Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Quotes of the Day: James Baldwin

Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have.

Everybody's journey is individual. If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality.

Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch.

It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.

It is very nearly impossible... to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.

The paradox of education is precisely this - that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.


James Baldwin. If you haven't read his novels, I recommend you do so. That man could write.

15 comments:

asher said...

Rather than make a comment, why don't you inform us about James Baldwin's background.

Jewish Atheist said...

Here's a short bio.

Basically, he was a big literary voice of the African-American civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s, a great writer, and a former (teen) preacher turned skeptic. ("I was forced, reluctantly, to realize that the Bible itself had been written by men.") He was also openly gay and opposed discrimination against lesbian and gay people.

asher said...

He also hated America and made a point of not living here. And although many of his novels talk about poor blacks and how white society caused it, he was brought up in a middle class home and made a good living as a writer.

Jewish Atheist said...

Oh, I didn't realize it was a quiz.

oracle25 said...

Whoever he was it is obvious that he is logically inept.

Robert West said...

asher is badly misinformed as are
most bigots and racists.
Baldwin was first of nine children,
never knew his father, grew up in
Harlem--there's no middleclass Harlem, asher.He left America because he hated American racists
and homophobes and feared for his
life.I know Baldwin wouldn't care
much for asher and I don't like racists and homophobes at all.By the way, Baldwin came back to the
U.S. and joined Martin Luther King
in the Civil Rights Movement.Asher,
stupidity is not a virtue.
Robert West.

Anonymous said...

my question is: what on earth is oracle25 doing on this blog? looks like he took a wrong turn (to the left?) somewhere.

oracle25 said...

I was looking up something and found this, okay? I don't know what you mean by me going left, I have never departed from my ideals.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

I'm particularly interested in the first quote:
Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves … in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have.

He touches on a core issue there. What is the "whole root of our trouble"? Buddhists say ignorance - illusion is the root problem. Christians say sin. Baldwin says the problem is we'll make any sacrifice to deny the reality of death.

Identifying the root problem is critically important. It's like practicing medicine: first you make a diagnosis, only then can you offer a cure.

What's your diagnosis, JA? I'm guessing you'll say ignorance; and propose education as the cure.
Q

Jewish Atheist said...

Interesting question, Q. I'm not sure there is just one root cause. There are several. Ignorance is certainly one, but so are denial (which is self-imposed ignorance) and selfishness. (By selfishness I don't mean just caring about and taking care of yourself, but rather caring so much more about yourself than others that you're willing to cause or allow the unnecessary suffering of them.) Probably laziness and apathy are a distant second.

Sin, as in between-man-and-god as opposed to man-and-man, obviously isn't even on my list. Masturbating, eating non-kosher, or not believing in Jesus doesn't hurt anybody.

asher said...

To Robert West
Wow..talk about racist and bigoted comments..how about this one?

he grew up in
Harlem--there's no middleclass Harlem

Nothing like being judgemental. But then again, never counter the facts. In the words of Dan Rather, never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

oracle25 said...

To JA, I will admit that living for oneself offers the most temporary happiness. Tis is why so many people (including Christians) do it. However these things do have harm attached to them in the long run. People who cling to earthly things are the ones that end up the most miserable

Robert West said...

to asher:
I did not realize you had no concept of the evolution of Harlem.
I should have known better.From 1920 to the 1950's Harlem was a crime-ridden,poverty-ridden slum where blacks were compelled to live
in conditions not unlike the Polish
Ghettos.Those few blacks who achieved middle class status left and by 1960 there was no black middle class in Harlem.But in the late 80's and early 90's a black
middle class returned to Harlem.My
point,which seems to have eluded you, is that James Baldwin grew up
in the poverty-ridden Harlem of the 20's and 30's and did NOT as
you asserted,have a middle class
upbringing--which you would know if
you ever read his works or a single
biography of the man.
Ignorance,like stupidity, isn't a virtue either,asher.And if you aren't a racist and a bigot, why did you ignore JA's quotes and try
to dismiss Baldwin with an dishonest and ignorant attack on
the man? In one sense,asher,Iam
judgemental--I don't suffer fools like you gladly.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

JA:
Sin, as in between-man-and-god as opposed to man-and-man, obviously isn't even on my list. Masturbating, eating non-kosher, or not believing in Jesus doesn't hurt anybody.

It may surprise you, but I agree. People sometimes speak of "victimless crime", and I think the concept carries over to the realm of sin. To me, it seems like a pretty sound criterion for defining sin.

Some people argue that God is always a victim when people sin, but I don't find the argument persuasive. I doubt very much that God is harmed if I masturbate or engage in homosexual sex.

But the point I really wanted to get to is this. In my view, the problem is located inside each one of us, and the only viable solution would involve something like a rebirth. Changing institutions (substituting one form of government for another, for example) can be helpful, but it doesn't address the root problem. Likewise, I don't think education is sufficient to fix what ails us.

Christianity first attracted me largely because of this promise of internal renewal. I don't know what Judaism has to say on this subject. My impression is that Judaism's focus lies elsewhere, on relatively external matters, but perhaps the more mystical strains of Judaism share the concern I associate with Christianity.

Since I always strive to be honest, I admit: I can't say that I've been highly impressed by the result. Too many Christians show little sign of regeneration. Still, the very fact that Christianity presents this as its diagnosis of human ills, and promises to address it, impresses me very deeply.
Q

Jewish Atheist said...

In my view, the problem is located inside each one of us, and the only viable solution would involve something like a rebirth.

It might be nice if it worked, but I think the best we can realistically do is the best we can with what we've got.

I like that bumper sticker though: "Born OK the first time." :)