The Spanish Inquisition

A hiatus from word book blogging, brought on by garden construction labors and the arrival of the 55th Class Report (Harvard Class of 1965). The latter has provoked quite a lot of thought about How Things Are Changing, abetted by various RSS feed incomings, the April 13th issue of the New Yorker, and assorted free-association mindstorms. The Leitmotif seems to be

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition

(the text for which is here)


In this week’s New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl’s Mortality and the Old Masters, a reflection mostly upon his recent re-encounter with Velásquez’s “Las Meninas”, is particularly trenchant and apposite to questions of ?what’s next? and how shall we think about (and think about thinking about) that.

(and see the Wikipedia article)

This sort of reëvaluation can happen when events disrupt your life’s habitual ways and means. You may be taken not only out of yourself—the boon of successful work in every art form, when you’re in the mood for it—but out of your time, relocated to a particular past that seems to dispel, in a flash of undeniable reality, everything that you thought you knew. It’s not like going back to anything. It’s like finding yourself anticipated as an incidental upshot of fully realized, unchanging truths. The impression passes quickly, but it leaves a mark that’s indistinguishable from a wound. Here’s a prediction of our experience when we are again free to wander museums: Everything in them will be other than what we remember. The objects won’t have altered, but we will have, in some ratio of good and ill. The casualties of the coronavirus will accompany us spectrally. Until, inevitably, we begin to forget, for a while we will have been reminded of our oneness throughout the world and across time with all the living and the dead. The works await us as expressions of individuals and of entire cultures that have been—and vividly remain—light-years ahead of what passes for our understanding. Things that are better than other things, they may even induce us to consider, however briefly, becoming a bit better, too.

The 55th Class Report entries were composed in Fall 2019, and disclose a panoply of personal tragedies, observations on the Present as it seemed to be in late 2019, hopes and plans for the coming years, and reflections on the Harvard experience we shared all those years ago. My own augmentation of the printed submission updates to the present.

Whatever else happens, all sorts of the taken-for-granted will be no more. Hand-shaking, for instance. The Curtsy may return, granting unexpected salience to this bit of the Downton Abbey Movie:



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