Empty Days

Saturday, December 20, 2003



I am in a bit of a bad shape these days (too many reasons to figure out why exactly), so this blog is getting more navel-gazing-oriented by the minute. No more pictures or hypertext links - the navel is www-challenged, what can you do.

I thought the other day that I am actually constructing my life around the very predicament that keeps me out of life. It is as if I were trying to prove to myself that I actually have the right not to live - but I can't really believe it, so I engage in endless justifications.

I can justify practically anything and not believe it for a minute.

***

Wittgenstein is proving rather helpful in respect to this ongoing absurdity. Consider this "interior" dialogue (On Certainty):
369. If I wanted to doubt whether this was my hand, how could I avoid doubting whether the word "hand" has any meaning? So that is something I seem to *know* after all.

370. But more correctly: The fact that I use the word "hand" and all the other words in my sentence without a second thought, indeed that I should stand before an abyss if I wanted so much as to try doubting their meanings - shows that absence of doubt belongs to the essence of the language-game, that the question "How do I know..." drags out the language-game, or else does away with it.
______

376. I may claim with passion that I know that this (for example) is my foot.

377. But this passion is after all something very rare, and there is no trace of it when I talk of this foot in the ordinary way.

378. Knowledge is in the end based on acknowledgement.

379. I say with passion "I *know* that this is a foot" - but what does it *mean*?

380. I might go on: "Nothing in the world will convince me of the opposite!" For me this fact is at the bottom of all knowledge. I shall give up other things but not this.

381. That "Nothing in the world" is obviously an attitude which one hasn't got towards everything one believes or is certain of.

382. This is not to say that nothing in the world will in fact be able to convince me of anything else.

_______

403. To say of man, in Moore's sense, that he *knows* something; that what he says is therefore unconditionally the truth, seems wrong to me. - It is the truth only inasmuch as it is an unmoving foundation of his language-games.

404. I want to say: it's not that on some points men know the truth with perfect certainty. No: perfect certainty is only a matter of their attitude.

405. But of course there is still a mistake even here.

406. What I am aiming at is also found in the difference between the casual observation "I know that that's a...", as it might be used in ordinary life, and the same utterance when a philosopher makes it.

407. For when Moore says "I know that that's..." I want to reply "you don't *know* anything!" - and yet I would not say that to anyone who was speaking without philosophical intention. That is, I feel (rightly?) that these two mean to say something different.

408. For if someone says he knows such-and-such, and this is part of his philosophy - then his philosophy is false if he has slipped in this statement.



On suicide

I think my British penpal has left this world or is very near doing so. No replies. I have to tell myself that it doesn't matter - like it doesn't matter that some people die in car accidents: you can't do anything about it, so you *have* to look away.

***

When my neighbour killed herself I didn't know - I accidentally found out two weeks after the fact (her flat was being repainted). Two years earlier she had asked for support but she was hogging my time too much so I turned my back on her eventually (I had my own episode of acute depression then).
This sent me on a major guilt trip - and that's how I ended up on a suicide newsgroup: it's practically impossible to discuss this with "normal" people - they don't want to know.

That's where I met this British guy too, btw.

After having my adventure on the suicide group, I discovered a couple of things. 1) That it's no use bleeding for the dying unless you're prepared to go all the way for them 2) That if you're prepared to do that, you invariably leave the realm of normalcy and become something of a saintly nutcase yourself 3) That people actually have very good reasons to do away with themselves 4) That you're not to judge either yourself or the suicide.

Most of the people who were hanging in there with the intention of "helping those poor souls" had deeply sick ulterior motives - but so did those who insisted that suicide is the best way out (and never tried it themselves).

Another thing I discovered: *all* suicides, even the most bitter ones, crave and demand only one and single thing - and that is love. They don't need no fucking compassion and no fucking understanding - it just doesn't do the trick, that's all. And of course no one is prepared to go that far.

Another curious fact: those who ostensibly hang in there to offer help and support are themselves looking for that same thing - though they usually have no clue of their real motives. But of course nobody wants them either - so they have to imagine they're being needed for their "compassion".

