that? 

Seeking the Soul of Judaism.


Seeking the Soul of Judaism.

Is Professor Greenblatt really accurate that "endlessly reiterated, prominently displayed images of the bloody, murdered son" of God "dominate" in Christendom?   Here's one, okay? One. 

Alright, here's another one.
Here are a few more.
Ooh, that's gross.

That's nine...Well, maybe he's right. Imagine if you're a Jew and have to see this everywhere. It'd scare you, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

This is Public Occurrences.

There has not been a "full" T.i.P.O. in a while, just itsy-bitsy, teenie-weenie ones here and there. Let's do one. Okay. At noon today (not at 1, not at 2, not between 10 and 4) there were 35 pageviewers here. You can see how out of proportion that was to the other hourly numbers today, first graph, and this week, second graph.

Is this the famous "Song Binbin Effect?"  An itsy-bitsy, teenie-weenie one?  Channeling our inner Nate Silver we can say...need more data. Channeling our inner economist ("On the one hand, on the other hand") we can say that today the top "search keyword" is "song binbin red guard."  On the other hand, Songie checks in at #1 with only six...usages or whatever you do with search keywords in Google-ese. On the one hand, Hong Kong (Hong Kongers?  Hong Kongese?) is second today in "pageviews by country" (sic). And, three separate "On Song Binbin" posts are in the top ten today. But, "Mermaids" trounces all other posts today with 21, to 15 for the three Song posts combined. On the other..., "mermaids" as a search keyword, and a separate entry "русалка" (mermaid in Bulgarian) total only four. ?  So, yeah.

The top ten most read posts since July 2008 are at sidebar. These are the up-to-the minute "raw" numbers for each:

1. LBJ I, 16,428.
2. Mermaids, 6994.
3. Citizenship, 3808.
4. Anthropology I, 3446.
5. Women, 2552.
6. Cultural Revolution, 2410.
7. Anthropology II, 2025.
8. Kiribati, 1982.
9. LBJ II, 1848.
10. Jasmine Revolution, 1066. (That was an important year, at least.)

Total "pageviews" since July 2008: 128,509.

Top ten countries:

1. U.S.(48.8% of total pageviews).
2. U.K.
3. Russia.
4. China.
5. Canada.
6. Germany
7. France.
8. Australia.
9. Philippines.
10. Ukraine.

T.T. search keywords:

1. lebron james.
2. mermaids.
3. kiribati.
4. public occurrences.
5. wang guangmei.
6. lebron.
7. song binbin.
8. lebron james powder toss.
9. lisa randall vogue (Unbelievable).
10. jasmine revolution.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Karl Marx wrote his doctoral dissertation on Epicurus.  :o

And what pleasure Marx' own epicurean-inspired philosophy brought to the athiestic "worker's paradise" in Russia! So it is no surprise that Marx is heavily emphasized in The Swerve.  Not one mention. אף לא אחד.  Instead, this is the concluding sentence of the book:

"I am, [Thomas] Jefferson wrote to a correspondent who wanted to know his philosophy of life, "an Epicurean."  

:)  T.J.!  There He Is: Thom-as Jef-fer-son. Auth-or of the Dec. of Ind.

Was not Marx as much a part of the "modern," which is "how the world became" (book's subtitle) after "the swerve" in the Renaissance as Jefferson?  He was.  Luther, Darwin, Nietzsche, Einstein, Freud, Hitler?  Yes.

Professor Greenblatt makes...selective use of history...Goodness gracious, that is unconscionable.  Did he really do that?  He did.

Why would he do that?  It pleasured him?  Helped sell books?  Helped win Pulitzer Prize, make money?  Drawing a line that starts with Epicurus, ends with Jefferson and swerves around Hitler and Marx would sell more books than one that included or ended with Hitler and Marx. Unconscionable history.

Great marketing, though.

It's also psychological. Professor Greenblatt is in pain: from his childhood, from historical Jewish persecution, from his fear of death, fear and hatred of Christianity. He wants to tell a feel-good story here, so that he can feel good. Epicurus and Lucretius are part of his attempt to escape his pain and fear:

"...On the Nature of Things struck a very deep chord within me.  Its power depended to some extent on personal circumstances--art always penetrates the particular fissures in one's psychic life.  The core of Lucretius' poem is a profound, therapeutic meditation on the fear of death, and that fear dominated my entire childhood."

