Bulletin N° 821
« Words cannot express the horror
that is being inflicted on the environment and on all humankind
by these criminally insane leaders »
5 November 2018
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
My life-long interest in aesthetics, science and politics has been an enriching experience - if not financially, at least intellectually. I remember my graduate advisor at The University of Wisconsin, Professor Harvey Goldberg, remarking on his teaching experiences in France, which he dearly loved. The chief difference between American and French university students, he told me, is that French youth, by the time they graduate from High School, have discovered poetry and each has discerned his/her favorite poet. Most Americans never achieve this experience of knowing which literary works they prefer and the powerful affective response art can evoke.
I suppose one of the reasons I became good friends with my future academic advisor is that we first met outside the academy, in the cafes of Paris. I had come to France with a copy of James Joyce’s novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1904-1914) and was reading it when we met. He later introduced me to Maria Jolas, who had saved the Joyce manuscripts in a heroic act of defiance during the Nazi occupation of Paris. At this stage of my life, Joyce served as my mentor, my ticket out of Texas. I was keen on experiencing the wider world, and the irony in his “portrait” of Stephen Dedalus was lost on me at the time. It was later, only after I had entered graduate school at Madison, Wisconsin and had begun to study social history, that the aesthetics of the young Dedalus seemed narcissistic and pretentious; then Joyce’s humanity became apparent. We learn from our mistakes by stumbling along, and eventually we are educated by experiences which words can only approximae.
Joyce’s Portrait has been called the story of a young “Autist” in five chapters, each chapter containing memorable episodes in separate stages of the life of Stephen Dedalus, extending over a period of about two decades - from infancy to the time of his graduation from a Jesuit University in Dublin. The five-part structure of this story contains a climax in the fourth part and a summary and resolution in the fifth.
The first chapter concerns the hero's infancy in a remote Irish town south of Dublin. The second, reveals some of Stephen’s experiences from childhood, including his family’s move to Dublin, his visit to Cork with his father, and his experience in a whorehouse at the age of 16. The next chapter explores the troubles of adolescence – concerns with sin, guilt, confession, and religious rituals. Here Jesuit sermons take on an importance in the formation of Stephen’s character.
The fourth chapter of this novel is the shortest; it also provides the climax for this story. It starts with the young man’s repentance and austerity; then proceeds through rejection of one priesthood for another – in the Roman Catholic Church for that of secular imagination.
The final chapter reveals the consequences of Stephen Dedalus’s life experiences. We are treated to an explanation of the young man’s fierce desire for “autonomy” and “self-creation,” to escape the stereotype behavior around him. In this chapter, we see Stephen explaining his aesthetic views to his slow-witted schoolmate, Davin.
- ‘Try to be one of us,’ repeated Davin. ‘In your heart you are an Irishman but your pride is too powerful.’
- ‘My ancestors threw off their language and took another,’ Stephen said. ‘They allowed a handful of foreigners to subject them. Do you fancy I am going to pay in my own life and person debts they made? What for?’
- ‘For freedom,’ said Davin.
- ‘No honourable and sincere man,’ said Stephen, ‘has given up to you his life and his youth and his affections from the days of Tone to those of Parnell but you sold him to the enemy or failed him in need or reviled him and left him for another. And you invite me to be one of you. I’d see you damned first.’
- ‘They died for their ideals, Stevie,’ said Davin. Our day will come yet, believe me.
- Stephen, following this own thought, was silent for an instant.
- ‘The soul is born, he said vaguely, first in those moments I told you of. It has a slow and dark birth, more mysterious than the birth of the body. When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.’
- Davin knocked the ashes from his pipe.
- ‘Too deep for me, Stevie,’ he said. But a man’s country comes first. Ireland first, Stevie. You can be a poet or a mystic after.’
- ‘Do you know what Ireland is?’ asked Stephen with cold violence. 'Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow.’
