EVENTS and THE LITERARY MIND
by David Eide .

What relation does the literary mind have to events? What relation do events have with each other? What are you attempting to perceive through the observation and analysis and, even, participation in events? These qualities seem crucial, esp. to a citizen who is, by necessity, confronted with events, their image, their peculiar shape in the mind, the immediate values assigned to events and so on. Perhaps you are attempting to perceive something else. Perhaps you are attempting to perceive beyond the event and to the transcendent idea that the event is pointing towards. That takes belief.

Experience tells you that many, many events have rolled past your perceiving mind. They have been recorded in memory and quickly analyzed in their content. Certain emotions meet the event and then the physical nature of the event disappears into the structure of time and all that is left is the impression. I thumb through a chronology of the years that has definitely recorded the events of my experience as a living creature. I remember them all but I do not think about most of them. Some of the events are very large, such as a war. The war lasted 10 years- for 6 of those years the war was the dominant event. It was dominant because men dying on battlefields must rivet the attention of the people who are responsible for such circumstances. Not only that but there was great controversy. There was controversy between those who were attempting to rationalize the war effort and the battlefield killing and the attempts to stop the war effort. That drama played itself out constantly and became the centerpiece for the times. The debate centered on the role that the U.S. and its power should play in the world, that was the underlying theme of that event. It was very difficult to listen to the debate for the shouting that was going on but nonetheless.

At some point most everyone agreed that the resources of the country had been badly deployed and the event became a tragedy because life was wasted and resources wasted and the debate was never completed. It simply died away out of exhaustion and people did not want to face the dilemma of what had occurred during that event.

What it has come to mean is that American power will not be fully committed in aggression unless the necessity to do so is overwhelming. The debate over the use of American power goes on. The first victim of that era was the first President elected after the war was over. He had no resolution to his thought, he was simply mirroring the vacillations of the nation at large and people did not want to face the fact of American weakness. That decade that held the vents then became a decade of humiliation and of self-reflection.

The event then becomes part of the political debate and perspectives and arguments are sharpened on the nature of perception people had of the event. The event passes. Even a titanic event such as World War II passes. An event as monumental as the Civil War passes. It passes through the generation that experienced it and then passes into the nature of history and lore. The event passing through the generation who experiences it seems very important for some reason. There is a collective sense to shared experience. It bonds the generation and it shapes it. Obviously, you want intelligence to rule and to be able to tell when the shaping event has become an albatross, when it is stopping up new perspectives and so on. The event- war- was only one such shaping influence.

The event- space exploration- was another since it was an open, accessible, exciting, dramatic, thought and imagination-provoking adventure. That event could be dated from 1961 through 1974 or so, then continued with the probes and Shuttle. This event was the fusion of technical skills that had fashioned the mechanical means to propel men safely out of the gravitational pull of the earth- rockets, computers, material science and so on- with the organizational skill that had brought millions of people, billions of dollars, thousands of projects together for a specific purpose. This introduced- to the generation that was shaped by it- the idea that technology could master life- that technology could develop in just about any direction for good or ill and that it was necessary for human beings to take all of this technical development into account. On the flip side of this was the event- nuclear weapons/arms race- that introduced this generation to the sudden realization that life could be extinguished in a matter of moments and that human beings had entered some new phase of development since now the human species was being called on to preserve the integrity of itself. This shaping event caused the generation that grew in its midst to seek alternatives to conflict; to develop a "whole earth" relation to existence- to care take the planet- to bring down barriers that kept people apart. And, obviously, that created enormous tension when the generation realized that it was going to inherit a nation as powerful and as self-interested as this one. I am not at all confident that the tension was ever resolved.

Weakness was not needed nor wanted. New vision of possibility was needed, along with pragmatic suggestions on how to fulfill the possibilities. This shaping event started to mold the generation in their first decade of maturity. There were experimental life styles, all kinds of political and social movements dedicated to the very idea, as well as wholesale questioning of the institutions.

Eventually, the first thrust of the generation was beaten back and abandoned. It lost its nerve and simply did what had been expected of it all along. The 2nd decade saw an almost cynical rejection of its own experience- of its dreams- of its true aspirations because no one had given the generation the real moral support needed to fulfill itself. Life became menacing in a sense; it attacked itself and became the parody of what it had rejected in youth. This was all deftly manipulated by political ideologues and so the country experienced one of those bogged down, corrupt, lazy decades that lays the seed for something more spectacular in the next horizon.

