Wednesday, October 12, 2011

differences between 18 year old poets and 28 year old poets,an utter ramble

There are benefits to aging and there are benefits to establishing a context.  One of the things I look back on in my teens, not that I'm moving through the late 30s, is I remember how many high school poets seemed obsessed with writing about the anonymous person who commits suicide.  Well, there are people who write about anonymous suicides at much later ages but I'm not going to list Brian Eno as a poet as such.  The anonymous person who commits suicide is one of those cliches that I hope is dispensed from poetry altogether at some point.  The trouble is that the dead person, usually nameless, becomes a cipher for the poet's righteous indignation, or often self-righteous indignation. 

In teenagers this is especially apparent.  There's a moral outrage at the indifference toward which the world at large, however small that world may be, has toward the person who dies.  The anonymity makes the death all the more tragic (the naive poet thinks) for being so mundane.  The person does not even have a name and the cruel world cares not for the death.  But that is the failure of the poet's imagination.  The most memorable poem anyone wrote about a suicide in the English language is Richard Cory for the simple reason that Richard Cory has a name.  Richard Cory was the envy of everyone, so the poem tells us, and then one day the man just kills himself. We are not given reasons why within the poem itself and are left to speculate.  What ambitious and outraged teen poets fail to grasp is that by making their various suicides anonymous they, too, participate in the indifference of thosse societies that do not even have names for the deceased. 

When I was a late teenager myself I began to have doubts about how touching or confrontational this trope of the anonymous suicide really was.  It would make "me" feel good to notice what supposedly no one else noticed, and surely it made the poets feel good in their own perversely unaware way but the truth was none of us cared.  And the truth is that deaths in society matter because they effect other people.  Consider that Steve Jobs has been remembered as changing a lot of people's lives.  He has.  I've never been a committed Mac user and Macs seem absurdly expensive and not as diverse in software options as PC's.  Yeah, I know the argumetns that Macs are more stable and have more robust antivirus protections and better warranties and if you're willing to pay two to three times as much money for a system that is reliable at the expense of versatility that's all right.  I'm not a programmer or anything but I can appreciate a relatively recent xkcd.

You know it's true, folks.  :)

Oh, where was I?

Yes, well, when someone important enough to effect millions of lives dies that's considered more important than an anonymous suicide.  We can pretend that it's stilly to mourn the loss of a Steve Jobs or a Michael Jackson or people like that.  But it could be as silly to mourn the loss of  a John Stott or a Billy Graham or remember the dead at all.  It can be easy to think you're too cool for school in feeling bad that someone you haven't met has died but it can be easy to think you're too cool for school in being angry that someone you haven't met has died, too.  So it's not inappropriate to consider that Steve Jobs is dead.  Many poets have celebrated dead people who accomplished big things.

And here I wish to piggyback on something Fearsome Tycoon wrote over at the Boar's Head Tavern.  Steve Jobs did not kill tons of people in battle like many celebrated heroes of old.  Jobs made stuff, stuff that has made the lives of various people more convenient.  Even though I'm not exactly a user or loyal user of Mac/Apple products I can appreciate this point.  Even though I was far happier that Finale becamse useable on a PC than I ever was that it was first available on Mac products I can grant that Mac users are happy with their products.  And I also note that the following comic strip is an amusing assessment of how some folks are about brand loyalty.

Where was I again?  Yes, well, my teen years were some twenty years ago but here I'm just ruminating on random stuff.  Ergo links to both xkcd and The Oatmeal when initially I was discussing teenagers writing poems about anonymous suicides and then thinking about Steve Jobs.  I guess it all holds together as a succint, logical sequence

We'll just call it an obligatory free-writing session in blog form.

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