- Davin rose from his box and went towards the players, shaking his head sadly. But in a moment his sadness left him and he was hotly disputing with Cranly and the two other players who had finished their game. (pp.220-221)
The burden of Irish colonial history – invaded by the Romans; then by the English – introduced institutions that shaped the lives of the colonized. The young Stephen looked to the future, not to the past, for liberation. For him a clean break with the past was essential for freedom. His theory of art contained three main points. The first was the distinction between static and kinetic art:
- ‘The tragic emotion, in fact, is a face looking two ways, towards terror and towards pity, both of which are phases of it. You see I use the word arrest. I mean that the tragic emotion is static. Or rather the dramatic emotion is. The feelings excited by improper art are kinetic, desire or loathing. Desire urges us to posses, to go to something; loathing urges us to abandon, to go from something. These are kinetic emotions. The arts which excite them, pornographical or didactic, are therefore, improper arts. The esthetic emotion (I use the general term) is therefore static. The mind is arrested and raised above desire and loathing.’(p.222)
. . .
- ‘Beauty expressed by the artist cannot awaken in us an emotion which is kinetic or a sensation which is purely physical. It awakens, or ought to awaken, or induces, or ought to induce, an esthetic stasis, an ideal pity or an ideal terror, a stasis called forth, prolonged and at last dissolved by what I call the rhythm of beauty.’(p.223)
The second point made my Joyce’s young protagonist was that there exists a hierarchy of kinds in art : lyric, epic, and dramatic. This Stephen explains to his skeptical classmate, Lynch:
- Stephen paused and, though his companion did not speak, felt that his words had called up around them a thoughtenchanted silence.
- ‘What I have said, he began again, refers to beauty in the wider sense of the word, in the sense which the word has in the literary tradition. In the marketplace it has another sense. When we speak of beauty in the second sense of the term our judgment is influenced in the first place by the art itself and by the form of that art. The image, it is clear, must be set between the mind or senses of the artist himself and the mind or senses of others. If you bear this in memory you will see that art necessarily divides itself into three forms progressing from one to the next. These forms are: the lyrical form, the form wherein the artist presents his image in immediate relation to himself; the epical form, the form wherein he presents his image in mediate relation to himself and to others; the dramatic form, the form wherein he presents his image in immediate relation to others.’(pp. 231-232)
. . .
- ‘Even in literature, the highest and most spiritual art, the forms are often confused. The lyrical form is in fact the simplest verbal vesture of an instant of emotion, a rhythmical cry such as ages ago cheered on the man who pulled at the oar or dragged stones up a slope. He who utters it is more conscious of the instant of emotion than of himself as feeling emotion. The simplest epical form is seen emerging out of lyrical literature when the artist prolongs and broods upon himself as the centre of the epical event and this form progresses till the center of emotional gravity is equidistant from the artist himself and from others. The narrative is no longer purely personal. The personality of the artist passes into the narration itself, flowing round and round the persons and the action like a vital sea. This progress you will see easily in that old English ballad Turpin Hero which begins in the first person and ends in the third person. The dramatic form is reached when the vitality which has flowed and eddied round each person fills every person with such vital force that he or she assumes a proper and intangible esthetic life. The personality of the artist, at first a cry or a cadence or a mood and then a fluid and lambent narrative, finally refines itself out of existence, impersonalizes itself, so to speak. The esthetic image in the dramatic form is life purified in and re-projected from the human imagination. The mystery of esthetic like that of material creation is accomplished. The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.’
. . .
- ‘What do you mean,’ Lynch asked surlily, ‘by prating about beauty and imagination in this miserable God-forsaken island? No wonder the artist retired within or behind his handiwork after having perpetrated his country.’ (pp.232-233)
The third part of Stephen’s aesthetic theory was paraphrase from Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica; it held that there exists three requirements of art which are also stages of its apprehension, namely : wholeness, harmony, and radiance.
- ‘The first phase of apprehension is a bounding line drawn about the object to be apprehended. An esthetic image is presented to us either in space or in time. What is audible is presented in time, what is visible is presented in space. But, temporal or spatial, the esthetic image is first luminously apprehended as self-bounded and self-contained upon the immeasurable background of space or time which is not it. You apprehend it as one thing. You see it as one whole. You apprehend its wholeness. That is integritas.’
