Saturday, January 3, 2009

Another installment of... "Of Being Quiet"

The fundamental relationships of man to man, man to his environment, man to himself do not have to be presented as especially grandiose. The murder of Agamemnon and the long-drawn-out resolution of vengeance are only one aspect of the human condition. There are quiet and idyllic classics, even inconspicuous ones.

The most obvious classics are tragic because life is tragic in its very structure. There are no optimistic classics that tell us all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, and besides, everything is getting better and better. There are no classics that are untrue. But certainly there are many that are powerful, though, it may be, very quiet, affirmations of life. The human race endures because millions of people have gone on inconspicuously affirming their existence, including aspects too tragic for literature.

Life may not be optimistic, but it certainly is comic, and the greatest literature presents man wearing the two conventional masks: the grinning and the weeping faces that decorate theater prosceniums. What is the face behind the double mask? Just a human face - yours or mine. That is the irony of it all - the irony that distinguishes great literature: it is all so ordinary.

-- Kenneth Rexroth, for whom Jack Spicer did not care much, from Classics Revisited

No comments: