In Podcast #34, Scott and Karl consider the role of art and of literature in furnishing a fuller, truer model of human personality. In doing so, the duo explores Iris Murdoch’s essay, “Against Dryness.”
“We have been left with far too shallow and flimsy an idea of human personality… [The Anglo-Saxon] conception consists in the joining of a materialistic behaviourism with a dramatic view of the individual as a solitary will. These subtly give support to each other. From Hume through Bertrand Russell, with friendly help from mathematical logic and science, we derive the idea that reality is finally a quantity of material atoms and that significant discourse must relate itself directly or indirectly to reality so conceived. This position was most picturesquely summed up in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.”
“Against Dryness” was written in 1961, and even then Murdoch thought writing was no good. In her mind, there is one unifying problem: we have been left with far too shallow and flimsy an idea of human personality. Karl compares a swimmer in a shallow pool to Murdoch’s vision of what the human person currently is. “[You’re staying on] the surface of the lake and you have no idea if the thing goes down half a mile,” Karl starts, “and you think you’ve got everything- but there are hidden depths of personality that you never get to.”
In a refreshing twist, Murdoch concocts a remedy for this impoverished, Liberal model of human personality.
- Scott and Karl discuss how they came to read “Against Dryness”
- Scott gives a background of Encounter Magazine
- Karl summarizes the essay
- The duo draws parallels to Walker Percy
- Fewer acceptable ways of being results in dryness in writing
- Concept of modern marriage
- Evaluation of material qualities vs morally
- Karl’s pop culture examples
- Discussion of modern art
- Scott talks about how existentialism behaviorism has reduced our vocabulary
- the duo discussion modern literature’s concern with violence, not images of evil
- If you have a materialistic construction of the human being, can you make art?
Resources/Articles/People Mentioned In The Podcast:
- “Against Dryness”
- Lonesome Dove
- Partially Examined Life Podcast
- Jackson Pollack
- The Lizzy Bennett Diaries
- The Italian Girl
- Avengers Endgame
- Game of Thrones
- Anne of Green Gables
- Art Institute of Chicago
- Pre-raphaelite Art
- Lost in the Cosmos, the Last Self Help
- Soviet Art.
- Golden Driller
Scott Hambrick: Today we’re going to talk about Iris Mudoch’s polemical sketch against dryness that appeared in the 1961 CIA Rag Encounter. We were talking about what we’re reading for some upcoming shows, we’re doing one on Lord of the Rings and I’m behind where I want to be, but I’m enjoying it.
Karl Schudt: I’m surprised at that. We’ve tried to convince him on Lord of the Rings before and he’s like “I’m not going to do it.” But it and the Illiad are my favorite books ever. I read the Lord of the Rings pretty often. There are parts of it, well, we’ll talk about it when we get to it. There are parts I tear up at, I’m not going to tell you which parts. There’s a lot in it that I love. And we’re doing Lonesome Dove, it’s killing me. I read a third of it about twenty years ago.
Scott Hambrick: Good killing you or bad killing you?
Karl Schudt: I’m mad at the author, I don’t want to spoil it but there’s some things that he’s doing to my emotions and feelings that he’s hitting them hard.
Scott Hambrick: That’s his job, Karl.
Karl Schudt: I know, I know. But I thought he was going one place and he went someplace else. I’m looking forward to finishing it up and watching the mini-series with Diane Lane. So that’ll be fun. I think I watched that a long time ago, but I never finished the book I’m happy to have the occasion. I read an Iris Murdoch book recently, I had never read anything of hers so this is kind of a fun podcast because we’re coming at her fresh.
Scott Hambrick: Very.
Karl Schudt: We don’t know who this person is, so we’re just evaluating an essay on its merits and then I dug a little bit, I don’t know her life story, she lived a long time, died of all timers. Walker Percy I’ve lived with for a long long time, but Iris Murdoch I didn’t know who she was.
Scott Hambrick: I heard the guys on the partially examined life mention this essay just in passing once. And I made a note about it, against dryness. I’m like hmmm…. they talked about it was against dryness in writing, I’m like interesting. I would like to be a better writer, I need to read that one day. And then our friend Austin Glang, a member at OGB, he mentioned this essay. And I’m like gosh dangit, I got to go find it. It’s hard to find. It was originally published in 1961 in a magazine of literature.
Karl Schudt: Snooty literary journal.
Scott Hambrick: It sold originally for 3 shillings. And, I found a copy of it and bought it. So I have an original copy here. This very issue has some articles by big names. And of course, Iris. So I’m coming to it pretty clean too. I had to go look up and encounter a magazine, it was started, co-founded by Steven Spender and Irvin Crystal. Irvin Kristol is the father of the neocon monster bill Kristol. It came out in 1967 that the CIA helped cofound covertly this magazine, which I think is just fascinating.
Karl Schudt: What were they trying to accomplish by hiring Iris Murdoch to write an essay? Or did they hire her?
Scott Hambrick: CIA’s internal organization division between 51 and 54 funded the magazine. This is out there, it’s not conspiracy theory stuff. It has come to the surface through freedom of information act and so on that the CIA in the 50s and 60s were funding a lot of interesting things, like that monster Jackson Pollack for example and some jazz musicians who were not to my taste. So they were funding this magazine and this magazine has got low and behold Iris Murdoch in there who started out as a hardcore communist. And then later come off of that, she was born in Ireland and so she’s in the long tradition of Irish communists who are friend Emmett is a descendant of. And she later, I don’t know how you renounce your communism, but she was later not a communist. I don’t know how to characterize her politics later. She ends up writing this sketch in 1961, there’s the groundwork that I know how to give.
Karl Schudt: If I wanted to summarize this, I think you take the second paragraph. Writing today (in 1961) she thinks is no good. That it’s not very good and there’s a reason for it. We have been left with far too shallow and flimsy an idea of human personality. The characters are not interesting, that’s how I take it. I have some examples that I’ve tried to work out in my mind but she thinks it’s probably with liberal democracy and the welfare state in particular. She’s writing from England in the 60s. Labor party is triumphant after the second world war. Her love for the state, it’s supposed to be like everything is taken care of for you. We’re going to solve all of the problems of life, you’ll have enough to eat, you’ll have healthcare, and I make no comment on that, and so now everything is solved for you. It’s like if you got a basic, living wage, you got your basic income. Now what? Are there any dilemmas left, are there any grand drama in your life if you’re trying to establish a state where everyone is taken care of, you can’t measure that in transcendent terms. You can’t say we’re going to make a state where everyone’s spiritual good is perfected. you can’t do that with bureaucracy. so you do it with limited, measurable goals.
Scott Hambrick: She says these thinkers from Hume to Bertrand Russel with friendly help (sarcasm) with friendly help from mathematically logic and science we drive the idea that reality that quantity of material atoms and that significant discourse must relate it’s self directly or indirectly to reality. So like you said we’ve got these goals these metrics that must be measured
Karl Schudt: I draw parallels to the past Walker Percy podcast. If people are materially prosperous why aren’t you happy? We’re trying to measure human life in quanta, in discrete units, we satisfy these and you can be happy. I take that Murdoch is complaining about somewhat of the same thing. That with a shallow vision of what the human person is, you’re swimming on the surface of the lake and you have no idea if the thing goes down half a mile and you think you’ve got everything but there are hidden depths of personality that you never get to. there’s a line on page 17 of the essay, “our essential conception of human beings. happiness equals freedom equals personality.”
Scott Hambrick: I’m going to put a link on the website, go to onlinegreatbooks.com and you can click on the blog page and you can find the against dryness podcast and I’ll put a link in the show notes there just so you can download the thing. I think you’re going to have hell with it it’s out of copywriter. If it isn’t let me know and I’ll snatch it down instantly.
Karl Schudt: You’ll be happy if you’re free to do whatever you want. And from out of that, we can construct what a person out to be, if you’re material wants are satisfied you can do whatever you want. Today you want to go to the beach, tomorrow you want to stay in and eat Cheetos and drink beer and all the technocracy has solved all of these problems for you. You should be happy, that’s it.
Scott Hambrick: What more would you want?
Karl Schudt: I was thinking of some examples. I don’t know, I think I’m going to be the pop culture guy because Scott never watches anything. So I have some examples. Way way back in the beginnings of the internet, there was a YouTube series called “the Lizzy Bennett diaries” it’s probably still out there. It’s enjoyable, it’s Jane Austin retold through a video blog. It’s like Elizabeth Bennett has got a webcam and she’s making a blog. And it’s funny and it’s acted well but they get to the end and you know the end of the novel, this should not be a spoiler, every Jane Austin novel ends with a wedding.
Scott Hambrick: We can do a 1 minute Jane Austin novel. Just speed through it, and end with “there was a wedding” the end.
Karl Schudt: It starts with two people meet, there are character issues, people think the character is one thing the character is another thing, they get the character issues resolved, there’s the wedding.
Scott Hambrick: Is someone spurned at some point?
Karl Schudt: And I love Jane Austin, the whole thing the wedding is the thing that unites the novel. So, in the 19th century especially, I’ve never been a woman in the 19th century, your way to prosperity is through marriage. It matters. It’s your way to family, it’s your way to safety, it’s even a religious category, you know? So you have a wedding that gives shape to the whole thing. Elizabeth and Darcy if they don’t get married, there’s no point in what they are doing. Will they or won’t they? In the Lizzy Bennett diaries, I got to the end, and they being modern people who live in a liberal welfare state and don’t have a conception of the person, I thought of this when I was reading this essay.
