June 22, 2017

Writing with the Light On

The lights are still on for this lighthouse built in 1857, north of Port Hope, Michigan at the tip of the thumb, overlooking Lake Huron

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl said what is to give light must endure burning. After enduring the horrors of Auschwitz, he wrote with the light on his most famous work “Man’s Search for Meaning” in a mere nine days. Frankl was a follower of Sigmund Freud before rejecting the nihilism of Freud’s theories. He witnessed men suffering in the same environment turn into beasts and saints.   In “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Frankl writes, “Sigmund Freud once said, ‘Let us attempt to expose a number of most diverse people uniformly to hunger. With the increase of the imperative urge of hunger all individual differences will blur, and in their stead will appear the uniform expression of the one un-stilled urge.’ In the concentration camps, however, the reverse was true. People became more diverse. The beast was unmasked – and so was the saint.” For some prisoners, the lights went out. The depravity was too much to endure. For others, the light came on. Frankl’s experiences and observations in the concentration camps fueled his light. The lights went out on Freud in 1939, just as the beast of World War Two began.

The real world always seems to have the last word on its theorists and critics, beasts and saints. Harold Bloom, the famed literary critic and Yale English professor, is a devoted fan of Freud, Shakespeare, and himself. His published book total is getting close to 40 so getting the last word on him will require a long supply line. Decades of teaching, reading, and writing at Yale have filled his mind and imagination with book knowledge equal to a great library. Bloom is said to read 400 pages an hour.

In Bloom’s “The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life,” he writes that Shakespeare is his God. In little more than a year (1605), Shakespeare wrote King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. Take that, Stephen King. Bloom  called King an “immensely inadequate writer” and producer of “penny dreadfuls” aiding and abetting in the dumbing down of American readers.  Bloom has worse to say about Rowling, writing of the suffering through her books to the point where you pity him more than Frankl’s suffering in Auschwitz. Bloom is most effusive of Frankl’s early mentor, Freud, describing Freud as the most important writer of the 20th century.

Bloom doesn’t use a computer and one wonders if he uses light. He writes in the New York Times on November 12 that “A dark truth of American politics in what is still the era of Reagan and the Bushes is that so many do not vote their own economic interests. Rather than living in reality they yield to what oddly are termed ‘cultural’ considerations: moral and spiritual, or so their leaders urge them to believe. Under the banners of flag, cross, fetus, exclusive marriage between men and women, they march onward to their own deepening impoverishment.” Well, thank Freud, Shakespeare, and Bloom for all those swing voters in Detroit rescuing the city from its own deepening impoverishment. Bloom fears a theocracy in America, with help from Mormons with their sinister patriotism and control under deep cover of the military, CIA, and FBI. Well, thank Freud, Shakespeare, and Bloom that Americans can feel secure in knowing at least the Yale English Department is safe from the Mormons and Harry Potter.

I love lighthouses and took the picture of this lighthouse near Port Hope, Michigan, at the tip of the Thumb. The lighthouse is still in operation, shining its light across the cold waters of Lake Huron as winter approaches. A big pack of dozens of deer ran around me as I walked around the lighthouse. The only sound was from the waves. The setting was nature, unmasked. The lighthouse provides better light than the ivy tower of haughty English Departments. Ben Franklin said he preferred the lighthouse to the church. A great writer’s light, from the times of Shakespeare to the 21st century, must burn with fuel from the real world.

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