Sunday 21 September 2014

Don's Dawn, from New York Eye and Ear Control

‘Don's Dawn’, from New York Eye and Ear Control (1964), by Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, John Tchicai, Roswell Rudd, Gary Peacock & Sunny Murray.

Courtesy of Juno Records.

Saturday 19 October 2013


Intolerable: reading about other men's despair makes my despair more tolerable.

Great men's great despair against my measly little one.

A "loneliness that is experienced together" (Blanchot). And the observation, still by Blanchot, that whoever uses the phrase "I am alone" is necessarily comical.

I have no idea who first "used" the line "this loneliness won't leave me alone", but at least Otis Redding used it, before many others, such as the band Portishead.

On 'Depressive Realism' II

Depressive realism plus narcissism: I don't deserve myself.

A moment later, taking up Kafka's diaries, I come across these two subsequent notes ("Das dritte Oktavheft", Nov. 21, 1917):

Das Böse weiß vom Guten, aber das Gute vom Bösen nicht.

Selbsterkenntnis hat nur das Böse.

After another moment, this one (Jan. 14, 1918):

Es gibt nur zweierlei: Wahrheit und Lüge.
Wahrheit ist unteilbar, kann sich also selbst nicht erkennen; wer sie erkennen will, muß Lüge sein.

Sunday 4 August 2013

A voice from the desert: reading notes on Levinas's Difficile liberté

Man is not a tree and humankind is not a forest

Emmanuel Levinas dismisses the metaphor of rootedness:

L’homme, après tout, n’est pas un arbre et l’humanité n’est pas une forêt.

For Levinas, the “notion of Israel” is not coextensive with the historical, geografical or geopolitical borders of the state of Israel. His “essays on judaism” actually provide a strong argument against the political misuse of the name of Israel. For judaism, in contrast to what a certain “great contemporary philosopher” teaches about rootedness and the world, it is not the “houses, temples and bridges” that let the world become intelligible, but the face of the other; to put it briefly, being-with-others rather than being-in-the-world.

L’homme commence dans le désert où il habite des tentes, où il adore Dieu dans un temple qui se transporte.

In the Talmud, Levinas maintains, the notion of Israel remains separate from all historical, national, local and racial determinations. This separation implies a freedom with regard to all landscapes and architectural monuments, all “these heavy and sedentary things that one is tempted to prefer to human beings”. With respect to this freedom, rootedness (enracinement) becomes secondary, compared with other forms of fidelity and responsibility; other more vast horizons than the village and a given human society emerge for the vision that presupposes a conscious engagement.

An extreme conscience

Le judaïsme est une extrême conscience.

The extreme nature of this conscience – both consciousness and moral conscience – is, to use words that Derrida might use to counter-sign Levinas, a confrontation with aporia, a desert kind of pathlessness, and the undecidable.

Engagement, disengagement

Même lorsque l’acte est raisonnable, lorsque l’acte est juste, il comporte une violence. […] Voilà aussi pourquoi l’engagement nécessaire est si difficile au juif, voilà pourquoi le juif ne peut pas s’engager sans se désengager aussitôt, voilà pourquoi il lui reste toujours cet arrière-goût de violence, même quand il s’engage pour une cause juste […]

  1.  Emmanuel Levinas, Difficile liberté Essais sur le judaïsme, Troisième édition revue et corrigée (Paris: Albin Michel, cop. 1976, repr. 2012), 45.
  2.  Difficile liberté, 44.
  3.  Difficile liberté, 44-45.
  4.  Difficile liberté, 19.
  5.  Difficile liberté, 125, 126.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Roger Laporte sur la vie et l’écriture

« Alors que la vie ordinaire précède le récit que l’on peut en faire, j’ai parié qu’une certaine vie n’est ni antérieure, ni extérieure á écrire » — Roger Laporte

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Against segregationist relativism

A multivalent, multicultural society should not be structured like a honeycomb whose cells are isolated one against the other, so that none of the individual or group-related values gets challenged, but a society with a multitude of values that are subject to debate and exchange, a multitude of cultures that are exposed to the influence of each other, a society that is subjected to nothing else than the radical idea of a “democracy to come”.

Muqarnas are stalactite or honeycomb ornament that adorn cupolas or corbels of a building

"Muqarnas are stalactite or honeycomb ornament that adorn cupolas or corbels of a building." A Year in Fez — The photo was found through an image search with the terms arabesque honeycomb commons

Thursday 17 January 2013

Note to self: might dig into this some day

"... l'amitié, elle aussi, tend à devenir totalitaire." (Jean-Paul Sartre)

This tendency towards a "totalitarianism" or totalisation, even in questions of friendship, is something I don't quite approve of in Sartre. I don't think he's joking in his rather brutal reply to Camus.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Tracing Romanticism

An account — travelogue — of my recent sentimental journey through Schwaben and Schwarzwald was published in the online journal Mustekala on 12-12-12, both in Finnish and in English, as slightly different versions.

Tübingen, river Neckar, with Hölderlinturm in the background

Saturday 3 November 2012

How do you sleep at night?

There is no pillow as filthy as a clear conscience.

Image from Wikipedia.

Thursday 16 August 2012

René Char, « Aucun oiseau... »

« Aucun oiseau n’a le cœur de chanter dans un buisson de questions. » (René Char)
»Kein Vogel, der singen möchte in einem Gebüsche von Fragen.« (Nachgedichtet von Paul Celan)
“No bird has the heart to sing in a thicket of questions.” (Translated by Susan Sontag)

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Kafka and Celan on "writing as a form of prayer"

The cover of Illuminating Darkness

"'Schreiben als Form des Gebets': An Impossible Form of Apostrophe? : 'P. S' on a fragment by Kafka as adopted by Celan." My article with that impossible title is also online now (PDF, 6 MB). It appeared five years ago in the volume edited by Päivi Mehtonen, Illuminating Darkness: Approaches to Obscurity and Nothingness in Literature (Helsinki: Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, 2007), 187–207.

The article contains, as its most important ingredient, my reading of Celan's poem "Wirk nicht voraus", different from another discussion of the same poem in my doctoral dissertation (see below) and more detailed.

Saturday 30 June 2012

"... et notre vrai moi n'est pas tout entier en nous"

Rousseau juge de Jean-Jacques (1782), see
"Notre plus douce existence est relative et collective, et notre vrai moi n’est pas tout entier en nous." – "Rousseau" in Rousseau juge de Jean-Jacques.*

*Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Rousseau juge de Jean-Jaques [sic]. Dialogues, texte présenté par Michel Foucault (Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1962), 156.

Thursday 28 June 2012

My article on Celan and Heidegger

My article on the encounter between Paul Celan and Martin Heidegger, entitled "'Undecidably Equivocal': On 'Todtnauberg' and Forgiveness", is now also available online. It was originally published in the volume The Event of Encounter in Art and Philosophy: Continental Perspectives, co-edited by Kuisma Korhonen and myself, in 2010 by Gaudeamus Helsinki University Press.

Saturday 9 June 2012

Many have no speech (2)

A voice breaks apart from voicelessness, which is not always silence, which is not always absence of sound or noise and need not even be an absence of voice; the voicelessness in which “many have no speech” can not always be “given voice”. Sometimes it is the breaking apart that must be heeded, an irruption, eruption, interruption.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Thursday 17 May 2012

Testing, testing...

