Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Wisdom, Sydney Harris, and Laupes

"So, who stays up at odd hours worrying about wisdom? Only you and I, my friend. We are the only ones."
- Abdul-Walid of Acerbia

Sadly, Abdul-Walid has shut down his blog. I don't blame him--he's a newlywed working on a dissertation. So the links in this post don't work.

Recently a friend gave me a copy of Sydney J. Harris's Pieces of Eight. Harris, who died in 1986, was a syndicated columnist based in Chicago. I grew up reading Harris in the Des Moines Register. Wisdom was his stock and trade. You can find Harris on the Web, but usually only in the form of epigrams: a favorite is, "The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers." But rereading the columns from the 1970s and early '80s reminds me of the dearth of wisdom in today's journalism. In 1965, when I was a freshman in high school, the Register also carried Walter Lippmann. I read Max Lerner in Iowa City Press Citizen and listened to the comments of Eric Sevareid on CBS News. For wisdom today, one has to go to the blogs--Abdul-Walid is a must-read, along with the laupes ("A laupe is someone who takes a Literary Approach to the Unorthodox Pursuit of Enlightenment. Most people on my blogroll are laupes [we can pronounce that "LA-oo-pays", right? Or, to simplify things, a rhyme with 'taupe'])."

For the full explanation of laupe, see: are you a laupe

The responses are as much fun to read as the original post. I'm not sure whether I'm a laupe. One of the marks of the original Beat poets was to deny being beat. Gelett Burgess in his 1906 Are You a Bromide, or The Sulphitic Theory, divided people into the imaginative, independent-thinking sulphites and the boring, cliché-spouting bromides. But if people had to wear identifying buttons, the bromides would be choose the red sulphite buttons, and the sulphites would wear the blue bromide buttons. So, I'll put it this way: I'd like to be a laupe.

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