Thursday, June 13, 2019

Candid Thoughts

Such were the preoccupations of this young man. Perhaps they would have been different, if he had had a little less of what Newman describes as his 'high severe idea of the intrinsic excellence of Virginity'; but it is useless to speculate.

Giles Lytton Strachey (1 March 1880 - 21 January 1932), “Eminent Victorians”

It is refreshing to encounter the candid thoughts of another. This might suggest that the expectation is customarily otherwise but my intention is rather to denote its appeal not its infrequency. Today's especial discovery is the writing of Strachey of the Bloomsbury Set, a group of associated English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists in the first half of the 20th century including Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes and E. M. Forster. Another of my heroines - Dorothy Parker of The New Yorker  - comically observed of the Group that "they lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles". Not surprisingly the members' outlook (according to Ian Ousby - himself a renegade British intellect) "deeply influenced literature, aesthetics, criticism and economics as well as modern attitudes towards feminism, pacifism and sexuality".

Dorothy Parker was a founding member of her own group of intellectuals (jokingly dubbed the "Vicious Circle") known as the Algonquin Round Table. The members (celebrated for their wise cracks) included Harpo Marx. Parker once joked that she was asked to leave the Roman Catholic convent she attended following her characterization of the Immaculate Conception as "spontaneous combustion".

As entertaining and inspiring as are these various artists, it is nonetheless important to note that they each encountered resistance with the "establishment". While it is unfortunate to see that conservatism continues to this day to carry the mantle of inalterable thinking, it at least energizes the mind to know that there have always been people who harbour similar doubts about the mystical endorsements of high society.  Parker by the way was an "Upper East Side" girl in New York City; and the Bloomsbury Group was closely associated with the University of Cambridge (for the men) and King's College, London (for the women).

Indeed it is rightfully recorded that it is the privilege of the well-to-do to champion some of the more outrageous philosophies. Lest one imagines this privilege is entirely dependent upon having nothing better to do - or the wherewithal to do it - one must appreciate that life for many of these proponents was not as cozy and colourful as one might project. I don't think the obstacles were necessarily the source of the free-thinking but it is important to distinguish candid thinking from mere degeneracy for example. In many cases the liberality and candidness of these thinkers defeated their careers.

Admittedly when I use the expression "candid thoughts" I am proposing more than mere vulgarity. It is the acuteness of the rationality which appeals to me. A further collateral confession is that I especially elevate the reasoning if it appears to me to leap beyond the confines of snake charming - a metaphor I apply to almost any preposterous conclusions which in my opinion have no basis whatever in fact and depend almost entirely upon fiction and human ingenuity. Clearly this environment includes religion, politics, sexuality and love. It is regrettably equally significant to acknowledge that the nutrition for false premises is frequently a very real ambition - usually connected to self-importance, power and money - and in that order (though often overcoming one leads to the capitulation of the others).

The additional endearing feature of candid thoughts is that they needn't be - and often are not - complicated.  I have long held the view that if a matter cannot be expressed simply (and intelligibly), there's a problem. This smacks of gross over-simplification but I have yet to be proven wrong upon analysis. Perhaps it is the arrogance (or stupidity) of those who cultivate distorted thoughts which maintains the wasted encouragement.  The grip which human thoughts have upon the five senses is largely blunt and highly communicable. The fortunate sequel to this admission is that even the most trying convolutions can be unravelled with plain thinking. The moment we begin to bring the examination down to earth we make its handling far more manageable. There is however one signal qualification.  One mustn't overlook the cogency of an opinion based upon some compelling spiritual or psychological need. If that need exits, its intellectual expression may easily collide with that based on a dissimilar foundation. I reluctantly accept this evolution notwithstanding that it appears to legitimize unclear thinking. My own take on that perspective is that the ultimate objective is to create an atmosphere of credible thought for the benefit of the person involved - not for someone else's political, social or commercial advantage.

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