Scott Hambrick: Don’t’ have a conception of the person, interesting.
Karl Schudt: So Lizzy and Darcey don’t get married at the end of the Lizzy Bennett diaries, they’re just together. I threw things at my screen. You let me down. they should get married, it should matter! You get to the end and it’s just two people who get to gather and go to a bar together. I think it ended dry, in Murdoch’s terms.
Scott Hambrick: You’re talking about the concept of the individual. At the end of the 3rd paragraph I think she states why she hates dryness. Roughly, my inner life just as me is identifiable as existing only as the application to it of public concepts. Concepts that can only be constructed on the basis of overt behavior. My reading of that is, she feels like she can’t be who she is. Her inner life doesn’t matter. Except at this point. Except as how these public concepts can be applied to her inner life. Her individually has been tread on by these public concepts. Later on, she talks about the number of public concepts, the numbers of ways of being, are winnowing down to fewer and fewer acceptable public concepts. That leads to this ultimate dryness in writing. There are fewer acceptable concepts, ways of being that can be written of. And this is in 1961, PC culture hasn’t swung a bat yet.
Karl Schudt: You cannot put yourself at stake anymore.
Scott Hambrick: Do you think that there’s this loss of the individual that Iris is talking about? In this modern retelling of this story, they’re not able to be wedded together because there’s nothing to wed? Is that what you’re saying? There’s less to wed?
Karl Schudt: If you think about what a marriage traditionally was, it’s a union of two people in a common life.
Scott Hambrick: You wed, you weld something together.
Karl Schudt: It’s either supposed to be unbreakable or hard to break. It’s supposed to be a big deal, that’s why people go to churches and religious houses to do to.
Scott Hambrick: Get people in front of all the people they care about, put their honor on the line.
Karl Schudt: If you think that marriage isn’t really anything, it’s just two people that decide to be friendly.
Scott Hambrick: We’re going to be BFFs.
Karl Schudt: I saw a guy who gave a talk about what modern wedding vows should be like. I promise to be faithful, to only have sex with you, until I am done being faithful to you or almost done being faithful to you. You know? If it becomes such a minor thing that it doesn’t really matter, why bother? And it can’t drive the drama. Like, I know you like talking bout don’t date a girl that you’re not going to marry.
Scott Hambrick: Once you’ve decided that you don’t want to marry or date her anymore.
Karl Schudt: But what if the marriage wasn’t anything particularly real? What if it’s not a vow, it’s not binding. Then who cares? You go on a date, the whole drama of it, this could be the one. But if there’s no one, then why date? And if you’re going to write a novel about this, how do you do it? Who cares if Lizzie gets tougher with Darcy? It doesn’t matter, it can’t drive the action.
Scott Hambrick: So I was just digging, I was was listening very carefully. I was digging into my Oxford English Dictionary that you get when you going onlinegreatbooks,
Karl Schudt: That’s a big perk
Scott Hambrick: And I see that the word wed cropped up in the old English, the book the Ormulum. Have you heard about the ormulum?There was a monk named Orum he wrote this chronicle called “the ormolu” where he’s just writing about things that happened. We did a baptism, crop yield was bad, the kind came through the other day, whatever. And so, the word “wed” first cropped up in the Ormulum around 1297. And then the world weld, I was hoping that wed and weld shared some sort of norman root. Nope. 1374, hawser.
Karl Schudt: Well, sorry. We can make that happen.
Scott Hambrick: Ddo you think that the onlinegreatbooks podcast will include OED.
You talk about if being married is the sum of material conditions, and it doesn’t actually go to internal emotional states, I think Murdoch would say there’s dryness there. It becomes this weird formulation and doesn’t say anything about a real internal condition of the individual.
Karl Schudt: So I read one of her novels and the one I was able to get for my library for the podcast called The Italian Girl. There was a line that I marked, there are two brothers in this book and the one brother is engaged and in an affair, it’s complicated and kinda gothic and it’s very wet it’s not dry at all. But the brother that comes home, he says to Otto “but you are metaphysic, Otto. you ought to think of her in more simple terms.” So otto is looking at this girl and he’s making her be the fulfillment of all sorts of transcended desires and conditions of his life and his brother’s just like quit being metaphysical. He’s getting too damp over this lady.
Scott Hambrick: We all experience when we meet up, you fall for them.
Karl Schudt: I was thinking about that with Lonesome Dove. The women in Lonesome Dove never do anything and the men all fall in love with them. They assign them all sorts of transcendental categories. Which I think it a more accurate description of human personality and love than let’s you and I satisfy our material needs together, you know?
