Empty Days

Thursday, December 11, 2003



In France they are going to pass a law to ban outwards signs of religion in high schools (muslim scarfs, jewish kippa, and conspicuous crucifices). I find this entirely preposterous. In a sense, I don't see why they wouldn't introduce uniform in all schools - if they want equality that bad. But banning religious stuff that violently is too much power to the State - to be an atheist and look like one should be a choice, not a requirement. Curiously enough, it is not just the freedom of religion that this threatens but also freedom tout court. Admittedly, they're doing this because of too many Muslims in the country. What does this mean? Exactly what it looks like.




L.W. was not a very intelligent man - but he was a true philosopher. It is interesting that this should sound paradoxical. But there are many kinds of intelligence and a brilliant scientist can be a dumbass, and a simple-minded type can be the deeper thinker.
Which is probably why we find so many perfectly unintelligent people among intellectuals, for example.

***

To be called stupid or intelligent is actually a moral judgement. It implies that you correspond or not to certain high standards of a certain community. What these standards are is the question. For instance, among intellectuals it is important to be well-read (or cultured). So if you don't have the necessary stuff bloating your mind, you will be found "stupid" - regardless of your intellect. And it will simply mean that you don't know what you're *supposed* to know. Which is why you are compelled to improve your general culture etc - to enter a community.
Likewise, if you work among car salesmen, let's say, you shall be found stupid if you don't know how to sell etc. So if ever you're called stupid or intelligent, don't pay too much attention - unless you want to be good at something and that's where it matters, what and how you are.

***

Concerning the German language and WWII. I recently saw an interview with Romeo Dellaire who was a UN commander in Rwanda when the genocide took place. He knew what was going to happen and was unable to convince the UN hierarchy of impending disaster and the need for immediate action. He witnessed the full horror of what has happened and has since blamed himself and tried to commit suicide several times long afterwards.
This is what he said as to why he was unable to convince his superiors at UN. He said: in the report I sent to UN I did not mention the word "genocide" because, before it actually happened, I could not formulate it to myself as genocide - my education told me that genocide was synonymous with Holocaust and that happened only once in Germany, and it could not possibly happen again. Perhaps my report was not fully convincing because I couldn't grasp the concept and put it with force in my report.
This is actually very interesting.
I've blogged previously about the need to rethink the history of WWII in other terms than the Holocaust-centered picture that we have now. The above is just another reason why this must be done. Dellaire published a book on Rwanda events and the title says it all: "Shake hands with the Devil". Which means that the Devil has not been confined to WWII and the Third Reich - and we better remember that.




Listening to German opera on tv (Mozart, I think). It's interesting that the sound of German language should always evoke images of WWII and the rest. I mean - this is opera, and why should a soldier appear in my mind?
But that's how it is, nevertheless :-0




How to sail with or against the wind, in terms of life occasions.

Since I am currently looking to buy affordable parts for my dead computer, and since this is happening in second-hand market and depends on occasion+luck+decision, I thought about how this correlates to life in general and the attitudes one might adopt against the uncertainties of life.

For example, what is decision based on? It's not so simple as it seems. Ideally (and the word is revealing) I should have a clear idea of at least these things: how much I can spend, what sort of quality is good enough, how far I am prepared to travel to collect the goods, how urgent is the whole thing etc.
But in reality none of these are really certain, like my mood for instance, or the weather (as I am on bike). Perhaps the money I am prepared to pay now will be needed for something else soon. I can't predict which occasions will arise and when. Etc.

It's like fishing - depending where and when you fish, you will judge your catch good or bad, depending on how big is most of the fish that comes to you (relative value). If you come to the same spot in another season or time of day, you may find your previous catch was very poor (and you thought it was grand) or the opposite - depending what you find there.

So, what is the attitude to adopt in the face of all this circumstancial uncertainty and relativity of your own judgement? Well, obviously the best thing is to "take it easy". Which actually means: not too expect too much, not to fret over luck, accept resulting catch as good enough *at this time*.

Sometimes luck is so good it's almost hard to believe (biggest fish coming en masse) - and the curious effect of this is that you immediately start to believe that this is "normal". And when luck is bad you also tend to believe it's just the way it is.

***

Hegel said: what is real is rational. I am pretty sure he meant just this curious tendency of the mind to consecrate a "state of affairs" as Reality - the mind always looks at things sub specie aeternitatis (that's from Spinoza), and maybe this is why we have this powerful sense of being immortal - despite death waiting for us in the future.

In this sense "future" might be too irrational to deal with.

We can talk a lot about the uncertainty of life but are we really capable of grasping this feeling for any length of *time*?
If I am told: you will die about a year from now. And then I feel no signs of this coming death (no illness poking at me, for instance), how often will I *feel* this impending end in my daily existence? I can be afraid of death and perhaps this fear will arise often enough to remind me. But if I am unafraid (and I am not sure you can just decide to have fear or not), what else will remind me?
Without fear, I'll still look at life "under the aspect of eternity" and think myself immortal from moment to moment, until the expiry date.

