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.

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18 Nov '03 06:34:00 AM

'Every profound thinker is more afraid of being understood than of being misunderstood. The latter might hurt his vanity; but the former hurts his heart and his sympathy which always says: "Oh, why do you want things to be as hard for you as they are for me?"'

18 Nov '03 06:32:42 AM

'In a hermit's writings, you can always hear something of the echo of the desert, something of the whisper and the timid sideways glance of solitude. A new and more dangerous type of silence, of concealment, rings out in his strongest words, even in his cries. Anyone who has sat alone with his soul in intimate dispute and dialogue, year in, and year out, day and night, anyone who has become a cave bear or treasure hunter or treasure guard and dragon in his cave (which might be a labyrinth but also a gold mine): his very concepts will come to acquire their own twilight color, the smell of depth just as much as of mildew, something uncommunicative and reluctant that blows a chill on everything going past. The hermit does not believe that a philosopher - given that a philosopher was always a hermit first - has ever expressed his actual and final opinions in books: don't people write books precisely to keep what they hide to themselves? In fact, he will doubt whether a philosopher could even have "final and actual" opinions, whether for a philosopher every cave does not have, must not have, an even deeper cave behind it - a more extensive, stranger, richer world above the surface, an abyss behind every ground, under every "groundwork." Every philosophy is a foreground philosophy - that is a hermit's judgment: "There is something arbitrary in his stopping here, looking back, looking around, in his not digging any deeper here, and putting his spade away - there is also something suspicious about it." Every philosophy conceals a philosophy too: every opinion is also a hiding place, every word is also a mask.'

18 Nov '03 06:24:42 AM

'With hard people, intimacy is a source of shame - and something precious.'

14 Nov '03 05:22:39 AM

'That this could happen in the midst of the traditions of philosophy, of art, and of the enlightening sciences says more than that these traditions and their spirit lacked the power to take hold of men and work a change in them. There is untruth in those fields themselves, in the autarky that is emphatically claimed for them. All post-Auschwitz culture, including its urgent critique, is garbage. In restoring itself after the things that happened without resistance in its own countryside, culture has turned entirely into the ideology it had been potentially - had been ever since it presumed, in opposition to material existence, to inspire that existence with the light denied it by the separation of the mind from manual labor. Whoever pleads for the maintenance of this radically culpable and shabby culture becomes its accomplice, while the man who says no to culture is directly furthering the barbarism which our culture showed itself to be.

Not even silence gets us out of the circle. In silence we simply use the state of objective truth to rationalize our subjective incapacity, once more degrading truth into a lie. When countries of the East, for all their drivel to the contrary, abolished culture or transformed it into rubbish as a mere means of control, the culture that moans about it is getting what it deserves, and what on its part, in the name of people's democratic right to their own likeness, it is zealously heading for. The only difference is that when the apparatchiks over there acclaim their administrative barbarism as culture and guard its mischief as an inalienable heritage, they convict its reality, the infrastructure, of being as barbarian as the superstructure they are dismantling by taking it under their management. In the West, at least, one is allowed to say so.'

13 Nov '03 07:10:46 AM

'Ilsebill put on more salt. Before the impregnation there was shoulder of mutton with string beans and pears, the season being early October. Still at table, still with her mouth full, she asked, "Should we go to bed right away, or do you first want to tell me how when where our story began?"

I, down through the ages, have been I. And Ilsebill, too, has been from the beginning. I remember our first quarrel, toward the end of the Neolithic, some two thousand years before the incarnation of our Lord, when myths were beginning to distinguish between raw food and cooked food. And just as, today, before sitting down to mutton with string beans and pears, we quarreled more and more cuttingly over her children and mine, so then, in the marshland of the Vistula estuary, we quarreled to the best of our neolithic vocabulary over my claim to at least three of her nine kids. But I lost. For all the ur-phonemes my nimble, hard-working tongue was able to line up, I did not succeed in forming the beautiful word "father"; only "mother" was possible. In those days Ilsebill's name was Awa. I, too, had a different name. But the idea of having been Awa doesn't appeal to Ilsebill.