- ‘Bull’s eye!’ said Lynch, laughing. ‘Go on.’
- ‘Then,’ said Stephen, ‘you pass from point to point, led by its formal lines; you apprehend it as balanced part against part within its limits; you feel the rhythm of its structure. In other words the synthesis of immediate perception is followed by the analysis of apprehension. Having first felt that it is one thing you feel now that it is a thing. You apprehend it as complex, multiple, divisible, separable, made up of its parts, the results of its parts and their sum, harmonious. That is consonantia.
- ‘Bull’s eye again! Said Lynch wittily. Tell me now what is clarirtas and you win the cigar.
- ‘The connotation of the word, Stephen said, is rather vague. Aquinas uses a term which seems to be inexact. It baffled me for a long time. It would lead you to believe that he had in mind symbolism or idealism, the supreme quality of beauty being a light form some other world, the idea of which the matter is but the shadow, the reality of which it is but the symbol. I thought he might mean that claritas is the artistic discovery and representation of the divine purpose in anything or a force of generalization which would make the esthetic image a universal one, make it outshine its proper conditions. But that is literary talk. I understand it so. When you have apprehended that basket as one thing and have then analyzed it according to its form and apprehended it as a thing you make the only synthesis which is logically and esthetically permissible. You see that it is that thing which it is and no other thing. The radiance of which he speaks is the scholastic quidditas, the whatness of a thing. This supreme quality is felt by the artist when the esthetic image is first conceived in his imagination. The mind is that mysterious instant Shelly likened beautifully to a fading coal. The instant wherein that supreme quality of beauty, the clear radiance of the esthetic image, is apprehended luminously by the mind which has been arrested by its wholeness and fascinated by its harmony is the luminous silent stasis of esthetic pleasure, a spiritual state very like to the cardiac condition which the Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani, using a phrase almost as beautiful as Shelley’s, called the enchantment of the heart.’(pp.230-231)
The ultimate irony which Joyce portrays in the struggles of his young hero is that he wishes art to be as separate from morality as he wishes himself to be from society. He is repelled by the Irish caricatures that populate his surroundings - the stereotype behavior in the colony, as it were. Encouraged by a callow aesthetic theory of his own construction and which is replete with contradictions, he fastens his wagon to a distant star and seeks by sheer cunning to escape the reality which is that he, like the rest of us, is the product of society, that every aspect of our cultural production necessarily reflects this relationship. There is no escape from it; only an illusory escape represented by the private language of madness.
The artist can be autistic, but despite everything he/she still remains in the real world, the world that we all have a stake in.
The mind-numbing violence today which we are routinely subjugated to - albeit often in the most civilized tones - is disarming. Intellectually, we must gather our wits and dare to acknowledge what is actually going on around us. The social deterioration is palpable and enslavement - even genocide - is imminent if such inequalities persist, of this we can be certain.
The 14 items below might serve as a litmus test enabling us to recognize the degree to which we have lost our aesthetic judgment and have filled the vacuum with trivia and studied indifference. To what extent have we forgotten that individually we are nothing more and nothing less than products of our environment and that collectively we remain for better or for worse the architects of our future.
Professor emeritus of American Studies
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
Trump’s Ill-Conceived “Great Wall” Harms Relations with Mexico
by Stephen Lendman
(Global Research, January 26, 2017)
From: Mark Crispin Miller
Sent: Sun, 04 Nov 2018
Subject: [MCM] The reason WHY that caravan is coming
The reason WHY that caravan is coming . . .
A reason that both Trump AND "The Resistance" won't address, and don't want anybody else addressing, either..
The Globalists Have Created A ‘Humanitarian’ Immigration Crisis:
Why Is This Happening Now?
"Behind the endless throngs of desperate Central American children
arriving on the U.S. border and a steady wave of illegal immigrants
from Mexico and beyond is a plan.
