09 March 2008

The Intelligentsia and the Revolution - Aleksandr Blok

While known mostly for his (admittedly brilliant) poetry, Aleksandr Blok was also a profound essayist. If you thought Hemingway captured the ennui and detachment of the Great War, just you wait 'n see.
"What is the war like? Bogs, bogs, and bogs, overgrown with grass or covered with snowdrifts; in the west, a dreary German searchlight- groping- night after night. On a sunny day a German Fokker appears; it doggedly flies along one and the same path, as if a path could be worn and befouled even in the sky. Little puffs of smoke spread out around it, white, gray, reddish (that's us shooting at it, hardly ever hitting; like the Germans- at us). The Fokker is flustered, falters, but tries to stay on its foul little path; sometimes it methodically drops a bomb. This means that the spot it aims at has been punctured on the map by dozens of German staff officers. The bomb falls, now on a graveyard, now on a herd of cattle, now on a herd of people, but more often, of course, into a bog; that's thousands of people's rubles in a bog."
Jeez. Someone's a Debbie Downer.
"Europe has gone insane. The flower of manhood, the flower of the intelligentsia, sits for years in a bog, sits with conscious determination (isn't that symbolic?) on a narrow strip a thousand versts long, which is called 'the front.'"
I think now's a good time to mention that the Russian word for God is Бог, pronounced "bog".
"What has a people or a man to live for who... thinks that being alive 'isn't too bad but not very pleasant either,' because 'everything goes its ordained way'- the way of evolution- and that people, generally speaking, are so shoddy and imperfect that the best they can expect, God willing, is to blunder through their life span somehow, knocking together societies and states, blocking themselves off from one another with little walls of rights and obligations, conventional laws, conventional relationships."
Blok's alternate title for this piece was "Why Tristyn Bloom Should End Her Sorry Existence."
"Could even a grain of the truly precious be lost? We have loved too little if we fear for the things we love. ... A palace that is being destroyed is no palace."
Circular logic, or inspiring call to revolution? Early 20th century Russians can't tell the difference.
"The ground under the bourgeois' feet is as concrete as the muck under the hog's: family, money, position, medal, rank, God on his ikon, the Tsar on his throne. ... The intelligent has always boasted that he never had that kind of ground to stand on. ... Skill, knowledge, methods, habits, talents are nomadic, winged possessions. We are homeless, familyless, rankless, poor- what have we to lose?"
What have you to fight for?
"Proud politicking is a great sin. The longer the intelligentsia remain aloof and sarcastic, the more terror and bloodshed there will be. Dreadful and dangerous is that elastic, dry, unsavory "adogmatic dogmatics" seasoned with patronizing soulfulness. Behind the soulfulness is blood. The soul attracts blood. Only the spirit can combat horror. Why bar with soulfulness the way to spirituality? The good is hard as it is."
I have a feeling that if I wrote a script to randomly generate early Russian revolutionary tracts, the result would come out something like this.

06 March 2008

Unit 11, Live from Moscow

Been studying for my Russian exam (which is tomorrow); ignoring the damning specter of my neurolinguistics exam (six hours from now). Also think I had a Roman history writing assignment due yesterday... When Yale tells you they don't make admissions mistakes, they're wrong.

All taken exactly from my Russian textbook:
"Можно мне курить здесь?"
May I smoke here?
"В этой комнате нельзя мне работать!"
In this room, it is impossible for me to work!
"Разве это жизнь?"
Is this really a life?

Good question.

04 March 2008

Mother of Men - Brian Hooker

Lots on my mind lately... went thumbing through my copy of Songs of Yale, bequeathed to me by that other highly traditional group of which I'm a member (147 years and counting).

We don't sing this song anymore... symptom of a much larger problem, methinks.

"Mother of Men, grown strong in giving
Honor to them thy lights have led;
Rich in the toil of thousands living,
Proud of the deeds of thousands dead.

We who have felt thy pow'r and known thee,
We in whose work thy gifts avail,
High in our hearts, enshrined, enthrone thee,
Mother of Men, Old Yale.

Spirit of Youth, alive, unchanging,
Under whose feet the years are cast,
Heir to an ageless empire, ranging
Over the future and the past;

Thee, whom our fathers loved before us,
Thee, whom our sons unborn shall hail,
Praise we today in sturdy chorus,
Mother of Men, Old Yale."