This video gets stuck at 1m56s at its original address; let's see if it streams better as embedded... It appears to do so!

I was just listening to Peeter Uuskyla and Peter Brötzmann's wonderful duo album, Born Broke, and went YouTubeing for more of Uuskyla's drumming.

Monday 14 May 2012

The Beauty and the Beast, or the Beasty and the Beaut

Beauty itself is either

  • the most beautiful, or
  • not beautiful at all.

The good itself is either

  • the best, or
  • no good.

But why "either – or"? Why not "both – and"?

Sunday 1 April 2012

Ceci n'est pas un ...

Cf. René Magritte's painting Ceci n'est pas une pomme.

The font is Type-Ra by Junkohanhero.

This quote from Magritte was inspired by the exhibition – which I've so far only read about – Text Art – Poetry for the Eye in Tampere, Finland.

See also my blog in Finnish.

Friday 9 March 2012

Friday 23 December 2011

Scandalon (III), or on the failure – and necessity – of iconoclasm

In the very heart of Christianity, not only a humiliated prophet but a suffering god, a wounded god which sounds like an oxymoron; not only nativity, the becoming of flesh, but also mortality, flesh in its most vulnerable unbecomingness.

Copied from

Unfortunately, I have no copyright information on this photograph; it is copied from another blog, A Buddhist Catholic, and slightly cropped to remove a thin frame. – See also artworks by Grünewald, Congdon, etc. etc.

Yet, in a polyvalent society and multicultural world, discretion in image-making should be an ethical prerequisite...

Sunday 11 December 2011

Saved for later...

Le poème moderne est d'autant moins la forme sensible de l'Idée que, bien plutôt, c'est le sensible qui se présente comme nostalgie subsistante, et impuissante, de l'idée poétique. – Alain Badiou, Petit manuel d'inesthétique (Paris: Seuil, 1998), 38.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Re-reading de Man. Difficult to keep the pace, though...

Quand on lit trop vite ou trop doucement on n'entend rien. – Pascal

This is the motto of Paul de Man's Allegories of Reading and it certainly applies to reading de Man himself, too. But I find myself enjoying the effort more than before.

Saturday 10 September 2011


Physically upright but morally crooked – a strategic phrase to unlink a systematic chain of unwarranted or dubious connections – not a metaphor, or a pair of metaphors, but a counter-metaphor, a backward twist, reductio ad absurdum.

. . .

Yet, "physically upright" was never just "physical", pure and simple, in the first place. "Upright" was never an exclusively "physical" concept, and there is no such thing as an exclusively "physical" concept. This is not to say that "uprightness" was always already "moral", but rather that the perception of "something upright" would not take place without "theory", or "ideas" and concepts. "The visible is pregnant with the invisible" (Merleau-Ponty, positively commenting on Heidegger's refutation of the concept of metaphor).


Daß es wirklich einfache Bedeutungen gibt, lehrt das unzweifelhafte Beispiel Etwas. Das Vostellungserlebnis, das sich im Verständnis des Wortes vollzieht, ist sicherlich komponiert, die Bedeutung ist aber ohne jeden Schatten von Zusammensetzung.

– Edmund Husserl, Logische Untersuchungen. II/1: Untersuchungen zur Phänomenologie und Theorie der Erkenntnis, siebte Auflage (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1993), 296.

I am marking this passage just because I find it powerful and fascinating (as I see it, intellectual insight need not be severed from aesthetic pleasure), and a sort of condensation of Husserl's critique of psychologism.

Thursday 8 September 2011

A note on forgiveness

[...] le prochain, mon frère, l’homme, infiniment moins autre que l’absolument autre, est, en un certain sense, plus autre que Dieu : pour obtenir son pardon le jour du Kippour, je dois au préalable obtenir qu’il s’apaise.

– Levinas, Quatre lectures talmudiques (Paris: Minuit, cop. 1968, repr. 2002), 36-37.

An approximation in English: My fellow man, my brother (yes, it is a good question to ask: why always or most often in Levinas the masculine gender, why "brother" and not "sister"?), the human being, infinitely "less other" than the absolutely other, is, in a certain sense, "more other" than God. To obtain God's forgiveness on the Day of Atonement, it is required that we are at peace with our fellow man.

Doesn't this mean that the "cultivation of intimacy" – whose preëminent figure is the intimacy with God, in prayer, for instance, or the silent negotiation with one's conscience – is always, always already interrupted by "a third party"?

Sunday 4 September 2011

"To a green thought in a green shade"

Reading – very slowly and too absent-mindedly – Husserl's Logische Untersuchungen, the two verses that end the following stanza of Marvell's "The Garden" came to my mind, as they often do:

Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness :
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find ;
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas ;
Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade.

Green is not green – the green, namely greenness, being-green, is not itself "coloured" – a Heideggerean reminder. The green of all greens is not green. Colour is colourless.

Helen Frankenthaler, A Green Thought in a Green Shade (1981)

An abstract expressionism that seeks for the essence of colour – say, green, the green of green, the green-ness of green – is therefore a splendid failure.

Emphasis on "splendid".

* * *

A green thought must inhabit – take repose in – a green shade, "withdraw into its happiness" there, and acknowledge its constitutive différance.

* * *

Every green thought that takes repose in a green shade, every representation of "green", is an allegory of "green".

Thursday 25 August 2011

Bad Taste?

Photo by Dave Branfield / Brewdog

See the article "It's 55 percent and wrapped in roadkill, is this the world's most 'shocking' beer?" ( for more information about the image. A quote:

The decision to wrap the bottle in a dead animal was taken to indicate how special the beer was, blending brewing, taxidermy and "art."

– – –*

I wouldn't mind being turned into a coffee pot warmer after my death, but nobody asked the squirrel. I have mixed feelings about this kind of recycling: I think respecting a dead body is not completely irrational, and it doesn't seem to me that the brewery actually pays respect to the poor beasts (whether they manage to indicate the specialty of the "beer" with this gimmick is another question).

It's all the same shit these days. It's all raw matter, indifferent when it's dead. But in a sustainable culture, even shit deserves respect: fæces will be recycled as compost and thereby turned into "humanure", a soil amendment – earth to earth – and not just flushed away with precious fresh water.

* I will update this post later, since there's a lot to say about "materialist" indifference.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Said an agnostic to an atheist...

Call my disposition faith and I will call yours blasphemy.

Thursday 21 July 2011

An aknowledged illusion

L'homme est l'être qui ne peut sortir de soi, qui ne connaît les autres qu'en soi, et, en disant le contraire, ment.
Man is the creature that cannot emerge from himself, that knows his fellows only in himself; when he asserts the contrary, he is lying.*

Paradoxically or not, acknowledging this quasi-solipsistic principle is a prerequisite of an ethical relation to other people, other minds, hearts and bodies. Another paradox is that we can learn to acknowledge this truth – about a lie – through fiction, itself a sort of lie. Literature constitutes the type of lying that, while pretending to penetrate the surface of another man's being, or while, explicitly or implicitly, manifesting different variations of this theme of penetration (or non-penetration), also maintains its status as a "lie" of sorts, an illusion "conscious" of itself (this "consciousness" is not "someone's" consciousness, and thus not really a consciousness in the first place; it can also be a manifestation in spite of itself, "ultra-subjective").

* Marcel Proust, Albertine disparue (Paris: Gallimard, 1999), 34. Trans. C.K. Scott-Moncrieff.

