Due to my lack of activity over the past few months, some have likely assumed that I have abandoned this site, blog, and writing. Rest assured, I have not. Truth is, I have been busy with other things, but I have vowed to become more active again in the near future after my vacation time starts. In the meantime, I will provide more proof that I am still alive and well. Here's a recent and rather silly photo of me hanging out with some friends and enjoying the warm weather near Sopron, Hungary.
From here on, I will treat this blog more like a journal and abandon any ulterior motives about platform building and other such rubbish I may have entertained in the past.
These Dark Web guys, Jordan Peterson included, are apparently mainstream now.
It was a pleasure and honor to translate the second edition of Ferenc Horvath's Különc Borvidék (A Distinctive Wine Region), which covers the history of Sopron's wine culture. Unfortunately, the printers omitted the article "A" on the cover, but the rest of the translation turned out quite well, in my humble opinion.
The book will be in Hungarian bookstores soon.
My University of Sopron colleague, Ákos Vörös, edited this book on the National Memorial Cemetery and was kind enough to ask me translate the introduction for him. Natually I was honored. Thanks, Ákos.
Link for the book here.
I watched this a week ago and found it to be a decent introduction to Nietzsche's life and work. The program does not plumb any great depths, but for a BBC television program, it is not bad at all. Those who have never read Nietzsche, but would like to, might find it particularly helpful.
Most people generally regard gratitude as a positive virtue and in most cases it is; nevertheless, not all examples of gratitude are virtuous. As with other virtues, gratitude has a dark side that is rarely considered. I have written about negative forms of gratitude in my novel and short stories and have included a short list of some kinds of negative gratitude I have explored in my writing.
Gratitude for evil deeds or actions of others.
This one is quite obvious. Showing or feeling appreciation for the evil deeds and actions of others is not virtuous in any way, shape, or form. If anything, it is little more than indulging in a form vicarious revenge or sadism. Regardless of whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, this form of gratitude makes you an accomplice in the evil deed.
Gratitude for the misfortune of others.
The German word Schadenfreude (harm/joy) perfectly captures the essence of this kind of negative gratitude. Experiencing satisfaction at the misfortune, ill-luck, failure, or humiliation of another is nothing more than malice. Though this kind of gratitude may bring pleasure, it is hardly a respectable form of gratitude.
Gratitude for the possibility of shirking ones duties and responsibilities.
Everyone appreciates a snow day now and then, but feeling grateful for being given the opportunity to shirk your duties and responsibilities when the possibility of fulfilling those duties and responsibilities is viable is false gratitude. It reeks of irresponsibility and immaturity.
Gratitude for getting away with lies and evil acts.
A common example of this is the unfaithful husband who is grateful that his wife knows nothing of his illicit affairs. Another is the relief one feels when one is able to float a lie past someone else. Regardless, the gratitude one feels is often short-lived, for lies often have a way of resurfacing later until they are ultimately revealed.
Gratitude as an excuse for accepting something suboptimal when a more optimal option can be attained.
Being grateful for little things is virtuous, but there is nothing virtuous about sacrificing one’s potential for the contentment of little things. Of course, there is nothing wrong with contentment, but gratitude that is content with small things breeds a false sense of satisfaction that could prove limiting and harmful in the long-term. This kind of gratitude inspires passivity and acceptance. It is the gratitude of the coward and the slave – there is no dignity or nobility in it.
There are a few others, but these shall suffice for now. On the whole, gratitude is a virtue, but not all forms of gratitude are virtuous. Negative gratitude is an interesting subject to include in novels and stories, but one should be aware of them in life as well.
Over the past five or six years, I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about gratitude, its various aspects, and the role it might play in the pursuit of a fulfilling life. I plan to record some of these observations in a series of blogposts over the next week or so. Some observations or insights may even be original.
