Empty Days

Saturday, November 29, 2003

The case of my cat

Won't be too much blogging from me for a while, the way things are going. Too bad - I could make more notes as I get through Wittgenstein but I guess I will have to keep it for myself mostly. As with other things. Restoring home-computer depends on pure luck at this point in time and I know enough about luck to say that it won't come along if I want it too much. So for the moment I'll just pretend I don't care and keep to my daily business as if everything was just fine. Then if I don't get no luck at least it won't make that much of a difference.

Besides, it all depends what you lose. Losing a computer is peanuts, it's ennoying but it's not horribly important. Losing my bike would be (and usually was) much more ennoying but still it was never entirely horrible. What was horrible and gut-wrenching was losing my cat (temporarily, thank god) - it happened once and i swear it shall never happen again as much as I can help it. I thought the worst things had happened to my cat and i was so utterly worried and heart-broken, i heard its mews in my ears everywhere i went, even in places where no cats could possibly exist. I made all the efforts within my reach to find my cat (this included climbing on adjacent roofs and defying security in public buildings) and finally one day when I did not hope to see it anymore it leaped towards me from the bushes near my place. I think the cat had lost hope too - we were both totally stricken.
I must say that I have a privileged rapport with my cat. When I went to Europe for a couple of weeks and it was still in its first year, I certainly did not expect the kind of reception i got when I came back - the cat was obviously heart-broken, i am sure it thought i've abandonned it forever. So i guess when I subsequently lost my cat, i went through the same sort of emotions that the cat went through when i left "without explanations" (how to explain to your cat: I am going to Europe and I'll be back.) So now we both know what it means to lose each other. And though a cat is a pet and has no rights and can be abused and kidnapped by kids and neighbours, still it has feelings and memories and pains just like I do. And it loves me for uncertain and complicated reasons that are not limited to the fact that I feed it. It loves me because it has no one else in the world - because I took it from its mother when it was a baby and there was only me and the cat got used to me. And I love it for the same reasons, actually.

Isn't this how it is with people, come to think of it?

Judge and be judged

Saw "Twelve angry men" the other day (with Jack Lemmon, but it's just as good as the one with Henry Fonda) and it's probably the best movie i've ever seen about what human thinking is really based on - here taken from the angle of convictions and the wrestling of opinions. For some reason it made me remember those Tennessee Williams plays - it's full of psychology and philosophy and it's just packaged as some story or other.
I mean - it's about a jury deciding on a murder case. But in a nutshell it's about ideas, the social history of ideas, or just human history. Because history is debate, it is based and decided on debate. And how that debate happens - or might happen in the best of cases - you can see in the movie. It is an idealistic movie of course, but that's what's exciting about it - if it didn't see a problem with human thinking, we would not have such an intense movie.

Another movie I saw recently and liked very much starred Robert Duvall and a black actor I know perfectly well but can't recall his name (and don't know what the movie was called either) - it's about a white red-neck guy from the south who goes to Chicago do discover the secret part of his family history: that his brother is actually black and that his own mother was black too. A great look on racism and how life-long prejudices fall apart under the touch of human reality.

I like R.Duvall the actor - he has a wise something about him that is either great acting or great personality or both.

Wittgenstein, oh my...

