You know, dear readers, meditating on my past few articles has caused me to realize just how ponderously they were written. How long back was my last attempt at humor? (I promise to read and comment on five posts of whoever is able to find that out.) In order to attain the proper mood, I have stuck a pipe in my mouth and positioned myself under an automatic light which periodically requires me to walk eight paces forward in order to reactivate. The hope being that the uniqueness of my position causes humor to infect my pen.
(Now to take a short break to retrieve a forgotten and essential pipe cleaner. Alright, having been delivered of the sensation of sucking the bottom of an empty glass with a straw, let the subject matter commence!)
Anyway, reading Conan the Cimmerian brought home to me how ponderous my present reading list is. Take a gander at these works: Cicero’s De Inventione, a book on the War of 1812, the British officer Frederick Mackenzie’s diary of the Revolutionary War, Anton Chekhov’s major plays (you know how those went from this article), E. D. Hirsch’s work on why America’s schools are failing, and An Honest President by H. Paul Jeffers. Only the last, a biography on Grover Cleveland, may be considered light in any degree.
A certain repressed part of my mind seemed to click as I read through the adventures of Conan the Barbarian. Who would not be stirred by reading tales of him rescuing a maiden from Neanderthals, chasing a women clothed in sheer gossamer upon snowy vasts, being captured by a voluptuous pirate queen, and being madly embraced by her after a mating dance? Pardon me. This list of adventures might give the impression that any stirring in me was of a localized and prosaic kind. Let me rather point out him adventuring for treasure, slaying eldritch monsters, prowess in battle, journeying through fantastic lands, and narrowly escaping treachery.
I had once opined that language seemed more geared to narrative than academic purposes. I might even say that the full richness of language expresses itself more fully in myth than in even the best tales of 19th century realists. Myth affects the psyche on the level of beauty more than goodness and truth; though, a good myth will obviously also contain the latter ideas. In the Conan stories, one is particularly struck by the detailed depictions of the countryside, the uniqueness of the scenarios, the atavistic mindsets of the characters, and the curious utility or opulence of the apparel. Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian, employs a particularly rich vocabulary to convey all of this. Forcing even a highly literary man like me to look up at least one word per page. (That’s not bragging if it’s true, right?)
So, burdening one’s mind with only works of academic rigor or factual events cannot but have a negative effect. The mind needs to indulge in the beautiful and fantastic. As Dostoyevsky wrote, “Beauty will save the world.” It also saves the mind from stultification. (That’s a real word, right? Yes! My dictionary confirms it and that my usage is perfect.)
Well, my pipe is done, and it’s time to step back into my nice, air conditioned house. Good night to you all!