“‘The Red Wheelbarrow,’ like so many Williams poems, is experimental. It lacks punctuation, relies on erratic or unusual lineation, and generally dissolves the traditional boundaries between one thing, or idea, and another. He had a famous maxim, “No ideas but in things,” which I take to mean that to speak about ideas, emotions, and abstractions, we must ground them firmly in the things of the world.”
PLEASE DO NOT ANSWER THIS IF ANSWERING GIVES STUFF AWAY ABOUT THE PLOT OF TFIOS. In the second chapter of TFIOS, that which you read for us, you talk about the idea of subjective and objective good ("The existence of broccoli does not in any way affect the taste of chocolate"). Do you believe that? Does Hazel?
Well, it’s true. It’s not a belief. It’s a fact. If broccoli did not exist, chocolate would taste exactly as chocolate tastes. (You can argue that the experience of eating chocolate is shaped by eating broccoli, but you can’t argue that the flavors of chocolate are affected by the existence of broccoli.)
Anyway, this line of thinking in re. suffering is very common, particularly in cultures that have a good/evil dualism expressed by god/the devil or harry/voldemort or empire/rebels or whatever: The idea is that suffering exists so it can heighten and shape our experiences of joy.
This is not, in my opinion, a very thought-out or persuasive idea. Like, if suffering existed so it could heighten our joy, then wouldn’t the suffering be evenly distributed so that we could all experience the exact right amount of it to have our joy ideally heightened? But we know that suffering is not evenly distributed among humans, that some suffer more and longer than others.
In short, the universe isn’t fair. And saying that a Negative X intensifies a Positive Y imagines a fairness and balance to the universe that does not line up with the universe that I see. (Of course, I might be wrong. I am often wrong!)
“Saying ‘I notice you’re a nerd’ is like saying, ‘Hey, I notice that you’d rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you’d rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?’ In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even ‘lame’ is kind of lame. Saying ‘You’re lame’ is like saying ‘You walk with a limp.’ Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he’s done all right for himself.”—John Green
“It was like the second when you come home late at night and see the yellow envelope of the telegram sticking out from under your door and you lean and pick it up, but don’t open it yet, not for a second. While you stand there in the hall, with the envelope in your hand, you feel there’s an eye on you, a great big eye looking straight at you from miles and dark and through walls and houses and through your coat and vest and hide and sees you huddled up way inside, in the dark which is you, inside yourself, like a clammy, sad little foetus you carry around inside yourself. The eye knows what’s in the envelope, and it is watching you to see you when you open it and know, too. But the clammy, sad little foetus which is you way down in the dark which is you too lifts up its sad little face and its eyes are blind, and it shivers cold inside you for it doesn’t want to know what is in that envelope. It wants to lie in the dark and not know, and be warm in its not-knowing. The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can’t know. He can’t know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can’t know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn’t got and which if he had it, would save him. There’s the cold in your stomach, but you open the envelope, you have to open the envelope, for the end of man is to know.”—Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men, describing a moment you either have known or someday will. Or, God help us, both. (via fishingboatproceeds)
“Psychologists have found that people’s belief in a just world helps explain how they react to innocent victims of negative life circumstances. People become cognitively frustrated when presented with stories of victims who suffer through little fault of their own. They can deal with this frustration in two ways: they can conclude that the world is an unjust place, or they can decide that the victim is somehow to blame. Most people reconcile their psychological distress by blaming the victim. Even when we know that suffering is undeserved, it is psychologically easier to blame the victim rather than give up the idea that the world is basically fair.”—
This is also referred to as The Just World Fallacy. If the world is “good and just,” then bad things must only happen to people who “deserved it or caused it.” Except the world is not good and just. And despite individual people choosing to be good and/or just, structures, institutions and systems remain corrupt overall. Primarily through the media is the idea that bad only happens to those who deserve suffering conveyed. Add this to the manifestations of oppression based on gender, race, class, nationality, citizenship, sexual orientation, size, etc. and things like rape culture for example, thrive. And even ideologies that appear “harmless” to some people like prosperity gospel, positivity culture, the law of attraction and American exceptionalism are based on ignoring systemic inequality and focusing on exceptional cases. They stand firm in this particular fallacy.
