30 December 2014

New Year, 2015

One year ends and another begins: the sun also rises and there is nothing new under the sun. I’m certain that much of what I experience derives from my state of mind, but the world seems darker at the end of this year than at the end of last. Of course, I am a year older, and my vision dims. Planes disappear, our politicians continue to be indicted for crimes against the public weal for which they are supposed to care and for which they legislate, and the climate continues to deteriorate while the blind continue to deny they cannot see.
I was going to use the word ‘fool’ to refer above to those I call ‘blind,’ but in fact the latter are willfully blind and not really sightless: mostly I might say they are clueless. Ah, but the Fool in Lear is so wise. We could stand a bit of the Fool in our world. As the Fool asks Lear who has abandoned all his responsibility, “Can you make no use of nothing, nuncle?” Remarkably, Lear has already answered the Fool’s question in Lear’s retort to Cordelia who can say ‘nothing’ because her love for her father exceeds the capacity of any words. Lear says to in great anger to his daughter, “Nothing will come of nothing.” And indeed, though nothing can be made of nothing, Lear’s nothing can and does lead to great tragedy. “I am a very foolish fond old man . . . And to deal plainly I am not in my perfect mind,” Lear laments. The deaths of Cordelia and Lear result from his absurdly blind and self-serving actions. At the end of at least Shakespearean tragedy the world is a far darker place than at the play’s opening: in Hamlet Denmark is left to the brash and warlike Fortinbras, and in Lear the weak Albany assumes the throne. On January 1 of this year, the tragedy of the Democratic debacle will usher in the Republican ascendancy, and the world will suffer from far less hope.
The film The Imitation Game is the story of Alan Turing’s development during World War II of what has come to be called the ‘turing machine’ that successfully cracked the Nazi’s enigma code and shortened the war by several years and saved millions of lives. That ‘machine’ has led to the development of the computer on which I now write in the comfort and warmth of my home. After the war, Turing was persecuted for being homosexual, and was condemned to chemical castration by a judicial court that considered itself civilized representing a government that called itself modern. Turing died in 1954 at the age of 41 years from what some say was a suicide. Perhaps, and perhaps not. But the cruelties suffered by him from the society he helped save speaks to the nature of this world. His death recalled for me the death of Cordelia in King Lear, an act so cruel that becomes barely comprehensible.
I recognize that the love of Kent for Lear and Edgar for his father, Gloucester; and of even the Fool, offer some alternative to the cruelty the play portrays in the actions of Regan, Goneril and Edmund,, but the play’s end leaves little hope. Indeed, even the Fool has had enough of this world and disappears from the play after the great storm.

I would say welcome to 2015 but I am not certain there would be any sincerity in my invocation.     


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