Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
Recently this article was posted to the Anthroposophy Facebook page: “Anthroposophy & Contemporary Philosophy in Dialogue Observations on the Spiritualization of Thinking” by Yeshayahu Ben-Aharon” (1)
This was published in “being human” in 2011. I have a vague recollection of reading it, and didn’t really connect. By the way, this bit of writing is not about Ben-Aharon, my arguments with him can be read elsewhere. (2)
Seeing it again did remind me of a story from my life, which might be useful for folk wondering about where America fits in with all this “philosophical-thinking” activity.
It was the late ‘90’s and with a lot of other folk I was a member of various email based discussion groups. On of the groups was a lets talk politics group, run out of Stanford, with about 500 members.
One day there I wrote a bit about the need for political thinking to take a phenomenological approach. After which I was contacted on the list, by a group of folks who discussed the very thinkers Ben-Aharon refers to in his articles and books, and invited to join them.
Seemed to be a couple dozen, mostly academics or students of same. They would write about this fellow said that, and that fellow said this. Once in a while I would ask for a bit of interpretation regarding certain expressions, and the usual answer was I should read this or that book.
Given that I was nearing 60, and working the graveyard shift in a mental hospital, I didn’t have much time for such works. In those years, when I could I read for pleasure, or watched TV and movies for the same.
One day I wondered what was the real-world usefulness of what we were talking about, given the level of abstraction. I was shortly asked to leave.
Prior to that, there was this moment, for me anyway.
One of the members made a remark, which was echoed by others, … wondering why America did not produce – during the 20th Century just passing – such genius as we were studying.
I thought about this for a few days, and then wrote a reply, which went something like this:
After World War I, and this went deeper during the depression, the American soul felt these situations so absurd, that all truly socially critical minds became stand-up comics and cartoonists. In the below I can only scratch the surface.
One early fellow was Will Rogers (3). “William Penn Adair Rogers was an American stage and film actor, vaudeville performer, cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator from Oklahoma. He was a Cherokee citizen born in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory.” Wikipedia
Then there was Walt Kelly. “Walter Crawford Kelly Jr., commonly known as Walt Kelly, was an American animator and cartoonist, best known for the comic strip Pogo. He began his animation career in 1936 at Walt Disney Studios, contributing to Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Dumbo.” Wikipedia Born: August 25, 1913, Philadelphia, PA Died: October 18, 1973, Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, CA
His character Pogo, gave us “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
In the 1940’s we had “cartoons” at the movie houses. A main quality, of such as Bugs Bunny, or Daffy Duck, is that within their story lines they are essentially anarchists.
In the 1950’s, Mad Magazine arrived at your local news stand. It is still published, subscription only. (4) Its logo, a face picture of “Alfred E. Neuman” saying: “What me worry?”, captures its sense of the post WWII, cold war zeigiest.
Charlie Brown has been very popular, although not so socially acute. Just wry wisdom about human nature. (5)
Over in stand-up comic land, we’ve recently had Robin Williams (6), and George Carlin (7). We should include the Daily Show (8), with Jon Stewart, as well as Saturday Night Live (9).
There is a genius that towers over all the others: Bill Watterson (10), who gave us the endlessly remarkable daily and Sunday cartoon strip: “Calvin and Hobbes”. Calvin is about six years old, and Hobbes is his friend, mentor, playmate, and much much more – yet as seen by Calvin’s parents, Hobbes is just a small stuffed tiger. When seen by Calvin, is a talking, twice as tall as Calvin, Tiger.
It lasted from 1985 to 1995, when Watterson retired, at the peak of his game as it were. Not only did he know when to shut up, but he also completely resisted the efforts of his publishers, and toy manufacturers, to license these characters.
Books are available, and most are suitable for “children”. (11) There is a large (237,000 member) Facebook Group even today. (12)