A Brief Note (Screed) on Contemporary Realism

“Indeed, art has never been great when it was not providing an iconography for a live religion.” – George Bernard Shaw

The problem with contemporary “social realism” is that it frequently comes no closer to reality than an abstract of all the newspaper articles in the United States would.  Time Magazine in particular, loves to hail the emergence of “The Great American Novel” (despite the continued existence of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Moby Dick, and The Great Gatsby) once a decade, and the novel in question is usually some such journalistic pap, relating the exuberant pettiness of American life in our time: Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, and Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom are good examples of this much-vaunted, late-coming “Great American Novel.”  Freedom was supposed to be a realistic depiction of Suburban Upper-Middle-Class Lowest Common Denominator America at the beginning of the 21st Century, but it failed even in that modest aspiration… with a whimper.  The book was attacked largely on irrelevant grounds—an argument was stirred up about why “chick-lit” writers can’t be considered geniuses if Jonathan Franzen can… which is a good question, if you turn it on its head, since Franzen isn’t a genius but is a pretty okay chick-lit writer. 

But it really deserved to be attacked on firmer grounds: David Brooks offered some perceptive negative comments in The New York Times, noting that Franzen had created a world where everyone lacked passion and interest, where the rock musicians don’t even seem to like playing guitar and the kids can’t get excited for basketball practice, and succeeded in making Suburban Average Americans look a lot more lifeless than they really are—as difficult as that might be (Franzen did this intentionally, to some extent—but that’s not much of an accomplishment).  Time devoted a cover to Franzen—as they did with Tom Wolfe—but both writers already seem to be fading into the light of common day.  What they provided may have been decent journalism, but still—like a lot of accurate journalism, and despite plenty of superficial flash—drab: their characters don’t actually have inner selves, because nothing genuinely interests them or seems to get their wheels moving (except, maybe, for boning or for social status or, in Franzen’s case, for the honest drudgery of sentimental familial duty in the end.)  They have no real loves and obsessions, no interior monologue that you would really want to tune into.  They’re just words on a page — unlike Huck or Holden or Nick Carraway or Owen Meany.  

I think this can be traced back to the fact that Franzen has no real religion—not even the religion of Art or of Communism—but is a sort of preachy, watered-down American liberal—a very, very common type these days.  All such preachy, watered-down American liberals are intermeasurable by one another (paraphrasing Blake)—“a very agreeable situation, in which I, for one, do not agree.”  And Wolfe, like Franzen, can moralize when he wants to (though Wolfe is a Republican and an odd mix of the Capitalist critic and cheerleader), but he doesn’t really have any Icons he’s interested in making or smashing—or, at least, he doesn’t break any of the really interesting Icons.

Dostoevsky and (late-period) Tolstoy are the great models of genuine realism—for them, true Good and true Evil are part of our world, and their presence needs to be reckoned with.  Dostoevsky gets to the heart of the matter with his Christ-like Alyosha and his Satanic nihilists, Smerdyakov and Svridaigalov.   In between these brilliantly contrasting sets of personalities, he interposes the tormented man, the Hamlet-like intellectual who cannot reach beyond the mind’s limit to touch the essence of Good or Evil, who cannot commit himself to God or to nihilism—Ivan Karamazov and The Underground Man torture themselves at the crossroads forever.  And Tolstoy accomplishes something perhaps greater in his depictions of truly “average” men in stories like “The Death of Ivan Ilych” and “Master and Man,” exploring the immense layers of repressed love and desire that continue to murmur beneath the external fronts of even the most seemingly trivial human beings.   

But you don’t need to be Dostoevsky or Tolstoy to write a great realistic novel.  John Irving has written some pretty good ones, and as wild as Cormac McCarthy gets, I don’t think you can dispute the fact that he gets at the core of American reality today (and human reality for forever) – he’s our best living writer, in my opinion.   Is there, then, a recipe?  No—as T.S. Eliot said of literary criticism—“the only method is to be very intelligent.”  But, also, as a corollary—try to be “religious” about something—invest your strength in a serious cause and not just in the sappy good feelings of Lowest Common Denominator inhuman humanism.  If you can’t have some other religion—if you lack the zeal to put your talents at the service of Buddhism or Bolshevism or Creative Evolution— make Aestheticism your credo, at least.   And, failing that, just try to be momentarily interesting every now and then.    


