I listened to an episode of ‘This Podcast is a Ritual’ in which Devin Person and Clint Marsh discuss philosophy, pragmatism, and magic in daily practice. The episode is more than worth a listen, as are other various and beautiful works from both Clint and Devin, but what leapt out as I listened was the magic word Clint chose at the top of the episode:
Here are a trio of moments becoming brings to the fore for me:
In 1989 Bill Watterson composed a beautiful and painful arc in his unceasingly brilliant and comforting Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. After their house is robbed, Calvin, Hobbes, and Calvin’s parents grapple in poignant honesty about how frightening life and adulthood can be.
Even as a six year old reading myself into carsickness in the back seat of our family’s Volkswagon Jetta, I was floored by the emotional weight of these sentiments. It is possible to believe in the cocoon of childhood, that at some precise moment you will emerge equipped as a fully fledged adult. This moment in Calvin and Hobbes was the first overt challenge to that assumption and it has stuck with me the thirty one years since I first read it. As he so often does, Watterson tunes the meaning precisely between script and image: adulthood is a process, a continuum of becoming.
While I enjoyed playing, I am not one to watch sports unless I find myself in a circumstance where the enthusiasm of family and friends can bolster my own. This said, I have been making my way through the recent ESPN documentary about the Chicago Bulls in their golden era. Episode nine touches on the shared tragedy between Michael Jordan and Steve Kerr. There is a moment when Ann Kerr is describing her husband who was assassinated during his tenure as the president at the American University of Beirut.
He was trying to produce students who were tolerant. Globally minded humanitarian citizens.Ann Zwicker Kerr – The Last Dance speaking in regard to her husband the late Malcolm H. Kerr
I was struck with a moment of empathy that may or may not be accurate. I felt the way Steve fought and continues to fight every moment of his career in honor of his father and how much Malcolm would love what he has done, is doing. For the remainder of the episode as every critical shot flew from Steve’s hand through the hoop, it resonated to the core of me.
On a becoming note, a kernel of hope that drives me in every moment of my life, is the thought we might all become globally minded humanitarian citizens. Or at least strive to. Thank you Ann, Steve, Malcolm and the powers that be for inspiration found in unlikely often painful places.
I was listening to Andrew Marantz’s Antisocial (which you should seek out yesterday if you haven’t read or listened to it) for the second time and there is a space in the first third of the book when he connects two of my literary heroes. James Baldwin who wrote heroicly, eloquently, and powerfully about race in America and Richard Rorty whose primary philosophical work inspired the name for this website.
In The Fire Next Time James Baldwin writes:
If we, and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks who must – like lovers – insist on or create the consciousness of the others, do not falter in our duty now we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare and achieve our country and change the history of the world.James Baldwin – The Fire Next Time
Richard Rorty later published a collection of essays on ‘leftist thought in 20th Century America’ entitled Achieving Our Country. Block segments of this collection are quoted with abandon in our current moment for their prescience. The work was published in 1998.
What was unacceptable, can become acceptable. Acceptability is just a norm and norms can change for the better or for the worse.
We should face up to unpleasant truths about ourselves but we should not take those truths to be the last word about our chances for happiness or about our national character. Our national character is still in the making.Richard Rorty – Achieving Our Country
I lift these quotes and the connection between them nearly verbatim from Andrew’s book. The exuberance I find in this connection between two of the great intellectual heroes who inspire me to live as well as write is inexpressible.
To wrap on a becoming note, I’ve said in previous posts and I’ll say again I find more hope in this moment of tragedy, tumult, and heroism than I have in years. I believe we can achieve our country and become the selves our future needs.
I encourage you to seek out Devin and Clint’s discussion. Listen to their soothing eloquence, I expect it may inspire you too. Until the next few words arrive, cheers and stay safe out there.