Sunday, August 17, 2014
In college, at least part of it, I lived in a very low rent district, about 10 or 15 miles away from my my daily destination, Westwood. I always felt safe; people within at least a three mile radius knew me. I had a largish dog who required walking twice a day, which is a good way to meet your neighbors. And those who didn't know me, well, I had a largish dog. Bru was jovial, fearless, intelligent, and an excellent judge of character. I made friends with anyone who got his stamp of approval. And if they didn't, well...
For instance, there was this man I rather liked, and Bru didn't cotton to him. The man came over one night, and Bru lifted up, put both paws on his shoulders, and the guy kneed Bru in the chest. Bru and I just looked each other and said, ok, he's fucking out of here.
Bru never steered me wrong, and I'll never have a dog like him again.
But back to this place I lived, while at UCLA. A place I've meant to write about, and will sometime, but that's not the point right now.
In the dumpster, fed by about 15 other apartments and cottages, one day I found Great Works of the 20th Century, a twenty volume set. I couldn't believe my luck. The books were so beautiful -- leather bound, about eight by six inches tall and wide, and three inches thick. With hand-tinted illos protected by gauzy silk.
Of course, these volumes were not in perfect condition, hence the dumping. A certain amount of water-damage, mold had occurred since their publication in 1902. But I reckoned a little magic with my blow-dryer might salvage the set. Still, over a couple of months, the sweet smell of decay increased. The only thing I could do was read what the 20th Century had to offer in the way of great works, as quickly as possible, before pitching the lot.
That's how I found Novalis. Never heard about him in any of my classes -- from philosophy to poetry to literature. I took a shine to him for many reasons, but most of all, because he shared, was the first guy who ever seemed to share, my contrarian way of seeing things, of survival, even. To whit: Disbelieve everything you're told, at first. Argue, always, every side, to exhaustion. Until either you believe what you're saying or have run out of arguments.
Here's how Novlis puts it: To become properly acquainted with a truth, we must first have disbelieved it, and disputed against it.
When it comes to Ukraine, the Middle East, and Missouri, so far, I don't believe anybody, anybody at all.