In all the Library, there are no two identical books. From those incontrovertible premises, the librarian deduced that the Library is ‘total’ — perfect, complete, and whole — and that its bookshelves contain all possible combinations of the twenty-two orthographic symbols (a number which, though unimaginably vast, is not infinite) — that is, all that is able to be expressed, in every language. All — the detailed history of the future, the autobiographies of the archangels, the faithful catalog of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogs, the proof of the falsity of those false catalogs, a proof of the falsity of the true catalog, the gnostic gospel of Basilides, the commentary upon that gospel, the commentary on the commentary on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book into every language, the interpolations of every book into all books, the treatise Bede could have written (but did not) on the mythology of the Saxon people, the lost books of Tacitus.
Oh wow, I read the same blog as well! Thank you for informing me of the update, I’m so glad to know she’s all right. And I agree with everything else. It pains me to hear people say that the US is the best country in the world…
Wow, I knew she had a large readership, but that’s still such a cool coincidence. I hadn’t met someone before who had also read her blog! America’s image was severely tarnished after that, both internationally and domestically. I could actually see it sliding downhill, especially when the recession hit and the country clearly wasn’t even reaping any economic benefits from the war. Now, for example, when Australia announced the discovery of large oil fields, the thread on Reddit was filled with people joking about how America might want to “liberate” Australia too. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago.
Back when I was in high school, I followed this blog called Baghdad Burning, run by a young Iraqi woman (pseudonym Riverbend) who posted about the shitshow that was the Iraq War and the ruin and pain it was causing in ordinary people’s lives. She was eloquent, furious, and raw, and I admired her so much I wrote an essay about her for a contest.
I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that - I don’t mind people being happy - but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep”, and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position - it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness”. Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.
“A Poem” by Robert Hass
“You would think God would relent,” the American poet Richard
Eberhardt wrote during World War II, “listening to the fury of
aerial bombardment.” Of course, God is not the cause of aerial
bombardment. During the Vietnam War, the United States hired the
RAND Corporation to conduct a study of the effects in the peasant
villages of Vietnam of their policy of saturation bombing of the
countryside. That policy had at least two purposes: to defoliate the
tropical forests as a way of locating the enemy and to kill the enemy if
he happened to be in the way of the concussion bombs or the napalm
or the firebombs. The RAND Corporation sent a young scholar named
Leon Goure to Vietnam. His study was rushed by the Air Force which
was impatient for results, but he was able to conduct interviews
through interpreters with farmers in the Mekong Delta and the
mountainous hillside farm regions around Hue. He concluded that the
incidental damage to civilian lives was very considerable and that the
villagers were angry and afraid, but he also found that they blamed the
Viet Cong—the insurrectionist army the U.S. was fighting—and not
the United States for their troubles, because they thought of the Viet
Cong as their legitimate government and felt it wasn’t protecting them.
Seeing that the bombing was alienating the peasantry from the enemy
Vietnamese, Robert McNamara, the secretary of defense, General
William Westmoreland, the commander in charge of prosecuting the
war, and Lyndon Johnson, the president of the United States, ordered
an intensification of the bombing. In the end, there were more bombs
dropped on the villages and forests of South Vietnam than were
dropped in all of World War II. The estimated Vietnamese casualties
during the war is two million. It was a war whose principal strategy
was terror. More Iraqi citizens have now been incidental casualties of
the conduct of the war in Iraq than were killed by Arab terrorists in
the destruction of the World Trade Center. In the first twenty years
of the twentieth century 90 percent of war deaths were the deaths of
combatants. In the last twenty years of the twentieth century 90 percent
of war deaths were deaths of civilians. There are imaginable responses
to these facts. The nations of the world could stop setting an example
for suicide bombers. They could abolish the use of land mines. They
could abolish the use of aerial bombardment in warfare. You would
think men would relent.