Scott Hambrick: Someone might say, Oh how gross. Guess doesn’t love her because of what she’s done. But this ideal, this feminine ideal that he’s held up and she is an individual doesn’t matter. But, he’s loving these feminine virtues. It’s not her derring-do and a checklist of things she’s completed. It’s like these feminine virtues that he holds dear. It’s these concepts, it’s not the material checklist of things that she’s done, like, she sews a mean quilt or slaughters a tasty hog or whatever the heck you would do at that point.
Karl Schudt: How would you like to be evaluated on your material qualities?
Scott Hambrick: Terrible squat, wrinkles in my forehead.
Karl Schudt: The checklist of everything about you, everything that we can empirically measure. and have that be “scott hambrick”.
Scott Hambrick: I would prefer people to say he’s a good guy and if you leave your wallet with him you can come back in 10 years and everything is still there
Karl Schudt: You want to be characterized in moral categories. How do you have moral categories in the empirical realm. I think this is part of Murdoch’s complaint. She calls the welfare state empirical in politics, we’ve lost our theories there are no transcendent realities, there’s no degrees.
Scott Hambrick: There are only sincerities. A man in a steward hamshires book thought and action. He is rational and totally free except insofar in the most ordinary law court his degree of self-awareness may vary. His moral arguments are references to empirical facts. The only moral word he requires is good or right. That which expresses decision. Or the right decision. He rationally expresses himself in awareness of the facts. The virtue which is fundamental to him is sincerity. I think that’s probably right. I think that’s the main virtue at this point. And so is a genuine person? A phony?
Karl Schudt: A phony would be someone presenting himself as something he wasn’t. It might be all he’s got.
Scott Hambrick: But there’s no transcendent reality. Is he sincere?
Karl Schudt: So here’s me giving another pop culture example. I actually occasionally watch movies that are popular. I thought of two examples. Game of Thrones and Avengers Endgame. Scott, have you seen either of them?
Scott Hambrick: No.
Karl Schudt: Alright. I’ll do Avengers. I thought about this. The bad guy in the Avengers is Thanos.
Scott Hambrick: Is that company that was doing the good testing stuff and found the be frauds. Elizabeth Holmes something?
Karl Schudt: I don’t know. But Thanos is the big evil guy, he shows up in the first Avengers movie and you’re supposed to be scared. He shows up the last one and his motivation is he’s evil. But, it’s not spite or anything. All he wants to do is he’s an environmentalist. Ok. So the universe is too crowed and he’s going to snap his fingers with the infinite stones and kill half of the people in the universe.
Scott Hambrick: Can we pick which half?
Karl Schudt: No. So, if you think about it ,what he is, is a government bureaucrat who did not go through proper channels. That’s his evil. When you think about it, it is so boring. He’s not like trying for power, he’s not trying to impose a new view of reality of everybody, all he wants to do is correct an environmental imbalance and if only he had gone to the united nations and gotten some sort of clearance on this that everything would have been ok. The only probably is he’s like a beaurocrat that went too far.
Scott Hambrick: That’s why I asked if he got to pick which half? that’s a more interesting story.
Karl Schudt: It seems random.
Scott Hambrick: Did you see the OGB meme as me as Thanos? Did you see this thing? People say I look like Hank Hill. I guess Scott Hambrick Hank Hill Thanos Mashup, so weird.
Karl Schudt: It was disappointing to me. The special effects were ok. Superhero movies in general. Murdoch talks about this, all we’ve got left is fantasy. This is on page 19 of the essay. “The modern writer frightened of technology, abandoned by philosophy attempts to consol us by myths or stories. His truth is sincerity his imagination is fantasy.” And I was trying to think bout it. I actually read a whole lot of epic fantasy in my fun reading. Maybe that’s a problem, but that’s what superheroes are. It’s not good enough. The popular movies aren’t just people relating because that’s boring. Because we think people are boring because it’s all dry. What we have to do is magnify them.
Scott Hambrick: I’m really bothered by superhero movies because you have to give them a superpower to make them interesting. If I had to write a scene play and I had to write something interesting to give them a superpower, it’s too easy. It’s much more difficult to write Wuthering Heights. You have to make people stare at the screen for 2 hours when you’re talking about normal people.
Karl Schudt: But you can’t just have regular people relating. You have to have the biggest and baddest, and hulk has to get hulkier.
Scott Hambrick: I always hated superman because he was too strong, too boring as a kid. They even had to make up a weakness, kryptonite to make something happen to the guy. After you read a couple of superman comics, you’re done.
Karl Schudt: I was thinking about game of thrones too which had a thoroughly, the ending was terrible. But I expected it because I figured that was the way they were gongs. It’s an imaginative world, a lot of cool stuff, but in the end, it’s empty. There’s no particular reason to do anything.
