Sunday, February 28, 2010

Deep Drinking

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking deeply sobers it again.

Alexander Pope
The Pierian spring, according to ancient Greek legend, was a fountain near Mount Olympus. Its waters gave knowledge of the arts and sciences. Pope barrows the phrase "Drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring" from Petronius, a Roman writer and friend of Emperor Nero.

If there was ever a time in which we needed to drink deep it is these days. We are constantly intoxicated to the point of addiction with the shallow draughts of sound bites, flimsy interviews and shallow opinions. The average citizen of any nation hardly knows what his government is up to and it is impossible to find out in some cases and extremely difficult in others. Americans don't know what the Congress is doing and neither it seems do some Congress people.

When I first became aware of the fact that we were only told what the new laws were after the fact I started to subscribe to the Congressional Record, a large volume published daily by the U.S. Government Printing Office. It tells of everything that goes on there, all the legislation, debates and special papers submitted by the various members. It's so thick nobody reads it, but anyone has the right to. If you think you know what's going on in Washington reading the Congressional Record is quite a shock. There are juicy parts but you have to wade into deep waters to get there.

I have been guilty of "a little learning" in the past. Everyone is. But a couple of the good rules for life are: 1) Don't carelessly express an opinion about anything without sufficient knowledge of it, and 2) If you don't know what you're talking about, keep your mouth shut.

The reason for these two rules is that what we say impresses and affects other people's thinking. We see so much evidence of that today when people stand up for one side of an issue or another, without really knowing what the issue is. We are given a label and a brief description, usually geared toward one side or the other and on that basis we are expected to decide what we think. It's a joke. It's a disgrace.

It is even more hideous when we come to describing other people. "Oh, they're all alike." "They're homeless because they refuse to work." "You can't trust anyone over 30" they used to say. (Those who said that are now all over 30.) "Illegal immigrants are steeling our jobs." "There's no homosexuality in the Boy Scouts." "All Jews want to move to Israel." It's unsubstantial remarks like those that influence people to not see things clearly or find out the truth for themselves. As I have said before: Most of the authorities in the world aren't.

When I began to see my own shallow places I felt the need to sober up and fill them with some real learning. That's when I began to read everything I could find of interest about subjects I felt were important. I became a reading addict. About politics and social issues I wanted to know what people with some knowledge thought from the most liberal to the most conservative. As I learned what the real thinkers had to say I soon realized that the TV pundits don't know what they are talking about.

About the arts, I had tunnel vision because I was so involved in my own career as an actor I wasn't seeing and understanding what people in the other arts were doing. So I spent more time at galleries and museums, dance and music concerts. I talked with the artists and got to hear so many different points of view about their art. I was amazed.

I didn't realized how ignorant and biased I was about science until I began reading some scientific journals and meeting scientists who were passionate about their work. Now I read books on scientific subjects, particularly math and astronomy. Some of my actor friends think I'm nuts.

Having eschewed the esoteric world of philosophy as a dull, dry, boring subject, with a slightly snide sneer on my face I bought a book by Martin Heidegger and read it. That changed everything. I plunged into that Pierian spring of philosophy head first and since then have swallowed large sobering draughts of one of the world's most fascinating subjects.

I finally opened the seventh seal of religion. There I find a subject that is both catastrophically limiting and inexhaustibly cosmic. There is hardly any subject on earth with more shallow thinking and simplistic sound bites, things taken as truth and reality with nothing to back them up and yet with ideas and possibilities that range beyond human understanding and transcend the limitations of our mortal lives.

Now my life is deep drinking. The more I drink the less I talk.

DB - The Vagabond
Weekend Survey

There is a big birthday party for Janice and her friends and family.

A lot of people have come to it. The list includes Alice, Bob, Cathy and Charlie, Donna, Eugene, George and Janet, Lucinda, Mark, Nancy, Olivia, Rose, Ruth and Sam, Terry and good old Will.

Many of them have brought gifts.

1. A small package wrapped in white with a silver bow, Looks like it might have come from a jewelry store.

2. A medium sized rectangular box, wrapped in blue with a red ribbon, might be a book.

3. A large flat package in simple brown wrapping with a strings tied around it and a card stuck under the string. Some important documents maybe.

4 A large box wrapped in a many colored paper with a flower design on it. I wonder what that is.

5. Another rectangular box, thicker than the other one, beautifully wrapped in a gold paper with a black ribbon finished off in a perfect bow. Another book? Or a few books?

6. Hard to hide the plant sitting on the floor with green paper wrapped around it and some circular object at the base with a green plastic thing peeking out.

7. A larger rectangular box, fairly thick and light, looks like it might be clothes.

8 A square box in a striped blue and yellow paper wrapping, on top is a pretty red bow.

9. One very large box, apart from the rest, big enough to hold any number of electronic things. It's wrapped in Muslin.

10. A medium sized circular package, inside a bag, with a store name on it, which has been taped shut.

11. Another very large package, not in a box, but completely covered over with a wrapper left over from Christmas. A card is taped to the side of it.

Your assignment is to decide, in your opinion, which package Janet should open up first. Please leave the number of your choice on my email

Thank you


Gerry said...

I tend to read until my eyes start protesting, but I still find myself saying things that prove to be wrong when I read something else that contradicts what I had concluded and maybe even written for others to read. So I think with a more information I am going to have to correct that impression, but for years my opinions would keep changing with more books so that I would write novels and give upon them before I had hardly even sent them out, and think oh, I have to write another. Eventually I decided that a writer has to write and put something out there no matter how possibly limited it seems as soon as it is finished. Otherwise how would we have anything to read? After all, at 78, I do not have a whole lot of time to write and put it out there. Some are destined to write for the public while impossibly young and others destined to wait a long time before deciding to make their mark. I started keeping journals when very young and threw them all away, couldnot read my handwriting anyway. I threw away five boxes of letters to family I wrote after we decided to give them back to their authors. So it went.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Very interesting about the Congressional Record. I am sure there is fascinating information there. I wish I had more time for reading, there is so much worthy information and knowledge just waiting to be consumred.

krissy knox said...

I think the last line in your post says everything: "Now my life is deep drinking. The more I drink the less I talk." So true for you, and hopefully as true for me also.

krissy knox :)
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