Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Marxist Orientation

Reading a book in which Karl Marx’s development is skillfully presented, I got to wondering about people’s innate leanings. Marx tried his hand at poetry in youth but rapidly became an intellectual, initially very much influenced by Hegelian philosophy and also much concerned with religion—without, seemingly, even opening the door of it to understand its mysteries. He began to feel a certain comfort when he shifted his view to society and became a materialist. Then religion began to make sense to him as a coping mechanism to mitigate the pain of social conflict and of class oppression. And he was off.

Now, mind you, this man spent his entire life reading and scribbling. He was an intellectual. He was trying to understand the world, to orient himself. Thus he engaged in precisely the same activities I spent my time on when not actually working for a living. Why did my efforts take me very deeply into the religious phenomenon—and through all of the many rooms that surround it (psychology, mythology, hard science, literature, and history) whereas Marx quite rapidly settled on material production and its arrangements over time and expressed in political forms. All of those “rooms” of mine were, for him, by-products of that. Why did he never wonder what people are doing here in the first place? Wouldn’t that be the proper starting point? Of any orientation?

The way we’re inwardly constituted—our innate leanings—are ultimately the most decisive in how we approach our lives. The layer that totally entranced Karl Marx I took in one or two long strides before I’d ever reached my sophomore year—and also occupied my paid labors. The curious aspect here is that his approach was shared by so, so many others of the elites of his time so that he left a huge mark on history. That tells me something about the uneven distribution of gifts…

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