Re-considering Disconnectedness

 

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It ‘s as though I bought a frame only to find the picture looks so much less colorful, so much smaller, so un-real when affixed.  There ‘s really no one thing missing from the picture; it’s just I thought the frame would highlight it differently.

There ‘s been a sharp drop-off in reading for any purposes since the end of last term.  But I feel a little freer from ‘reading for’.  Some justification can be derived from Schopenhauer’s essays: too much of my thinking may have been mis-colored by my readings.  I ‘m no less bibliophile than ever, but I can almost see that books are worthless if I ‘m not a prepared dialogue partner.

/^

Elsewise I leave the dinner table filled with someone else’s erudition, spilling out aphorisms I half grasp and can use to impress but not to leave an impression.  Has anyone meaningfully conversed with a tape-recorder ever? I have enjoyed learning new ways to say things I had never conceived of, but was n’t the goal to catch concepts useful for me?  Who is my discourse for?

In discovering reading afresh, and finally the necessity of writing, I felt afraid of ‘not reading’.  But at last ‘reading for’ can be questioned — while I ‘m unable to lend full energy to a non-productive task I at last have to be selective.  I ‘m reading almost always, recalling little, and becoming, by such a small margin, a little more connected to what ‘s in front of me and less connected to the peripherals.

**^`

Anxiety remains: will I cut off the possibility of the thoughts I want approaching because I have n’t supplied the correct material — an Odysseus bidding the useful dead with gestures when he should use haemoglobin — if thoughts step into the light without our willful consent, what is the value of practiced thinking?

For no thinker I care for is so isolated as to be without peers.

So whenever I come across energy which can justly be spared, it shall be first employed in reflection, and only then in finding conversation partners (live or merely breathing).

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Un*answered

What would the value of being, true or otherwise, Nietzschian be?

As you seem to note, to follow Nietzsche, at least in his writings, one would have to be in flux oneself — in pursuit of certain goals, while not reaching their fulfillment. But that is only if there is some value, something to be learned/unlearned, in being a ‘good’ Nietzschian as opposed to a poor imbiber.

Yet I offer: Would n’t the truest test, at moments, be the quality of one’s dancing?

Gait

It is hard to be understood, especially when one thinks and lives gangasrotagati among men who think and live differently — namely, karmagati, or at best “the way frogs walk,” mandukagati (I obviously do everything to be “hard to understand” myself!)…

~Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (27) (trans. Walter Kaufmann) [I have failed to render the diacritical marks here]

The comparison of several gaits leads me to consider the value of being understood, or more precisely: to question when it may be worth the effort.  If one can and does run swiftly as the Ganges’ current, how is a poor turtle or a frog to keep up? or, why should the mighty river slow its flow to a crawl in hopes of being heard?

Questioning the value of expending effort in being understood may seem unnatural.  Of course we wish to be understood, at least insofar as we hope to have our demands met.  But it is n’t so clear as all that: the Ganges’ life is qualitatively different from the tortoise’.  Whether Nietzsche would affirm the value of the turtle and of the river is beside my point; while they certainly interact the turtle cannot understand what the current is babbling on about at such a hurried, if mellifluous, rate because it cannot reinitiate such thoughts into its own discourse.  The tortoise cannot enact what the Ganges tells it; a life swift-flowing is neither attainable (easily) nor desired.

Further, the tortoise, as the frog, is experienced compositely while the Ganges’ movement is well expressed.  While our lives are expressed in motion, the running together, the influx and outflow, and the smoothing out of all it comes into contact with are identifiable with the river, not the slow-movers.  The flow is nearer the heartbeat of life; as such the turtle ought to learn to hop and the frog needs to leap so as to better keep time, time bespoken so quickly it may numb the ear.

It is not that life never whispers, it is that our ears are keeping time with our feet.

Who should set the pace?

In Want of Style: Teaching Writing and Talking Schop

The result of all this is that thoughts put on paper are nothing more than footsteps in the sand: you see the way the man has gone, but to know what he saw on his walk, you want his eyes.

~A. Schopenhauer, ‘On Books and Reading’ (an online version of which can be found here)

Teaching writing horrendously frustrates — especially when I am unsure how I learnt to do any of this, if I learnt at all.  While I can’t help beaming as I lead these pups along to the home away from home of the bibliophile, I wonder if I ‘ve done more than show where the library lies.  While I question to what extent I truly want these students gazing through my eyes, I particularly feel the strain of Schopenhauer’s next lines:

There is no quality of style that can be gained by reading writers who possess it… But if these qualities are already in us, exist, that is to say, potentially, we can call them forth and bring them to consciousness; we can learn the purposes to which they can be put; we can be strengthened in our inclination to use them, or get courage to do so; we can judge by examples the effect of applying them, and so acquire the correct use of them; and of course it is only when we have arrived at that point that we actually possess these qualities.  The only way in which reading can form style is by teaching us the use to which we can put our own natural gifts.

