Thursday, October 21, 2010

We need more Ghosts

"If you have ghosts, then you have everything." Those are the words of a tender and demented rock legend of Austin, and they have stood me in good stead for years. Ghosts are a solution for loneliness. One needs someone to talk to. I mean about the old themes, if one believes that they are still the right themes. Ghosts are the natural companions of anybody in estrangement; the invisible officers of tradition, of all the valuable things that have been declared obsolete but, in some stubborn hearts, are not obsolete. It is one of the fundamental properties of the human that the absent may be more significant than the present. I have the best ghosts. My revenants will never utter the words “Mark Zuckerberg.” In their company I may continue the conversation that was begun long before me and will last (since I will not shirk my own ghost-service!) long after me. And the ghosts have a public role to play, too. They possess a certain shaming force. They spoil the adoration of the new with the suggestion of a decline, or at least with an unflattering comparison. I do not mean to exaggerate their authority: in the recurring quarrels between the ancients (who, by our velocity, lived just the other day) and the moderns, there are no clear winners. But the triumphalism of our moment, and its e-millenialism; its idiotic belief in the complete transfiguration of human life in our time, in the final banishment of opacity and obscurity, by means of data and the quantification of inwardness, or by the expansion of genetic and evolutionary necessities—all this is not supportable. Is it conservatism to say so? Perhaps. I think of it more as a custodial feeling about the many attainments that made it, quite improbably, all the way across time to me, and for whose fate I am, whether I like it or not, responsible. (I like it.) Too much is slipping away too easily. - Leon Wieseltier


  1. I appreciate my ghosts. Sometimes they are insightful, a group of fresh ideas of ancient habits with which to bounce ideas. For the most part, however, they're just babble. Fortunately, they're considerate enough to pipe down when told.

  2. Most ghosts are not of good nature or they would move on to a better place. Arguably they can become disagreeable hecklers just outside of the shadows of your life. But they do add an interesting dimension if you are somewhat "tuned" to their presence.

  3. funny i was writting about ghosts the blog!