1 When I’m not being the most thoroughly rational and reasonable person you’ll ever meet who isn’t an honorary Houyhnhnm, I sometimes get emotional. The last few months, with the death of my sister, the anniversary of my son’s death, and all but one of the kids leaving for college, have been, well, emotional. This futzes with my attempts at rationality in weird ways, especially since I, like Spock in The Voyage Home, find answering the question ‘how do you feel?’ way more difficult than it ought to be. Maybe I’m a replicant or something, an earlier, much less physically attractive version of Rachael? It’s a difficult thing to disprove…
One thing that gets weird is what I can stand to read. Lately, when I reach into The Pile near my bed to read myself to sleep, I’ve settled on a a scholarly and somewhat dry book on Greek Mythology by some British don or other. This, while my (new paper white, yay!) Kindle sits there with partially read John C Wright, Brian Neimier and Orestes Brownson. Huh? I’d rather, it appears, read about how the Argonaut saga originated somewhere outside the Greek world and was retrofitted, over the centuries, with more mainstream Greek heroes, who storytellers were then obliged to more or less awkwardly work into the narrative or work around. Beats Hegel, for sure, but those other guys?
Also, a couple things I read during this time I’ve since partially reread, and discovered that I’d totally misapprehended them. Note to self: check emotional state before writing any reviews, you may blow it otherwise. (Age of Ultron, anyone?). That said:
2 The middle parts of Brownson I found draggy, as he beats to death every flavor of every objection to the premise that the Union is and must be constituted as a nation and people in fact and by natural law *before* it could write a legal document. The South, thus, could object as much as they want to the written Constitution, but the same natural laws that govern all the natural goings-on in this world also, in the normal working of things, constitute peoples as nations who only THEN can construct laws for themselves. You can’t legitimately leave such a thing without doing horrible violence to the rule of law and human nature itself.
Fascinating concept, and I’ll get back to a more full-blown write up once I feel better, whatever that means.
The real surprise: Brownson, as through and through an opponent of slavery as one could hope to find, nonetheless detests the Abolitionist movement, even more, in some ways, then he detests slave-owning. Why? Because while both slavery and the excesses of the Abolitionists are barbaric, in the sense of being opposed to the Commonwealth essential to any civilization worthy of the name, slave holding is a persistent remnant of barbarity standing against efforts to achieve true civilization, while the Abolitionists, having a Commonwealth and a Republic, would burn the whole world, the state, the Union, the Commonwealth and the Republic itself to be rid of slavery. In their rhetoric, they dismiss or condemn the Union for having allowed slavery in the first place and not having stamped it out in the second.
Brownson points out that the American bias in favor of revolutionaries is fundamentally insane. For every ‘good’ Revolution like America’s of 1776, there are dozens in which the worst traits and people rise to the top, and nothing is achieved except the destruction of life, freedom and the Commonwealth itself. And, since this vast majority of revolts don’t establish a more perfect order, they tend to repeat themselves over and over. He is, I’m sure, thinking of the France of his time.
So the Southerners willing to be ‘rebels’ were, in Brownson’s opinion, deluded by the American myth of the good revolution. There hearts were in the right place, perhaps, but they did not understand what they were doing – no one did, until the act of fighting the Civil War forced people to work through what it was all about – which is what Brownson’s book is all about.
3 I’m rereading Brian Niemeier’s first novel Nethereal (see above for why) and quite enjoying it. Expect a review soon.
4. In some ways, John C. Wright’s latest Somewhither takes his everything and the kitchen sink approach to characters and ideas to an even more extreme level than before, if possible. I’m only a little bit into it, yet we’ve already run into a menagerie of creatures eldrich, and enough ideas for half a dozen short stories. But I’ll need to start over soon, see above.
5. I threw that story up, after a couple hours of writing and one quick rewrite, just to see if I could actually let anything out of my trembling hands and into the wild. I resisted rewriting it for a couple days, then went back and eliminated a couple paragraphs and tried to mitigate some redundancy. BUT THAT’S IT! Ok? So I can ‘finish’ a story, after a fashion. Conceptually, at least.
Did you know that the history of civilization can to some extent be found in the layers of ruins of ancient farms? In rural France, the earliest ruins, when the farmers first built houses, show one big room – and all the animals stayed in there, too. As time went on and, one presumes, things settled down a bit, a divider wall was put in, perhaps to keep the cows and goats from stepping on sleeping peasant children. Next, solid walls with doors went in. Finally, when things got really settled, a separate but very near by building – a barn – was built for the animals, and everyone, one hopes, slept and smelt better.
This makes total sense, in a world where populations are ‘harvest-sensitive’ – that livestock was a matter of life and death, you’d better know where it is and be able to defend it.
So, out of the blue, thinking of recent cultural developments, I had the stray thought: if this keeps up, we’re going to need to keep the cows in the living room.