There is this benefit in brag, that the speaker is unconsciously expressing his own ideal. Humor him by all means; draw it all out, and hold him to it.
Literature before the Renaissance had frequently offered ideal patterns for living which were dominated by the ethos of the church, but after the Reformation the search for individual expression and meaning took over. Institutions were questioned and re-evaluated, often while being praised at the same time. But where there had been conventional modes of expression, reflecting ideal modes of behaviour - religious, heroic, or social - Renaissance writing explored the geography of the human soul, redefining its relationship with authority, history, science, and the future. This involved experimentation with form and genre, and an enormous variety of linguistic and literary innovations in a short period of time.Reason, rather than religion, was the driving force in this search for rules to govern human behaviour in the Renaissance world. The power and mystique of religion had been overthrown in one bold stroke: where the marvellous no longer holds sway, real life has to provide explanations. Man, and the use he makes of his powers, capabilities, and free will, is thus the subject matter of Renaissance literature, from the early sonnets modelled on Petrarch to the English epic which closes the period, Paradise Lost, published after the Restoration, when the Renaissance had long finished.The Reformation gave cultural, philosophical, and ideological impetus to English Renaissance writing. The writers in the century following the Reformation had to explore and redefine all the concerns of humanity. In a world where old assumptions were no longer valid, where scientific discoveries questioned age-old hypotheses, and where man rather than God was the central interest, it was the writers who reflected and attempted to respond to the disintegration of former certainties. For it is when the universe is out of control that it is at its most frightening - and its most stimulating. There would never again be such an atmosphere of creative tension in the country. What was created was a language, a literature, and a national and international identity.
First of all I express sincerity. There's also that sense of humor, by which people sometimes learn to laugh about themselves. I mean, the situation is so serious that the people could go crazy because of it. They need to smile and realize how ridiculous everything is. A race without a sense of humor is in bad shape. A race needs clowns. In earlier days people knew that. Kings always had a court jester around. In that way he was always reminded how ridiculous things are. I believe that nations too should have jesters, in the congress, near the president, everywhere.....You could call me the jester of the Creator. The whole world, all the disease and misery, it's all ridiculous.
He was harassed, but still he spoke with authority. He was, in fact, characteristic of the best type of dominant male in the world at this time. He was fifty-five years old, tough, shrewd, unburdened by the complicated ethical ambiguities which puzzle intellectuals, and had long ago decided that the world was a mean son-of-a-bitch in which only the most cunning and ruthless can survive. He was also as kind as was possible for one holding that ultra-Darwinian philosophy; and he genuinely loved children and dogs, unless they were on the site of something that had to be bombed in the National Interest. He still retained some sense of humor, despite the burdens of his almost godly office, and, although he had been impotent with his wife for nearly ten years now, he generally achieved orgasm in the mouth of a skilled prostitute within 1.5 minutes. He took amphetamine pep pills to keep going on his grueling twenty-hour day, with the result that his vision of the world was somewhat skewed in a paranoid direction, and he took tranquilizers to keep from worrying too much, with the result that his detachment sometimes bordered on the schizophrenic; but most of the time his innate shrewdness gave him a fingernail grip on reality.
We hold further that Communism is not only desirable, but that existing societies, founded on Individualism, are inevitably impelled in the direction of Communism. The development of Individualism during the last three centuries is explained by the efforts of the individual to protect himself from the tyranny of Capital and of the State. For a time he imagined, and those who expressed his thought for him declared, that he could free himself entirely from the State and from society. "By means of money," he said, "I can buy all that I need." But the individual was on a wrong tack, and modern history has taught him to recognize that, without the help of all, he can do nothing, although his strong-boxes are full of gold.
