the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

gluck on the self-indulgence of preferring not to

Posted by rigorousm on November 20, 2014

… I recognized, in my habitual refusal… a kind of preening. I preferred the cleanliness of powerlessness, but the refusal of power differs from lack of power; it places one among that elect to whom a choice is given. This particular mode, this life on the sidelines, preferably the very front of the sidelines, with the best view of the errors of others, promotes feelings of deeply satisfying moral rectitude combined with an invigorating sense of injustice: the particular limitations and insufficiencies and blindnesses of one’s own preferences are never exposed because those preferences are never enacted. I like not participating in the tyranny of taste making; I liked using words of “tyranny” and “taste making” to describe the enacted preference, while guarding for myself words like “purity”. What disrupts this is whatever offer finally makes clear the conditions on which refusal is based. I continue to feel aversion to overt authority, but a moment arrived in which I could no longer persuade myself that avoidance and lack were the same: they differ as willed and unwilled differ, as Marie Antoinette differs from the real milkmaid; continuous refusal to exert public influence on what I valued seem exposed as vanity and self protection.

– Louise Gluck, “The Best American Poetry 1993,” Proofs and Theories: essays on poetry, p 97.

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