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Posts Tagged ‘diary

“There are more invisible than visible Natures in the universe”*…

 

Ancient-Mariner-crop

Gustave Doré. From an illustration in the 1877 edition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

 

Roaring out of the radical 1790s, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a founding fable for our time. A fable must by definition revolve around an animal, and in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s nightmare the slain albatross hangs around the fated sailor’s neck like a broken cross, an emblem of his sin against nature. It is all too relevant today, as a statement of isolation and despair: “Alone, alone, all, all alone, / Alone on a wide, wide sea!” Yet in that forlorn expression is great power; the power of art to change us…

Slavery, ecocide, plague … the warnings of Coleridge’s poem resound down the ages.  Now 40 actors, musicians and authors are performing in a daily mass-reading: “Why Willem Dafoe, Iggy Pop, and more are reading The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to us.”

Then experience “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Big Read.”

[TotH to friend MK]

[image above: source]

* Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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As we dig for a drop to drink, we might recall that it was on this date in 1665 that Samuel Pepys made his first diary reference to the Great Plague in London.  “Great fears of the sicknesses here in the City, it being said that two or three houses are already shut up. God preserve us all.”  The entries in his diary continue throughout the year, documenting the horrifying conditions in the city, as many thousands died, until Winter’s freezing cold reduced the number of fleas that spread the disease.  (Pepys also wrote, the following year, about the Great Fire of London.)

pepys plague source

 

Written by LW

April 30, 2020 at 1:01 am

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”*…

 

During the eighties, a nameless Cold Warrior grew frustrated in his job for the Department of Defense and poured out his feelings in an unusual way. He was a midlevel (GS-11/GS-12) analyst working at the U.S. Army’s Combined Arms Center, at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Every GS-11/GS-12 in that era would have been given a government-issue desk calendar, and this Kansas scribe made the most of his. Like a monk, he labored over his document every day, adding carefully crafted letters and elaborate drawings to what became, over nine years, a remarkably full chronicle of the decade.

There were outbursts of anger, often directed at senior officials of the U.S. government, and joyful moments of exultation, generally following victories for the University of Kansas basketball team. Events of worldly and even otherworldly significance were described in passing: the end of the Iranian hostage standoff, the Challenger disaster, small upticks and downticks in the tension of the Cold War. There were tender moments as well: memories of a friend, or an anniversary of a magical night long ago. He noted the riots in Poland and demonstrations in China and other places where the people were beginning to make themselves heard after decades of government suppression. The anonymous employee’s irrepressible spirit seems to follow a parallel course, delighting in the creation of a secret treasure trove of writings in no way approved by his superiors…

More pages ripped from history at “A Disgruntled Federal Employee’s 1980s Desk Calendar.”

* Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

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As we contemplate the chronicle, as we might spare a thought for Jean-Jacques Rousseau; he died on this date in 1778.  A central figure in te European Enlightenment, he was a novelist ( Emile, or On Education illustrated the importance of the education of the whole person for citizenship; Julie, or the New Heloise was seminal in the development of romanticism in fiction), a composer (perhaps most notably of several operas), and an autobiographer (his Confessions initiated the modern autobiography; his Reveries of a Solitary Walker exemplified the late 18th-century movement known as the Age of Sensibility, and featured an heightened subjectivity and introspection that later characterized modern writing).

But it is as a philosopher that Rousseau was best known in his time and is best remembered.  His Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract are cornerstones of modern political and social thought.  He was deeply controversial in his time: he was condemned from the pulpit by the Archbishop of Paris, his books were burned and warrants were issued for his arrest.  But during the period of the French Revolution, Rousseau was the most popular of the philosophes among members of the Jacobin Club. He was interred as a national hero in the Panthéon in Paris, in 1794, 16 years after his death.

42307923884_4bc291b918_o source

 

 

Written by LW

July 2, 2018 at 1:01 am

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