[Dedicated to Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese]
So I’m thinking about this quote from Thomas Carlyle, a 19th Century British intellectual. He said (I’m paraphrasing) that anything that anybody is going to learn will be learned before the age of 18. He was for the British who Emerson was for America. In his lifetime, Carlyle became one of the most respected intellectuals in the English speaking world; this was during a time, of course, when intellectuals and artists COULD be famous without having to first “leak” a sex tape onto the internet.
Not to say that I think Once Upon A Time was ever any better than Right Now; but people generally focus on what’s glitzy and shiny, and I do think it bears saying that the things we find shiny and pretty are not ideas or works of art, but Megan Fox and Jon&Kate Plus 8. This suggests, of course, that we are not thinking feeling critters but wide-eyed voyeurs – which are more akin to a parasite than a critter. (Some useful definitions from The Parsons Dictionary of Often Used Words and Phrases [PDOUWP]: Critter, n – an independent creature that can be mammal, lizard, or fish. Large brains are not necessary, nor are they strictly useful, as too much thinking tends to result in a quicker and more agony filled death. Parasite,n – a creature that may resemble a critter in that it has an independent body and structure, can and does procreate on a large scale, and that it must, from time to time, move. They are effective because it is often impossible to tell strictly on sight whether something is a parasite or a critter. However, a parasite differs from a critter in that it cannot survive on any level without sucking life, experience, and blood from an available critter.) But to be fair, it’s true that the definitions of terms and ideas change over time; so that a critic, who is most likely a parasite masquerading as a critter, may in fact serve some larger function in that he frames the larger world in a way that higher functioning critters and parasites can understand and that lower functioning ones can emulate after listening to a watered down version in a pop song.
Carlyle, of course, isn’t as highly regarded now, mostly because he was embraced by fascists, uber-nationalists, and other such lunkheads. (Def: lunkhead, n – a subspecies of parasite that, having gorged themselves on critters, turn on their own kind. They become Department Chairs, Lackies, and bill collectors [from PDOUWP]. Note: Critters have a similar subspecies; these are often referred to as Fuckers, because theoretically they should know better.) Emerson is still respected in certain circles; but since he is unable to release either a CD or a sex tape, he is dwindling in obscurity.
I’m not entirely sure what brought on my thoughts of dead British fascists; but I do try to keep these things in context. While it’s true the Carlyle was probably a nationalist and most certainly a vocal opponent of Democracy, this ought to be kept in perspective. He has long since died and it does no good to beat up on a dead guy. I suspect that other people suffer the same fate. After all, it’s much easier to abuse the dead than it is the living – and it’s damned easy to abuse the living, so that should tell you something. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading a lot of Céline lately and he was, after all, a Nazi sympathizer during World War II; people who read his books and want to glide over the ugliness explain and/or justify themselves by suggesting that maybe it was his injury as a french soldier during World War I that turned him wonky. (Def: wonky, adj – nutty; goofy; off your rocker; operating at an intellectual level beyond the range of good taste, common sense, and sound logic. [From PDOUWP]) I love his words but I hate his politics. I feel the same way about Ezra Pound and the comedian Dennis Miller. I will not explain any of these things other than to say that writers, artists, and stand-up comedians are just that: writers, artists, and stand-up comedians.
They are far less dangerous to the world than, say the lunkheads and fuckers in Congress who are the kind of politicians (which can be either critters or parasites, but can never be confused with a Human Being) that would suffocate their children in order to avoid having to buy them new school clothes. Change is bad. Even worse, change is boring and has nothing to do with Jon&Kate Plus 8, Megan Fox, sex tapes, or pop music. Change is what they refuse to give to the homeless and to art programs. And before you accuse me of being partisan, keep in mind that I reject all –isms [See PDOUWP] on the basis of their limited intent and lack of insight. I sort of like democracy, but we haven’t figured out how to make it work yet – in spite of wanting to export it to every nation in the world that has natural resources we need to keep our civilization wheezing along.
And I’m probably being unfair to dead old Carlyle in calling him a fascist – but he’s dead, after all, and can’t defend himself; nor would he probably try to. I do think that even wonky people can sometimes make a good point, and Carlyle, with all his wonkiness, did have it right. Most of what I know is true I learned before I turned 18; and in spite of the reading and wandering and discovering, all I end up doing going back to what I know. I started writing when I was 10 – which I still do. I learned most of my history from watching Loony Tunes and Tom & Jerry Cartoons, along with my appreciation for jazz and classical music. I learned how to be skeptical because of an above average youth minister and because whenever I asked adults to explain biblical discrepancies to me they scolded me instead just telling me they didn’t have an answer. I learned that people who do the right thing will get screwed over just as quickly – maybe even quicker – than people who do the wrong thing; along with that I found out that our society rewards results rather than intentions because the wrong thing tends to illicit the most immediate and gratifying result.
I also learned how to laugh at and appreciate the absurd – which is everywhere – from watching slapstick with my dad; and if you haven’t bothered to watch Abbott & Costello, Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields, or Fatty Arbuckle, you should be ashamed and go find them immediately. Fatty Arbuckle, by the way, was very popular until an under-age girl died in his hotel room. And even though he was cleared legally, he was never again successful and died a poor and despised bastard – just like Thomas Paine, the author of Common Sense, did because he wrote a pamphlet in which he suggested that all churches be abolished.