Nov 192010
 

Notes from the book by Alexander Kendrick.

On problems with Congress understanding the role of the USIA:

“Our concern is with the idea. We cannot judge our success by sales. No profit-and-loss statements sums up our operations at the end of each year. No cash register rings when a man changes his mind. No totals are rung up on people impressed with an idea. There is no market history of the rise or fall in the going rate of belief in an ideal.

Often one’s best work may be merely to introduce doubt into a mind already firmly committed. There are no tallies to total, or sums to surmise, when you’ve finished a day of explaining disarmament, or discussing with the disenchanted the hope of an Alliance for Progress.”

“Communications systems are neutral. They have neither conscience nor morality, only a history. They will broadcast truth or falsehood with equal facility. Man communicating with man poses not the problem of how to say it, but more fundamentally, what is he to say?”

“Anything tagged education in this country [the United States] is handicapped at the outset. The American people don’t really believe in education. We had to pass laws to force parents to send their children to school.”

“When television is good, nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your TV set and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.”

“To be persuasive, we must be believable. To be believable, we must be credible. To be credible, we must be truthful. It is as simple as that.”

“It is very easy to say we are going to speak the truth, but I predict you will have a very difficult time finding out what the truth is.”

[Kendrick: The supreme test arrives when lying is deemed vital to the national security, or prestige, or facesaving.]

“For if the premise on which our pluralistic society rests – which as I understand it is that if the people are given sufficient undiluted information, they will then somehow, even after long, sober second thoughts, reach the right decision – if that premise is wrong, then not only the corporate image, but the corporations are done for.”

“There is no suggestion here that networks or individual stations should operate as philanthropies. But I can find nothing in the Bill of Rights, or the Communications Act, which says they must increase their profits each year, lest the Republic collapse.”

On receiving the Einstein Award: “if television and radio are to be used for the entertainment of all of the people all of the time, we have come perilously close to discovering the real opiate of the people.”

The mass media… were being turned to “less for opinion, still less for radical or liberal opinion, and almost not at all for many-sided discussion.”…”One cannot slake one”s thirst at a dry well.”

“They say future political candidates must be personable on television. Why? Are we reaching the ridiculous stage where we will be invited to taste a candidate, like toothpaste? I find it ominous, this reliance on advertising technique and catchphrases, instead of statesmanship and leadership.”

“There is a false formula for personal security being peddled in our marketplace. It is this, although not so labeled: Don’t join anything. Don’t associate. Don’t write. Don’t take a chance on being wrong. Don’t espouse unpopular causes. Button your lip and drift with the tide. Seek the ease and luxury of complete equanimity, by refusing to make up your minds on issues that wiser heads will one day decide. This product, if it be bought by enough people, leads to paralysis.”

“Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions.”

Robert Oppenheimer: “The trouble with secrecy isn’t that it inhibits science or that it doesn’t give the public a sense of participation. The trouble with secrecy is that it denies to the Government itself the wisdom and the resources of the whole community, of the whole country. And the only way that you can do this is to let almost anyone say what he thinks – to try to give the best synopses, the best popularizations, the best mediations of technical things that you can, and to let men deny what they think is false, argue what they think is false. You have a to have a free and uncorrupted communication. And this is so the heart of living in a complicated technological world, it is so the heart of freedom, that that is why we are all the time saying, ‘Does this really have to be secret?’ ‘Couldn’t you say more about that?”Are we really acting in a wise way?’ Not because we enjoy chattering, not because we are not aware of the dangers of the world we live in, but because these dangers cannot be met in any other way.”

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Nov 192010
 

Parable of the Three Fishes

This is the story of the lake and the three big fish
that were in it, one of them intelligent,
another half-intelligent,
and the third, stupid.

Some fishermen came to the edge of the lake
with their nets. The three fish saw them.

The intelligent fish decided at once to leave,
to make the long, difficult trip to the ocean.

He thought,
“I won’t consult with these two on this
They will only weaken my resolve, because they love
this place so. They call it home. Their ignorance
will keep them here.”

When you’re traveling, ask a traveler for advice,
not someone whose lameness keeps him in one place.

