What’s Old is New Again

Ponderings, is all:

I finished The Brothers Karamazov two days ago. I first picked it up, and much later after that attempted to read it, some years ago. It had been my ambition to finish it because of its impressive length, but I ultimately couldn’t do it for lack of keeping the character names straight. I wondered why Alyosha got so many chapters dedicated to him. And I’m sure I also lost interest for lack of being able to follow what exactly was going on at all times. I tell ya, I can read, but sometimes I’m really reading nothing at all.

What I find most important is that my finishing The Brothers Karamazov informs my current belief that I should affirm my view of things. What is key here is that the view that I am affirming be truly my own. I made it, conceived of its meaning, myself. It has meaning to me, but it would make sense to you, too. I believe that part of the reason why we’re having problems speaking with one another is because we do not speak to one another. Worse yet, I believe that most people do this not because they’re affirming their belief, but because they’re affirming a belief that is not theirs. That person, each of those people, did not make the choice they think they represent. They have been excused, as part of their necessary thought pattern, to scrutinize everything but themselves. An outside influence is an outside element; a presence I will increasingly feel is a literal virus come to threaten my health. My very being. My very life. This is a body hostile. Hostile to me. If only there were no resistance.

So we continue to believe in the reasons why we don’t speak to the other side, and we find new reasons too, and don’t you fall behind otherwise you’ll miss all the new ones that were shared in the meantime. Shared, not created. Shared, from someone who came up with the sharpest thing that could be said at that moment, as a response. So sharp, I couldn’t have thought of a better thing, so I shared it. Shared, not created. A self-maintaining whirlpool of ideology. A body in a force that doesn’t recognize it’s a torrent. What dangerous things they’ve turned out to be.

A dude shows up at Kavanaugh’s house, armed. Calls for dialogue lose out to open letters pretending to stand against censorship but promoting the same. An open letter went out to Penguin House Publishing as an expression of outrage over the deal that Penguin House Publishing attained with Amy Coney Barrett. A $2 million dollar book deal. Outrageous. So the letter said, something to the effect to, We stand for free and open ideas–naturally, we abhor censorship–but you must understand, under these circumstances, when human rights are at stake, free speech must not be promoted. No, but no, only under these circumstances, they’re really very rare–but how could this be so? Amy Coney Barrett, the letter advised, can have free speech with someone who will accept it–unless of course they’re serious, in which case we will be forced to step in–as a moral imperative, I trust you understand–she is free to search. And that is why you Penguin House Publishing should not accept. Think about it: You’ll only have to suffer it once.

A man shows up at the house of Nancy Pelosi, armed with a hammer, reportedly yells out “Where’s Nancy?” and proceeds to beat Nancy’s husband, Paul, with that hammer before the police knocked him down. Nancy Pelosi has been targeted. Michael Pence. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Gretchen Whitmer. Targeted. And how could they not. The storm rages. The storm is a potent vacuum that fills itself with itself.

Wars are always fought off the ideas of others. Why should a second civil war be any different? If an electoral victory doesn’t convince, what could be more complete than obliteration. The moral imperative demands it, in fact. Finally comes our chance to beat a competing narrative. Our way will win because our way is with us. We carry it. None of us remembers bearing the burden, but we realize now we all do. And we can’t let go of it because we will be instantly crushed if we try.

A form of self-destruction will follow. A necessary process, however. A cleansing, done through emissions. Toxic discharges. Yucky, but indicating health. Good health. The best health you’ve had in years.

You’ve never felt this good. What an arrival, messy like all the rest, Neo. Yucky. But you come to start to see things in a way they make sense, especially where the very foundation makes no sense. You understand the logic behind the placement, but you don’t understand the organization, for it is sense-less, no matter how hard it tries. I get it, I get it. So, I thought, I want to feel like this all of the time. From morning till the very, very end. I had to form my own ideas. I had to recognize that there should be things I check out for myself, always keeping an open mind that information outside of myself may later be found. I had a system for new ideas. I thought about what a new idea meant. I thought about its implications and its likely logical fallacies. I adopted things along the way that supported an idea I had individually created. I have to assume that anyone else who feels this way understands the labor that goes into this self-development project, and respects the person whose view is incongruent with his own. We cannot vote the same, they would accept, but they would mean each other no harm. And each believed this to be true. And it was, in fact, true.

