Sunday, July 30, 2017

the numinous

excerpt from the essay "woolf's darkness" by rebecca solnit from the book men explain things to me

this is the kind of criticism that does not pit the critic against the text, does not seek authority. it seeks instead to travel with the work and its ideas, to invite it to blossom and invite others into a conversation that might have previously seemed impenetrable, to draw out relationships that might have been unseen and open doors that might have been locked. this is a kind of criticism that respects the essential mystery of a work of art, which is in part its beauty and its pleasure, both of which are irreducible and subjective. the worst criticism seeks to have the last word and leave the rest of us in silence; the best opens up an exchange that need never end.

. . .

the tyranny of the quantifiable is partly the failure of language and discourse to describe the more complex, subtle, and fluid phenomena, as well as the failure of those who shape opinions and make decisions to understand and value these slipperier things. it is difficult, sometimes even impossible, to value what cannot be named or described, and so the task of naming and describing is an essential one in any revolt against the status quo of capitalism and consumerism. ultimately the destruction of earth is due in part, perhaps in large part, to a failure of the imagination or to its eclipse by systems of accounting that can't count what matters. the revolt against this destruction is a revolt of the imagination, in favor of subtleties, of pleasures money can't buy and corporations can't command, of being producers rather than consumers of meaning, of the slow, the meadering, the digressive, the exploratory, the numinous, the uncertain.

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