Thursday, August 28, 2014

So various, so beautiful, so new

Ah, love, let us be true to one another... This poem has come to mind increasingly these last few months of these last few years of this interesting time of my life. Turning now the corner finally, one does hope, and being in the meanwhile very impressed by Matthew Arnold in this particular poem. He certainly had the scope on those occasions when he had it. An interesting life, a frustrated live, I suppose, like with so many artists (who we think are so lucky and so privileged) - it's not a position, a place for comfort and security, not for most. Much of Dover Beach rings personally familiar, of course: I too have felt, even if bit more distantly, the sea of faith girdling the earth, and that certain and rather specific emptiness it has left behind receding which is necessary, which is sad. Sorrow is in the centre of enlightenment, or if not, there is no enlightenment, just the same mad old bloodthirsty dance. But it can't be all sorrow: it's a signpost to further things - love, friendship, understanding - the long views. We are ever poised, ever stumbling, but without sorrow and love, we would be nothing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Our experience of being in the world simply cannot be coherent: any permanent human coherance is a contradiction in terms, and, so, if encountered in the world, false. We must remain partial, finite and uncertain. What I think we nevertheless are obligated to attempt is still this sort of harmony, formulated in my case as being between life, art and philosophy. We must both try and fail. A curious journey, curious landscapes, beautiful and chilling.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Keynes, Hobhouse, Hobson

It seems that these days my mild social liberalism makes me a semi-marxist, a semi-communist when it comes to economic policy. The European and US political and economic elites have internalized some crazily un-empirical free market views (from Queen Victoria, I suppose) that seem to be unshakeable come hell or high water. (High water it seems will certainly come, would not be so sure of hell not appearing either, with these trends.) On some level, so far, if not farsically then at least not as seriously as last time, we have the 1930's come again: a classical Keynesian slump "addressed" (after the biggest crisis was remedied by cheap money and activist central banks) by mostly anti-Keynesian "remedies". Especially in Europe, especially by Frankfurt and Berlin (Germany really seems to have the knack to pave the way for right wing extremism in Europe). It is a curious process to follow from the sidelines - not much learned from history, it seems. Maybe not so surprising in these ahistorical times.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In balance with this life

I cannot but help seeing humanity as being permanently poised - it is our dual nature that makes us human. On one hand bestial and cruel, incapable of collective reason, permanently terrified, aggressive - and on the other seeing, perceiving, creating secret harmonies, cohering, constructing: eminently capable for progress and reason and art. If we would one day be able to choose the one or would irrevocably revert to the other, we would seize being human. This is very clear, but it also makes history a prison as I have argued here. We cannot escape our two natures or the fact that it actually is a single nature. Thus history, really, really, is not only a crime but a punishment for one. And that is why we should hope that we would one day be able to end it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Our intentions are intangible and sweet

For much of our lives we are not living them but going through the motions like we were in a waking dream. Life, life as a routine: numb, orderly, devoid of passion, joy and serious thought, serious emotion, conformist and ever fearful. Our natural situation in the world is to lose connetion to the essential by the dead routines of this neutral, materialist Western society. (In the premodern times this disconnection was accomplished by horrible physical want, by irrational and unjust creeds and hierarchies, false collective identities). Our natural situation is not to be connected - but we can be, even here, we can have shorter or longer moments in this life: love, art, friendship, pursuit of understanding are my personal values, my escapes to seriousness. How easily lost in this word, how universally longed for: for our intentions really are intangible and sweet, and even if in history our typical state is this disconnectness, we can escape it even here, and can have, no matter how unrealistically, the end of history as our fundamental goal: the liberation of our better selves into timelessness, the liberation of our seriousness and warmth, our love and sympathy.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Matthew Arnold contemplating Shakespeare

I wonder why it is that the high literary seriousness of the Victorians seems somewhat funny to us, even slightly fake? Victorianism has gotten itself various revisionist defenders over the decades and is not thought about in such black and white terms any more which is naturally mostly a healthy developement. I'm not totally persuaded though: any era will be a polyphony and have much value and high cultural achievements. Even my real bête noire, that awful short 18th century had some real worth amidst all the scented savagery and fake finery of carefully simulated emotion (now talk about unfair descriptions...) And when one reads Matthew Arnold or even Leslie Stephens, there is clearly much that it valuable there. The really awful things you can find in any cultural era, they will always be there. This note is about a certain flaw in strength.