Muhammad says,
“Love of one’s country
is part of the faith.”
But don’t take that literally!
Your real “country” is where your heading.
not where you are.
Don’t misread that hadith.

In the ritual ablutions, according to tradition,
there’s a separate prayer for each body part.
when you snuff water up your nose to cleanse it,
beg for the scent of the spirit. The proper prayer is,
“Lord, wash with me. My hand has washed this part of me,
but my hand can’t wash my spirit.
I can wash this skin, but you must wash me.

A certain man used to say the wrong prayer
for the wrong hole. He’d say the nose-prayer
when he splashed his behind. Can the odor of heaven
come from our rumps? Don’t be humble with fools.
Don’t take pride into the presence of a master.

It’s right to love your home place, but first ask,
“Where is that, really?”

The wise fish saw the men and their nets and said,
“I’m leaving.”

Ali was told a secret doctrine by Muhammad
and told not to tell it, so he whispered it down
the mouth of a well. Sometimes there’s no one to talk to.
You must just set out on your own.

So the intelligent fish made its whole length
a moving footprint and, like a deer the dogs chase,
suffered greatly on its way, but finally made it
to the edgeless safety of the sea.

The half-intelligent fish thought,
“My guide
has gone. I ought to have gone with him,
but I didn’t, and now I’ve lost my chance
to escape.
I wish I’d gone with him.”
Don’t regret what’s happened. If it’s in the past,
let it go. Don’t even remember it!

A certain man caught a bird in a trap.
The bird says, “Sir, you have eaten many cows and sheep
in your life, and you’re still hungry. The little bit
of meat in my bones won’t satisfy you either.
If you let me go, I’ll give you three pieces of wisdom
One I’ll say standing on your hand. One on your roof.
And one I’ll speak from the limb of that tree.”

The man was interested. He freed the bird and let it stand
on his hand.
“Number One: Do not believe an absurdity,
no matter who says it.”

The bird flew and lit on the man’s roof. “Number Two:
Do not grieve over what is past. It’s over.
Never regret what has happened.”

“By the way,” the bird continued, “in my body there’s a huge
pearl weighing as much as ten copper coins. It was meant
to be the inheritance of you and your children,
but now you’ve lost it. You could have owned
the largest pearl in existence, but evidently
it was not meant to be.”

The man started wailing like a woman in childbirth.
The bird: “Didn’t I just say, Don’t grieve
for what’s in the past? And also, Don’t believe
an absurdity? My entire body doesn’t weigh
as much as ten copper coins. How could I have
a pearl that heavy inside me?”

The man came to his senses. “All right.
Tell me Number Three.”

“Yes. You’ve made such good use of the first two!”
Don’t give advice to someone who’s groggy
and failing asleep. Don’t throw seeds on the sand.
Some torn places cannot be patched.

Back to the second fish,
the half-intelligent one.
He mourns the absence of his guide for a while,
and then thinks, “What can I do to save myself
from these men and their nets? Perhaps if I pretend
to be already dead!
I’ll be belly up on the surface
and float like weeds float, just giving myself totally
to the water. To die before I die, as Muhammad
said to.”
So he did that.

He bobbed up and down, helpless,
within arm’s reach of the fisherman.

“Look at this! The best and biggest fish
is dead.”
One of the men lifted him by the tail,
spat on him, and threw him up on the ground.

He rolled over and over and slid secretly near
the water, and then, back in.

Meanwhile,
the third fish, the dumb one, was agitatedly
jumping about, trying to escape with his agility
and cleverness.
The net, of course, finally closed
around him, and as he lay in the terrible
frying-pan bed, he thought,
“If I get out of this,
I’ll never live again in the limits of a lake.
Next time, the ocean! I’ll make
the infinite my home.”

 Comments Off on Rumi
Nov 192010
 

The Speakers

“A equals X,” says Mister One.
“A equals B,” says Mister Two.
“A equals nothing under the sun
But A,” says Mister Three. A few
Applaud; some wipe their eyes;
Some linger in the shade to see
One and Two in neat disguise
Decapitating Mister Three.

