"Er hat sich augenblicklich zu der Erkenntnis durchgerungen, dass es in der Geschichte der Menschheit kein freiwilliges Zurück gibt. Aber das Erschwerende ist, dass wir ja auch kein brauchbares Vorwärts haben. Gestatten Sie mir, es als eine merkwürdige Lage zu bezeichnen, wenn es weder vorwärts noch zurück geht und der gegenwärtige Augenblick auch als unerträglich empfunden wird." R. Musil, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, RoRoRo, 1978, p. 272.
(amateuristic English translation below)
It's definitely a bummer to think you're at least somewhat original - and then reread something you read so long ago you couldn't precisely remember why it retained the impression of greatness ... to find that much of what you thought was original wasn't just anticipated but anticipated by something you can't - honestly - claim not having known!
Anyway, here are the twin monsters of 'The Meaning of Life': cultural pessimism and utopianism, absolutism and essentialism - looking back to the more innocent times, of the past, or longing for the times to come where we will be redeemed, finally, and saved from all this mess which is the current.
The monsters are twins and therefore share the same genetic code - a denial of the present as the most loathworthy situation in which we possibly could be. That there's a single nature to these two ways of looking at life is clear from the random mixture in which those melancholic for more innocent, traditional, times can blend in the idea of original sin - or from the likewise logically odd idea of Utopians that what we really need to do is 'make' a future (ipso facto rapido presto) that is, essentially, quite the same as what we once naturally 'were' (or, at least, 'would have been' if there wasn't the interference of really bad (BAD!) people that ripped us away from 'nature').
It essentially makes no difference which side of this equation you choose: it will be a matter of neurotic control freaks policing the 'peoples' in line with the psychotic ideas of somebody that coincidentally created a die-hard following of some orthodox 'pure' gatekeepers before being killed (mostly by somebody whose nose they really got up with some moralizing opinion or other of what should or should not be done, or else: eternal damnation or some of the many variants thereof). The result is a 'politics as hysterics' which is unavoidably giving politics as such a pejorative connotation.
Politics as hysterics; the hysterics of wanting to put a stop to certain unacceptabilities (and at once, and conclusively) or the hysterics of blowing each individual unfairness up to a gigantic balloon that needs to be dealt with (once and for all, all over again). Which is why, by the way, it is so easy for people to switch opinions from left to right and back and even hold any combination of left- and right-wing ideas at once: there is a common genetic code and a common behaviour of hysterical "being-right"-ness, that makes any of a number of coincidentally extreme point of view continuous in an eye of an engaged and committed beholder.
Maybe politics IS hysterics and maybe we should indeed get rid of politics; not to get into a more pure unpolitical state and not to go towards the blissfully apolitical state, in which people are 'checked' by other people to do 'the right thing' but to get to this state of administering the plenty that is the result of human creativity in bureaucratic but uncontroversial ways that give everybody at least what they need as subsistence, what they need to do their unmanaged & non-coerced 'whatever-it-may-be' bit that'll keep the wheel of human creativity rolling to ... wherever it damned well wants to roll (or better: rolls).
Not denying the present but enjoying that is is better than what came before - & that it can only go uphill from here. Uphill not because we are all pushing the rock with all of the effort we can muster in the 'right' direction but because some inventive lady is giving it an impetus in that direction because ... why the hell would she kick it down? What would be the purpose, over time, of people to keep that bloody rock down in a valley of miseries when with less effort it can be hoisted to new heights?
What do I have to offer?
Fuck melancholic anarchists. Welcome to decadence!
Optimism is all I have to offer. Not even clarity because a clear idea is not an idea I would want to express :-)
"He immediately came to the insight that - in human history - there is no voluntary 'Back!'. But the aggravating circumstance is that there is also no useful 'Forward!'. Allow me to put it to you that it is a most curious situation, in which there is neither a forward nor a back & in which the current moment is considered as equally unbearable."
Whilst writing this I was listening (again?) to Sonny Rollins, Soneymoon (it cheers me right up - what can I say!).
"Vivere si rectè nescis, decede peritis;
Lusisti satis, edisti satis atque bibisti;
Tempus abire tibi est, ne potum largius aequo
Rideat et pulset lasciva decentius aetas;"
Horatius as quoted by M. de Montaigne in: Essais II, Editions Gallimard, 1965, Chapitre XII (Apologie de Raimond Sebond), p. 213.
(amateuristic English translation below)
For lovers of Latin (all dead languages will be categorized under Montaigne - by the way - because he is the first of the individual thinkers that broke free from thinking himself an instantiation of something grander, & the first therefore to take classical texts and derive from them the first seeds of individuality that were put there in the inspired moments of a few individuals, ready to be harvested by the great - but not Great! - Michel who started this great cross-fertilization of independence, that allows me to do what I pretty well damn please to do, without worrying in which scheme it's fitting).
I wanted to talk about the essential differences between absolutes and universals. I also wanted to take the first book, and quote, that presented itself (for example, as in the present case, something with a piece of paper sticking out, meaning I marked it, on top of my traditional earmarking, for urgent use). Finally, I wanted to get 'real' on some stuff. All of this is an inside joke that I can only hope is not scaring away a non-insider; at least not more than my strenuous English is already scaring them.
The wish not to live beyond one's reasonable time is an universal. The requirements to live until such time as 'one is called' is the absolute. The difference between the 2 is the reality that is assigned to whatever it may be 'to live'.
I (try to) explain.
