By: Dan Corjescu Is the world making more love than war these days? And if so why? It is a question that three great contemporary intellectuals have either indirectly or directly wrestled with in their life's work. The first of our intellectuals is Francis Fukuyama. In his celebrated debut book, The End of History and The Last Man, Fukuyama argued with great verve and imagination that Hegel's nineteenth century insights into the mystery of human history were relevant to better understanding the political nature of our times. Through the interpretive filter of the Russian-French philosopher Alexander Kojève, Fukuyama explained that History's trajectory was bent towards individual freedom and recognition. In this story, the rise of modern science and technology are not enough to explain the historic spread of democratic governments and the passionate belief in human rights. Science can produce a vibrant consumerist society but only the strong human desire for the recognition of ones self-worth in the eyes of others can explain the demand for political liberty. Similar to Fukuyama, is Michael Doyle's work on “the Democratic peace”, which is itself partly based on the philosophical works of Immanuel Kant and Thomas Paine. Doyle, and others, began to notice in
The Norse myths are singular among mythic narratives for a fascinating reason: the gods lose. They do not just lose a treasure, nor just a battle. They lose everything. Fatalism, the idea that the future has already happened in the sense that it is fixed, feels primitive to the modern mind. Dystopic Fatalism, the belief everything we have known and have experienced will one day be annihilated in a disaster of apocalyptic proportions, seems even more distasteful. And yet, it may be the only thing left with any hope of saving us from ourselves.
Mr. Toobin is a celebrity. Therefore, he has no right (as it were) to lower himself to our level or at least not in such a way that we are made aware of it. Discretion is the better part of ardor, especially for those in the public eye. Since those who wield power (control over other people’s destinies) belong to the priestly caste of society, they must relinquish the life of the peasant in exchange for their rank as sanctified members of the hierarchy. The peasant is no better than an animal; the priest must not descend to the level of the peasant, or be witnessed doing so, lest the peasantry become disillusioned, and begin to question their lack of status, let alone, rebel against priestly authority. That violates the tacit social contract (or unstated Freudian bargain) that we make with our living symbols of supernal grace.
The themes of homecoming and the father-son relationship have received a lot of literary attention recently. Marilynne Robinson just published Jack, the fourth novel in her Gilead series, about the Ames and Boughton families’ complicated stories of homecoming, fatherhood, and sonhood in an American small town beset by racial and religious tension. The tensions between fathers and sons, and the son’s struggle with finding his way back home are timeless and cross-cultural, and trigger some of the deepest issues we have with identity and belonging. Look to any cultural literary tradition, whether of the West, the East, or the Middle East, and you will find tales of fathers, and those sons who attempt to find their way back into their recognition. Songs by the Canadian musician Leonard Cohen, who died four years ago at the age of 82, suggest that he grappled with the father-son relationship, and with the emotional desire for home and homecoming. Cohen might not at first seem to have much in common with an ancient Greek figure, but a comparison yields rich and provocative similarities between Cohen and Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s poem of homecoming, the Odyssey. Odysseus, a fictional warrior with talents, like Cohen, as a language-artist, is better-known for his homecoming as a husband, but he ultimately returns to his broken father as the honored and beloved son. Homer’s and Cohen’s poetry have some surprising parallels on this theme. The fictional character of Homer’s ancient epic and the real-life contemporary poet and musician speak to each other across time and space.
Sor Juana’s silence is difficult to “read,” but it is easy to hear. What can it show us about the way the absence of speech can itself be a mode of participation in public discourse?