tuesday 27 : passing
here sometimes (now) i am gently rocked
by a passing train
or a tv show about boris ryzhy
or by passing a kidney stone
on seven milligrams of morphine
because the doctor thought ten
would be too much — it won’t, i said
but she’d made up her mind.
monday 26 : the limits of materialism
This looks promising:
Sarah Durston and Ton Baggerman - The Universe, Life and Everything : Dialogues on our Changing Understanding of Reality (AUP)
Our current understanding of our world is nearly 350 years old. It stems from the ideas of Descartes and Newton and has brought us many great things, including modern science and increases in wealth, health and everyday living standards. Furthermore, it is so ingrained in our daily lives that we have forgotten it is a paradigm, not a fact. There are, however, some problems with it. First, there is no satisfactory explanation for why we have consciousness and experience meaning in our lives. Second, modern-day physics tells us that observations depend on characteristics of the observer at the large, cosmic, and small, subatomic scales. Third, ongoing humanitarian and environmental crises show us that our world is vastly interconnected. Our understanding of reality is expanding to incorporate these issues. In The Universe, Life and Everything . . . Dialogues on our Changing Understanding of Reality, some of the scholars at the forefront of this change, from the fields of physics, psychology, and social sciences, discuss the direction it is taking and its urgency.
I’ll have something to say on the topic of proselytising about meditation at some point but not now.
friday 23 : drunk on a thousand unexpected truths
When he was out walking late one night, a chestnut fell from a tree in front of the Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran’s feet and burst open. He was “plunged into a miracle, drunk on the infinite. It was if there were no questions anymore, only answers. I was drunk on a thousand unexpected truths which I didn’t know what to do with…”
— thanks to Arnold Ziegelaar.
wednesday 21 : het waanzinnige dier
Nietzsche : Andere dieren beschouwen de mens als ‘het waanzinnige dier’ dat ‘op hoogst gevaarlijke wijze zijn gezonde dierenverstand verloren heeft’.
— via Arnon Grunberg
tuesday 20 : echo
All this pointing at the heavens by footballers after scoring a goal has to stop. If there are any gods, it seems extremely unlikely they would be in the slightest bit interested in football. And neither would they be wasting their time bothering with money. So. There is something seriously amiss with the advice Memphis Depay is receiving from his spiritual teach… oops I mean coach… a bloke called Thomas Kemp, of whom Google is weirdly ignorant. Memphis became entangled with Kemp during the former’s unfortunate stint at Manchester United. In a documentary Memphis says (the scene takes place in an orphanage in Ghana): “Mijn geld is niet van mij maar van God.” (My money does not belong to me but to God.)
But that’s not the worst of it. According to Kemp what is most important is … is … is … what could it be? That you yourself know who you are. Then the opinions of others don’t matter. If you don’t have that echo in your heart will never discover it. (“Het belangrijkste is dat je zelf weet wie je bent. Dan doen meningen van anderen er niet toe. Als je die echo in je hart niet hebt, kom je er nooit achter.”) Echo? What, or who, is this echo? Is this anything to do with the echo chamber that people find themselves in due to social media? Say, this wouldn’t be the same Echo that fell in love with Narcissus, could it?
But seriously, when did religion embark on the course of encouraging rampant unreflective individualism?
I am interested in the public displays of religiosity by star footballers though. Performing on a big stage twice a week and being screamed at when you do something wrong by scary white football hooligans who hate everyone who is not like them, you’d need something. I am just not sure that it is to be found in the heavens — but then an agnostic would say that.
friday 16 : (TRUE) SELF?
the theme for the next posthumanist conversations (being organised by michael on 24-11-18 11:00-13:00 at casco in utrecht - come. yes come!) is (TRUE) SELF? (i couldn’t resist adding the question mark — but they are his italics and brackets :)
now according to this interactive on the BBC website, ‘i’ (or ‘my body’) consist of 7.2 octillion atoms.
an octillion (a thousand trillion trillion) is not a number you’re likely to need very often (except perhaps when thinking about the number of hours people waste on the internet) but there are 100 octillion stars in this universe. (no one has been able to figure out a way to count the number of stars in any of the other ten to the power of 500 universes yet.)
but of course atoms, the website points out, are ‘mostly empty space’. so what if i could somehow get rid of all that empty space by compressing the atoms? i would only be as big as a red blood cell! not sure how big that actually is but not very. probably i’d be invisible to the naked eye.
ok sign me up! perhaps then i would finally be my (TRUE) SELF? or at least i would no longer be such a waste of space — and i could save some serious money on rent. also : a single loaf of that good desem bread from the organic market would surely last me a lifetime. but wait … i’d need a tiny, tiny little toaster! (it must be breakfast time…)
Passieve activiteit : Simone Weil
In Wachten op God schrijft Simone Weil over aandacht als liefdevolle houding, die zichtbaar maakt wat aan het zicht onttrokken wordt door de willekeur van machtsrelaties. Hier raakt haar latere denken aan haar werk over arbeid en macht.
