…. It is the Utopian outicxik andnquite as obscurantist as its formernopposite. Even apart from the bandwagonneffect and the regrets and remorsenafter the defeat of foolish expectations,n. it has the grave defectnof making one impatient with Difficulty.nBy difficulty. I mean the permanentnobstacles to the good lifenand the good society. Few of themnare problems in the sense in whichnwe bandy the word around. Problemsnare solved and thereby removed. Difficultiesnremain and must be workednat forever. In a civilization rightlynaware of itself, the majority are willingnto furnish that work. In ours,nthe quest for innovative solutions,nadmirable in certain domains, distractsnand disturbs and even destroys.nWhen our society totally develops anproblem-solving mentality, it is ripe forncommunication, ripe for exploitationnthat would have us confuse novelty fornart (a topic which Barzun explores inndepth in his wise The Uses and Abusesnof Art). Difficulty and conversation requirena slower pace, one that is more inntouch with the natural capacities of thenhuman sensorium. And yet the machinenruns at a faster and faster speed.n*>*>:nWhat makes the world oppressive.’nIn one word, it is overstimulation.nThe demands upon our attention tontrivial things that may prove fatal ifnnot attended to are great in themselves.nWe are surrounded by dangerousnengines that care nothing for ournskin. And this familiar response tonmateria] stimulus spreads to everynother kind, while the new means atnour disposal multiply the effects bynmultiplying our contacts. The telephone,ntelevision, rapid transportationnmake for too many encounters,ntoo many demands. Space and timenare too full. . . . This hammeringnhelps to explain why we fear and resentnthe sharp edges of things andnwrap cushions of false words aroundnthem. They protect us at least iri ourndealings with other people, of whomnthere are too many with a claim onnour thoughts. Overstimulation alsonaccounts for the rush toward the cultsnChronicles of Culturenand cures based on deep breathi ng andnvacated minds. The very name TranscendentalnMeditation is bound to bensoothing to a population that has nevernknown the privilegeof meditating herenand now, in the midst of life.nThis overstimulation, this explosionnof information and contacts, threatensnto make a sham of our democracy becausenthe managerial set begins to predominatenand freedom is diminishednaccordingly. Professor Barzun rightlynhas no solutions, but his spirited pointingnto our ongoing difficulties reaffirmsnthe potential potency of our mythicnimagination:nThe chief of our present difficultiesn— one that will never go away — isnhow to redirect our minds to concretenexperience, give up the sleazy wordsnand the sleazy behavior they inspire,n. and so bend our energies once againnThe Last Refuge of IdiotsnWe received a call the other day fromna frustrated European, who thought henhad escaped political insanity by comingnto New York City, only to stumble uponna book by a best-selling psychobiographernnamed Fawn Brodie. The book is entitlednRichard Nixon: The Shaping ofnHis Character, and its methodology restsnon the principle of .explaining the formernPresident’s id by analyzing the colloquialismsnhe—lik’fe?^any other American—hasnused COTintless times every day.nThe authoress concludes, for example,nthat whenever Mr. Nixon used the verbn”to kick,” he thereby powerfully andnirrevocably proved his own villainy andnblackhearted ego. “My God!” our friendnmoaned on the telephone, “The booknreads like the ravings of an imbecile. “Andnit is a Book of the Month Club selection.nI’m trying to get away from Europeannmorons who want to ruin NATO, andnI run into this madness. And you Americansnpretend to the leadership of thenWest. You, who once saved us from tyr­nto the endless task of mending thencracks, of building and rebuilding thenfabric of civilization.nOut the question remains, where willnthe conversing public needed to completenProfessor Barzun’s live circuitncome from, if we keep bludgeoningnpeople with new and more glamorousnstimulation while failing to lay thennecessary foundations of literacy in thenschools, a literacy that is needed to definenwhat passes for life in the communitynat large. What hope there is,nof course, will come from citizens whonlearn to begin with the proper distinctions,nwho keep the resulting oppositionalntendencies clearly in mind, whateverncourse of action is pursued. AndnProfessor Barzun’s words, will alwaysnbe there to inspire, to begin the conversationnof democracy anew. DnLIBERAL CULTURE 1nnnanny and malnutrition, and still promisento protect us from communist barbarismn…”nWe made an effort to assuage his de-n. spondence by affirming that we too considernpsychobiographers aupair with thenmentally retarded. But we couldn’t explainnto him why New York publishersnpromote both psychobiography andnidiocy, perhaps because we were a bitnashamed that the rascality of those pub-n- Ushers is so royally rewarded by thenTOoming revenue from psychobiographicn•vbest selkrs. Whatever we said, it didn’tnsound too convincing. Dn