December 30, 2010

Thoughts for the End of the Year

Dear Friends (aka DAA42)-

As the year comes to a close, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you about the past 4.5 yrs (when, under severe pressure from agent and editor, I agreed to start this blog) and the next few. I'm glad, in retrospect, that I knuckled under to pressure from these folks, as the evolution of this blog has taught me a lot; and it's been great getting to know you guys, if only virtually. It took a while to shake out, as I recently explained: the self-advertising and the severely neurotic have (thank god) departed for greener pastures, and what is left is a group of thoughtful people who want to reflect on what's happening to the US and where we are collectively going. Art, Dave, Susan, Tim, Joe, El Juero, Mike (et al.)--thank you for being there, and for contributing as much as you have.

I suspect the next 2-3 years are going to be quite fateful for the US, and not in a good way. I very much doubt there is anything substantive any of us can do to derail America from its destructive, self-defeating course. But we can attend to our souls a bit; at least there's that. With that in mind, here is a quote from Marilynne Robinson's recent book, Absence of Mind. She writes of

"...that haunting I who wakes us in the night wondering where time has gone, the I we waken to, sharply aware that we have been unfaithful to ourselves, that a life lived otherwise would have acknowledged a yearning more our own than any of the daylit motives whose behests we answer so diligently....I am hungry, I am comfortable, I am a singer, I am a cook. The abrupt descent into particularity in every statement of this kind, Being itself made an auxiliary to some momentary accident of being, may only startle in the dark of the night, when the intuition comes that there is no proportion [i.e., relationship] between the great given of existence and the narrow vessel of circumstance into which it is inevitably forced [Heidegger: thrown]...The soul [is simply] a name for an aspect of deep experience...."

To all of you, a happy and soulful 2011.



Anonymous Peter said...

And from this readers perspective, Morris, finding such an erudite and challenging friend in this strange new land has been soul-satisfying. Made me pick up "Twilight" recently, the reading of which has me musing on being a modern-day monk, and what I might pass on to my 14 year old son. Sometimes I wish you'd post more often, but then I find myself re-reading and gaining more. By the way, wanted to give a plug to Frantzen's new novel "Freedom". As it is getting such raves in the reading world, I am curious what many Americans make of his sub-text. Through the voice of his main character he passionately rages against conditions in America that we talk about here, and in the hands of such a great writer, it is powerful indeed. Well worth your time, if such novels are of interest.
Thanks again, hope you'll keep posting in 2011 (almost thought you were saying goodbye, in the way you started this post out).

10:30 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

2011: the year your poetry book, the third volume of your America series, and (perhaps) your novel all get published. Surely one of them will be an Oprah's Book Club selection!

10:38 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

MB, You have my sincere wishes for a happy and productive New Year, as you continue to ponder the possibility of progress, and savor the present moment as it is. You are blessed by being in a country where you are more likely than not to have encounters with people who are still in touch with what it means to be human.

I would like to present to you and this community a question that still puzzles me after formulating it with a sense of foreboding, if not despair, during the run-up to the Iraq War:

Can you address the astounding ability of the right to frame issues way more effectively than the left (or the exasperating ability of the left to effectively counter such abilities).

From catch phrases ("Tax relief," "death panels") to just about every soundbite from GOP leaders, the ideological war is over before the debate begins, and is undermined in progress because of the lack of objection to the basis for the terms that are used.

While it is easy to see how the mainstream media is complicit in this due to being profit-making entities serving shareholders economic and political interests (100% identical, of course), it has always puzzled me how the Democrats and their media flaks can never pull the rug out from the "Big Lies," while humble ol' I can come up with succinct and strategic responses or pre-emptive framing that I wait in vain to see.

It is also easy to see that the GOP has no trouble speaking bluntly, since they overtly serve business interests, while the Dems are always in the awkward position of having to appear to fight for the people while serving the same business interests, but that doesn't explain their inability to even play a good game. They allow themselves to be swift-boated all the time.

Happy New Year, all. Pop a cork and sound off.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Thank you Maury, for all of your work, your thoughts, and that portion of Being you chose to force into the narrow channels of the virtual. You have touched me, personally, through your books and the directness of your prose here in the virtual. You have moved me in many ways that, like Being itself, I can only glimpse, from the side, as a peripheral figure, always there, a daemon, the Other Voice, that of which we cannot speak lest it be made into a mean thing, a dead thing, a thing that might be spoken to death. Words fail, but the heart stirs, still. Somehow, in Taoist fashion, you manage to call into existence that which you cannot call by any name, a whir of meaning that, like "spokes in a wheel", reveals its pattern the faster it spins -- a stable patten out of the buzz and hum of life, a portion of meaning out beyond the tomb of language. I have met death and life here; I have met joy and sadness; I have met the Balance of the World through the chaos of excess, a still-incomplete verse, a yet-to-be-resolved chord, plucked by the mind, completing itself in the heart.

Thank you.

And, Happy New Year to all.

With love,

2:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thank u all for your kind response. Art, u shd know that Oprah makes an appearance in my novel; which I'm hoping will hit the stands by May.

