Sunday, August 5, 2007

Blog #5 - One Good Person

Over this past weekend Sam and I tried to name one good person who is still alive. We couldn't do it. Can any of you?


One good person who is still alive is Jean-Luc Godard. By which I mean, someone whose art = a moral practice. But what does "good" mean to you? A good pitcher? Good cook? Good lay? Good mom?

Are you a good mom?

sings Ana.

I mean "a good person."

I think what "good" means to me (or any one individual per say) is not really what we were trying to define, (meaning not a subjective view of goodness) but rather a kind of "objective" goodness (overall goodness, and not as a skill, but more as a moral quality). For example, I think just about everyone would agree that Mother Teresa was "a good person." Who could we agree was a "good person" similarly today? That was all.

So, I don't know Jean-Luc Godard as a person, but my guess would be that he was not completely, in every facet of his life, what everyone would agree constituted a "good person," the way they might with Mother Teresa. As a filmmaker he was radical and extremely political, and when someone is political, it's hard to be "objectively good," b/c people are divided politically, due to social, economic, religious, gender, race, sexual orientation, and other factors. We could talk about his personal life (biography) or the morality (or lack of) of the characters in his films or his films as a kind of character, and his anti-consumerist statements, his Marxism, and how it qualifies or disqualifies him as a "good person" but all this is just semantics and ultimately, boring.

Much more interesting would be the question, is the making of art an objectively good act? I don't think so. Possibly, the contrary. Does art make the world a better place? Yes (the human world anyway), but also, no. In fact, and I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions, but I think there is a kind of divide between Art and Goodness or morality (meaning great artist's by nature, need to have an ego and lack of a moral or political agenda that it takes to produce great art that would seem to directly work against the general definition of a kind of life it takes to qualify as an objectively "good person"). I'm not sure how to say this, but it seems to be an oxy moron or contradiction, the notion that a great artist could be considered an objectively good person. The fact that they spend their lifetime making art would seem to go against any objective definition of a good person. I mean if Mother Teresa spent her life making statues of naked people, even if they were considered some of the greatest statues of naked people ever made, instead of spending her life helping the sick, poor, orphaned and dying, and inspiring millions to do likewise (in some measure), would she still be considered a "good person"? What has a greater impact in the world: Art or goodness? I don't know the answer, and partly I’m playing Devil's advocate here, since art has made me a better person— more capable of empathy, more understanding, thoughtful and filled me with a form of faith, and more importantly, hope that is necessary to live/participate in the world and to try/want to do some objective good in it, i.e., helping children, and other things that I may not have cared about if it were not for my exposure and dedication to a life of art, on the other hand, maybe I would of spent my life like Mother Teresa, instead of living in the woods reading and scribbling poems in notebooks that no one will ever read. I dare you to: Think about it.

Still singing, Sam.


Oh, interesting. I don't think that the quality of goodness is at odds, necessarily, with being a great artist. I guess I feel that, to some extend, goodness is invoked when someone stands up for human freedoms that appear to be in jeopardy and articulate this through well-crafted and seamless art that is controversial within its social context. Yet, we know of many dead and living fine poets, film makers, novelists who are narcissists or complete egomaniacs- which would clearly detract from good intentions, no? How does it work when one puts the goodness of the artistic goal in front of, say, caring for ones family? Maybe that is what makes one a great artist but not a good person. Can you make goodness come from your work and goodness come from your actual life and be a great artist?

Regardless, I definitely don't think that the making of art is an objectively "good" act. Often I wonder, if my writing doesn't get out there and reach people, am I not better off working for an organization that takes a more active role? Seriously. But, taking the time to think things through the way I need to in order to construct poems, to take those moments around me and play with them until they evolve into phrases that might give a new sheen to things- contributes to me being a person with more goodness. I'd hope? That slowing down to absorbe things and unearth things- I think i might be a more careless person.

carelessly yours, jules


I said I love.
That is the promise.
Now, I have to sacrifice myself so that through me the word 'love' means something, so that love may exist in the world. As a reward, at the end of this long undertaking, I will end up being he who loves. That is, I will merit the name I gave myself. A man, nothing but a man, no better than any other, but no other better than he.

JL Godard
To me goodness is aspirational - one's behavior needn't be saintly or apolitical to be good. What Godard says (above) is profoundly humanistic, at the point where humanism becomes the mysticism of artist as human being (hola, Sampson!). An artist can show us how to be a human being, And thus, perform the ultimate moral service. One can take a different angle even on Mother Teresa:

Katha Pollitt, the controversial American writer and secular humanist, has observed that Princess Diana and Mother Teresa were both “flowers of hierarchical, feudal, essentially masculine institutions in which they had no structural power but whose authoritarian natures they obscured and prettified”. Both, she found, “despite protestations to the contrary, were in the modern mass-market image business. Neither challenged the status quo that produced the social evils they supposedly helped alleviate. In fact, by promoting the illusion that nuns with no medical training, or selling your dresses for charity, could make a difference on a significant scale, they masked those evils or even (in the case of Mother Teresa’s opposition to abortion and birth control) made them worse.” Why, Pollitt questioned, should children’s hospitals require Di’s fundraising services instead of receiving adequate support from taxpayers. (stolen from here)

thus spaketh Ana


Sampson said...

