“So conceived and supported, the Test of Time is nevertheless made ineffective by the intractable naiveté of its assumptions. For isn’t it naive to suppose that history will allow only the best to survive? (..)
(..) Considering the frequency of natural calamities, our treatment of warfare as a seasonal sport, and the insatiable squirrelliness of human greed, it should be an occasion for surprise when anything excellent survives.”
W. Gass, Tests of Time, The University of Chicago Press, 2002, p. 110-111.
As is his habit, Gass approaches his topic as one who out of curiosity approaches a body lying on the ground only to skirt it and skid away at a 90° angle from his incoming trajectory without even having ascertained whether the person whose body was near inspected was still alive.
The question isn’t whether what survives is excellent but whether who excels is, can be, mortal. The answer is that the excellent cannot perish. The cause of all confusion is that the Test of Time is thought to hold with respect to works and names of personalities whereas any real test of time merely applies to who lives on – however anonymously – as a source of something that had not existed if she had not contributed to that something.
Let me explain:
“Er hat sich augenblicklich zu der Erkenntnis durchgerungen, dass es in der Geschichte der Menschheit kein freiwilliges Zurück gibt. Aber das Erschwerende ist, dass wir ja auch kein brauchbares Vorwärts haben. Gestatten Sie mir, es als eine merkwürdige Lage zu bezeichnen, wenn es weder vorwärts noch zurück geht und der gegenwärtige Augenblick auch als unerträglich empfunden wird.”
R. Musil, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, RoRoRo, 1978, p. 272.
[Amateuristic English translation: “He immediately came to the insight that, in human history, there’s no voluntary going back. But the really aggravating circumstance is that there is also no useful way forward. Allow me to put it to you that it is a most curious situation in which there is neither a way forward nor a way back and in which the current moment is also considered as equally unbearable.”]
[Re-osted from The Old Site, original dd. 15-04-201. This is the last one, if you find more here, they will be new.]
It’s definitely a bummer to think you’re at least somewhat original – and then reread something you read so long ago you couldn’t precisely remember why it
retained the impression of greatness … just to find that much of where you thought you were original wasn’t just anticipated but anticipated by something you can’t honestly claim not to have known!
Anyway, the twin monsters of ‘The Meaning of Life’ are cultural pessimism and utopianism, or in other words absolutism and essentialism. Looking back to the more innocent times of the past, or longing for the times to come where we will be finally redeemed and saved from all this mess which is the current.
The monsters are twins and therefore share the same genetic code: Continue reading
“Vivere si rectè nescis, decede peritis;
Lusisti satis, edisti satis atque bibisti;
Tempus abire tibi est, ne potum largius aequo
Rideat et pulset lasciva decentius aetas;”
Horatius as quoted by M. de Montaigne in: Essais II, Editions Gallimard, 1965, Chapitre XII (Apologie de Raimond Sebond), p. 213.
[Amateuristic English translation: “If you don’t know how to live well, leave your place to those who do; you have fooled around enough, eaten enough and have drunk enough; time for you to withdraw for fear of having drank more than reasonable and in so doing, of becoming the laughing stock of the young, to whom cheerfulnes is more becoming.”]
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 07-04-2010. Only one to go ;-]
I wanted to talk about essential differences between absolutes and universals. The wish not to live beyond your expiration data is universal. The requirement to live until such time as ‘one is called’ is an absolute. The difference between the two is the meaning that is conferred to to what it is ‘to live’.
I (try to) explain.
“Whoever denies authority and fights against it is an anarchist.”
Sébastien Faure as quoted on p. 11 of ‘Anarchism’, by George Woodcock, broadview encore editions, 2004.
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 31-03-2010.]
Since this is at the moment degenerating into a ‘what am I reading’-diary, and I was anyway looking to do a ‘Pop Culture’ entry (it being long ago and all), why not do an anarchist quote?
It’s not like the reader – if any – has a choice in the matter 😉
So I’m an anarchist. That means I have a problem. Because to a real anarchist I will be an example of le nouveau bourgeois. Continue reading
‘Ausserdem lehrt die Zoologie dass aus einer Summe von reduzierten Individuen sehr wohl ein geniales Ganzes bestehen kann.‘
Robert Musil, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, Band I, p. 32, Rowholt (rororo), 1978.
[Amateuristic English translation below: “Besides, Zoology teaches us that out of the sum of reduced individuals may well emerge a brilliant whole.”]
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 18-03-2010. Ah, my Musil period ;-]
I’m tired. I could just go with the irony of this & make it easy on myself. Heroism is, after all, the easiest interpretation of human value. Heroism combined with some praise of the supporting sheepishness, insofar as it supports the survival of the heroic queen bee. This is after all the classical conservative worldview of the many that are merely the fuel for the engine of greatness that, from time to time, delivers a prophet or a sage or an enlightened philosopher or a paradigm-shifting artist.
But I won’t make it that easy on myself. Continue reading
“Et ne fut jamais au monde deux opinions pareilles, non plus que deux poils ou deux grains. Leur plus universelle qualité, c’est la diversité.”
Michel de Montaigne, Essais II, chapitre XXXVII, p. 569, Gallimard, 1965.
[Amateuristic English translation: “And there were never in the world two opinions that were similar, not more than two hairs or two grains. Their most universal quality, is there diversity.” (the two hairs and two grains stuff you’ll have to google together with “Cicero”)]
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 19-02-2010. I’m getting to the end of the recycling bin so there will be new material soon.]
Back to basics 😉
One of the remaining problems in modern culture is that we are thinking in terms of success. The problem is not so much with the sensation of success. Not at all, it is an enjoyable sensation and nobody should be cut off from it. No, the problem is that we want to make a snapshot of it. We want to frame it and put it on our walls.
“Bleib nicht auf ebnem Feld!
Steig nicht zu hoch hinaus!
Am schönsten sieht die Welt
Von halber Höhe aus.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, Reclam, 2000, p. 16.
[Amateuristic English translation: “Don’t stay on the flat lands!Don’t climb too high!The most beautiful view of the world, can be seen from half-height.”]
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 08-11-2009. I think I’m getting bored with this, but I’ll finish the re-posting because I’m getting close to finishing it. At least it makes me see how pitiful I am (although the end is better than the start.]
I am running a serious risk of not taking myself seriously enough. It’s a risk that is well less known because the average person is well to the overly serious side. Still, one can go too far in the other direction, as Nietzsche probably did round about the time he wrote the book from which this quote is taken. Maybe, with rising average levels of learning, it will become the standard to be more like Wilde than like the village preacher (or village nut, if you prefer).
This would be good but in naming the Great One with Anal Preferences, you get my point or at least so I hope: you can only laugh so much with yourself, before it gets to points where it becomes really laughable. Continue reading