“This age is not entirely bad.”
It’s bad enough, God knows, but you
Should know Elizabethans had
Sweeneys and Mrs. Porters too.
The past goes down and disappears,
The present stumbles home to bed,
The future stretches out in years
That no one knows, and you’ll be dead.

A Distance from the Sea

To Ernest Brace

And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was
about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto
me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and
write them not. —REVELATIONS, x, 4.

That raft we rigged up, under the water,
Was just the item: when he walked,
With his robes blowing, dark against the sky,
It was as though the unsubstantial waves held up
His slender and inviolate feet. The gulls flew over,
Dropping, crying alone; thin ragged lengths of cloud
Drifted in bars across the sun. There on the shore
The crowd’s response was instantaneous. He
Handled it well, I thought—the gait, the tilt of the head, just right.
Long streaks of light were blinding on the waves.
And then we knew our work well worth the time:
The days of sawing, fitting, all those nails,
The tiresome rehearsals, considerations of execution.
But if you want a miracle, you have to work for it,
Lay your plans carefully and keep one jump
Ahead of the crowd. To report a miracle
Is a pleasure unalloyed; but staging one requires
Tact, imagination, a special knack for the job
Not everyone possesses. A miracle, in fact, means work.
—And now there are those who have come saying
That miracles were not what we were after. But what else
Is there? What other hope does life hold out
But the miraculous, the skilled and patient
Execution, the teamwork, all the pain and worry every miracle involves?

Visionaries tossing in their beds, haunted and racked
By questions of Messiahship and eschatology,
Are like the mist rising at nightfall, and come,
Perhaps to even less. Grave supernaturalists, devoted worshippers
Experience the ecstasy (such as it is), but not
Our ecstasy. It was our making. Yet sometimes
When the torrent of that time
Comes pouring back, I wonder at our courage
And our enterprise. It was as though the world
Had been one darkening, abandoned hall
Where rows of unlit candles stood; and we
Not out of love, so much, or hope, or even worship, but
Out of the fear of death, came with our lights
And watched the candles, one by one, take fire, flames
Against the long night of our fear. We thought
That we could never die. Now I am less convinced.
—The traveller on the plain makes out the mountains
At a distance; then he loses sight. His way
Winds through the valleys; then, at a sudden turning of a path,
The peaks stand nakedly before him: they are something else
Than what he saw below. I think now of the raft
(For me, somehow, the summit of the whole experience)
And all the expectations of that day, but also of the cave
We stocked with bread, the secret meetings
In the hills, the fake assassins hired for the last pursuit,
The careful staging of the cures, the bribed officials,
The angels’ garments, tailored faultlessly,
The medicines administered behind the stone,
That ultimate cloud, so perfect, and so opportune.
Who managed all that blood I never knew.

The days get longer. It was a long time ago.
And I have come to that point in the turning of the path
Where peaks are infinite—horn-shaped and scaly, choked with
thorns.
But even here, I know our work was worth the cost.
What we have brought to pass, no one can take away.
Life offers up no miracles, unfortunately, and needs assistance.
Nothing will be the same as once it was,
I tell myself.—It’s dark here on the peak, and keeps on getting
darker.
It seems I am experiencing a kind of ecstasy.
Was it sunlight on the waves that day? The night comes down.
And now the water seems remote, unreal, and perhaps it is.

Interregnum

Butcher the evil millionaire, peasant,
And leave him stinking in the square.
Torture the chancellor. Leave the ambassador
Strung by his thumbs from the pleasant
Embassy wall, where the vines were.
Then drill your hogs and sons for another war.

Fire on the screaming crowd, ambassador,
Sick chancellor, brave millionaire,
And name them by the name that is your name.
Give privilege to the wound, and maim
The last resister. Poison the air
And mew for peace, for order, and for war.

View with alarm, participant, observer,
Buried in medals from the time before.
Whisper, then believe and serve and die
And drape fresh bunting on the hemisphere
From here to India. This is the world you buy
When the wind blows fresh for war.

Hide in the dark alone, objector;
Ask a grenade what you are living for,
Or drink this knowledge from the mud.
To an abyss more terrible than war
Descend and tunnel toward a barrier
Away from anything that moves with blood.

