Afraid of Ebola?

Then help do something about it. Contribute to the organization that is both courageously fighting the Ebola epidemic on the front lines in Africa -- where it must be stopped and contained -- and has set "the gold standard" in treatment protocols that CDC and American hospitals should adopt to properly care for Ebola patients. That organization is Doctors Without Borders. Here is a link to its website where you can donate. 

Burke's Importance Today

Jesse Norman, a British Member of Parliament, has written an exciting new book about why Burke is important today. I reviewed Norman's book for the American Conservative. You can access my review here.

Realistic Fantasy And Existential Dread

Q. Why doesn’t George R.R. Martin use Twitter?

A. Because he killed off all 140 characters.

Reading this excellent piece (from which I've copped the joke) by David Gibson, who writes about religion, got me thinking about my experience reading the first four books of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire multi-volume epic – the one that begins with the novel Game of Thrones.

I enjoyed these books, to be sure. I enjoyed them very much in fact. If not, I wouldn’t have persevered through their four-thousand pages. Martin is an accomplished storyteller. He’s good a complex character development. None of his characters are entirely good or bad – though a few may be 97 percent bad – and as you learn more about characters whom you initially despised, you sometimes find yourself empathizing with them. And Martin excels at Machiavellian political plotting, which is what I enjoyed most.

Yet, for me, something was missing. I failed to fall in love with his world of Westeros as much as fell in love with J.R.R.Tolkien’s Middle Earth or J.K. Rawlings’ magical dimension. (What’s with the similar initials, by the way? Are Martin’s middle initials homage to Tolkien? But I digress.)

Despite carefully doled doses of magic, Martin’s world is brutally realistic. It’s not a righteous war between good and bad; it’s a raw struggle for power. There are characters to admire and characters to like, but I failed to fall head-over-heels in love with any of them. Indeed, Martin teaches you early not to do that; his characters are all too mortal, and if do fall in love you will suffer if that character drowns in his own blood. In addition, the complexity and structure of Martin’s storytelling – a very large cast of characters who rotate in and out of the narrative – can make love frustrating. It’s difficult to desperately keep turning the pages when a character you love is in peril when Martin periodically leaves that character for stretches that may run a hundred pages or so.

What we loved so much about Gandalf and Dumbledore was, in part, their commitment to good. We emotionally stood with them and other characters in their apocalyptic struggle against evil. Martin’s characters are more realistic.

But do I really want a realistic fantasy?

The answer, I’m afraid, is no. I am enough of an existentialist to desperately want to give my life a noble purpose – to believe that I have enlisted, in my small way, in the forces fighting for the good. Tolkien and Rawlings’ novels support that world view. I tell myself they are metaphors for our own world, in which there is truth, and good, and meaning – not as clear or pure as in the fantasy world, of course, but real nonetheless. When I make a sacrifice to do the right thing (as I see it), I want to believe that sacrifice had a genuine purpose. Martin kept telling me that I’m deluding myself. The world is a dog-eat-dog struggle for power and limited resources, and nothing more.

David Gibson’s piece made me realize that Martin’s world is soulless. When it comes to fantasy, I prefer soul to realism.

I don’t mean to be too hard on Martin. He knows how to tell a tale, and I did enjoy his books. But if I learn that the final volumes in A Song of Ice and Fire tend, just a bit, to the view that all of the tears and blood have not been for naught – that good does exist, that love can prevail – then I'm more likely to finish the series.

Maybe I am deluding myself. But I’d appreciate a little help.

image of edmund burkeEDMUND BURKE

 

Edmund Burke -- the great eighteenth century British statesman -- was both a liberal and a conservative.  For a relatively concise but complete profile of Burke, and an explanation of why by today's standards Burke may be considered either a liberal or a traditional conservative -- but emphatically not a libertarian, neoconservative, or social conservative -- read Professor Bogus' article Rescuing Burke, 72 Missouri Law Review 387 (2007).

Here are some quotes from Edmund Burke:

"We must all obey the great law of change.  It is the most powerful law of nature, and the means perhaps of its conservation."

"Society become a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are dead, and those who are to be born."

"The individual is foolish; the multitude, for the moment is foolish, when they act without deliberation; but the species is wise, and, when time is given to it, as a species it always acts right."

"Whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon others, he has a right to do for himself; and he a right to all which society, with all its combinations and skill and force, can do in his favor.  In this partnership all men have equal rights; but not to equal things."

 

EDMUND is a blog by Professor Carl T. Bogus.

 

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