The less you know about a person, the easier it is to venerate them, which is why you generally don’t want your children writing your biography. My favorite parts of biographies are not the quotes from the person being written about, but rather from those who knew them well — or — too well.
Josh Retterer, “Stories Told Behind Auden’s Back,” Mockingbird (Oct. 24, 2018) [link].
It is also true that the less you know about a person the easier it is to demonize them, which probably goes for everyone we read about in the “news.”
Sarah Willard, “The Pilgrim Soul,” Blind Mule Blog (Oct. 17, 2018) [link] writes about dementia and memory:
It can be very hard when someone you love is losing their memory, not to lose yours too. It’s easy to only see who they are in the moment, and not who they are really, which includes who they have been and who they will be.
One anodyne for dementia is the shared memory of the ones who give care.
Gavriel Rosenfeld, “How Americans Described Evil before Hitler,” The Atlantic (Oct. 9, 2018) [link], raises the interesting question “Who was evil incarnate before Hitler?” and suggests some history lessons germane to our current discourse:
Our present moment is a tricky one: Some commentators feel more justified than ever in invoking Hitler, yet many feel a bit numb to the comparison. The solution, it seems to me, is not to ban comparisons to the Nazis—as if such a thing were possible—but to grant that analogies have always been a tendentious business, and that only the future can tell which ones were valid. Commentators should proceed with a little more humility, a little more circumspection, and, perhaps, a little more creativity.
From Søren Kierkegaard, via Alan Jacobs:
The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly.
Alan Jacobs, Snakes and Ladders (May 6, 2013) [link].
This is a hyperbole, of course, but I often wonder how much we will eventually be shown that our careful exegesis was really carefully hidden eisegesis.