in and out of the dark

[…]

of one hundred movies there’s one that’s fair, one that’s good

and ninety eight that are very bad.

most movies start badly and steadily get

worse;

if you can believe the actions and speech of the

characters

you might even believe that the popcorn you chew also

has a meaning of

sorts.

(well, it might be that people see so many movies

that when they finally see one not

so bad as the others, they think it’s

great. an Academy Award means that you don’t stink

quite as much as your cousin.)

Charles Bukowski, The Last Night of the Earth Poems (1992), Ecco, 2002

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A Paradox

„There is a forgotten history that secular Europeans, proud of having outgrown a religious past from which they feel liberated, would prefer not to remember. “Religious” issues serve as irritants to secular Europeans precisely because they serve to fuel the “glimmering embers” of Christianity, while at the same time confirming the widely shared secularist assumption that it is best to banish religion from public sphere in order to tame the passionate conflicts and irrational attitudes which religion is assumed to bring into politics.

Any public recognition of the Christian heritage or of the living religious traditions of contemporary Europeans, is assumed, would make liberal political coexistence and pluralist toleration in a united Europe nearly impossible. Rather than recognizing the “really existing” religious and secular pluralisms and the multiple European modernities, the dominant discourses in Europe prefer to hold on to the idea of a single secular modernity, emerging out of the Enlightenment. Only secular neutrality is supposed to guarantee liberal tolerance and pluralist multicultural recognition in an expanded European Union.

Thus, the secularist paradox, that in the name of freedom, individual autonomy, tolerance, and cultural pluralism, religious people – Christians, Jewish and Muslim – are being asked to keep their religious beliefs, identities, and norms “private”, so that they do not disturb the project of a modern, secular, enlightened Europe”.

(José Casanova, Religion, European secular identities and European integration, p. 66)

Substance

„When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten centuries and ten thousand men—but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his. But not enough to signify. It is merely a Waterloo. It is Wellington’s battle, in some degree, and we call it his; but there are others that contributed. It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite—that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.

Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that “plagiarism” farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing.”

Mark Twain’s Letters, Vol. 2 of 2