Vivere si rectè nescis ...

"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.


23:12 Gepost door Guido Nius in Muziek | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: optimism, montaigne, right to die, universals, decadence |  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 |


De la colère

"Je lui disais que c'était bien quelque chose, notamment à ceux comme lui d'éminente qualité sur lesquels chacun a les yeux, de se présenter au monde toujours bien tempéré, mais que le principal était de pourvoir au-dedans et à soi-même; et que ce n'était, à mon gré, bien ménager ses affaires que de se ronger intérieurement: ce que je craignais qu'il fit pour mantenir ce masque et cette réglée apparence par le dehors." Montaigne, Essais Livre II, Chapitre XXXI, folio classique, editions Gallimard, p; 488.

(amateuristic English translation below)

Let me be clear: I'm fed up with all this excitement and passion and live fast stuff - even if I wouldn't mind the 'die young'-bit. We're acting like the bunch of pubescent boys that we probably are at this time of the evolution of human culture. I like cool; from temperature over jazz up to lifestyle. All this frantic waving about & 'expressing one's emotions' and being really committed is just a load of crap kept alive by those that can't sit still for a moment if their life depended on it - them lot which would go into sudden disintegration & molecular collapse if they were put in positions in which it would be unavoidable to question their own motives.

But, & forgive me the unphilosophical rant, if even Montaigne is confused the matter can't be solved so lightly. Clearly, if you're fuming inside the smoke should be clear on the outside. Anything else is hypocrisy & (never even mind the others) that is not at all a good service to your self. So what's the deal? Do we need to be completely & utterly dispassionate or should we accept as unshakeable all the typical 90s mess of burning ambition & over-all impatience with ... anything really?

As you might have figured: I thought about this. I came to the below dispassionate conclusion which, or at least I'd hope so, I will be defending vigorously, with passion befitting the subject.

The conclusion is this: the issue is the familiar one of form/content confusion. What I see is that people want to have strong convictions on what needs to happen - and are relatively indifferent as to how it comes about. Which is all backwards obviously. One should be passionate in the discussion but irather ndifferent to the outcome of it. The outcome after all is the result of what can be reasonably expected to be the case, after discussion. The discussion itself however needs to be ferocious, because only if we're ferocious in making sure that all arguments have weighed properly can we ever be sure that the discussion will have been a real one, and hence can in fact be expected to be followed by a reasonable conclusion.

That clearly doesn't imply that one needs to gesticulate, shout, slam tables or push people around but it does imply that if any of it is required to ensure the discussion is a proper one: by all means, no holds barred, except those that prevent people to bring arguments. It specifically requires passion (biting sarcasm, creation of general uneasiness, ...) to bull-dozer out of the way any emotions that are tied to a specific position being beyond discussion (or, on a more human note, tied to the benefits of a specific individual or group of individuals). I mean it: we should treat fixed opinion with the most complete and utter disrespect, and should never refrain from laughing away any strong convictions that are thought to be beyond such treatments.

That's the role of passion, excitement, madness; to preserve the due process for us to arrive at conclusions. Once arrived at we have to apply the conclusions without the least amount of passion (as Montaigne rightly councels in this Essai). In other words - the judge should be 'all in' when he shouts 'order in the court' but once sentencing is there he should deliver the sentence modestly, knowing he can be wrong but cool, as he will be sure everything has been done to ensure he has it right.

Let's broaden it up a bit. We all know that fundamentalists of any kind are the most passionate in defending what they happen to be convinced of. Up to the point of the denial of the possibility of any discussion about the reasons for their beliefs. On the other hand, when we confront holocaust-deniers, creationists (& the rest of this sorry lot of people content to be sophisticated machines 'in the service' of some, or other, grand idea) we may (make that: must) expose them as wankers but we'll always do this ready to give our reasons for exposing them as such. (consider this a footnote: 'Sure, you'll readily find wankers passionately defending perfectly honourable points, without any inclination to get into their reasons; they're idiots squared, as dogmatic as fundamentalists and on top of that discrediting what they defend by passionately believing in it instead of argueing for it. But it isn't because sheep can also dress in wolf's clothes that, once undressed, they can't - make that: shouldn't - be exposed for the idiotic sheep they are).

Ouf! I can leave my passion and eat it too.

Coming back to the quote: let it all go before you come to the conclusion but by all means, restrain yourself once you have come to a conclusion. We're not beasts any more, after all. Clearly you wouldn't want to make love dispassionately (the scariest people are those that do want to have dispassionate sex, actually) but you wouldn't want to conclude passionately either; the competition for the best idea should be of the fiercest sort but the outcome should be accepted with equanimity.

"I told him that it was quite something, certainly in those - like him - of eminent quality on whom everybody has their eyes, to present oneself to the world always well tempered - but that the important thing was to provide for oneself internally; and that it was - to my taste - not a good way to manage one's affairs to be eating oneself from the inside: which was what I feared he did to maintain that mask and that temperate appearance on the outside."

(pff, not easy, that one)

Whilst writing this I was listening to Jean-Jacques Perrey and Luke Vibert, 'Moog Acid'.

21:36 Gepost door Guido Nius in Actualiteit | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: montaigne, form-content, boldness, competition |  Facebook |