“ Yet every writer learns over a lifetime to be tolerant of the stupid inferences that are drawn from literature and the fantasies implausibly imposed upon it. As for the kind of writer I am? I am who I don’t pretend to be.”
“ When he felt obliged to stand on principle on some literary or moral issue, he did so without calling attention to himself, and he was impatient with writers like Robert Lowell whose political protests seemed to him more egocentric than effective. When he won the National Medal for Literature in 1967, he was unwilling either to accept it in Lyndon Johnson’s White House during the Vietnam War or “to make a Cal Lowell gesture by a public refusal,” so he arranged for the ceremony to be held at the Smithsonian, where he gave an acceptance speech about the corruption of language by politics and propaganda.”
Auden’s sense of his divided motives was inseparable from his idiosyncratic Christianity. He had no literal belief in miracles or deities and thought that all religious statements about God must be false in a literal sense but might be true in metaphoric ones. He felt himself commanded to an absolute obligation—which he knew he could never fulfill—to love his neighbor as himself, and he alluded to that commandment in a late haiku: “He has never seen God/but, once or twice, he believes/he has heard Him.” He took communion every Sunday and valued ancient liturgy, not for its magic or beauty, but because its timeless language and ritual was a “link between the dead and the unborn,” a stay against the complacent egoism that favors whatever is contemporary with ourselves. The book he wrote while returning in 1940 to the Anglican Communion of his childhood was titled The Double Man. It had an epigraph from Montaigne: “We are, I know not how, double in ourselves, so that what we believe we disbelieve, and cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn.” He felt obliged to reveal to his neighbor what he condemned in himself.
Idealists like to claim that freedom is indivisible. Pragmatists know that it is not: on the contrary, it is easily divisible into thousands of parts, each of which has to be fought for, defended, and fought for again.
Those who wish to deprive us of freedoms rarely do so at one go, and are skilled at assuring us that loss of freedom is really something else, something necessary and advantageous, like greater safety. As soon as a politician tells you that decent, law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear from a particular measure, you can be certain that someone, somewhere, is losing a small or larger part of his or her freedom. So we need a constant, committed, cogent defence of our freedoms: in other words, liberty needs Liberty.
The line between realism and cynicism may be a blurry one, but only one of those perspectives can simultaneously double as entertainment.
How soon did the new millennium yield to darkness.
In this new rendition of “The Moon Song,” Karen O is joined by Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig. “I wrote the song as a duet,” Karen O explained. “I was really excited at the prospect of getting to record it with a male vocalist. Ezra was super cool and open, he slipped into character like a champ and damn he’s got the goods.”
A special three-song EP of “The Moon Song” arrives this week on iTunes.
(via Rolling Stone)