Where there is no vision, the people perish.
This is not a political statement. In fact, in (P2) Political, I will call for bipartisanship of the first order. My former philosophy professor, Jacob Needleman, has written one of the more profound and important books of the decade. I wondered when I'd mention it here. The horrific aftermath of Katrina calls all Americans to the task of self-reflection. What does it mean to be American? What is the truth of America? These are the questions Needleman tackles in his book The American Soul (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, NY 2002).
His premise is that the soul of America, its greatness, issues from its great ideas as in those of Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, Douglass, Roosevelt, Kennedy, etc. The paucity of great ideas today gives us a starting point in our desperate search for America's lost soul.
It is ever so sad that it might have taken America's worst natural catastrophe with its horrendous displacements, deprivations, and loss of life to get Americans truly thinking once again about who we are and what we're about.
But for starters, it's going to take more of the material than the abstract to help the millions displaced and destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. This effort must be totally bipartisan. Recriminations are out of place at this point. The time to review will come soon enough. For now, here are a few places for us common folk to begin our efforts
Sneaking Out The Horseman
We live here right next to dying people,
next to awful tribulation and misery,
and it’s not just that we all act
as if it were no concern of ours,
but we’re even protected, spared
any possibility of coming into contact with it,
or seeing it.
And now they’ll sneak the horseman out
while we’re eating supper or breakfast.
- Thomas Mann –The Magic Mountain-
And with the Austrian horseman gone,
the knowing reader asks both “why” and “where”
The “why” is mostly philosophical,
how the horseman came to ride,
how the horseman came to die.
But to ask him “Wither goest?”
presumes that he too is a poet searching.
Only art attempts to plumb this depth;
Where he’s going, to a horseman spreads before him
jointly chosen by both man and mare,
but is not all of this in every way rhetorical
- ever since they snuck its rider out
while we picked at either supper or our breakfast –
like seeking knowledge from the horse’s mouth?
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