"A generation of sending American jobs offshore under NAFTA, CAFTA,
GATT and the WTO, dumping cheap corn on Mexico thereby destroying
millions of farming jobs, and unleashing disruptive retailers like
Wal-mart upon the fragile economies of Latin America have created
turmoil, uncertainty and rivers of human migration… and along with it
bitter tension and discord over the dynamics of immigration, illegal
immigration and the struggle for a lasting standard of living under
the New World Order."
Struggles Each Day For Food, Care and Shelter
Video Report by Al Jazeera
False Flag Terror Acts Press Europe To Sanction Iran
by Moon Of Alabama
Israels secret service Mossad, with the CIA behind it, is framing Iran with alleged assassination plots in Europe.
In September a terror attack killed some 30 people in Iran. Two entities, an Arab separatist movement as well as the Islamic State terror group ISIS, took responsibility. After an investigation Iran found that it was ISIS which was responsible. It took revenge against the identified culprits.
Six weeks later Denmark claims, without providing evidence, that Iran tried to assassinate a leader of the Arab separatist movement over the incident. Iran denies any such attempt. The right wing Danish government uses the claim to urge other European countries to sanction Iran.
It is unlikely that Iran would take action in Europe, which it urgently needs to reduce the damage of U.S. sanction, over an incident for which it already punished the Islamic State.
Corporate Totalitarianism: The End Game
with Chris Hedges
Pirate TV welcomes back Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges for the 6th time. In his current book, America: The Farewell Tour, Hedges, takes a close look at the array of pathologies that have arisen out of a profound malaise of hopelessness as the society disintegrates due to the "slow moving [corporate] Coup d'état" instituted by the ruling classes in the '70s in reaction to the activist movements and reforms of the '60s. This disintegration has resulted in an epidemic of diseases of despair and a civil society that has ceased to function. Hedges asserts that the opioid crisis, the rise of magical thinking, the celebration of sadism, and a host of other ills are the physical manifestations of a society ravaged by corporate pillage and a failed democracy. Join Hedges for a sobering discussion of the changing landscape of our country—and a poignant cry from communities across America that seeks to jolt us out of complacency while there is still time. Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He writes a weekly column for the online magazine Truthdig out of Los Angeles and is host of the Emmy Award–winning RT America show “On Contact.” He is the author of the bestsellers American Fascists, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, and was a National Book Critics Circle finalist for War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. Thanks to Town Hall Seattle, Seattle University & Third Place Books Recorded 10/8/18 Pirate TV is a 58 minute weekly TV show that provides the book talk and lecture content for Free Speech TV. Pirate TV challenges the Media Blockade, bringing you independent voices, information and programming unavailable on the Corporate Sponsor-Ship. These posts are for YouTube and are usually longer than the broadcast versions. You will notice that I don't monetize my videos. I'm irritated by constant interruptions as I'm sure are you.
Rescuing the Banks Instead of the Economy
by Michael Hudson
You can’t bail out the banks, leave the debts in place, and rescue the economy. It’s a zero-sum game. Somebody has to lose. That’s what happened in 2009 when President Obama came in. He invited the bankers to the White House and he said, “I’m the only guy standing between you and the mob with pitchforks,” by which he meant the voters that he was bamboozling. He reassured the bankers. He said, “Look, my loyalty is to my campaign donors not to the voters. Don’t worry; my loyalty is with you.”
