"Ausserdem lehrt die Zoologie dass aus einer Summe von reduzierten Individuen sehr wohl ein geniales Ganzes bestehen kann." Robert Musil, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, Band I, p. 32, Rowholt (rororo), 1978.

(amateuristic English translation below)

I am tired. So I could just go with the irony of this. Make it easy on myself. Heroism is, after all, the easiest interpretation of human value. Heroism combined with some praise of the supporting sheepishness, insofar as it supports the eternal cycle of this heroic queen bee. The worldview of the many that are merely the fuel for the engine of greatness that, from time to time, delivers a prophet or a sage or an enlightened philosopher or a paradiggm-shifting artist.

But I won't make it that easy on myself. I won't take the opportunity presented by a book about somebody that does not achieve greatness - being written by somebody that obviously did achieve an extreme form of great notoriety. Someone that is - for the intellectuals - a hero of the written word. Nothing short of a Hercules of language and a prophet of postmodernity.

And so on and so forth.

I won't because I am a cultural optimist. As a cultural optimist I am committed to an assessment of the current state of affairs as not too bad despite how appalling earlier times were. Despite the heroism of the past and its sacrificing of hords of individuals whose faith was considered to be expendable in view of the greatness of heoes that were long gone but still had to be defended.

This optimism is in contrast to the prevalent cultural pessimism (specifically of elites that identify themselves with past heroism). In starkest contrast: cultural pessimists assess the current state of affairs as appalling despite the fact that earlier times have been marked by the best examples of heroic humanity.

(I should be able to find a witty chiastic way of summarizing the last two paragraphs in a one-liner but, hey!, I'm tired and summarizing is bloody difficult)

Back to the quote.

In both cultural optimism and pessimism the whole is greater than the individuals, & the difference lies in the sequence. Optimism means that the individuals of the past have combined (through noticed, unnnoticed and almost unnoticable efforts of them that were really without significant properties) into a continuously improved whole, of the progressively evolving present state of affairs. Pessimism has it that individuals of the present need to be humbly admitting their own nothingness in view of all past greatness in whose name they need to be prepared to sacrifice themselves (for God for the country and all that bullshit).

Not man but mankind learns!

That's it: not man but mankind learns. And this to the benefit to the people who will live tomorrow and to the credit of the people that lived before. Naturally, without the effort of stress and wanting to achieve greatness, or wanting to serve or stand proxy for greatness. That's it: anarchism (but not the anarchism that falls in the footsteps of the authority of past 'rebels' or teachers; the anarchism that burns not one's self in memory of a past goal but that burns the past thought into a creative movement of new thought).

Anarchism, it is something I need to update myself on. I'll keep you updated on the updating of myself (knowing full well that I don't tend to keep this kind of promises, so those reading this chronologically should not get their hopes up because I cannot promise to keep the promises I make).


"Besides, Zoology teaches us that the sum of reduced individuals may well constitute the most brilliant whole."

Whilst writing this I was listening to the wonderful broadcast 'Mixtuur' on klara.be, which is centainly worth the effort of going to a dutch website, starting the media player, navigating to the 'Net Gemist' section and launching the latest hour thereof

21:35 Gepost door Guido Nius in Muziek | Permalink | Commentaren (2) | Tags: decadence, learning, tones, musil, optimism |  Facebook |


De la ressemblance des enfants aux pères

"Et ne fut jamais au monde deux opinions pareilles, non plus que deux poils ou deux grains. Leur plus universelle qualoté, c'est la diversité." Michel de Montaigne, Essais II, chapitre XXXVII, p. 569, Gallimard, 1965.

(amateuristic English translation below)

Back to basics ;-)

One of the remaining problems with modern culture is that we're thinking in terms of success. The problem is not so much with the sensation of success. Not at all even - it is an enjoyable sensation and nobody should be cut off from it. No, the problem is that we want to make a snapshot of it. We want to frame it. And point to it lateron in company and demonstrate 'how much success we had'. Because we're afraid nobody will believe it. We're afraid nobody will believe we had any success. At bottom we are damned scared of not believing ourselves we had any success. We despair of times, we know to be always lurking behind the corner, in which we'll only see how pitiful we are. We will try to remember that we had some success; that we're not competely, & utterly, hopeless; but we know there is a chance that we won't believe it ourselves.

