A Letter on “Hope.”

Joshua Preston Hope

A Letter on Hope

Recently on Fiverr, I was asked to write a letter, which being a (militant) advocate for written-correspondence I was glad to do. The only problem, though, was that I was asked to talk about “Hope.” Where does one even begin?

Deciding not to focus on my own experiences, I wanted to investigate what Hope actually is — and I wanted it to be more practical and philosophical than merely (and often unfulfillingly) poetic. You’ll find here no allusions to spring or sunrise. For such a nebulous but necessary emotion, I think it requires more seriousness than that.

For anyone interested in my letters, in September 2013 I posted a series called “Four Men in May,” in which I included one about the last week of my undergraduate career. If you’d like me to send you your own letter, visit my Fiverr page here.


February 7, 2015
Houston, TX

Dear _______,

Walking home from work the other day, I gave a lot of thought to your message, thinking about what I could possibly write that is unmistakably “hopeful.” It’s a challenge (I type with an insuppressible grin on my face) but for being such a fundamental part of the human experience, it is a necessary exercise and I’m thankful for the opportunity you’ve given me. I think you should try it, too, and I’d love if you sent me a copy of your thoughts. Because even if we are not always as hopeful as we’d like, Hope is imperative. As I’m sure I’m not the first to say: Without it, What’s the point?

So, already, we know that Hope is a guide: It guides us to what “the point” is. By this I mean it is the quickest way to identify those things that matter most to us. What are you hopeful for? Why? Ask yourself these questions the next time the feeling swells inside of you. Within your answer you’ll discover the aspirations and relationships you cherish most.

Yet, I don’t know if we encounter Hope or if it encounters us. For every instance when Hope takes hold, ensnaring us without warning, there are others when it’s discovered by engaging with our aspirations. When we know the obstacles to be overcome, sometimes we must search for Hope by breaking them into smaller, more-manageable components. For example, let’s say one is committed to but hopeless about passing an “impossible” class. Instead of focusing on the class as one giant, single problem, one ought to focus on the number of tests and ask What must I do to pass each one? Suddenly, the class ceases being “impossible,” and in that moment we feel in our chests a rush of relief: Hope.

Fearing that I may not have much to say about “Hope,” I reached out to a friend of mine, a young philosopher-poet named Andreana S., and asked what her thoughts were on this subject. Here’s an abridged version of what she sent me:

“Hope is a means of self-preservation in the face of helplessness. … Learning to cultivate hope is not self-deception, as some would dismiss it; some would say that hopefulness is fanciful thinking, … and that one would be better off focusing on the aspects of life within one’s control rather than hoping for a different, distant, but seemingly always-possible future. However, hope is self-sustenance – an act of friendship towards the self. It is a gift we give ourselves when we do not have anywhere else to turn for support.”

This, she added, allows one to “let go of judgment and permit in oneself an emotional investment” in what we aspire for. “Only with that emotional connection, that hope, can one then build upon that foundation by channeling the hopeful energy” into action. That cannot be stressed enough: Hope without action is mere faith. We cannot expect our problems to change for us; instead, Hope grants us the power to know that there is more in our control than instinct suggests — and for what we can control, we can change.

These are all the thoughts I have right now and I’d like to get this letter in the mail sooner rather than later.

Sincerely,
Joshua Preston

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Bioethical Expertise and Government

Here’s my second article for Columbia’s “Voices in Bioethics.” In it I review a paper by Dr. Annabelle Littoz-Monnet and discuss the problems inherent at the intersection of bioethical “expertise” and government. In short, there’s no such thing as the neutral state.

Voices in Bioethics

by Joshua Preston 

In a new paper published by Dr. Annabelle Littoz-Monnet, an associate professor of political science at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, she asks whether government bioethics experts bolster or inhibit democratic control of policy. To answer this, she cites the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies’ (EGE) role in the European Union’s early-2000s debate on whether to fund human embryotic stem cell research. Drawing upon news articles, reports, and personal interviews, Dr. Littoz-Monnet observes that when the debate reached a stalemate, the European Commission (the EU’s executive body) sought out the EGE’s recommendations. What followed was the use of the EGE as a means for “control[ling] the policy process despite the presence of a salient and publicly debated conflict (17, italics in original).