***

When people say "go see a psychiatrist" they actually mean: we can't bother with you, so leave us alone. Same thing goes for the suicide-support centers (or charities etc). Surely it's better than nothing.

In between nothing and everything humanity is scaled down - and maybe this is what "living in sin" is all about.

Friday, December 19, 2003



I have no consistency in what I do. Whatever interruption usually sends me off track - the "atmosphere" in my mind changes and when I try to go back to what I was doing, it doesn't feel the same anymore: I am doing the very same thing and yet it feels like I am doing something else, different.

I might say that of blogging for instance. After this computer-interruption I don't feel I am in the same place anymore - though it is most definitely the same place but the atmosphere in my mind has changed.
It's the same kind of thing as when you live in some place, then go away for a long while, and basically you can never come back to that place again - you do come back and everything is unchanged but it's most definitely not the same place. *You* have changed - and that's how memory is instituted.
Likewise we all live in the same city - but each of us lives in a different city at the very same time. There is nothing you can do about this.

Thursday, December 18, 2003



Wittgenstein hated academia and declared philosophy a most useless thing. Which is to say, he saw himself as a failure - though he was "compelled" to do philosophy, because such was his natural talent.

But why did he hate his own talent and the benefits he reaped from it (people were in awe of him)? He has an answer - because it never saved him from his personal shortcomings, from his sufferings. As he liked to say: I must become a human being. And that was the most important task of his inner life, at which he failed miserably (he thought).

Call it self-importance or the importance of inner life. You can't find value in praise (academia) and you can't find value in your gifts (talent). And yet Wittgenstein could not survive on his own, and he returned from self-imposed wilderness to academia and to his talent - but he found no value in it.

What makes you happy may not be good enough.

Nietzsche (and this is privileged information) exclaimed in a private letter to his friend Peter Gast, after a period of suicidal depression that has finally ended: if I hadn't been given this deliverance, I don't know where I'd be now.

I suppose, Wittgenstein could have subscribed to it. You can't uphold anything on your very own and no philosophy, or philosophy of life, will help you in this.

Neither religion, nor philosophy, nor anything you do or don't do.

I'd love to talk to a suicidal priest.

[the reason I am talking of L.W. and Nietzsche is because everybody knows them - we even read their private correspondance. Would be a major breach of privacy for any of us, readers.]




God, this computer is *really* bad! But I'll have to get used to it, I suppose. Once you get used to bad things they don't bother you that much anymore - and that goes for everything, I guess.

***

Woke up in a state of acute depression. Which simply means that it all came out right into my face in that unguarded moment between sleep and waking. But it's always there anyway, in the backstage, and the fact that I don't pay attention doesn't mean it's going anywhere. The end of the world is always with me.

***

Now, the question of value. Is it predicated on usefulness? "Whatever makes you happy must be good", that kind of thing.

I was thinking about intellectual stuff and how it is seen as valuable or not, and why. For instance: I may do translations of some noteworthy thinker and people will be greatful to me for this service. So I see value in what I am doing because other people find it valuable. But oftentimes I can't see any value in it - and I find both the thinker and my translations useless, though theoretically I still know that other people see it as important, to them.

Now, consider academics. These people do pretty much the same stuff that I do on my own - but their activity is set in a rigid albeit supportive environment (both social and mental). It's a whole world in its own right. As long as they strive to participate in that world, it holds their value(s) for them.
But I only have a mental connection to this world - and this connection breaks down all the time. And then I lose the sense of all importance in what I am doing. It is terrifically difficult to uphold values - and the breaking point is yourself.

A this point I can't say what is dependant on what - self-importance on values or the other way around.

I quit academia because of a breakdown in self-importance. By virtue of which I deprived myself of support and framework - but I did so because none of this was enough to uphold me. So in my case, values are dependant on self-importance. And that's why I continuously lose any sense of importance to things.

I'd love to know what my self-importance depends upon. How does a world collapse - what gives value to things.