I had studded the shoulder of mutton with halved garlic cloves, sautéed the pears in butter, and bedded them on boiled string beans. Even though Ilsebill, speaking with her mouth still full, said there was no reason why it shouldn't come off, or "take," right away, because she had thrown her pills down the john as the doctor advised, what I heard was that our bed should have priority over the neolithic cook.

And so we lay down, arming and legging each other around as we have done since time immemorial. Sometimes I, sometimes she on top. Equal, though Ilsebill contends that the male's privilege of penetrating is hardly compensated by the female's paltry perogative of refusing admittance. But because we mated in love, our feelings were so all-embracing that in an expanded space, transcending time and its tick-tock, freed from the heaviness of our earthbound bed, a collateral, ethereal union was achieved; as though in compensation, her feeling penetrated mine in hard thrusts: we worked doubly and well.

Eaten before the mutton with pears and beans, Ilsebill's fish soup, distilled from codfish heads that have had the hell boiled out of them, probably embodied the catalytic agent with which, down through the ages, the cooks inside me have invited pregnancy; for by chance, by destiny, and without further ingredients, it came off, it took. No sooner was I out again - as though expelled - than Ilsebill said with perfect assurance, "Well, this time it's going to be a boy."

Don't forget the savory. With boiled potatoes or, historically, with millet. Our mutton - as always advisable - had been served on warmed plates. Nevertheless our kiss, if I may be forgiven one last indiscretion, was coated with tallow. In the fish soup, which Ilsebill had made green with dill and capers, codfish eyes floated white and signified happiness.

After it presumably came off, we lay in bed together, each smoking his (or her) conception of a cigarette. (I, descending the steps of time, ran away.) Ilsebill said, "Incidentally, we need a dishwasher. It's high time."

Before she could engage in further speculation about a reversal of roles - "I wish I could see you pregnant some time" - I told her about Awa and her three breasts.'

9 Nov '03 05:38:14 AM

'The negative result is this: philosophy does not permit itself to be grasped or determined by way of detours or as something other than itself. It demands that we do not look away from it, but apprehend it from out of itself. Philosophy itself - what do we know of it, what and how is it? It itself is only whenever we are philosophizing. Philosophy is philosophizing. That does not seem very informative. Yet however much we seem merely to be repeating the same thing, this says something essential. It points the direction in which we have to search, indeed the direction in which metaphysics withdraws from us. Metaphysics as philosophizing, as our own human activity - how and to where can metaphysics as philosophizing, as our own human activity, withdraw from us, if we ourselves are, after all, human beings? Yet do we in fact know what we ourselves are? What is man? The crown of creation or some wayward path, some great misunderstanding and an abyss? If we know so little about man, how can our essence not be alien to us? How can philosophizing as a human activity fail to conceal itself from us in the obscurity of this essence? Philosophy - as we are presumably superficially aware - is not some arbitrary enterprise with which we pass our time as the fancy takes us, not some mere gathering of knowledge that we can easily obtain for ourselves at any time from books, but (we know this only obscurely) something to do with the whole, something extreme, where an ultimate pronouncement and interlocution occurs on the part of human beings. For why else would we have come along here? Or have we arrived here only because others also come along, or because we happen to have a free period just between five and six when it is not worth going home? Why are we here? Do we know what we are letting ourselves in for?'

- Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics

4 Nov '03 07:52:34 AM

Ned had always preferred Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements as the best Stereolab album because it melted his brain the most, but I could never quite figure it out. He made it sound as if it was because of the sheer force of the music, an unstoppable, unstopping wall-of-noise deal. So of course listening intently I could never hear it. Today while woozily lying on the couch, ceiling spinning and wavering slightly from the effects of the music at excessive volume (and other things), I realized that my brain had melted without my even noticing. Which I expect is just what should happen with this kind of dangerously-close-to-interminable rhythmic drone.

