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robertogreco : romanticism   7

Opinion | The Good-Enough Life - The New York Times
"Ideals of greatness cut across the American political spectrum. Supporters of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and believers in Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” for instance, may find themselves at odds, but their differences lie in the vision of what constitutes greatness, not whether greatness itself is a worthy goal. In both cases — and in most any iteration of America’s idea of itself — it is.

The desire for greatness also unites the diverse philosophical camps of Western ethics. Aristotle called for practicing the highest virtue. Kant believed in an ethical rule so stringent not even he thought it was achievable by mortals. Bentham’s utilitarianism is about maximizing happiness. Marx sought the great world for all. Modern-day libertarians will stop at nothing to increase personal freedom and profit. These differences surely matter, but while the definition of greatness changes, greatness itself is sought by each in his own way.

Swimming against the tide of greatness is a counter-history of ethics embodied by schools of thought as diverse as Buddhism, Romanticism and psychoanalysis. It is by borrowing from D.W. Winnicott, an important figure in the development of psychoanalysis, that we get perhaps the best name for this other ethics: “the good-enough life.” In his book “Playing and Reality,” Winnicott wrote about what he called “the good-enough mother.” This mother is good enough not in the sense that she is adequate or average, but that she manages a difficult task: initiating the infant into a world in which he or she will feel both cared for and ready to deal with life’s endless frustrations. To fully become good enough is to grow up into a world that is itself good enough, that is as full of care and love as it is suffering and frustration.

From Buddhism and Romanticism we can get a fuller picture of what such a good enough world could be like. Buddhism offers a criticism of the caste system and the idea that some people have to live lives of servitude in order to ensure the greatness of others. It posits instead the idea of the “middle path,” a life that is neither excessively materialistic nor too ascetic. And some Buddhist thinkers, such as the 6th-century Persian-Chinese monk Jizang, even insist that this middle life, this good enough life, is the birthright of not only all humans, but also all of nature as well. In this radical vision of the good enough life, our task is not to make the perfect human society, but rather a good enough world in which each of us has sufficient (but never too many) resources to handle our encounters with the inevitable sufferings of a world full of chance and complexity.

The Romantic poets and philosophers extend this vision of good-enoughness to embrace what they would call “the ordinary” or “the everyday.” This does not refer to the everyday annoyances or anxieties we experience, but the fact that within what is most ordinary, most basic and most familiar, we might find a delight unimaginable if we find meaning only in greatness. The antiheroic sentiment is well expressed by George Eliot at the end of her novel “Middlemarch”: “that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” And its legacy is attested to in the poem “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye: “I want to be famous to shuffling men / who smile while crossing streets, / sticky children in grocery lines, / famous as the one who smiled back.”

Being good enough is not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of work to smile purely while waiting, exhausted, in a grocery line. Or to be good enough to loved ones to both support them and allow them to experience frustration. And it remains to be seen if we as a society can establish a good-enough relation to one another, where individuals and nations do not strive for their unique greatness, but rather work together to create the conditions of decency necessary for all.

Achieving this will also require us to develop a good enough relation to our natural world, one in which we recognize both the abundance and the limitations of the planet we share with infinite other life forms, each seeking its own path toward good-enoughness. If we do manage any of these things, it will not be because we have achieved greatness, but because we have recognized that none of them are achievable until greatness itself is forgotten."
ordinary  everyday  small  slow  2019  avramalpert  greatness  philosophy  buddhism  naomishihabnye  georgeeliot  interconnected  individualism  goodenough  virtue  ethics  romanticism  psychoanalysis  dwwinnicott  care  caring  love  life  living  classideas 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Denise Gigante on the life and poetry of John Keats
"A conversation with Stanford professor of English literature Denise Gigante on the life and poetry of John Keats and his relationship with his family, in particular, with one of his brothers, George Keats.

