December 10 2017

Bob Ingersoll versus Mahalia Jackson

"I'm gonna save you, too, Studs." It isn't the first time she offers this challenge; nor is it the last. It is to become our Chautauqua debate: believer versus atheist . . . I always lose. Don't misunderstand. I have never in my life thrown a match of this nature. I am, in this instance, pitifully overmatched. All my Bob Ingersoll arguments are demolished by her soaring song. And her humor.

- Studs Terkel on Mahalia Jackson

November 29 2017

Divine Justice

In 1831 Hector Berlioz and Felix Mendelssohn were walking in the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, arguing about God. Mendelssohn was defending God, while Berlioz was expressing skepticism. When Mendelssohn tripped on a ruin, Berlioz said, "Look at that for an example of divine justice: I blaspheme, you fall."

November 12 2017

There's a Lot of Platitudinous Bumble

We can't make use of our minds at full capacity unless we have some idea of how much of what we think we're thinking is really thought, and how much is just familiar words running along their own familiar tracks. Nearly everyone does enough talking, at least, to become fairly fluent in his own language, and at that point there's always the danger of automatic fluency, turning on a tap and letting a lot of platitudinous bumble emerge.

- Northrop Frye

November 08 2017


Since reality consists in the uniformity of calculable reckoning, man, too, must enter monotonous uniformity in order to keep up with what is real. A man without a uni-form today already gives the impression of being something unreal which no longer belongs.

- Martin Heidegger

November 08 2017


MISOMUSIST. To be without a feeling for art is no disaster. A person can live in peace without reading Proust or listening to Schubert. But the misomusist does not live in peace. He feels humiliated by the existence of something that is beyond him, and he hates it. There is a popular misomusy just as there is a popular anti-Semitism. The fascist and Communist regimes made use of it when they declared war on modern art. But there is an intellectual, sophisticated misomusy as well: it takes revenge on art by forcing it to a purpose beyond the aesthetic. The doctrine of engagé art: art as an instrument of politics. The theoreticians for whom a work of art is merely a pretext for deploying a method (psychoanalytic, semiological, sociological, etc.). Democratic misomusy: the market as supreme arbiter of aesthetic value.

Milan Kundera

October 31 2017

A Better Sway than Sway of Self

The town is taken by its rats—ship-rats
And rats of the wharves. All civil charms
And priestly spells which late held hearts in awe—
Fear-bound, subjected to a better sway
Than sway of self; these like a dream dissolve,
And man rebounds whole aeons back in nature.

- Herman Melville

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