End of the Library

When the coal
Gave out, we began
Burning the books, one by one;
First the set
Of Bulwer-Lytton
And then the Walter Scott.
They gave a lot of warmth.
Toward the end, in
February, flames
Consumed the Greek
Tragedians and Baudelaire,
Proust, Robert Burton
And the Po-Chu-i. Ice
Thickened on the sills.
More for the sake of the cat,
We said, than for ourselves,
Who huddled, shivering,
Against the stove
All winter long.

 Comments Off on A Quartet of Poems by Weldon Kees
Nov 192010
 

Charles Algernon Swinburne

In days now past there lived an adamant old man;
His brow was calm, his eye unflinching: Death trembled
At the sight of him, vanquished by his satyr-gaze;
And Pain, that gnaws and gnashes, grinding with steel teeth,
Squirmed beneath his foot like a whipped, whimpering dog.
Now and then from his swelling heart a word or two
Burst forth, corrosive, cynical, appalling;
The whole world bowed before this aged colossus,
Hate along with Love, Evil along with Goodness:
To see him laugh and dream was to know that nothing –
Not Desire, whose sparkling eye bedazzles,
Not Man who roars, not God who trumpets and thunders,
Not frightful Virtue, scourge of the embittered heart –
Could cause the slightest lifting of his ancient brow.
He saw the world as vast, vacant, and unchanging;
Gomorrah bathed him in the light of its red fires,
And all of vicious Capri blazed before his eyes;
He ponders; and seems to hold in the hollow of his hand
That great lost age, now faded into ghostly mist;
Sporus, blood-soaked, in bed with Elagabalus,
And pleasure hidden within the deepest horror,
And the hideous baths of that grim emperor
Who forced ravished little children and weeping girls
To nibble his naked flesh like frightened minnows
And picked the fairest boys to prick and suck their blood;
The succubus who prowls and laughs among the tombs;
Semiramis swooning, pleasured in the stable;
And Lust dining next to Murder at the table;
And savage Sappho, fire racing through her body;
And the abyss: and love, lawless and unbridled,
That thing a lewd faun hides beneath his garments;
And the queen, beast-besotted in her appetites,
Panting in ecstasies of monstrous, sweet delight,
Mother of the Minotaur and Phaedra’s sister;
And dread Venus of Aphaca, nature’s monster;
All the blazing fires with all the vile rottenness;
And Retz, inhaling ashes redolent of flesh
And smoke of roasting corpses, wafted in the breeze;
Cinyras debauched, lying on his daughter’s breast;
All that arouses, resonates, thrills, and explodes;
The earth inflamed, a monster at feverish sport;
The heavens, a whorehouse painted bawdy blue
In which a phallic God lets loose, spurting and gushing,
His metallic juices erupting in torrents;
Where the moon cruises, hunting for satisfaction;
Where the mighty sun penetrates with brazen rays
And, hot and naked, shamelessly, ceaselessly spills
The surging flood of his prodigious blood-red seed;
(For sunbeams defile; the dark side of heaven
Is the foul, putrid bowel of the universe);
With a deep and wild look, he paced; and all
Sodom Sprang to life, dreamed its dreams, burned, and shrieked within him.

He belonged to a golden age, to ancient gods;
His presence struck sparks of fascinated terror;
His massive jaw hinted at enormous appetites;
He had an air of glorious, satanic boldness;
When he kissed, he wanted blood; he was voracious;
His wolfish smile gleamed, a gaping, dazzling rictus;
His hot breath blew like a desert wind, furious;
He called to mind Priapus in the garden shade
Gnawing his nymph’s bronzed nape with his beautiful teeth
This was the Infinite’s vicious younger brother.

Furrowing his brow, he saw his past come alive,
The Marseilles saturnalia spiced with Spanish fly,
The lair in Arcueil, unguents, and the keen knife
He used for slicing open naked, living flesh.

A bitter, cold contempt swelled his turbulent breast.
The Empire had caught him in its filthy clutches;
Yet, though imprisoned, he smiled. He had his own gods.
He saw and understood it all; nothing surprised him.
A fierce hunger stirred in the soul’s depths of a man
Greater than Bonaparte, greater than anyone.