A Few Quick Thoughts on J.D. Salinger

by Sam Buntz

[Note: I hope to actually treat Salinger’s writings and thought in detail in the future — hopefully, when I’m ghost-writing for the Oracle of Delphi, or the newspaper equivalent — not to put too fine a nerd point on it.  I wrote this only to try to explain why I think Salinger’s achievement will endure and why certain critics (and a few jaded college students and “veteran bore” professors I’ve encountered) tend to underestimate him.  The curious should also feel free to consult an earlier article I wrote for The Dartmouth: http://thedartmouth.com/2010/01/06/opinion/buntz   ]

Jumping right in:

I believe that J.D. Salinger’s true accomplishment was overshadowed in the 20th Century because the literary movements of the era tended to emphasize verbal difficulty as a key element in creating excellent literature: Joyce and Beckett, Eliot and Stevens are held up as the period’s central novelists and poets (and they are great, as well).  But some critics–Harold Bloom (with whom I usually agree), for instance–won’t even admit Salinger into the same tier of the Pantheon as Fitzgerald and Hemingway.  Alfred Kazin—himself, at this point, much more of a forgotten relic than Salinger ever will be—snootily dismissed him as “Everyone’s favorite.” And I’ve seen Gore Vidal, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, and even John Updike all miss the mark when it came to defining Salinger’s genius.  The standard for achievement was narrowed down to doing something new with style and language, a definition narrow enough to exclude originality in voice, temper, manner and energy, and in the basic message and sense of character being conveyed. (I admit I’m only making a partially correct assessment.)  But Salinger found his way back to a way of writing that Tolstoy prophesied would be the art of the future—an art-form that would simply communicate the spiritual truths of our humanity and so tend to bind human beings more closely together.

It is because Holden Caulfield both perceives so many touching truths about the people around him—meaning that he appreciates, indeed, loves them—and remains critical about them in a far more judgmental and unhealthy manner, that he exemplifies our own dilemma and provides an occasion for us to develop our own capacity for empathy.  We too are forced to choose between letting our minds and critical faculties drag us into contempt for the people around us (the awful fate of sitting around at a bar hating everyone who comes in and looks like they played football in high-school, against which Holden’s teacher warns him) or to use that same critical intelligence to find the poetry and the Goodness in people and things.  This debacle is the very crux not only of The Catcher in the Rye but of Franny and Zooey.  It is absolutely central to Salinger and its capacity to resonate transcends the historical period and peculiar Manhattan locale of Salinger’s works—evidenced by what (on anecdotal evidence) I take to be Salinger’s popularity in locations as far flung as France, Italy, India, and Japan.

The discussion of the Fat Lady in Franny and Zooey—of Christ as He exists incarnate in all human sufferers—is Salinger’s most direct statement of the empathy we need to develop in our struggle to see the Good in people.  Critics who fail to acknowledge its power are too hung up on the importance of style to recognize that the form of a work is more than just its verbal dressing (not that Salinger’s verbal facility or style is anything less than brilliant—it’s just that critics tend to assert that he is stylistically doing just the same thing that Fitzgerald did—which is sort of true, but he’s using it for often quite different purposes.)  While originality in form is important, that originality does not manifest itself only in Joycean wordplay or Beckett’s minimalism—it is more than stylization: it is the living fire that engraves the letter.  In case that seems too poetically vague, what I mean to say is that the originality of artistic form can be also be found in a straightforward spiritual message artfully communicated through believable and rich human voices (and Holden’s voice is very original — yet in Huck Finn’s tradition at the same time.  That is to say, he refines  aspects of the tradition of the Huck-style free-wheeling narrator.)  Prose doesn’t need to be done in, say, an interlocking system of puns to be original, as long as the simple matter is original and absorbing (or is old truth expressed in startlingly new terms.)

