Monday, July 20, 2015

We crave only reality

I may have been hasty in detecting deconstructionist tendencies in Frederic Gros's Philosophy of Walking. Overtly at least, he's on the side of immediate experience and reality, against that of the Derridean overtextualizers. Or so it appears, given his sympathetic rendition of Thoreau's famous "rocks in place" declaration of independence from tradition, convention, and cultural inertia. Honest writing must first acknowledge the truth of the writer's own experience. If he cannot tap that well, he has no business writing. "How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live."
Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through Church and State, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake; and then begin, having a point d'appui, below freshet and frost and fire, a place where you might found a wall or a state, or set a lamp-post safely, or perhaps a gauge, not a Nilometer, but a Realometer, that future ages might know how deep a freshet of shams and appearances had gathered from time to time. If you stand right fronting and face to face to a fact, you will see the sun glimmer on both its surfaces, as if it were a cimeter, and feel its sweet edge dividing you through the heart and marrow, and so you will happily conclude your mortal career. Be it life or death, we crave only reality. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business. Walden, "Where I Lived and What I Lived For"
 "What do you mean, we?" asks (implicitly) Andrew O'Hagan in his unexpectedly fine essay in yesterday's Times style magazine. "The Happiness Project" tries to see the world of Disney through his children's eyes, as well as his own. The reality of that fantasy is something to be experienced, too, and
"the greatest ride in Disneyland is the ride through one's own ambivalence... In Disneyland, every child feels chosen, and why wouldn't you empty your bank account to see that happen, when the child is yours... only a curmudgeon, or a writer, would choose to question the authenticity of the performers' smiles or ask how much they are being paid."
So maybe I was a little hard on Goofy the other day too. Just trying to keep it real.

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