BBC In Our Time
There is not much to say but this podcast has some of the most interesting topics in mind. It goes from 25-45 mins with usually two or three guest speakers from universities talking about history, religion, literary critcism, politics etc. It's a good way to be educated in a general sense on wide range of topics in under an hour, also the guest speakers provide a range of different opinions to compare. Take a simple topic and the podcast will plunge the depths of it to see the complexities that popular culture and education does not taken into account. One of the best educational podcasts in my opinion.
The Magic Mountain Essay
I was quite new to the world of novels and the fascinating world that lived inside them when I picked up the book The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. I was initially into poetry (due to Harold Bloom), I had read easy to read history books and comic books when I was young but never “serious literature”. When I was amazed by the poetry of W.B Yeats and Percy Shelley thanks to the recommendation of Harold Bloom in his book How to read and why, I also found his recommendation of the book The Magic Mountain. Written in the genre of the Bildungsroman (a book focused on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood), the novel is set before the World War one where the protagonist, Hans Castorp who is an engineer visits his sick cousin Joachim Ziemssen, who is seeking a cure in a sanatorium in Davos, high up in the Swiss Alps. There they meet the unforgettable Lodovico Settembrini who teaches Castorp in the ways of philosophy, history, medicine, politics etc, as well as having debates with a Jewish Jesuit Leo Naphta, Castorp finds love in the mysterious Madame Clawdia Chauchat. This is a novel of ideas but me it also a novel of experience, in particular of experiencing the strangeness of the world we live in. Coming from the merchant city of Hamburg, Castorp is shocked by the different culture of the sanatorium and the way time is felt there. A single day feels like a week, this is skewed and subjective perception of time is also reflected in the narrative of the novel accelerates, so that the first five chapters relate only the first of Castorp’s seven years at the sanatorium in great detail; the remaining six years are described in the last two chapters. This element of the novel changed the way I looked at time, how subjective it can be which alters our expectations of everyday life, getting older it feels as though time accelerates. The patients at the sanatorium suffer some form of tuberculosis, which rules their daily routines such as having rest cues occur frequently throughout the day and scheduled lunch and dinner times. The reader the feels as Castorp feels, competently taken into this strange world yet alienated by its way of life. There are patients that threaten to kill themselves, there is a "Half lung club" due to the conditions of the patients and people trying to summon spirits of their decreased relatives. Shock and awe are the only the words that can be expressed, that even after 7 years at the sanatorium, Castorp and the reader still feel the strangeness of the world of the Magic Mountain. That no matter how much time you spend in a particular place or culture the peculiarity and irrationality of human behaviour means you can never fully understand the people and culture of any place.
Excerpts from The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera
" In its own way, through its own logic, the novel discovered the various dimensions of existence one by one: with Cervantes and his contemporaries, it inquires into the nature of adventure; with Richardson, it begins to examine "what happens inside," to unmask the secret life of the feelings; with Balzac, it discovers man's rootedness in history; with Flaubert, it explores the terra previously incognita of the everyday; with Tolstoy, it focuses on the intrusion of the irrational in human behavior and decisions. It probes time: the elusive past with Proust, the elusive present with Joyce. With Thomas Mann, it examines the role of the myths from the remote past that control our present actions. Et cetera, et cetera "
" The novel has accompanied man uninterruptedly and faithfully since the beginning of the Modern Era. It was then that the "passion to know," which Husserl considered the essence of European spirituality, seized the novel and led it to scrutinize man's concrete life and protect it against "the forgetting of being"; to hold "the world of life" under a permanent light. That is the sense in which I understand and share Hermann Broch's insistence in repeating: The sole raison d'etre of a novel is to discover what only the novel can discover. A novel that does not discover a hitherto unknown segment of existence is immoral. Knowledge is the novel's only morality."
" Man desires a world where good and evil can be clearly distinguished, for he has an innate and irrepressible desire to judge before he understands. Religions and ideologies are founded on this desire. They can cope with the novel only by translating its language of relativity and ambiguity into their own apo-dictic and dogmatic discourse. They require that someone be right: either Anna Karenina is the victim of a narrow-minded tyrant, or Karenin is the victim of an immoral woman; either K. is an innocent man crushed by an unjust Court, or the Court represents divine justice and K. is guilty. This "either-or" encapsulates an inability to tolerate the essential relativity of things human, an inability to look squarely at the absence of the Supreme Judge. This inability makes the novel's wisdom (the wisdom of uncertainty) hard to accept and understand."
