Letters from the Pandemic 15: Hesiodic musings

Some overheard Hesiodic musings for recent times
by Jerry Zaslove

Dedicated to Graduate Liberal Studies Students Then and Now


The Brothers Karamazov. A block print by Stephen Alcorn. Courtesy Alcorn Studio & Gallery
  • Does Life without the Internet make one afraid?
  • Maybe Life with the Internet makes one feel . . . “like” alone
  • On the busses I hear “like” uttered often: it’s an interject.
  • I wonder did Ivan Karamazov use “like” speaking to the Grand Inquisitor who said all that people really want are Miracle Mystery and Authority.
  • Like, Can people become lonelier than they already are….
  • The way people can’t get along without groups or buying something makes the Covid feel worse but I belong?
  • Does what’s happening reflect how social responsibility has atrophied in some people who say, “wearing a mask is a conspiracy against me”? It’s not Universal Guilt but communal obligation.
  • And did you say Where did you go to school not to learn that ABC?
  • Even as “Enlightenment” ideals of education and schooling in “Humanities” get taught it appears there are fierce ideas force fed in our culture that resist basic “communal obligations” in the name of freedom of the self.
  • Ivan Karamazov worried when the devil appeared to him in a dream as a large peasant woman who laughed at him because Ivan felt damned because he lived in a Hegelian world where everything was allowed, and nothing permitted.
  • Like . . . I will say like the kids say “like” the Canadian political philosopher McPherson called it “possessive individualism”….
  • But I would have to revise that because it isn’t really about the “individual” but about fear of the other “individuals” who are being responsible to something other than me….

    Portrait of Bertolt Brecht by Rudolf Schlichter, 1926-27. Courtesy Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München
  • And that is a threat in a market society where it is not about “me” and I think of the old joke that goes: “Each for himself and God for all of us, said the elephant as it danced among the chickens.”
  • But there is a lot of sacrifice and caring happening among the chickens I see it every day people are Protecting against the Obsolescence of Mankind the subject of my courses since arriving at SFU in 1965: Enlightenment driven we are reminded of it again and again.
  • And one begins again and again because Memory Comes back again and again without a name.
  • I have composed a Course on this subject that I named the following. Can be accessed at the Institute for the Humanities Website under the online Journal “Contours” where there are many contributions worth reading for GLS students. It is based on Bertolt Brecht’s and Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1930) trans. W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman (Toronto: Oxford University Press: 1976) which is their mordant utopia where everything is allowed, and nothing permitted except songs about the pieties of capitalism the scenario: “There’s no life after this, nothing significant awaits you.” A Guide to the Use of this Curriculum of Breviaries or Individual Lessons for a Short Course on Plagues. A Small Manual of Piety and a Curriculum for the Plague: after Bertolt Brecht’s Die Hauspostille


Jerry Zaslove. Photo courtesy Simon Fraser University

Jerry Zaslove has been associated with GLS one way or another since the mid 1990s.


The Ormsby Review. More Books. More Reviews. More Often.

Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie

The Ormsby Review is a journal service for in-depth coverage of B.C. books and authors. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Wade Davis, Hugh Johnston, Patricia Roy, David Stouck, and Graeme Wynn. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Provincial Government Patron since September 2018: Creative BC

“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster

Colporteur [book pedlar], huile sur toile, XVII s. Anonyme (école française), conservé au musée du Louvre à Paris

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