September 02, 2002

Love (and write about) Your Enemies?'s hard to give an account of your religious beliefs without sounding mawkish. William James understood this. Though he claimed to admire the pious, in ''The Varieties of Religious Experience'' he distanced himself from them with an occasional twinkle of irony. The irony can be detected in the list of moods he says are indicative of true spirituality: solemnity, serenity, cheerful gladness, tenderness. Religious discourse ''favors gravity, not pertness,'' he wrote. ''It says 'hush' to all vain chatter and smart wit.''

Still pondering this NY Times piece...writers have to reflect their millieu and environment, sometimes to their joy? I'm not pointing fingers here, because Lord knows I'd have nine more pointing at me, but Updike might be able to write about his joy - sex - and be able to rightly point out that it is what is on society's mind and therefore must be "dealt" with it. If the ending of the story is negative towards adultery, then he can write his fantasies secure in the knowledge he has done the Christian service. Dante was said to have something of an "anger management" problem and no doubt took a little schadenfreude at some of the damned he was portraying. Some of his enemies were thinly disguised indeed. But isn't that cathartic and isn't each writer 'following his bliss' and thus producing something beautiful even if the means might be a little ignoble? "Men of few words are the best men" . Shakespeare

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