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Posted by on Aug 2, 2012 in Blog, What's Left | 0 comments

An Intellectual Lion: Gore Vidal (1925-2012)

Gore Vidal Photo

 

Gore Vidal died yesterday.

In obituaries which appeared over that last 24 hours, he’s been described as a writer and protagonist.

He wrote.

He ran for office (losing both times).

He commented.

He thought.

And, he provoked — and he certainly did that far better than most.

Like his more recent now deceased contemporaries Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, and William F. Buckley and in the mold of great thinkers of yesteryear such as H.L. Mencken, Upton Sinclair, and even Mark Twain, he was a fixture on the intellectual circuit.  He basked in the spotlight in a time when writers were afforded the same celebrity as rock stars.  One colleague pined, “he was the man who knew everyone.”

Vidal was a wildly controversial figure, no doubt.  Audiences — those who cared enough about society and culture to follow his ceaseless parade of provocation, now increasingly dissolved in what’s spawned into a grotesque 140-character Twitterized world — would describe his ideas as eccentric and hopelessly out of touch.

As if that’s a “bad thing.”

To the contrary.  We need more eccentrics.  We need more thinkers who are out of touch.  And, we need more Gore Vidals.  And sadly, we now have one less.

The intent of a great writer and meaningful prose should not be — to be right all the time.  Writing, discussion, debate, inquiry, and ultimately provocation is not about prim and proper conformity to expectations and comfort zones.  Indeed, great writers should shun such a horrifying prospect.  You will forgive me for admitted bias, but whatever inside the box “is,” the thinker should be standing on the outside and perhaps as far away from the middle as possible.  And few stood any further from the apex of old-fashioned traditions as Gore Vidal.

Indeed, great writer does not necessarily implant what one must think.  But he (or she) should inspire one TO THINK.

There is a profound difference.  And no one understood that different better than Vidal and his fellow lions of intellect.

Gore Vidal did plenty of thinking, urging others to contemplate their own existence, their own sense of right and wrong, during an 86-year adventure, ultimately a fruitful life filled with the handiwork of books, plays , articles, essays , debate appearances, speeches, and participation in all forums which encouraged the free exchange of ideas.

This has been a tough year for writers, no doubt.  Eight months ago, we lost Christopher Hitchens, a thinker of extraordinary immensity.  Now, we have lost another.

Although I never met Vidal, I think of myself as someone who knew him — through his words and ideas.  Perhaps his greatest contribution and of those like him was to inspire others to carry on and push the envelope of ideas, to challenge conventionalism, and blaze new paths towards enlightenment.

In your memory, Mr. Vidal.  Thank you.

 

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Posted by on Jul 30, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Personal, What's Left | 0 comments

Hitting Life’s Reset Button

Life's Reset Button

 

If you could go back and live your life all over again, would you?

I suppose most of us would answer – it depends.

Let’s say you could turn back the clock  and relive your life with the benefit of all the knowledge you now possess.  Given the inherent wonders of knowing what the future would bring, most of us would agree to a replay.  Let’s say you could go back to 1969 and bet on the New York Jets or take full advantage of MicroSoft’s 1986 IPO, you’d be very wealthy indeed.

Then there is the “Dead Zone” prospect of going back and purposefully changing the future.  For instance, who among us would not feel compelled to try and alter the terrible course of events which occurred on September 11, 2001?

But what about going back in time and facing utter uncertainty?  Would you choose to live your life over again and then be willing to accept the consequences if things were to turn out very differently?

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