Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What's suffering worth?

After taking the month of August off, am feeling rather European. Spent time in French Canada, albeit briefly, with the kids visiting the Granby Zoo in Quebec province. I have never waited in line quite so long for a hamburger as I did there, and never had an amusement park hamburger that tasted quite so good. They were cooking them to order, unlike an American system in which they'd be piled up high by type in the warmer tray. They even toasted the buns and added edible slices of tomato and lettuce.

Am trying to work my way back into writing after a dreadful summer, and in one of those funks where existential questioning seems to be the order of the day.

In that eastern European vein, someone seems to have stumbled across some posts I made quite a while ago about political poetry in which I was throwing around some ideas about American vs. eastern European political poetry and taken offense. I thought I had managed to completely screw up the comments feature on this blog by repeatedly turning it on and off, and it seemed to default to a mode where it was impossible to leave a comment. Yet this person managed to post one--negative of course--I don't think people ever leave positive comments on blogs. Especially ones they stumble across.

She seemed to object to my postulating in my own off-hand way that eastern European political poetry takes moral stances that are difficult to disagree or argue with. And, of course, took me to task for admitting that I had not read deeply in those genres--yes, the easy rhetorical slam--let not someone who hasn't written a dissertation about something have an opinion, even one for which they admit they may not know everything anyway. I have read some of Milosz and like him, and have started to read some Herbert and also like him.

But I still think that eastern European political poetry takes a moral stance toward its subject matter that can be impervious to criticism precisely because of the nature of the subject matter. So I'm interested to know how I am right or wrong about this, and to think further about what the reader's response is to such poetry. I still think there's a saintliness to this poetry that can be a little irritating: a quality perhaps earned through suffering, but what badge of honor does suffering rightly earn you?

I suffer, my son suffers. And there are times I feel morally justified in my anger or outrage about something that's being done to him, but I also feel around the edges at those times that I'm taking advantage of an emotional situation by presenting an impermeable moral wall to whomever I'm confronting. And I don't always know that any of these people actually deserve to be shamed. And sometimes, they push right back, questioning my semblance of moral superiority. I don't much like it, but it happens. Suffering does not make saintliness. Not on its own. I don't know what does.

Only a few people regularly read this blog, and occasionally people stumble across it. So there are very few readers. If you can figure out how to leave a comment and want to do so, fine. But don't blast me for admitting ignorance and trying to sort through an intellectual issue. If anyone actually wants to leave a comment, leave something that engages in conversation, not something that attempts to blast or belittle me. I finished graduate school over a decade ago--I've no interest in intellectual one-ups-manship.

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