The generation believed themselves to be revolutionary, transcendent, trans-historical due to the extraordinary times that had shaped them- due to the extraordinary events that had inspired them. But when it came down to it, they were the same old greedy, self-interested, frightened, angry, determined people that had always populated the land and most lands from the beginning of time. And the events were, ultimately, more interesting than the people who lived in their midst.

This decade has been languishing, without event. The Presidential campaign of '83 was hardly anything more than an exercise in the futility of the old democrats- the invasion sof Granada, the fiasco of Beirut, the bombing of Libya- these are events that are soon lost to memory.

The economy has resolved itself into 3 or 4 tiers that may be the foreshadowing of an event. The market crash was inevitable, classic in the way that it conformed to all market crashes during a speculative bull market. The relations with the Soviet Union, and, in fact, the happenings in the Soviet Union, was an event and is still passing through the people experiencing the event. The loss of the shuttle and the decline in the space project was certainly an event of note that is still passing. There is great structural change occurring in this economy. There are great changes in the inter dependent global trading areas and that is an event that is still passing and shaping perception. The campaign of '88 is very significant since it removes Ronald Reagan from the scene. Despite everything else RR has been a very comforting creature to a good many people and when he disappears from the scene, the scene will begin to focus on the future and the near future will hold in store.

What one asks is, "on what level of reality does all of this exist?" Is it the ultimate reality? Is it the highest reality we can comprehend at this time? Or, is it some base reality that is several removes from the source? It is certainly evidence of something. It is evidence of organization that is self-willed somewhere. It is evidence of decisions and the interpretations of those decisions. It is evidence of the way the majority of people believe things work.

It is evidence that physical space is shaped in this fashion through this time; no other space, no other time. Or, so we are convinced.

But how do you leap outside of your perceptions to get that perspective?

Whatever the case may be here we are at this specific moment of time and no other and all other moments of time have passed and are, for all intents and purposes, no more. Except of course, as they exist in the mind of those who have experienced them.

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I wanted to "get outside" the daily framework and get a perspective on everything. I did not want to be trampled over by time and yet I wanted to accept and enjoy the unself-conscious nature of other people. This is one of the reasons that I started to keep a chronology related to passing events. It is necessary to know the events and decisions coming from an array of sources which have some general impact on things. And yet, it is not itself the source. And the mind is always seeking to make the event or decisions deeper than they really are. This occurs because human beings need meaning in their life. What other meaning can people have but that which is proclaiming itself as significant?

Obviously, the way I articulate a major event tells me a great deal about my own make-up. If in looking at the problem of nuclear weapons, I see them as the product of scientific experimentations and political decisions made by few people I am apt to see myself as not that extensively related to the world since there are so many powers stronger than myself. If I see the nuclear weapon in the context of a military weapon brought into being by a complex combination of scientific and technical brains and under the supervision of various institutions I can then proceed to break down those aspects to constituent parts and investigate the fundamental relation between these parts and the problem.

In this way I have committed my mind to the full implication of the problem.

The bomb exists and it has this many relations. I study the relations in order to rid myself of the fear or anxiety of the bomb and so transform the bomb into an instance of learning, of deepening my knowledge and learning more or becoming more intimate with the world around me.

Therefore the threat of the bomb is more palpable since I stand to lose more because of my intimacy. Therefore, the problem becomes personal.

Parenthetically, the bomb is our equivalent of the general knowledge that good but ignorant souls have had of Attila the Hun or the Black Plague. They become figures of myth and fear and disturbing anxiety that truly does move humanity, or at least for the moment of the existence of their image, another direction. If nothing else than to get out of the way of the danger!

There comes a period of time when it is necessary to differentiate between oneself and common humanity. It is necessary to make all of those differentiations that nature demands to be made.

The final lesson: Do not be intimated by the facts of the world or its sense of overwhelmingness.

Grieve for ourselves and hope. Work for hope and not despair. Never give up on the life instinct.

* * * * * * * *

Of course, that doesn't explain what a "literary mind" is. Let us say that between the specialist and the numbskull is the literary mind.

1988


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