Yeah, and it can't be like your mom or some kindergarten teacher you had that nobody has ever heard of. Oh yeah, and Oprah and the Bill's, Clinton/Gates don't even come close to holding water. Too bad Little Dieter isn't still alive.

Chris Tonelli said...


But the better question is, are there any good people that are dead.

Sampson said...

Elvis, ninja please, to quote perhaps the one living person who comes closets to being good, Chuck D. "Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me, you see, straight up racist, that sucker was simple and plain, mutha fuck him and John Wayne."

I think we agreed that people like Mother Teresa, Ghandi and certain saints were good people, in an objective sort of way.

Current Bloggers said...

You gotta love the image of Chuck D. coming "closets"

Current Bloggers said...

Amazing how I can simultaniously be both Sampson and a Current Blogger. This is the best of all possible graves.

Current Bloggers said...

I'm using the word "was" with regards to Godard, in the sense that, hypothetically, we would be looking back on his life up to this moment, in some sort of assessment of whether he would be considered "good person" or not.

Mathias Svalina said...

If objective goodness is inherently uninstantiated what is point of talking about it?

Don't we have comic books & religions to fill in those gaps?

Sampson said...

Yes, that was sort of the original point; there is nothing to talk about. Justin and I played this stupid game and just sat there in silence scratching our heads like monkeys. And we thought this pointlessness or inability to move forward had a humor that we thought would be fun to share, maybe just as a kind of Garfield Experiment. But how do we amend this paradoxical condition with the maxim that "everything is interesting"? What is the point talking about anything? What is the point of writing a poem? I’m not asking in any ironic or antagonistic way, although perhaps a selfish one since I often wonder and wrestle with these very questions myself.

In an earlier post, Meridith said "The unfamiliarity of the past got big laughs." which is, to me, beautiful, and a sentence I plan to steal. So I guess what I’m saying is, I think sometimes, the only point of talking about anything, at least for me, is the same as the point of writing a poem, to make something beautiful. I'm thinking of what Spicer alludes to in Language (A Textbook of Poetry), about how an argument, whether or not it's "right" or "moral," can still be beautiful, and in someway this idea of the beautiful argument (pointless, except in it's beauty) is his idea of poetry: "An argument between the living and the dead." and "The argument continues." Which basically means, I’m a bastard, and if I’m not being beautiful in any way, please feel free to blog smack me.

I don't know about comic books, but I got my religion (goodness) or sense of morality from Star Wars. Good vs. Evil: the Force vs. the Dark Side. Seriously, I used to go through life as a child, asking myself, "What would Luke Skywalker do?" Although, very quickly, as I shed my skin innocence and became disillusioned in the world, I quickly realized, a much safer and ultimately, less boring way to go though life was to ask, "What would Chewbacca do?" And I think we can all objectively agree, the world needs more wookies.

Mathias Svalina said...

I'm not sure how you get to "Which basically means, I’m a bastard, and if I’m not being beautiful in any way, please feel free to blog smack me." Spicer's idealism for art was (duh) dramatically removed from him as a person. Most Western aesthetics runs parallel to ethics, considering that it is an attempt to play objective with an inherently subjective set of ideas.

But art is not about the summum bonum, it's about activity, energy, the creation of new ideas, which will be flawed, wrong & pretty much F-ed. But it the creation of new thinking that makes art it's own far-leaning edge of the spectrum of rhetoric.

It seems to me that to say that role of art is deadened by the lack of a stable, objective good is ultimately platonic & therefore something of a fairy tale (except maybe's Russel's take on idealism, which sways me sometimes).

Gotta run -- more later.

If you're lucky.

Sampson said...

I got there by reasoning, 99% of blogs are boring and a waste of time, they bore even me when I blog (to tears, I was literally crying earlier), so the least I could do is try to be beautiful (language x thought) and/or interesting (i.e., not boring), and if I’m not, then I’m a bastard and I would very much enjoy to be blog smacked, repeatedly. Which is similar to the way Spicer felt pure poetry was boring, even to the poet, unless sung by a human voice to a live audience. You are my (tiny blogger) audience, and I just wanna sing.

Also you must remember, I am just an unfrozen caveman lawyer and don’t understand your fancy metal flying contraptions, that unlike the pterodactyl, people go inside the belly of, where they sit in cushy chairs and buy headphones and munch on ice. Big words make me nervous.

I'm going to kiss something now, watch me.