Definitions are vital starting points for the imagination. What we cannot imagine cannot come into being. A good definition marks our starting point and lets us know where we want to end up. As we move toward our desired destination we chart the journey, creating a map. We need a map to guide us on our journey...
People with extreme views tend to have more confidence that they are right, and as people gain confidence they become more extreme in their beliefs. By contrast, those who lack confidence and are unsure what they should think tend to moderate their views. Not knowing what to do, cautious people are likely to choose the midpoint between relevant extremes. But if other people seem to share your view, you are likely to become more confident that you are correct. As a result, you will probably take a more extreme position. ... What is especially noteworthy here is that this process—of increased confidence and increased extremism—might well be occurring simultaneously for all participants ... But those movements will be invisible to each participant. It will simply appear that others "really" hold their views without hesitation.
I used to laugh all the time. I used to laugh so much and so hard in church, in school, at the kitchen table, on the subway! I used to laugh so much my nose would run and my eyes would tear and I just couldn’t stop.
One of my elementary-school teachers warned me that if I didn’t stop laughing all the time I would literally die laughing.
And of course I thought that was one of the funniest ideas I’d ever heard, and I just laughed.
New World does not mean New England. New World means non-European; it means new; it means big; it means heterogeneous; it means unknown; it means free; it means an end to feudalism, caste, privilege, and the violence of power. It means wild in the sense that a tree growing away from the earth enacts a wild event. It means democratic in the sense that, as Whitman wrote:
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than
the journey-work of the stars . . .
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger
sextillions of infidels
This is the heart of the matter: not an untutored freedom, but a freedom that contains something interesting. To imitate the gestures of the avant-garde, to write frantic prose, does not guarantee that one has the insight of the avant-garde. There’s much “radical” work done by uninteresting writers. But even for good writers, writing is mostly failure: it is rare for a writer to reach the mark she has set herself. The question is whether this failure is productive or not. Remember Beckett: “Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”