In my theoretical scenario, we can have opposing views, but we do not allow them to become mutually exclusive to the point where one can openly ponder another civil war, in a very real, dangerous sense. I believe that the idea of challenging ideas and rhetoric openly is the check needed to evaluate the beneficial value, if any, of those ideas. Harmful but tolerable are those ideas that squeeze the other side, for sure, but don’t seek to kill it, and, in fact, do not kill it. Tolerable, because this method of combat, voting, is the measure we have accepted in substitute for constant, physical battle. We must have civility, after all, once a victor is recognized. Why, otherwise, we would need obliteration…

So it’s important that I finished The Brothers Karamazov, and that I did so when I did, because I can better appreciate Ivan’s poem, with The Grand Inquisitor and the minor devil. Dostoyevsky was apparently a dick. I can see why, though. Someone who thought like that, without a check for humor, would be painfully insufferable. But how could he not be. He lives in an absurd world, and he finds that insufferable to himself. Dostoyevsky may not have had a sense of humor, is my conjecture. I do. I would offend one side more than the other when I said I find it all funny. How could I, how could I? How could I possibly? Yes, how possibly to someone who has accepted the impossible. The side that cannot exist against the other. That naturally ends with obliteration. What a pitfall. One I avoid.

You know, everything is lawful. That’s what Ivan said. That’s what Dostoyevsky introduced through Ivan. I don’t mean introduced like invented, but like shared with us the knowledge that he knew about this idea, and that knowledge would be spoken or thought of by Ivan. What scandalous things were happening in Russia, all those years back then? Because this is what Dostoyevsky is writing about. There’s a liberal movement on one side and a force for flawed traditionalism acting as a counterweight. Dostoyevsky considered this struggle as the quintessential struggle, requiring a literal dialogue on the subject. Pondering the meaning of good and a being that doesn’t know it is considered evil. In a world where everything is lawful, Dmitri dies, no matter what. Dmitri’s lawyer, Fetyukovich, represents the liberal thoughts we thought so groundbreaking today–back then! Fetyukovich says a son cannot murder a father because what does fatherhood really mean? Is your title earned merely by microscopic contribution? Surely not! Surely, a father is one who reveres his role, and carries it through without doubt. These men will be recognized as fathers by their sons, and will not kill them. Fetyukovich also spoke of how influential Dmitri’s upbringing was in forming his person, and how greatful Dmitri would be upon receiving the jury’s acquittal–the people’s mercy. It all sounded liberal to me.

Dmitri is found guilty. Dmitri is the man who followed his passions to, unfortunately, detrimental ends for himself, but only ever meant them to be to himself. Dmitri did not seek to harm others but would react when passions so required. Prone to outbursts–sure!–but not the killer of Fyodor Karamazov. This did not matter. Dmitri found himself between two sides, then fell to the mercy of one. Yet another way the competing ideological systems maintain themselves. Deal as your own.

Dostoyevsky primed us for at least a lengthier consideration given to prison breaks. But then Dostoyevsky died. I’ve read he intended two more books, but we’re left with Dmitri found guilty. We are left with Dmitri’s being found guilty. If a potential continuation is later discovered, all the better. I can appreciate that now.

**As an addendum, the cover image to this post is Piet Mondrian’s work, New York City II, I believe. The reason I am not sure is because news stories sharing the realization that the work had been hung upside down, and adored the wrong way round, purport to show New York City I. But from my perhaps inadequate Googling, it seems to me that the work is New York City II. It would be quite the oversight for all news stories sharing this story to all share the incorrect title to the work–surely, it is I who is wrong. Maybe it is former New York City II? But the significance of the story remains the same because, regardless of whether the image shown in these stories is New York City I or New York City II, the story concludes that despite the work’s being upside down, it will not be placed the right way round. From The Guardian: “If you were to turn it upside down now, gravity would pull it into another direction. And it’s now part of the work’s story.” What does The Grand Inquisitor tell Christ? If we were to do things differently than we have, everything would be ruined. The outcome you want would be impossible for the masses. So impossible as to undo everything. Our work would fall apart. Artifice is part of the story.

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