G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

If You Live Deliberately, Who Does Your Laundry?: Henry David Thoreau



Today July 13 2016 marks the beginning of 200th birth anniversary year of  Henry David Thoreau

दुर्गा भागवत,  ("ऐसपैस गप्पा : दुर्गाबाईंशी", लेखक : प्रतिभा रानडे, 1998):
"…थोरो म्हणजे गांधी आणि टॉलस्टॉयलाही शिकवणारा, स्फ़ुर्ती देणारा गुरु...गांधीच्या अहिंसेचं मूळही  थोरोच्या विचारात दिसतं. त्यांच  निसर्गाचं प्रेम मलाही होतंच...तो जंगलात राहायचा. पण कधी पांथस्थ त्याच्याकडे आला, तर तो कौतुकाने त्याचा पाहुणचार करायचा …"


Joseph Lelyveld, ‘Mass Mayhem’, Chapter 11, ‘Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India’, 2011:

“...It soon became obvious that the Noakhali Gandhi was now bent on making his young relative (Manu Gandi) his primary personal attendant, the person who’d monitor his daily schedule, see that he was fed exactly what he wanted, measured out precisely in ounces (eight ounces boiled vegetables, eight ounces raw vegetables, two ounces greens, sixteen ounces goat’s milk boiled down to four ounces), at exactly the desired time; not only that, the person who’d administer his daily bath and massage, which could take longer than an hour and a half. An ounce of mustard oil and an ounce of lemon juice had to be mixed for the massage, which proceeded “in exactly the same manner every day,” according to a memoir Nirmal Bose later wrote: “first one part of the body, then another … in invariable succession.”

Even that could be considered just the beginning. It turned out that Manu Gandhi would also be expected to play the female lead in the brahmacharya test the Mahatma now saw as essential to his self-purification. Starting in the late 1930s, he’d had female attendants sleep on bedrolls laid out to the side of his; if he experienced tremors or shivers, as sometimes he did, they’d be expected to embrace him until the shaking stopped. Now he planned to have Manu share the same mattress. Perfection would be achieved if the old man and the young woman wore the fewest possible garments, preferably none, and neither one felt the slightest sexual stirring. A perfect brahmachari, he later wrote in a letter, should be “capable of lying naked with naked women, however beautiful they may be, without being in any manner whatsoever sexually aroused.” Such a man would be completely free from anger and malice...”
There are at least four references to Thoreau (July 14, 1817-1862) in Ranade's book that I quote above. It's interesting Durgabai talks about Thoreau's love of nature, non-violence, hospitality

She also talks about how "Manusmṛti" (मनुस्मृति)- translated by Sir William Jones- fundamentally changed Thoreau's view of life: How trees and bushes too have a soul, how everything is connected...

But she is silent on his "living deliberately". 

Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, October 19 2015:

"...in a curious way, “Walden” is not well known, either. Like many canonized works, it is more revered than read, so it exists for most people only as a dim impression retained from adolescence or as the source of a few famous lines: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately.” “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!”

Extracted from their contexts, such declarations read like the text on inspirational posters or quote-a-day calendars—purposes to which they are routinely put. Together with the bare facts of the retreat at Walden, those lines have become the ones by which we adumbrate Thoreau, so that our image of the man has also become simplified and inspirational. In that image, Thoreau is our national conscience: the voice in the American wilderness, urging us to be true to ourselves and to live in harmony with nature.

This vision cannot survive any serious reading of “Walden.” The real Thoreau was, in the fullest sense of the word, self-obsessed: narcissistic, fanatical about self-control, adamant that he required nothing beyond himself to understand and thrive in the world. From that inward fixation flowed a social and political vision that is deeply unsettling..." 

Thoreau lived in a cabin built on the land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) near Walden pond from 1845-47.  

The following set of pictures imagine what happened when Emerson visited Thoreau in his cabin


A small part of the exchange:

"...Emerson: So what do you do all day, anyway? 

Thoreau: I live in each season as it passes: breath the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign myself to the influence of the earth.

Emerson: Yeah, but I mean...like, what do you literally do?

Thoreau: Mostly sit around and try to come up with profound sounding quotes. Want to hear some?

Emerson: Please no...."

Artist: Existential Comics

(if you can't read the word in the pictures above, open the entire frame in  new window and magnify)

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