' Later still, for Emma Bovary, the horizon shrinks to the point of seeming a barrier. Adventure lies beyond it, and the longing becomes intolerable. Within the monotony of the quotidian, dreams and daydreams take on importance. The lost infinity of the outside world is replaced by the infinity of the soul. The great illusion of the irreplaceable uniqueness of the individual—one of Europe's finest illusions—blossoms forth. But the dream of the soul's infinity loses its magic when History (or what remains of it: the suprahuman force of an omnipotent society) takes hold of man. History no longer promises him fame and fortune; it barely promises him a land-surveyor's job. In the face of the Court or the Castle, what can K. do? Not much. Can't he at least dream as Emma Bovary used to do? "
" novel is incompatible with the totalitarian universe. This incompatibility is deeper than the one that separates a dissident from an apparatchik, or a human-rights campaigner from a torturer, because it is not only political or moral but ontological. By which I mean: The world of one single Truth and the relative, ambiguous world of the novel are molded of entirely different substances. Totalitarian Truth excludes relativity, doubt, questioning; it can never accommodate what I would call the spirit of the novel. But aren't there hundreds and thousands of novels published in huge editions and widely read in Communist Russia? Certainly; but these novels add nothing to the conquest of being. They discover no new segment of existence; they only confirm what has already been said; furthermore: in confirming what everyone says (what everyone must say), they fulfill their purpose, their glory, their usefulness to that society. By discovering nothing, they fail to participate in the sequence of discoveries that for me constitutes the history of the novel; they place themselves outside that history, or, if you like: they are novels that come after the history of the novel."
" The novel's spirit is the spirit of complexity. Every novel says to the reader: "Things are not as simple as you think." That is the novel's eternal truth, but it grows steadily harder to hear amid the din of easy, quick answers that come faster than the question and block it off. In the spirit of our time, it's either Anna or Karenin who is right, and the ancient wisdom of Cervantes, telling us about the difficulty of knowing and the elusiveness of truth, seems cumbersome and useless. The novel's spirit is the spirit of continuity: each work is an answer to preceding ones, each work contains all the previous experience of the novel. But the spirit of our time is firmly focused on a present that is so expansive and profuse that it shoves the past off our horizon and reduces time to the present moment only. Within this system the novel is no longer a work (a thing made to last, to connect the past with the future) but one current event among many, a gesture with no tomorrow"
He was steadfast in his belief that winter could only bring empty promises and a hopeless yearning that life could be more than it really is. She had gone for a trip back to her family for the month as she did every year, but he could only think of the wet snow footprints she left that evening. That image seared into his mind in compensation for the lack of that fragrant perfume he woke up to every morning, Every year was harder then the next if only for the reason that she seemed more distant, more apprehensive of the purpose of their relationship. He felt that she continued this relationship for the sake of convenience that his job brought for both. He noticed the merry cheer of his humble neighbours, always thankful for the winter to come and beauty it always provided. He always failed to see the splendour of winter, seeing it as an oppressive afront to the less brutal and more dignified autumn. The death the autumn brought upon the world had the loveliness of its once green leaves. He felt that winter covered up the beautiful death that autumn brought and made the world dreary. He then remembered of the forest walks he had with his wife right after her trip with her family. That is how they always dealt with her long absence, he never seemed to remember all those times. Maybe because those times were always used to tackle the issues, they had with each other. It was never easy to resolve conflict when the cold sieged them at every side. When she came back this year, they did their annual forest trip. They saw the huddled masses that were the sparrows that sought familiar comfort in the warmth of their bodies against the piercing cold. Sleuthing fox could always be seen behind the mass of tree, tracking its next prey. They felt how humbled they could be basking under the stars never-ending lights. The iced river and sombre forest always provide them comfort that worldly goods could never provide, that of something ephemeral but at the same time eternal. Feeling that the forest and river might change over time, but would they always exist in one form or another for them, as a shelter from their worries. There they were, cowered over the midnight fire, hoping for a comet to fly by. She always reminding him the beauty they have here is the beauty their love brings to each other. He always wondered why he barely remembered these blissful nights, not remembering how these nights always leads to greater light when woken up by the morning’s sun.
Fernando Pessoa on poetry
Poetry is in everything—in land and in sea, in lake and in riverside. It is in the city too—deny it not—it is evident to me here as I sit: there is poetry in this table, in this paper, in this inkstand; there is poetry in the rattling of the cars on the streets, in each minute, common, ridiculous motion of a workman who [on] the other side of the street is painting the signboard of a butcher’s shop. Mine inner sense predominates in such a way over my five senses that I see things in this life—I do believe it—in a way different from other men. There is for me—there was—a wealth of meaning in a thing so ridiculous as a door key, a nail on a wall, a cat’s whiskers. There is to me a fullness of spiritual suggestion in a fowl with its chickens strutting across the road. There is to me a meaning deeper than human fears in the smell of sandalwood, in the old tins on a dirt heap, in a matchbox lying in the gutter, in two dirty papers which, on a windy day, will roll and chase each other down the street.
