George Santayana and the ideal

??????????????????????????????? Our lives are an intersection of circumstances and regardless of how well we map out our day there are interruptions, both accidental and purposeful, which alter our course. And though we plan and strategize, it is inevitable that there will be some interlude or distraction that sets us off on an ulterior direction. Yet while we are quite aware of these occurrences, the daily set backs or amends made to an agenda; humans have been conditioned to reach for and desire the highest challenge… obtaining the ideal. And if you were to ask most anyone they would agree that the ideal situation, ideal mate, ideal job, ideal house, all fits very nicely into their ideal plan.

Yet, is “ideal” obtainable? If it is agreed upon that ideal is defined as perfection then realistically can we find it? Taking into account our everyday existence of the inevitable “alterations” that lurk ahead ….is it unrealistic to yearn for such high standards?

Or is it possible that we are striving for something that does exist… however, it is found only under the supervision and guidance of what humans, and only humans possess…an imagination. And just perhaps this imagination we all are harboring can and will manifest itself through some means of personal expression…for our intellect is not finite, but rather boundless. Within our day to day existence there is an accumulation of experiences and values which we have stored and with a bit of effort, like a trusty oil lamp, it can shine brilliantly exposing to us ideals that rivals conditions that seem impossible to reproduce. And though Nature seems to be able to express herself “ideally” just perhaps our desires and will for it can satisfy the quest. But whatever ideal situation you are striving for it is prudent to think like the keeper of the lighthouse… don’t let it burn out!

santayan 2 I return to you today with the esteemed thinker: George Santayana, (1863-1952) a multi talented philosopher and writer. During his early career, his strong interest in literature and aesthetics was evident, but by 1904, his attention turned almost fully to philosophical pursuits. If one were to categorize his philosophical views, he would be called a naturalist. Here the interaction of our physical makeup is what he emphasizes as generating meaning and value, which Santayana calls “psyche,” and our material environment. In 1936 his novel, The Last Puritan was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

So, let us take a moment out from our hectic day to reflect upon the insightful words; snipped out of his book, The Sense of Beauty…. Here is Mr. Santayana….

“… Accordingly our consciousness of the ideal becomes distinct in proportion as we advance in virtue and in proportion to the vigour and definiteness with which our faculties work. When the vital harmony is complete, when the act is pure, faith in perfection passes into vision. That man is unhappy indeed, who in all his life has had no glimpse of perfection, who in the ecstasy of love, or in the delight of contemplation, has never been able to say: It is attained. Such moments of inspiration are the source of the arts, which have no higher function than to renew them…

A work of art is indeed a monument to such a moment, the memorial to such a vision; and its charm varies with its power of recalling us from the distractions of common life to the joy of a more natural and perfect activity…”

Esteemed thinker: A.A. Milne

a.a. milne There are a multitude of experts in the world, and I use that term loosely, who are relied upon to tell others what they like. For example; the interior designer tells the home owner what they like, the stock broker tells the buyer what stocks they like; the advertiser tells the consumer what products they like, and so goes the list. Writers are not immune to this phenomenon for reviewers will relay to the public what they, the reader, will like. So one has to wonder, what makes an ideal author? What are the criteria to which one would find a favorable light cast upon their continence…no, let’s have it cast upon their work.

Is the ideal author one that is the designator for the disenfranchised, the author that dares write what others only think… the author that delights the reader with whimsical stories… or the writer that retells the tales of yore?

So for today’s blog, after we ponder the question, I give you a moment to pause with the thoughts from our esteemed thinker: A.A. Milne (1882-1956). Our London born author is best known (thanks to Walt Disney productions) for his classic work Winnie-the-Poo… But please toss this aside for a moment ; for though the charming tales claimed him international notoriety and success, his career began as the assistant editor of Punch , a British humor magazine; he was a prolific writer, gaining recognition as a novelist, poet, short story and play writer, and essayist. Now, I give you Alan Alexander Milne aka A.A. Milne and a bit of wit from his essay, The Ideal Author

“Samuel Butler* made a habit (and urged it upon every young writer) of carrying a notebook about with him. The most profitable ideas, he felt, do not come from much seeking, but rise unbidden in the mind, and if they are not put down at once on paper, they may be lost forever. But with a notebook in the pocket you are safe; no thought is too fleeting to escape you. Thus, if an inspiration for a five-thousand word story comes suddenly to you during the dessert, you murmur an apology to your neighbour, whip out your pocket-book, and jot down a few rough notes….

If I do not follow Butler’s advice myself, it is not because I get no brilliant inspirations away from my inkpot, nor because, having had the inspirations, I am capable of retaining them until I get back to my inkpot again, but simply because I should never have the notebook and the pencil in the right pockets. But though I do not imitate him, I can admire his wisdom, even while making fun of it. Yet I am sure it was unwise of him to take the public into his confidence. The public prefers to think that an author does not require these earthly aids to composition. It will never quite reconcile itself to the fact that an author is following a profession— a profession by means of which he pays the rent and settles the weekly bills. No doubt the public wants its favourite writers to go on living, but not in the sordid way that its barrister and banker friends live. It would prefer to feel that manna dropped on them from Heaven, and that the ravens erected them a residence; but, having regretfully to reject this theory, it likes to keep up the pretence that the thousand pounds that an author received for his last story came as something of a surprise to him—being, in fact, really more of a coincidence than a reward.

For this reason a layman will never hesitate to ask of an author a free contribution for some local publication.. But the same man would be horrified at the idea of asking a Harley Street surgeon (perhaps even more closely connected with him) to remove his adenoids for nothing. To ask for this (he would feel) would be almost as bad as to ask a gift of ten guineas (or whatever the fee is), whereas to ask a writer for an article is like asking a friend to decant your port for you—a delicate compliment to his particular talent…”

*Samuel Butler was an English Victorian writer.