Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch by Henry Miller

April 10th, 2012 at 4:34 pm

“Remember, if you can’t make money, make friends.” – Henry Miller

Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch by Henry Miller

I care not for trends and fads, nor do I care to know how The Establishment regards the life and letters of Henry Miller. But at the rate I’m going, I’m going to have to keep reading Henry Miller books and eventually develop an opinion of my own. In the meantime, the opinion is verging on positive.

Henry Miller’s Big Sur book is 400 pages of rambling, rants, idle preponderances, and anecdotes. The book simply eschews. At every page. It seemed a bit Thoreauish. My favorite excerpts are below. Remember, Big Sur does not exist. Don’t go there.

It would be too easy, too convenient to refer to any degree of prescience in Miller’s Big Sur book because I am quickly learning that there is no prescience. Nothing changes. The writing is on the wall. We are. It is.

“I would rather be surrounded by the work of children and the insane than by such “masters” as Picasso, Rouault, Dali or Cezanne.”

“Well, nobody belongs who’s trying to simplify his life. Nobody belongs who isn’t trying to make money, or trying to make money make money. Nobody belongs who wears the same suit of clothes year in and year out, who doesn’t shave, who doesn’t believe in sending his children to school to be miseducated, who doesn’t join up with Church, Grange and Party, who doesn’t serve “Murder, Death and Blight, Inc.” Nobody belongs who doesn’t read Time, Life, and one of the Digests. Nobody belongs who doesn’t vote, carry insurance, live on the installment plan, pile up debts, keep a check account and deal with the Safeway stores or the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. Nobody belongs who doesn’t read the current best sellers and help support the paid pimps who dump them on the market. Nobody belongs who is fool enough to believe that he is entitled to write, paint, sculpt or compose music according to the dictates of his own heart and conscience. Or who wants to be nothing more than an artist, an artist from tip to toe.”

“I am not interested in the potential man. I am interested in what a man actualizes – or realizes – of his potential being. And what is the potential man, after all? Is he not the sum of all that is human? Divine, in other words? You think I am searching for God. I am not. God is. The world is. Man is. We are. The full reality, that’s God – and man, and the world, and all that is, including the unnameable. I’m for reality. More and more reality. I’m a fanatic about it, if you like.”

“I abhor people who have to filter everything through the one language they know, whether it be astrology, religion, yoga, politics, economics or what. The one thing about this universe of ours which intrigues me, which makes me realize that it is divine and beyond all knowing, is that it lends itself so easily to any and all interpretations. Everything we formulate about it is correct and incorrect at the same time. It includes our truths and our errors. And whatever we think about the universe in no way alters it…”

“Man is not suffering from the ravages wrought by earthquakes and volcanoes, by tornadoes and tidal waves; he is suffering from his own misdeeds, his own foolishness, his own ignorance and disregard of natural laws. Man can eliminate war, can eliminate disease, can eliminate old age and probably death too. He need not live in poverty, vice, ignorance, in rivalry and competition. All these conditions are within his province, within his power, to alter. But he can never alter them as long as he is concerned solely with his own individual fate.”

“The sum of all knowledge is greater confusion.”

The Mystery of Capital by Hernando De Soto

April 4th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

The Mystery of Capital was originally published in 2000 and I can only imagine that it is now horrendously out of date. All problems are solved about every decade, right?

The Mystery of Capital by Hernando De Soto

This book is not a Mystery or Thriller. It is not suspenseful. Rather, it is a economist’s straightforward assessment on yet another reason why our world is so fucked up. Yes, another stirring contribution to the ever-popular genre of Teen Lit, WOWISFU. WOWISFU is the next Hunger Games. (pronounced Wowzafoo.)

Regardless, I found The Mystery of Capital to be a worthwhile read. In a most obtuse, simplistic assessment, De Soto argues for government regulation and oversight to foster proper development in regards to property, real estate, and capital in general. (De Soto focuses entirely on Third World, Developing, and post-Communist countries.)

He supports a system of government aggregating, organizing, and facilitating the proper networks of legal framework, methodically opening up their bureaucracies to large swaths of populations currently operating on the periphery by adopting, co-opting, and implementing the frameworks already in place on such black markets. Using the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century as a model, De Soto speaks of a global industrial revolution in our common era in which life is now organized on a very large scale. In such, institutions are slow to adapt and therefore entrepreneurship triumphs, even if it means triumph in the black market, or “extra legal” sector.

Contrary to very popular and dominant arguments, De Soto insists that the world’s problems are not overpopulation, urban growth, and a poor minority, but rather, outmoded systems of legal property. Unfortunately, Legal Property is not near as sexy or easy to master as say, racism (ex: “The problem with the world today is that there are too many (name of color) people.”)

De Soto speaks of Metcalfe’s Law: “The value of a network – defined as its utility to a population – is roughly proportional to the number of users squared. An example is the telephone network. One telephone is useless: whom do you call? Two telephones are better, but not much. It is only when most of the population has a telephone that the power of the network reaches its full potential to change society.”

De Soto’s primary argument resides on an insistence in formalizing the property rights of so many “extralegal” citizens living and doing business outside of their population’s established networks of commerce, thus preventing their community from realizing the full potential of capitalism.

In simple math, legalization of property = creation of capital.

And while I do not have the intellectual capacity nor desire to fully engage in the nuances and complexities of this issue, this book was most rewarding to me in a conceptual manner. It was illuminating to immerse myself in the true nature of our Abstract World. De Soto has a comfortable grasp on how our systems of governance rely on symbols and abstraction to generate money, wealth, and affluence, what De Soto refers to as capital. It’s a twisted, mind-bending read. But it made me feel smarter and more informed. Which is what books are for in the first place, right? To make us feel better, smarter?

Reading is sexy.