~ibidem, emphasis mine

Autobiographically, how else do I understand anything, I can see this.  Until I was willing to stop admiring words or imagery and try to ‘look along’, as per an essay of C.S. Lewis’ I have largely forgotten, at what the author was seeing I could write nothing worth my own reading.  Funny that there is no way for me to judge my own reading but only by output — by what thoughts can be born onto the page and borne by them.  The same for my students — I only know the qualities of their reading by their writing much as we detect life by looking for movement (as Schopenhauer relates of Aristotle).

My own reading was dead for a long time, not merely because of the faults in my writing.  It was n’t until I found something worth reading, Till We Have Faces is my preferred culprit, until I felt life and thus a renewed movement that I could want to wield these shoddy limbs; not till I scratched out poorly enough to be told the lacks of quality in my work that any chance of dis-covering such ‘inclinations’ as A.S. speaks of.  Once I needed to hear, I had to learn to ask how to hear better, ask to go over it again — needed to speak until I did n’t cringe at the dust in my throat anymore.

The courage to find courage, it seems, may come later for my students.  I almost feel they need to be starved of reading, of speaking, of writing until they will learn to listen — for what I ‘m not allowed to know, or it is n’t worth listening for.  And then, then perhaps they can begin to scrawl in the dirt, shout silence to passersby, and follow the sight lines not the footsteps.  Reading cannot lend form to style until style fails to matter — until I need to commune deeply with something rather than starve, as beggar or welcomed guest.  And such a thing can surely not be inherited or mimicked; only lived.

Pebbles in the revered boots of authors preserved in rows await discovery, but one must yet be weary enough to travel.  We too shall be forgotten.

One final note, lest I forget the cheer of trying to summarize Orwell or am misinterpreted for being too optimistic:

Until one has some kind of professional relationship with books one does not discover how bad the majority of them are.

~George Orwell, ‘Confessions of a Book Reviewer’ (1946) [also by way of: http://insomnia.ac/essays/confessions_of_a_book_reviewer/]

et iumenta multa

Yesterday — yesterday I could ‘ve written, but not today.

Why is it ‘could have written’ resonates with superior peal to ‘wrote’ — yet proof that our language relishes missed chance where completion ought to be preferred

And thus beauty is in a past inaccessible — it must not be looked at too long else the eye be stripped of sight in seeing.

Shallows’ Eve: Un-conditional

‘One more time’, said our hostel-mate.

I (likely) mis-quoted: “I do not know what it would mean for a past conditional to be true.  E.g. — dearly do I hope I did n’t say ‘e.g.’ — if you had gone to a different window your passport would n’t have been rejected this morning.”

Still I do n’t know what it should mean, but that ‘s not the point.  It was meant to impress and it worked.  Is there any lasting value in blowing another person’s mind indiscriminately?

Whoever knows he is deep, strives for clarity; whoever would like to appear deep to the crowd, strives for obscurity.  For the crowd considers anything deep if only it cannot see to the bottom: the crowd is so timid and afraid of going into the water.

~Nietzsche, The Gay Science 173 (trans. Walter Kaufmann)

In short, what value is there in the crowd when the crowd is n’t truly seeking the benefits (by braving the dangers) of wading past the shallows.  Thinkers such as Ghazali and Kierkegaard compare the search for wisdom or knowledge as diving into the sea.  The sea is dangerous — it swallows many and returns few.

This is why trying to be deep is a waste — it smacks of wanting to laugh at dangers without pursuing any lasting end.  In short it is being gulped by the shallows.

Where did I leave…

Our memories are largely inscribed as though on scraps of paper — here a reappropriated napkin bearing verses of light, there a ghost image’s sketch — many waiting to be lost in repositories from which they may never emerge.

There ‘s a legend about the Muslim polymath al-Ghazali.  Whilst traveling with a caravan, bandits waylay and lighten the loads of the travelers.  Included were Ghazali’s multitude of notes — the wealth of his research to this point.  Now he begs to repossess these — his memories are about to wander off and never return.

In reply, the bandit regrets that Ghazali’s memory (‘ilm) is on his papers and not in his heart.  He has compassion and returns the papers to the grateful young genius.

/`/`

While this is almost surely apocryphal (possibly the story was true of a famous relative and was reappropriated (as per Frank Griffel), the idea holds nonetheless) the question of externalized memory is one we each ought to consider.  Who has n’t observed the blue screen of death remove memories innumerable to the sea of eternal forgetfulness?

So we back up our memories, eh?  In the story, Ghazali rededicates himself to fully internalizing his notes.  We are a society which carries memories in sticks — but don’t all libraries eventually succumb to decay or burning?

I have lost many a note which felt absolutely essential at the time.  I can’t number how often I forget even to take the list which is my backup memory.

//

I ask myself what it is I wish to hold onto — what is indispensable.  I ‘m still learning what that might be — still not sure if efforts are best placed in maximizing word or action; working for the future or the present.

That brings me to consider that words really are memory devices — we trust that the path to communication will be illumined, but surely this path too will fall into darkness, no matter how well worn.  And where shall be the feet to find it again?  And what shall the passenger eyes see?

See A Robbers Advice to Imam al-Ghazali for a telling of the story and Griffel’s Al-Ghazali’s Philosophical Theology for further considerations.