Monday 18 July 2011

"Beschneide das Wort"

Circumcision, brit milah, at once both incision and excision: a sign, symbol, sumbolon, token of participation, a letter avant la lettre, a word drawn (like you draw blood, and not only “like”) from an infant.

(A marginal note to the chapter on "The Tropic of Circumcision".)

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Freedom to be ambiguous

"Taking centre stage is Superman with his distinctive red cape and blue suit. To the left is Santa Claus and to the right Ronald McDonald, the mascot of the fast-food giant McDonalds, and the Joker also makes an appearance." – Emily Allen, Daily Mail Online Tues. 21 June, 2011

The article does not mention the fact that the "red flag" carried by the soldiers has been turned into Stars and Stripes. A "liberation" replaced by another "liberation"...

I guess many people would "read" in(to) this graffiti a celebration of the freedom to go to MacDonald's. I would rather "read" in(to) it a celebration of another freedom: the freedom to be ambiguous. Not political and economic "liberation", that is, but an artistic liberation – more constitutive for democracy than the introduction of "free" market economy, as I see it.

Saturday 18 June 2011

"Love Will Tear Us Apart"*

To compose a collage of sorts, a note for later elaboration, I will take two very valuable quotes from J. Hillis Miller's excellent book, On Literature. The first concerns J.L. Austin's speech act theory, primarily as regards its implications for literature understood as "performative" (112):

The second concerns a very basic ethical principle – "basic" in the sense of both very simple and utterly important – that has crucial implications for reading literature:

Miller makes no explicit connection between these two passages belonging to subsequent chapters dealing with more or less distinct issues. However, I would like to suggest one.
What do we say – what do I say, what do you say – when we say "I love you"? I just heard someone telling about her youth in the eighties, as a "goth" or, in other words, as part of a generation that was both "neoromantic" and "postmodern", and about the ironic consciousness that was an integral part of that identity. The way of saying – or avoiding to say – "I love you", ironically distantiated by adding clauses like "as a poet would say", would be a telling example of "postmodern language consciousness". It would be easy to dismiss such a word-play, if not only as a childish pose, then at least as refusal to commit oneself – to commit oneself to "anything", since "I love you" is just a sort of extreme example of a phrase that should mean everything but has been completely worn away in its promiscuous usage by all kinds of industries – but perhaps this token of "neoromantic" irony implies a deeper motivation?
Perhaps the phrase "I love you" does not (just) express an affect, and perhaps responding "I love you" does not mean that we share the affect, that I "know exactly" what you mean by the phrase, and feel the same way too? As a matter of fact, neither you or I can know exactly what the other feels, or feel exactly the same "thing"; an affect cannot be shared "exactly", or even if we somehow could "participate" in the "same" affect, we could not know this participation.
Perhaps we could think of the phrase "I love you" in a different way, then? Not (just) as expressing and sharing an affect, but otherwise?

* The title of this note comes from Joy Division, of course.

Why philosophy?

Thinking is not just an activity, but a passion – a passion for that which is and remains to be thought.

Philosophy, as passion, is not – perhaps not – essentially mastery, but a vulnerability.

* * *

You could replace "philosophy", above, with "philology" – see Werner Hamacher's and Thomas Schestag's recent "theses" on philology – and, perhaps, "thinking" with "reading" and "thought" with "read" (that which "is and remains to be read" is "something" that certainly "is and remains to be thought", but some people might pretend that "that which is and remains to be thought" is not always something "to be read").

I am re-reading Octavio Paz's Children of the Mire, and the following in it:

Critical passion: excessive, impassioned love of criticism and its precise devices for disconstructions,* but also criticism in love with its object, ...

* "Disconstructions": I don't have the Spanish original at hand (while, on the other hand, the English translation is rather an English version, constituting Paz's Norton Lectures of 1972), but it would by no means be far-fetched to read "deconstructions", provided that we forget, for a moment, that deconstruction is not a device, let alone a set of "deconstructions" as a set of "devices".

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Virginia Woolf: "Words fail me"


…Words, English words, are full of echoes, of memories, of associations. They have been out and about, on people's lips, in their houses, in the streets, in the fields, for so many centuries. And that is one of the chief difficulties in writing them today – that they are stored with other meanings, with other memories, and they have contracted so many famous marriages in the past. The splendid word "incarnadine," for example – who can use that without remembering "multitudinous seas"? In the old days, of course, when English was a new language, writers could invent new words and use them. Nowadays it is easy enough to invent new words – they spring to the lips whenever we see a new sight or feel a new sensation – but we cannot use them because the English language is old. You cannot use a brand new word in an old language because of the very obvious yet always mysterious fact that a word is not a single and separate entity, but part of other words. Indeed it is not a word until it is part of a sentence. Words belong to each other, although, of course, only a great poet knows that the word "incarnadine" belongs to "multitudinous seas." To combine new words with old words is fatal to the constitution of the sentence. In order to use new words properly you would have to invent a whole new language; and that, though no doubt we shall come to it, is not at the moment our business. Our business is to see what we can do with the old English language as it is. How can we combine the old words in new orders so that they survive, so that they create beauty, so that they tell the truth? That is the question.

And the person who could answer that question would deserve whatever crown of glory the world has to offer. Think what it would mean if you could teach, or if you could learn the art of writing. Why, every book, every newspaper you'd pick up, would tell the truth, or create beauty. But there is, it would appear, some obstacle in the way, some hindrance to the teaching of words. For though at this moment at least a hundred professors are lecturing on the literature of the past, at least a thousand critics are reviewing the literature of the present, and hundreds upon hundreds of young men and women are passing examinations in English literature with the utmost credit, still – do we write better, do we read better than we read and wrote four hundred years ago when we were un-lectured, un-criticized, untaught? Is our modern Georgian literature a patch on the Elizabethan? Well, where then are we to lay the blame? Not on our professors; not on our reviewers; not on our writers; but on words. It is words that are to blame. They are the wildest, freest, most irresponsible, most un-teachable of all things. Of course, you can catch them and sort them and place them in alphabetical order in dictionaries. But words do not live in dictionaries; they live in the mind. If you want proof of this, consider how often in moments of emotion when we most need words we find none. Yet there is the dictionary; there at our disposal are some half-a-million words all in alphabetical order. But can we use them? No, because words do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind. Look once more at the dictionary. There beyond a doubt lie plays more splendid than Antony and Cleopatra; poems lovelier than the Ode to a Nightingale; novels beside which Pride and Prejudice or David Copperfield are the crude bunglings of amateurs. It is only a question of finding the right words and putting them in the right order. But we cannot do it because they do not live in dictionaries; they live in the mind. And how do they live in the mind? Variously and strangely, much as human beings live, ranging hither and thither, falling in love, and mating together. It is true that they are much less bound by ceremony and convention than we are. Royal words mate with commoners. English words marry French words, German words, Indian words, Negro words, if they have a fancy. Indeed, the less we enquire into the past of our dear Mother English the better it will be for that lady's reputation. For she has gone a-roving, a-roving fair maid.