From L.W. "Philosophical Investigations I" :
273. What am I to say about the word "red"? - That it means something "confronting us all" and that everyone should really have another word, besides this one, to mean his *own* sensation of red?
Or is it like this: the word "red" means something known to everyone; and in addition, for each person, it means something known only to him? (Or perhaps rather: it *refers* to something known only to him.)
Substituting "God" to "red" in the above example makes things much less obvious than the apparently innocent and even plain observations from this deceptively unassuming philosopher. Having read through half of the book, I can now officially state that Wittgenstein is indeed a "difficult" thinker. His manner is socratic (very colloquial) but it demands instant guessing of where he's coming from when he says this or that - if you can't guess on the spot, you have to go on in the dark and maybe something in the subsequent remarks will remove that stumbling-block or make you return to it from a new perspective.
Because Wittgenstein writes in short bursts (one of his books is called "Philosophical Remarks" and it could be the title of all his books), nothing is ever "presented and prepared", you're just thrown right into the middle of some internal conversation this man is having with himself - and be my guest to join in or leave bewildered. But because this conversation is so intense and peculiar, you just can't leave. So you just sit there and keep on trying to hook in. This is exciting philosophy, ladies and gentlement.
38. This is connected wuth the conception of naming as, so to speak, an occult process. (...) For philosophical problems arise when *language goes on holiday*.
And so on and so forth. It's just too good to be true - what have they done to Wittgenstein that I've never realized what kind of guy he was?? (maybe i am just horribly ignorant - but then I pick up things, and I picked it up all wrong for some reason)

Monday, November 24, 2003

Struggling with the machine. I think I actually dislike computers. There was a time when I positively hated these things. But in those days I also hated tv, so I guess it was another era in my life altogether.

The absurd part of course is that i got used to computers as a sort of ad hoc library of informal information, and also as a communication tool. I almost lost the art of handwriting - which is very different because you can't correct as easily as you do it on the screen, and you can't dispatch as speedily, so the whole mental set is different - you take your time and you're more responsible because what you write down you can't really erase afterwards lest you rewrite the whole darn thing to put it right.

Also, internet per se allows the kind of communication that you can't always get in real life. Ease of contact and lack of commitment. Virtual pals are not really friends and you can watch somebody die pretty much online and not be able to do a thing about it. At the same time (and for the same reasons), you get to talk to people you would never approach in real life - just as in time of disaster all sorts of people are thrown in together and there are no more social distinctions to prevent contact. Internet is like war in that sense, it is chaos - it disregards the order of the world.


Finished reading that book on "natural antisemitism". It is followed by a correspondence between the author and a friendly opponent who tries to argue against his ideas. Always thrilling to see just how impossible it is to find common language when people believe in different things - and how flimsy the reasons are in both cases. Yes, in both cases. The "antisemite" contends that his opponent is incapable of examining his own ideas because some of them are a sort of taboo that cannot be doubted and do not even need defending. Well, he's damn right - belief is predicated on sacred taboos, a core of ideas you'd die for if you had to. Meantime the "friendly opponent" tries to point out that the whole racial logic is skewed by inscrutable passions and constitutes a dead-end that invariably leads to blind violence. To which the "antisemite" replies: you're just refusing to see the obvious, your ideology prevents you from seeing the racial angle, you are blind and you would like to silence what must be spoken lest unspoken, unacknowledged truths result in violence. Etc etc.

Both are perfectly intelligent people - both are mired in incredible confusions. N.B.: the debate happened in private correspondence.


Finally found a way to loan some of Wittgenstein's books from the library. I don't know yet what it is i will find with him, but so far it seems just the right tangent. Also read some things about his life - very familiar stuff. The kind of guy who tried to drop out of his privileged society and could never fit in anywhere. In the end, it's the intellectual culture you can never entirely renounce - when you've already renounced money and prestige and all the ways of the world. Sounds like George Orwell to me - intellectual honesty invariably starts with refusing to live a ready-made life. Or Nietzsche (who, as a kid, wanted to be a priest). It's all the same sort of people.

I read everywhere that Wittgenstein is an extremely complex philosopher. Perhaps he seems so complex because he never took care to systemize his thought - he only published one book early in his life and afterwards it was either notes for himself or discussions in class. Fragmentary thought is always harder to grasp because it leads to a thousand directions at once - depending where you are at yourself when you delve into that thought.

Quote from some website:
Another criticism is that Wittgenstein is too gentle on religion, that he rules out any rational criticism of religious beliefs.

With my limited access these days I don't have enough time to read other blogs which is too bad because it's one of the things i most enjoyed about blogging. I hope I will soon outwit the machine at home and will restore that window to the world from my "darkened bedroom" (it's not a bedroom, damn it, it's a studio!).

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