josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

newest | archives | search | about | wishlist | flickr | email | rss

24 Oct '04 10:27:49 AM

'His conscience? - It is easy to guess that the concept of "conscience" that we here encounter in its highest, almost astonishing, manifestation, has a long history and variety of forms behind it. To possess the right to stand security for oneself and to do so with pride, thus to possess also the right to affirm oneself - this, as has been said, is a ripe fruit, but also a late fruit: how long must this fruit have hung on the tree, unripe and sour! And for a much longer time nothing whatever was to be seen of any such fruit: no one could have promised its appearance, although everything in the tree was preparing for and growing toward it!

"How can one create a memory for the human animal? How can one impress something upon this partly obtuse, partly flighty mind, attuned only to the passing moment, in such a way that it will stay there?"

One can well believe that the answers and methods for solving this primeval problem were not precisely gentle; perhaps indeed there was nothing more fearful and uncanny in the whole prehistory of man than his mnemotechnics. "If something is to stay in the memory it must be burned in: only that which never ceases to hurt stays in the memory" - this is a main clause of the oldest (unhappily also the most enduring) psychology on earth. One might even say that wherever on earth solemnity, seriousness, mystery, and gloomy coloring still distinguish the life of man and a people, something of the terror that formerly attended all promises, pledges, and vows on earth is still effective: the past, the longest, deepest and sternest past, breathes upon us and rises up in us whenever we become "serious." Man could never do without blood, torture, and sacrifices when he felt the need to create a memory for himself; the most dreadful sacrifices and pledges (sacrifices of the first-born among them), the most repulsive mutilations (castration, for example), the cruelest rites of all the religous cults (and all religions are at the deepest level systems of cruelties) - all this has its origin in the instinct that realized that pain is the most powerful aid to mnemonics.

In a certain sense, the whole of asceticism belongs here: a few ideas are to be rendered inextinguishable, ever-present, unforgettable, "fixed," with the aim of hypnotising the entire nervous and intellectual system with these "fixed ideas" - and ascetic procedures and modes of life are means of freeing these ideas from the competition of all other ideas, so as to make them "unforgettable." The worse man's memory has been, the more fearful has been the appearance of his customs; the severity of the penal code provides an especially significant measure of the degree of effort needed to overcome forgetfulness and to impose a few primitive demands of social existence as present realities upon these slaves of momentary affect and desire.

We Germans certainly do not regard ourselves as a particularly cruel and hardhearted peoiple, still less as a particularly frivolous one, living only for the day; but one has only to look at our former codes of punishments to understand what effort it costs on this earth to breed a "nation of thinkers" (which is to say, the nation in Europe in which one still finds today the maximum of trust, seriousness, lack of taste, and matter-of-factness - and with these qualities one has the right to breed every kind of European mandarin). These Germans have employed fearful means to acquire a memory, so as to master their basic mob-instinct and its brutal coarseness. Consider the old German punishments; for example, stoning (the sagas already have millstones drop on the head of the guilty), breaking on the wheel (the most characteristic invention and specialty of the German genius in the realm of punishment!), piercing with stakes, tearing apart or trampling by horses ("quartering"), boiling of the criminal in oil or wine (still employed in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries), the popular flaying alive ("cutting straps"), cutting flesh from the chest, and also the practice of smearing the wrongdoer with honey and leaving him in the blazing sun for the flies. With the aid of such images and procedures one finally remembers five or six "I will not's," in regard to which one had given one's promise so as to participate in the advantages of society - and it was indeed with the aid of this kind of memory that one at last came "to reason"! Ah, reason, seriousness, mastery over the affects, the whole somber thing called reflection, all these prerogatives and showpieces of man: how dearly they have been bought! how much blood and cruelty lie at the bottom of all "good things"!'