Scott Hambrick: Sopranos finale, nothing happened.
Karl Schudt: Or the whole Sienfield show. None of what they do, matters. Or, Friends. This is something that bothers me about Friends. Friends, when I was in college and grad school everyone would watch friends. Rachel, Jennifer Aniston, she had a baby. What happened to the baby? Nobody knows baby vanished. Baby couldn’t be part of the story in a sitcom. In a sitcom, you can’t have anything ever happen.
Scott Hambrick: Because we embrace this liberal theory of personality as man is free and separate. If you embrace the idea man, should be free and separate, you can’t have an inner person. Rachel can’t have any obligation to the baby. If the baby gets sick, that’s a drag on the plot. I mean what are you going to do? If she can’t like sleep around with that guy, and Roz, because the baby is home. It just wrecks the story. She’s supposed to be able to do anything she wants to do.
Karl Schudt: There’s no drama, there’s no aging, they’re in the same place they were int he beginning. Speaking of novels kid novels, Anne of Green Gables is a series of novels by Lucy L… It’s well written and the girl is kinda funny. How can I eat when I am in the depths of dispart? I’ll quote her to my daughter when she complains about something. I guess your life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.
Scott Hambrick: I’m going to guess which daughter you tell that to.
Karl Schudt: It’s a bunch of books and you get to the end, and what I thought was very cool what Motgymer does the story moves, it’s no long Anne and who she marries, oh Gilbert, ya. But they have kids, and the story moves to the kids. You know. Like real life does. Like a real-life adequately convinced does. But unlike the way our movies and television especially seem to go. Same character, same situation, even the novel. sLike twenty novels later, it’s the same characters the same situation, different scenery.
Scott Hambrick: All these movie franchises, they just keep remaking the same movies even. Even cinema as a category mostly isn’t doing anything. Got a new lone ranger movie comes out and everybody hates it. Well, of course, they hated it.
Karl Schudt: Did anything see that?
Scott Hambrick: Why would they? She says this dryness is the nemesis of romanticism. Romanticism, that’s Austin. What do you think? Anne of Green Gables.
Karl Schudt: Ya, things happen, things matters. Later on in this series, her kids are going off to war. They get into WWI, they think it matters, they think there’s something they have to do. I want to read a bit, on p[age 19 “Tolkien who said that art was an expression of the religious….moral world itself.” If nothing really matters, then how do you make art? You called Jackson Pollock a monster. There’s a bunch of Jackson Pollack in the Art Institute of Chicago which I go to pretty regularly. I walk pretty quickly past it. It’s the art of the age, it’s paint splatters. It’s utterly uninteresting. I stop at impressionism. I like prerafialites. I like things that Look like things.
Scott Hambrick: Of course you do
Karl Schudt: In The Italian Girl the novel that I read, the main character Edmond I think, one of his complaints, it’s Edomd and Otto two brothers, they have a bohemian family. they call their mon Lidia. Lidia is a complete atheist. Lidia dies and so Edmond has to come home and all sorts o things happen. They complain I wish they had given us some kind of religion that could have given him a way to figure his way through life. He doesn’t have any categories, I don’t know that from this statement it matters which one. Some sense that our life is not horizontal, but it’s vertical. Game of Thrones was like that. There were gods in Game of Thrones but they made no sense. They didn’t care about tinting. There was no particular morality being proposed. Spoiler: Denarius, in the end, burns the whole city down. IN the last season, Denarius goes full Hitler and she uses her Dragon to kill 2 million people in Kings Landing. Well, why wouldn’t she? As a character, she had talked of breaking the wheel and bringing freedom but there’s no understanding of what freedom is, and what a person is, and why you shouldn’t just burn a couple million of them. so it made sense. It made sense, it was a nihilist series and it came to a nihilist conclusion.
Scott Hambrick: Existentialism behaviorism has reduced our vocabulary… inner life. But probably inner life I would say. There you go. So you can justify writing a fantasy where the heroine does that. I love the ideas that she has in here. She said we need more concepts than we have. We just don’t have enough concepts at this point. We aren’t just isolated free choosers. But we are portrayed as that. Everybody thinks of the modern man as an isolated free choicer. When you think of the isolated free choices, you don’t take into account the complex actions and interests that he and the people around him have, which those complex interactions that’s where the story is. That’s where the wetness is, Karl.
