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Immantenize the Eschaton

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The title of this post was a catch phrase about ten or fifteen years ago.  I never quite nailed down exactly what it meant, but I know the reason for using it.  Sometimes, things get entirely too serious.

And that is, I think, where I am this morning.  This is the beginning of what looks like a long and depressing week, if not something worse, and I am just tired to death of thinking of things seriously.

I look sometimes at all the things we say about–well, everything.  About morality and law and what it means to be human.  I look at it and wonder what it is we think we’re doing.

There are times when all this discussion seems to me to be so completely divorced from reality, it might as well be folktales about fairies and elves. 

Maybe it would be better if it were folktales about fairies and elves, because folktales about fairies and elves at least have the potential to be charming, if not diverting.

Sometimes I just want things to be settled.  Some of the people who comment on this blog have said that they established their personal philosophies early, and once they got past a certain age, that was done.

I had certain inclinations early, but I don’t think my “philosophy of life” is established even now.  I like some things and don’t like others.  There’s a lot about the world that just makes me angry, and I don’t mean just things that people cause and I’ve got some sane reason to be angry about.

When I get like this, I also get to wondering what murder mysteries are for–because in my mind they have to be for something, and “entertainment” is not an answer that makes any sense to me. 

Maybe what I mean by that is that I don’t know what people mean when they say they read “for entertainment,” and seem to imply that they read to stop their minds from working.  I can’t seem to stop mine from working no matter what I do, and the kind of book that would allow me to stop tends to just aggravate me.

And in the end, my literalness is undefeated.  I don’t read science fiction or fantasy because I’m not interested in reading about worlds I can’t visit. 

When I want to escape, I don’t want to escape into my imagination.  I really want to escape.

Today I want to escape, but what I’m going to do is take Matt to the train station and come home and worry about what I have to worry about.

It’s making me very tired.

Written by janeh

November 28th, 2011 at 8:17 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses to 'Immantenize the Eschaton'

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  1. Well, take THAT Dean Swift and HG Wells, Orwell and Tolkien–and, for that matter, all of us who think Edgar Rice Burroughs is better company than EUROPE ON HOWEVER MANY DOLLARS A DAY! Two rants, two answers.

    Answer the First: How long ago did you decide that adult human beings were to be treated as such, and not as children or incipient lunatics? How many books have you read since arguing the opposite case? You tear one to bits on the Blog now and then. My guess is that the total would be a small library. If you want to read that many more for mental exercise, knock yourself out, but if the first 256 didn’t change your mind, what exactly are you looking for in the 257th?
    Policy is another matter. Any intelligent person sometimes looks at a program and says “that didn’t work the way I thought it would.” But you’re fooling with means and not ends, and fairly low-level means at that. The rest of the reading is time and money thrown away–unless you’re reading them for enjoyment, which takes us to–

    Answer the Second. If you’re all that hooked on the Grim Realism School, why write or read novels? Why not another essay on Intelligent Design, post-industrial cities, eating disorders and obsession with youth? (Just picking the works of a certain detective novelist at random, you understand.) The obvious answer is that fiction lets someone clarify and dramatize a case, placing it in exactly the right setting and populating it with exactly the right characters–which is why INHERIT THE WIND beats the transcript of the Scopes trial.

    The same basic argument extends to SF and fantasy. Hemingway may or may not better understand men and war than David Drake or Keith Laumer, but Hemingway is not better because there are still Spanish Civil War artifacts in museums, and no Mark XII Bolos in parks.

    If you want to spend your evening with THE SWEAT AND THE FURROW or MOCKTURTLE, it’s a free country, but I’m afraid I don’t see it as morally or intellectually superior to an evening spent at Shrewsbury College, Baker Street or West 35th. You can’t really visit them either.

    Nor do I feel that I have left my brain elsewhere while I visited Rohan, Sinharrat or the Wizards’ Tor.
    In the words of Aragorn Son of Arathorn “Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.”
    or as Isar Chelladin put it “There are those who say that wizards are subject to temptations and addictions beyond the understanding of ordinary men…Yet this is not so. Temptation is temptation, obsession is obsession, and choice is choice.”

    A better question might be, why bother to read about places you can buy a plane ticket to?

    “But as for me, I have an engagement in the Hyborian Age, and will be gone all evening.” (John D. Clark, PhD)


    28 Nov 11 at 5:45 pm

  2. To self, may little regard display
    This feeble quintessence of dust

    The dust that settles is swept away
    No matter how bitter, depart thou must.

    Commotion is life, to find escape
    Distract yourself, or grow insane

    Or shuffle off, but know this jape:
    To live is futile, to die – the same.


    28 Nov 11 at 8:16 pm

  3. Robert said it more eloquently, with more examples, but I had the same thought. You can’t visit 1810, but you love Jane Austen.

    Saying that being able to “visit” is the only reason you read about things seems to be destroying the reason for reading in the first place. I certainly visit the Alaska of Dana Stabenow when I read her books, but I also visit Middle Earth and the moons of Jupiter and the year 2050. In all those places, what I find is adventure, characters in conflict, pathos, laughter, and new thoughts. Technical details are not the point of any good story, whether it’s historical, futuristic or fantastic. They’re icing on the cake, sometimes a crucial detail (in a mystery or a hard SF story) but they are beside the point. It’s the story, across all genres, that draws the reader. The characters, the conflict and the plot carry things forward.

    I guess I’m stumped as to why you’d exclude an entire field of truly fine *Stories* because they may include a non-current technology, or a truly fantastical plot element. Why is past technology acceptable, but not future tech? I don’t go back and re-read Heinlein and Varley and McCaffrey because of the technical details. Whether they are sweeping tales of good and evil or small character studies of the flaws and triumphs of one small being, they are good stories, first and foremost.

    I can visit those worlds quite as well as I can visit Alaska, and for the same ticket price.

    Having truly bad weeks is an unfortunate consequence of the human condition. I suspect Cro-Magnon tribes had Bad Weeks too, only theirs involved sabre-tooth tigers.

    We recently discovered “Foyle’s War” on streaming video free from Amazon, a British show set in Britain during WWII, about a police officer left at home to enforce the law during wartime. I thought “I bet Jane would love this, I wonder if she knows about it?” There appear to be only 16 shows, but they’re each 1.5 hours long, and we’re enjoying them immensely. The acting is superb, the stories always illuminate an issue of wartime in Britain we hadn’t been aware of before, and they are, in your terms, perfectly fair puzzle mysteries. Hints and clues are there, up to you to figure them out before Foyle does.

    I’ll be very sad when we come to the end of the episodes. Though I can’t visit 1941, and will probably never get to England, once again, the story triumphs. I visit, in my head, for the people and their concerns.

    Seek the series out, if you haven’t seen it. It will make your week marginally better.


    28 Nov 11 at 10:08 pm

  4. I second the motion re Foyle’s War. It’s one of those shows that are limited by the duration of the period in which they are set. I think they were wise to stop after the first couple of series, and that it wasn’t doing anyone any favours to bring the show back for an encore series to satisfy a perceived public demand. Still, I think Michael Kitchen at least would need an obscene amount of money to come back yet again, and Honeysuckle Weeks’s part is hardly flattering.

    But within the technical limits available to low-budget TV productions, Foyle’s War’s producers and cast did an excellent job. I had to work hard to spot anachronisms which is my favourite game with period pieces. They were pretty few and far between, although once again the writers couldn’t resist writing parts requiring actors who appear never to have smoked tobacco to do so without having the first clue about how it is done. Aren’t there any real smokers around any more to teach them how to do it?


    29 Nov 11 at 4:15 am

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