Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Holding Onto Our Souls

America can be, and in fact more often than not is, a stupid selfish heedless county. A disappointing country. So much possibility, so little realization. I have no time for a proper posting about the sadness and tragedy of Donald Trump’s election victory last night, an event in my view more tragic and with potentially much more dire consequences affecting many more people than what took place on 9/11; but in its stead I am moved to post something I wrote to one of my grad students who contacted me today and told me how upset he was about the outcome. I wrote him the following reply. Of course, I was really only giving myself advice in the guise of giving it to him. But I believe it was good advice, and I offer it to students, scholars, and artists everywhere. We need to keep hold of our souls, to hold them tight, to keep them alive, to make them keep counting for something other than the disgrace of the public world. 
 I’d note parenthetically that it’s unfortunately necessary for me to withhold the name of the student who was in communication with me to prevent the risk of administrative retaliation against him. (Most of the grad students learned long ago to take the precaution of writing me at this email address rather than the one, out of fear of having their emails read by Boston University adminstrators, who have asserted their right to monitor my exchanges with them.) In short, the atmosphere in the Department of Film and Television, the Cinema and Media Studies and the Film Studies programs is almost as poisonous, bullying, and vindictive as that of the Trump campaign. The worst traits of human personality can make themselves felt anywhere. Even in a university. Alas. — R.C.
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Subject: making a place for beauty and truth / holding on to our souls for the good of the world and their own preservation

Dear XXXX,

I just watched HRC's gracious and inspiring concession speech. She said something that I want to adapt as advice for you and me and anyone else in our position. It's a lesson I learned a long time ago as a result of all that I have been, and continue to be, put through by the Boston University administration, but it bears repeating here and now in the present situation.
In the world we live in, a world out-of-order and out-of-balance (in the Godfrey Reggio sense), a world of mental and emotional instability and warpage, it's all the more important that we hunker down and do our good, solitary, beautifully self-sacrificing imaginative work of writing and teaching and mentoring. Each of us must create and protect our own quiet true inward space, one that is all the more important to sustain in a world of chaos and distortion and mistakenness. We must hold onto our souls, and move ever more deeply into them. If we lose that capacity, if we give up that attempt, we will only merge back into the world of confusion and falsityand it will win for a second time. We will die twice. We must hold onto our private spiritual identities and continue our noble inward missions. It's even more important to do that today than it was yesterday.


Ray Carney is the author or editor of: Henry Adams, Mount Saint Michel and Chartres (Viking Penguin), Henry James, What Maisie Knew and The Spoils of Poynton (New American Library/Signet), Rudyard Kipling, Kim (New American Library); The Films of John Cassavetes: Pragmatism, Modernism and the Movies (Cambridge University Press); The Films of Mike Leigh: Embracing the World (Cambridge University Press); Speaking the Language of Desire: The Films of Carl Dreyer (Cambridge University Press); American Vision: The Films of Frank Capra (Cambridge University Press); American Dreaming (University of California Press at Berkeley); Shadows (British Film Institute/Macmillan); Cassavetes on Cassavetes (Faber and Faber/Farrar, Straus); Autoportraits (Cahiers du cinema), The Adventure of Insecurity; Necessary Experiences; Why Art Matters; and numerous other books, essays, and editions, published in more than ten languages. Professor Carney is currently working on a three-volume treatment of the early, mid-career, and final films of Robert Bresson intended to transform the understanding of his work.