“There is also, however, a more personal answer. Science tells us what we can know, but what we can know is little, and if we forget how much we cannot know we become insensitive to many things of very great importance. Theology, on the other hand, induces a dogmatic belief that we have knowledge where in fact we have ignorance, and by doing so generates a kind of impertinent insolence towards the universe. Uncertainty, in the presence of vivid hopes and fears, is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales. It is not good either to forget the questions that philosophy asks, or to persuade ourselves that we have found indubitable answers to them. To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.”
– Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, Intro
“To be frank, I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it. But I will say — he certainly sustained the illusion with a marvelous grace.”
– Zero Mustafa, The Grand Budapest Hotel
I’m enamored by the language of Wes Anderson — the flair, the pomp. What is it about fancy language? What is it about a movie like The Grand Budapest Hotel that makes us want to stay there forever?
It’s a vision of a world that we would all like to inhabit. And it uses the language of world-construction as well, and we can all take a note from it. Because if you’re like me, you leave a cinematic experience like this with an unmistakable afterglow, and a linguistic aftertaste. You speak a bit more… grandiloquently. And rightly so — because there’s something special in the language of this film, and others like it. Exquisite, sophisticated language like this is something of a relic in our culture, viewed as artifice through the American lens. But there might be more to it than that.
There’s always been that pull, but I assume… I mean you went to a good college, you knew about Louis Hartz and the liberal box. [I nod. I have no idea.] There’s always been some great… Louis Hartz is this political scientist who talks a lot about this difference between American politics, say, and Europeans. And that we don’t tend to get extremism with the kind of political influence here that there is in Europe. And that one reason is that there has been this peculiar kind of liberal centrism. That we’re very nervous about extremes.
I don’t know about you, and I don’t know what your friends are like. But this seems to me to be a sadder, more hungry generation. And the thing that I get scared of is, when we’re in power, when we’re the forty-five-year-olds and fifty-year-olds. And there’s really nobody–no older–that no people older than us with memories of the Depression, or memories of war, that had significant sacrifices. And there’s gonna be no check on our, um, appetites. And also our hunger to give stuff away. And I’m aware–I’m again, I’m speaking as a private citizen, I do not know any other generation. I’m talking about kind of a feeling I have, that’s somehow way down in my stomach… Continue reading