Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Journal 11.05.10

Sharon Zukin: Voters and elites – a broadly conceived middle class in the United States – could have faced the choice of approving government policies to eliminate poverty, manage ethnic competition, and integrate everyone into common public institutions. Instead, they chose to buy protection, fuelling the growth of the private security industry.

Z.B.: The blood-curling and nerve-breaking specter of unsafe streets keeps people away from public spaces and turns them away from seeking the art and the skills needed to share public life.

Sennett (The Mask of Public Man): Civility is the activity which protects people from each other and yet allows them to enjoy each other´s company. Wearing a mask is the essence of civility. Masks permit pure sociability, detached from the circumstances of power, malaise, and private feelings of those who wear them. Civility has as its aim the shielding of others from being burdened with oneself.

Z.B.: The snag, though, it that the feeling of a common identity is a counterfeit of experience.

Z.B. on Claude Levi-Strauss: Levi-Strauss, the greatest cultural anthropologist of our time, suggested in Tristes tropiques that just two strategies were deployed in human history whenever the need arose to cope with the otherness of others: one was the anthropoemic, the other was anthropophagic strategy. The first strategy consisted in “vomiting”, spitting out the others seen as incurably strange and alien: barring physical contact, dialogue, social intercourse and all varieties of cummercium, commensality or connubium. The extreme variants of the emic strategy are now, as always, incarceration, deportation and murder. The upgraded, refined (modernized) forms of the emic strategy are spatial separation, urban ghettos, selective access to spaces and selective barring from using them. The second strategy consists in a soi-distant disalienation of alien substances: ingesting, devouring foreign bodies and spirits so that they may be made, through metabolism, identical with, and no longer distinguishable from, the ingesting body. This strategy took an equally wide range of forms: from cannibalism to enforced assimilation – cultural crusades, wars of attrition declared on local customs, calendars, cults, dialects and other prejudices and superstitions. If the first strategy was aimed at the exile or annihilation of the others, the second was aimed at the suspension or annihilation of their otherness.

A definition of Modernity: A history of time… Modernity is the time when time has a history

Z.B.: If people were pressed hard to explain what they meant by “space” and “time”, they could have said that space is what you can pass in a given time, while time is what you need to pass it… the effectiveness of time as a means of value-attainment tends to approach infinity, with the paradoxical effect of leveling up (or rather down) the value of all units in the field of potential objectives.

Another book I must look for: “Bureaucratic phenomenon” by Michel Crozier

Susan Sontag on Laxness: “Under the Glacier is at least as much a philosophical novel as a dream novel. It is also one of the funniest books ever written”

Sontag: The long prose fiction called the novel, for want of a better name, has yet to shake off the mandate of its normality as promulgated in the 19th century: to tell a story peopled by characters whose options and destinies are those of ordinary, so-called real life. Narratives that deviate from this artificial norm and tell other kind of stories, or appear not to tell much of a story at all, draw on traditions that are more venerable than those of the 19th century, but still, to this day, seem innovative or ultraliterary or bizarre. I am thinking of novels that proceed largely through dialogue; novels that are relentlessly jocular (and therefore seem exaggerated) or didactic; novels whose characters spend most of their time musing to themselves or debating with a captive interlocutor about spiritual and intellectual issues; novels that tell of the initiation of an ingenuous young person into mystifying wisdom or revelatory abjection; novels with characters who have supernatural options, like shape-shifting and resurrection; novels that evoke imaginary geography. It seems odd to describe “Gulliver´s Travels” or “Candide” or “Tristram Shandy” or “Jacques the Fatalist and His Master” or “Alive in Wonderland” or Gershenzon and Ivanov´s “Correspondence From Two Corners” or Kafka´s “The Castle” or Hesse´s “Steppenwolf” or Woolf´s “The Waves” or Olaf Stapledon´s “Odd John” or Gombrowicz´s “Ferdydurke” or Calvino´s “Invisible Cities” or, for that matter, porno narratives, simply as novels. To make the point that these occupy the outlying precincts of the novel´s main tradition, special labels are invoked. Science fiction. Tale, fable, allegory. Philosophical novel. Dream novel. Visionary novel. Literature or fantasy. Wisdom lit. Spoof. Sexual turn-on.

Sontag: Imagining the exceptional, which is often understood as the miraculous, the magical or the supernatural, is a perennial job of storytelling… A philosophical novel generally proceeds by setting up a quarrel with the very notion of novelistic invention. One common device is to present the fiction as the document, something found or recovered, often after its author´s death or disappearance: research or writing in manuscript, a diary, a cache of letters. Note: Epistolary writing, that´s the landmark of the philosophical novel.

On the writing of Saga as such: Time and space do not exist. Time and space are mutable in the dream novel, the dream play. Time can always be revoked. Space is multiple.

Natalie M. Van Deusen: More than anything else, scholars have analyzed the way in which Laxness´s writing style, particularly in “Iceland´s Bell” and “The Happy Warrior”, imitates the terse and objective style employed by the authors of the Sagas of Icelanders.