Karl Schudt: Ya. If you think that a human being is a flat, consumer of material needs. You might think that you can do stuff to them. If only I get the right laws, if only I get the right structures in place, everyone will be happy. And, it just doesn’t work. So, there’s a Dosteskey I think it’s letters from the underground. The guy has everything going right except he hates it all. The guy should be happy but he’s not. And he just wants to smash everything. Or Crime and Punishment, he wants to commit a crime, why not. There’s a bit in Walker Percy book, which at some point you need to read. Lost in the Cosmos, the Last Self Help book. At the end, through a thought experiment, you have a chance to go off with the technocrats and live on the Moon Titan in a wonderful society and you’ll have encounter meetings every morning. Or you can go hide out in this one hollow in Tennesee, Lost Cove Tennesee. You’re hanging out with Catholic monks, baptists, they’re all just trying to rase pics and life, and sit on the porch and drink moonshine.
Scott Hambrick: Can we whittle?
Karl Schudt: Sure.
Scott Hambrick: I’m in.
Karl Schudt: Which one seems better? Do you want to have all your needs satisfied or do you want to live a simpler life and yet maybe you don’t even go to church, you complain about the baptists, but at least there’s a scope.
Scott Hambrick: Murdoch would say you’re dealing with real, impenetrable human persons.
Karl Schudt: Ya, I wrote this is good next to this paragraph on 20. “we are not isolated free choicer… deform by fantasy.” You’re not who you think you are. Here’s another example of that. Paul writes about this in Romans. The thing that I want to do, I do not do. I do that which I hate. “ Is there a human on the planet who has not experienced that?
Scott Hambrick: Rachel in friends. Everybody there loves their jobs. Once she leaves the coffee shop, everybody does whatever they want to do, nobody is worried about their student loan debt. It’s just the most boring shit ever. Beautiful people came and go and make one-liners.
Karl Schudt: And live in enormous apartments in Manhattan. Our friend Michael Wolfe used to live in Manhattan and he’s a very large man. And had very small apartments. I don’t know how he did it. I feel clostiphobic around here.
Scott Hambrick: “It is curious that modern literature which is so much concerned with violence contains so few images of evil”
Karl Schudt: That’s what makes me think of Thanos. He’s the IRS commissioner who went too far.
Scott Hambrick: I’ll go back to my old comic book readings from 83’. So many of the bad guys in the superhero comics were just like big corporatists. I used to actually get justice league comics. In the legit of doom, they actually had board meetings and like figured out how to steal all the gold out of fort Knox, if we were going to get together and really be bad, we probably wouldn’t have tried any of the penalty stuff that they were trying. Like what’s really evil? Like if you could just do something just terrible, is it mess up the monetary system? That’s the kind of stuff they would do. Destroy the UN Building in New York City, stuff like that.
Karl Schudt: I think real evil, it’s that Doskeisky thing. It’s just spite. I hate, for some reason, I see goodness and I hate it. And I which to destroy it. Because I don’t know why, it is not what I am. Take away baby smiles. I want to go steal candy from babies just because. In the grinch movie, the live-action Grinch movie which I don’t really like, the grinch says something like “plan for the day, cure cancer, tell no one. “ I don’t want to get all biblical, there’s a story when the demons get cast into the pigs. John Cristisism talks about this, if you want to talk about evil is, what do they do when they get the pigs? They run them off the cliff and kill em. It’s purely destructive. This was in Judeah.
Scott Hambrick: All that good bacon.
Karl Schudt: Wasted bacon.
Scott Hambrick: Maybe if I couldn’t eat the bacon I’d run them off the cliff too.
Karl Schudt: Convincing bad guys… I think the Joker is a convincing bad guy.
Scott Hambrick: He’s a nihilist.
Karl Schudt: Who’s the guy that played him?
Scott Hambrick: Heath Ledger.
Karl Schudt: I’m mad at him, I liked him as an actor I’m mad he’s not around. I was sitting in the movie theatre watching that, and people were laughing at the joker, they were laughing with him. They had no idea how scary this character is. All he wants to do is destroy because he wants to. There are no redeeming qualities, this is just random destruction and malice. He was a very convincing bad guy to me.
Scott Hambrick: I have this theory of justice, ready? The more senseless it is, the more severe the punishment should be. Like graffiti? There’s no purpose in it? If somebody steals a loaf of bread, maybe they were starving. If you just take a sharpie and write on the bus stop? Death penalty. You’re a hungry kid, your granda that needed medicine, I can’t think of any good reason to do that.
Karl Schudt: I can think of a good reason, which is you’re feeling dislocated in a board modern world. But I’ll give you one so you’re driving behind someone and they stop at the stoplight and they roll down their windows and soundly like a burger king wrapper comes flying out. Death penalty. senseless littering. You couldn’t keep it in your car for 5 minutes? That’s malice! I don’t care, and I’m going to screw up the world.
Scott Hambrick: You get in a running gun battle and somebody gets killed. What was going on? Throw out the burger king wrapper, we got the low circuit security cameras footage, you could have kept it in the car, you didn’t.
