Tag Archives: george orwell

Samuel Johnson Rambles on the practicality of knowledge – essay

Ignorance is the timorous and indolent plight from fear because knowledge is considered to be remotely extensive and inscrutable to be comprehended. It retards the progress of the mind and numbs the sense. Samuel Johnson avers in his weekly essay ‘The Rambler, No. 137’ avers that one remains unenlightened unless he is diligent to search for the origin of wonder with a pause of reason, a sudden cessation of mental progress when confronting the unknown to him. The need for general knowledge, the knowledge that confers Citizenship of the World, is an essential element of human characteristics, and an easy task to fulfill in search of meaning in life.

Johnson’s idea of knowledge is simplicity. It is jettisoned from a concatenation of needless abstrusely sophisticated theories and ideologies. It also chimes the bell with the Renaissance virtuoso Leonard da Vinci’s adage that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication in all principles. However intimidating or formidable the unknown is, the essential feature is simple to understand by way of ‘Divide and Conquer,” a principle that complication is a confederacy of the abstruse that can be broken into parts marked by the gradations from the first agent to the last consequence. The force that breaks the shackle of fear for conquering the unknown huddle is patient diligence armored in confidence. The labor of inquiry for wonder follows natural curiosity and confidence that eclipses the soul’s darkness. It comes to fruition by ceaseless efforts to ascertain the origin of the wonder in simple ways. The English philosopher who also advocated democratic pedagogy, John Locke, affirms that the surest way of thorough comprehension knowledge is to attempt little by way of repetition. For the widest excursions of the mind result from short flights of mental imagery and instant thoughts triggered by neurons fired in our cerebral cortex, which can be transformed into an organization of ideas firmly engraved in the mind.

However, knowledge loses its purpose if it dissipates into the possessor’s cerebral ether or is locked in the mind’s cabinet. It becomes useful and purposeful when put into practice. That is why Johnson gives heed to those who pride themselves in the impressive educational backgrounds and belittle others whose mental capacities they arbitrarily judge ignorable or even ordinary. Knowledge is for share, and it is a duty of a scholar who has a wider variety of knowledge through years of academic endeavors for the common benefits of the world he lives in. As Francis Bacon fittingly concurs, books can never teach the use of books. Generally speaking, it is common for intellectuals, despite their ostensible calls for democracy and justice for all, to live out of touch with the practical realities of life and often regard such matters as trifles. But what is worthy of their glorious learning if it does not accommodate the purpose of life? Johnson criticizes such lofty arrogance of the rarified subset of the general population because they lose their days in unsocial silence and live in the crowd of life without a touch of humanity. It also reminds me of Bacon’s utterance of loneliness in a group as such: “Magna Civitas, Magna solitudo.” In this regard, George Orwell is together with Johnson because they saw the educated’s superciliousness, the intellectuals, who often conferred their knowledge to their honor in the voluntary seclusion.

Upon reading Johnson’s essay, I could not help but wholeheartedly agree with the purpose of knowledge and the idea of sharing it with others for the world’s common good. I was also glad to learn that I was not the only one who thought that people with academic credentials were frequently dismissive of the opinions of what they regarded as the mortals of the ordinary among whom I am. Therefore, I hope that the reader who reads this essay of mine should not belittle the soul attempting to obtain the sunshine of the light of letters to understand the world in a perspicuous way to declare to the world that I also can think and express it cogently. That is my essay on knowledge for the purpose of life.

Kinship of Aeneas, George Orwell, and J.K. Rowling

1images

I see them almost every day with carts chockablock with their haggard belongings at a coffeeshop in the morning. They come in disheveled, reeking of abandonment of hygiene, but they seem past caring of it, let alone resigned to unwelcome glances of strangers. They are no less than Mendicants, Vagabonds, Tramps, Panhandlers, Beggars, or the Homeless themselves, defying the laws of social evolution and Marxist dialectic changes. You see,  they have withstood epochal changes.

It was one Monday morning while I was perking up my spirit still under the spell of weekend reverie with a cup of coffee in my regular Starbucks shop nearby my workplace when a homeless woman approached me and cadged for money to buy coffee. I conceded her plea because her forlorn spirit manifesting in her once beautiful face evoked pathos, which would have stung me with a pang of conscience if I had let it foregone. Besides, the fact that she was a woman living in the street, where all foreseeable and unforeseeable risks were lurking to violate her dignity as a fair sex, vexed my mind and heart. It was all too a fortiori opportune to read the article with the lethargic face of the homeless woman still fresh on my mind.

Never mind piousness, didacticism, and self-righteousness. It goes against the grain to decry poverty at the door of the poor themselves, which is always easy and convenient to pin down based on personal faults, but that would attest superciliousness of being not one of the unfortunate kinds. That is to say, the homeless is the result of addiction to substances, laziness, and careless ways of modus vivendi; therefore, the homeless are unworthy of sympathy nor empathy.