Thus to lay down any laws for such irreclaimable vagabonds is worse than useless. A few trifling rules of grammar and spelling is all the constraint we can put on them. All we can say about them, as we peer at them over the edge of that deep, dark and only fitfully illuminated cavern in which they live – the mind – all we can say about them is that they seem to like people to think before they use them, and to feel before they use them, but to think and feel not about them, but about something different. They are highly sensitive, easily made self-conscious. They do not like to have their purity or their impurity discussed. If you start a Society for Pure English, they will show their resentment by starting another for impure English – hence the unnatural violence of much modern speech; it is a protest against the puritans. They are highly democratic, too; they believe that one word is as good as another; uneducated words are as good as educated words, uncultivated words as good as cultivated words, there are no ranks or titles in their society. Nor do they like being lifted out on the point of a pen and examined separately. They hang together, in sentences, paragraphs, sometimes for whole pages at a time. They hate being useful; they hate making money; they hate being lectured about in public. In short, they hate anything that stamps them with one meaning or confines them to one attitude, for it is their nature to change.

Perhaps that is their most striking peculiarity – their need of change. It is because the truth they try to catch is many-sided, and they convey it by being many-sided, flashing first this way, then that. Thus they mean one thing to one person, another thing to another person; they are unintelligible to one generation, plain as a pikestaff to the next. And it is because of this complexity, this power to mean different things to different people, that they survive. Perhaps then one reason why we have no great poet, novelist or critic writing today is that we refuse to allow words their liberty. We pin them down to one meaning, their useful meaning, the meaning which makes us catch the train, the meaning which makes us pass the examination…

Copied from Star Stuff lest the transcript should perish (i.e. in case the page or blog is deleted).

Thursday 24 March 2011

Scandalon II (another note on typology)

If we can offer our sympathetic imagination even the faintest idea of Abraham's despair, the idea of typology might imply that God's despair is "prefigured" in Abraham's – Abraham's imaginable, unimaginable despair. God's despair: Father's as well as Son's – "Eli Eli lama sabachthani?" – in one person; a figure of utter abandon, a moment of God's most desperate solitude, as the Son of Man – and God – at the same time.

Scandalon (a note on "typology")

I am trying to think about the most extreme of all typologies:* the relation between Abraham's sacrifice and its "antitype" – or, in other words – the sacrifice of Isaac and its "antitype".

I came across a "scandalon" that is, I believe, radically different from the consequence of José Saramago's great novel The Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The scandalon I ended up contemplating resembles, as an extreme scandalon, many others in the Bible, both Old and New Testament; episodes that show God himself showing hesitation, remorse, or other strangely – or perhaps just apparently – "human" characteristics, episodes that Jacques Derrida singled out in several of his writings dealing with, for example, the relation between religion and "the origin of literature".

I would refer to this extreme scandalon by the words God's suffering or the "passion" of God; but it is not only the Son's passion. If we take the typology "seriously enough" (Kierkegaard would probably detest the assumption that there can be an "enough" in this "case"), we cannot overrule the suffering of the Father – a moment of mad suffering, a mad passion, incomprehensible, impossible.

The mystics say that God's drunkenness is infinitely more sober than human sobriety, and that God's folly is infinitely wiser than human wisdom.

I am probably not the first to have thought – or tried to think – along these lines, about this most extreme of all typologies. In any case, I am not a theologian, but rather one of the so-called "free thinkers", one who tries to commit his freedom to think the unthinkable. An agnostic of sorts, I guess. (I'm not sure if I could call myself an "atheist", because the atheists that I know would probably refuse to even think about such a theme as "God's suffering". Some of them might even deny that Saramago, for example, is a real atheist.)

P.S. This blog post probably just reveals a shameful lack of erudition, but I'll expose myself to this threat. Please comment.


* The ellipsis is intentional: I would not say "the most extreme case", "the most extreme example", for example. It is not just an "example" among others.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Eichendorff: "Dichterlos"

Rearranging bookshelves at home, I grasped a volume by Joseph von Eichendorff and opened it at random – this is what the aleatory gesture brought before my eyes:


Für alle muß vor Freuden
Mein treues Herze glühn,
Für alle muß ich leiden,
Für alle muß ich blühn,
Und wenn die Blüten Früchte haben,
Da haben sie mich längst begraben.

Could not find a translation... but will edit this post later and add one, in case I find one. If you know one or have one, feel free to comment.

In any case – can we avoid the pun? A poet's lot – fate, destiny, Dichterlos – is, or will be, a world without the poet, dichterlos. A poet's lot is a poem, eine eine-für-alle-Allegorie, poetless.

A poet's time is out of joint (los).

* * *

"Dichterlos" was set to music by Othmar Schoeck (Elegie Op. 36/23).

Sunday 13 February 2011

"I don't know what I want but I know how to get it"


... Don't you know that you can count me out – in ...

I got a very prompt and apt comment to the previous (scroll down, if you will – or try to live & read without the illusion of "linearity") post in Facebook, and would like to add my friend Gary's comment as such, with my own reply, in the form of a screenshot – *click* to view it full-size –

You say you want a revolution...

But on a second thought – see my previous post, "Street Fighting Dressman[n]" – maybe we "liberal democrats"* should just cherish the fact that no single political tendency can harness truly "popular music"! Neither the left, nor the right. Popular music is "democratic" to the point of utter disobedience and disloyalty – and maybe we should just affirm that? Maybe we should just affirm the fact that "Street Fighting Man" and "Sympathy for the Devil" remain the songs that cause goose bumps, even when we smirk at their commercial application? Maybe we should even affirm the scribbling of "Rock the Casbah" on the side of a bomb meant to – well, "rock" the casbah – you do know how the soldiers scream "let's rock'n'roll" when they go out to kill?

"I know it's only rock & roll, but I like it" – and hate it – and...

* "Liberal democrats"? What was I thinking? — I tend to describe my political position as "red, gold and green", "gold" being — not money, wealth or capital, but — an ingredient of what I would call aesthetico-ethical dis-engagement...

Saturday 12 February 2011

Street Fighting Dressman*

»In one of the campfire scenes late in the 2007 documentary Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, a Granada friend states that Strummer wept when he heard that the phrase "Rock the Casbah" was written on an American bomb that was to be detonated on Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War« (Wikipedia, "Rock the Casbah").

Little room left for revolution in rock & roll. A form of music that can be appropriated, violently or not, by the most conservative circles, often for political and/or commercial ends.

Yet, maybe there remains hope for a revolution that makes room for rock & roll and Joe Strummer's tears – pop music is, anyway, popular music, the people's music, even if avant garde aficionado's like me tend to prefer forms that are more inappropriable – inappropriable, not by the masses, but by the conservative elite.

Can't help but love the song. To the brink of weeping, myself.

* For the title of this post, see this ad.

Monday 6 September 2010

Norman Howard & Joe Phillips: Burn Baby Burn (ESP-Disk' 4033)

If you want to experience music as an outstanding form of listening, hear how these four virtually unknown musicians fill the space by their conversation – collective improvisation at its best – on this 1968 recording by Norman Howard, Joe Philips, Walter Cliff and Corney Milsap: Burn Baby Burn.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Many Have No Speech

Ernst Meister: "Viele..." (from Sage vom Ganzen den Satz, 1972)

haben keine
Wär ich nicht selbst
satt von Elend,
ich bewegte
die Zunge nicht.
Translated by Tatjana M. Warren with Robert L. Crosson:
have no
Had I not
my fill of misery,
I would not
move my tongue.*

Good verse is sometimes good because it provokes certain questions that are almost objections. An unquenchable thirst for the words of a silent partner.