Among the people to whom he belonged, nothing was written or talked about at that time except the Serbian war. Everything that the idle crowd usually does to kill time, it now did for the benefit of the Slavs: balls, concerts, dinners, speeches, ladies' dresses, beer, restaurants—all bore witness to our sympathy with the Slavs.With much that was spoken and written on the subject Konyshev did not agree in detail. He saw that the Slav question had become one of those fashionable diversions which, ever succeeding one another, serve to occupy Society; he saw that too many people took up the question from interested motives. He admitted that the papers published much that was unnecessary and exaggerated with the sole aim of drawing attention to themselves, each outcrying the other. He saw that amid this general elation in Society those who were unsuccessful or discontented leapt to the front and shouted louder than anyone else: Commanders-in-Chief without armies, Ministers without portfolios, journalists without papers, and party leaders without followers. He saw that there was much that was frivolous and ridiculous; but he also saw and admitted the unquestionable and ever-growing enthusiasm which was uniting all classes of society, and with which one could not help sympathizing. The massacre of our coreligionists and brother Slavs evoked sympathy for the sufferers and indignation against their oppressors. And the heroism of the Serbs and Montenegrins, fighting for a great cause, aroused in the whole nation a desire to help their brothers not only with words but by deeds.Also there was an accompanying fact that pleased Koznyshev. It was the manifestation of public opinion. The nation had definitely expressed its wishes. As Koznyshev put it, ' the soul of the nation had become articulate.' The more he went into this question, the clearer it seemed to him that it was a matter which would attain enormous proportions and become epoch-making.
Let us look once more at Yeats. At bottom, he was sceptical about the nonsense with which he satisfied what we can call his lust for commitment. Now and again he believed some of it, but in so far as his true commitment was to poetry he recognized his fictions as heuristic and dispensable, 'consciously false.' 'They give me metaphors for poetry,' he noted. The dolls and the amulets, the swords and the systems, were the tools of an operationalist. Yeats was always concerned that what made sense to him in terms of the system should make sense to others who shared with him not that arbitrary cipher-system but the traditional language of poetry. In this way he managed, sometimes at any rate, to have his cake and to eat it. The rough beast of the apocalyptic 'Second Coming,' and the spiralling falcon of the same poem, mean something in the system, but for the uninstructed reader they continue to mean something in terms of a broader system of cultural and linguistic conventions--the shared information codes upon which literature, like any other method of communication, depends. So too in the later plays, which analytic criticism tells us are very systematic, but which Yeats himself declared must conceal their esoteric substance and sound like old songs. So too with the Byzantium poems, and the Supernatural Songs; even a poem like 'The Statues,' which contains notions that are bound to see inexplicably strange to one who knows nothing of Yeats's historical and arthistorical opinions, takes its place in our minds not as a text which codes information more explicitly provided in On the Boiler but as one which in some measure our reading of the other poems, and the persona of the wild old man, can justify.Yeats, in a famous phrase which has occasionally floated free of its context, said that the System enabled him to hold together reality and justice in a single thought. Reality is, in this expression, the sense we have of a world irreducible to human plot and human desire for order; justice is the human order we find or impose upon it. The System is in fact all Justice; in combination with a sense of reality which has nothing whatever to do with it, it became a constituent of poems. The System is a plot, a purely human projection, though not more human than its apparent antithesis, reality, which is a human imagining of the inhuman. For a moment, in that expression, Yeats saw himself as an emperor dispensing equity, transcending both the fact and the pattern; it is what poets do. Only rarely did he forget that whatever devotes itself to justice at the expense of reality, is finally self-destructive. He might talk about the differences between the symbolic meanings of poetry and those 'emotional restless mimicries of the surface of life' which were for him the characteristics of 'popular realism,' but he understood very well the need for that 'moral element in poetry' which is 'the means whereby' it is 'accepted into the social order and becomes a part of life.' He understands the tension between a paradigmatic order where the price of a formal eternity is inhumanity, and the world of the dying generations; that is the subject of 'Sailing to Byzantium,' the poem I quoted at the outset of these talks. He was talking about this tension again in one of his last poems, when he distinguished between 'Players and painted stage'--the justice of formal poems--and 'the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart'--the human dirt and disorder that underlie them. The whole history of Yeats's style, which from the earliest times, before the turn of the century, he was trying to move towards colloquial uncertainty, reflects this regard for the reality that will not be reduced. In the end this modernism took on characteristic colours of violence, a sexual toughness and slang to represent what Yeats took to be a modern reality.
