26-02-10

Purgatorio - Marco Lombardo



From a guest writer and friend who will go by the name of Stena.


 "70 Se così fosse, in voi fora distrutto
71 libero arbitrio, e non fora giustizia
72 per ben letizia, e per male aver lutto.

73 Lo cielo i vostri movimenti inizia;
74 non dico tutti, ma, posto ch'i' 'l dica,
75 lume v'è dato a bene e a malizia,

76 e libero voler; che, se fatica
77 ne le prime battaglie col ciel dura,
78 poi vince tutto, se ben si notrica.

79 A maggior forza e a miglior natura
80 liberi soggiacete; e quella cria"

Dante, Purgatorio, XVI, lines 70-81.

(professional English translation from http://www.divinecomedy.org below)


Dante is asking Marco Lombardo an interesting question: why is there evil on earth, and which is the reason for this evil which seems to be predominant in life and determining my days. 

He wants to understand and explain this to everyone.

He’s not just curious, but he feels a sense of responsibility towards everyone to understand this and to affirm there is an ultimate possibility of good.

A few lines before Dante puts the question around freedom by saying "For one in the heavens, and here below one puts it"….somebody thinks evil on earth is caused by nature, somebody else thinks it’s caused by man.

Why it’s about freedom?....because if it’s the former, than what would be freedom all about? If it’s all about me having a natural blueprint, what it would be my responsibility? Would there be any room for my liberty to play?

Then the answer comes from Marco Lombardo (the quote).

At the very beginning it’s our nature blueprint…but at the very end "light has been given you"…we have been given inside us the Reason, capable to distinguish good and evil and the freedom to choose….the light of reason will be able to win over our natural blueprints.

With only one, fantastic condition: "if well 'tis nurtured"….which is the greatest definition of education I ever heard….our reason, our willingness has to be nurtured well.

This is a huge question around education of ourselves and of our children. Our reason and freedom won’t get mature without them being nurtured, accompanied, protected, and corrected.

"Though free, ye subject are"…is this a contradiction, being free and subdued? It’s an idea of freedom which is almost gone nowadays….an idea where freedom is recognizing whowhat I depend upon…man is like this deep inside: the shape of freedom is the way we adhere to truth, to what one depends upon….a relation. The opposite of having the chance to do what we want to do and think what we want to think, or at least not limited to this.

So, the answer…..if the world is in its current condition, the reason of it has to be searched for inside us….if there is evil in the world, we should ask ourselves why, how we "let it be" and how we contribute to that, as our freedom we have as man is the first cause of evil’s success.

If freedom is not educated (nurtured), then willingness will get confused….


"70 Free will, nor any justice would there be
71 In having joy for good, or grief for evil.
72 The heavens your movements do initiate,

73 I say not all; but granting that I say it,
74 Light has been given you for good and evil,
75 And free volition; which, if some fatigue

76 In the first battles with the heavens it suffers,
77 Afterwards conquers all, if well 'tis nurtured.
78 To greater force and to a better nature,

79 Though free, ye subject are, and that creates
80 The mind in you the heavens have not in charge."


 Whilst writing this Stena was listening to "La revancha del tango", The Gotan Project.  

17:55 Gepost door Guido Nius in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (3) | Tags: learning, dante, dynamics, tones, mind-mind dualism |  Facebook |

11-02-10

The Auguries of Science

"The very notion of truth is a culturally given direction, a part of the pervasive nostalgia for an earlier certainty. The very idea of a universal stability, an eternal firmness of principle out there that can be sought for through the world as might an Arthurian knight for the Grail, is, in the morphology of history, a direct outgrowth of the search for lost gods in the first two millennia after the decline of the bicameral mind." Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind., Mariner Books, 1990, p. 446.


There you have it in one quote: all of the beauty and most of the folly of one of the most original thinkers of the XXth century - a scientist that mistook his philosopizing for hypothesis. A thinker lost in the Quine-Duhem-Davidson triangle of changing too much concepts at the same time to be taken seriously by anybody because - in the end - everybody has one concept that is so near & dear to her or his heart that it's a little bit too holy to be touched.

One example being: the naïve concept of truth. The type of truth that settles things, once and for all. The kind of truth that discovers essentialia, in what for some is just a depressingly absurd sequence of events otherwise.

His bold conjecture was this. Consciousness evolved slowly and after man genetically was already a long time more or less the homo sapiens it still is today. Before those conscious times humans that were genetically quasi-identical to us roamed around - in blissful ignorance of the fact they existed. First these people evolved language, & in that language they heard what they denoted as 'the voice of God' giving, literally, commands. Not merely more or less as a schizophrenic would hear voices giving her commands. No, exactly like a schizophrenic would hear voices giving him commands.

Jaynes held that for the majority of the history of the species our predecessors were roaming the world whilst all of them in a never-ending psychotic episode in which God personally told them what to do. What they were hearing in fact were verbally coded and transmitted traditions making up their culture and connecting the lessons learnt by the forefathers with the survival strategies of the group to which they belonged.

This conjecture is of an originality and a beauty that receives better than the scorn it got (up to a point that the original friends, like Dennett, dare no longer speak "that" name again). Nevermind that scientifically he overreached, stumbling upon hilarious self-defeating 'truths'. Nevermind that he failed to appreciate what philosophers had only appreciated in the 2nd half of the XXth century: the relativity of relativity, and a final destruction of the absolutes of even falsifiability.

Nevermind all that and think about it.

Think about how giving up certainties opens up possibilities - the possibility of all of us having developed consciousness up to the level of almost being all of the time in a state of collective neurosis. And the possibility of also overcoming this by evolving into a better state of collective consciousness. A state where we give up on mutual & mutually incompatible Holy Grails. A state where we just live life knowing the past is: as good as it could have been. Knowing that the future will be: better.

Even ridicule will not be able to destroy originality of thought.


Whislt writing this I was listening to Bill Frisell, Disfarmer, Nonesuch.

21:44 Gepost door Guido Nius in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (15) | Tags: jaynes, scientism, language, mind-mind dualism, optimism |  Facebook |

13-12-09

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.