Thursday, April 12, 2007

Another one leaves the temporal fray; the words go on.....

KURT VONNEGUT: 1922-2007
His popular novels blended social criticism, dark humor (Los Angeles Times)

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut dies at age 84 (AP release, via Yahoo News)

If you've been reading this poor underfed blog through its sketchy history so far, you'll notice that I was similarly distraught (is that too strong a word?--no, not really) at news of Hunter S. Thompson's death ("The best minds of our generations...")....and that certainly applies now as well, even though Vonnegut didn't take his own life -- the pressures, and the general insanity in modern American life, were certainly felt the same, though expressed somewhat differently, and in a way this is a general continuation of the same mourning, the same memorializing.

I met Kurt Vonnegut earlier, though as with many authors and artists I was not quick to jump on the bandwagon of becoming a full-fledged devotee -- as a matter of fact, due to my general wariness of fads and fashions, it took me a while to make the connection between the 'popular' and absurdistly sci-fi author whose books my other siblings collected and the almost-classically serious author who'd struck my mind with a brief and bluntly-tragic tale that came across as disturbingly real and completely un-'comical' to me when I was still in my single-digit years. "Harrison Bergeron" was one of the first short stories I read as a child that really made an impact on me -- in seeing how the world can treat those that it fears, how the tallest stalks are (more or less ruthlessly) cut down to enable the 'emotional security' of a general mediocrity, the blandness of a society without peaks and storms or genius or even the sometimes-tyranny of natural strength and beauty. Every tall stalk on the mental/creative order recognizes this story when they see it...I'm not sure about the rest.

Here's what I said in my hyperlucidity group, insofar as loss and meaning:

"The memorials of great and notable individuals remind us what we're missing now, and highlight the themes that may have been let pass by too many for too long, so that they can be remembered and seen and even heeded again. I remember that Mr. Rogers' death was reported on an "orange-alert" day, during the 'Terror' of the post-9/11 push into war...we lose people when we need them most, when the world needs to be exposed to more, not less of them, not to have no more of their voices atall. And not for them to be passed over in the public eye for those who have/had nothing to say, nothing to make their lives worthwhile in the greater scheme of things -- not even the attempt to bring something of meaning -- or even the meaningful denial of "meaning" as commonly and comfortably assumed -- into the reality we share. Damn mere 'celebrity' -- especially the type that's crassly built on denying and deriding anything more than its own shallowly-gilded edifice or slick contemporary trend...this is what really matters."

Yes, I'm tired of Anna Nicole Smith....and Donald Trump, and all the other people whose significance is bound to their wealth, their bodies, their lovers and spouses, their power while they live and nothing more. I have many and various reasons for being disgusted with that, as my role models and affinities have always been those who've done more and/or otherwise than merely conquer or rule, or look good to the camera, or share beds and obscenely-large fortunes. They may retain fame after death, but they do no good to anyone but themselves and their coterie (and tabloid reporters). I believe there's a poem by Sappho on that this translation I found, it's titled "To an Uneducated Woman":

When dead you will lie forever forgotten,
for you have no claim to the Pierian roses.
Dim here, you will move more dimly in Hell,
flitting among the undistiguished dead.

--Sappho, fragment 55 V

--though, these phrases are the ones I remember better, from the first translation of it that I saw in college and still have somewhere stashed in my bedroom -- "Rich as you are, death will be the end of you. [...] You had no share in the Pierian roses. [...]"

Et cetera. I think the gist is fairly clear. We don't need more models or millionaires -- or even another "people's princess" to pull at a nation's/world's voyeurism and heartstrings alike. But we do need more people who can show the rest something more, especially in the concerns of their own consciousness and humanity, and prod them inside to claim their own possibilities and not be led like sheep.

And more people who understand what "Pierian roses" really means.

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