Universals are things that, on reflection, cannot but be true. Do not unto others what you wouldn't have done unto you, is one. There is no point in living when there is no point in living anymore, is another. You can only have a conversation when there's a certain somebody to talk to, is maybe a more obvious one. These things all feel like tautologies but they are not quite that. One of the reasons they are not is that there is a certain 'feel' to it - exactly the same type of 'feel' there is to whether or not such and such a sentence is grammatical or not. These are cases of truths that emerge in a way like icebergs: suddenly you see them and once seen they are unavoidable.
Their truth is not a matter of control; not a matter of revelation; but a matter of this common sense that is always an evolving common sense, but that is never common sense that can go back to accepting for instance that people are sentenced to death or left to their own devices when sick. Their truth is in fact a matter of fact - as more people have more visibility more of these icebergs are spotted. & once spotted their presence is communicated and then they are known. Not Forever with F - but forever with f - which is to all extents and purposes more or less as long a time period - but admits the possibility of all those that have spotted the iceberg & all those that they communicated with (& so on & so forth) to have perished.
That are universals for you. They include the knowledge of all predecessors; they're the material of which all future men will AT LEAST be made of.
Absolutes are different. Absolutes are summaries of what is known up to some point and then extrapolated as if nothing new can come up, ever, anywhere. Intrinsically it is a purely functional purpose that absolutes have; it is the purpose of custome, and of tradition; the purpose of standardizing somewhat the way people live together for the ordering of society and all that good stuff. That is why there is a sense that they should be adhered to absolutely. Indeed, admitting there is room for divergences is the same as not bothering at all; and organizing purely dictatorially.
There is nothing too wrong about absolutes and the moralizing that goes with it. The common sense is to heed absolutes with which your parents try to indoctrinate you if only to avoid unnecessary complexities.
The problem comes when the absolute is taken absolutely. Take life & euthanasia & abortion & (assisted) suicide and all that. For sure all in this list is problematic. But it is not the solution (even if many think it is The Solution) to say life is sacred, & that that is absolutely true. It is not and everybody in his or her right mind knows this. It is a matter of situation and circumstance and in the end: if life is not worth living - it is not worth living anymore.
The thing is: life is n't this Infinite Eternal real ontological thing. Life is just a word in use to denote a collection of events of a certain nature, where that nature cannot be grasped in any direct non-verbal way. Life is just something that comes and goes. It is not much more (however romantic we may be inclined, it is not). We don't have to make A Big Deal out of it.
I know I am bordering once again on the mystic but let me point out that the motto that 'if life isn't worth living - it is not worth living anymore' does not give a fiat for a fully random way of stopping life. It doesn't, at all - just as with I. Kant's categorical imperative it is a hovering sentence that makes clear that life is not an absolute but it doesn't say when life is not worth living anymore. The latter is something that is to be discussed and is part of a Rawlsian overlapping consensus (just as, by the way, it is not determined by the categorical imperative - what you would not have done unto yourself if yourself would have committed something you would feel you should not have been committing).
Pff. Tired. Work in Progress.
"If you don't know how to live well, leave your place to those who do;
you have fooled around enough, eaten enough and have drunk enough;
time for you to withdraw for fear of having drank more than reasonable and in so doing,
of becoming the laughing stock of the young, for whom cheerfulnes is more becoming."
Whilst writing this I was listening to nothing at all - but not in complete silence as there are always some noises where I live; a fact that is no longer disturbing to me and instead is of some comfort nowadays.
"Whoever denies authority and fights against it is an anarchist." Sébastien Faure as quoted on p. 11 of 'Anarchism', by George Woodcock, broadview encore editions, 2004.
Since this is degenerating at the moment into a 'what am I reading'-diary, and I was anyway looking to do a 'Pop Culture' entry (it being long ago and all), why not do an anarchist quote?
It's not like the reader - if any - has a choice in the matter ;-)
So I'm an anarchist. That means I have a problem. Because to a real anarchist I will be an example of le nouveau bourgeois. A real anarchist will undoubtedly tell me an enormous amount of things that I will have to give up in order to be a real anarchist (plus probably some things I need to pierce through some selected body parts).
There you have my problem: I'm very bad with authority. So, I wouldn't listen to any well meant advise; certainly if that advise basically consists in telling me what needs to be done to enter a certain group of non-individuals. Nope, I am a bourgeois, and I am proud to be. I want my luxury and I feel no inclination whatsoever to fight, and revolutionize things by waving my arms about and chanting stuff in street choirs. No, I won't get involved in any of this marching and sacrificing and denouncing ...
And I certainly don't feel like using the word 'propaganda' as if it was a normal word that did not carry the connotation of brainwashing.
Nor do I particularly care for secret gatherings where people conspire to great things, smoking some stuff & ultimately going home drunk and/or stoned (mostly without a real prospect for having sex).
No, I like my luxury. I like my laziness. I like having the wealth of aristocrats & sons of craftsmen in the XIXth century that had both time & resources to concentrate on a life of thought and action and boozing with like minded souls.
Still I'm also an anarchist because I like my lifestyle and independence so very very much that I'd very much like everybody to be as bourgeois as I am. Some would be very harsh on me for wishing universal laziness. Many of them would say: it is a very decadent thing to convince everybody that they should be as decadent as I am.
They would be right! I am a decadent. This is the decadence movement. Without an exclamation mark ;-)
Whilst writing this I was listening to The Ramones, Weird Tales of The Ramones.