What It Is
Literature is about something. To say “that was an amusing piece of drivel” is tantamount to – my time, my life is so meaningless that any tawdry bit of amusement is welcome. Not a good thing. No, your limited time of life should mean a whole lot. It should be important, of great value to yourself and others. But how to convince anyone of that?
What purpose is there to life? The obvious answer is – each person decides their own purpose. So how can I criticize the reader of amusing drivel? Is that person’s purpose not as legitimate as any other. Perhaps. Self-amusement appears to be the predominant purpose in the world today. So should we judge that to be a good thing or a bad thing? It would be difficult to put into perspective. I think of Nero fiddling while Rome burned. One could argue that Nero should have been doing something about the fire – attending to the lives of the citizenry. After all, that was his job. But that’s our perspective. Nero could counter “I define my role as emperor and fiddling as Rome burns is my definition of good governance.” So in that respect, it’d be hard to argue with him. But we do. We think he should’ve maybe been more attentive to the welfare of the people. So why not extend that to everyone? “Nah man, I can fuckin smoke crack and watch cartoons…somebody else can be a fireman or a teacher or whatever.” Or I can read or write amusing drivel because it entertains me, and somebody else can be a doctor or policeman. I’m fucking busy… doing nothing.
Now I can’t very well argue Kant’s will to duty, because I think its degrading. It’s as if we each were a cog in a system, and our little contribution was somehow essential to keeping the system running. My own leaning is more toward Nietzsche’s will to power, where each individual is pushed to maximize their own potential. But these opposing concepts have a commonality – obligation.
One wonders where the fuck obligation came from? Why am I obliged to do anything. And again, hard to argue that point, except to refer back to Nero. If we expect people to repair roads, keep the streets safe, the water sanitized, the air pure, and the kids quiet.Shouldn’t we in turn expect something of ourselves. To do our part as it were. That fucking obligation thing again. And the obvious answer is yes -for things to work, we have to work them.
Consider an idyllic society – the American plains Indian, bunch of folks sitting around in a veritable garden of Eden. After several days, people get hungry. The chief says “God, please send a buffalo”. There’s a time lag, as God is busy with lots of stuff, but eventually buffalo appears. The people look at it, somewhat dismayed. Chief says “God, would you mind skinning and cooking said beast?”.
No, all that sorta stuff would be up to us. To make things work, we have to work them. And to make a society work, the writer needs to show the way. Not with amusing drivel, but with great art that means something, that means everything.