24 Oct '04 10:03:22 AM

'He followed orthodox techniques in the arrangement of his compositions as he did in the writing of them. If we follow the path from the first notes Nietzsche wrote along the various stages of rewriting and arranging we can recognize the so called quinque officia (five duties or rules) which Cicero formulated [?] as the stages to follow when composing a discourse. In the first phase, the inventio, the material is gathered. We recognize this in the many notes Nietzsche wrote down: his own thoughts, quotes from books he read or from conversations he had, and the first experimental elaborations of his thoughts. The second phase, the dispositio, we find in the many attempts to adjust the formulation and to add aphoristic characteristics. We also find it in the many outlines for arranging his notes into chapters and books. The elocutio is seen in the final draft in which Nietzsche often makes some stylistic changes, making sure that his sentences will sound as they should. Here he also makes the final decision on maintaining certain word choices and manners of expression or withholding them, be it provisionally or indefinitely. The pronunciatio is the published text, and it is often arranged in order to accord with the rules of a "mnemotechnics" (GM II,3), so as to bring one to the phase of memoria.'

22 Oct '04 07:24:31 AM

I seem to be caught in the middle of some scheme of punishment, because the same two Cee-Lo songs, that I never liked much in the first place, keep coming up on shuffle - 'My Kind of People' and 'Evening News'. I thought the album was fine in parts and less so in others before, but the more these songs get stuck to my shoe the more and more vindictive I feel toward the record as a whole.

22 Oct '04 07:22:00 AM

Having listened only once to the new Brad Mehldau record, I would like to lodge the complaint slash insult 'overly feely chromaticism', but I'm not sure if it fits the technical details. Whatever. Let a guy play piano by himself and the whole goddamn rhythm section goes out the window.

(Hint: pianos are supposed to be part of the rhythm section!)

22 Oct '04 07:13:57 AM

Sometimes I feel like one of those guys in an old timey sanitorium, slowly gathering my music-critical strength by sitting out in the garden and letting the world pass me by. But I've been approaching it again, slowly, for a long time. For one thing, as opposed to last year, I think I may have heard in excess of ten whole new releases this year. I've been trying to keep them playing, letting them sink in perhaps a little more forcedly than I should be, so that I have strong feelings about more than just the Junior Boys and Sonic Youth records. It makes the frenzied rate of consumption I used to maintain as an undergraduate seem all the more pathological, the more I try to keep up, now.

I've also started sorting out my singles list. While gathering together some stray things I haven't heard tonight, and making sure I know what was released what year, it occurred to me that I could come up with ten singles that I've had strong feelings for in the past year, before even really trying to survey the field and give everything a chance. I'm still going to, but it's nice to have some convictions about something. Or, to feel a tiny bit alive, at least:

Memphis Bleek ft. Freeway - Just Blaze, Bleek & Free
D12 - My Band
Houston ft. Chingy, I-20 & Nate Dogg - I Like That
Junior Boys - High Come Down
R. Kelly - Happy People
Alicia Keys - If I Ain't Got You
Christina Milian ft. Fabolous - Dip It Low
Petey Pablo - Freek-a-Leek
Usher ft. Lil' Jon & Ludacris - Yeah
Kanye West - All Falls Down

Those are in alphabetical order, silly.

I wish I could find evidence that the Bleek track was an honest single, the way Jess is treating it. Because I like it far better than the ones from M.A.D.E. that I know to have been singles.

I'll be excited to put Fab's new single, 'Breathe', on my list at the end of the year, once I've listened to it more. I downloaded it a while ago after this post which at the time had a great poster for the single. Too bad Fabolous' webmaster changed the file G & W were stealing, ha. But I was surprised to see 'Breathe' at #1 on 106 & Park tonight, since I haven't turned it on for a long time. I would've thought the song was too plain. For the world, I mean, not for me. I'm still waiting to see if I ever convincingly wrench myself out of the gravitational pull of the mid to late 90s New York hip-hop sound. As the thing I'm comfortable with, I mean. By default.

22 Oct '04 06:45:07 AM

'Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings toward the ocean with me.'

21 Oct '04 06:08:11 AM

I had nothing to say but felt compelled to show some outward sign of my inward life, even if it is lately muted and contorted. But as it happens, even quotation has its sincerity, or lack of. So I have this here, instead.

