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May 06, 2013

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Dave,

I'm confused by this 'Quotable Murr'

Can you please give me two examples of the following:

* Smart people who aren't out to change the world;
* Dumb pricks who are...

And I'm serious. I think you may be on to something here, but I can't for the life of me figure out what it is.

Mark

Smart people who aren't trying to change the world? I don't know. Based on the other discussion we're having ... you, maybe?

And also lots of the rest of us who talk about how "passionate" we are about this and that but wind up spending all our energies on whatever pays the bills.

Dumb pricks who are out to change the world? Let's start with the Koch brothers, and go back through history, which has been plagued by dumb pricks (and smart ones) who have changed the world, and plenty.

The Koch brothers may be a lot of things, but they are not dumb. Evil, maybe. Or dangerous, certainly. But not dumb.

And where would you put Obama? You could make a case that he falls into both categories pretty easily.

You are right about me. I am not out to change the world. I don't have the time.

The Koch brothers are dumb (and crazy) to want to do the things they're doing.

Obama (for me) is an easy one.

Most people are somewhere in between. Which is probably good.

Anyway, it's possible to over-parse The Quotable Murr, and I'd say we're dangerously close.

One P.S.: I do think it's incumbent upon us to be able to answer, even vaguely, what timeless purpose our work plays in society.

See here:

http://writingboots.typepad.com/writing_boots/2013/05/are-you-working-in-an-industry-or-a-racket.html

"I do think it's incumbent upon us to be able to answer, even vaguely, what timeless purpose our work plays in society."


I have spent the better part of my life studying Shakespeare. I am now reading my 200th book on the guy: "The Soul of the Age" by Jonathan Page.

Here is perhaps the greatest writer in the history of the Western world, and I am convinced — as are many of the scholars who have studied his work — that he didn't give a rat's ass what his impact was on society.

He wrote to sell tickets to his company's plays, to make money. So ambivalent was he about anything else involving his craft that he died without devising a single plan for his works to be published. That job was left to two of his fellow company members. Were it not for them, most of his work would have been lost.

Shakespeare did get what he was after though. He retired to the grandest estate in Stratford-Upon-Avon, one of the only playwrights of his time to avoid squalor, an early death or arrest and imprisonment.

I agree with you that Shakespeare wasn't hoping The Merchant of Venice would help forge peace and understanding among Jews and gentiles.

But surely he knew he was a scribe and he knew societies need yarns and he allowed himself to take comfort if not pride in the fact that he had a place in the world. Ah, probably not. But then, the 1500s were different times, and its people--even its writers--were probably less self-conscious than we.

But one ever wrote anything that great SIMPLY to sell tickets. A guy as smart as Shakespeare would have known he could have written far worse plays and sold tickets. (And of course he sometimes DID write worse plays and sell tickets.)

But as for his masterpieces FAR TOO MUCH human understanding and mind-blowing craft went into those plays for you to believe he was just churning 'em out.

As for his lack of plans to get his work published ... well, lots of great writers have faith, even if they have it in nothing else, in their words' ability to endure, even magically.

For instance, if I died while writing this post, I have no plan for what would happen to this bl

I'm not saying Shakespeare didn't know he was good. I think he connected being good to more people coming to his plays, which made him a wealthy man by the standards of the day. He was also a competitor and a businessman at a time of cut-throat competition among the theater companies. The goal was pretty simple: Cram 3,000 people into The Globe on the days it wasn't being used for bear-baiting. His rivalry with Marlowe in the early days of his career probably fueled his creativity more than any mission to leave a lasting impact on the world.

But isn't this always true? Ego and money make the world spin just as much for artists as for Silicon Valley developers. And those two forces often result in a better product.

We're talking past each other. How about I agree that no one ever wrote a good book for the purpose of saving humanity. If I agree to that, what will you agree to?

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