Monday, August 14, 2006

Der Untergang des Abendlandes?

I was finally able to read Ian MacDonald's exhilarating, very understandably famous essay on the 60's ("Fabled Foursome, Disappearing Decade"). I would largely agree with the essence of his argument of the final disintegration of the old West into consumerism. So, far from being triumphant leftist time, it was the era that logically led to Reagan and Thatcher, and onward to our empty, materialistic present. You can draw both optimistic and pessimistic conclusions on the process - the old Christian West was like any other classical civilization: narrow, paternalistic and aggressive.

Yes, there was social cohesion, high anti-materialist ideals, but at much too high cost, unimaginably high in fact. These morally corrupt structures deserved to be swept away. But of course the hope was and is that something more valuable will be built in their place. This I think remains firmly under doubt. The present climate does not incline one to much optimism. Christianity is a mere shell with largely the most shallow and unpleasant structures left (or then the bland, convictionless official fare) and Enlightenment is accepted (and never understood or adopted) only as far as it doesn't disturb our naked materialism. We go on because the profits go on and because we still half-remember the ethical and moral boundaries that once prevailed. One wonders how the vacuum will eventually be filled.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ask not

I have lately been revisiting some scenes of the Holocaust. Such images. I suppose it soon dawns to any student of history that there is no crime unimaginable, no ethical collapse not possible for us. This is no dramatic exaggaration: there are no limits to human cruelty. Nor can we ever wash our own hands clean. No person is an island - any crime, any cruelty committed is committed by all, no-one is completely innocent. At this very moment thousands are being killed, tortured, starved. Children, defenceless people marched to death. Mostly in front of carefully averted eyes, amidst lovingly nurtured ignorance. There is no such inevitability in the process that would absolve us of this never seizing tragedy - all the sorrow and suffering in this world is our direct creation, fashioned by our wills, by our being. In that sense even the Holocaust still goes on, those scenes still go on, the charge only increasing in seriousness with the unspeakable deeds themselves being gradually forgotten as real events.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

On passing moods

It is strange how little we seem to devote our thoughts to the structure of our experience in the world, the texture of it - to the essence of our being, the still point. There surely are people who get honourable mentions, Joyce comes to mind, Virginia Woolf, maybe Heidegger and some other philosophers, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche; but even these really are not in any essential sense realistic.

I would think that this is due to a very simple matter: the immediate experience (yes, a controversial term) and language are two separate things. A word fixed on paper is an analogy, not a failed attempt at copying. Joyce's stream of consciousness knowingly attempts to catch something for ever uncatchable. Maybe you could say that consciousness, experience, is another language that we only partially know. The situation is complicated with the fact that we continuously mediate and shape this strange, this other language with the everyday one: thinking and feeling seem to be at times seemless, at times quite disjointed mixtures of the two. This observation goes against the grain of many postmodern interpretations which deny any separation: for them language is all. To me this gets it backward - I would say consciousness, the immediate experience, is all, and everyday language a partial and in many senses failed attempt for controlling it.

This is what makes prose seem like a variety of poetry and all analytic thought an almost impossible task. The things we try to refer to are forever hidden behind a veil. This complexity is mind numbing, paralyzing. And it makes us ruled by our passing moods, a passionate being in the world we have: it is our wild, cruel, exhilarating inheritance.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The harsh poetry of life

This madcap journey is certainly remarkable, something that could not have been easily anticipated at the onset. "Animula" comes to mind, bleakishly, in this moment. At times I have enjoyed the icy breeze, the wild landscape - at other times it has not been easy, not at all: no joy but naked fear in the hard, desperate slog. At times I have regretted not having a voice capable of describing this infinite complexity, this danger and exhilaration of experience. And at times it has felt an appropriate restraint, living the harsh poetry without answers or any eloquent, eloquently shaped distances. It is hard to see, independent of passing moods, which reflex is more fitting. "Independent of passing moods" - I do sometimes wonder should the necessary quality be called vitality or coarseness. We do harden undeniably, but is that all there is to be said? I think not. We are much beyond our biological imperatives, in a way often hampering those imperatives. And I would argue that it is the most worthwhile part of us. If only it would not be such an easy victim to passing moods, to tiredness, anxiety and fear.