A Few Thoughts on Gratitude: Candlelight in the darkness
When I wake up in the morning, I remind myself to be grateful. I draw a deep breath and appreciate the opportunity of having been given another day. I savour this feeling for a moment or two before contemplating the sombre idea that the day ahead could also mark the day my existence in this world ends because, whether I accept it or not, I know that day is out there waiting for me. Rather than instilling terror or depression, this realization deepens my sense of gratitude. If the day ahead does hold my demise, I am comforted by the notion that my life on this Earth has been and continues to be filled with immense blessings. Verily, my life, like all lives, has had its share of misfortunes, failures, blunders, tragedies, pain, and suffering, but it has also had its share of good fortune, success, victories, joy, and vitality. As strange as it sounds, I am thankful for both the positive and the negative, for they have both taught me much.
Though my sense of gratitude is usually bright, there have been calamities or episodes of ill health that have reduced it to a mere, dull flickering. When faced with challenging times when it seemed I had nothing for which to be grateful, I have always made a point of maintaining and nurturing my gratitude as if it were the soft glow of a candle flame. Like a small flame from a candle, I have come to recognize that even a minute amount of gratitude has the uncanny power push back against darkness and puncture the oppression of night’s formless boundaries.
Also like a candle flame, I am aware that gratitude can become vulnerable and exposed when confronted by dark challenges. A careless breath, the slightest air movement, a small drop of water can all quickly snuff out a candle flame. Similarly, a careless thought, the slightest loss of perspective, a small drop of despair can extinguish the flame of gratitude. If I allow the flame to go out, I know the amorphous, chaotic darkness will be quick to invade and reclaim the space the flame once occupied. If I do not relight the candle, the darkness will remain; I know that if I remain in the darkness for too long, it will consume me.
Therefore, I have come to the realization that it is crucial to keep the candle of gratitude lit during challenging times. Whenever I am confronted by hardship, I carefully cup and guard the flame with my hand as I make my way in the darkness. Though the light gratitude casts may appear weak and insignificant, the illumination is often enough to help me safely navigate through the darkness until sunrise. In this sense, gratitude is akin to hope. During times when it seemed sunrise would never come, that little fleck of light provided enough illumination to ward off the tempting nihilism and meaninglessness that lay hidden in the darkness. Thus, even in moments when I was sure despair would overcome me, I used the dim glow of the candlelight to discover or create something for which I could be grateful.
When I go to bed at night, the last feeling I experience before I close my eyes is gratitude – even if the day had not been a good one, I cannot help but appreciate the opportunity of having experienced it. I keep the candle burning all night and when morning comes, I quickly light a fresh one when I remind myself to be grateful after I open my eyes.
There is a person I followed for a little while on social media who, until recently, provided some fairly interesting and unique insights into Shakespeare and Elizabethan poetry. He recorded his observations, posted them on YouTube, and attained a small, but loyal following of people who were authentically interested in the material he presented. This artist/scholar later received some publicity when he appeared in a series of videos featuring a famous academic. In these videos, they discussed the deeper implications of poetry from the Elizabethan era and applied some of the themes and concepts to the contemporary landscape of ideas. Naturally, interest in the artist/scholar grew after these videos, which, in my opinion, is a good thing.
He has real talent, this artist/scholar guy. He possesses some deep poetical insights and writes some great poems himself. Then one day he posted a video in which he analyzed a vapid science fiction movie. To his astonishment, the application of the ideas he had expressed in his earlier Shakespearean and poetry videos proved to be quite popular when grafted onto the sci-fi blockbuster. His sci-fi interpretation earned ten times as many views as his earlier videos. His following on social media increased significantly and his reach expanded markedly. Once again, this is a good thing.
However, our artist/scholar sensed an opportunity after his sci-fi video and quickly made a few more videos focusing on pop culture movies. Unsurprisingly, the Shakespearean side of his analyses began to fade and grow fainter with each pop culture video he made. I imagine the Shakespeare stuff will likely be eclipsed by whatever popular movie he happens to examine in the near future. I may be proven wrong, but I predict he will do fewer Shakespearean and Elizabethan videos in the future until, one day, he will abandon them altogether for the simple fact that they do not garner nearly as much interest as his Hollywood film interpretations do. (Nor do they, hypothetically, garner as many Patreon dollars, etc.) A few of his original followers have voiced mild objections about the Hollywood stuff. The artist/scholar responded by stating that he is planning to alternate between his original material and his newfound pop culture interpretations. To me it sounds a little like he plans to serve two masters.
