Re: the blessings of ignorance

From: Jim Rovira <>
Date: Tue Jan 07 2003 - 08:56:07 EST

That's the thing, though, Scottie, you can't know either way until you've
learned the material and made that decision for yourself. I respect your
response to the corrida because you went all the way through the experience and
came out the other side. I don't think you can properly reject a thing until
you've understood it, and you understood it. I can imagine the squeamish
rejecting it out of hand. But then they'd never understand the appeals it has
for those who participate in it, no?

Point is, they'd never understand it.

Hitler's _Mein Kampf_ is another thing. We don't really need to experience the
mass murder of 6 million people to know it's an awful thing. We don't need to
read the book to know the mind behind it was twisted -- we saw what it has
done. A close reading would probably yield the reasons for the twisting and
the nature of the twisting, that's all.

The ideas we're talking about are hardly equivalent to genocide, though. To
imply this is the make light of the fact of genocide, to diminish its horror,
to make it a cliche.

I think the point you should notice about your experience of the corrida is not
that it changed, but that you changed. You grew out of being an adolescent
male. Ideas are like that too. Sometimes they serve their purposes for
awhile, then you grow out of them. They always still leave their imprint --
you're always a different person for having held them, even if only once, long
ago -- but you still outgrow them.

The ideas we've been talking about here are like that. They have made their
impression upon western thinking. We need to take them into account in our
future thinking. We need to address them, to disagree with them or account for
them, they're so compelling.

But that's difficult to see until you understand them.


PS I suspect your impressions of the group at Trinity College were about as
much the product of who you were as they were the product of who they were. I
find it unlikely that _everyone_ in that department was as _completely_
uncharitable as you describe. I think someone at the top created an atmosphere
of paranoia that affected everyone there, but I doubt that everyone there
participated in it to the same degree...

Scottie Bowman wrote:

> Jim is a great man for the 'if you haven't tried, don't knock it'
> or the 'familiarity breeds respect' position.
> But I'm not so sure.
> When, in my adolescence, I first fell in love with Hemingway
> & read 'Death in the Afternoon' I became obsessed with the corrida.
> In due course, I'd read all the available texts & acquired a fair grasp
> of the history, the technical terms, the tragic principles & so on.
> I eventually attended the real thing - about a dozen of them -
> & was thrilled. By suppressing, as Ernie prescribed, certain
> instinctive reactions of disgust & sympathy I was able to appreciate
> - you can't imagine how deeply - the whole moving metaphor
> of mortality, courage, the way things are, etc, etc, etc.
> But then, don't ask my how, the sun rose & I saw in its unforgiving
> light just what a mindless, obscenely cruel load of bullshit, supported
> by self-deluding tourist trash & native canaille, the whole shebang
> actually was.
> In this instance, knowledge had blinded me to the obvious.
> Is it possible a more 'respectful reading' (as John so frequently
> recommends) of Mein Kampf would shed the kind of light I've
> so far missed on the justification for Auschwitz? And how it is,
> I wonder, that in my day in Trinity the Regius Professors of Divinity
> & Theology, alongwith their various lecturers & clerical hangers-on,
> were just about the most unappealing, uncharitable, mutually paranoid,
> vicious bunch of poison dwarves I ever encountered in my life?
> I accept that Practice makes Perfect. I wonder, though, about Study.
> Scottie B.
> -
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Received on Tue Jan 7 09:03:23 2003

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