Essentially, I’m trying to maintain an aesthetic stance and say, “Yes, newness and strength of form and voice are crucial for an art-work’s endurance” while politely disagreeing with the other point made by aestheticism, articulated by Oscar Wilde (whom I usually admire), in his aphorism: “The first duty in life is to assume a pose.  No one has yet discovered what the second one is.”  I wouldn’t be surprised if Oscar said that with a lot of bitterness and irony, but I’m not sure he ever got beyond it, though he probably tried to after his stay at Reading Gaol.  But Salinger does get very far beyond it, and that’s the crucial thing anyone needs to realize if they’re going to address his work.  He’s dealing with the second duty, the realm of human empathy, the connection between God and Man—he understands the spiritual urgency of what he is doing well enough to know that it would be counterproductive to try to dress it up in frills and superficial difficulties.  The real difficulty of “the human heart in conflict with itself” —a difficulty with which Salinger was totally familiar and could express with great fluency—is enough to occupy our time.

“T.S. Eliot: Refining Fire”

“I have heard the key / Turn in the door once and turn once only / We think of the key, each in his prison / Thinking of the key…”

-T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland

I’ve put off writing about my favorite poet for a long time—probably because I was worried I couldn’t do justice to that awesome Shamanic Power, which T.S. Eliot bore into the world.   But the time has come for an attempt…

T.S. Eliot is known for being a difficult poet.  If this means that Eliot’s verses are just a number of obtuse jigsaws of interest only to the scholar, it is immensely unfair, since his early poetry is perfectly accessible and his later poetry does not provide as many obstacles to understanding as one would suppose.  The Wasteland, of course, presents the most obvious difficulties: it is a kind of collage, organizing different scraps of Western Civilization into a coherent whole, narrating a quest for The Holy Grail in which all the different bits and pieces are made to participate.  But, unlike his friend Ezra Pound’s poetry, knowledge of Eliot’s allusions and his vast base of references in multiple languages (including Sanskrit) is not at all necessary to begin to appreciate his genius, though a heavily foot-noted copy of The Wasteland is highly recommended.  There are lines in The Wasteland that stung me when I first read the poem, back in high school—not, actually, for school, but out of my own curiosity—even if I didn’t know that he was ripping some of them from old swains like Edmund Spenser or Oliver Goldsmith.  The quote affixed to the beginning of this article is such an example (not of a stolen line, though), but there are plenty of others: “At the violet hour, when the eyes and back / Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits / Like a taxi throbbing waiting…” and “I was neither / Living nor dead, and I knew nothing, / Looking into the heart of light, the silence.”  Despite whatever personal flaws critics wish to point out (usually, Anti-Semitism), Eliot wrote the poems of the age just past, of the Twentieth Century.  He is the central poet to have written in English since W.B. Yeats.  Yet his consciousness was not that of a spiritually clairvoyant seer like Blake, who could twist the human psyche up into a terrifying mythology, or of a poetic dramatist like Shakespeare or Browning, or of a bard writing hymns to his “barbaric lunar muse” like Yeats.  Eliot’s genius was for lyric, for music, for feeling—his poems work on you the some way that the sad songs from Pet Sounds work on you, “as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen” (though that might be a considerably darker variety of sadness than that present in Pet Sounds.)

Thomas Stearns Eliot had what the Spanish bard, Federico Garcia Lorca, called duende—“soul,” in the American sense, something deep and bluesy and striking at the very root of feeling.   But duende is also dark, daemonic, dealing in shadows and broken images…  Eliot was attracted by the possibility of ecstasy, of a transcendence that could tug you out of time.  In fact, he had a weird—maybe even mystical—experience as a young man, when he was walking through a crowded street and suddenly felt that he was enclosed within a “circle of silence.”  On the whole, his poetry laments his inability to have or reconnect with this sense of the numinous.  A mood of deep loss—not tied overmuch to any particular object—pervades even his most positive poetry.  This is evidently related to a mysterious and recurring evocation of lost love and to strange recollections from early childhood found scattered throughout Eliot’s poems, from the earliest to the latest: “There, the eyes are / Sunlight on a broken column / There, is a tree swinging / And voices are / In the wind’s singing / More distant and more solemn / Than a fading star.”  This image—which is later revealed in Four Quartets to refer to children laughing, hiding in the boughs of a yew tree—constantly returns in Eliot and seems to reference some sort of strong visionary experience from his boyhood.  For the lost love, we turn to The Wasteland: “My friend, blood shaking my heart / The awful daring of a moment’s surrender / Which an age of prudence can never retract / By this and this only, we have existed…”

