Enlightenwhat?

Posted By on August 26, 2011

Portrait of the Psychotherapist as a Young Man.

 

Richard Waugamun is fond of saying that our Western cultural elites have taken the wrong lesson from the enlightenment. They took the message that religion is bad and science is good. But this, says Waugaman, is only the most superficial lesson passed on to us by that age.

A more profound and important lesson by far, he says, is that power corrupts. Few could argue with the conclusion that the Catholic Church by the time of the reformation had too much power. Human beings seem to thrive under conditions of some regulation and predictability (as liberals understand) but also need diversity and choice (as conservatives understand).  The Church had become an oppressor.

But the progressivist belief that 21st century Science, in its institutionalized forms, is in this regard one whit morally superior to the Roman Catholic Church (or any other theocracy), is a fond illusion that flatters the egos of the living.

All institutions must consider the question of their own legitimacy based on some calculation other than mere profitability. Any that cease to do so have passed over into the conspiracy part of the culture and are of much less interest to any person of authentic conscience. To what extent our world will in the near term, for example, be able to regulate for human purposes the new institutions of our health sciences, with their unstable interdependence of doctors, employers, and drug corporations, is one of the large unresolved questions of our day. Nor, even, is academia itself exempt from the possible taint of self-interested hypocrisy,  unchecked by any plausible commitment to public veracity beyond the notion that what sells must therefore be good. Study some literary history. It ain’t so.  Yet what is bought and sold is little more than what  Lord Verulam termed the transparent “idols of the theatre.”

Some are even now mounting the world stage to sound the charge of the Light Brigade towards Sr. Francis’ temple, as if it were a piece of property that one should contest to hold, while seemingly oblivious to the fact that by the 21st century the “self-fashioning” Shakespeare of the tenured radicals of the 1980s is verging on passé.

The newest bard of “of many portraits and yet none” – bears an uncanny resemblance to the old one –  that idiot “ipse” of nature bequeathed to us by the sagely circumspect Augustans.

Without any further ado, then, here’s a groats-worth of unsolicited advice for anyone thinking of attending Professor Shapiro’s upcoming New York Screen Guild lecture:

Bring along your old pal, “Multi-Sourcing Crit-Think Andy (short for Android) Personal Assistant.”  Ask him to listen – he’s better at that, you know, than you are….:).

Get  him to follow the pattern of the rhetoric and the plausibility of the psychology of the argument being made. If we take the case of “Shakespeare” as normative, what is Professor Shapiro telling us, exactly, about “creativity,” or the “imagination,” or any of those other abstractions in which the truth of the Shakespearean biography is usually draped to insure its suitability for polite society?  Is he really saying that Elizabethans were that much more imaginative than we are?  So, like, the Bard, when he went clacking over his list of composition topics and got to “life” he found nothing filed there worth even a few syllables in one of his legal plays? — and no need for it because his “imagination” was simply so comprehensively disassociated from anything worldly?

O hard existence!  That such an Angelo should rule  in his absence….but back to our topic, education doesn’t matter much. He didn’t go to College. Books? You don’t need very many of them (Plutarch and Holinshed, Professor Shapiro assures us).  Hard work? Nah. Not really. It’s……“genius.” That, plus first class “connections” which disappear without leaving a historical trace of any plausible consequence!

Hmmm. Turn Andy upside down and ask him what he thinks. I guarantee you, a whole lot more than a whole bunch of folks with letters of advanced degrees falling all over them like confetti.

Shakespeare has vanished entirely, without ever leaving a trace of himself, not even in “As You Like It,” or “Measure for Measure,” let alone “Troilus and Cressida.”

And our newest world authority on the biography of Shakespeare, ladies and gentlemen, has………[give us a nice big drumroll, Michael K.] never written a biography of the bard. Yep. He was way too smart too try that.

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In the course of composing this blog – which was a lot of fun – I chanced on some surprising discoveries about Dr. Waugaman. It seems that unbeknownst to me Rick is actually a member of the Chattanooga High School class of 1966. The school’s motto is “truth,” “power,” and “honor.”

 

About the author

Roger Stritmatter is a native liberal humorist who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Contrary to rumor, he does not live on North Avenue. He does, however, work on North Avenue. A pacifist by inclination, one of his heroes is John Brown. But he thinks that Fredrick Douglass, another of his heroes, made the right decision. Stritmatter's primary areas of interest include the nature of paradigm shifts, the history of ideas, and renaissance literature, the latter a field in which he has published extensively

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