Mission Statement

To end War and Peace, Tolstoy zooms out of his narrative and enumerates the mistakes made by historians in their struggle to find truth, to explain the cause for events. Falling back on vagaries such as Napoleon’s power or genius, Tolstoy suggests history suffers from a sort of confirmation bias as it attempts to explain the course of events entirely via the scope of its power players.

…historians have assumed that the events depended on the commands. But examining the events themselves and the connection in which the historical characters stood to the masses, we have found that they and their commands were dependent on the events. The incontestable proof of this deduction lies in the fact that, however many commands may be given, the event does not take place unless there are other causes for it; (p 1436) 

His contention, that the movements of mankind, a nation or a person, are not controlled by its leaders or intellectual maxims but by the intricate combination of all things, is as comforting as it is frightful. I am a nobody but I can make my share of a difference, hurray! I am just killing time but what I Google will ignites intricate fuses webbing our collective minds, barf!

Tolstoy goes on to delve into the implications this has on free will, justice, etc. things I won’t slaughter to bore you with, before he gives us this little bumper sticker: All knowledge is but the bringing of the essence of life under the laws of reason. (p 1450) With this is mind, that knowledge is found in the essence of life, and things bare a certain equality in sharing the impetus of events, then anything can give us insight so long as we are patient, durable, and smart enough to find it.

In the particular is contained the universal, says James Joyce; No ideas but in things, William Carlos Williams. These two hyperbole machines are logical steps down our path. Lets take a look at an example from Williams, partly for a poets brevity and partly because much of Joyce is brutal hell to comprehend.

To a Poor Old Woman

munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand

Comforted
a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

In summation, a lady eats plums; but in the eyes of Williams, on our tongue, it becomes something more. Through repetition and varying line breaks we get a sense of her earnest enjoyment; a feeling that it means something. Perhaps it didn’t move you (I am not a huge Williams fan, though many are, so I won’t blame you), or you found his writing dry, uneventful, but what’s important here is his vision, his refusal of an elitist muse. That is something which so far I have fallen prey to, but as you read this blog you will find as many references to professional wrestling as Dostoevsky, more posts on bad movies than Metaphysics; and hopefully, find the universal in each of these particulars.

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