Sunday, November 06, 2011

message to the world

After I left “Sarah’s Key” early Saturday evening, I walked to Moe’s Books and spent several hours amusing myself. I left very expensively amused, but what the hell: adding to a truly great library is like adding new kinds of plants to a great garden: Gravity’s appeal leads to more gravity. It’s natural. A congregation of importances composes an appellant cohering. Valuingbooks, in my case—flows into a telic cohering of more and more mindedness (or mindality). It’s human.

Let there be as much gardening of importances as we can really afford (and blogs to that effect not left to sleep).

I’m so easily unbearable: I made a list of the books bought last evening, then a list of the titles noted for archival lists; then a list of my favorite findings from the 3 most-recent issues of The New York Review of Books late night; and listed other interesting findings. I sequenced that, and voilà: I had an unwieldy syllabus I could write a book in light of: One night in a bookstore and sundry reading.

“He wrote well about that night, but died before completion.”

Princeton philosopher/theologian Mark Johnston reads the essence of the great religions as proffering that “persons are protean” (283ff.). Lucky me.

Reporting on the carnival of human variability didn’t begin with the modern European novel; rather, the protean novel emerged from the hybridity of Mediterranean cultures and European outlands before modernity.

The essence of the novelistic motive might be enchantment by the variability of lives. Surely, that’s part of why I fall in love with women I can’t have. Next!

I surely cannot resist enchantment by creative intimacies. Imagine two painters married to each other, having their studios adjacent: the surrealists Yves Tanguy (a longstanding favorite painter) and Kay Sage (who? sorry, dear). Alas, I bought a painting by a friend years ago (stored away) that looks like a Kay Sage work, I could not have known. Philip Guston’s work looks like Son-Of-Kay (but not son-of-Yves—though Philip looks like Yves’ son).

Talk about a feeling for the thing: How about Evocative Objects: things we think with? The Table of Contents makes me giggle.

But I was really inspired by Kit White’s 101 Things to Learn in Art School. I must write about that. It’s a gem. (It has a thick rubber cover, very tactile).

I must hurry along. (The need for hurrying drives me crazy.)

Wisdom: from philosophy to neuroscience is an oddity, cribbing trends of applying evolutionary psychology to moral theory, which is deeply interesting to me, but not as a trade paperback. However, the book is emblematic of naturalism’s appeal (as well as the appeal of quick routes to wisdom); check out the Table of Contents for a taste of what draws me into evolutionary theory (though I’ll be working with others’ original research, not freelance ventures—though what am I?). Seriously, though, evolutionary theory is becoming a central tenet of philosophical ethics: The highly-esteemed philosopher Philip Kitcher has just published The Ethical Project which argues that “we should see our ethical practices as evolving over tens of thousands of years, as members of our species have worked out how to live together and prosper.” Great, as far as normative understanding goes. But what about the creativity that formulates ethical projects in the first place? Doing philosophical ethics is not about doing sociology or anthropology of normativity. I’m working toward a sense of “evolutionary” ethics in a transitive sense of ‘evolving’ (fostering progressive processes), rather than explanatory sense. But I’ll obtain Kitcher’s book soon. It’s one with which I shall have to come to terms, and I look forward to that.

Love notions of EcoMind: changing the way we think, to create the world we want, which is the name of Frances Moore Lappé’s new book (agri-political mother of Michael Pollan, one might say). She provides a good sense of progressive planetary thinking as a practical venture—a good complement to Stewart Brand’s recent Whole Earth Discipline: an ecopragmatist manifesto.

OK, I’m quitting here. The landscape of just one evening is more than I’ll take time to further render—except to say I bought a beautiful book titled The Poet’s Freedom: a notebook on making, by Susan Stewart, Professor of Humanities at Princeton (another woman to fall for).

And I bought a “remaindered” book of drawings done to the artist’s favorite Emily Dickinson poems, The World in a Frame, because a lover of Emily (whom I’ve not met) would know what’s best about her, including…

This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me —
The simple News that Nature told —
With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see —
For love of Her— Sweet —countrymen —
Judge tenderly — of Me