My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)
My politics are those of privacy and intellectual obsession. They look to Dante’s immemorial summons voiced by Ulysses: ”We are not formed to live come bruta, but to follow virtue and knowledge wherever these may lead, at whatever personal and social cost.” It may be that such a conviction is in certain regards pathological and self-indulgent . . . at the same time, (it) seems to me to justify man
. . . all I hope for from any political regime is that it allows breathing space for such obsessions, breathing space for what may not be utilitarian or socially beneficial.”
— George Steiner (European/American writer, in every genre, in 4 languages)
Anthropologists tell us that even the most primitive tribes, surviving precariously, manage to designate a story teller, a piper, a singer, a dancer, a rock carver or painter—or just a thinker—whose contemplative contribution exempts her or him from some of the endless, heavy chores necessary for physical survival of the group. I think of the prehistoric cave paintings produced by people who needed to invent the “paint” and to bring light into the cave—before they could begin to use the “breathing space” they had somehow set aside for the creation of images of their reality and their hopes. They obviously considered non-utilitarian art an essential component of their humanity.
How do our values, with our “advanced” civilization of complexity and abundance, stack up next to theirs?
(Send the Berkeley Daily Planet a page from your own Commonplace Book)