One's "fill of misery" – would it not rather render utterly speechless? Or is the "fill" a saturation of such a sort that it comes after all the miseries, a deluge of misery that leaves nothing but the speech – words totally transformed in their function and depth – or depthlessness?


How to speak for the sake of the other who has no speech, without pretending to speak for the other (or: in place of the other – you cannot – even if you cannot avoid it, either)? A question – perhaps without an answer – that remains crucial for democracy.


* Quoted from Michael Mantler's website:

Tuesday 2 March 2010

How to Avoid Avoiding to Speak?

How to speak so that one makes way for silence, instead of "giving voice"?

How to avoid speaking in such a manner?

Reading Gertrude Stein's "Poetry and Grammar" (1934)

The paperback just arrived from the UK, with a slightly torn cover but cost only £ 1.51 plus shipping.

Asked myself what's the difference between an article and an essay, or an academic lecture and a poet's. Argumentative rigour against freedom? But what if the subject, theme, topic requires freedom in order to argue with rigour?

Found an answer, reading further.
And what, said I, well he said, when a train was going by at a terrific pace and we waved a hat the engine driver could make a bell quite carelessly go ting ting ting, the way anybody playing at a thing could do, it was not if you know what I mean professional he said.*

An allegorical answer. I am myself using poetic license now, by not replying to it, but leaving it and letting it resonate by itself.

Another quote, the author quoting herself and making good use of the quoted allegory, this exemplary resonance being from How to Write:
Battles are named because there have been hills which have made a hill in a battle.**

The last thing I would like to do is to mix the genres, to encourage "essayistic style" or "poetic license" in academic writing. Fortunately, in doing literary criticism, we can always quote the poets and still keep the registers strictly apart from each other. It is through an encounter with the other that one can learn one's own (a liberal paraphrase from Hölderlin via Heidegger).
* Lectures in America (London: Virago, 1988), p. 225.
** P. 226.

Tuesday 2 February 2010

On "Depressive Realism"

A quote from the Wikipedia article on Depressive realism:
Dykman et al. (1989) argued that, although depressive people make more accurate judgments about having no control in situations where in fact they have no control, they also believe they have no control when in fact they do; and so their perceptions are not more accurate overall.

Huh? If someone believes (s)he has no control when (s)he actually does, does (s)he really have control and reason to believe (s)he's in charge of the situation?

This brings Kafka to my mind. Not primarily his novels and short stories themselves, but Max Brod's anecdote about the seriously ill writer asking his friend to "burn it all". Fortunately for us, Brod had a more accurate perception.

Or maybe it is not a question of "control" in the first place? Kafka knew he wasn't "in control" and, still according to Brod's testimony, he was terribly concerned about hurting the posteriority with, precisely, the accuracy of his perceptions.

Saturday 16 January 2010


Thanks to Kimmo Kallio for the link to the article about Sarcasm Mark, ending with the following comment: "The symbol currently costs $1.99 to download – a price that many may think deserves a SarcMark of its own" (

Notice also the tiny (R) sign. By linking the image here, I'm probably violating a copyright... so they might charge me a lot more than $1,99...

(Voir aussi: lien interne)

P.S. Check out also the comments to Telegraph's article... heehee...

Monday 14 December 2009

Hundreds of Unreads

...and by the word "unreads" I mean unread pages, books, why not even e-mails (which seems to be a legitimate context of using "unread" as a noun; there is a Linux script that can show you an "unreads summary," as I just learned by googling the word "unreads").

I drift from Wayne C. Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction, a very important "read" for my teaching as it seems (and I'm afraid I managed to leave it unread as a student), to another book still mostly unread, Heidegger's Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik: Welt – Endlichkeit – Einsamkeit, and find yet another thing which I could use on my lecture course, inasmuch as I can legitimize a philosophical detour (and I can, when it is a question of Romanticism), namely Heidegger's reading of a fragment by Novalis that I already knew but had never really understood, at least not in Heidegger's sense:
Die Philosophie ist eigentlich Heimweh, ein Trieb überall zu Hause zu Sein.

And once again I experience what reading means, at its best (although this is not the only "best" condition of reading): a constant invocation to write, make notes, anticipate with hypotheses in the form of scribbled notes, sometimes just marking an important passage...

So, once again, I must leave just an indication, continue reading and anticipate the time of writing, or the moment of speaking about the importance of an insight, translating it into a form that suits the lecture course, concerning what was revolutionary in the Romantics' fragmentary epiphanies about literature and philosophy – and why Heidegger's obviously reductive way of reading the fragment, abstracting from Heimweh (homesickness) to Stimmung (attunement or, to use late 18th or early 19th century vocabulary, "sentiment"), Grundstimmung, is actually – perhaps, still – a legitimate response to it.

Friday 27 November 2009

A Word From an Amateur Translator

Translators of poetry do not work for the poet. They work for poetry. Their job is to ensure that poetry takes place in the void left by the disappearance of the original poem, which itself indicates the absence of the author. Traces of withdrawal.

* * *

Did I just say this? Or am I recapitulating – translating – something someone already said?

* * *

Love in a void... [A later comment: I was quoting my earworm at the moment of writing the note. It was Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Love in a Void."]

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Wrong models – a brief note

"Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful" (George E. P. Box). Well put – but essentially, all we have is "models" and all "usefulness" is based on having "models" of sorts – life, as we know it, would be very hard or impossible without them... So what about "wrong", then? It seems to imply a certain "correspondence theory of truth": since there is never an exact correspondence between a model (a description of various levels of complexity) and the "state of affairs" (or the "thing itself"), all models are "wrong". But perhaps it is "wrong" to expect such an exact correspondence as a measure of truth? Our observations are always more or less "modelled"... A drawing of a landscape is usually not dismissed as "wrong" because it shows only contours and shades, omitting an indefinite amount of details... Its "model" (in another sense of the word) is something like the essentials of observation and not the natural landscape "as such".

Thursday 8 October 2009

My "Rosebud"?

The smell of clean, damp, slightly frozen sheets, taken from the washing line on a crispy morning. Helping my sister, perhaps – I am not sure about that, but the obscure image came to me suddenly this morning – to carry the laundry into the house to melt and dry. Maybe.

But maybe I just try to complement the strangely material tissue of this memory, consisting of the pleasant smell and its associations, the slanted late autumn sunlight, a dialogue between coolness and warmth, with a situation whose two personal agents are my sister and I.

I guess the most essential part of my memory consists of such an "imperfect", frail tissue, half-dreamt but no less real. Reaching towards the immemorial beyond, beneath memory.

Tuesday 22 September 2009


Dear reader, sister, brother. Whenever you feel offended or provoked by anything published in this "personal notebook of sorts" – whose title is "Cultivation of Intimacy", nevertheless – please notice the conspicuous absence of the irony mark,* implying that the author might mean something totally different than what you first think he means. Or maybe not.

* For the irony mark, see below or the article in Wikipedia.

"Forget about the brotherly and otherly love..."