The chasm is likely historical: the 19th century could have next to no idea of the following one - whose shell shocked, scattered survivors we are, frivolous and materialist, amnesic. The Victorians did not know a significant part what they were talking about - from our perspective they are innocents, attempting serious postures without a sense of real historical tragedy. This is of course unfair too, anachronistic, but all eras will aim for conversation with all others, with what has been, what is and what is to come. So, it's not only unfair - and to say this is not to absolve our own era which likely will go down in civilizational memory (should such be preserved) as much more abysmal than the mid- and late 19th century, and justifiably so.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Liht mec heht gewyrcan

Have been going back to some early incluences. Good taste, I must say, it was not all stupidity: no harry potters or the equivalent for me, but the actual stuff, the good stuff. And what amazing sense of history, of centuries does shine so brilliantly from "The Dark Is Rising" - that really must have been one of the central things along with certain others: "The Sword at Sunset" comes to mind, and Tolkien of course, above all, those mad appendixes, reeking of history, of a magic sense of the long perspective - combined with such high adventure: tonight will be bad, and tomorrow will be beyond all imagining... Excellent fragments I did have even if needed to shore against such abundance of ruins.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Carry me to the cold

A dramatic wall of cloud to the south over the still open Gulf of Finland, kept away by the bitter northerly breeze, inland the blue afternoon sky already turning towards pale orange hues: winter has surprised us, coming late in mid-January with a full blast of Arctic air - reading George Eliot in the warm bus, keeping to the old sport of reconciling feeling and intelligence, with varying success, as always. Sometimes we do cross to the other side of silence and although the roar is deafening, it is necessary. We need to live with passion, with intelligence, with feeling. This is not the place nor time yet to fully address some private issues but during these last few years, imperceptibly, I did lose much of my connection to the essential. That has meant some impossibly bad failings in my private life too. Well, this blog has never been meant for any personal things but certain important truths should still be mentioned, just for the record.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Let us not speak for the love we bear one another (thoughts on Lauttasaari Bridge)

It might have seemed strange how much I have used the word love on this blog, how much I have relied on it as one of the most meaningful concepts in our lives. Especially thinking that my worldview otherwise is based on dry reason and a rather high, esoteric concept of art. But it just seems to be that these all are connected: art, reason, love. And not only romantic love, but all it's forms (and reason and art) are a defiant cry of rebellion against the age old dark reflexes in all of us, individually and especially as a collective, for aggression and domination, for ignorance and control. And how brave it is to love, to give hostages to fortune, to gamble with oneself.

My desert years were spent in the absence of that daring: they were spent in panicky fear, outwardly presented as cynical resentment and detachment. But miraculously I changed, not giving up reason or art in the process, but seeing them more freshly, deeper. Without the courage to love they were empty gestures. So, these things have become my values, and I cannot regret the route that led me to them, even though it hasn't, even by now, become easy or painless. And even if it actually has, in these past months, changed into something quite searing indeed as regards some very central things in my personal life. I cannot regret that route.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Designs for living

I surely will never get over this mad, immediate, unmediated sense of being in the world. There are no safety nets here: the views are breathtakingly beautiful and breathtakingly cold - and so the men in the tunnels under Larch Wood will always be kicking men to death. Cold certainty will catch our breath, eventually, and all will be lost and, practically, to all intents and purposes, is already lost. And what we have to set against all this is love that is cruel and brutal and daring - so we balance our lives against other peoples' lives, giving and taking hostages and so losing ourselves like any swimmers into cleanness leaping. That is love.

But if nothing else I'm a pragmatist: whatever that works will be fine with me and whatever that I am, I will, even if kicking and screaming, acknowledge truths and live accordingly. That is what life demands of us and what we will have to give to life if we want to live, if we want to be alive.