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In 1862 the English literary critic and poet Matthew Arnold described Marcus Aurelius as "the most beautiful figure in history." The Stoicism of Aurelius is grounded in rationality and rests solidly on an ethical approach rooted in nature. Stoicism promises real happiness and joy in this life and a serenity that can never be soured by personal misfortune. This philosophy has universal appeal with practical implications on problems ranging from climate change and terrorism to the personal management of sickness, aging, depression and addiction. I truly believe that the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius has much to offer us now...(Click on book cover for more)
|Name:||Virginia Woolf - Feminist Series|
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The Great Books: Virginia Woolf
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It is also rather striking that strong opposition to the coming war [ed. note: this was written just before the US invasion of Iraq] extends right through the establishment. The current issues of the two major foreign policy journals feature articles opposing the war by leading figures of foreign policy elites. The very respectable American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a long monograph on the war, trying to give the most sympathetic possible account of the Bush administration position, then dismantling it point by point. One respected analyst they quote is a Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who warns that the US is becoming "a menace to itself and to mankind" under its current leadership. There are no precedents for anything like this.
I am drawn by this (p. 137) from Woolf. The impulse to know, to learn, described: "The desire not to love, to lead a rational existance without love, was behind it." What does that mean? They wanted like Antigone not to break the laws, but to find the law.
Otherwise, under the rubrick of the status quo imbalance, the "infantile fixation" [a dumb assed behavior rooted in some problem] takes over. Here is its sound:
"Even here, even now, the clamour, the uproar that infantile fixation is making is such that we can hardly hear ourselves speak; it takes the words out of our mouths; it makes us say what we have not said. As we listen to the voices we seem to hear an infant crying in the night, the black night that now covers Europe, and with no language but a cry, Ay, Ay, ay, ay, ... But it is not a new cry, it is a very old cry. Let us shut off the wireless and listen to the past. We are in Greece now; Christ has not been born yet, nor St. Paul either. Listen:..." p.141
From Creon, the Dictator in Antigone, the play by Sophocles. "Whomsoever the city may appoint, that man must be obeyed, in little things and in great, in just things and unjust...disobedience is the worst of evils...we must supprt the cause of order, and in no ways suffer a woman toi worst us...They must be women, and not range at large. Servants, take them within..." Antigone, answers: "Not such are are the laws set among men by the justice who dwells with the gods below." But Antigone had no power with her and Creon shut her away in a cave.
Such is the conclusion of our enquiry into the nature of fear-fear that forbids freedom in the private house. That private fear is connected with a public fear - the fear that led you to ask us to help you to prevent war.
Another picture emerges: The figure of a man; some say, others deny, that he is Man himself. His eyes glazed...hand on sword...enveloped by mystic symbols...Fuhrer, Duce, tyrant, Dictator...behind him lie dead bodies and ruined houses...all this suggests a connection...the private and public worlds are inseparably connected...the tyrannies of the one are the tyrannies of the other...the personal is political?...this suggests that we cannot dissociate ourselves from that figure but are ourselves that figure. It suggests that we are not passive spectaors doomed to unresisting obedience but by our thoughts and actions can ourselves change that figure.
"Whatever the verdict of others may be upon the man in uniform-and opinions differ-there is your letter to prove that to you the picture is the picture of evil. ..We are both determined to do what we can to destroy the evil which that picxture represents, you by your methods, we by ours. "We can best help you prevent war by remaining outside your society but in co-operation with its aim: to assert: "the rights of all- all men and women-to the respect in their persons of the great principles of Justice and Equality and Liberty"
I read this yeserday in a piece called "Confronting the Empire" by Noam Chomsky: Chomsky is facing the new "figure" - the figure Woolf says is us but the figure that can be altered
Capitalism, patriarchy, racism, and corporate globalization are vile enough, but every so often -- and of course the mid century Nazis were a prime example -- something even worse tries to emerge out of still deeper layers of hell, and occasionally it does. And such a scourge of evil seems perhaps to be seeking entry into our world now, all the way from the seventh circle, or further.
