Sunday, April 22, 2007


As is not unusual, I have started making grandiose plans for writing projects, which is not a good idea for a blog. I will try to dole it out in small pieces. We’ll see how it goes.

The pieces are these:

1. The purpose of art. Why write at all? Or take photos? Or do anything for that matter? Someone, I think it was a commenter at Alicublog, wrote that Kurt Vonnegut marveled at how much enthusiasm and sense of purpose a dog could have for playing with a brown rubber representation of an ice cream cone and commented that if he, Kurt Vonnegut, had spent his life happily carrying a brown rubber ice cream cone from one closet to the next, it wouldn’t have made one iota of difference to the universe. And Kurt Vonnegut said a lot of other things about the uselessness of life and art, yet he lived and worked most of his adult life as an artist.

To help me in this analysis, I will lean heavily on the thought of Victor L. Frankl and his book Man’s Search for Meaning. This book has been strongly recommended to me at various times throughout my life. I saw it for sale on the street yesterday and bought it. Couldn’t have come at a better time.

2. You may have noticed that the chuckling character hails from a small town in the heartland and is still in touch with those roots. If so, you’ve probably also noticed that I have unresolved issues with my upbringing there as well as the current environment and the lives of family and friends. People there suffer so horribly. Why?

It may seem a trivialization of Frankl to compare his years as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp to the petty existential angst of the spoiled consumerist heartland, but I think Frankl would be okay with it. Apropos, he writes:

To draw an analogy: a man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. if a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and consious mind, no mater whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore, the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.

I’d like to examine this phenomenon at some depth. And believe me, there are some depths in which to delve.

3. I recently read The Unconquerable World by Jonathan Schell. In it, Schell presents military history as a paradigm of progress for non-violence. It contains some very interesting ideas. How does the history of non-violence and the reality of an unconquerable world relate to the purpose of art and the suffering of the heartland.

Well, we’ll just have to see.