To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

~My Photo Blog~

  ...Worth a Thousand Words

Monday, May 19, 2003
 
The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.
--H.W. Longfellow

Ever since I left college, it has been hard to find the time and inclination to read; perhaps inclination would be a wrong word, something akin to energy. A day's work and all I feel like doing is hiding my head among the pillows and dozing off. Music does not seem so bad either. The television would have been a good diversion, if the folks at home didn't care so much about the regular goings-on in the Saas-Bahu soaps. Those are quite competent to give you a headache, as I've had the pleasure of experiencing first hand, when I ventured out in hopes of company.

Well! the good news is, things have changed a bit. Now that I have an extra day in a week (saturday) all to myself, I decided to make the best use of it: books!

Joined the British Council Library last week. I had long wished to join it but never so much as now. I had no idea what book I would take up when I went there (except for the Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russel which a dear friend had strictly instructed me to read before anything else) and nor is it a habit with me to go with a pre-planned objective when I visit a library (a departure from the way I usually operate), but once there, maybe it was more than natural that I should gravitate towards the very familiar name of Jane Austen.

I have never felt more sad than with the thought that she should have written so few books in her lifetime; all of which I have read, except for Persuasion. Going through the shelf, my eye was constantly searching for some book I might have fortunately missed (I was told that Persuasion wasn't available). Came upon Jane Austen's Letters. A thick volume indeed. It wasn't a novel proper, but a collection of personal correspondence, compiled together along with additional notes. I do not know if people enjoy reading letters purely for their literary value, but I certainly do; and I had read enough of Jane Austen to expect more than enough of it in them.

Much as I had hoped from the book and warned though I was at the outset that the book was found wanting even by idolaters of Jane Austen, I did not expect it to be disappointing. But so it was. There are several excuses for it and I accept them all. Most of the letters are between the two sisters: Jane and Cassandra. So the letters are filled with daily gossip, mundane details and everyday matters. Nothing to interest, still less to excite. The language used is very casual (how else does one address one's sister?) and most references of names and places are hard to relate (even with the help of foot-notes). Letters written in more formal instances (to publishers, etc) sparkle with the same wit and charm customary of Jane Austen, but these are few and far between.

I was unhappy, true, but it had more to do with the fact that I had thought I had discovered a new gem and again realised there weren't any left. My admiration for her certainly hasn’t dimmed a whit.

Anyway, shall be visiting the library next week now. Intend to find something on poetry. Readers beware, tough times ahead! :p


Saturday, May 03, 2003
 
The apparent connection between madness and genius has always intrigued me; so also the personalities of great men, who seem to have more than a little in common. Came across a few thoughts by the noted philospoher, Schopenhauer --

"Genius holds up to us the magic glass in which all that is essential and significant appears to us collected and placed in the clearest light, and what is accidental and foreign is left out." Thought pierces through passion as sunlight pours through a cloud, and reveals the heart of things;…The secret of genius, lies in the clear and impartial perception of the objective, the essential and the universal.

It is this removal of the personal equation which leaves the genius so maladapted in the world of wil-ful, practical, personal activity. By seeing so far he does not see what is near; he is imprudent and "queer"; and while his vision is hitched to a star he falls into a well. Hence, partly, the unsociability of the genius; "he is thinking of the fundamental, the universal, the eternal; others are thinking of the temporary, the specific, the immediate; his mind and theirs have no common ground, and never meet." The man of genius has his compensations, and does not need company so much as people who live in perpetual dependence on what is outside them. "The pleasure which he receives from all beauty, the consolations which art affords, the enthusiasm of the artists, . . . enable him to forget the cares of life," and "repay him for the suffering that increases in proportion to the clearness of consciousness, and for his desert loneliness among a different race of men."

The result, however, is that the genius is forced into isolation, and sometimes into madness; the extreme sensitiveness which brings him pain along with imagination and intuition, combines with solitude and maladaptation to break the bonds that hold the mind to reality. Aristotle was right again: "Men distinguished in philosophy, politics, poetry or art appear to be all of a melancholy temperament." The direct connection of madness and genius "is established by the biographies of great men, such as Rousseau, Byron, Alfieri, etc." By a diligent search in lunatic asylums, I have found individual cases of patients who were unquestionably endowed with great talents, and whose genius distinctly appeared through their madness.

Yet in these semi-madmen, these geniuses, lies the true aristocracy of mankind. "With regard to the intellect, nature is highly aristocratic. The distinctions which it has established are greater than those which are made in any country by birth, rank, wealth, or caste." Nature gives genius only to a few because such a temperament would be a hindrance in the normal pursuits of life, which require concentration on the specific and the immediate.