Although the case study is itself interesting, the value of Dr. Littoz-Monnet’s paper lies…

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“Dulce et Decorum est” by Wilfred Owen

Yesterday I came across a poem and, reading it, obsessed over its simplicity, its horror, its capacity to make the past breathe (or, more appropriately, choke). Although there are many reasons why one may write poetry, one of the highest, I believe, is to aspire for timelessness. “Dulce et Decorum est” by the WWI-era British soldier Wilfred Owen does that.
Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

 
A few weeks ago I wrote about the centennial of the assassination of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand and how it triggered the events that led to World War One. So, it’s in this same spirit I’m posting the work of Owen who, unfortunately, never lived to see much of his poetry published. Sadly, on November 4, 1918, he was killed in the battlefield one week before the Armistice was signed.
 
It’s easy to distance oneself from the past, to see epochs not our own in faded colors, the actors as automatons playing their parts to achieve the present. In some ways, I think this habit is a self-defense mechanism, but I’ll save that for another article (Does this mean the future will forget my own humanity? But everything I do is so important!). But it’s through pieces like this that the snake-trenches across Europe become real. It’s scenes like those in the last stanza that the horrors of war become vivid.
 
“Dulce et Decorum est”
 
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
 
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
 
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
 
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
 
Those last lines ought to be remembered by every apologist for armed conflict. Here in the United States, I’m disgusted by how we glorify warfare, how we fantasize over conquering, how buried deep inside each of us, instead of seeing a Mother, a Father, a Child, a Human — we see a Warrior. It’s apparent in the language we use, and it’s apparent in Arlington Cemetery.
 
I was so entranced by Owen’s piece that I decided record my own reading and, taking a break, I came across the following in Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle (1963). At this point, the characters are at a memorial service and someone just finished reciting a poem about a dead soldier that ends with the question, ” ‘Pro Patria.’ / What do they mean, anyway?”
 
“What do they mean, anyway?” echoed Ambassador Horlick Minton. “They mean, ‘For one’s country.’ ” And he threw away another line. “Any country at all,” he murmured.
 
“This wreath I bring as a gift from the people of one country to the people of another. Never mind which countries. Think of people. …
 
“And any children murdered in war …
 
“And any country at all” (p.256).
 
All of these dead — whether in the Great or Iraq Wars, whether British or German or Iraqi — these are people, children, murdered in any war for any country at all.

The Sharknado of Social Systems

Today the Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby that private corporations can exercise their religious freedom by denying women access to particular forms of birth control.

First, I’d like to begin with a few words on religious freedom and the regulation of business. The fundamental tension of government lies in balancing the desires of individuals with the needs of an organized, functioning society. These needs are the subject of discourse guided by conflicting visions of what enhances (and guarantees) individual liberty. Until now it has been clear that one’s religious freedom extends up until it threatens the rights and liberties of others (and this is the “Harm Principle”). No matter what you do or how you do it, you’re welcome to up until others’ rights are infringed. This is in the private sphere.

Now, when one enters the public sphere to conduct business, one must conform to those policies that arose from the discourse. This means getting all of the necessary permits, following the rules, and abiding by whatever worker and environmental regulations exist. It’s a process and everyone follows it — no one gets special treatment (in theory). It sets the supposedly-level playing field on which the marketplace stands.

What’s happened now is that the Supreme Court has ruled that a corporation’s religious beliefs (1) trump the harm caused to women by restricting their reproductive (and health) freedom, and (2) can cherry-pick those regulations meant to level the marketplace. The nice thing about religious freedom is that it was designed to allow beliefs to flourish and thrive – and where we’re headed: they’re really going to. If every man is a church; every man can pick the laws he’d like to follow. Never mind the democratic discourse. If you believe it (or believe you believe it), have fun.

As Justice Ginsburg wrote in her dissenting opinion:

Would the exemption … extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.

What if it’s against someone’s religious belief to have a minimum wage? What if their beliefs view some people — based on sexual orientation or race — as unclean? What if they believe “blessed are the peacemakers“? (That last one was a joke; nobody believes that).