As a matter of fact, the liberals wade in with their de rigueur weary blaming of the heartless conservatives for their preferential treatment of the given, the fortunate, the haves, while the conservatives lambast the cry babies’ importuning their sorry states as a tendency of the cossetted dependency substratum. Both of the parties do nothing but grandstanding against one another for their voting rights that exclude these “marginals” of society they could not care less. However, the causes of homelessness are one collective social evil comprising many a factor; it’s a complex one involving mental health issues for sure, skyrocketing rent fees as a result of rampant trend of gentrification, prevalent lay-offs and unresolved unemployment rates, low wages, integration of families, and a variety of personal elements that are oftentimes looked on with insignificance as trifles. George Orwell, whose brief period of impecuniousness upon returning from Paris to London forced him to live as a tramp as plainly narrated in his empirical Down and out in Paris and London, conceded: “… if they [the homeless] are worse than other people, it is the result and not the cause of their way of life.” That is to say, no one wants to be homeless with a will.

Come to think of it, our human conditions are precarious and many times operated outside the boundary of planned stratagem, for human life is woven by unexpected variables and vicissitudes that befall any one like you never know. Aeneas, a royal Trojan hero in Virgil’s Aeneid, became homeless in the wake of the fall of Troy and found himself and his homeless followers dependent upon the kindness of Dido, the queen of Carthage and her people. The great Russian writer Maxim Gorki and the American Jack London were once homeless. And there is J.K Rowling, who lived a life of near-homelessness with her infant daughter without a job before the first book of the Harry Potter series was published. Woe betides anyone who patronized them for the want of the gumption before they became somebody.

Whether or not we like it, the caste of the homeless will most likely to proliferate unless political leaders stop pontificating about their party ideologies that lose touch with the realistic world of everyday life of the ordinary people. They say the extravagant lifestyles of the aristocracy and their haughty treatment of the poor were the sine qua non of the French Revolution, which was the radical reconstruction of the class system that excluded the welfare of the poor. Then why do I yoke the images of the haughty aristocrats to those of the present-day politicians who seem to thrust the issues of rising homelessness into the bottom of a filing bin and to keep pointing fingers at the homeless for their misfortune? Maybe in an irony of fates, if these politicians wake up one morning and find themselves in the shoes of the unfortunate, they might understand it, but I hope it will not be too late then.

저장

Facing Unpleasant Facts by George Orwell

Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays (Before Orwell)Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays by George Orwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eric Arthur Blair, better preferably known as George Orwell, wrote a series of essays that dealt with the subject matters close to the human life in the manner of a journalist with heart. This book is a definitive anthology of Orwell’s essays contributed to various magazines and newspaper that will invite the readers to the Orwellian world of reality as he saw and he liked.

Orwell was capable of perceiving the absurdities of reality and truths masqueraded by ornamented political euphemism to obfuscate the masses for unscrupulous intentions. Of all his essays, “Why I write” is a paragon of his fineness as a great essayist. In the essay, Orwell provides the readers with sage guidelines for a writer, one of which is a choice of the subject matter that should be determined by the age a writer lives in. Such advice links with Leo Tolstoy’s view on great work of art to be closely related to the ethos of the time it is made. That is, a writer is unavoidably influenced by the ethos of the time he lives against his willful struggle to escape from solid reality.

Orwell asserts that a writer should discipline his temperament lest he should be stuck at immature stage or depressive mood. A writer should think straight so that he can write clearly. This shows Orwell’s belief in writing not as a platform for babbling about his egoistically driven existential dilemma of daily life, for consuming his energy into such self-induced woes and pains will kill the creative spirit in him, the very impulse to express himself as he truly is. To my delight, Orwell further expounds 4 motives for writing as follows:

(1) Sheer egoism: desire to be regarded as clever and much to be talked about. Writers are vain in the fact that they do want to be individuals, not compromising with the social conditions of reality. Writers can be egotistical and vain because of their elitist attitude toward the opinions of others and general opinions of the public, but are less interested in monetary reward.

(2) Aesthetic enthusiasm: desire to beautify arrangements of words in pleasing manner by using a plethora of flowery words and rhythmical rhymes.

(3) Historical impulse : desire to record historical facts of the time to pass the written records for the use of posterity.

(4) Political purpose: desire to direct the world in a specific direction in order to influence people’s views on society in such direction as it should be

The readers may find Orwell’s credo in writing rather anachronistic and dogmatic in consideration of the time the essay was written (1946). However, what rings the bell is the recognition of impulse to write as a sublime human act of expressing himself in connection with the time and society he lives in because as Aristotle put, “Man is a political animal.” This collection of Orwell’s poignant, honest, and witty essays will guide the readers into the mind garden of Orwell where moral obligation and the psychological facts are differentiated as pointed out in “Such, Such Were the Joys” and  where there is a pleasant, family-friendly pub called “The Moon Under the Water” with a privilege to appreciate Orwell’s brilliant display of language facility and power of facing unpleasant facts in his own words.

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

Down and Out in Paris and LondonDown and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Based upon his real-life experience as a scullery worker in a Paris hotel and a tramp in London, George Orwell’s recounting of the stories of the impecunious stands alone in its authenticity of the content and veracity of the experiences. The substantiality of poverty was boredom and inconvenience, because poverty freed people from standards of ordinary behaviors. Nevertheless, this book is not a book of socialist manifesto that urges the impecunious to revolt against the establishment, nor a pamphlet for advocating the welfare of the poor. It’s an investigative report on the people on the lowest and lower rungs of a social ladder. Orwell hoped that his readers would at least change their acerbic views on the low and the lowest because their situations were created through no fault of their own or voluntarily. And I hope there will be more like this book in our time.