Sunday, March 13, 2011

On becoming an anachronism.

When I was in graduate school looking to become an English professor, I had a specialty in Afro-American literature. As a child who grew up in a dark and forbidding household, Dickensian you might have called it, I found something resonant in such literature. But my real course of study was something I called (I shared this with no one else) the literature of the oppressed. Whether it was black people in America, the Irish as treated by the English, Jews as treated by the Germans, Indians as treated by the British, I found a similarity--a universality-- of storyline, tension, anger and response. My overriding thesis, and this was heretical, was that all oppressed people are different but their responses to oppression take on similar attributes.

I'm told today, because I find comfort in silent movies, and operas, in classics like the Canterbury Tales and Shakespeare performed outdoors in Central Park that I am in danger of becoming an anachronism. What those people who regard me as an anachronism don't understand is the universality of these great works. The humanity and truth that is in them.

Knowing the latest music, speaking the latest slang, watching hours of TV to stay current is not what makes you human. What makes you human is your power of understanding. Of appreciating the forces arrayed against humanity.

I'll admit I often feel that the world is too much with me. I am old enough to hold to the hoary notion that underwear is not something I want to see in public much less someone's ass crack. So often I depart the world and go to my leather chair and my gooseneck lamp that gives me 200-eco-friendly watts of light and I read. I know I read things other people do not read. I read about different people and different centuries and different problems than the ones we face today. I sit in my leather chair and I think about these things. About Pompeii in 79AD.

That doesn't make me an anachronism. It makes me care more about today


Anonymous said...

You only become an anachronism when you give up on the now in favor of the past. No one is foolish ( or maybe they are) to say screw history, the classics, great thinkers et al. But atone time, they too were the present moment. You are too bright a guy to be that Manichean. And no one would argue that what is important now is six inches of underwear sticking out of your jeans. Past is prologue, history is not over, the future isn't made yet. Draw on the past, reflectively yet with an open mind. If all the great ideas, music, books etc have already been written, composed, thought than there would be little hope for mankind.

Marcus ( and my great-grandfather was indeed a mohel)

bob hoffman said...

In an age of monumental stupidity and venality being an anachronism is a good thing. Quit apologizing.

Anonymous said...

Being an anachronism is a good thing? God, your blog must be one not worth reading.

Thanks for the heads up. Now I know who to ignore.


george tannenbaum said...

Marcus, you're a dweeb.


@Marcus: Somehow I'll just have to carry on without you.

Anonymous said...

Contrarian, we carry on without you happily. You're cranky and a crashing bore.

George, you're a smart guy, live in the present not just the past

No I'm not an anti-intellectual

Gossiped George

Time to leave this blog