Die aandacht komt voort uit wachten, uit stilte, een ‘passieve activiteit’, die ze ook aantreft in de Bhagavad Gita, en bij Lao Tse. Deze houding hoort volgens Weil óók bij werk, althans, zoals werk zou moeten zijn, namelijk een betekenisvol deel van het leven: ‘lichamelijke arbeid brengt een bijzonder contact met de schoonheid tot stand, en in de beste ogenblikken een aanraking die nergens inniger is.’
Dit contact met de wereld en haar schoonheid is niet vanzelfsprekend. Wij leven in een droom, schrijft Weil in ‘Liefde tot de schone orde der wereld’. Wie wakker wil worden en ‘de ware stilte’ wil vernemen, moet afstand doen van zijn denkbeeldige centrale plaats in de wereld. (my emphasis - jk) Wie zo breekt met zijn ‘valse goddelijkheid’ en zich niet langer het middelpunt van alles waant, ziet in ‘dat alle plaatsen hetzelfde recht bezitten om zo’n middelpunt te zijn.’
Met dit besef kon menselijk handelen voor Weil een vorm van poëzie zijn. Erg wijdverbreid was die poëzie niet. Ze vond dat de witte, westerse wereld dit gevoel voor schoonheid zelfs bijna verloren was en het met wapens, handel en godsdienst ook elders deed verdwijnen. Schoonheid is een doel zonder doelmatigheid, zei Weil met Kant. Iedereen heeft het recht die schoonheid te ervaren. Productie en contemplatie zijn in Weils ideale wereld niet van elkaar gescheiden.
De ideeën van Simone Weil over arbeid, aandacht en het decentreren van de eigen ervaring, zijn een bron van weerstand tegen de mens als middelpunt van een maakbare wereld, waar hij, door onderwerping van mens en dier, tot de laatste snik winst uit wil persen.
sunday 11 : the abyss
There are three kinds of abyss — although they are interconnected and you can fall from one into another and you can also be in more than one abyss at any one time.
- A kind of personal internal abysss (although it’s not really inside ‘you’).
- The abyss of your circumstances, the context in which you (appear to) exist, your prospects, the weight of past events and actions, that which you have lost — and the time to come.
- The great unexplained (and inexplicable) mystery of being. It can inspire you and make you feel alive and optimistic (everything is possible — it has to be!) or depress the hell out of you and lead you into the deepest, darkest abyss of all : the existential abyss, which it can be extremely difficult to get out of.
saturday 10 : surviving
Surviving means you cannot bear someone else’s tears. It could mean your own demise.
Marceline Loridan-Ivens’s Et tu nes pas revenu was translated into English as But You Did Not Come Back (Faber & Faber). This is my own translation from the Dutch edition. (En je kwam niet terug De Bezige Bij, 2016. p31)
I have read many books about the holocaust and listened to countless testimonies. The one you are reading or listening to now is always the most heartbreaking of them all.
tuesday 6 : life as a medium
Allow your work to become life itself.
Allow your life to become a work of art.
Allow yourself to be like an engaged, empathetic visitor in an art gallery or museum with endless rooms and corridors. You have infinite energy to walk and look and think. This is beautiful, this is ugly, this is sad (oh my god this is so sad), this is boring, this is interesting. There are seats. Sit a while.
Allow yourself to be like an artist — except you are not making an object, to be sold and/or exhibited - this is you … being in the world, making something of this life, in real time.
Agamben says: “When your life becomes a work of art, you are not the cause of it… At this point you feel your own life and yourself as something ‘thought’, but the subject, the author, is no longer there.”
monday 5 : tears
“…i know the path tears take (says the main character in the greek film ‘pity’), from my gut to my eyes, past the… (and then a list of organs) and then past the oesophagus and then past the aorta…”
sunday 4 : soughing
n. A soft murmuring or rustling sound, as of the wind or a gentle surf.
The loveliest song of the mute swan is the one that comes with the soughing of their wings: a common bird that makes soul-thrilling music. Their heaviness doesn’t make them poor fliers. The pheasants that only take wing to avoid trouble are barely airworthy, but swans fly with power, purpose and booming confidence, like a group of muscle-bound angels taking off from a work by Michelangelo.
— Simon Barnes in the London Times today.
Whoa there Neddy! Anyway, yes. Soughing. Lovely.
nick cave : grief’s awesome presence
i am not much of a fan of later period nick cave (let’s say post the boatman’s call) but his recent answer to this question is wonderful.
It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves. We are tiny, trembling clusters of atoms subsumed within grief’s awesome presence. It occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe. Within that whirling gyre all manner of madnesses exist; ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our anguish, will into existence. These are precious gifts that are as valid and as real as we need them to be. They are the spirit guides that lead us out of the darkness.
and then this :
Create your spirits. Call to them. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw us back to the world from which we were jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed.
now listen :
sad waters - nick cave
(from your funeral my trial)
saturday 3 : chaos
Linnaeus (1708-1778), de vader van de moderne taxonomie, begreep zo weinig van paddenstoelen dat hij ze onderbracht in de categorie ‘Chaos’.
see also the saturday 20 post from october 2018 : On the fruiting structures of mycorrhizal networks
thursday 1 : stem