Chomsky continues: The assault now planned for Iraq will, if we don't stop it, have grotesque consequences for Iraqis and for the Mideast as a whole, of course. If the attack occurs, there will be a week or two of tumultuous terroristic explosions in Baghdad. Then the battle, which will never really be joined since there is only one serious combatant, will be effectively ended. Airborne punishment may rain down for a few weeks more as the boys with toys play out their hand to the last Iraqi groan. Every new device will be tested, with its effectiveness evaluated by its pile of charred remains. Every polished mechanism of delivery and intensification will be utilized, with its effectiveness evaluated by the souls massively shattered. Disgusting as all this will be, if the campaign called "Awe and Shock" occurs, its grotesque violence against humanity will just be capitalism, racism, sexism, and authoritarianism as they exist in every day life, escalated by violent opportunity. Business as usual. Bush and Co. know that if we again devastate Iraq some kind of attack on the U.S. will follow. They know war will elicit it. A second assault on U.S. citizens will help facilitate the full flourishing of Bush's agenda, and Bush and Co know it, and perhaps even seek it.
The face of evil. Woolf comes at this in the text in other ways. Here from Churchill: Under sufficient stress-starvation, terror, war-like passion, or even cold intellectual frenzy-the modern man we know so well will do the most terrible deeds, and his modern woman will back him up.
Woolf offers a range of instruments and "new methods" in the fight.
1): We need recognize what "patiotism" truly means. If it means different things for woman and men - perhaps it means nothing at all.
2): Where does the truth lie? Not in the masked arguments of hypocracy, but in the pictures. "Those photographs are not an argument; they are simply a crude statement of fact addrerssed to the eye. But the eye is connected with the brain; the brain with the nervous system. That system sends its messages in a flash through every past memory and present feeling." When we look at these a fusion takes place; however different the education, the traditions behind us, our sensations are the same, and they are violent [sensations]." You, Sir, call they "horror and disgust." We also call them horror and disgust. War, you say is an abomination, a barbarity, war must be stopped at whatever cost. We echo. War is an abomination; a barbarity; war myust be stopped. For now at last we are looking at the same picture; we are seeing the same dead bodies, the same ruined houses.
How do we see come to see the same picture? Education. It must be new, experimental. It is young and poor. it must be an experimental college, an adventurous college. What subjests should be taught: not the art of dominating others, not the arts of ruling, killing, of acquiring land and capital. We must teach only that can be cheaply taught and practiced by the poor: medicine, mathematics, music, painting, literature. The art of humnan intercourse, the art of undertstanding others lives and minds, and the little arts of talk, of dress, of cookery. The aim of the new college, the cheap college, is not to separate, but to combine. It should explore the ways that mind and body can be made to co-operate. The teachers should be drawn from good livers and good thinkers. It would be a place where society was free, not the false dichotomies of : rich vs. poor, clever vs. stupid, advirtisement is abolished, no degrees, no lectures, no sermons, no poisened vanities and parades which breed competition and jealousy.
To prevent war, the professions of the future, those taught in the poor college I presume, must be taught so that they lead to a different song, a different conclusion, a different method. The professions taught the old way breed the four vices: possessiveness, jealousies, pugnatiousness and greed. The professions taught new ways need as teachers the four virtues of : poverty, chastity, derision, and freedom from unseen loyalties. By poverty is meant to earn enough. By chastity is meant, not to prostitute your brain not to operate in a spirit of love - same thing. By derision is meant - humility - refuse merit, refuse praise, refuse fame, refuse honors. By freedom from unseen loyalties - no patriotism, no religious pride, no college pride, no school pride, no family pride, and, significantly, no sex pride - no feminisms as such!!!
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This web page is part of a biographical database on Great Ideas. These are living ideas that have shaped, defined and directed world culture for over 2,500 years. By definition the Great Ideas are radical. As such they are sometimes misread, or distorted by popular simplifications. Understanding a Great Idea demands personal engagement. Our selection of Great Ideas is drawn from literature and philosophy, science, art, music, theatre, and cinema. We also include biographies of pivotal historical and religious figures, as well as contributions from women and other historically under-represented minorities. The result is an integrated multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary database built upon the framework of the always controversial Great Books Core List published in 1940 by the late Great Books Pioneer Mortimer Adler (1902-2001). Most of the works on that list are available in the 60 volume Great Books of the Western World.