Now, one night a youth – he was only twenty-two
Saw that pale, proud face, the crown of silvery hair,
Those dark eyes and the cunning, imperious mouth;
The young man trembled. That night he was reading Justine;
As if in prayer, he looked upward, lifting his gaze
From the forbidden page to the smiling old man.
Awestruck and amazed, he asked, “Who is standing there?
What sort of man is he? I’d like to know his name.
His face, the movements of his hand, bring to mind
The splendid, sportive wantonness of ancient Rome;
All the great ones, immortalized in infamy,
Who played the husband to women and the wife to men;
All the bedazzlement within the deepest nights;
The gutted gladiator, naked in the ring,
His neck crushed beneath the heel of an emperor
Whose beardless lips brush a eunuch’s downy cheek;
All that nature abhors and that a jealous God,
Craven and envious, drowns in a sea of fire;
And all that rises again, hidden from His ire;
All that Socrates dreamed and Tiberius wrought;
The lewd, salacious teat on which the whole world sucks,
And the roadside signal silently acknowledged;
The tricks a roving satyr liked to teach the shepherd,
And all that deadly virtue castrates and crushes;
The sounds one hears at night; whinnying and roaring;
And all that flows out in streams and all that glitters;
The unconquerable man, his lordly spirit all aglow,
Who grabs God by the ear, calling him ‘old fellow’,
Contemplates eternity and snaps his fingers;
Who holds quivering virtue sobbing in his hands;
And the dark blood spurting hot; and hidden alcoves;
And shameless women, beautifully disgusting;
And the laughter of the man sharpening his teeth
On smooth, pearl-white shoulders and hot; heaving breasts.
All these thoughts come and go, revealed in his bright eyes,
And in the curling of his lascivious mouth.
Who are you, then, old man? Whence come you? What gave you
The mournful air of a silent, beckoning god?
What superhuman hand placed that arrogant smile
On your pale and haughty lips? What is the meaning
Of the flame burning in the black depths of your eyes
Like lightning flashing in the night, enlivening
The drab face of things with bursts of radiant gold?’

“My child”, the old man replied, “I am called de Sade.”

Translated by Elisabeth Gitter. Published in TLS 2003.10.10

 Comments Off on Charenton in 1810. (1861)
Nov 192010
 

There are seven sins in the world: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice and politics without principle.

The future depends on what we do in the present.

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.

The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within.

Affection cannot be manufactored or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or a system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite to violence.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.

In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds.

As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, keep it.

To run away from danger, instead of facing it, is to deny one’s faith in man and God, even one’s own self. It were better for one to drown oneself than live to declare such bankruptcy of faith.

I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.

A ‘No’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.

Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.
N.B.: The British disarmed the Indian Army: Gandhi never advocated the individual right to bear arms.

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

Live as if your were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

The good man is the friend of all living things.

Where there is love there is life.

A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.

My non-violence bids me dedicate myself to the service of the minorities.

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.

Whenever you take a step forward, you are bound to disturb something. You disturb the air as you go forward, you disturb the dust, the ground. You trample upon things. When a whole society moves forward, this trampling is on a much bigger scale; and each thing that you disturb, each vested interest which you want to remove, stands as an obstacle.

Hate the sin, love the sinner.

I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence….I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour. But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment. Forgiveness adorns a soldier…But abstinence is forgiveness only when there is the power to punish; it is meaningless when it pretends to proceed from a helpless creature…. But I do not believe India to be helpless….I do not believe myself to be a helpless creature….Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.

I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.

Indolence is a delightful but distressing state; we must be doing something to be happy.

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.

I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill.

When asked what he thought of Western civilization: “I think it would be a good idea.”

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.

Live simply that others may simply live.

Adaptability is not imitation. It means power of resistance and assimilation.

It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity.

If you don’t find God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time looking for him further.

The only devils in this world are those running around in our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought.

There is more to life than increasing its speed.

Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.

To conceal ignorance is to increase it. An honest confession of it, however, gives ground for the hope that it will diminish some day or the other.

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