Liberal Arts Blog — Vaclav Havel (1936–2011) — Czech Author, Dissident, President (1989–2003)
Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Religion, and Culture Day
Today’s Topic: Vaclav Havel (1936–2011) — Czech Author, Dissident, President (1989–2003)
Vaclav Havel is one of the great statesman-writers of the last century. A prisoner in his own country who was not allowed to see performances of his own plays abroad eventually became President of Czechoslovakia by a unanimous vote of the Federal Assembly when the Communist regime came crashing down in December 1989. When Slovakia split off in 1993, he became President of the Czech Republic. Today, a few quotes plus a footnote on “Havel’s Place” a public art project that you might call a mini-What Matters Table. Every town should have one. Don’t you think?
Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate. THE SOLUTION, THE TRUTH, HOPE
1. “The salvation of the human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the power to reflect, in human meekness, and human responsibility.”
2. “Keep the company of those who seek the truth — run from those who have found it.” (I like to think of myself as a truth seeker with a few provisional conclusions and working hypotheses, but nevertheless the truth of this quote does cause me a bit of anxiety. Then again every good rule has its exceptions….)
3. “Hope is not a feeling of certainty that everything ends well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
DORMANT GOODWILL, AN ENEMY OF SOCIETY, LAUGHING AT YOURSELF
1. “I feel that the dormant goodwill in people needs to be stirred. People need to hear that it makes sense to behave decently or to help others, to place common interests above their own, to respect the elementary rules of human existence.”
2. “You do not become a “dissident” just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibiliity, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.”
3. “Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not.”
THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUTH, THE STAIRCASE, THE TRAGEDY (below is a photograph of “Havel’s Place,” a public art project explained in the footnote)
1. “The truth is not simply what you think it is, it is also the circumstances in which it is said, and to whom, why and, and how is said.”
2. “Vision is not enough, it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the stairs, we must step up the stairs.”
3. ‘The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less.”
FOOTNOTE — “HAVEL’S PLACE” — a public art project and memorial to Havel
1. “Consists of two garden chairs with a round table, usually with a tree growing through the middle.”
2. “The of the table has the Havel quote: “truth and love shall prevail over lies and hatred” inscribed along its rim.” This quote echoes back to last week’s quotes from Martin Luther King, specifically: “Darkness can not drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate can not drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
3. The artist’s idea: “to create a gathering place in a public space to promote dialogue, discussion, and free speech.”
NB: A What Matters Table for two? Every town center should have one. don’t you think?
QUOTE OF THE MONTH:
“Whenever you are wrong, admit it. Whenever you are right, shut up.” - Ogden Nash
#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20
Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to words, language, literature, religion, culture. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to Words, Language, Literature (eg. quotes, poetry, vocabulary) that you have not yet shared.
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.