The two most critically acclaimed films of all time are both about the same thing – love, and how to destroy it in the modern world…
For decades, critics and academics have all agreed that when it comes to the art of cinema, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941), in its storytelling and filmic innovation, its sympathetic and withering critique of a semi-fictional American tycoon, is the pinnacle and benchmark of the entire art form.
Yet as the critics, notably the British and American Film Institutes, released their annual lists of the ‘greatest films of all time’, one film kept rising in their esteem, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958).
Never in the history of humanity has romantic love been so celebrated. But what if all the romance on sale this week clouds a basic and vital truth – in a tragic world, love is meant to be something deeper than happiness and the fulfillment of desire.
When I teach poetry, I’m often struck by how unromantic the Romantic poets were. Most of the time their poems are really just about wandering off to nature and forgetting about everybody else. There is very little mentioned about the actual nitty gritty of love, marriage or raising a family.
Yet they still cast a long shadow over the way we view love in the modern age.
The idea that human beings are constantly filled with majestic desire that must be fulfilled – that a perfect world awaits if we just have the courage to begin it again according to the wonders of our imagination – these are all ideas given to us by the age of Romanticism in the early 19th century.
Suffice to say, I can’t think of one of the Romantic poets who had a happy marriage. Most of them treated women pretty badly – even while they were adored by women.
Rather, if you trace their ideas all the way to the 20th century you can find their ideas lurking behind the social devastation given to us by the concepts of Free Love and no-contest divorce. If our desires are always noble, then nothing should stand in their way.
My generation will have to decide what a country is for…
Recently a group of students at the Berkeley division of the University of California started rioting in protest against a public speech on campus due to be given by pro-Trump journalist, the provocative and very strange Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart News.
He was unable to give his speech and now much controversy ensues about the ideal of free speech at academic institutions.
If you’re anything like me, you’re tired of hearing people moan about 2016. Trump, Brexit, George Michael – these things have very little impact on people’s day to day lives. Leave all that behind this year, lay a record down, and learn from last century’s greatest art form.
When I was growing up in the early ‘90s, grunge music was all the rage. Bands were all copying Nirvana – wearing cardigans, shorts, and generally moping about while singing loud and boring songs.
Somehow I managed to hear music from an earlier age that grabbed my attention and sent me off on another direction.
In my early teens I bought Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Greatest Hits’ album, put ‘Dancing in the Dark’, ‘Thunder Road’, and ‘Badlands’ on loud on my hi-fi, and somehow knew I was connecting to something deeper than the nihilist youth culture of our postmodern age.
What I heard in the Boss’s music was rock that had a roll – a type of music that had its roots in the blues and gospel; that drew a golden thread from Elvis to Roy Orbison to the Rolling Stones; and that spoke to something deeper than angst, something more along the lines of joy, freedom, and redemption.
The reason Christmas is still our culture’s most celebrated day is because at some level we subconsciously remember the revolution of that night a few thousand years ago in the Middle East.
“Any agnostic or atheist whose childhood has known a real Christmas has ever afterwards, whether he likes it or not, an association in his mind between two ideas that most of mankind must regard as remote from each other; the idea of a baby and the idea of unknown strength that sustains the stars.” GK Chesterton, ‘The God in the Cave’
Why you will live forever. (Or, are we human, or are we dancer?)
It is a sign of backwardness that so many of us, unbelievably, affirm that human beings are only random collections of quantum particles.
Thus, when we die, nothing really changes – random and minute quarks just do a different dance. There is, apparently, no soul. Which ultimately leads to the inevitable conclusion that there is no me, there is no you, there is no love, there is no beauty, there is nothing after death – because no thing, and no person, really ever existed.
And if anybody had any further doubts about his appeal, despite him winning the election fairly comfortably, all you had to do was look on Facebook after his victory.
While scrolling through all the angst, one quickly realises that all the mourning of liberals was a big part of the motivation for Rust Belt Americans to vote Trump – they wanted to annoy the social justice warriors; they wanted to poke their fingers in the eyes of the elite – just as middle England flouted the expertise of London and Brussels when they took Britain out of the EU.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how South Africans need to start building their own punk rock economy.
In an age of declining institutions, we should embrace a DIY approach to work and life that prioritises authenticity, intentionality, and craftsmanship.
Beneath such advice lies an understanding of work and economics that is radically different to the ideology of modern economics.
I was reminded of this recently when I stumbled again across a book I read at varsity: ‘Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered’, written by economist EF Schumacher in 1973. The fourth chapter is called ‘Buddhist Economics’ and was written by Schumacher decades earlier after he worked as an adviser to the Prime Minister of Burma.