Four Horsemen - Feature Documentary - Official Version
(Published on Sept. 13, 2013)
RenegadeInc.com brings you FOUR HORSEMEN - an award winning independent feature documentary which lifts the lid on how the world really works. As we will never return to 'business as usual' 23 international thinkers, government advisors and Wall Street money-men break their silence and explain how to establish a moral and just society. FOUR HORSEMEN is free from mainstream media propaganda -- the film doesn't bash bankers, criticise politicians or get involved in conspiracy theories. It ignites the debate about how to usher a new economic paradigm into the world which would dramatically improve the quality of life for billions. Subtitles available in English, French, Greek, Spanish and Portuguese. "It's Inside Job with bells on, and a frequently compelling thesis thanks to Ashcroft's crack team of talking heads -- economists, whistleblowers and Noam Chomsky, all talking with candour and clarity." - Total Film "Four Horsemen is a breathtakingly composed jeremiad against the folly of Neo-classical economics and the threats it represents to all we should hold dear." - Harold Crooks, The Corporation (Co-Director) Surviving Progress (Co-Director/Co-Writer)
Pompeo warns of ‘severe, swift punishment’ & ‘painful business’ with Iran
as sanctions reinstated
(Published: 5 Nov, 2018)
Thought They Were Free
The Germans, 1933-45
by Milton Mayer
(Excerpt from pages 166-73 of "They Thought They Were Free" First published in 1955)
But Then It Was Too Late.
"What no one seemed to notice," said a colleague of mine, a philologist, "was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know, it doesn’t make people close to their government to be told that this is a people’s government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing.
"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.
"This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.
"You will understand me when I say that my Middle High German was my life. It was all I cared about. I was a scholar, a specialist. Then, suddenly, I was plunged into all the new activity, as the university was drawn into the new situation; meetings, conferences, interviews, ceremonies, and, above all, papers to be filled out, reports, bibliographies, lists, questionnaires. And on top of that were the demands in the community, the things in which one had to, was ‘expected to’ participate that had not been there or had not been important before. It was all rigmarole, of course, but it consumed all one’s energies, coming on top of the work one really wanted to do. You can see how easy it was, then, not to think about fundamental things. One had no time."
"Those," I said, "are the words of my friend the baker. ‘One had no time to think. There was so much going on.’"
"Your friend the baker was right," said my colleague. "The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your ‘little men,’ your baker and so on; I speak of my colleagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the ‘national enemies,’ without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?
(Posted April 27, 2017)
look at the information wars waged by Israel and its supporters to win the
hearts and minds of the American people.
An occupation of American media and the American mind by a pro-Israel narrative that's deflected attention away from what virtually everyone recognises as the best way to resolve this conflict: end the occupation and the settlements so that Palestinians can finally have a state of their own.
The Israeli perspective dominates the American media and pro-Israel talking points are repeated by the highest government officials and recycled endlessly by the media.
How, if at all, can propaganda be uncovered if the mainstream point of view is so dominant?
Finian Cunningham: Time for a United Ireland
It is nearly 100 years
since British rulers inflicted a grievous blow to Irish sovereignty, when they
forcibly partitioned the neighboring island nation into two separate states.
Now, with the Brexit debacle intensifying, it is evidently time for Ireland to be reunited as one country, as it had been for millennia before. This week, it is apparent again that British Prime Minister Theresa May can't get her fractious London government to agree on terms to leave the European Union. Some within her ruling Conservative party want a "hard Brexit" - that is, a clean break from the EU - while others in, and outside, the party want a "soft Brexit". The latter would involve an ongoing trade association with Europe. However, it is on the island of Ireland that the political squabbling in London is most manifest. A hard Brexit could mean the reimposition of an official border between the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, and Northern Ireland, which is under British rule and is therefore due to leave the European bloc in the coming months. The issue of a border in Ireland is an extremely sensitive one. It is only a little over 20 years ago that Northern Ireland was gripped by a three-decade war in which thousands of people died through violence between pro-independence nationalists and pro-British unionists.
Socialist Richard Wolff Tells the Truth About the Chinese Economy
(Published on Jan 23, 2018)
Noam Chomsky Explains How 'Criminally Insane' Republicans
Quietly Filed 'The Most Evil Document In History'
by Martin Cizmar
(November 3, 2018)
The Republican philosophy seems to be "let’s rob while the planet burns, putting poor Nero in the shadows."