So what? An individual can choose to do what they want, and besides aren’t modern Hollywood movies just an extension of Shakespearean drama which itself is merely an extension of older narratives? There is no harm in trying to hook an audience that may not have had exposure to these earlier narratives, right?
Yes, yes, of course.
So, what is the big deal then?
Well, nothing . . . and everything.
You see, I fear the poetry guy is falling into a trap. He is turning away from what truly made him great and has started pandering. He is indulging the baser tastes of the masses. The question is - to what end? Is he truly trying to enlighten the broader public whose conception of culture rarely rises above Hollywood schlock or is he merely working on building a larger audience base from which he hopes to extract a greater amount of fame and money? Is he remaining true to his roots, or is he selling out? I cannot answer that question, but I have my suspicions. I imagine the artist/scholar justifies his current course of action by telling himself that his real goal is to use his Hollywood movie interpretations to expose his new viewers and followers to Shakespeare and Elizabethan poetry, which, he will argue, they never would have even considered had they not stumbled across his pop culture videos. Maybe a few of these new viewers will even become Shakespearean scholars themselves, thus fortifying the field and spreading the glory of the immortal bard to an ever wider group of people.
Yeah, okay. Except that probably will not happen. The twin lure of money and fame can lead many astray, and the stench of potential money and fame is overpoweringly potent the closer one gets to the formless, faceless masses. The more attention he gains from the mainstream mob, the more inspired he might become to please their whims and fancies until, one fine day, he will find himself doing nothing but yielding to the fickle demands of the vulgar crowd. Rather than wooing people to discover the refined elegance of Elizabethan poetry, he may become the one who is wooed away from the refined elegance of Elizabethan poetry.
Our poetry scholar may thus end up very much like Pandarus, the mythical/fictional figure from which the modern word pander draws its source. Pandarus first appears in Homer's The Illiad as a bold and fierce Trojan aristocratic warrior. He is a noble character - strong and worthy of respect. Yet centuries later in the play Troillus and Cressida, Shakespeare depicts Pandarus as a degenerated, aged lecher and coward who caters to male desires by serving to arrange access to female sexual favors. In short, Pandarus is reduced to the stature of a pimp.
Though the underlying sexual conotation of the word pander has faded, this latter depiction of Pandarus is where our contemporary definition of the verb comes from. People who choose to pander are essentially pimps - they sell out the thing they should respect and cherish to quench the vulgar and base desire of others all in the hope that the transaction will yield immense personal benefits.
Once again, I can sympathize with those who might object to my criticisms concerning pandering. After all, all artists and thinkers engaged in building larger audiences for themselves are pandering in some manner or other, are they not?
Well, it depends. Ask yourself this: Does the artist's promotion involve some kind of betrayal, however small?
I approach the topic with a rather straightforward line of thinking . . .
Artists and thinkers of integrity do not pander; those who pander cease to be artists and thinkers of integrity.
Therefore, one of the unwritten ten commandments artists and thinkers must follow if they desire to be taken seriously in all things aesthetic or intellectual is:
Thou shalt not pander.
It really is that simple.
I wish the poetry guy a lot of luck. I sincerely do. Perhaps my criticism of him is off the mark. Perhaps I am being too cynical. Regardless, I hope the audience he is currently chasing supplies him with all he desires. He should be careful though - there is a price to be paid for seeking the favor of men; it often requires placing that above or at the expense of something much higher and far more significant.
Note: My Elizabethan scholar above is a fictional representation of a real artist and thinker who focuses on other matters and who, in my humble opinion, has fallen to the sin of pandering. He recently asked his followers if they would like to hear him interpret the new superhero film, Black Panther. (Hey, why not? It is really popular and controversial, you know.) Perhaps he should call the video, "My Take on Black Pander" or something like that. Just an idea.
Author of The City of Earthly Desire and the forthcoming Fallen Men. I am following the white stag to wherever it will lead me . . .
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