And that's why we think in terms of success. Why we quantify our success. Why all of our success is so similar to jealousy. What we know we need (or better what we think we know we need) is a measure of success that can outlast the success itself. That's the problem: we want to compare, we need to quantify and therefore is it incumbent upon us to simplify things in a couple of dimensions (money, recognition, popularity and all of the things that are so characteristic for the phonies).

Simplify and kill the wonderful diversity of ideas. Simplify into a couple of sides until anything has two sides and anybody is on one side or the other.

It is a little bit tragic. It's also quite comical. As we advance we think more thoughts, ideas pop up that were literally unspeakable and unthinkable before; but instead of enjoying the plentiful - we all jump on a couple of shiny objects that give only a little pleasure but that are the elements of the big competition. Not a kind of competition where you enjoy yourself trying to win and where, if you loose, you congratulate him, or her, that defeated you and you have a drink and you discuss what happened and you agree to try again next week; no, the kind of competition where you have to be participating, as a rat in a race, and where you hope that, if you loose, that at least the people you know best also loose because you couldn't face the world in all of the humiliation of having been worse than your peer.

A friend of mind asked me recently what the moral of a story of mine was. I think it was something like what is here above. I think it is Montaignistic. There are enough things out there for everybody to find something that fits. But we lack the confidence for going off & doing it in such a specific way, lastingly (because we start to do it in a specific way but we loose heart quickly). We want to have a kind of 'objective' way to establish that we're doing good. Feeling that we're doing well is not enough; there is to be some externally observable fact that testifies, certifies, qualifies, and accredits the fact that we're doing well. Such that we're driven to a few kinds of things in which everybody can be successful; not realizing that for 99% of the people these few kind of things simply are things for which they have no talent at all.

Maybe it is because I've been reminded recently of the Kierkegaardian absurdity - & maybe I'm rediscovering something that I would have to call 'spirituality' even if I'm going to eternally loathe that term. But the truth is that to feel somewhat successful you cannot be successful in the eyes of others. Only loosers can feel success, as the winners can only feel that they're winners. Or something paradoxical of that style - I know: not convincing but still: if to be regarded as a winner is what is required to be a winner then we're all condemned to make everybody else a looser. I won't have it like that so you can all go fuck yourself in the behind but I'm doing very well, thank you!, even if I know full well that my achievements are mediocre at best.


"And there never were in the world two opinions that were similar, not more than two hairs or two grains. Their most universal quality, is there diversity."

(the two hairs and two grains stuff you'll have to google together with "Cicero")

Whilst writing this I was listening to Keith Jarrett, Paris/London Testament, EMI.

19:04 Gepost door Guido Nius in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: montaigne, decadence, tones, competition, universals |  Facebook |


La parte de Archimboldi

"Esa noche, mientras trabajaba en la puerta del bar, se entretuvo en pensar en un tiempo de dos velocidades, uno era muy lento y las personas y los objetos se movían en este tiempo de forma casi imperceptible, el otro era muy rápido y todo, hasta las cosas inertes, centellaban de velocidad. El primero se llamaba Paraíso, el segunda Infierno, y lo unico que deseaba Archimboldi era no vivir jamás en ninguno de los dos."  Roberto Bolaño; 2666, p. 1001-1002, Anagrama, Collecion Compactos, Barcelona 2009.

(amateuristic English translation below)

This'll probably be the most recent thing (that will) ever (be) quoted here. As such it is an exception in much the same way that I hope all entries are an exception; as a rule one wouldn't want to write things that are unexceptional.

Why is Paradise slow? I guess because it gives you the time to think things through, and to appreciate what happens instead of merely playing along.

Why is Hell fast? Presumably because its speed is unforgiving. Shit happens - & you are a part of 'that shit'. No time to write about it. Nor to expand on it.