Watch the Film the Israel Lobby Didn’t Want You To See
(Updated November 06, 2018 to include final 2 episodes of Aljazeera Documentary)
The Lobby - AIPAC,
American Israeli Political Action Committee
The Lobby - AIPAC,
American Israeli Political Action Committee
« Lobby USA » (1) : "La guerre secrète"
« Lobby USA » (2) : "Orienter les élites"
In this series, Daniel Ellsberg and Paul Jay explore Ellsberg’s latest book, in the introduction for which Ellsberg writes: “No policies in human history have more deserved to be recognized as immoral or insane. The story of how this calamitous predicament came about and how and why it has persisted over a half a century is a chronicle of human madness. Whether Americans, Russians, and other humans can rise to the challenge of reversing these policies and eliminating the danger of near-term extinction caused by their own inventions and proclivities remains to be seen. I choose to join with others in acting as if that is still possible.”
Allan Nairn: The U.S. Is Facing Incipient Domestic Fascism,
But Rightist Revolution Can Be Stopped
The 2018 U.S. midterm elections mark a critical point in the era of President Donald Trump, as the potential Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives has unleashed a torrent of white supremacist vitriol in the run-up to November 6. In the past week alone, a militant Trump supporter was accused of mailing three pipe bombs to CNN and 12 bombs to people Trump frequently criticizes; two African-Americans were murdered by a white supremacist outside Louisville, Kentucky; and 11 Jewish worshipers were massacred in a Pittsburgh synagogue by a white supremacist who railed on social media against Jews who help refugees. Both the gunman and Trump have called immigrants “invaders.” Meanwhile, Trump has sharply escalated his attacks on immigrants, threatening to send as many as 15,000 U.S. troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and to rewrite the Constitution to revoke birthright citizenship. We speak with investigative journalist Allan Nairn, who says that fascism is on the rise in the U.S. Nairn has been a fierce longtime critic of the Democratic Party and its support for war and neoliberal policies, but he is calling for the public to mobilize to elect Democrats in the midterm elections.
Broad City’s Ilana Glazer: Why I Canceled My Event
at a NY Synagogue After Anti-Semitic Vandalism
A political event hosted by Ilana Glazer of Comedy Central’s “Broad City” at the Union Temple Synagogue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, was canceled Thursday night after anti-Semitic and racist messages were found scrawled on walls throughout the building. Among the messages were “Jew Better Be Ready” “Insert Oven Here” “End is now,” “Hitler,” “Free Smoke for [N-word] Jews” and ”FPEE PR.” The graffiti comes amid a surge in anti-Semitic hate crimes nationwide, including Saturday’s massacre of 11 Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Amy Goodman was scheduled to speak at the event about coverage of the midterm elections. We speak with Ilana Glazer in New York City. She is the co-creator and star of the hit Comedy Central show “Broad City.”
Roaming Charges: Seeing John Berger (1927-2017)
When I heard that John Berger had died, an image flashed in my mind of a painting on a vast canvas I had stood captivated before a few years ago in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. A crowd is gathered before a small grave in the jaundiced light of a winter afternoon. The people huddle together in grief, as if braced against a chill wind. The ground is hard, stony. A dog, perhaps the deceased peasant’s, stands at the edge of the pit, mournful eyes trained on the viewer. The white cliffs of the Jura breach the hazy horizon, marking the place, fixing the point-of-view as finitely as any Google map.
The painting, of course, is Gustave Courbet’s Burial at Ornans. Though Courbet spent six months executing the painting, the scene feels immediate. It also seems as if it took a lifetime to conceive. A death which reveals the life of a poor village, a community knit together across decades of work, joy and tragedy. It is easy to imagine Berger’s body being lowered into such a hand-dug grave, attended by such people and animals, in the weak winter light of rural France.
John Berger wrote the way Courbet painted, only quicker. His writing is direct, naturalistic, as vivid as a conversation between friends or lovers. Berger didn’t explain or explicate the meaning of paintings or photographs. He described his own response to them, a response we related to because we trusted the experience of the voice speaking to us. We trusted Berger’s experience as a living being, a being who had lived and reflected endlessly on the experience of life. Berger didn’t demand that we see art the way he did, but through the lens of our own lives, a lens that he helped to focus.