The really interesting thing is that one's brain having been melted is not the most pleasant thing in the world, yet at the same time it's pleasant enough that one doesn't feel like getting up to change the stereo. Maybe because the state feels so precarious. Can't break the mood (or fugue).

3 Nov '03 04:25:13 AM

'For those who are racked by melancholia, writing about it would have meaning only if writing sprang out of that very melancholia. I am trying to address an abyss of sorrow, a noncommunicable grief that at times, and often on a long-term basis, lays claim upon us to the extent of having us lose all interest in words, actions, and even life itself. Such despair is not a revulsion that would imply my being capable of desire and creativity, negative indeed but present. Within depression, if my existence is on the verge of collapsing, its lack of meaning is not tragic—it appears obvious to me, glaring and inescapable.

Where does this black sun come from? Out of what eerie galaxy do its invisible, lethargic rays reach me, pinning me down to the ground, to my bed, compelling me to silence, to renunciation?

The wound I have just suffered, some setback or other in my love life or my profession, some sorrow or bereavement affecting my relationship with close relatives—such are often the easily spotted triggers of my despair. A betrayal, a fatal illness, some accident or handicap that abruptly wrests me away from what seemed to me the normal category of normal people or else falls on a loved one with the same radical effect, or yet … What more could I mention? An infinite number of misfortunes weigh us down every day … All this suddenly gives me another life. A life that is unlivable, heavy with daily sorrows, tears held back or shed, a total despair, scorching at times, then wan and empty. In short, a devitalized existence that, although occasionally fired by the effort I make to prolong it, is ready at any moment for a plunge into death. An avenging death or a liberating death, it is henceforth the inner threshold of my despondency, the impossible meaning of a life whose burden constantly seems unbearable, save for those moments when I pull myself together and face up to the disaster. I live a living death, my flesh is wounded, bleeding, cadaverized, my rhythm slowed down or interrupted, time has been erased or bloated, absorbed into sorrow ...Absent from other people's meaning, alien, accidental with respect to naive happiness, I owe a supreme, metaphysical lucidity to my depression. On the feeling of being witness to the meaninglessness of Being, of revealing the absurdity of bonds and beings.

My pain is the hidden side of my philosophy, its mute sister. In the same way, Montaigne's statement "To philosophize is to learn how to die" is inconceivable without the melancholy combination of sorrow and hatred—which came to a head in Heidegger's care and the disclosure of our "being-for-death." Without a bent for melancholia there is no psyche, only a transition to action or play.

Nevertheless, the power of the events that create my depression is often out of proportion to the disaster that suddenly overwhelms me. What is more, the disenchantment that I experience here and now, cruel as it may be, appears, under scrutiny, to awaken echoes of old traumas, to which I realize I have never been able to resign myself. I can thus discover antecedents to my current breakdown in a loss, death, or grief over someone or something that I once loved. The disappearance of that essential being continues to deprive me of what is most worthwhile in me; I live it as a wound or deprivation, discovering just the same that my grief is but the deferment of the hatred or desire for ascendancy that I nurture with respect to the one who betrayed or abandoned me. My depression points to my not knowing how to lose—I have perhaps been unable to find a valid compensation for the loss? It follows that any loss entails the loss of my being—and of Being itself. The depressed person is a radical, sullen atheist.'

—Julia Kristeva, Black Sun

1 Nov '03 09:00:34 PM

I made Britt a copy of Kish Kash. Her favorite song on it (well, more like the only one she liked, probably) is 'the meow meow song', which I needed to be told is 'Plug It In'. It does sort of sound like meowing. Now I hear it every time. It makes it feel more fun; the riff during the chorus is a little menacing, sort of amped-up scary-dystopian-movie, so it's nice to have it tempered by some kittens.