Likewise, in referring to dialectics, I run the risk of chasing away the few remaining readers of these screeds. But I know that you will stick around, as you have done through our confrontations with yonder raging and savage beasts of masters. As the bard droned once upon a time, you’re gonna have to serve somebody. For us, who repudiate the religious choice between serving the devil and serving the Lord, the alternatives reduce to the social and the moral. In the moral plane, I know and admire the effort that it takes you to submit the imperatives of desire to the rule of reason. For that very reason, I am disappointed by your failure to draw the correlative social conclusions.
Voltaire once wondered whether it is not worth a thousandfold to be a lackey in a respectable household, than to be a wit amongst lackeys, « s’il ne vaut pas mille fois mieux être laquais dans une honnête maison que d’être le bel esprit des laquais. » (Les honnêtetés littéraires, 1767, in Mélanges, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Paris: Gallimard, 1961, p. 967.)
In order to be worthwhile, admiration must consume, and hence compete for, scarce resources. The catoptric self-regard of Narcissus is deficient in two interrelated ways. It is ill suited for therapy and learning alike: the mirror shows you only as you are at the moment of facing it, affording no aid for anamnesis or prognosis in virtue of lacking connections to the past and insights into the future, and being therefore as inadequate for diagnosis and treatment of whatever ails you, as it is of bringing out the legitimate aspects of pride in your nature and accomplishment. In further reducing you to the exclusive society of self-regard, it isolates you from correction and elevation by your betters. And this onanistic aspect of narcissism brings me to the point of my oration.
You have mentioned giving up literary theory unrepentantly. I am happy to endorse this move in any writer. Great literature is as likely to come out of writing about great books, as great love, from masturbating to the tale of Abelard and Héloïse.
| С этого дня кончился мой роман с мужем; старое чувство стало дорогим, невозвратимым воспоминанием, а новое чувство любви к детям и к отцу моих детей положило начало другой, но уже совершенно иначе счастливой жизни, которую я еще не прожила в настоящую минуту...
― Лев Николаевич Толстой, Семейное счастье, 1859
| That day ended my romance with my husband; the old feeling turned into a precious, unrecoverable memory, and the new feeling of love for my children and the father of my children gave rise to a new life, altogether different in its happiness, which I have not lived out until this very instant.
― translated by MZ
« Écrasez l’infâme ! »