Stating that "at present I have nothing much to say (and linked with this) no imaginative sense of an audience," Bruce Charlton has announced that he is suspending his blogging at Bruce Charlton's Notions.
Though I respect Dr. Charlton's decision, I would be lying if I said I will not miss reading his blog on a daily basis, which I have done for the better part of four years. As with any blog, I did not always agree with everything Dr. Charlton posted, but nearly all of his posts contained kernels of wisdom and insight that forced me to think more deeply. I contacted him personally on a few occasions over the years; his replies were always prompt, courteous, and thoughtful.
I hope Bruce's absence will not be permament. Regardless, I wish him the best and thank him for the exceptional work he posted on his blog.
I am in a place I have not been for many years. I do not know what to call this place, since it is not an actual place at all, but rather a place in the mind. After many years of dormancy, my imagination is awakening again. I am beginning to conceptualize ideas, characters, and themes that are slowly being structured into a narrative framework. In the coming months, I imagine I will begin recording the narrative in writing.
In the meantime, I am allowing these initial surges of creativity to play out. I do not spend much time consciously thinking about them - I simply let them all permeate. The best ideas or notions come to me as I walk to and from the train station before work and after my day at the university is done. It's a half-hour walk each way and during that time I let my mind wander as I traverse the farm fields that separate Fertőendréd, where I live, from Petőháza, the town in which I catch the train. I pass a cemetery, two churches, a stone statue of the Virgin Mary, and many houses and small-town businesses as I walk to and from the station, but I barely notice these things on a conscious level. I began walking to the train shortly after Christmas as part of an effort to get back and shape and keep myself fit, but physical exercise is no longer my primary motivation for walking to the train and walking home. During these walks, I am purely in the world of imagination. It's good to be back in this place of the mind again and I'm curious to know what the result of this most recent creative stirring will be.
Very few writers understand the inherent horrors and dangers of ideology as well as Fyodor Dostoevsky. His dark political and social satire Demons, first published in 1871-72, centers around a small town that suffers the rather catastrophic consequences of an attempted revolution. In the novel, Dostoevsky portrays the revolutionaries, who of course see their aims as noble and virtuous, as demons - not in the literal sense, but rather in the sense of being possessed by a demonic power that propels them to commit the most horrific crimes and outrages under the banner of goodness, justice, and humanity. The novel has several different titles in English: The Possessed, The Devils, and Demons. Interestingly enough, each title works because it essentially encapsulates Dostoevsky's profound insight that those that seek to improve the world through the vehicle of ideology end up being consumed by and thus possessed by the ideology, which becomes a satanic force that leads to the destruction of all, including the revolutionaries themselves.
I read the novel about twenty-five years ago (a beat-up paperback copy titled The Possessed) and I remember being incredibly moved by it. Though I recall the overall plot and some of the characters, my most lasting impression was the tragedy Dostoevsky masterfully invokes as the revolutionaries become possessed by the ideology they wield, the horrible descent that occurs when their ideology poisons their souls leaving them in a desert of political and moral nihilism where violence becomes the only viable solution to the obstacles they face. Put briefly, it is an intense, violent, and deeply-troubling novel that is made all the more profound by its uncanny prophetic vision (remember, the Bolshevik Revolution flared up a mere half-century after Demons was published and Russia eventually became privy to horrors the likes of which the world has rarely seen).
When I look at the world today, I see people from across the political spectrum firmly entrenched in the gutters of ideology. In the West, ideology reigns supreme. Like Dostoevsky's revolutionaries, many of today's ideologues are possessed, beyond the point of no-return. I am wary of these kinds of people and I humbly suggest that you should be wary of them too. I plan to re-read Dostoevsky's masterpiece in the coming weeks; I firmly believe doing so will fortify my sensibilities when it comes to the dangers of ideologies. If you want a better understanding the force that fuels contemporary ideologues, I can offer no better novel and I humbly suggest you allow yourself to be Possessed by Demons or Devils in order to be able to identify and gain a better understanding of the possessed demons and devils that lurk among us. The times may have changed, but the demonic forces behind ideology have not
The book is available free ebook on Project Gutenberg among other sites:
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Blog posts tend to be spontaneous, unpolished, first draft entries ranging from the insightful and periodically profound to the poorly-argued and occasionally disparaging.
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Blogs/Sites I Read
Bruce Charlton's Notions
Meeting the Masters
From The Narrow Desert
Twisting the Tail of the Cosmos
Deep Britain and Ireland