Karl Schudt: You can’t argue with people who don’t accept noncontradiction. Does he even really have the category of the good?
Scott Hambrick: I don’t know.
Karl Schudt: all of you litterbugs, you’re safe. neither of us are likely to ever be in power to make this happen. So you can spite us and throw out your garbage.
Scott Hambrick: Iris, “in morals and politics we have strict ourself of concepts..” she says concepts over and over again. You’re saying fewer and fewer categories, does that fit you made a face.
Karl Schudt: I was just thinking through it. Ya.
Scott Hambrick: Literature in carrying its own…endeavor is failure.”
Karl Schudt: So I was thinking about this, since we are dong LOTR next week?
Scott Hambrick: Oh God help me, I’ll try.
Karl Schudt: We’ll be traveling next week anyways. LOTR is a fantasy, I wonder if that was one of the ones she was talking about.
Scott Hambrick: I don’t think so.
Karl Schudt: I’m worried that it is and I want to be convinced that it isn’t.
Scott Hambrick: I hadn’t read it all yet. Though it is fantasy, it is not needlessly fantastic. There are some superpowers, the ring of gizesus is in there, but it’s all done in service of talking about human struggle. It’s not done because there’s no human struggle to talk about. It’s not because Tolkien can’t conceive of what it’s like to be human. George Martin, he’s no Tolkien. So he’s got to have the dragons and so on I think.
Karl Schudt: He’s so good except I think he’s lacking a unifying view. I’ve read a bunch of his novels.
Scott Hambrick: What if he has a unifying view that you don’t want to see?
Karl Schudt: that I don’t like? That’s probably it. Ya, I’m thinking of something we ought to read. Tolkien has an essay on “Mythopoasis, sub-creation.” little short easy on literation. We should probably read that. If we’re going to do LOTR. Ya I think LOTR is about humans. There’s elves and everything, but it’s about temptation. Tolkien was an English classic, he’s religious imagination informs the whole thing. And so when you meet golem, you’re going to recognize him. You’re going to recognize the sort of person that becomes this thing. It fits in categories and ya, there’s fantastic creatures and dwarfs and things but it’s not foreign and it’s not empty. There’s a point to it.
Scott Hambrick: I think he could ave written his story in a different genre. He chose to do it like he did but like superman without the superpowers is nothing. The fantasy that is in there doesn’t just seem like device. It doesn’t seem like he did it to keep me going. He has an entire world view and he’s created a unity there. There’s nothing in there just for the sake of being a gimmick. He doesn’t need it to prevent the dryness.
Karl Schudt: I think that’s probably right. I’m looking forward to rereading it myself. It’s been like 3 years.
Scott Hambrick: How much do you read every day Karl?
Karl Schudt: A lot of my reading is in the car. I do a lot of audible stuff. I don’t know, most of the day.
Scott Hambrick: I don’t read nearly enough.
Karl Schudt: I need to get faster though My daughter can read a novel in an hour.
Scott Hambrick: I sed to be able to do that
Karl Schudt: She borrows her friend’s book she sits on the couch and by the end, she’s done. I thought I was fast she’s faster. I was sitting by the pool working on Herodotus yesterday, I was looking at all the pole at the pool, when they’re not swimming they’re looking at their phones. What if they were reading a book? People say we don’t have time to read. Well, all right, do an inventory. What do you spend your time on? And could you spend it better? I think there’s a lot of good television right now it’s not that it’s all bad, it’s just that it might be utter. If you haven’t read Tolkien, you need to read Tolkien and it will be better than the TV show you’re writing. Or pick up an Iris Murdoch novel. It’s not wasted time.
Scott Hambrick: only the very great art invigorates without consoling. and I think a lot of this art, by the way, the content you take in on Instagram, it’s art. is it good? is it bad art? It might be consoling. You pass the time, it engages you, it may not make you feel good about the human experience. but there’s a consolation int he doing, sort of. But it’s not invigorating. I don’t think anyone spends time with their phone, or even TV, and is invigorated by that.
Karl Schudt: And it’s unlikely to be really challenging. you’re not going to stop and say “why?” How many of the viewers of friends ever thought, I’ve asked people about this, “what happened to Rachel’s kid?” But nobody has thought about it but me, apparently. The child vanished, I think her name was Emma. Lot of kids named Emma after Rachels kid, Emma got flushed down the Emma hole.
Scott Hambrick: We have a friend who named her daughter Emma, can you imagine.
Karl Schudt: Well it’s a Jane Austin novel.
Scott Hambrick: Any final remarks about Murdoch?
Karl Schudt: I’m glad I read it. The question it raises for me is if you don’t believe in anything, can you make good art?
Scott Hambrick: Or if you have this materialistic construction of the human being, if you think the wrong things, can you do art?
