Thursday, December 31, 2015

On not taking stock

I'm not William Ewart Gladstone, nor was meant to be. Though I too used to write profoundly weird end of the year diary posts: very Protestant, very phoney, full of false optimism and painfully fake personal piety. I grew out of it, he didn't, though that very obviously was not an impediment for achieving great things. But I did grow out it, matured, wisened up. Strange that, and excellent.

I can still vividly recall myself: reading those selfsame diary posts in the History Department library: thinking them both phony and admirable, painful, attempting to balance, and failing. And only belatedly seeing that it wasn't any total failure but in some respect also rather admirable and ultimately successful effort. And Gladstone - his phoniness was not the most important thing about him, or the most relevant: his idealism was. And with me, perhaps, my realism.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The many things you owe these latest dead

Age in itself is fine: we will always be ourselves, contained in our personal experience, where-ever and whenever it occurs. But it is the other people that are so dissatisfying: permanent landmarks they are supposed to be but prove to be fragile and mortal and you realise that even your love, the thing you are most proud of (maybe suspiciously, but that's another question) has no magic power: they will depart, the drumbeat of generations.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

An ancient poem about Philip Larkin and me

As I now seem to be publishing my embarrasing juvenalia:

In the bright September sun
(the town was so hazy, beautiful)

To find the right measure of intensity
(reading Larkin's poems)
seemed such an impossible task.
Only schooled in uncertainty,
I was in search of a suitable mask.

But looking through the bus window, I felt,
that my failure was confirmed by his art
and the blue unreachable nothingness meant
that for me there was no acceptable part
in this cruel old play, and thus, without words to say,
my youth, my life, was spent.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Here's my naked skin

Or was: in the mid-1990's I got a summer job at an export-import company's switchboard by the Helsinki-Vantaa airport. A very nice job, as it was, but I was burningly unhappy, increasingly unable to cope with my failure to integrate with the world. And art being the saving grace in my utter incapability to function. These three poems come from that summer:

(Office poetry, Part I)

A notion

As the moment comes,
words often don't
and what might have
been will now not ever

(Office poetry, Part II)

Meditating on 'An Independent Love Song'

If in any which way
I only could see
there then would not be
so much to say -
or write - or think,
just a natural way to be.

(Office poetry, Part III)

Even More Trivial

All is not ever said,
but we in this our bed
attempt other things
and without words
all in triumph is said.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Terminal Zwei

Very occasionally you come across a first novel that is breathtakingly brilliant. Which is always slightly unencouraging: you will reluctantly google the author to see his/her age at the time of the publication. It is different with mucisians, painters, mathematicians (I claim unfairly): you can see it as a freak of nature, a narrow skill taken to extremes, but literature is different, wider, universal. You think to yourself that no-one should have that wide a scope that young, you are amazed and envious...

This happened today with Jennifer Egan's first publication: The Invisible Circus. Such a mature text and technique, experienced and wise beyond years. Naturally there are some obvious flaws there but what comes across is a cool but fierce assessment of life and history, life in history. It is this combination that lifts the text far above the usual sensitive comedies and tragedies of manner: a private story in the felt context of history, of time. (Another striking thing effortlessly portrayed, sensually and analytically, was the physical dimension, manifestation of falling in love - a thing exceedingly rarely well described without any sentimentality, coarseness or unreality.) Astonishing achievement by an author so young.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Being lost in Espoo without anyone missing

After a fun party with fun people, it seemed like a sentimental indulgence to let one remember that it was not the first time to have been drunk and lost on those selfsame streets. Then again, it felt not that indulgent, nor sentimental to remember the sharp difference between those times and this. And after that realization the young carefree people on those streets in the soft fall night did not feel so carefree at all, and pity and compassion seemed just as appropriate emotions as envy.

(ps. On that night this seemed like not a self-pitying, sentimental position but a serious, seriously thought point. On sober, mature reflection the case for the prosecution seems overwhelming though.)

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Remembering friends and lovers

I guess no-one ever seriously entertains the thought of growing old and weary. Nevertheless, uncared by our variously uncaring fates, we do grow old and weary. But it in itself never doesn't change the fact of once having been generous and gentle, among people generous and gentle. It feels like a very significant thing indeed to be able to recollect this fact.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A rose by any other name

Even before Rheinland, sorry, Crimea was annexed with the support of 107% of the Reichstag, sorry, Duma, I was rather flabbergasted at the turn towards crazily chauvinistic nationalism that the Putin cleptocracy, sorry, administration had taken - see the link:

Stalin's willing executioners

But after this latest shameless aggression it has become much harder to think that up to now the rather accurate "cleptocracy" lable is all there is to the story: what else is this militarism and revanchism and increasingly brutal oppression of dissidents, but the actual thing - fascism? It really seems that the 1930's have come again, and no, not as a farce.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Not as a farce

Though there are farcical aspects to the EU:s current 1930's re-enactment project: the ingenious and utterly mad way to circulate money via Greece (like a patient etherised upon a table) in a never ending vicious circle comes to mind. But it is no laughing matter: people suffer and many, probably most, suffer needlessly. I would not have thought this level of incompetence and cynicism possible (and I have witnessed George W. Bush's both administrations), but possible it is, and the grand (if overly bureaucratic and pompous) Franco-German European project lies in ruins.

And Germany really seems hell bent on destroying Europe's economy in every couple of generations - this hysterical, vindictive, sadistic, petty-bourgeois narrow mindedness (not to speak of amazing hypocrisy and dishonesty - whose banks were actually saved??) is indeed as far removed from Keynes as you can humanly be without having panzers involved. Maddening times with nothing learned either from history or macro economics.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

That element of tragedy

Frequently, one has to admit, I am at loss at the idea that one could have genuinely christian-humanist values in this world and somehow live unperturbedly, morally. As every bloody second is a holocaust here: the weak, the innocent, the powerless are horribly, cruelly unjustly tormented every bloody second here. So, we, most of us, actually live here coarsened, hardened, frightened, without a shread of nobility, of any righteousness.

Friday, May 01, 2015

From here to eternity

I have referred several times to that ridiculously preposterous and great concept of Spinoza: under that unalterable view we do dwell here. And don't - in the last analysis we are not able, not capable, we do not ever reach those inhumane altitudes. And even with this certain knowledge, this experience of not ever being able, we still will try: the most futile, the most essential of our human endeavours.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Love can transpose

I think I grow increasingly tired: the landscapes surely shift slower by each year. And still, there is nothing to gainsay the freshest first glimpse into this world - it is ever beautiful still. And ever cruel, heedless. What we have of ourselves is love and literature, feeling and fancy, situation and aspiration. A sweet torment and a most savage, deadly, killing torment. Ever poised, serious and light hearted, us humans here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The first days are the hardest days

Life surely is a strange, strange experience: we are thrown into this wildly unsafe world without any serious bearings. Well, mostly we are, and if not, the serious bearings will turn out to be woundingly misleading and fundamentally unserious. But that is only ever a part of the story - we can find direction and seriousness even in this world, even if only momentarily. The first days are misleading days: we can build even on these foundations, trusting our love, our intelligence, our reason. This will be permanently so for as long as we will remain human. So, there never, logically, can be a totally hopeless understanding of the world that would simultaneously be a realistic understanding.

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 - an 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 the morally disgusting Victorian "ideas". But this 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 as 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?