From a Facebook conversation: "... the (originally Platonic?) notion of Evil as absence of Good or absence of reason, knowledge, etc., bothers me. Could we not say, with at least as much justification or maybe even more, that there is radical Evil (a propensity to Evil, etc.) and that the Good [worldly, sublunar, secular good, the only good we non-believers have knowledge of – and I don't dare to claim there is no Good beyond knowledge] means just a conspicuous absence of Evil? And that the banal evil (e.g. der Fall Eichmann) is actually built on a cultured system of evasion and excuses that desperately try to convince us of the absence of 'pure evil'? That 'good' consists of such cultured evasions? That our culture consists of such evasions? And I'm not suggesting that being "cultured" is bad, quite to the contrary... And I concede that this idea is just an inversion of a metaphysical hierarchy and, as such, remains imprisoned by the 'closure'... By using the word (verb) 'cultured' I do not want to suggest that Evil comes naturally, and so on and so forth. By 'cultured' I mean even such very 'natural' things as nurturing, i.e. 'motherly love' ("forget about the brotherly and otherly love")..."

Meat is murder, babe, meat is murder.

I did not find a good video on Youtube for "Motherly Love", but this is a nice cover. TRIBUTOaZAPPA writes: "LOS HUESPEDES FELICES - MOTHERLY LOVE. / Many thanks to Luis G. and HALL OF FAME RECORDS for permission to use music from the UNMATCHED - TRIBUTO A ZAPPA collection of CD's."

I doubt I doubt I doubt

I edited my previous post, "Hetrosexuals [sic] Have the Right to Rock" (The Mentors), by changing the expression "Utter bullshit" to "I doubt". An act of remorse implying that "utter bullshit" may have been a too rash judgment on Jerry Springer and his show. The choices made may well have been done in good faith; it may indeed be necessary to show by any means, to those who don't realize the fact by themselves, that rape is wrong – saying this sounds funny, but if you can imagine that there are people who don't realize that (there is evidence of their existence, I guess) – and that there is no such thing as rape by consent (and that rape is not sex and sex is not rape) – it may not be funny at all. But in any case, I have my doubts. Or maybe my doubts have me and don't let me take things at face value, especially when someone's wearing a hangman's hood over his head.

I tend to agree with the YouTube comment saying "any God that would create a Hell is even more sick and demented then [sic] El Duce."

I doubt I doubt I doubt: all I can write about this portrayal of Evil, maybe a mirror held at popular culture and our obsessions with violence, horror, pornography (or "fantasies" if you prefer that), scapegoats, etc., turns out insufficient, I'm afraid. "Our obsessions" – including mine.

* * *

A little later: One way to make things visible is to push them to the extreme. I suppose this could be why (as I hear) there are militant feminists who actually appreciate the Mentors.*

Marquis de Sade has become one of the most important sources for moral philosophy. And that is not because moral philosophers are immoral supporters of de Sade and sadists.
* Citation needed, as Wikipedia would say. I found no better evidence than this All Female Tribute to the Mentors – the WoMentors – enjoy it:

Monday 21 September 2009

"Hetrosexuals [sic] Have the Right to Rock" (The Mentors)

The first time I saw footage of El Duce, the drummer of the "rape rock" band the Mentors, was in Nick Broomfield's documentary Kurt & Courtney, aired some time ago (on the Finnish Teema channel, I guess). I can't say I remember exactly how I felt about him, except for the shock that you are probably expected to experience, and a certain ambivalent vacillation between disbelief, horror, disgust and amusement (he really does not seem a very credible witness, as Broomfield tells him face to face – and by the way he laughs, El Duce seems to agree to Broomfield's reasonable judgement).

Only the United States of America could rear such a monstrous figure, I might have thought, and the Wikipedia article certainly has a point in arguing that Eldon Hoke (which is El Duce's original name) "in general played a wrestling-style villain for the audience." In the following we have an example of playing the role consistently to the end:

Utterly disgusting? Of course. But the questions of good and evil are usually not that simple. I wonder if the hooded monster could have resigned his role for a moment and shown sympathy for the other guest, instead of the atrocious comments or jokes(?!) he makes. Well – at least that would not be very consistent, would it?

Talking about good and evil, what about the situation in which the talk show host (or whoever) has staged the scene so that we have a middle-aged mother who tells she was raped as an adolescent on the one side, and this utterly antisocial hooded monster, the "rapist mentor" figure on the other? Are we on the side of the Good when we sympathize with the other guest – the mother guest – and with the booing audience, with Jerry Springer and the Television Company? I doubt. This staging is no better than any "Reality TV" show, the blood-thirsty tabloids, or any hypocritical piece of social porn. Why are they doing this? The "victim" is of course brave to have taken part in this, but what about the other woman on stage? Is she a "victim" too? What's in it for her – just a "career"?

I am almost beginning to feel sympathy for the not-so-credible-as-a-witness alcoholic with the vulgarly Latinic artist name "El Duce". After all, how could someone singing lines like "Bend up and smell my anal vapor / Your face will be my toilet paper" be purely and completely evil?

(Thanks to Pupu for reminding me of El Duce.)

Saturday 29 August 2009

Watched The Wrestler

Micky Rourke's bravura, first and foremost. My first reaction last night, right after seeing the film: the allegorical dimension is rather simple and transparent, as it seems, for a European outsider with an image of the USA largely filtered through film and television. "USA! USA!" the audience chants when Randy "the Ram" Robinson (whose real name is Robin Ramzinski, of course) meets Necro the drug addict or the wrestler with mohawk hairdo and finally the Ayatollah himself, waving Iran's flag. Sexism, consumerism, utter violence as entertainment, all the appropriate themes, the daughter's lesbianism, etc.; Ram as sacrifice and Christ figure with stigmata (including the direct and ironic reference to The Passion of the Christ), et cetera et cetera. Is it all too obvious, then?

When the first impression is followed by this certain unease, I know I may have encountered something that really touches me in a more profound way, beyond the beauty of the film as a film and beyond the angry "message" directed rather at the American society than the average outside viewer who feels he has "seen it all" already, not to mention the melodramatic and sentimental ingredients of whose power I find myself ambiguously "critically aware." At least the strong presence of the allegorical dimension invites me to attempt thinking more clearly about allegory – I also guess I will watch The Wrestler again some time.

(Above: "The official trailer" via YouTube.)

I have to point out that the "American culture" and "American society" are by no means geographically determined and bound by the borders of the nation. The American culture and society is everywhere. This pervasiveness allows us non-US citizens (I have never even visited America!) also to enjoy the humorous, ambivalently nostalgic references to the eighties' emphasis on partying to hard rock against "that pussy Cobain," an incarnation of the nineties, who ruined everything, etc.

I will return to The Wrestler some time, after watching it again. Some time, probably not very soon, though.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

A Couple of My Favourite Text Samples, Part 2

Above is the beginning of Tristram Shandy's discourse against plagiarism. Cf. Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy ("Democritus Junior to the Reader"):
As apothecaries we make new mixtures everyday, pour out of one vessel into another; and as those old Romans robbed all the cities of the world, to set out their bad-sited Rome, we skim off the cream of other men's wits, pick the choice flowers of their tilled gardens to set out our own sterile plots. Castrant alios ut libros suos per se graciles alieno adipe suffarciant (so Jovius inveighs.) They lard their lean books with the fat of others' works. Ineruditi fures, &c. A fault that every writer finds, as I do now, and yet faulty themselves, Trium literarum homines, all thieves; they pilfer out of old writers to stuff up their new comments, scrape Ennius' dunghills, and out of Democritus' pit, as I have done. By which means it comes to pass, "that not only libraries and shops are full of our putrid papers, but every close-stool and jakes," Scribunt carmina quae legunt cacantes; they serve to put under pies, to lap spice in, and keep roast meat from burning. "With us in France," saith Scaliger, "every man hath liberty to write, but few ability." "Heretofore learning was graced by judicious scholars, but now noble sciences are vilified by base and illiterate scribblers," that either write for vainglory, need, to get money, or as Parasites to flatter and collogue with some great men, they put cut burras, quisquiliasque ineptiasque. Amongst so many thousand authors you shall scarce find one, by reading of whom you shall be any whit better, but rather much worse, quibus inficitur potius, quam perficitur, by which he is rather infected than any way perfected. [...] So that oftentimes it falls out (which Callimachus taxed of old) a great book is a great mischief. Cardan finds fault with Frenchmen and Germans, for their scribbling to no purpose, non inquit ab edendo deterreo, modo novum aliquid inveniant, he doth not bar them to write, so that it be some new invention of their own; but we weave the same web still, twist the same rope again and again; or if it be a new invention, 'tis but some bauble or toy which idle fellows write, for as idle fellows to read, and who so cannot invent?