What we’re seeing now is the marriage of two of the worst social systems born from the minds of men: Corporatism and Theocracy. We can tell ourselves It Can’t Happen Here, but it is. This is literally the Sharknado of Social Systems. It’s now only a matter of time before some company requires its female employees to take monthly, unpaid, seven-day sick leaves so as to properly observe Leviticus 15:19:

Whenever a woman has her menstrual period, she will be ceremonially unclean for seven days. If you touch her during that time, you will be defiled until evening.

After all, it’s what God would want.

Study Methodology, Even If You Believe in God

A friend of mine recently posted an article from The Atlantic (“Study Theology, Even If You Don’t Believe in God“) and I just wanted to address something that I found a little irritating. In brief, the author, Tara Isabella Burton, argues that we should mourn the decline of theology programs in both the US and UK since they are by their nature interdisciplinary.

As Oxford’s Dr. William Wood, a University Lecturer in Philosophical Theology and my former tutor, puts it: “theology is the closest thing we have at the moment to the kind of general study of all aspects of human culture that was once very common, but is now quite rare.” A good theologian, he says, “has to be a historian, a philosopher, a linguist, a skillful interpreter of texts both ancient and modern, and probably many other things besides.”

After explaining how she would compare contradictory texts in multiple languages, nit-picking ambiguous words, she takes her argument so far as to say that theology gave her an insight she couldn’t have gotten elsewhere.

While the study of history taught me the story of humanity on a broader scale, the study of theology allowed me insight into the minds and hearts, fears and concerns, of those in circumstances were so wildly different from my own. The difference between whether—as was the case in the Arian controversy of the fourth-century AD—the Godhead should be thought of as powerful first, and loving second, or loving first and powerful second, might seem utterly pedantic in a world where plenty of people see no need to think about God at all. But when scores of people were willing to kill or die to defend such beliefs—hardly a merely historical phenomenon—it’s worth investigating how and why such beliefs infused all aspects of the world of their believers.

While I agree with the spirit of her argument – it’s a defense of intensive, critical scholarship – the author conflates two very important but different ideas. The first is the methodology of historical analysis and the second is the question of what we know (or can know) to be True.

First, what the author is advocating for is already what historians (and many others) do. It’s disingenuous for Burton to state that history can only teach us “the story of humanity on a broader scale” while it’s only in the domain of theology to grant us “insights into the minds and hearts, fears and concerns, of those in circumstances … so wildly different from our own.” It’s a presumptuous assertion, and already I can hear historians grinding their teeth (but don’t worry – we’re weak). Any historian who refuses to study their subjects on their subjects’ own terms – this includes all of the complexities of their milieu – is a bad historian. That’s all there is to it.

Second, the author also goes on to use Richard Dawkins as a foil to her argument given a 2007 letter he wrote where he “argues for the abolishment of theology in academia.” Her use of Dawkins is, I think, a little ridiculous since Burton’s implication is that Dawkins would somehow be opposed to the methodology she defends. Now, I’m sure Dawkins has no gripe with history, philosophy, linguistics, and critical analysis. Rather, it’s the theology part that’s upsetting – it’s not the study of people as people (as an historian must do), it’s the study of God. It’s the application of the aforementioned approach minus the skepticism (How can you study any religious writing without considering that maybe the author is just fundamentally wrong?).

The problem is that some (I won’t say all) theology and divinity programs are infused with the presumption that they’re getting to the truth of some grand metaphysical problem: Why does God allow evil? Is it really a Holy Trinity? Can He make a burrito so hot He can’t even eat it? These are the questions Dawkins groans over when he writes that “a positive case now needs to be made [whether theology] has any real content at all, or that it has any place whatsoever in today’s university culture.” When taken as serious questions these are all red herrings into the nature of reality.

Now I’m welcome to the criticism that I’ve very narrowly confined what constitutes theological inquiry, but it’s really no different than what the author just did to every other discipline.

Let’s Study Neuroethics Together!

Anything We Want to Know We Can Know

With so much information available at our fingertips, there is no excuse for ignorance. In this century, from the privileged vantage point of watching the world through a screen, there is no reason why we should not have a well-informed opinion on anything that tickles our curiosity. Whether it’s Wikipedia, Google Books, or Coursera, there exists before us an unprecedented access to data, information, and analysis. Anything we want to know we can know.

