Monday, 13 October 2008

Negative Capability

[T]he test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
F Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up

It seems to appropriate to quote the writer of the "great smash up", at once existential and financial; as Fitzgerald wrote "‘All the stories that came into my head had a touch of disaster in them - the lovely young creatures in my novels went to ruin, my millionaires were as beautiful and damned as Thomas Hardy's peasants". Of course we can reflect on the question of "class ontology" that runs through Fitzgerald ("her voice was full of money"). Hemingway objected to the romanticism of this ontology of difference, writing in his short-story "The Snows of Kilimanjaro":
The rich were dull and they drank too much or they played too much backgammon. They were dull and they were repetitious. He remembered poor Scott Fitzgerald and his romantic awe of them and how he had started a story once that began, ‘The rich are different from you and me.’ And how someone had said to Scott, Yes, they have more money. But that was not humorous to Scott. He thought they were a special glamorous race and when he found they weren't it wrecked him just as much as any other thing that wrecked him.
John Updike nicely analyses this little contretemps, and notes that Hemingway neglects the next line of the story: "‘They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand." We might remember the books on brokerage Nick Carroway carefully shelves in The Great Gatsby, and note that it is Fitzgerald rather than Kafka who has the true appreciation for the "mysticism of money".
All this is merely a long-winded introduction to a series of comments on katechons and Crises, which you have probably already noted, here, here, and (of course) here. I've also has some comments off list raising the work of Rudolf Meidner as a temporary (but unlikely) best case katechon / lesser evil. Of course we now have the word from a certain contemporary theorist.

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