Yet, if the longing for a universal yet personal love and spiritual transcendence is central in Eliot, so is his sense of the absence of both—his intense nausea.  In “The Preludes” we see how “the worlds revolve like ancient women / Gathering fuel in vacant lots,” and The Wasteland is a kind of elegy (in addition to being a Grail Quest), which continually mourns the death of a young man by drowning (I’m not sure this young man can be fixed as any particular person, though scholars have tried to say it was Eliot’s friend, Jean Verdenal, who died fighting in Gallipoli during World War I.  Certainly, references to Verdenal exist in The Wasteland and he is related and, in a sense, a part of the dead man, but I don’t think their friendship tells the whole story.)  In a more profound sense, it seems that Eliot laments the departure of the “visionary gleam” that so satisfied the British Romantics and American poets like Whitman before him.  As others have observed, there is a deep, autumnal or plain-wintry tone of loss and longing in Eliot’s poetry that can be traced back to Tennyson and Whitman (also, the nightmare London of Tennyson is the same as the “Unreal” Boston, London, and Paris of Eliot), being especially profound in Whitman’s “Sea Drift” elegies and “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.”

But Eliot rejects the Romantic need to find solace in the mind’s interaction with Nature, even though it seems to have been his heart’s first inclination: “I cannot drink / There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again.”  Eliot tried to remedy this loss, which had left him bare at his imaginative and spiritual core, by turning, first, to Buddhism and Hinduism (and, to be perfectly fair, to the French Fascism of Charles Maurras) and later by embracing Christian Orthodoxy and becoming a veritable seer of Anglo-Catholicism (“Catholic” Anglicanism), though Krishna and the Buddha still show up in his later poetry.  Yet underlying even the most forthrightly orthodox affirmations, there remains a sense of the visionary potential inherent in everyday experiences and of the vanishing of that potential.  One only needs to compare Eliot’s walk along the shore in “The Dry Salvages” with Whitman’s sea-side walk in “As I ebb’d with the ocean of life” to find intense parallels.  First, Whitman: “Tufts of straw, sands, fragments / Buoy’d hither from many moods, one contradicting another, / From the storm, the long calm, the darkness, the swell / Musing, pondering, a breath, a briny tear…”  Now, Eliot: “Where is there an ending, the soundless wailing / The silent withering of autumn flowers / Dropping their petals and remaining motionless; / Where is the end to the drifting wreckage, / The prayer of the bone on the beach, the unprayable / Prayer at the calamitous annunciation?”  Harold Bloom says that Whitman would have been disturbed by Eliot and unhappy with their resemblance, evidently because Eliot was an orthodox Christian, a Classicist, and a conservative.  I don’t know what Whitman would’ve thought of Eliot’s religion or politics, but I think he would’ve been proud of his (somewhat unwilling) disciple’s poetry.

I find Eliot’s capacity to be disturbed by change, by time—so evident in the passage just compared with Whitman—to be one of his most moving and sympathetic traits (even if it is politically related to his admiration for a fascist thinker like Charles Maurras.)  He shares this with Whitman—though, I suppose, all poets share it, since temporality might be the theme qua theme of poetry.  Being a part of it, we inevitably write about it.  But rather than give into his sense of the world as an inferno of time—to simply surrender, and meld with it, like Algernon Swinburne did when he said that our life was just “a dream or a vision / Between a sleep and a sleep”—Eliot wanted to save some room for the Eternal, for the old verities of spirituality and poetry.  This is most evident in his lines about “The Word” from Ash Wednesday: “Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled.” And, in possibly his greatest epiphany, from “Little Gidding,” he urges the spiritual athleticism of a Christian Saint or of a Hindu Yogi: “From wrong to wrong, the exasperated spirit proceeds / Unless restored by that refining fire / Where you must move in measure, like a dancer.”

Other poets have perhaps rammed their poetry with more intense verbal difficulties and gymnastics in celebrating the natural world, which is rewarding in its own way—Late Wallace Stevens would be a good example.  And others have more directly approached the quest to be a visionary poet in the Romantic tradition, rather than reacting against it—consider Hart Crane.  Yet Eliot endures because he, better than anyone else, articulated the spiritual emptiness of the age and — unlike many who had made the same diagnosis — sincerely sought a cure.