Karl Schudt: So, if art is an expression, what is it expressing? If you don’t have anything to say, then would it really be any good. Did you ever look at soviet art? like revolutionary art?
Scott Hambrick: I love Soviet art.
Karl Schudt: They’re always looking off into the glorious future.
Scott Hambrick: You ever go to Rockefeller center and see the murals in the entrance. It’s soviet art, it’s 1930s Art Deco. Listen, that’s soviet art I’m sorry. It’s like a big, square-shouldered guy operating a faith, another guy is running a train, these manual arts. Man expressing himself through manual art or behind the plow.
Karl Schudt: It’s so good you could almost become a communist.
Scott Hambrick: I love it.
Karl Schudt: It believes something.
Scott Hambrick: The son’s beaming on them. Ya, it’s great. Here in Tulsa, OK we have the golden driller. Have you seen the golden driller?
Karl Schudt: No I haven’t.
Scott Hambrick: We need to go see the golden driller. For a time, we were the oil capital of the world. The international petroleum exposition was held here, an infant of the IPE building is the golden driller and he’s a 75 ft tall oil field worker. It’s soviet art. That’s what he is. And I just love him. He’s like broad shoulder, narrow hip, working guy. It’s awesome.
Karl Schudt: Say what you want about the tenants of communism, at least it’s beneath it. If we flatten all that out, you end up with Jackson Polluck.
Scott Hambrick: It’’s the 5th tallest statue in the United States.
Karl Schudt: My keyboard is really loud or I’d look it up now.
Scott Hambrick: When I was a kid, KMOD our classic rock radio station would put a t-shirt on him one week of the year. Stupid. There he is.
Karl Schudt: That’s pretty inspiring. I bet he’d have trouble squatting.
Scott Hambrick: He’s built the same, him and I. I like Iris Murdoch the only Irisu Murdoch I’ve read. Thank you Austin Glang for telling us I should read it. I think she is pointing at something important, in the loss of concepts. The loss of categories, like you say Karl, where people just don’t recognize as many categorize as they once did. They don’t see the granulation of the human experience in the romantic arts. You like to give the pop culture references, you’ve got your sam harris. He’s kinda a materialist. the atoms and chemistry of your brain dictate what you are. You are the stuff of your material. And I don’t think there’s anything less wet than his podcast. His conception of the world is very dry. He can’t flower it up, you can’t make it engaging. It’s not an engaging conception of humanity. Even if he’s right, it’s just not engaging.
Karl Schudt: Ya, and if he’s right, I’m going to throw bricks. I would rebel. So I don’t think he’s right. It’s like the myth of progress. If I just make the right things everyone would be happy.
Scott Hambrick: But we can’t be happy. This magazine, I bought this copy of the encounter magazine and it has some of the original cards in it that it mailed with. So you can subscribe to 1961 to a year’s worth of magazine for 45 shillings. that’s awesome. 7.50 American. You could also fill in this little card here and post it in Great Britain to the international art club and buy some fine reproduction of Van Gogh’s sunflowers. I’ll scan these and put these on the website. So cool. And then, you could also get some information about booking flights to Austria, Italy and so on.
Karl Schudt: Wow I wonder if you fill out the thing for the fine art and mailed it what would happen.
Scott Hambrick: I don’t know. I need to look up 7 fits throw street London and see who’s there now.
Karl Schudt: Some 95-year-old woman sitting in a dusty art repository and it’s been 30 years since any male came through the slot. It could be a novel.
Scott Hambrick: Well there’s iris. I enjoyed it. Upcoming shows, we’re going to talk about LOTR. I think we’re going to have McKay to talk about Lonesome Dove and the Odyssey together. What else we gonna do Karl?
Karl I think we ought to look up that Tolkien essay. I have this one right here.
Scott Hambrick: That’s a giant book, what are you doing to me.
Scott Hambrick: And I have the Gabriel marcel book has come in so we can be talking about that.
Karl Schudt: Excellent. Man against mass society. That’d be great. I‘m looking forward to it. This is fun
Scott Hambrick: There’s another online great books podcast. Thank you for listening to us, I hope you guys like listening to Scott and Karl talk about things they like to talk about. Cause if you don’t, this isn’t going to be the show for you. If you want to talk to your friends about the books, you might just need to start your own homegroup. Or, if you don’t have any friends, cause you’re a modern person, you can join us at onlinegreatbooks.com and we can help put you with some people who will soon become your friends. Well, there’s another show, go to iTunes and give us some reviews. Those have been slow to come in because I think that our listeners are introverts. They are so introverts they won’t even go sign in to iTunes and put a review in. Pass this on to a friend and let them know we just reviewed Iris Murdoch’s essay from 1961 called “against dryness.” Talk to you guys in a few weeks.