For poetry is astonishment, admiration, as of a being fallen from the skies taking full consciousness of his fall, astonished at things. As of one who knew things in their soul, striving to remember this knowledge, remembering that it was not thus he knew them, not under these forms and these conditions, but remembering nothing more.
Before he spoke to me
Hollow were his words, yet they still lingered across the mournful night. One could hope that this pouring rain would wash it all away. Black cats judicious seek cover under weathered tin roofs, stillness pervades these quaint streets, and none could be the wiser of what had happened recently. Nothing of importance but personal misgivings. Yet all one could hope for is that the hopeful light that dawn brings anew every day, would shine upon my forehead once again. One had to seek light in these anxious times, these streetlamps giving only a dim light which is fitting for these neighbourhoods. I had expected a fateful knock on my door tonight, one or two knocks would suffice. I had dreadful encounters with brutish types, heavy and repeated knocking forcing my heart to skip a beat. One wondered the necessity of such harsh knocks when a few light knocks would do. To pace around the room like a ravenous loin would not aid me at all, I set my racing mind to finish my novel. He could come at any moment and how dreadfully his thuds on my porch would be. Sunken was my mind in this sea of literary imagination, that even the lightest knock would give me such a fearfully fright. A upon reflection of character motivation, I thought of my misgivings with him.
Before I could do that, those destined knock came crashing down upon my door. I was startled but surprisingly I was more composed than usual. What he sought after; I knew not. Our words always pass through each other like ghosts. Only opening that door could set free my worries free. When I did, I saw him soaking wet with a crumbled-up newspaper (Still a man of paper he was). He was a tall and lean man, had not lost his dignity yet and still had a slight smile to his face. I always admired the way he carried himself in life but now I fear him. His short trimmed black hair dripping water droplets everywhere and his rosy face still maintained composure. Only rain could be heard across these streets, no word escape either of our mouths. I only dreaded what was to come.
1. I never was in a very religious household, had a bible in our house and celebrated Christmas but never was taught to be religious and believe in heaven and hell, my parent has always been quite liberal and free-thinking when it comes to topics of religion. A few times I tried to believe and pray, I could not make myself believe.
2. I feel no need for religion, as long I have art, friends, and family I’m happy, to be honest. Some people feel a need to attach themselves to a greater and eternal idea like Christianity or Islam but not me
3. There is no evidence for any human-made religion right now, only weak arguments about how the universe being so complex that a god had to have made it. Just because something is complex doesn’t mean it could not have happened naturally, we have the evidence of the big bang and evolution, adding a god(s) to the equation makes no sense, then you would need to prove the existence of that being and that is a whole new can of worms.
4. There are so many religions, which one would be right? Seriously I mean maybe the pagans are correct, maybe the Ancient Greeks got it right, who is to say? There is no smoking gun evidence for any religion and what makes you think your religion is right, the probabilities that your particular religion is right is very low, considering all the other religions.
5. Religions always reveal more about human society than they do about eternal ethical laws and metaphysical reality. Look at how religious people have treated women for example or gays, it says a lot about those patriarchal societies they came from more than the actual truth of the world.
On “When shall man understand?”
The poem: https://theprose.com/post/234824/when-shall-man-understand
It is not my oldest piece, but it is one of the first pieces I wrote and one that got a bunch of attention. I hadn’t read much poetry prior to reading W.B. Yeats and when I did, I thought he was amazing. I read how he was influenced by Percy Shelley. I read Shelley’s radical poetry and so I wrote this poem. His style of vividly rendering of nature beauty and attack on tranny really inspired me to write something like it. I was also into socialism and anti-authoritarian politics, so that explains the obvious anti-capitalist message in the poem. I don’t know if I thought I was being unique, but the poem is not very good and very in your face moral outrage at the world. I hope my poetry has gotten somewhat better over the years but sometimes I force my political and social views too much. I think if I made some imaginative scenario to carry the message instead of just writing out the protest injustice message. More focus on imaginative language and ambiguity on the moral aspect would have helped as well. I still hold roughly the same political views and still eager to write more but time is an issue right now.
You that fly too quick
You that beat your tender wings
So swift and real!
That springs from earth’s breast,
Unshackled by its restraining will.
You that dart across heaven’s vault,
Seeking all its deep delights.
You who fly with no concern of death’s law,
We knowers of untimely destruction.
You whose beauty is magnified by our ugly woes,
Which you carry to the ends of the known world.
You who is an ephemeral delight,
Which we grasp with our limited eyes.
Your last elegant flight we will hold in our mind,
Lest we let your beauty fade into the twilight of our times.