Myths and Other Truths

by Sam Buntz

Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “There are no facts, only interpretations of the facts.”  I think that this can be weakly misread as the siren-song of contemporary nihilism—just some dude with a bad mustache telling me this is all bullshit. The quote certainly isn’t that, but I could understand coming to such a conclusion.  I’ll try to explain what Nietzsche meant—or, at least, this is the explanation that seems most useful and important to me, personally.  I’ll start with a fecund comparison between a few “interpretations of the facts.” There is no real reason to believe that the creation story given in Norse mythology is any more or less true than the first chapter of Genesis: when the Prose Edda claims that the world was created from the body of a Cosmic Giant named Ymir, and that every aspect of the visible world is thus made from humanoid parts—the clouds, for example, were made from Ymir’s brains—we have no rational reason to prefer Yahweh making a mud-pie and blowing his breath into it in order to create Adam.  The Hindu tale of the world’s creation out of the sacrificed body of the god, Purusha (a name that just means “Person”), also relates essentially the same story—except for the fact that Purusha is beautiful and transcendent, whereas Ymir is gross and disgusting.  The same myth persists in the poetry of Blake—the fall and resurrection of the giant, Albion—and in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, which portrays the cyclic fall and renewal of a larger-than-life hero named H.C.E—short for Here Comes Everybody, he being nothing less than the fully achieved form of all human passion and history.  (I promise this is going somewhere.)

What is remarkable about these stories is not that they are literally true, but that the ancient Norse and Vedic myths and Joyce’s modernist epic all illuminate a truth, not about how “the world” exists physically, but about how we perceive and, in a sense, create the world: that is to say, we create it out of ourselves.  We interpret everything around us in human terms, because in truth, we are never really engaging with the world as-it-is, but with a “representation of reality” created in our own minds and projected against the blankly unfolding canvas of nature.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling the “facts” we take from nature, in order to create these representations, facts, actually—I would prefer calling them “raw material” or “stuff.”   Even, I think, it would be a dangerous mistake to say Newton’s or Einstein’s visions of reality were more than interpretations (since Einstein’s vision of reality needs to eventually be supplanted and doesn’t apply to the quantum world in the first place) – they were simply interpretations that made better and more adequate use of all the stuff or raw material at hand.  The literal, six-days-creation interpretation of Genesis stopped being a good representation of reality when it ceased, not so much to account for all the facts, but to make use of all the stuff available—it failed to satisfy us artistically and emotionally just as it failed us scientifically.  Any poem and any religious vision is just the full imaginative organization that any author can bring to the material at hand.  And that imaginative organization is always an interpretation of reality, rather than a dictatorial statement of how-it-is.   There’s no set of facts that magically interpret themselves, and—despite what billions of Christians, Muslims, and Ultra-Orthodox Jews think—there are no holy books that do this either.

Nietzsche viewed the world as nothing less than a “primordial poem” that we create by representing and envisioning existence together—our experience of reality is primarily a creative one.  Yet, he saw that our representations of reality were growing weaker, becoming increasingly feeble, absurd, and stupid, and he knew that if we failed to recognize that we only have access to representations or expressions of Truth, and instead kept insisting on the too-easy claim not to represent but to actually have the Truth—like those clockwork-brained, literalist guardians of the Bible and the Koran—we would fall into the abyss of real nihilism, burning down all the representations of reality we’ve created in self-hatred.  (We might, arguably, be living in the abyss already.)  Instead, we should’ve affirmed those representations as valuable despite their partial and limited nature.  Homer and Shakespeare—as well as (and I know I risk controversy in saying this) St. Paul and the Prophet Muhammad—might not actually give us the Whole Truth (whatever that would even be, written on a page)—but they represent it in part.  It’s a very fine distinction, but I think it makes a lot of sense.  If we could recognize that the “deep imageless truth” spoken of by the poet Shelley is always behind or before our representation of it, we might be able to chill out a little bit, and give our imagination free reign to continually push at the boundaries of our reality—scientifically, spiritually, literarily, and morally—rather than letting all the old creeds just repress the imagination, limit it, and make us perpetually miserable.  Perhaps Emerson was more eloquent and precise when—in one of my favorite moments in his essays—he said that the only text is the Self, and all the books and scriptures are but commentaries.  All great writers already implicitly know this, but the literalists soon swoop in and start to take tropes for truth.

