The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives


A sea monster about to get the wrong end of the stick

Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, one cannot judge or admire this particular society by assuming that the language it speaks to itself is necessarily true.

—Guy Debord (The Society of the Spectacle, trans. Ken Knabb, §202)

I am in a book group or class (I suppose it’s a class, but it feels more like a book group) about the moral implications of bad behavior by artists. These vary, obviously. The group hasn’t really defined art, though, except in large, loosey-goosey terms that encompass everything from Finnegans Wake to finger-painting to a documentary on public access television, which has rather limited the course of the conversation.1 Within its neatly defined structure, the conversation goes on well enough, though, and there is plenty to think about. Usually I end up with lines of poetry (that no one has quoted but memory has prompted) stuck in my head – ‘In luck or out the toil has left its mark: / That old perplexity an empty purse, / Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse’ or ‘If Napoleon if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it if I told him if I told him if Napoleon’. Other books linger silently, living shades, at the edges of the conversation, but of course no conversation can contain everything.

All my life I have overheard, all my life I have listened to what people will let slip when they think you are part of their we. A we is so powerful. It is the most corrupt and formidable institution on earth. Its hands are full of the crispest and most persuasive currency. Its mouth is full of received, repeating language. The we closes its ranks to protect the space inside it, where the air is different. It does not protect people. It protects its own shape.

—Patricia Lockwood (Priestdaddy, p. 111)

  1. Which, sure, fine. The only thing that has not been mentioned is ‘the sublime’, which makes me sad, because it seems relevant, but I am so poorly socialized I haven’t managed to think of a way to bring it up without seeming like a godawful twerp; I mentioned Plato once and it will take me several weeks to live it down. []


ego hoc feci mm–MMXXIV · cc 2000–2024 M.F.C.