&c &c – "... as I do now"; "... as I have done."

Friday 21 August 2009


Point d’ironie n° 37 by Ed Ruscha at agnès b., rue du Jour, Paris. Sculpture by Jen-chri.

Point d'ironie*

Plusieurs raisons ont été avancées pour expliquer le manque de succès du point d'ironie en tant que signe de ponctuation :

* Les signes comme le point d'interrogation ou le point d'exclamation servent généralement à retranscrire la façon dont est ponctuée la phrase à l'oral. Or, une phrase ironique n'est pas forcément ponctuée d'une certaine façon. Parfois, seul le contexte permet de la reconnaître comme telle. D'ailleurs, les personnes qui se veulent ironiques jouent souvent sur l'ambiguïté. [C'est moi qui souligne, P.R.]

(Voir aussi: lien interne)
* The Wikipedia entry exists also in English: Irony mark

Thursday 20 August 2009

Rephrasing, Paraphrasing Kant's "Reply..."

"... to the Question: 'What is Enlightenment?'"
Wenn denn nun gefragt wird : Leben wir jetzt in einem aufgeklärten Zeitalter ? so ist die Antwort : Nein, aber wohl in einem Zeitalter der Aufklärung. [If it is now asked, “Do we presently live in an enlightened age?” the answer is, “No, but we do live in an age of enlightenment.”]
Enlightenment, not "being enlightened" but "being in the process of enlightening [Aufklärung]" or "becoming enlightened," is reason's constant readiness for critical self-examination – a constant crisis and not a status quo.

This is why I would consider "The Age of Sentimentality" (Sterne, Rousseau, Laclos) and Romanticism as a continuation of Enlightenment and not as simple objections or counter-reactions. Les liaisons dangereuses is a wonderful demonstration of how instrumental reason seeking to play games without sentiment becomes unreason and absurdity.
Online texts:
German original, Immanuel Kant, "Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?" (1783) –
English translation, by H.B. Hisbet (?), "An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?" (1784)

Is it Necessary to Die?

As a child or reluctant adolescent, whenever I asked, "Do I have to ...?" or "Must I ...?", my father used to say, "The only things you 'have to' are to be born and to die." Or, in other words, "You 'must' nothing but birth and death." As you can imagine from the two clumsy renderings, the original Finnish sentence is hard to translate from one idiom to another. "Pakko ei ole kuin syntyä ja kuolla," that's the Finnish phrase. See, for instance, the Wiktionary entry for the Finnish noun pakko and you can realize the difficulty. We could try yet another translation, using one or rather several of the very approximate, context-dependent equivalents suggested by Wiktionary, "obligation, force, necessity or compulsion": "Your only obligations are birth and death." "Birth and death are the only necessities." "The only compulsory things are birth and death." "Only birth and death come by the force of necessity." None of these translations is satisfactory. "Il ne faut que naître et mourir." That might be more accurate, I think, but not any more faithful to the Finnish formula than the English versions. Yet: "Abtrünnig erst bin ich treu." More than one language may be necessary for translating "necessary" from one language to another.

I find the question "Is it Necessary to Die?" both compelling and highly suspicious. The adjective "necessary" seems out of place. "Necessity" implies "need" and this notion makes the question sound like a category mistake.

What is "necessity"? What is "necessary"? I take the liberty of citing the OED's etymological explanation – click on the thumbnail image below to see a screenshot of OED Online:

Death is hardly something "[t]hat is needed," in the sense of "[i]ndispensable, vital, essential; requisite." OED adds: "Also with to or for (a person or thing). In the 16th and early 17th centuries the sense freq. approaches ‘useful’ without being ‘absolutely indispensable’." It is hardly something "required" or "imperative," even though it seems meaningful to say "You must die." Here the "must" is, however, used in a different sense than, for instance, in the formula "You must perform the act A in order to achieve the result B."

Yet, what is necessary is also something "[t]hat must be so; inevitable." Death is inevitable, a necessary consequence of being mortal, or rather – more seriously speaking – analytically inherent to the concept of mortality – and thus la condition humaine. Perhaps it is not simply incidental that mortality provides a classical example or the classical example of a premise in a syllogism ("Socrates is a man. All men are mortal. Socrates is a mortal.") Death is an inevitable consequence of being born. "Inevitably determined or fixed by predestination or the operation of natural laws; happening or existing by an inherent necessity" (OED). And so on.

In the strictest "transcendental-phenomenological" sense of evidence, death is not "certain," however. No one can face death as a certainty inasmuch as we consider the situation from a purely egological perspective and lived experience. What is more, death does not belong in the sphere of ego cogito. Death never happens "to me," "in person," as an experience in the living present.

In Heidegger's terms, death is the possibility of impossibility. Death is indeed "necessary" (for Dasein), necessary and inevitable or necessary as inevitable, but only in this sense of possibility, an imminent possibility of the impossibility of "being there."

The gift of life is the gift of death. (I cordially recommend Saramago's The Gospel According to Jesus Christ for a heart-rendingly profound statement of this observation.) Inasmuch as "necessity" implies need, requisite, prerequisite, action to be taken, compulsory task, death is beyond necessity. It is none of our concern. It is something that's been taken care of. Birth and death lie beyond our powers. One's birth is an immemorable event – thus it is paradoxical to call it an event in the first place – and none of us lives to tell about their death, for one's own death is by definition something that will not be survived and does not allow for an afterlife. Birth and death are not life-events to be told in memoires.

If there is an afterlife, there is no death. If there is just life and no afterlife, there is no death, either, inasmuch as only that which can be experienced (and thus "survived," "in person") really is in a strongest sense of evidence.

* * *

We should continue by quoting and discussing Blanchot, but I shall leave that for another time.

"Another time" remains necessary. Another time, an other's time, always another. Always, ad infinitum.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Non-believer in first person singular

Someone said, "Even an atheist must believe in something." I am not sure about that – or let us say, I am not ready to believe that. But the term "atheism" is much too vague and generic. There are fundamentalists who consider themselves "free thinkers", advertising their own world view as a key to freedom, and I find such fundamentalism just as alien to myself as religious fundamentalism. I would characterize myself as a phenomenologist – even though I do not think I am professionally qualified to call myself that, having read only some Husserl and never visited the Archives, etc. – and I do not differentiate between being a phenomenologist and being a person. I am not obliged to have faith. I do not deny faith to myself, either: faith can be an "object of study" and I can reflect on the possibility of faith as a genuine possibility of my own (genuine, eigentlich, something of my own). Calling myself a "religious atheist" amounts to having a serious interest in questions of faith and religion but lacking faith myself.

