Saturday, September 3

more dogeared pages

longer ago than really matters to say at this point, I finished reading Lewis Hyde's Common as Air: Revolution, Art, & Scholarship. I was reading it not for a class, but to fulfill my own scholarly whimsy, which was very nice. but it was also somewhat aimless-feeling... which feeling is probably something I should work on disciplining, now that coursework is nearly behind me and I'll be reading at my own discretion for most of the rest of this academic career, I imagine. reading lists for dissertationing are under construction in various corners, I promise.

this blogpost, though, is full of quotes from most of the pages I dogeared from Common as Air. do I remember now why I dogeared them? no, not really. and looking back at them here, I don't think all of these segments make tons of sense on their own, outside of the narrative history of Hyde's book. but nobody is stopping you from going out and reading it yourself, I don't think. if you're into culture and history and Benjamin Franklin, you'll probably like it.

I have shuffled the order for the sake of giving these all a slightly more coherent vibe. make of them what you will.
"How are we to imagine the creative self? Is it an individual and unique, or is it collective and common? Myself, I think it is always both of these, and that the question proposes a false distinction." p. 178
"...where does talent come from, and what is the right relationship between it and the ego, the thing that so swiftly makes a 'me' out of the sea of the given world?" p. 203 
"Belonging simultaneously to the private and the public, we each must distinguish between what is our own (idios) and what we hold in common (koinon). The first of these terms gives rise to the word 'idiot,' for it was the Greek assumption that any life spent wholly on one's own is by nature idiotic." p. 183
that notion there is probably what keeps me from running away and living in a cave on a beach somewhere. my own inner mind all by itself, as much as I love it, would devolve into idiocy quicker than blinking if I didn't have anyone to talk to, listen to, or answer to.
"The freely choosing self is a small part of the whole; larger is the 'encumbered self,' as Michael Sandel calls it, asking that we remember how often we are 'obliged to fulfill ends we have not chosen.' ... It doesn't sound all that attractive, to be encumbered, and yet these things that constrain us (nature, family, convictions) are not things we can easily dispose of, either, and in fact accepting the limitations they bring can lay the foundation for freedoms unavailable without them." p. 217
one of the coolest points in this book, to me, was Hyde's distinctions between freedom of speech and freedom of listening. he describes the concept of a meeting hall "built to serve the eighteenth-century idea of replacing the partial self with a plural or public self, one who is a host to many voices, even those otherwise at odds with the singular being you thought you were when you first walked in the door." (p. 229)
"The freedom to listen we have in our collectivity, not in our individuality. It is a common freedom, not an individual or private one." 229
we forget about that freedom to listen part, quite often. I want to remember it more.

and then this brilliant so-what of the whole story Hyde is working with:
"our practices around cultural property allow us to be certain kinds of selves; with them we enable or disable ways of being human." 213
I love that, all its grandness and stretchy huge meaning. mm. I say this all the time when I read cool books, I know--but what else is there to say?--I want to write a book like this one, someday soon. if this PhD and its aftermath does nothing else for me but help me get to that point, then thank heaven and all the universe, it will have been worth all the five+ long years.

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