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Spontaneous Aphorisms

From Pity to Wisdom to Coercion [by Lionel Trilling]

Lionel Trilling 2<<<

Some paradox of our natures leads us, when once we have made our fellow men the objects of our enlightened interest, to go on to make them the object of our pity, then of our wisdom, ultimately of our coercion.

from The Liberal Imagination 


I would like to read an essay that takes us link by link from "enlightened interest" to pity, then to wisdom, and finally to the dictatorial will of the arrogant intellect. The essay should note that the writer includes himself in the liberal community he criticizes; his use of "we," "us," and "our" are not projections of a self that would speak for all; on the contrary, Trilling implicates himself in the tendency he addresses. It is possible that no one could be less in fashion than Trilling, but I turn to him now, as to very few others, in my effort to grapple with seemingly incomprehensible events. I find his essays go far to elucidate, ahead of time it seems, some of the crises that have dealt our culture blows that feel fatal.  -- DL

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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