Science versus Morale

«Before opening the door to the shuddering world we live in today, we should have knocked. But we preferred to go like a bull at a gate.»

Heinar Kipphardt: In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer (p. 81)

Nowadays, J. Robert Oppenheimer—the inventor of the atomic bomb—is often considered a great American. He was a brilliant scientist as well as a great mind. What is not remembered by quite so many is that Oppenheimer was once dishonoured by his very own country. Heinar Kipphardt’s drama «In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer»—originally written in German and intended as a television script—documents the trial prior to the retraction of Oppenheimer’s security guarantee, effectively eliminating him from all scientific projects related to the US-American military.

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The Road is Life

«I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilized-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. All of it inside endless and beginningless emptiness. Pitiful forms of ignorance.»

Jack Kerouac: On the Road (p. 231)

It doesn’t happen very often that one single book is said to be the description of a whole generation. Jack Kerouac’s «On the Road», the bible of the 1950s beat generation, is one of those books. A masterpiece of spontaneous prose—written on a scroll of glued-together sheets of paper over 40 meters long—«On the Road» captures the positive as well as the negative essentials of the beat generation. The narrator Sal Paradise gets to be part of the movement—but still remains an outsider throughout the book. He meets maverick Dean Moriarty right at the beginning of the tale and follows him into the depths of a young generation where everyone perceives themselves as being intellectuals while at the same time not having a clue what they are talking about. «There’s so many things to do, so many things to write», Dean tells Sal, «How to even begin to get it all down and without modified restrains and all hung-up on like literary inhibitions and grammatical fears?» 2

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The Beginning of Everything

«Hail holy Light, offspring of Heav’n first-born,/ Or of th’Eternal co-eternal beam/ May I express thee unblamed? Since God is light,/ And never but in unapproachèd light/ Dwelt from eternity, dwelt then in thee,/ Bright effluence of bright essence increate.»

John Milton: Paradise Lost (Book III, Lines 1–5)

Written by a blind man, «Paradise Lost» is based on and intended for pure imagination. Unlike most of the work by John Milton’s contemporaries and predecessors, it is neither based on real historical events nor intended to be enacted on stage—even though Milton played with the thought of writing it as a drama at first. It turned out to be a ten-book epic in blank verse which was later redivided into twelve books to mirror the division of Virgil’s «Aeneid». Drawing from Greek and Roman mythology and writing style—as can be seen in the classical Greek concept of addressing one’s muse in the quote above—, biblical sources as well as the work of his contemporaries in a fashion that nowadays would be considered plagiarism, Milton tells the story of the creation of our universe, the damnation of Satan and his henchmen to hell and the banishment of man from paradise. Continue reading

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Why Do We Write?

«When you don’t know what to do, read. And even if you don’t understand everything, keep reading. Books aren’t always easy to understand, but this doesn’t mean we have to stop reading them. I like books that I understand, but the ones that interest me are the ones I don’t understand, or that at least I don’t understand the first time I read them.»

Antoni Marí: Entspringen

If you think about it, it might be the biggest mystery of all. Sure, we all like to read—it’s both pleasure and education in one—but why are there people who bother with all the labouring that is inherently attached to the process of writing a book?

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