Polemics & ExchangesnLove of Vivaldinby Tom BethellnI don’t know how your Mr. CraignWyatt got the idea that my book onnGeorge Lewis “haughtily dismissesnMr. Bethell is the Washington, D.C.ncorrespondent for Harper’s magazine.nEditor’s Comment continued from page 3nimbued with this same persuasion produced what was perhapsnthe largest abuse of peacetime normalcy in history.nIt may be difficult to understand, much less to accept, butnour strength and our weakness, our vitality and our debilitationnare geared to the proper functioning of our sense ofnnormalcy. The vigorousness of our belief in the normativencategories of our feelings and our conduct precede any considerationnof whether or not our institutions and our socialnorganism are still viable. We must feel bound by those normativenforces accumulated in ourselves, in our traditions andnour customs. The New American Person created by thenLiberal Culture does not feel obligated by such forces: he/nshe may still believe that law and morality play some littlespecifiednrole in a society, but they accept normlessness andnabnormalcy in the name of “higher” necessities or moralities.nWe who think of ourselves as nonliberals do not.nNc I ormalcy is a cornerstone of our worldview. On occasion,nour faith in normalcy makes us underdogs. More oftennit constitutes our bridge to people who do not comprehendntoo well our nomenclatures and harangues about philosophy,nmorality and their relation to social health, which is so muchnbetter exemplified by remedies for inflation and the energyncrisis. But when we read some polls, we know how close wenare to the mainstream of the American mass thinking thatnarticulates itself by rejecting abnormalcy. Playboy magazine,nwhich fancies itself as having created a new subculture ofnfast food hedonism designed to anesthetize the midlife blues,npolled its readers not long ago, with the Harris Company’snhelp, and found that notions like noncarnal love, fidelity andnmarriage still hold an inexplicably spell over the great majoritynof them. To the smart intellectualoids in Playboy’snVivaldi.” I wrote (in the only referencento Vivaldi in the book) that “He [BunknJohnson] may have thought he was onlynplaying a melody with a beat, but thentrue characteristic of his music was anlow-keyed continuum of polyphonynwhich has approximately as much commercialnappeal as a violin concerto bynVivaldi—and many of the same characteristics.”nTo say that a composer does not havenmuch commercial appeal is not ton”haughtily dismiss” him. For the record,nHove Vivaldi.nI think that Mr. Wyatt may be correctnin what he says about my commentnon Aaron Copland, however. I said thatnCopland had made “derogatory remarksnabout jazz.” In fact, as Wyatt says, Coplandnhas “been influenced by jazznforms.” I should have said that it wasntraditional dizz that Copland didn’t like.nHe had no time for well-organized NewnOrleans counterpoint. But if it wasnmodern, experimental, cerebral, steelwire-through-your-eardrumsnstuff, thennof course the intellectual Mr. Coplandnloved it. Dnheadquarters those findings were both enigmatic and loathsome:ntheir cultural limitations bar them from knowing thatntheir “philosophy” has been privy to mankind since the firstnrealization that humans mate regardless of seasons, that thenconsequence of coupling is not always procreation, and thatnrandom sex reduces the worth of life so much that it makesnit vegetatively meaningless and boring. We thus inventednthe sexual principles of love, custom, convention, chastity,nmodesty, normalcy.nSuperb civilizations and cultures were structured on thesenexclusively human devices; life became meaningful, rich,nfull of purely human happiness and sadness, without whoseninterplay we would be little different from gnats. Now,nPlayboy ideologists have come up with a proposition of thenone-night-stand sexual ethos, once quite popular with cavenmen and practiced by drifting misfits throughout the historynof mores, and marvel that their customers may pay for gawkingnbut are reluctant to make such supermarket wisdom anguiding theory of life.n»3o, while we are noting public opinion surveys, it wouldnmake sense to report that one, recently undertaken on behalfnof the Illinois General Assembly, found that 71% of the peopleninterviewed were in favor of dropping insanity as a legalndefense for a crime. If this is not a dramatic, poignant outcrynfor restoration of the notion of normalcy as an obligatoryncoefficient of social reality—then I don’t know what is. Inonly hope that more and more people will start thinking hownto wisely institutionalize these overbearing sentiments ofnso many of us.nnn-Leopold TyrmandnSeptember/October 1979n