Friday, September 15, 2006

Killing Polonius (and Friday Reflection)

Time now to reveal the source of our banner quote for this week (surprisingly, no one guessed it). It is Shakespeare—specifically, Hamlet, Act II, Sc. 2. The speaker is the character Polonius, one of literature's quintessential figures of the political center. He lives his life teetering about under the weight of other men's ideas, constantly struggling to maintain an Aristotelian point of perfect, linear centeredness. In doing so, he is led from one self-deceit to another, until he is led inexorably to death. In our government, he would be Colin Powell or Condi or John McCain; in the media, he would be David Broder or Thomas Friedman; in religion, perhaps Billy Graham.

Polonius is the fellow who aligns himself with Power and spends his entire life and energy in rationalizing that alliance. In the end, of course, he is revealed as the petty, banal, common courtier he has always been; a man who buys position with the coin of deceit, and inevitably pays the ultimate price for the bargain.

How we strive and compete to gain and defend The Holy Center! With what a furious and squalid pedantry do we spill lies from that hallowed midpoint of the line! In what exalted and self-indulgent tones of punditry do we cry out from the sacred median that splits left and right!

But what if there were an alternative to this walk on the balance beam of political linearity? Might it be worth a try? Could it be that, in a scientific age of quantum mechanics, relativity, and nonlinear mathematics, we are still stuck in Aristotle's ancient, bipolar, duoplaned reality? I have offered an answer to these questions before, during the first post in this blog, two years ago. Perhaps we can revisit that experiment soon.

Friday Reflection

Treasure everything you have, and be prepared to lose it all. Accept all that comes to you and be ready to give it back. But ownership is a distortion of nature: in the real universe, no one owns, and nothing is owned. You can have all you need; but you cannot own a single thing.

Live this principle; understand it in every cell of your being, and you will never want for anything.

To grasp a thing is to lose it; to clutch at a person is to repel her. To own something or someone is to become its slave. Seek ownership of things or people, and you will find despair. Defend your possessions, and you will always be at war. Live for consumption, and you will always be consumed.

Ownership splits the self—rends it into pieces labeled "Mine" and "Not-Yet-Mine". The compulsion of accumulation will turn you into an object as well; the more you own, the more life will you waste in defending it, with scarcely a moment left to love it as a gift.

The more gilded the robe, the more rotten the soul beneath it; the more gleaming the shrine, the darker is its basement.

Ten thousand years of civilization, and we have yet to learn a thing.

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