Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Sound and the Fury

“Ozymandias,” the famous sonnet by Shelley, underlines the futility of human endeavor. “All is vanity,” says Ecclesiastes. Macbeth reiterates the sentiment when he describes life as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Faulkner called his novel about the Compson clan of mythical Yoknapatawpha County The Sound and The Fury. Camus uses the myth of Sisyphus to describe the absurd condition of man, forever losing his footing, slipping two steps back for every one step forward, as he attempts to move his boulder up an impossible incline. The announcement about the reigniting of talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel by Hillary Clinton also brings to mind the notion of futility. Everyone wants peace in the Middle East, and yet in the face of repeated failure, the body politic becomes like a disappointed lover who has lost faith that his or her partner will ever stop cheating. In the face of repeated trauma, the body goes into a state of shock in which it’s impossible to care or feel. Meaning-making is a little like artificial numbers in mathematics. There is logic and sense to certain types of math—like the question of the square root of minus one—even without the existence of any referent, anything in reality to reify the thought process. Joseph Schumpeter coined the term “creative destruction,” yet there seems to be a reverse process of spontaneous regeneration by which human history slogs forward in spite of wars and failures, and there is a new generation of peace-keepers to replace the generalissimos of the past. Netanyahu and Abbas may surprise us and turn out to be unlikely bedfellows, but if it isn’t them, it’s going to be someone else who will finally tame the monstrous cycle of retribution and realize the two-state solution, so that Palestinians and Israelis can get on with their lives. 

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