See, it requires quite a bit from a person to be willing to challenge the world as is. It is psychologically, emotionally and intellectually easier to victim blame. It also helps people protect their psyches from the thought that something bad could happen to them or worse, that they are the causes of those bad things happening to others.
Still…it’s unacceptable. Victim blaming = unacceptable. The right thing to do is listen and support victims/survivors of anything and the oppressed of any form of oppression and work to deconstruct the structures, institutions and systems that make it possible. On an individual level, it requires accountability.
“No matter their standpoint, anyone who advocates feminist politics needs to understand the work does not end with the fight for equality of opportunity within the existing patriarchal structure. We must understand that challenging and dismantling patriarchy is at the core of contemporary feminist struggle – this is essential and necessary if women and men are to be truly liberated from outmoded sexist thinking and actions.”—bell hooks, ‘Dig Deep: Beyond Lean In’ (via feministquotes)
bell hooks (née Gloria Watkins), scholar-in-residence at The New School, is among the leading public intellectuals of her generation. Her writings cover a broad range of topics including gender, race, teaching, and contemporary culture. Melissa Harris-Perry is founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South, Professor of Political Science at Tulane University, author, and host of MSNBC’s “Melissa Harris-Perry.”
“Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel; the wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.”—James Baldwin
There is a limit to the amount of misery and disarray you will put up with, for love, just as there is a limit to the amount of mess you can stand around a house. You can’t know the limit beforehand, but you will know when you’ve reached it.
Dear Abby, said someone from Oregon, I am having trouble with my boyfriend’s attachment to an ancient gallon of milk still full in his refrigerator. I told him it’s me or the milk, is this unreasonable? Dear Carolyn, my brother won’t speak to me because fifty years ago I whispered a monkey would kidnap him in the night to take him back to his true family but he should have known it was a joke when it didn’t happen, don’t you think? Dear Board of Education, no one will ever remember a test. Repeat. Stories, poems, projects, experiments, mischief, yes, but never a test. Dear Dog Behind the Fence, you really need to calm down now. You have been barking every time I walk to the compost for two years and I have not robbed your house. Relax. When I asked the man on the other side if you bothered him too, he smiled and said no, he makes me feel less alone. Should I be more worried about the dog or the man?
“The obsessions of others are opaque to the unobsessed, and thus easy to mock. Nascar, jazz, baseball, roses, poetry, quilts, fishing. If we’re lucky, we all have at least one.”— The art critic Roberta Smith
“I have no good advice, but here’s some I gleaned from a letter Benjamin Haydon, who rarely gave him good advice, wrote to John Keats: “God bless you my dear Keats, don’t despair, collect incidents, study characters, read Shakespeare and trust in Providence.”—Wise words from Tony Kushner’s speech at the Whiting Writer’s Awards, adapted in print for the New Yorker. (via classicpenguin)
I suspect it is the techniques of fiction, also often used by nonfiction writers, that are especially valuable now. I say this because it’s possible that we as a culture suffer from a particularly debilitating case of thinking we know much more than we know… .
This false sense of knowing — not a new problem, but perhaps a newly pressing one — has been made worse by the ease with which we find Web sites devoted to telling us what we already want to hear and already suspect is true. There are even algorithms for this; confirmation bias has never been more pervasive or insidious. We inhabit fanciful castles of facts.
Mostly we read the nonfiction that suits our fancy, and tend to ignore that which does not. Not for aphoristic economy alone did Nietzsche observe that convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. Because we are less sure of what fiction is “saying,” we are less pre-emptively defended against it or biased in its favor. We are inclined to let it past our fortifications. It’s merely a court jester, there to amuse us. We let in the brazen liar and his hidden, difficult truths.