Monday, August 04, 2008

Exactly Why I Am So Viscerally Frustrated by College, the Dire Intellectual Presuppositions of the Liberal First-World in General

A human being lives out not only his personal life as an individual, but also, consciously or subconsciously, the lives of his epoch and contemporaries; and although he may regard the general and impersonal foundations of his existence as unequivocal givens and take them for granted, having as little intention of ever subjecting them to critique as our good Hans Castorp himself had, it is nevertheless quite possible that he senses his own moral well-being to be somehow impaired by the lack of critique. All sorts of personal goals, purposes, hopes, prospects may float before the eyes of a given individual, from which he may then glean the impulse for exerting himself for great deeds; if the impersonal world around him, however, if the times themselves, despite all their hustle and bustle, provide him with neither hopes nor prospects, if they secretly supply him with evidence that things are in fact hopeless, without prospect or remedy, if the times respond with hollow silence to every conscious or subconscious question, however it may be posed, about the ultimate, unequivocal meaning of all exertions and deeds that are more than exclusively personal - then it is almost inevitable, particularly if the personal involved is a more honest sort, that the situation will have a crippling effect, which, following moral and spiritual paths, may even spread to that individual's physical and organic life. For a person to be disposed to more significant deeds that go beyond what is simply required of him - even when his own times may provide no satisfactory answer to the question of why - he needs either a rare, heroic personality that exists in a kind of moral isolation and immediacy, or one characterized by exceptionally robust vitality.

- Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain


Lily said...

I moved up one spot on the waitlist (Hello, #3). I should probably buy this book.

Matt said...

It would be tite with an "i" if you got in. Chances are, if you show up having read the thing and do well on the test (oh yes, hallelujah, there are tests) the first day he'll let you in. Professors can smell literary un-dumbassery a mile away. But you know this.

And you should buy the book anyway - it's really great.