Wednesday, January 05, 2011

`A Glittering Object'

About this recent post Dave Lull writes in an email:

“I don't think…the Internet causes me to be shallow, which I undoubtedly am, but rather I'm shallow to begin with and have finally found the best environment for my shallowness. But now and then I do think more deeply than usual because of a glittering object that so strongly captures my magpie attention that I can't easily extricate my thoughts and can't easily not return both to the glittering object and to the thoughts it stimulates.”

I’m suspicious of anyone claiming to spend his days always thinking deep thoughts. It’s not healthy, and probably symptomatic of a personality disorder like Chronically Annoying Syndrome. Even Wittgenstein liked Betty Hutton movies. Shallowness seldom gets the respect it deserves, as A.J. Liebling understood. In The Honest Rainmaker he writes, admiringly:

“The Colonel has always believed that fortune swims, not with the main stream of letters, but in the shallows where the suckers moon.”

Nor is shallowness -- which I suggested to Dave we rename “nimble-mindedness” -- antithetical to profundity. Most of us vacillate along the gradient defined by those termini, settling into a medium state we might call shallowly profound. In a lovely remembrance of Edgar Bowers in the July-August 2000 issue of Poets and Writers, Dick Davis writes:

“He is a hard man to describe, because he eschewed the eccentric and flamboyant, and was almost studiously `ordinary’ in everyday life. He had a deep distrust for the cult of `the poet’ and used to say trenchantly, `A man is only a poet when he is writing a poem.’”

A relentless running away from so-called shallowness is among the characteristic pathologies of our age. If only the rest of us were so ordinary, so shallow, as Edgar Bowers.

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