Somehow "reality" does not include the future.

***

Homegrown philosophizing is like a game - but playing a game denotes a certain equanimity and exercises a soothing influence. So even if it's not very important and doesn't solve none of your real problems, still it has a pacifying effect. And so be it.




What does it mean that I am looking at things unable to see their beauty and life. It's a barren land I live in and it is no fault of place or time.

A grey winter day used to be beautiful to me - and I can still recall that feeling but I cannot have it. By recalling it, I am trying to understand what made me see beauty in it. And it turns out that it was memory - and the feeling that a certain order of the world has not ceased yet and, like the light from a long gone star, is still reaching into the moment, giving it life. This is hope in reverse - which is the primordial Paradise lost yet present in the sense that there ever was such a thing as Paradise.
When you lose the sense of the possibility of Paradise (one in the past or in the future), beauty is taken out of your world because *hope* is gone.

It is said that as long as there is life there is hope. And I would say that hope *is* life - and that imagining life as a physical continuation is not what is meant by "life" in the saying.
The expression means that as long as there is physical continuation there is a residue of hope, no matter how small - that life is predicated on hope, whichever way you take it, and not the other way around.

"Paradise" is another way of saying hope, perhaps it describes what hope is about - that it looks for something to give meaning to things, an order of the world.

***

I notice I made an interesting typo in the yesterday entry ("her" for L.W.) - I was thinking that Wittgenstein's tyranical character had something feminine about it (dominating tendencies in weakness). I am not surprised he was homosexual.

***

I am 100% preoccupied with Wittgenstein right now. It's been a long time since I have discovered an author this way - the latest was E.Waugh but it was on a much fainter scale (I think I will read all of Waugh eventually but he doesn't touch me as much).
I don't know yet where this is going to go. Maybe nowhere - and in any case it is never clear what exact impact some authors make on me. What is this interest about: why it is so damn important to find echos of one's own way of thinking? In a way I couldn't say that there is ever any direct impact, that it changes my life or some such major claims. No. But some things are rearranged in my mind by such encounters.
So far I've never let anything or anyone influence me to the point of changing my way of life (this does happen to other people, I hear: "I've read this book and I've decided to do this and that. It changed my life.") And though I like to recommend these books, I also know it's not what you read - it's when you read that particular book and how it comes about. There is no intrinsic value here - a book (or a person) will remain useless and meaningless to you if it doesn't fall in the right set of inner/outer circumstances.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003



Completely absorbed in L.W. biography. Actually physically tired from too much reading. To my immense surprise I keep finding almost verbatim echos of my own thoughts in W (quoted in the biography). Perhaps this is not all that strange - people to have similar senisibilities of ways of thinking sometimes, just that there are faces that have a general resemblance and you're look-alike may be walking the earth in some remote place an ocean away. Of course, since we're talking similarities with somebody "famous", i should add the proviso that this famousness and greatness does not and shall not in any event rub on me (hehe).
In case you people don't believe me, here are few quotes that confirm what I've been saying recently here on how style shows why a person says what he says (see few days back), and on how it's not intelligence but will that is required for thinking (below somewhere):
"If I perform to myself, then it's this that the style expresses. And then the style cannot be my own. If you are unwilling to know what you are, your writing is a form of deceit." (a pretty direct take on philosophical honesty, don't you think).

He often remarked that the problem of writing good philosophy and of thinking well about philosophical problems was one of the will more than of the intellect - the will to resist the temptation to misunderstand, the will to resist superficiality. What gets in the way of genuine understanding is often not one's lack of intelligence, but the presence of one's pride.

I can't be bothered to quote more right now, but it goes right at the heart of a few things I hold dear in terms of what this whole life and thinking about life is all about. In her younger days L.W. quipped that "praying is thinking about the meaning of life" which is surely a very strange definition for prayer especially if we think we know all there is to know about life and death (in case we have some very convincing doctrines we believe in on that account). For myself I think this describe pretty well the impulse of W's philosophy - what made him think in the first place. From what I could gather from the biography W had an essentially dogmatic personality which he consistently tried to curb. I think there is this strange mixture in his writings of deep conviction and incessant questioning - except that the deep stuff is never openly stated and is not open to discussion. I still haven't got to read "On Certainty" but I am relishing the moment i will finally get to it (should be soon).

Monday, December 08, 2003



From Five Easy Pieces, the movie:
I move a lot. It's not that I am running around - it's just that I run away from things that get bad if I stay.



A man who hates himself, who has no love for his friends, family, something... How can such a man ask for love in return?



I faked an easy piece - and you faked a big response.
***



If it's a man's fate to go to the dogs - he will go to the dogs.



***



L.W. quoted by R.Monk (biography):
The whole modern conception of the world is founded on the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena.

Thus people today stop at the laws of nature, treating them as something inviolable, just as God and Fate were treated in past ages.

And in fact both are right and both wrong: though the view of the ancients is clearer in so far as they have a clear and acknowledged terminus, while the modern system tries to make it look as if *everything* were explained.






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