Isn’t that amazing?

The Obligatory Stock Photo of a Brain Doing Something Science-y

The Obligatory Stock Photo of a Brain Doing Something Science-y

The problem, though, is that I think many lack the skills necessary to effectively organize everything before us, to separate substance from white noise. Too often we turn to Google to reaffirm what we already “know” rather than use it as a tool to reevaluate what we think we know. The difference is that we use it as a weapon, a fill-in-the-blank generator that appeals to authority; we use Google to fight the misinformed rather than correct misinformation. Thus, we settle for a top-5 URL ans presume that Psychology Today or an editorial from The Huffington Post would never lead us astray. (How could they? They have high page views!).

But this does a disservice to both the conversation that inspired the keyword search and our own understanding of a topic.

What we should be doing instead is using these tools to compare information, study the validity of claims, the methodology used to derive them. If someone name drops, look up the name. If someone alludes to a theory, study the theory from both sides. Don’t understand economics? Learn the difference between those applauded in The Wall Street Journal and those who are applauded within their discipline. Don’t believe in evolutionary theory? Read an essay by Richard Dawkins, watch a YouTube video featuring Sean Carroll, find an article that, step-by-step, dismantles the most prominent creationist claims.

Just do it. Your species is named Homo sapiens, “Thinking Man,” for a reason

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

I know absolutely nothing about computer programming – at all (and I’m ashamed of it). I’ve had 22 years to dedicate time to it and I’ve chosen to squander my time elsewhere. But, I’d like to change that.

Working at the Eagleman lab, it’s not uncommon for me to be told that above all other life advice I could be given, “You Need To Learn Programming.” And I don’t disagree. If I’d like to ever pursue a Ph.D., it’s something that I’ve got to do – and it’s better to start now than to push it off. Like learning any other language, we learn best while we’re young – it only gets harder with age.

So, I’m going to give it a shot. I’ve registered to take a “Computing for Data Analysis” class through Coursera with a professor from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The emphasis is on “R”, which is what the lab uses, and I’m hoping to get a lot out of it. Even if I flounder pathetically and leave a mess of tears, sweat, and torn notebooks in my wake, I’ll at least have floundered pathetically and left a mess of tears, sweat, and torn notebooks in my wake.

(Unfortunately, the class started yesterday so you’ll be unable to join me – in that endeavor at least).

Let’s Study Neuroethics Together!

I’ve also signed up for another course, this time taught by a Jonathan D. Moreno from The University of Pennsylvania called “Neuroethics.” From the Coursera page:

This course will examine the ethical, legal and social issues raised by neuroscience. Topics will include the implications of new knowledge of the brain for our understanding of selfhood, for the meaning of privacy, for the distinction between therapy and enhancement, and for national security.

It starts on September 30 and lasts for about 8 weeks (4-6 hours/wk). Although I’ve read my fair share of commentaries on the advancement of neurolaw, it doesn’t hurt to get another perspective. What’s interesting is that when it comes to Neuroscience and the Law there are really only three institutions doing active research on it: The MacArthur Foundation’s Initiative at Vanderbilt University, Baylor College of Medicine’s The Initiative on Neuroscience and Law (where I am), and The University of Pennsylvania. So because it’s still a fledgling field, it’ll be nice to be introduced to the other “schools” of thought floating around out there.

The reason why I am sharing this with you is because I was wondering if you’d like to take it with me. If you register, let me know – we could even form a small study/reading group where we discuss the materials, bounce ideas back-and-forth, etc. We can share our own research and thoughts and just have a good time talking. Furthermore, in neurolaw there’s no right or wrong answer – as I like to joke about, the field’s too young to have right and wrong answers yet!

Contact me at Preston [at] Neulaw.org

Four Men in May (Part 1): Memory, Oscar Wilde, and Aldous Huxley

Introduction: The Cold of Winter Is Just A Dream

On November 8, 2013, I’ll turn twenty-three years old. To many of my “experienced and enlightened” readers this may not seem like much of a milestone, but to me, though, it feels like an awakening. Here’s how I see it: while the exact age is arbitrary, I’m reaching the point where we can start vividly recalling who we were a decade ago. Think about that for a moment.