Denise Gigante is a professor in the English Department at Stanford University and teaches eighteenth and nineteenth-century British literature with a focus on Romanticism. Her books include "The Keats Brothers: The Life of John and George" (Harvard UP, 2011), "Life: Organic Form and Romanticism" (Yale UP, 2009), "The Great Age of the English Essay: An Anthology" (Yale UP, 2008), "Taste: A Literary History" (Yale UP, 2005), and "Gusto: Essential Writings in Nineteenth-Century Gastronomy" (Routledge, 2005). She has published several essays, notably on Milton (Diacritics), Blake (Nineteenth-Century Literature), Coleridge (European Romantic Review), Keats (PMLA), Sartre and Beckett (Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net), Tennyson (NCL), Mary Shelley (ELH), and the philosopher Slavoj Zizek (New Literary History). She is currently working on a new book entitled The Book Madness: Charles Lamb's Midnight Darlings in New York, which is forthcoming from Harvard University Press."
johnkeates  2011  denisegigante  via:mattcallahan  beauty  georgekeates  poetry  lordbyron  percybyssheshelley  romanticism 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Purity
"The enemy of rigour and purity is the ad hoc approach, an approach that fits solutions to a particular purpose. Ad hoc explanations and solutions are sound and often highly effective in their own contexts, but make no claims to generality. As such, they attract only the sneers of scientific purists. Pure science, like the kitschiest art, aspires to be generic and timeless and universal. Pure science rejects all worldly purpose.

Scientific purists are right to be suspicious of purpose. Applied research is politicised research, openly co-opted to some political agenda, which, given present-day sources of funding, is more often than not a reactionary one. The aim of such research is to to produce work that will advance corporate or national interests in controlled, predictable ways: to produce patented techniques that give a competitive edge, or to produce concrete (and desirable) policy recommendations to be mulled over by think-tanks."
practical  practice  theory  celibacy  purpose  learning  scientificpurity  ghhardy  cpsnow  mathematics  m  math  romanticism  randallmunroe  academia  elitism  skepticism  stephenbond  xkcd  science  purity 
september 2012 by robertogreco
New Statesman - The Perfumier and the Stinkhorn
"The naturalist Richard Mabey’s latest book shows how human beings best find health and pleasure not by looking within, but by immersing themselves in the world of which they are an integral part."
science  books  nature  humanism  evolutionarypsychology  romanticism  johngray  richardmabey  introspection  world  context  identity  health  pleasure  human  humans  environment 
may 2011 by robertogreco
The 2837 University « AGITPROP
"a project that re-imagines the Agitprop space & the surrounding neighborhood as the site of a micro-university, with the goal of opening a conversation about re-purposing the concept of University Education in the context of the ongoing critique of the corporatization of the University. We will begin by investigating the relation of the construction of a mass consumer class in the US after WWII & the formulation of a new concept of individuality that borrowed its notion of self-expression from the legacy of Romanticism, all the while yoking the seeming freedom of expression to the profit system of hyper-inflated production and infinite obsolescence. As the university system is increasingly dominated by corporate interest, the very notion of the student is replaced by that of the consumer, and the value of a university education is understood strictly in terms of the acquisition of readily available skills & knowledge bases that are immediately transferable to exchange value."
sandiego  northpark  local  highereducation  highered  microuniversities  californiabiennial  art  activism  agitprop  lcproject  education  change  corporatism  self-expression  2837university  collaboration  community  consumerism  obsolescence  romanticism  freedom  altgdp  toparticipate  cityclassroom  thethirdparty  the2837university  agitpropproject 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Dwelling in Possibilities - ChronicleReview.com
"For students now, life is elsewhere. Classes just part of ever-enlarging web of activities, diversions...seek to master work, not to be taken over by it...live in future, not present; live w/ prospects for success & pleasure...dwell in possibility."
humanities  academia  attention  literature  culture  society  speed  slow  philosophy  generations  romanticism  essays  education  future  technology  socialsoftware  colleges  universities  students  youth  teaching  internet  psychology  learning  millennials  computers  life 
march 2008 by robertogreco
The Smart Set: Old Clams, Transparent Frogs, and Wordsworth - November 15, 2007
"Or, Why can't Romanticism and the Enlightenment just get along?" "The interesting question is whether there is a third method of thinking, neither exactly Enlightenment nor Romanticism but at the same time both. Such an attitude would recognize the dilem
experiments  science  progress  romanticism  poetry  wordsworth  intellect  knowledge 
november 2007 by robertogreco

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