Note: Icelandic lacks basic color terms for orange and purple, but there are more than 150 non-basic color terms

“einsog taglið á norðurljósunum“ / “like the streamers of the northern lights” (Laxness)

“men sjái speglast hver í annars augum sannfærínguna um fánýti þess að vera til“ / “people see reflected in each other´s eyes the conviction that existence is futile” (Laxness)

I am lagging behind with a lot of writing, as if laziness settled in again, or not laziness, it´s much more fear than laziness. Over the weekend there was nothing I craved more for than alcohol, but the result was quite disappointing (and even more the next day after I drank again) not exactly because I resent the aftereffects of alcohol but because I felt next to nothing, and was plain forced to be a witness to this show of compliments being thrown from person to person, endlessly. I guess that so much of my current lucidity has to do with the fact not only that I am not enjoying alcohol that much but also that I am enjoying being lucid all the time; I would want to taste a delicate whiskey in the company of someone I desire, to sip it very slow like a choice nectar, and to wrap myself into the body of the other, that the drink might be only a ritual passage from acquaintance to lust. I met the so-called Sergio at last and no matter how much less attractive (the right word to use would be actually, beautiful) I found him, his company was certainly delightful but it was so much lacking in flirtatiousness. Or perhaps the ailment was the fact that he didn´t desire me at all and then I was played with the same token of appreciation I condescendingly offered other people: to socialize without any sexual tension at all and even to enjoy it. Then I can´t certainly know what the deal with me is; if I succeeded in entertaining but failed in seducing both Mario and Sergio who here my seniors by at least fifteen years each, how could I even aspire to seduce the young? To take delight in their fresh foamy skins and in the completely rebellious and impious nature of their physicality? I don´t have an answer to this. My sexual stagnation is so complete that I think it´s been more than a year since a man made love to me; thus it is not in any way devastating to find out to how many people my instincts draw me amidst the most cordial quotidianity of things. Quotidianity is a word I learnt just recently from Zygmunt Baumann, a French calque = alltags Leben, cotidianité, everyday life. At different junctions of the recent weeks I´ve swiftly walked into the despair of not yet being able to leave this place, but the fact that there´s at least the tiniest bit of intellectual honesty and non-pretentious irony in me; that´s the fuel that helps me get through the days. I´ve definitely learnt so much lately, or maybe it´s just that I´m only now able to put up with the life challenges posited on my shipwreck by the philosophical projects I´ve myself devised for myself with the craft of an artisan but without being at all mindful of the consequences. I guess this is no longer a winter in Jerusalem but a gray and ever-expanding year-after-year in Bogotá and this is why I´m so much more inclined to accept the presuppositions, suppositions and preposterous consequences of my acts and even more than my acts, of my far remote thoughts. However I´m still aware of the facts that I haven´t taken all the risks as yet, but I am certain that I will; that the world will offer itself to me as in the past but in a more total, less consequential and far more colonizing fashion than ever before. I need a lot of time to digest my readings from the last weeks, perhaps as much time as I needed to digest Hannah Arendt from that reckless Israeli summer down to these selfsame pages; odds are that I don´t have that much lifetime, I have to grapple with a life, ride it, conquer it, overcome it.

At least I understand a bit of the reason behind German Post-Colonialism in both the Left and Right Wing fashion. To colonize doesn´t mean only to jump into the oceans and sail to far distant lands in order to christen the heathen wherever they might be. Colonialism is a primary instinct in which the unhappy consciousness of the individual is turned over against to the Absolute in order to conquer it with the blink of an eye. Colonialism is the theology of palliative care of medieval institutions, it´s the society of therapeutics that is meant to replace God at the workplace while still championing his cause over the entire earth. Then if our ideas about this kind of colonialism are correct, this German Post-Colonialism does exist and it is not only secular-eschatological, but both pre-religious and religious and irreligious; and if this is true the whole situation is a lot more dangerous than what the critics might have thoughts and a lot more impossible to cure with the wonders of modern life that only seem to accentuate day after day the imminent necessity to be dependent on the Absolute at the price of being nowhere and of sacrificing everything for the present. Writing in a specific tense is something that no one can really achieve… By definition the act of writing must cleave toward eternity, and not necessarily toward immortality of works alone because we might have as well abandoned that pretension and replaced it with the joyous movement of transience which unfolds when the now is understood as fragments of the eternal but caged in the casuistry of necessity. Philosophical tautology of Modernity: A moment in time. Modernity is not only antinomian but more dualistic than anything prior: Time and space are constants that can be interpreted independently of contextual approaches to the absolute time-space relation are all too theoretical and seem to thicken the forest of metaphysical associations that this time lead to no other divine place than supermarkets and shopping malls. Man is divided after a this-worldly divine and there´s no escape, no passage into heaven and no indictment for hell. Everything breaks down to traffic jams and the lust after hamburgers. I have this urge not to write everything, as if I had to struggle to develop this into something so private that it can reach the public without the guilt condemnation of self-assertion. Sergio has achieved the impossible: He dated the Israeli Ambassador, and how much I wish I could even date anyone or anything. The mysterious Meron Reuben, wedded to Paola (this I know from having worked for Perla Douer; who I wished would have loved me a little more); I can´t be sure whether I remember the guy was in anyway beautiful or remarkable but he certainly didn´t appear to me as a bad person, although I could swear that I saw him only once, maybe I saw him later at the synagogue during the High Holidays. Sergio flirting with the man who, should I flirt with him, could save my life from this endless series of internal and external tragedies – Mr. Ambassador. Perhaps that´s the gift of people that are not so self-aware, they can fly above the city lights without even being bothered by the atmospheric pressure like in those strange but beautiful and comfortable dreams I had in which I dreamt I was flying over instead of walking; coupled together with the other set of dreams in which I was driving from Guasca into Bogotá with Jeffrey Valle, coming from the dairy form in the company of whiskey and cocaine and after falling asleep, I would find myself in a bus that would stop in an Israeli town during a summer noon. I would get off the bus in order to find my way through the city and I was compelled to cry bitterly as I wouldn´t find it, but yet there was nowhere to go and even more than that, I wanted to go nowhere. Home seems a bad word now; it can only mean bad things: A violent father, a religion I never accepted officially or unofficially, a grey winter morning, the loveless absence of faces that I vividly remember without feeling anything any longer. I have to indulge in the hermeneutic irresponsibility to avoid the possibility of the home for as long as I like, for as long as I am young and undeadened by powers that be. I don´t want to be eclectic, but I can´t help it… I want a notion of love that won´t be even Romantic in the cultural sense, I want to love so lucidly that the gain will be the greatest loss while it is true that that kind of love might yield to nothing similar to passion for someone.