Throughout our lives we are many people with many fears and dreams and hairstyles. There’s no fine line, but our personalities evolve and soon, looking back, nothing seems quite real. Sitting comfortably in the present, we’d like to imagine that across time there’s something about us that has stayed static, as if there’s something identifiably me. (This is one of the reasons why, amongst friends, we insist everyone else has changed but we’ve somehow remained “pure” — whatever that means).

Compared to our late-teens, entering into our mid-to-late twenties is the first time we are able to thoughtfully look back on our adolescence. Vaguely, we can start recalling what it was like to be thirteen – what we did, what we thought the future held for us – rather than seeing only a few snapshots (which further back are all I have). I’m now able to visit the past and shake the hands of my many selves. The grip seems familiar, but the life behind the eyes looks strange. There are gears turning and I can’t tell what they’re thinking.

Memory is a mirage.

Looking back, we suffer from what I once heard Steven Pinker refer to as “The Curse of Knowledge”: Once we know something we can’t imagine what it is like to not know it. Meeting our past selves, we know how the story ends. We know which relationships flourished and failed. We know what came of the adventure. So try as we may to recall the anxiety of the “next chapter” that held our lungs and made our hands trouble, the mirage evaporates. We know how the chapter ended because now it’s the one closing behind us.

Ten years ago there was the prospect of possibilities, each branching indefinitely into the future, and we were terrified by it. But with every day and every act any one of a billion paths is buried away. Soon the story snaps into place and from the clutter nothing is left but a single line, a simple road, that in retrospect “feels” inevitable. But, in life, there are no guarantees. Even so, walking, we see in our admiration of the flora all around the conclusion that there was never any uncertainty: there was never any likely path but this one.

Thus, we project onto the past a narrative that appears to have never been in question — after all, it led us here (wherever here and now is and when)! We do with our personal histories as we’ve done to all history – whether  it’s people, movements, or nations.

Memory is teleology.

***

“But of course,” one says to the incredulous! “How could Oscar Wilde ever have become anyone less than Oscar Wilde?” Their eyes light up and the crowd nods in agreement. After all, they have a point. Even Wilde must have known that he was destined to be the most-quotable human being of the last two hundred years. “And the same goes for all of the great thinkers and writers of the last century – I mean, look at Aldous Huxley and Hunter S. Thompson.”

Sharing anecdote after anecdote, they conclude: “They’re such large personalities that it’s hard to imagine them becoming anyone else.”

But! Before there was Oscar Wilde there was just an Irish boy named Oscar soliciting letters of recommendation for his poetry. Before there was Aldous Huxley and Hunter S. Thompson – two other men cited in this article – there were two guys struggling to get their articles published with one hanging around the English upper-class and the other fighting his way to Spain. Each seem to be hopeful but none know the future and not one would guess that many years later a young dude in Texas would be reading their letters.

Culled from several volumes, I’m reproducing here four letters written by four men in the May before their twenty-third birthdays. The title “Four Men in May,” then, is meant to be not only literal but symbolic: these men are in the “May” – the spring – of their life. Aged twenty-two, the cold of winter is just a dream and there’s no telling where the road ahead goes. There’s no guarantee of success; there’s only a series of days and acts snapping the ever-changing future into place. 

Finally, the fourth letter I’ve included is one of my own. I do this not because I believe I’m worthy of such high company (I don’t and I’m not). Instead, I include it here because while we know how their stories ended, ahead of me there are only possibilities. Nothing is certain.

Sometimes it feels like fall, but for now it’s May and the cold of winter is just a dream.

Oscar Wilde: May 15, 1877

What follows comes from The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde (2000) edited  by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis (pages 47-48). Choosing only one letter to include was a bit tough so I’d like to give two a special mention. The first was written on May 14, 1877, to the former-Liberal Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. In it, Wilde politely asks for the former-PM’s opinions on his sonnets so that, hopefully, he can ride the compliments into publication:

[P]erhaps if you saw any good stuff in the lines I send you, some editor … might publish them: and I feel sure that you can appreciate the very great longing that one has when young to have the words of one’s own published for men to read.

