Sunday, February 22, 2015

The great matter

It wasn't great, of course, it was sordid, several more butterflies to the wheel within the confines of a literally mad system, presided over by a literally mad king. Kings had to be exceptional not to be mad or weak or both and in that sense Henry certainly was not exceptional in his increasing detachment from reason into raving and deadly egomania.

I am re-reading Hilary Mantel's incredibly excellent account of the process. It departs probably seriously from any empirical account (we can't be totally certain as there are these huge gaps about Cromwell, but it is rather unlikely and central to the book that he would have had such an inner life and perception as Mantel provides him with). But the feel of the era, the feel of the murderous high political process of the time - they are amazingly captured, in a way no historian can, whether a good or bad historian.

The great matter is that: the way literature creates and distills meanings, shapes our human perception, captures the essence of it. Mantel's perception is scary, there is a huge intelligence there, a deep, deep understanding of history, the shape of it, the meaning of it. Literature, fiction and poetry, is truly the best we can show of ourselves.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Keynes - the enemy of progress...

I am not serious, of course - he largely did save capitalism though not for the ages but for the moment and most probably not in order for the liberal democracies to revert in good times back to morally disgusting Victorian "ideas". But it has about happened: I'm sure we'll soon get the ten year old chimney sweeps back with full "freedom" of "contract". Capital is as triumphant and as short sighted and irrational as in the 1920's. Actually, just for the hell of it the EU has brought chancellor Brüning back. Probably only the slowly dismantling welfare state is the only thing that has kept the good chancellor's repeat performance's concequences away from the streets. (Not totally sure about the streets of Budapest though.)

Keynes was a great statesman, an exceedingly wise man but one does begin to wonder whether he really was too moderate after all, too conservative, too underestimating of the reactionary liberalist tendencies of the market economy. Perhaps democratic socialism should after all be worth a second glance?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

We can make some plans instead

It is good to get reminders, as I have these last few better going months: I should never forget that this is what I so much wished for myself. These whirlwinds of ordinary life and love - and not so ordinary at all. We are pilgrims here, citizens of two countries, and the one so much closer to us is the one not achievable. There is so much value in this attempt, in these views that it is not rational, not reasonable to regret one's crazy courage of leaping into this uncleanness...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's sixteen miles to the promised land

In this arctic winter dark, the day has some light, more light than it did last year this time. It is beyond words, beyond most words what we experience here, how incompletely, how intensely, how easily forgetting the best times during the worst and the worst times during the best. We are creatures of the moment, passionate both in desperation and in joy. Ephemeral beings in incomprehensible universe. But capable of love, of brilliance, bright flames in the darkness.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mr Bleaney?

I wonder whether I now might be older than Mr Bleaney – how old was Larkin when he wrote the poem?  Surely quite young, and still, well, very Larkinesque. I suspect on some level he always saw himself as a Bleaneyan figure, Bleaney Agonistes... Which, if so, would have been totally bizarre as we are talking  about one of the foremost poets of his generation. But “success” is not an objective concept and in any case, in the end surely we all will fail, and all but the most too well wadded to realize it. There is no permanent achievement here, no success to compare with the failure.

Here is the Finnish Pietist in me talking: I surely have gotten one of the least materialist and least ambitious world views as a family inheritance. Though it could have been worse, certainly much worse, and not much better. But as to achievement, being already past Bleaney (I think he must have been in his early 40's), there is prescious little to show. Lots of various stuff, some interesting, some even impressive, certainly, but little in the way of worldly success, and children hardly count as a life achievement, as desperately loved as they are, but as independent persons to be protected and sheltered, not to act as one's raison d'être.

I cannot really denounce this inheritance though, not finally: the things achievable here pale into insignificance with the things unachievable. To have material success in this world rather tells against you instead of for. Maybe Larkin fundamentally did know this, behind the misery there might be other things, closely guarded. Him being an artist and all.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Under the category of eternity

I have (naturally rather respectfully) mocked here the impossible strivings of classic Western metaphysical philosophy. And, to be honest, what else is Heidegger for example attempting, or Derrida, to speak of modern Western philosophy? Universalizing of our irredeemably local and partial experience is by definition not possible, of course. Thus such philosophy has some fairly ridiculous, pompous cadences, aspects. But only partially - there is great majesty in such attempts, strange harmonies.

And a part of us surely will always belong under the category of eternity, however animalistic, failed, discoherent we simultaneously are. Art takes us there more directly, more efficiently than intricate sophistries and logical structures, and also life, also life, when lived vehemently, intensely, through love and understanding. We fail, naturally we fail: we cannot be fully coherent, fully meaningful, fully serious - but we won't fail totally, irredeemably. There are degrees - and individual stories: some will have only a flicker of this bright flame, well hidden under trauma and brutality (experienced and redistributed), some will burn like a great bonfire driving back darkness and hopelessness.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Quod erat demonstrandum

From a post in the spring of 2007:

 A huge moral collapse is thus celebrated and exalted: iron has entered the centre of a great state's soul, poison lingers about its political elites and public discourse. As long as this goes on Russians will be viewed by their rulers not as individual citizens of independent value but as nameless cannon fodder of power politics, as perpetual pawns of history to be thoughtlessly sacrificed whenever needed by the morally corrupt elite organs. In this way the mad, bloody rites of the early 20th century still go on even today wounding new generations, newly reborn nations. When will we put stop to it?

Link to the complete post: Stalin's willing executioners

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.

Monday, July 28, 2014

In praise of - technology

This is not a very fashionable attitude among my fellow-proggressives, I gather. (And maybe am wrong.) Technological advancement has admittedly caused many huge problems too, but I cannot help but thinking that it's still one of the most visible and important signs of any progress on this earth. Yes, there are at places remarkable changes of opinion for the better, but are these not quite clearly more a concequence than a cause? In any case there are more and more tools for a rational, cautious approach to history instead of our blood-thirsty, panicky reflexes: we have increasingly many ways for avoiding ignorance and aggression (as much as the weapons too have "progressed"). One supposes it's a race of sorts: increased supports for reason and humanity vs increasingly disastrous ways of achieving short term dominance. But in view of our rather slowly changing base human nature, this is one of the very, very few areas showing at least some scope for at least some hope.

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.