John Pistelli

writer

Reactionary, Revolutionary, Aesthete?

W. H. Auden, qtd. by Nina Martyris:

A satisfactory human life, individually or collectively, is possible only if proper respect is paid to all three worlds [Work, Laughter, Prayer]. Without Prayer and Work, the Carnival laughter turns ugly, the comic obscenities grubby and pornographic, the mock aggression into real hatred and cruelty. (The hippies, it appears to me, are trying to recover the sense of Carnival which is so conspicuously absent in this age, but so long as they reject Work they are unlikely to succeed.) Without Laughter and Work, Prayer turns Gnostic, cranky, Pharisaic, while those who try to live by Work alone, without Laughter or Prayer, turn into insane lovers of power, tyrants who would enslave Nature to their immediate desires — an attempt which can only end in utter catastrophe, shipwreck on the Isle of the Sirens.

Some of us are less sweetly reasonable than old Wystan and therefore believe or at least hope it is possible to have Work, Prayer, and Laughter all at the same time and as the same thing. A possible taxonomy of such people, based on where and when they expect this consummation, suggests itself:

1. The Reactionary: W/L/P were united in some vanished polity among some now-corrupted people in some lost year, and by recreating that year and polity and becoming those people, as they were before their corruption, we will unite them again.

2. The Revolutionary: W/L/P have never been united in history, and in fact history is the name for their division, but through a collective effort we may join them for the first time in a future that is now wholly unforeseeable.

3. The Aesthete: W/L/P may be united here and there, briefly as a rule, in certain privileged experiences; these experiences are available to all people in all times and places, but no time, place, or people is the locus of W/L/P’s union.

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This entry was posted on 23 January 2015 by in literature, philosophy, poetry, religion, work and tagged , , , , , .
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