It wasn't as easy as you think! One writer's impressions from the past seven decades, a member of the generation that went from words like "Love" and "Freedom" in the 60s to today's "WTF did we do wrong?"
Click on this link to go to Growing Up Boomer.
Note: the Education and Freedom and Educational Follies blogs have been discontinued; however, its posts may someday appear in book form, and some of the posts (the rantings of a seventy-something Boomer most likely to be found sitting at the end of the bar and yelling at the TV) may be found as posts in Growing up Boomer.
"... we artists form one of those pathetic human chains which human beings form to pass buckets of water up to a fire, or to bring in a lifeboat. An uninterrupted chain of humans born to explore the inward riches of the solitary life on behalf of the unheeding unforgiving community; manacled together by the same gift ... And realizing this I was suddenly afflicted by a great melancholy and despair at recognizing the completely limited nature of my own powers, hedged about as they were by the limitations of an intelligence too powerful for itself, and lacking in sheer word-magic, in propulsion, in passion, to achieve this other world of artistic fulfillment."
L.G. Darley in Lawrence Durrell's novel, Clea published in The Alexandria Quartet.
"When a library disappears, or a book shop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place (the Cemetery of Forgotten Books), its guardians, make sure that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader's hands. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody's best friend."
(For Steinbeck) "the main thing was to think about the characters until he could see them. Eventually he learned everything about them. Where they were from, how they dressed, what their voices sounded like, the shape and texture of their hands--the total picture. Once they were clearly visible to him, he started building their back stories, adding details and events to their lives from before he knew them. He wouldn't use all of this information, but it was important to have it in order to better gauge the characters, to the point where they stood free of his conscious involvement and began to think and act independently. Gradually, he said, they would begin to talk to him on their own, so that he not only heard them speaking but started to have an idea about why they said the things they did. As the characters came to life, they inhabited his thoughts day and night, especially just before he went to sleep. Then he could "let things happen to them" and study their reactions. Eventually, he reached a point where he started fitting them into the story he had begun. Once the characters were his full partners, that's when he started to write."
"... a scholar named James Gray offered a more judicious review of Steinbeck's career ... Steinbeck, he wrote, was a powerful storyteller and a 'quintessential' dramatist. What the critics saw from book to book--but failed to detect as a linkage among all of them--was Steinbeck's anger. He was America's most pissed off writer. 'All his work,' Gray wrote, 'steams with indignation at injustice, with contempt for false piety, with scorn for the cunning and self-righteousness of an economic system that encourages exploitation, greed, and brutality.'"
...In our time, when a man dies—if he has had wealth and influence and power and all the vestments that arouse envy, and after the living take stock of the dead man’s property and his eminence and works and monuments—the question is still there: Was his life good or was it evil? Envies are gone, and the measuring stick is: “Was he loved or was he hated? Is his death felt as a loss or does a kind of joy come of it?”
I remember clearly the deaths of three men. One was the richest man of the century, who, having clawed his way to wealth through the souls and bodies of men, spent many years trying to buy back the love he had forfeited and by that process performed great service to the world and, perhaps, had much more than balanced the evils of his rise. I was on a ship when he died. The news was posted on the bulletin board, and nearly everyone received the news with pleasure. Several said, “Thank God that so of a bitch is dead.”
Then there was a man, smart as Satan, who, lacking some perception of human dignity and knowing all too well every aspect of human weakness and wickedness, used his special knowledge to warp men, to buy men, to bribe and threaten and seduce until he found himself in a position of great power. He clothed his motives in the names of virtue, and I have wondered whether he ever knew that no gift will ever buy back a man’s love when you have removed his self-love. A bribed man can only hate his briber. When this man died the nation rang with praise and, just beneath, with gladness that he was dead.
There was a third man, who perhaps made many errors in performance but whose effective life was devoted to making men brave and dignified and good in a time when they were poor and frightened and when ugly forces were loose in the world to utilize their fears. This man was hated by the few. When he died the people burst into tears in the streets and their minds wailed, “What can we do now? How can we go on without him?”
In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted shortcuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.
We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.
When a library disappears, or a book shop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place (the Cemetery of Forgotten Books), its guardians, make sure that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader's hands. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody's best friend.
When I write fiction, I become the character I'm writing about, just as an actor becomes a character he's playing. You use parts of yourself, people you have known, things that have happened to you, but you're always aware that these things are being used to create a persona that's distinctly not you. Otherwise it wouldn't be any fun.
(Waiting for the next discovery)
What follows is the message of Ishmael, a highly intelligent mountain gorilla, as re-told by Daniel Quinn in his 1995 novel Ishmael. I offer the following solely as a gift for my friends, an accounting that fully explains why our civilization finds itself in its current existential quandary. What follows has been transcribed from the novel, but has been modified to reflect a different grammatical point of view from the one Quinn uses in the novel. That said, everything that follows is from the mind and “pen” of Daniel Quinn—I have added nothing that reflects my personal views; rather, what follows has dramatically influenced my understanding of how my culture lives. I believe everyone should think deeply about what follows precisely because Mother Culture does not want us to think about a story that explains exactly why things have come to be this way. I encourage anyone who has arrived at this point in my website to consider purchasing and reading Quinn's novel, a link to which is provided above.