Random Reflections of a Distorted Moment

I increasingly find myself entertaining this thought: How could anyone be so immovably incredulous in the face of a defeat, so certain even in advance that defeat would in itself be evidence of cheating — unless he believed with some reason that he already had the game rigged in his favor, such that a loss could only mean “something went horribly wrong”?

A student mentioned to me the other day that she had been in the library reading books about Henri Matisse and J.S. Bach. I commented, “Both are interesting, but I choose Bach. The world would not change significantly if Matisse were removed from it, but it would not be this world at all without Bach.”

Income inequality, related to the so-called “gap between the rich and the poor,” is a real political problem only to the extent that the disparity is permanent, individualized (i.e., pertains not to statistical averages but to particular humans), and irreversible — both in practical reality and in popular perception. The progressive left is determined to foster that popular perception as a means of promoting the conditions that would establish the practical reality. The progressive right comes at it from the opposite end. They meet in the middle.

Without writing, we would have no recognizable connection whatsoever to the great men and movements of the past. On the other hand, writing is a constant temptation to forsake our present and become distracted from the individual souls closest to us now, in favor of dreams of reaching into distant, imaginary futures. Socrates and Jesus, without whom we would not be us — but about whom we would know nothing at all but for the miracle of great writing — famously and deliberately did not write, a biographical fact which holds the key to so much of what made them great and influential. They thus embody, more than any other men, the eternal paradox of writing and civilization.

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