The next, dated only a few days later (May 17), is Wilde thanking Gladstone for his kind words and following up with another poem:

The idea of your reading anything of mine has so delighted me, that I cannot help sending you a second sonnet. I am afraid you will think it a poor return for your courtesy to repeat the offence, but perhaps you may see some beauty in it. …

Although this calls to mind my experience of sending a poem along to former President Jimmy Carter (who responded!), I wanted to use something that better captured his life as he was living it. So, I decided on the following, which is dated Tuesday, May 15, 1877, Merrion Square North. The news Wilde calmly refers to is a punishment he received from Oxford for “coming up … a month later after his journey to Greece.” This led to him being fined and “rusticated, i.e. sent down, for the rest of the academic year.”

My dear Boy, Thanks for your letter: I had made out the facts by a careful study of the statutes going up to town, but it was comforting all the same to have it confirmed by such an authority as the Schools Clerk.

I had a delightful time in town with Frank Miles and a lot of friends and came home on Friday. My mother was of course awfully astonished to hear my news and very much disgusted with the wretched stupidity of our college dons, while Mahaffy is raging! I never saw him so indignantly angry; he looks on it almost as an insult to himself.

The weather is charming, Florrie more lovely than ever, and I am going to give two lectures on Greece to the Alexandra College girls here, so I am rapidly forgetting the Boeotian [he then writes “Boorish insensitiveness” in Greek] of Allen and the wretched time-serving of that old woman in petticoats, the Dean.

As I expected, all my friends here refuse to believe my story, and my brother who is down at Moytura at present writes me a letter marked ‘Private‘ to ask ‘what it really is all about and why have I been rusticated’, treating my explanations as mere child’s play.

I hope you will write and tell me all about the College, who is desecrating my rooms and what is the latest scandal.

When Dunskie comes tell him to write to me and remember me to Dick and Gussy and little Dunlop and everyone you like or I like. Ever yours

Oscar

I am going down I hope for my May fishing soon, but I am overwhelmed with business of all kinds.

Get Aurora Leigh by Mrs Browning and read it carefully.

Aldous Huxley: May 10, 1917.

Next, moving forward forty-years, we’re still at Oxford but this time following a young Aldous Huxley. Finishing up his education with less trouble than Wilde, by this time Great Britain is already three years into The Great War. Fortunately for him, Huxley’s notoriously poor eyesight disqualified him from service.

Furthermore, by this time Huxley had already written his first novel (at age 17) and was starting to take his writing seriously. Written to Lady Ottoline Morrell, a patron of the arts he knew since his first days at Oxford, his time with her would introduce him to some of the most-prominent members of the Bloomsbury Group, which was a group of English writers, philosophers, and artists that included Virginia Woolf, J.M. Keynes, Bertrand Russell, and others. 

What follows now comes from The Selected Letters of Aldous Huxley (2007) edited by James Sexton (pages 51-52). It is plainly dated May 10, 1917:

Dearest Ottoline,

I will try and get down on Saturday by the late train — no earlier one being possible as I never get my half day on Saturday but on Wednesday, which is a bore for week-end purposes. It will be interesting to see Massingham [editor of The Nation] … and I shall have very delicately to try and insinuate to [him] that it’s high time he should publish my thing in the Nation.

I dined with Katherine [an acquaintance] last night in her delightful rabbit hutch in Church Street and we proceeded to the second house at the Chelsea Palace, where there was a perfectly fabulous woman called Florrie [a music hall performer] singing a quite unbelievably wonderful song, of which the last lines of the refrain were: —

“Talk about the West End with its wonderful sights.

“But O-o-o-oh! Those Arabian nights!”

And the whole of her mountainous body positively shook with the voluptuousness of the conception. Katherine was very delightful and amusing, a little less acting a part than usual.

I hurried on to Ka Cox’s after the theatre and found only Dominick and a stranger in the process of departing, so that I had a very pleasant little tete-a-tete conversation with Ka about Things in General and the fallacies of Bloomsburyism in particular.

I have just received this morning a coming-out notice, to the effect that I am to present myself for re-examination at Oxford on the 21st, which I suppose I will have to do, unless I can gt the Air Board people to write a letter about me to the military, which they won’t do, I should think, considering the short time I’ve been there.

Au revoir and love to everybody,

Aldous

PART II: “Four Men in May (Part 2): Hunter S. Thompson, Joshua Preston.”