The preponderous thought is upon us. Or at least me, being the least me, if I can manage.
Recently off a biography of someone inspiring and on to a work considered the first existential novel, produced on the other side of the planet in a year where the nation I call home was just about wrapping up its civil war. You know, the one we call by that same title, only with the letters capitalized. And the primary existential work, as it is known, was written by a bloke who had other works, one of which was reworked into a stage play. A production of which was once amateurly produced by my then college (now university, to show how times have changed). I played the… well protagonist isn’t quite the word. Central character, for sure, but as this was written originally was before the age of comic books, anti-hero was not a word in use or circulation. As far as I can tell.
It was one of the most potent feelings I have ever held on the stage, though there was no shortage of others. This one held some sort of supreme, though it may have been a timing and personnel matter.
So, why does this matter? Well, it likely doesn’t, particularly if you aren’t I. Which, of course, you are not. But since I started the matter, I’ll speak of why this weighs, at least momentarily, relatively heavy upon me.
To start, we’ll go with the biography.
A doozy, for sure. And really, it was only the first part of three biographies of the same man by the same author. So, yes indeed, good goddamn- what a life! He hailed from the state of the Union in which I claim my own birth. So right there, I hold a bias. But beyond that, I would invite anyone to read a bit about the man who was the 26th President of the country I call home. Because being president was only part of a very long list of accomplishments he held in his hand before passing from this life after six decades on this earth. Short, by many of the metrics we now hold. Plenty long, by most ancients.
And if you have a preconceived notion of who he was without reading a researched and published work on the fellow, I suggest you ditch such prejudices. And, for that matter, I advise that you avoid any inferences or insights you might believe you have if they are not looked in upon beyond a short article or infographic upon your pocket computer screen. There are folks who spend years reading and researching our past in vast and specific ways, and I have yet to hear a belligerent opinion be sited by resources beyond what was quickly read online.
What should be taken, from the life of this fellow are traits that are sorely needed, as I can tell, all around us.
Ambition, not for vanity, but for tangible corrections and reform. Enthusiasm, for the altitude and ability of life. Reverence, for the those that came before, wrong though the very well might be in newer times, understanding the root cause of why and how one might think or feel such a way. And awe, for the tiny place any of our souls holds in this vast and beautiful world. And beautiful, this world is.
I won’t say who, as I gave you enough information to look it up yourself. And I suggest you buy a book. Great as a resource as it is (or better, might have been)- the world wide web doesn’t have to go through the strenuous hoops that historians do.
But, anyway, onward to the other work. The one I had just started not twenty-four hours ago. This one I have been struggling with for peculiar reasons. It is but a mere pamphlet in comparison to the size of the last work. And yet my attention struggles immensely with this where there was often such ease with the other. And, perhaps tragically, I fear I know the trouble.
I see too much of this, of myself, in the writing. That as far as I’ve gotten, it seems to be a series of arguments the author/narrator/protagonist has, rather adamantly, with himself. Now, mind you, this is proclaimed a great work by many in the nearly two centuries since it was conceived. And the penman was considered one of the greatest of his time. Yet, still, my attention wanes. Perhaps because I was reading in a distracted mind.
But, perhaps, I fear for worse. I fear that I would rather read of a life better lived than a mind that rambles like my own. Which, what then means I think I am doing here? Especially considering I have no other great works or deeds to fall back upon. Not in the lens of the late nineteenth or early twentieth century which I have consumed as of late. Or in the metric of value that seems held as we march towards the central part of the twenty-first. And is it too influenced by my disdain for what holds as potent influence in these cosmic whereabouts? It does not lead me to believe towards any potency of existence in a world seemingly so gratified.
Perhaps the trouble is that I would rather live a life being written about than be writing about the life I seem to be living. And I wonder how fixable that may be, if at all. Or if perspective or context be the problem. Or if I am doomed to think myself keener than I am- never knowing the bliss my otherwise ignorance might have been.
They have a saying about the ignorant and their happiness. As they have a great many sayings about a great many things.
Like, ‘if you’re never prepared, then you’re always ready’.
That one is one of my own, as far as I can tell. I don’t believe it stolen. Though with my ego, you could go on about how good artists borrow, and the great one’s steal. I recall discussing such a philosophy in a bar somewhere in the Republic of Ireland. Among other things, with an intellectual I met when we were both broke post-college waiters. In what seems a million years ago.
For all any of this was worth.