Thank you, J. B.

A friend reminded me after reading my former post:
You are perhaps aware that the oldest manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark – the oldest canonical gospel – ended after 16:8 where the women discover Jesus' tomb to be empty and leave it in distress. "And they told ... no one anything; for they were afraid" (who is narrating this?)
Thank you J. B., I hope you don't mind me quoting you.


Writing: leaving the initiative to language (see Blanchot).

Language, a society without a subject and – thus – without society.

Without society: essential solitude? (See Blanchot.)

* * *

Religion, for an atheist: the only way to preserve mystery might be to affirm the kinship of faith and fiction (read again Derrida, La littérature au secret).

* * *

Being sociable, thanks to, and in spite of, language.

* * *

Speaking of love, I meant reading.

* * *

Reading you like an open book.

Open, like an abyss. Abyss: depthless.

Saturday 8 August 2009

Reprise – of more or less everything written below

Repeating myself, but this is important enough to be re-thought, reconsidered over and over, "always again only for once": An everyday encounter is an act of reading, not only metaphorically but rather in a quasi-metonymical fashion, because every true encounter takes place in remembrance of the secret of the poem, as I tend to rephrase what Paul Celan once wrote.

This is a sequel to the quick and whimsical note from last night, in which the adjectives "intriguing" and "cathartic" may have been quite misplaced. A sequel, also, to everything I have previously written in this weblog.

"Denn mein Herz gehört den Toten an!" (Hölderlin)

"My heart belongs to the dead!" exclaims Hölderlin in a poem written in April 1794. As any reader, perhaps, awakened to the dire reality of the living.

But isn't that the human condition par excellence? The condition of reading – loving that which is no more or perhaps never was, and still is – even more than what "really" is?

Love for the ephemeral. For that which will soon cease being. Any moment.

Love for God, too. For "God is dead". Don't we, the "Christians" (and I would always emphasize my "religious atheism"), actually love the God who became flesh, the perishable god, the Son of Man? The God who could always perish, and did, too. The Lovable God instead of the God to be Feared (I get no reasonable top Google results for "fearable"). The Suffering God instead of the Eternal and Immaculate.

Maybe this is just my perversion – as a non-believer – but the story of Good Friday as a non-happy end seems more intriguing and cathartic than its sequel, the story of resurrection, etc. etc.

* * *

Click on the thumbnail below to read Hölderlin's Griechenland (Apr. 1794) in Sattler's Bremen edition (Hölderlin, Sämtliche Werke, Briefe und Dokumente, ed. Sattler [München: Luchterhand, 2004], 26-28). I trust this fits within the rules of Fair Use. Sorry for the less than perfect quality of the scan.

Saturday 25 July 2009

Writing As Exposure

"Schreiben als Form des Gebets" – there is always someone to read you better than you do. Why else would you write, anyway?

An oblique reference to St. Augustine.

* * *
An oblique reference, mutatis mutandis, to Augustine's question "Why we confess what God already knows," cur confitemur deo scienti.

Cur confitemur deo scienti, the phrase cited by Derrida in his Circonfession, is the title added to The Confessions, Book XI, Chapter I:
XI.I. Cur confitemur deo scienti.

Numquid, domine, cum tua sit aeternitas, ignoras, quae tibi dico, aut ad tempus vides quod fit in tempore? Cur ergo tibi tot rerum narrationes digero? Non utique ut per me noveris ea, sed affectum meum excito in te et eorum, qui haec legunt, ut dicamus omnes: magnus dominus et laudabilis valde. Iam dixi et dicam: amore amoris tui facio istuc. Nam et oramus, et tamen veritas ait: Novit pater vester quid vobis opus sit, priusquam petatis ab eo. Affectum ergo nostrum patefacimus in te confitendo tibi miserias nostras et misericordias tuas super nos, ut liberes nos omnino, quoniam coepisti, ut desinamus esse miseri in nobis et beatificemur in te, quoniam vocasti nos, ut simus pauperes spiritu et mites et lugentes et esurientes ac sitientes iustitiam et misericordes et mundicordes et pacifici. Ecce narravi tibi multa, quae potui et quae volui, quoniam tu prior voluisti, ut confiterer tibi, domino deo meo, quoniam bonus es, quoniam in saeculum misericordia tua.

Trans. Edward P. Pusey:

Lord, since eternity is Thine, art Thou ignorant of what I say to Thee? or dost Thou see in time, what passeth in time? Why then do I lay in order before Thee so many relations? Not, of a truth, that Thou mightest learn them through me, but to stir up mine own and my readers’ devotions towards Thee, that we may all say, Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. I have said already; and again will say, for love of Thy love do I this. For we pray also, and yet Truth hath laid, Your Father knoweth what you have need of, before you ask. It is then our affections which we lay open unto Thee, confessing our own miseries, and Thy mercies upon us, that Thou mayest free us wholly, since Thou hast begun, that we may cease to be wretched in ourselves, and be blessed in Thee; seeing Thou hast called us, to become poor in spirit, and meek, and mourners, and hungering and athirst after righteousness, and merciful, and pure in heart, and peace-makers. See, I have told Thee many things, as I could and as I would, because Thou first wouldest that I should confess unto Thee, my Lord God. For Thou art good, for Thy mercy endureth for ever.
See also Book X, Ch. 2:
Neque enim dico recti aliquid hominibus, quod non a me tu prius audieris, aut etiam tu aliquid tale audis a me, quod non mihi tu prius dixeris.

Trans. Edward P. Pusey:

For neither do I utter any thing right unto men, which Thou hast not before heard from me; nor dost Thou hear any such thing from me, which Thou hast not first said unto me.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

"Multiple Choice" is an Insult Against Multiplicity

Every multiple choice questionnaire should quote a song title by Frank Zappa as the last option of each question: "None of the Above."

Otherwise the questionnaire will not pay heed to singularity, reluctance, and the possibility of its own failure.

Through such an addition, most multiple choice questionnaires would not become any worse than they already are, even if it would make them useless in case of the respondent's reluctance to submit to the ready-made anticipations.


  • Yes
  • No
  • None of the above

"My Life According to Frank Zappa"

Quoting my own Facebook self and "The Song Title Game" a.k.a. "My Life According to ...":

Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Pass it on to 10 people or more (if you have time and want to do this) and include me. Try not to repeat a song title. Enjoy!

Pick Your Artist:
Frank Zappa
Are you male or female:
Man With the Woman Head
Describe yourself:
Jolly Good Fellow
How do you feel about yourself:
Harry, You’re a Beast
Describe where you currently live:
Motorhead's Midnight Ranch
If you could go anywhere you wanted to go:
The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue
Your favorite form of transportation:
Space Boogers
Your best friend is:
Lonesome Electric Turkey
Your favorite color is:
White Ugliness
Favorite time of day:
What Will This Morning Bring Me This Evening?
If your life were a TV show, what would it be called:
You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here
What is life to you:
Aerobics in Bondage
What is the best advice you have to give:
Eat That Question
If you could change your name, what would it be:
Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus
Thought for the Day:
Jesus Thinks You’re a Jerk
How I would like to die:
G-Spot Tornado
My soul's present condition:
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask
My motto:
None of the Above