Now y'all go out and get roaring drunk, y'hear?

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


You might be interested in Jerry Mander's Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, circa 1980 or so, wherein he shows quite clearly that negative, visceral images & ideas communicate directly & instantly to the viewer. They require no thought, no reflection -- and in fact, they don't allow for it, as a primal emotional response crowds out everything else. This is why all politicians go negative as election day gets closer, since it's easier to stir the voters by getting them angry & frightened, rather than asking them to thoughtfully consider the issues.

For the new year, may we all find some positive ways to live our own lives, in the midst of what will undoubtedly be an increasingly sorry state of affairs for America.

Here's to a personally meaningful 2011, everyone!

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

My list to shore up coping skills for the new year.

* Spend more time with someone you care about.
* Read something that challenges your thinking or comforts your soul.
* Spend more time in nature.
* Eat healthy...if you can't eat healthy - enjoy whatever it is you do eat.
* Appreciate beauty.
* Listen to good music or better yet make some.
* Paint a picture..use crayons if paint isn't available..sketch with a pencil if you don't have crayons.. use your hands and sculpt something if you don't have a pencil. Art is good for the soul.
* Live consciously but love with abandon.
* Plant something... anything - and watch it grow over time.
* Notice wildlife around you..
* Find and enjoy laugh out loud humor...
(Watch reruns of Seinfeld when necessary).

It's the simple pleasures that make life worth the trip.

Happy New Year!

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. B,
One of the most poignant and important parts of my year was finding your blog and posting here. Since I was a freshman in college and discovered "Twilight" in a secondhand bookstore, you have been an inspiration to me, a voice in the dark. This blog has been a "safe place" to have the dicussion that I have been wanting to have these many years now.
You are El Maestro, and you rock. Happy new year, my friend.


6:52 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman and friends,

I'm glad the slave drivers at your publishing company forced this blog into existence. Your posts and the responses from the faithful (and transient) contributors have shown me how many intelligent and thoughtful people there really are out there in the internet ether (I think that's what it's called). Reading your books, Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, Hedges, Bagenant and others can be depressing and friends have asked my why I read and recommend them. I'd rather be told the truth rather than sweet, comforting lies and have the pain I see around me acknowledged. It's that simple. Keep up the good work in 2011 and we'll all keep reading your books and sending them on.

America will be a banana republic by the end of this new decade b/c there's no stopping it now. I do hope (and maybe it's against all evidence) that we'll rediscover community and goodwill. When the Chinese symbol of ying/yang was explained to me I asked what the white dot in the black and the black dot in the white meant. I was told the white meant even in the heart of darkness were seeds of light and the black dot illustrated that even in what appeared to be good the seeds of its own destruction were present. So maybe this will result in a better America than we can presently envision.

Happy New Year to all!

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Mr. D said...

Happy New Year, MB et. al. -- I sure do appreciate this blog and the topics you all discuss. I've enjoyed reading your books MB, since "Coming To Our Senses," but the conversational tone here is a real pleasure as well. Just got myself a copy of Nishitani's "Self-Overcoming of Nihilism" for Christmas, which is a merry way to kick off the New Year, wot?

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

I know we got off on the wrong foot with regard to 9-11, but your writings, interviews and this blog has kept my sanity this past year and I am deeply grateful for it.
Yes, this year will be truly awful and I'm not referring to the Middle Ages meaning of "full of awl" by the way. Social security and social spending will be greatly cut back, Obama will probably find another 2-3 countries to bomb in addition to the 6 he has already bombed, unemployment, forclosures well, you get the point. And even if suddenly a large majority of the American people realize they've been had by corporate capitalism it will be too late. There is no way to escape the mounting debts this country has incurred.
To Dharmaguerrilla, it makes absolutely no difference which party is in power. Will both you get war and subserviance to the corporate elite. Hell, Obama had the votes early on for a European style national health care system, but thwarted it because the Democrats did not wish to untether themselves for campaign contributions from both the health care industry and from Big Pharm. In other words, it doesn't matter at all which party is in power. Their loyalties are certainly not to you or me.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


Great advice for the new year. I do my best to live like that. I didn't draw much in 2010, but I did write my first song last spring, inspired by Maury and all of you on this blog.

It's called "Love in the Twilight of America."

11:28 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Happy New Year Dr. Berman et al. I don't make any comments here but am very thankful for this blog and the knowledgeable folks that comment.

Don't know if you're aware of this but Naomi Prins has your recent book of essays as one of her top 10 books of the year.


10:46 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...


Thanks for remembering us "transients" who are so... overwhelmed by the intensity of feeling triggered by this blog that we can only bring ourselves to post occasionally - we spend the time in between posts just...recovering from the last post and storing up energy for the next one. Its like Christians in China - they may not communicate with the pope all that much but despite their long silences they are busy in their walled, traumatized compounds constructing shrines to spurious saints/victims of the Boxer Rebellion and other derivative, garbled folk versions of the theology they silently subscribe to but dare not proclaim to their neighbors.