(this is, by the way, not 'my' exercise in literary criticism; one good reason to restrict one's reading (specifically of works of fiction) to old classics is to dispense with all of this wearying uncertainty, to let the many bacteria loving the immediate and modern process the new knowing that - over a sufficient amount of time only the really good stuff will be able to resists the devouring nature (e.g. the biographical interest, & the related interest in live performances in theaters near you) of this 'highly specialized' bacterial colony of lovers of the literarily contemporaneous)

Why doesn't Archimboldi want to live in either? I haven't got the faintest of clues, as I do not think Archimboldi is one of the best worked out characters in this (or indeed in any other) regard & whether that's a good or a bad thing you will have to work out for yourselves. But I do know that Paradise is boring and Hell is painful. & Therefore that neither is better than reality, even if reality cannot truthfully be spelled with this or that capital letter (which is an interesting application of truth, said in passing). On closer inspection, Hell & Paradise or the abstractions of the two worst things that can happen to human beings: boredom & pain. Things going too slow, and things going too fast.

What I also do know is that Archimboldi is closer to Paradise than he is to Hell - and this is true because of the mere fact that he makes the observation highlighted by a writer that I quoted. But not too much closer because he does it for entertainment, & not in a grand desire to stop all engines, tinker with them - e.g. in order make them run smoother - and then be on with it. Paradoxically - but not in a logical mysterious sense of 'paradoxically' - by observing this both Bolaño & Archimboldi speed up time whilst also slowing it down. Slowing down because the insight allows them more time, to understand their surroundings. Speeding up because time is whiled away thusly, & more observations can be fitted in a shorter timeframe. Both eventually because the insights have increased. 

Which brings me to cultural pessimism (ha-há, you didn't see that one coming, now did you?): it seems quasi-unavoidable and is also pervasively present in the tale of Archimboldi. I myself - a distinctly out-of-the-closet cultural optimist - believe it's an identity crisis best explained as a time/speed crisis as per the above. Considered in one way; things go fiendishly rapid and in a continuum of pain that seems to be the most accute sense of reality. Considered in another, more contemplative, way there, seems, to be a benign stated of 'culturedness' where universal qualities appear, and can be appreciated in ... peace and quite. The latter is associated with the past (and now I can recycle my entre parenthèses as per the 4th paragraph above) as it's only after quite some time that the security emerges in which one can contemplate these universal 'goodies'. The former is associated with the future; a decaying of universal benign-ness into the flashing lightning speed of ever more inputs. Or, to reverse yet another time, incertainty and certainty. (It is, by the way, an interesting twist in 2666 that the past of the Nazi's is somehow recycled into the now and extrapolated in this non-discussed extension to 2666 - to sound a little bit like a late night culture show, for which I apologize).

Deconstruction & post-modernism have been written off too easily in the silly end of the XX-th century. The crisis is - at least in part - resolved by understanding how we can take apart the past, remain with the filtered out best bits and move towards the future in which the proportion of good bits vis à vis bad bits cannot but increase in a basically Darwinian way (to make & connection with some other entries on this blog).

The problem with the ferocious attack on post-modernism is modernism with a twist: critical people that are now convinced they are beyond criticism since they áre critical.

Not coincidentally, I think, Bolaño did not wish to finish his book (in more or less the same way as Archimboldi seems unable to finish living). Not knowing any biographic detail, I don't think the book is unfinished because he died to soon. My thesis would be that the book is so long because he didn't die sooner.

"That night, whilst he worked the door of the bar, he whiled away the time, thinking of time at two speeds, one of them was very slow & persons & objects moved in this time in a way that was barely noticeable, the other was very fast & everything, up to & including the non-living things, was moving with scintillating speed. The first was called Paradise, the second Hell, & the only thing Archimboldi wished for was not to live in any of them."

(I'm kinda proud of that one!)

Whilst writing this I was listening to Paco de Lucia, Al di Meola, John Mc Laughlin, The Guitar Trio, Polygram 1996.