I’m sorry, anonymous reader; it has been nearly five months since my last confession. It has been eventful, as most long stretches are, but it has not been particularly worth writing about. As I have already alluded to in my previous posts, my thoughts about the nature of humanity and the universe are currently eclipsed by soon-to-be unfashionable Russian literary critics and still-in-vogue French theorists, who may have overstayed their welcome. Still, I have found pockets of human insight - duly circled in heavy pen strokes – in my blitz through the European intellectual landscape. I have been most drawn to those who posit the reality of an encounter with a person rather than an encounter with a text; unfortunately and understandably, the person is often obscured by heavy verbal foliage, flourishes, polemics, and the like; still, much of what had been dim has like a sea fog slowly diffused back into the ether with the coming of day. In terms of disenchantment, there is little if any ‘passion’ as I had previously felt – my position remains unchanged, or perhaps only un-diagnosed [or worse, misdiagnosed], as I have not had the time to distill my thoughts.
Still, I am moving past the narrative-less narrative, the one which posits a non-existent frame as a true model for reality. There is beauty and an enchanting presence in the world, but only with an askew glance and a bit of effort. Once one moves behind the lie of the photograph [in other words, past its documenting and deliberate aestheticizing], there is the pleroma so well-known from our Gnostic ancestors. It is not accessible in the sense that we can analyze it, only in the sense that we are it, or at least, we are a part of it. I hope this does not strike you as some Buddhist-Hindu mumbo-jumbo [refracted through Western eyes], but only and simply as an affirmation of life and will.
Relationships are both clear and complicated; no doubt, clarity only exposes the complications, and does not resolve them.
I hope to write more regularly this summer, which has begun already with a hard self-imposed schedule. Tomorrow, I will visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I wish you could join me.
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Whenever I think I’m taking the moral high ground, I realize there’s no such thing, and that I do exactly what I criticize others of doing. Not to the same degree, usually, but just to the point at which I realize I am defenseless against my own criticisms. There is here a strange alchemy of self-righteousness, tinged by my own sense of justice, and a bewilderment that I could be so blind to myself.
I also think there is here a better way of understanding “sin,” not as a metaphysical miasma or virus, but according to its “width” and “depth.” In the real world of accidents and unforeseen outcomes, a suspicion of “the good” is also necessary to move forward. I think one true thing that Christianity has been right all along is that we all live in this, this “sin.” I recall a famous Buddhist story about why the dead do not come back to the living; it is because the world is shit; who would want to jump into a sewer? Because our good intentions are silent and our good actions echo into the dark hallways of the future, there must be some way to move forward.
This is where Nietzsche may actually be, wonder of wonders, employed by Christians. The myth of striving forward into a dark, iron world, that myth of the iron will, the noble heart, except our weapon is not some fantasy of superiority (only a fool believes in that), but love and goodwill. We should be militantly good, militantly loving, tempered and sharpened by the “shit” of it all, rather than cowed by it. The will to power transformed into will to life abounding.
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I went to my third funeral today. On the day I left Philly, my dad told me to pack a suit. She had died only a week before Christmas. I had met her perhaps only four times in my life; she was my step-great-aunt, but I did not even know her name until today. That’s the way it is with Korean culture; names of your elders are taboo. Throughout the funeral, I realized again that it’s not the dead who suffer, but the living. Men age a decade in a week when their beloved lies dead.
She sounded like a fascinating person. She had been born in China, to a Korean partisan family fleeing the Japanese occupation. She moved to the States to marry the man of her dreams (if only romance still wove its charm like so) and attended Berkeley in the 60′s, at the height of the hippie era. One of her Berkeley peers spoke today, and chastised her for dying before her. The dead remain ready to hear, and answer, it seems. She spoke of their pretending to be pseudo-hippies and intellectuals in the international house. Her pictures flashed on the screen, and her face shown of a hearty exuberance. It was hard to see her as a hippie. She seemed so Korean.
There is something about the orderliness of the funeral service that acts as a formal constraint to the outburst of overflowing emotions. One is permitted to weep, but not too much. To chastise and berate, but not any more than you would normally. There are no questions of meaning; they would only cheapen the ceremony. A great deal of not-asking happens at a funeral.
I was reminded at the funeral how much for Korean churches, corporate prayer serves as stamps, seals of proof, that we have attended this funeral, that we have paid homage to the deceased and to her kin. The creed is not just an expression of faith; it preserves a deeper instinct, to remind her of her own death, and that this world is no longer fit for her. We affirm our lives and her death through the act of praying, and not the prayer itself.
I should visit my mom before leaving for Philly again.
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The intelligent man who is proud of his intelligence is like the condemned man who is proud of his large cell. – Weil
As beautiful as Weil is on paper, we should be reminded again that she too was human, and so, her words also has its roots in very basic human functions: to eat, to love, to communicate, to feel. This quote above, disembodied as it is, framed, and sacralized as artifact, finds its roots in Weil’s relationship with her brother, a mathematical prodigy. Weil’s own feelings of inadequacy perhaps led her to internalize such feelings into a rejection of the soteriology of intelligence. Indeed, intelligence or reason no longer leads one anywhere, not to any paradox in which one might reflect back on his path, but it is bound, circumscribed, non-teleological.
In this way, there is no such thing as deep knowledge; all knowledge, once it is caught and stored, also perishes in its transformation into a thing to be manipulated and exploited in the service of more knowledge. The momentum that drives this is interest, which too is empty. What is intelligence then but the efficiency and clarity in which discrete datum can be employed to construct a larger, more ornate, and depending on the person, a more elegant solution. But, there is sometimes nothing more cogent than the talk of a madman. There must be a mapping onto reality the things that one fancies in his head, a verification that what one says is indeed true.
It seems that I did not know what I was talking about, O Socrates.
And yet you spoke so beautifully, Agathon.
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On the surface, “influence,” as we see it, seems very easy to understand. There was a catalyst, and a reaction to that catalyst, b follows a. Simple. But, reality rarely adheres to simple mono-directional concatenations of causality. Rather, it becomes necessary to investigate the underlying “structures of thought” that might in fact be informing both parties involved. With similar mental furniture, there is bound to be similar questions, and even similar reactions to the issue at hand. If this is the case, can we really say much about “influence?” What must first be demonstrated is that there is sufficient distance between both parties that could warrant the usage of “influence.”
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