Poor man. "Therapeutic:"  He used epicureanism to try to escape. He failed. He dyed his hair, got hair transplants and remarried a much younger woman to, psychologically, fend off aging.  Professor Greenblatt is, understandably, hostile towards Christianity and just as understandably fascinated by it.  He has studied it as a scholar. Wikipedia lists two people as "influences" on Greenblatt: Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault. Not Epicurus. Not Lucretius. (Not Jefferson.). The influence of Nietzsche and Foucault on Greenblatt is, like his use of history, selective. The allure of Epicurus for Greenblatt is pleasure, unadulterated pleasure. It was not so for Nietzsche and Foucault.

Nietzsche was the son of a Lutheran minister. Also influenced by Epicurus, Nietzsche became anti-Christian (not anti-semitic in the consensus of contemporary scholarship), calling Christianity a "slave's morality."  Yet...

Hitler, would-be destroyer of European Jewry, was also influenced by Nietzsche, often visiting a Nietzsche museum and being photographed next to a Nietzsche bust, in homage. Neitzsche also praised "the discipline of suffering--great suffering."  Christ suffered. Professor Greenblatt decries "the endlessly reiterated, prominently displayed images of the bloody, murdered son" that have come to "dominate" in the West. He includes this painting in The Swerve:

Professor Greenblatt had to swerve a lot to get around Nietzsche.

Michel Foucault, not anti-semitic, was raised in a nominally Roman Catholic household but religion was not a prominent part of his life. Sadomasochism was. There is in Christianity, in the images of the crucifixion, in the self-flagellation practiced by monks, sadomasochism.

On Christian self-flagellation Greenblatt writes:

"It had taken a thousand years to win the struggle and secure the triumph of pain seeking [under Christianity].  'Did our Redeemer not endure scourging?' [Benedictine monk Peter] Damian asked those critics who called into question the celebration of the a world in which Christianity has triumphed, we have to do the whipping for ourselves."

The "celebration of the whip," ha!  Actually, Foucault really did celebrate the whip. Swerve.

The Swerve as history, as scholarship is a Fail.  As palimpsest, about Stephen Greenblatt's psyche, his loves, hates, fears?

Great success.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

That's a double-ouch for Stephen Greenblatt for both Stephen Greenblatt's identities, Jew and secular humanist, lost with Christianity's continued dominance in the West. Those identities conflict but Greenblatt has maintained both.  Psychic dissonance is the product.  Greenblatt writes as two people: the Jew who suffered as a child from a "cruel," neurotic mother--but who was still "loving"--in the preface and as the husband of a Jewish woman in the concluding acknowledgments. In between he writes as the secular humanist who has immersed himself in Christianity's history, has visited its cathedrals, its libraries--including the Vatican's--who came to identify with Poggio Bracciolini, scribe to a pope. As Greenblatt came both to love and hate his mother he came to love and hate Poggio. He did not come to love Christianity.  Christianity defeated both the Stephen Greenblatts and both Stephen Greenblatts are critical only of Christianity.  Greenblatt's two identities, with Judaism and with ancient Rome's epicureanism, are spared. As he ingratiated himself into Christendom's sanctuaries Greenblatt was the spy whose loyalty was elsewhere, and opposed, and whose identity was concealed.

Both as Jew and as humanist Greenblatt saw himself in this passage from Gustave Flaubert:

"Just when the gods had ceased to be, and the Christ had not yet come, there was a unique moment in history, between Cicero and Marcus Aurelius, when man stood alone."

That is a poignant, even haunting, passage.  And Greenblatt is haunted by it.  Before Christianity and after paganism both Stephen Greenblatts would have been secure.

Was there not another time?  Was there not another unique moment when man stood alone unaddicted to the opiate of the people?

Image:  Janus, ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions, looking to the future and to history. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

We Are All Epicureans.

We join our soul mate Professor Greenblatt tonight in bacchanalia to honor Balcones Distillery of Waco, Texas, U.S.A., winner of the Best in Glass competition as maker of the year's best whiskey, a species of beverage with which the undersigned is not unfamiliar.

Image: Drinking Bacchus, Guido Reni (1623).
Professor Greenblatt is not unaware of the criticism of epicureanism as self-centered.  Withdrawal from involvement in civic life is pretty self-centered and is the one criticism that Greenblatt acknowledges as legitimate.  The others, generally epicureanism's reputation for hedonism were Christian (not Jewish) libels.  Pagan self-centeredness and the p.o.h. were considered existential threats to a spiritualism based on the sacrifice of God's son for mankind's well-being, according to Greenblatt.  The Church therefore relentlessly attacked epicureanism as hedonistic. Seems like that should have been a one-sided battle of ideas--all those in favor of pleasure say "aye";

all those in favor of pain say "ouch."