13 Oct '04 09:20:47 AM

'Out of the consciousness of their truth they both are suspicious of truth in its more naive form of scientific knowledge. Not that they doubt the methodical correctness of scientific insight. But Kierkegaard is astonished at the learned professors: for the most part they live their lives and die, imagining that things would continue this way; and that, if it were granted to them to go on living, they would comprehend more and more in a continued direct ascent. They do not experience the maturity by virtue of which there comes a critical turning point, where, from this point on, it is a matter of comprehending, increasingly, that there is something missing that cannot be comprehended. Kierkegaard believes this is the most terrible way to live: to enchant the whole world through one's discoveries and cleverness, to explain all of nature, yet not to understand oneself. Nietzsche is inexhaustible in his devastating analysis of the types of scholars who lack the real sense of what they do, who are not able to be themselves, and yet believe they can grasp, with their ultimately vain knowledge, Being itself.

Because they both question the ability of all self-enclosed rationalities to communicate truth as a whole, they become radical opponents of the "system," i.e., that form which philosophy had assumed through the millennia and which led to its last burst of glory in German idealism. For them, "system" implies distraction from actuality, and hence lie and deception. Kierkegaard understands that for God existence can be a system, but not for an existing spirit; system and closedness correspond to each other, but existence is exactly their opposite. The philosopher who builds a system is like a human being who builds a palace but lives in the adjoining shanty: this phantastical creature does not himself inhabit that which he has thought up. Yet a man's thoughts must be the edifice in which he lives; anything else would be perverse. The fundamental question of philosophy, i.e., what it is itself and what is science, is posed anew and relentlessly. Nietzsche wants to be better at doubting than Descartes; in Hegel's foundering attempt to fit reason into the developmental process, he sees a Gothic attempt at storming the heavens. For him the will to create a system shows a lack of integrity.

Both express in the same way what they understand knowledge really to be. For them it is nothing other than interpretation.

Interpretation, however, has no end. Existence, for Nietzsche, is capable of an infinity of interpretations. For Kierkegaard, whatever has happened or was done in the past is always open to fresh understanding: as it is interpreted, it becomes a new actuality that has been hidden until then. Therefore temporal life can never be quite comprehensible to man; no man can penetrate absolutely his own consciousness.

Both use the simile of interpretation for knowledge of Being, moreover in such a manner as if Being were deciphered in the interpretation of interpretation. Nietzsche wants to strip the original text, homo natura, of succeeding layers of writing and to read it in its actuality. Kierkegaard assigned no significance to his writings other than that they are to be renderings of the original texts of individual human conditions of existence.

Connected with this fundamental thought is the fact that both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche - these most open and candid of thinkers - show a seductive penchant for concealment and the mask. For them, the mask is necessarily tied to being true. Indirect communication becomes the only way of communicating genuine truth; and indirect communication, as expression, belongs to the indecisive nature of truth in temporal existence, in which it must still be grasped in the process of becoming out of the wellsprings of each Existenz.

In their thinking, both encounter that ground which, in man, would be Being itself: Kierkegaard counters the philosophy that has asserted, from Parmenides through Descartes to Hegel, that "Thinking is Being," with the proposition: "As you believe, so you are," "Believing is Being." Nietzsche sees the Will to Power. But faith as well as Will to Power are mere signa, themselves not showing directly what is meant but themselves capable of limitless interpretation.

For both, honesty is the decisive motivating factor. For both of them it is the expression of the ultimate virtue to which they submit. It remains for them the minimum measure of the unconditional that is still possible within the confusion where all content becomes questionable. But it also becomes the vertiginous demand of a truthfulness that brings even itself into question, which is the opposite of that expedient brute power that believes it possesses the truth clearly in barbaric certitude.

It is a valid question whether anything at all is being said in thinking such as this. Indeed, both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are conscious of the fact that the comprehension of their thinking is not open to man merely as thinker. Rather, it is a matter of who it is that understands.

They address the individual who must bring with him and must bring forth out of himself what they can say only indirectly. Kierkegaard believes in Lichtenberg's epigram which he cites: Such works are mirrors; if a monkey peeks in, no apostle can peek out. Nietzsche considers understanding him a distinction that has to be earned. He states that it is impossible to teach the truth where the manner of thinking is base. Each seeks the readership appropriate to him.'

13 Oct '04 08:03:57 AM