Many Hindus actually do view the world in this rather Emersonian fashion—the Hindu gods are but masks worn by the Self, fictions more real than we are, but still contingent, still subject to illusion.  And a mask is a kind of commentary in a way—a way of revealing and concealing, of talking about IT without really being IT.  And the Gnostics of two millennia ago also knew that all representations of reality were not actually Reality.  Nietzsche was not so radical a critic as he thought, though he was brilliant and pungent enough—he merely advanced the critique that the great Transcendentalist, Romantic, Hindu, and Gnostic traditions had made before him—until he started to lose his mind, at which point he may have said some things unworthy of him.  The same advance of humanity’s standard out into Chaos and Night has been carried on in the modern era by visionary writers like D.H. Lawrence, Cormac McCarthy, J.D. Salinger, Harold Bloom, and plenty of others.  My point is that, despite claims to the contrary, most religious believers believe in a representation of reality, and certainly not in Reality itself—but they all refuse to call it a representation (which is not the same as calling it a fiction, unless we take a fiction to be a revelation of a partial truth.)  Yahweh, Jesus, and Allah don’t exist on the page in a qualitatively different sense from the way in which Huckleberry Finn and Captain Ahab do.  As Bloom never tires of noting, most religious believers basically believe in literary characters—which would be fine, if they admitted that a literary character is essentially a mask for a deeper underlying Truth that can’t actually be represented, that any character only expresses a part of The Self—which we might identify with that deep, deep underlying truth—but none of them can manage to express it wholly.  For the record, I don’t think this argument clashes with the arguments made by some of the more astute theologians and religious teachers—even with some whom we might think of as being pretty “orthodox.”

All books—especially holy scriptures—can only be partial revelations, wildly and greatly partial as they may be.  There is always further imaginative development to be made, and we have never yet reached the end of the Self in our attempts to represent it—though some of the naysayers might say we have (there are grumblings about “the literature of exhaustion”), or just deny the notion of the Self entirely, or try to argue that literary and religious representation (which, as I have been arguing, aren’t at all different) don’t actually try to depict the Self, they only depict historical circumstances surrounding a fictional entity we call the “Self”—or whatever.  Fine—abandon yourself to that way of looking at things if you must.  I assume that you have your reward, whatever that might be.  But the truth is that we need to continue excavating the Self and digging through all our representations of it since that’s basically what Civilization is—it provides pleasure, it enriches and cultivates life, and it allows us to identify those restrictions which repress and limit our grasp, so that we fail to reach for all that we could reach for (spiritually speaking), destroying error that threatens to cloud over our lives and deaden them–the kind of error I’ve been trying to point out in this article.

I’m definitely not trying to deny the existence of a metaphysical reality beyond our limited experience or the existence of God in this essay—what I’m trying to do is save those realities from our attempts to depict them when those depictions run out of steam, but also to save them so that we can continue to depict those realities in new ways with total imaginative freedom, following the muse as she moves us.  This is why so many literalist zealots tried to murder Salman Rushdie or why D.H. Lawrence’s work was censored—those writers put totally just, humane, and reverent representations of reality on the page, but were stymied by the bigots who insist that the only representation of reality acceptable is their own, which they claim is not a representation of reality, but in fact, Reality.  I know that I would personally rather be damned to whatever nasty cesspools the anti-vegetarian, human-sacrifice-loving God of such fundamentalists (frankly, usually less-informed Muslims or Christians) has cooked up, along with my heroes, people like Blake and Emerson and Yogananda, than have to endure an infinite supper at an idealized Old-Country-Buffet-in-the-Clouds, listening to Pat Robertson (assuming he dies first) and Osama Bin Laden orate on the duties of lawful service to the all-torturing and disease-dispensing deity of their respective “faiths.”  But fortunately, I am content to seek after Strange Gods—and I think that’s pretty consistent with my skewed Hindu-Christian-Gnostic sort of worldview.  Like Nietzsche, I would only believe in a God who could dance—not one who chomps on the bones of his non-devotees in a remote cloudy clime of pale inertia.  Fortunately, the God who seems to actually exist, buried in the human spirit, is just such a dancer, and the various representations of reality (including the scientific representations), from The Bible and The Gita to Blood Meridian and Franny and Zooey, seem to me to be the intellectual forms of one wild, terrible, yet ultimately, beautiful dance.

And here, the Offense shall rest.