Filed under: chronotopes, departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: adult, child, Ursula K. Le Guin
I believe that maturity is not an outgrowing but a growing up. That an adult is not a dead child, but a child who has survived.
Ursula K. Le Guin
Has everything we’ve ever learned conspired to teach the opposite? That we must leave childhood, childish ways, play, undisciplined days, wandering thoughts, dreaming, pettiness, impatience and all the myriad other qualities of being a child? That we must live two distinct lives?
But to have survived into adulthood sounds too much like coming through a conflict or war. Why a child who has survived? Could adulthood be the fruit of the seed of childhood; the realization, blooming of all the potential inherent in a young life?
No one believes this. We believe in the two distinct worlds of childhood and adulthood – to our peril. We cut ties to our childish natures and we become humourless, lacking in imagination and alienated.
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: books, fantasy, science fiction, Ursula Le Guin
Some ideas from Ursula Le Guin’s acceptance speech at the National Book Awards.
‘Realist’ books have consistently taken awards away from fantasy and science fiction.
Now we need massive imagination – of the kind that the fantasy writers can give us, perhaps? – to counter a threat to the arts.
The threat is fear, obsession with technology, and money.
Art is not a commodity. If sales people control the publishing industry books are reduced to commodities.
But they are more; they define new ways of living. They help to ensure our freedom.
A useful image: the kings had divine rights which were challenged. The capitalists have seemingly unassailable powers that need to be countered by the power of imagination.
From Ursula K. Le Guin’s speech:
Thank you Neil, and to the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks from the heart. My family, my agent, editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as mine, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice at accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long, my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction—writers of the imagination, who for the last 50 years watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.
I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.
Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship. (Thank you, brave applauders.)
Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write. (Well, I love you too, darling.)
Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.
I have had a long career and a good one. In good company. Now here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want—and should demand—our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.
transcription by parker higgens dot net
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: efficiency, feasibility, justice, law, society, Ted Hamilton
I used to teach at a university which installed as its dean the ex ceo of Jiffy Lube, his administrative and money skills no doubt outweighing his academic credentials at the selection interviews.
So what do we get when we put businessmen and economists at the top of our institutions, like government and universities? The accepted argument is solvency and profit, but are there other dividends?
Here’s a portion of an essay by a Harvard law student. He describes courses in which ‘feasibility’ and ‘efficiency’ are the central, generative ideas, and ‘justice’ – which one would believe to be central to the study of the law – tertiary.
Feasibility and efficiency are the lingua franca of the economist / businessman counting and distributing his beans: what are they doing in courses in the law at America’s best school?
The Johnny-come-lately nineteenth century science, economics, has come a long way and occupies a position of extreme privilege. It’s illegitimate. The study of law should be the study of law. When it’s whored out to business it stops defining, protecting and facilitating justice. It leads to self interest and self destruction.
Here is Ted Hamilton:
A year ago, I imagined — as most people probably do — that the initial year of legal studies would put a heavy emphasis on the good. I anticipated lots of lofty vocabulary about justice and rights and freedom. Attorneys may not have the cleanest reputations, but it seems fitting that an introduction to the life of the law would aim high, if only as an idealistic and rhetorical reprieve before the realities of the job market set in. But while there’s certainly some discussion of liberty and righteousness in the halls of our law schools, there’s not quite as much of it as you might think. The path to the bar is not paved with sentimental cobblestones of the Good and the Right. It’s much more pragmatic than that.
In fact, the most repeated word in my first year law curriculum was not justice, or liberty or order.
It was efficiency. Continue reading
Filed under: brave new world, chronotopes, departure lounge, the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: alain de botton, brain pickings, humanities, literature, The School of Life
In first year uni philosophy, one of the essays we read was titled – does literature humanize? I went on to study literature for four years, and since then – decades ago – the question of the role of literature, now in our culture almost entirely sidelined, niggles.
In this video is a case for what literature does from the School of Life, and below are pulled quotes done by Brain Pickings. Reading literature opens new worlds, makes us sympathetic and human, offers comfort and companionship, and confirms the fragility and imperfection of life. This is a list based on the idea of the consolations of philosophy – a very powerful and necessary truth.
I also think that literature has a macro effect that isn’t as evident in this consolations view. For instance, could we say that as a humanizing agent, literature – and the humanities at large – is our most significant defense against intractable fundamentalisms and ideologies of control? I think so. Do we want a strong stand against the reductive teachings of some preachers, MBAs, cults, CEOs, mullahs, mobs, clubs, and isms? Try an educated population.
Literature frees us, yet some of the deans of our universities want to get rid of it, either because they don’t see the connection, or they’re not interested in the kinds of freedom the humanities engender and sustain.
Video above (duh) and the pulled quotes here:
- IT SAVES YOU TIME
It looks like it’s wasting time, but literature is actually the ultimate time-saver — because it gives us access to a range of emotions and events that it would take you years, decades, millennia to try to experience directly. Literature is the greatest reality simulator — a machine that puts you through infinitely more situations than you can ever directly witness.