Yesterday, being a long and overcast day filled with scattered and chilly rain showers and periodic sudden cessations of wi-fi service, I took up my old dog-eared hard bound copy of The Best Essays Of The Century edited by Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Atwan and curled up in my recliner under a 40 watt lamp and lost myself in my lifelong favorite pastime... absorbing the thoughts and revelations of other minds.
The first essay was Corn-pone Opinions by Mark Twain which was a stimulating start to an entire day devoted to deep reflection on the many circumlocutions and derivations as well as adroit deviations the biological brain is capable of formulating within myriad minds in its timeless search for the shadowed and shrouded basic meaning behind the existence of human life.
Who better than Mark Twain could cut through the omnipresence of human pretense and point out the Darwinesque bare bones skeleton of self-interest and its underlying instinctual decree for perpetuation of the species that lives merely millimeters beneath the unconsciously fraudulent surface?
Sometimes I allow myself to laugh (and sometimes I do not) when I read some of the eloquent and prophetic pronouncements from earlier times, such as:
The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre -- the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.
The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
Baltimore Evening Sun,
July 26, 1920
I find myself wondering what both of the above mentioned gentlemen would have to say about the following modern-day innovation:
Or this one . . .
Can't help it . . . that's the way my mind works
No president who performs his duties faithfully and conscientiously can have any leisure.
--James K. Polk