Objet trouvé: modesty

A great man is always willing to be little. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A modest little person, with much to be modest about. – Winston Churchill

I want to stretch out my tentacles to tackle the idea of modesty. Sound the clarions, hoist the flags, this self-proclaimed writer marches in to lecture about a virtue that has been blemished by the stains of arrogance and self-righteousness from the beginning of text. That writer is anti-consumption, anti-capitalism, and if you don’t commit to end the destruction of the natural world, also anti-you, so he’ll probably offload his praise of Modesty as a vehicle to promote his vegan wonderland of post-consumerist nudist self-absorbed disciples of the Loving Unity and feel good about it. Before you know what has happened, he’d have moved on to his next sermon. His Vision is expanding circles or Truth, and Modesty if the Way to Salvation, to turn you into a blessed celestial elephantine Being of Grace and Glory.

But hold on for a second. Let’s strip off this layer of convenient anti-ideology, this dishonestly cynical modus essendi of lowest possible moral energy levels. It’s getting late, the serpent needs to get rid of his skin. You and I need to find a way again to write large virtues small.

Life is transient. We are guests on this prety blue planet. In fact, we consist of fickle molecules that will be recycled as part of our solar system, which is itself nothing but a speck of dust.
– O, please.

Modesty, being humble, is thinking of yourself – behind closed doors – as a triviality, as just not the thing the world is revolving around. But this is not possible unless we see ourselves as a functional part of something bigger, because as floating egos, cut off from the world around us, there is no way to escape the notion that we are in the center of everything.

The knowledge that we are part of something bigger inevitably makes us feel more important than we are. This feeling can be turned into boasting, a sense of entitlement, and generally the opposite of modesty. But it can also be “put in parentheses” through the application of living irony.
– O, please.

I feel that modesty is an impossible virtue if we follow this logic, a virtue that contradicts itself, a virtue that can not survive its own expression. This does not mean that the virtue is in itself a bad thing. The practice of approaching, circumventing, meandering around impossible virtues might be beneficial to the well-being of our species.
– O, please.

In the case of modesty, our mere intention to be modest can teach us about our innate immodesty, and lead us to live life lightly. Once we learn that we can sing in different registers than those ultra cynical ones that castrate our dear grammatically impossible virtues by portraying them as self-absorbing hypocricy, tainted with the same immoralities they claim to doubt the existence of, we might feel better.
– O, please;-

Drawing by ianbourgeot.com

Objet trouvé: modesty was originally published on Meandering home


Our language

I overlook the green garden
The wind is almost invisible
A sheep is bleating, nearby

Look at the evolution of
Our language, she is layered
She is a flight
And a hiding place
Some people make it

The green garden doesn’t make it
The wind doesn’t make it
The sheep doesn’t make it

Our language was originally published on Meandering home

Professor . What do you think of the intellectual climate of today?

There is a worrying decline of what I call the culture of wisdom. More often than not, people engaging in debates are more concerned with cementing their own argumentation, making their own narrative waterproof as it were. Instead of trying to integrate the stories of their opponents in their own Grand Narrative, they readily dismiss them as fundamentally flawed. I miss the eagerness to achieve such inclusivity, the wonder of how an other thinking mind can draw sometimes totally different conclusions. This presuposses, I am well aware, a fundamental respect and we shall call it a belief in the intellectual capabilities of their opponents. Rather than treating them like an annoyance they want to get rid of, I miss the intellectual attitude that wishes to celebrate disagreement in order to proceed to a higher truth. Recently I wrote about this and produced the following formula. We should attempt to reduce a strange narrative we encounter to our own.

Don’t you think this is the faux nostalgia that comes with age? Was it not the case that intellectuals in the cold war era, dismissed each other for chosing the wrong side?

[chuckles] No, I can give you a concrete example. Take the political debate. If we talk about Venezuela, our initial response almost always reveals our political core belief. Media outlets who, under the influence of market pressure, tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to know, amplify this phenomenon.

was originally published on Meandering home

Reading: Nocturnal Sailing by Mario Wirz

Mario Wirz (1956-2013) was a German poet and writer who started his career as theater actor and director. I read a poem in a translation by Renate Latimer:

the wind in your dream
swells the curtains into a sail
tears asunder
all the things we have collected
in the fearful light of the bedside lamp
I search in vain for our life vests
high waves rise above your sleep
and toss the night onto the side of the moon
perhaps you’d rather be
the sole sailor
untroubled by my fears
this question too
I now cast overboard
cautiously descending into your dream
and following its course
the sea which I haven’t questioned
all these years
imagines in our sleep
a new story

This is a gentle poem about love and anxiety. The curtains becoming sails and the pale moonlight dancing over the ocean’s surface imitated by the bedside lamp are a straightforward metaphor.
The author is cast overboard (intentionally?) because he didn’t want to bother his partner with his fears. That at least is what I read here. It gives him the chance to finally question the sea itself, and it creates the opening for a new story.

Reading: Nocturnal Sailing by Mario Wirz was originally published on Meandering home

Professor Trompsky #1

Professor Trompsky, welcome to our studio. At 87, do you have any plans for retirement?

Listen, the burden of the world rests on my shoulders. I can’t just give up because the fragility that is slowly but certainly shutting down my body. My responsibilities are grand, and with grandure I shall go to the grave. Can we talk about something less morbid now, provided such a topic exists in the current state of the world? [chuckles]

Yes we can. How would you analyze the current state of political discourse?

It is the fundamental unwillingness to learn from the other side, as people refer to political opponents, that strikes me as dangerous. I don’t see a humorous and convivial back and forth of well-stated arguments, but a general retreat from eloquence and the joy of seeking out a worthy opponent. Believe me, there have been better times for political debate.

What do you suggest as a solution, professor?

Well, there is no panacea. We have to carefully prepare the public for more sophisticated discourse. Right now, they seem to accept very low intellectual standards. We should welcome contrarians at our institutions of higher learning. We should let no student graduate who takes one particular standpoint without seriously questioning it, before their third year in college. Universities should teach students how to be your own best critic, not how to be your own best proselytiser.

Thank you for your clear suggestion. Do you think it has any change of success?

Of course not. I am just saying these things because I owe it to my stature as an intellectual giant. I am playing the character people expect me to play.

Do you never lose hope?

What do you want me to say? Professor Trompsky never lose hope.

Professor Trompsky #1 was originally published on Meandering home