Speaking of which, in the coming dark age, as the DAA42 safely settle behind the walls of their metaphorical new monasteries, please remember to extend succour to "transients" who might be passing by. We may be calling Leibovitz a "Saint" by then, but the truth will be, a mysterious figure called the "Maestro" who once visited us long ago really keeps the universe safe.

Happy New Year to all

12:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thanks (as usual) for all your comments. Tikkun olam: the repair of the world. That's our job, to the extent that it can be done.

amor y besos,

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robinson is an interesting character. She writes beautifully and yet she is a Calvinist!

I would argue that it is precisely the hard edged Calvinist mind-set that is the primary generative force of the current crisis - the war against the body and the Pleasure Dome Principle.

The exact opposite of the necessary turn around of Coming To Our Senses.

9:02 PM  
Anonymous heather said...

Happy New Year. Though I don't post on her frequently I will say that before I had read any of your books I felt lost in and endless forest. I am very grateful that my sister introduced to your writings a few years back.
As for what this new year holds I must say doesn't look to promising at least from and economical and political stand point.
Resolutions are hard to stick to (unrealistic ones anyways) so I don't make any, but what I will be doing more of the following: reading more books that make a person think and then sharing those books with friends. Listening to what people are really saying. Spending more time with people I care about without any technology sitting directly in front of our faces. Most of all trying to make this a much prettier and pleasant place in any which way I can. Even if it's only in a very small way by holding a door open or much giving a simple thank-you to someone else who does.

Anyways Happy New Year and thank you for all of the wonderful work!


11:38 PM  
Anonymous Paul Emmons said...

Dharmaguerilla asked:

>Can you address the astounding ability of the right to frame issues way more effectively than the left (or the exasperating [in?]ability of the left to effectively counter such abilities).

My guess would be that Morris has indirectly answered your question when he wrote later in this thread, "Tikkun olam: the repair of the world. That's our job, to the extent that it can be done." Repairing the world requires integrity in a place where it is thin on the ground. That means eschewing the "veneer of fraud" (or words to that effect, as he described it in _Twilight.._) which has become an habitual part of modern American language.

Whatever the short-term expedient gain may be if one tries to combat an ideological meme with another ideological meme, one has become part of the problem. IMHO the concepts of political "right" and "left" themselves are illusory caricatures-- no doubt a handy shorthand sometimes, but essentially irrelevant to Integrity's sense of purpose. It's probably another oversimplication to say this, but to me Morris shows us that the only way a person of integrity can be a true conservative is to be a liberal, and vice versa.

2:11 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dear Maury and fellow bloggers,

I wish all of you a Happy New Year!

May each of you in Keynes's words live "wisely, agreeably, and well" in the coming year and well into the future.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Dharmaguerilla [fighting in the wasteland of samsara]:

You said, "Can you address the astounding ability of the right to frame issues way more effectively than the left (or the exasperating [in?]ability of the left to effectively counter such abilities)."

Actually, my work for your question is cut out for me. Robert Kuttner, toward the end of his book, *The Squandering of America*, devotes several pages to analysis of Republican Party discipline and intensive propaganda efforts as ways in which it bested the Democrats--in fact, it worked so well that it pushed liberal Democrats to a spineless, meaningless center and pathetic attempts to ape Republican ideology as a ploy to win elections. It's all about winning anyway, even if you have to abandon your values en route.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Harriett Diller said...

Dr. B,

During our family holiday celebration, my sister-in-law saw my copy of DARK AGES AMERICA on the coffee table.
"Don't books like that depress you?" she asked.
"No." I said I consider the book realistic rather than depressing. Like many of your readers, I already saw where we had arrived, yet I had never known how we got there.
She said it was all a matter of opinion, so why bother to read books books like that? According to her, reading and learning are pointless because books are just somebody's opinion. She's tired of books, she said.
Ever since Obama became president, my relatives have regressed. When Bush was in office, they railed against war and injustice. Now, they are joining exclusive golf leagues, playing bridge, and watching Netflix every night. They are cushioned from the "reality" that those of us with lower incomes experience, and they don't want to be reminded of any unpleasantness.
Thank you for your work. Harriett

2:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Harriett,

Sounds like the anomie that comes w/defeat, I dunno. To think that everything boils down to opinion is a sad place to wind up. As far as our pathetic pres goes, check out the article by Krugman and Wells in the Jan. 13 issue of NY Rev of Bks. They don't think his re-election is likely, hint that the Dems shd nominate someone else, and basically paint a picture of an ineffectual nonentity--which is what he is. Whoda thunk we'd rerun the admin of Millard Fillmore 160 yrs later?


3:27 PM  
Blogger EditNetwork said...

Apropos of new monastics:

I'm pretty sure you will appreciate this, and Mr. Claiborne is a force among the young.

For good measure:

Rock on, sir -- you are an inspiration.

-- Paul Hawley

5:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Paul,

Thanks mucho for the website info, and for your support. Stay w/us on the most recent post...we need yer input.


ps: If there's anyway u can make Claiborne aware of my writing, don't let me stand in yer way.

6:07 PM  

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