I applied for a part-time job at the British Embassy which I hope very much I won´t get, because then I would have to explicate myself why I am not leaving, how come I don´t have a bag or books or any clothes to show for myself as symptoms of being utterly alive. I would have to explicate myself that this is not just a passing station but a permanent checkpoint that keeps the future locked for just enough time as it takes me to realize that I´m not living in reality; that I know the facts well but that I´m unwilling to accept them, both theoretically and practically. I don´t even theoretically accept what´s happening to me: That I´m poor and uneducated, without any love or sex life, that I´m dying and dying (two kinds of death: the death of life and the death of illness), that I shall not see my most beloved friends again, that Jerusalem looms as far as the most distant galaxy could. That I don´t write for success or for standing out… It´s merely an activity that keeps me from pursuing both kinds of death in a more orderly fashion; that writing is my only private moment, it´s my only feeling. Yet, it would be too easy if I could just accept defeat, if all the facts were so clear, if there were a clairvoyant signal of this irresolute but vanquishing defeat – nothing could be further from the facts of the times. Daisy Neijmann seems to stand for the kind of professor that I always dreamt that existed; the imaginary Jewish philosopher and master that I envisioned for myself ever since I read Hannah Arendt for the first time and that however great, Eveline, failed to live up in every possible personal aspect. Notwithstanding Eveline will always remain the greater of my masters, the first, and the only, without deference to her failures. I feel unable to judge her in her grandeur that is yet such a solitary confinement to this world and its losses. If anyone thinks that Eveline is less of a failure than I am, this person is mistaken, and that´s where all our strength lies. The philosophy of Auschwitz is not a philosophy, it is a constant testimony that can only be superseded with one´s own death. This testimony is not a concept or a content, it´s just a fragile idea about a possibility of something that we don´t know yet. But Daisy, she´s nothing of a philosopher – a lecturer in Icelandic; she´s willing to go as far as to make a case for me so that I can actually go and study… that´s a lot more than what Eveline would be willing to do, she wouldn´t even bother to write a recommendation letter for me, or what´s worse, she wouldn´t even bother to tell me personally that she wouldn´t write it for some reason. Is there any philosophical misgiving worse than not trusting a pupil? Yet my deference doesn´t change. We know the facts, we learnt them by heart, from the great masters; the weight of their teachings cannot be emasculated even by their own vicarious indifference.

This is also a statement for freedom for myself and not freedom as in freedom from religion: From this point on I might be also able to choose my life, to toy with Christianity for a bit longer, to turn away from Judaism for a lot longer, to rejoice in the world and also to be poignantly critical about it. To be embarrassed and taken aback at the same time and about the same world, to turn oneself radically to the pleasures of that world and yet to decry the complacency of instrumental pleasures. Now I get that it is not freedom what I discuss but uncertainty, possibility and aporia. I definitely believe in a God, but I don´t know exactly how I do it or under which premises, because I stand for the most secular aspirations of a modern soul, breaking through the boundaries of identity politics of gender, religion, nation, discipline, etc. venturing into the aporia of speculation. Although this secularity might signal more of a Christian vocation than a philosophical instinct; a Christian vocation tainted and poisoned by a very contemptuous Judaism, an orphan Judaism learnt from the mouths of other men without any wisdom to offer than their own bodies, and learnt from the drunk and excited movements of Christian lovers. The Christian vocation could live up to the most ascetic and anti-modernistic standards, lest it be not for the philosophy of Auschwitz.

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