Category Archives: Non-fiction

Thoughts on “The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt” by Ken Krimstein

So a while back, I said that I was going to be changing the format of the blog and just posting quotes instead of sharing my thoughts. Well, as you have likely surmised, I have gone back to my original format. There were a couple reasons why I went full circle:

  • I discovered that posting quotes regularly did not really take that much less time; in fact, I think I spent even more time, since I felt compelled to post more often.
  • My daughter was all excited because she Googled something by Umberto Eco and one of my blog posts was the top Google search result.

Anyway, I figure I will write when I can, and not sweat it if I get too busy to write. That said, my thoughts on this book.

I came across this at a community center where there was a table of free books (a dangerous thing for a bibliophile). Most of the books were of no interest to me, but this one immediately caught my attention. While in college, I had read Hannah Arendt’s masterpiece of political theory, The Origins of Totalitarianism. The book was one of those that left a strong and lasting impact on me. I cannot tell you how many times I have observed the behaviors of political leaders and listened to their words, then thought back to Arendt’s book. Essentially, she wrote the book on totalitarianism. The term did not exist until she coined it.

The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt is a biographical graphic novel. It provides a witty overview of Arendt’s life, how she fled Europe during World War II, established herself as a political theorist and philosopher, and eventually went on to become the first woman to be appointed full professor at Princeton University.

While most of the book tells the story of Ms. Arendt’s life, it does briefly summarize some of her political ideas.

As fire lives on oxygen, the oxygen of totalitarianism is untruth. Before totalitarian leaders can fit reality to their lies, their message is an unreeling contempt for facts. They live by the belief that fact depends entirely on the power of the man who makes it up.

(p. 167)

The graphic novel quotes Arendt as saying, “Whatever I do, I am simply unable to avert my eyes from the reality of the world around me.” (p. 126) I feel the same way. It is impossible to ignore what I see going on in the world. And if you ever read The Origins of Totalitarianism, you will also not be able to look at the behaviors of political leaders the same way again.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share in my musings. I hope you find these posts interesting. If so, please let me know. As long as there is interest, I will do my best to keep writing.

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Intelligent Dialogue

All this talk is useless blather, worse than gibberish. But at least I am able to find one intelligent, truth-telling person to talk to, to argue with sensibly, to dialogue with. Myself.

Ken Krimstein. The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt

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A Stroll Around Paris

… and then, after I left the Louvre, the American tourists buying bushels of postcards of the Mona Lisa, I followed my nose down a web of back alleys and I saw it, bricks and planks, which I tore down with my bare hands: what signaled the find was an 1832 handbill for a wild beast show, so I knew, through that portal the past would spread her loins, a vestal virgin, and when the shroud collapsed, the rusted ruins of a mouldering arcade embraced me – a broken cat’s eye marble, the chipped arm of a porcelain doll, its milky glaze supple to the touch, physical evidence of time, the past gushing ahead of the non-existent future, an electric buzz to rival hashish or cocaine or opium, a true phantasmagoria of the space that echoes the passion of the gambler, the narcotic continuous present.

Ken Krimstein. The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt

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A Reflection on Dying

Umberto Eco

I am one of those people who don’t miss their youth (I’m glad I had one, but wouldn’t like to start over), because today I feel more fulfilled than ever. But the thought that all my experience will be lost at the moment of my death makes me feel pain and fear. The thought that those who come after me will know as much as I do, and even more, fails to console me. What a waste, decades spent building up experience, only to throw it all away. It’s like burning down the Library of Alexandria, destroying the Louvre, or sending the beautiful, rich, and all-wise Atlantis to the bottom of the sea.

We remedy this sadness by working. For example, by writing, painting, or building cities. You die, but most of what you have accumulated will not be lost; you are leaving a message in a bottle.

Umberto Eco. Turning Back the Clock

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Sounds of the End of the World

Stupidity. Noise. A modern Babel. The sounds of the end of the world.

Ken Krimstein. The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt

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Animal Symbolism

Animals have been a vital element in the development of mythological systems throughout history, across virtually every culture imaginable. In Western societies of the Middle Ages, in particular, animals represented specific traits and could therefore be utilized as symbols to convey moral and religious lessons in works of art. Animals can represent victims of technology, industrialization, or war. Also, animals sometimes equate with the concept of “purity,” existing in a wild, natural state and therefore utterly free from man’s sins and vices. Some passion plays and other didactic forms of theater utilized animal imagery to represent specific modes of behavior, including human vices.

John Kenneth Muir. Back to Frank Black: p. 196

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New Age Commercialism

Was the New Age a generational invention? As far as its content goes, it is a collage of ancient esoteric elements. It may be that young people were the first to turn to these elements, as if they were rediscovered giants, but the diffusion of images, sounds, and beliefs typical of the New Age, along with all its recording, publishing, cinematic, and religious paraphernalia, was taken over and run by the old foxes of the mass media, and if some youngsters run off to the Far East, it is to throw themselves into the arms of an elderly guru with lots of lovers and even more Cadillacs.

Umberto Eco. Turning Back the Clock

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Leadership

Leadership is not about politics or power. It is about providing a space for people to find their personal power and heal.

Wayne William Snellgrove. Daily Medicine

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Government Policy vs Cultural Dialog

Umberto Eco

I have learned to distinguish between the policies of a government (or even the constitution of a state) and the cultural ferment at work in that country. This is why I later attended cultural meetings in countries whose politics I didn’t agree with. Recently I was invited to Iran by some young, open-minded scholars who are fighting for the development of a modern culture there, and I agreed, asking only for the visit to be postponed until the situation in the Middle East became clearer, because it didn’t strike me as sensible to find myself on a plane that might get caught in missile crossfire.

If I were American, I certainly wouldn’t have voted for Bush, but this doesn’t stop me from having continuous and cordial relations with various American universities.

Umberto Eco. Turning Back the Clock

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Overcoming the Negative Through Music

Often I, too, am overcome by the hatred, the jealousy and envy, the wars, all the ugliness that is a part of our world. I try to live in beauty and goodness; I seek out all that has a quality of inner beauty, and I am immediately repulsed by anything ugly that sends out bad vibrations. Over the years, with the help of my guru, I have tried very hard to create and build up within me a kind of beauty and spiritual strength, so that I always have this to turn to when the harshness of the world becomes too depressing. It is this inner beauty that I have worked so long to create that I try to reveal through my music and share with all my listeners.

Ravi Shankar. My Music, My Life

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