That is the way with us when we have any uneasy jealousy in our disposition: if our talents are chiefly of the burrowing kind, our honey-sipping cousin (whom we have grave reasons for objecting to) is likely to have a secret contempt for us, and any one who admires him passes an oblique criticism on ourselves. Having the scruples of rectitude in our souls, we are above the meanness of injuring him—rather we meet all his claims on us by active benefits; and the drawing of cheques for him, being a superiority which he must recognize, gives our bitterness a milder infusion.
NORA [looking earnestly and a little doubtfully at him]. Surelyif you let one woman cry on you like that you'd never let anothertouch you.BROADBENT [conscientiously]. One should not. One OUGHT not, mydear girl. But the honest truth is, if a chap is at all apleasant sort of chap, his chest becomes a fortification that hasto stand many assaults: at least it is so in England.NORA [curtly, much disgusted]. Then you'd better marry anEnglishwoman.BROADBENT [making a wry face]. No, no: the Englishwoman is tooprosaic for my taste, too material, too much of the animatedbeefsteak about her. The ideal is what I like. Now Larry's tasteis just the opposite: he likes em solid and bouncing and ratherkeen about him. It's a very convenient difference; for we'venever been in love with the same woman.NORA. An d'ye mean to tell me to me face that you've ever been inlove before?BROADBENT. Lord! yes.NORA. I'm not your first love?BROADBENT. First love is only a little foolishness and a lot ofcuriosity: no really self-respecting woman would take advantageof it. No, my dear Nora: I've done with all that long ago. Loveaffairs always end in rows. We're not going to have any rows:we're going to have a solid four-square home: man and wife:comfort and common sense--and plenty of affection, eh [he putshis arm round her with confident proprietorship]?NORA [coldly, trying to get away]. I don't want any other woman'sleavings.BROADBENT [holding her]. Nobody asked you to, ma'am. I neverasked any woman to marry me before.NORA [severely]. Then why didn't you if you're an honorable man?BROADBENT. Well, to tell you the truth, they were mostly marriedalready. But never mind! there was nothing wrong. Come! Don'ttake a mean advantage of me. After all, you must have had a fancyor two yourself, eh?
Providence then - and this is what is most important to grasp - is not the same thing as a universal teleology. To believe in divine and unfailing providence is not to burden one's conscience with the need to see every event in this world not only as an occasion for God's grace, but as a positive determination of God's will whereby he brings to pass a comprehensive design that, in the absence of any single one of these events, would not have been possible. It may seem that this is to draw only the finest of logical distinction, one so fine indeed as to amount to little more than a sophistry. Some theologians - Calvin, for instance - have denied that the distinction between what God wills and what he permits has any meaning at all. And certainly there is no unanimity in the history of Christian exegesis on this matter. Certain classic Western interpretations of Paul's treatment of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart and of the hardened heart of Israel in Romans 9 have taken it as a clear statement of God's immediate determination of his creatures' wills. But in the Eastern Christian tradition, and in the thought of many of the greatest Western theologians, the same argument has often been understood to assert no more than that God in either case allowed a prior corruption of the will to run its course, or even - like a mire in the light of the sun - to harden the outpouring of God's fiery mercy, and always for the sake of a greater good that will perhaps redound even to the benefit of the sinner. One might read Christ's answer to his disciples' question regarding why a man had been born blind - 'that the works of God should be made manifest in him' (John 9:3) - either as a refutation or as a confirmation of the distinction between divine will and permission. When all is said and done, however, not only is the distinction neither illogical nor slight; it is an absolute necessity if - setting aside, as we should, all other judgments as superstitious, stochastic, and secondary - we are to be guided by the full character of what is revealed of God in Christ. For, after all, if it is from Christ that we are to learn how God relates himself to sin, suffering, evil, and death, it would seem that he provides us little evidence of anything other than a regal, relentless, and miraculous enmity: sin he forgives, suffering he heals, evil he casts out, and death he conquers. And absolutely nowhere does Christ act as if any of these things are part of the eternal work or purposes of God.