But the ouches won. Greenblatt expresses some surprise at this. But, he says, Christianity's attacks were so successful that Epicurus' disciple (better: "follower.") Lucretius and his poem On the Nature of Things were lost and forgotten until Poggio Bracciolini rediscovered the poem in the 15th century.  The rediscovery led to a "swerve" toward modernity during the Renaissance.

It was a swerve not a u-turn.  Not only did the Cross triumph over the Orgasmatron, it also eclipsed the Star of David and the Crescent.  Christianity's influence, diminished, survived the Renaissance and its dominance of the West continued, undiminished. Ouch.

Images: the 25th google image under search keyword "epicureanism" (the first two sentences on the site containing the photo are "Do you want to be happy?  Of course you do!"); The Isenheim Altarpiece, Mattias Grunewald (1512-1516)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Over and over again in The Swerve Professor Greenblatt uses the phrase “pursuit of happiness” or its synonyms. The same phrase, of course, appears in the American Declaration of Independence, a document that does not make the undersigned happy. Epicurus (and Professor Greenblatt) argue for a life devoted to the p.o.h. The West “swerved” in that direction--and away from swine Christianity--in the Renaissance, according to Greenblatt. Certainly that is true; the Church began to lose its hold on European civil life at the beginning of the Renaissance. And vive la swerve.

Is the “pursuit of happiness” all that?  Eh, ooh, squirm. I have no quarrel with “of.”  Pursue: 1. to follow in order to overtake, capture, kill or defeat. :o  2. to find or employ measures to obtain or accomplish. Whew, praise be to Epicurus for #2. Very goal-directed. What of e.g. Zen Buddhism, though?  Say “Ohm,” (repeat) “Ohm,” and you will feel p-e-a-c-e. Ohm.  Not goal-directed. Don’t other philosophies, spiritual systems teach similar things?  Western thought is linear; the p.o.h. is linear: There is happiness; Go get it! Other thought has it that the more you pursue a goal the less likely you are to obtain (or overtake, capture, kill, or defeat) it. Others, Confucianism, counsel acceptance. Acceptance leads to contentment. Contentment and p-e-a-c-e are not happiness though, right?  Happiness: 1. a state of well-being and contentment.  Well I’ll be darned. 2. a pleasurable or satisfying experience. Number 2 is the meaning I have had in mind when I have been discontented with America the “Orgasmatron” society. But who amongst us can gainsay #1, “a state of well-being and contentment?”  Can you pursue contentment, though?  That’s just repeating the Zen approach. Should you?  Should our lives be devoted to finding or employing measures to obtain or accomplish contentment?  Self-centered?  Yeah, well what else should we center on?  Others?  Become other-centered? No orgasms (for us), no implants. Not much fun. Ohm.

Search Keyword of the Day.

"nonouti" (twice).  What's Nonouti?  An atoll of Kiribati. Wow.  We had five visitors from Kiribati last week. Professor Greenblatt could swerve to Nonouti and pursue his epicurean life there, I bet. Wow!  That is beautiful.

The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt

This book is about its author:

I. Jewish, male, neurotic; lives and works in largely Christian country; neurotic mother.

II. Attempts to Escape Neuroses.

     A. Mother.
          1. Death neurosis: transmitted to author.
          2. Harmful to author.
          3. Loving to author.
          4. Died.
          5. Fail.

    B. Judaism-Christianity.
         1. Conflict.
         2. Christian persecution of Jews.
         3. Attempts to become “secular humanist.”
             a. Rejects Christianity.
             b. Identifies with Epicurus, Lucretius, Poggio Bracciolini.
                  (i) Life as pursuit of pleasure, avoidance of pain.
                  (ii) Left Berkeley for Harvard.
                  (iii) Left first Jewish wife/family.
                  (iv) Remarried younger Jewish woman.

                  (v) Started new family with second wife.
                  (vi) Dyed hair/Got hair transplants.

                  (vii) Won Pulitzer Prize.
                  (viii) Dedicated Pulitzer Prize-winning book to second wife "for inexhaustible pleasure."
                  (ix) Made money.
             c. Didn't reject Judaism.
                  (i)  Guilt over leaving first wife/family.
                  (ii) Aging (69 yrs old).
            d. Still death neurotic.
            e. Fail.
    C. Fail.