04 February 2018

Nothing New

Perhaps Ecclesiastes was right: there is nothing new under the sun! Everywhere I turn I discover that what I thought was original and new had already been spoken. As I continue to read and study I discover that perhaps Alexander Pope was correct. In The Essay on Criticism, Pope writes, “True wit is nature to advantage dressed,/What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed.” Once I thought the poststructuralists offered a wholly new way to address the world until I read in Susan Handelman that the Rabbis at the turn of the first millennium were already exploring textual study in a manner that long predated Derrida, et al. For years I have cited Dylan’s “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).”  He writes, “He not busy being born is busy dying!” For years I have tried to live by that dictum, to opt for change, for challenge, for variety rather than the safety of the famiiar. Buddy Mondlock sings, “I'm the kid who has this habit of dreaming/Sometimes gets me in trouble too.” Often, I’ve gotten into trouble too. But I always believed in Dylan’s dictum: he not busy being born is busy dying.
     Volume Seven of Tristram Shandy narrates Tristram’s grand tour of the continent. In opposition to Bishop Hall who claims that to be always in motion is a curse (Tristram notes that Hall was rather corpulent and therefore, might find movement somewhat arduous, indeed, rather unpleasant), Tristram writes that “Now, I (being very thin) think differently; and that so much of motion, is so much of life, and so much of joy—and that to stand still, or get on but slowly, is death and the devil.” Damn, I said, when did Dylan read Tristram Shandy. Maybe there is nothing new under the sun.
     And what if indeed, this is true? And what if indeed, Pope was right? What if we are on the great mandala and merely trying to call it all by another name? If there is nothing new under the sun: that would be our tragedy and our hope.


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