[Forgot to add: when I do a translation on my own I expect no benefits from it, it's done on pure *belief* that the thinker is valuable and therefore the translation is useful - in academia there's the added advantage and/or nuisance that you also establish your importance (or identity) as an academic that way, the social aspect of it.]

Wednesday, December 17, 2003



And what about Wittgenstein? Ah. Yesterday I had to go to court (minor legal problems) and this computer business too - it's not contributing to a pensive frame of mind, let's say. I'm thin skinned - everything that happens leaves a mark, and it's not like I can come home and pretend the day didn't happen.

When I was working full-time I had the same problem - you spend the whole day being saturated with various impressions and activities, and when you get home it's like an action-movie happening in your head - it's pointless but you can't get out of it. At least I never could. I even took to smoking pot in the evenings, just to dissolve the chaos of impressions in my mind - it put me to sleep really well too (the other alternative was alcohol, and I certainly didn't want to get into that line - you know, solitary drinking, *bad shit*).

So why work if there is nothing left except a big pay-check? which I spent on things I didn't need - fine food, fine clothes, movies, books I didn't read, utterly forgettable stuff... I suppose people with families or friends or a purpose live it differently - good for them, doesn't apply to me. I should deal with this somehow, can't stay on welfare forever, even though I don't mind poverty per se. It's not about money or the lack of it. I am wasting my time when I work and I am wasting my time when I don't - and what it's all about anyhow?

George Orwell said something very true in his essay Why I Write and it's one of those quotes I keep coming back to time and again:
Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen -- in short, with the whole top crust of humanity.
The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all -- and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.
"After the age of thirty...", that's so exactly it, you don't want yourself anymore, you're so fed up with yourself you wish you could go and die in a war or something - somebody take that burden off my back.
As to "a minority of gifted, willful people...", I must wonder if there is a also a sub-category of willful, ungifted people. I would apply for that one :-0




Finally got myself a crappy computer - but it was cheap and it came from a very nice person who is going to India soon to improve herself and the world, so I guess the force is with me... or rather with her humble puter - and I should be getting all the good vibes already.

Actually the taxi drive to fetch this machine cost the third of the total price, which is kind of ironic - but it was a nice snowy day around here (not so nice on the roads, you bet) and the taxi-driver happened to be a Libanese Maronite (Catholic that is) with a love for foreign languages and religion - he's learning Hebrew, his Bible is in Italian, and he told me about Koran, and also about some nasty things he's seen in his life. And oh, about the infinity of the universe. And existence as the infinity of the moment :-0
I didn't interrupt.

It's rare that I get to take a taxi, and it's too bad because taxi-driver philosophizing is a genre in itself - the stories these guys tell! It's kind of raw and primitive but always surprising. Another driver I remember from before told me how his Italian mother, who was an aristocrat, married a blue-collar guy and what a disaster this was for their four children all of whom ended badly - including the taxi-driver himself. I mean, where else would you hear a story like that?

But the bottom line is - I've got a computer now.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003



I am tired.

Monday, December 15, 2003



I should mention by this time that my very first glimpse of
Wittgenstein which sort of left a grain to germ somewhere in the
backstage of my mind but did not then light a bulb altogether (and it
doesn't matter), is this unassuming website.

There were many quotes from the Tractatus back then and when I went
to look at the Tractatus itself it failed to spark my interest. So I
sort of forgot all about it for a while, until recently I happened on
that book, "On Certainty", that produced the necessary conflagration.

Beat me with a stick, but I think L.W. is terrifically shallow in the
Tractatus - it is a work of a young man with huge brains and maybe a
huge ego too, and while his ideas there look deep, there is something
seriously amiss: setting out to resolve all the problems of life
through brains, that doesn't work, though the experiment might look
magnificent. Man it's one cold book!

So it's kind of interesting that it was "On Certainty", something he
wrote practically on his death-bed, that showed the man to listen to.

***

Found this article on
Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard
(how the former read
the latter and what happened) - there are things I don't agree with.
For example there is talk of the levels of understanding, and how if
you're not on a certain level you won't get what a person on another
level will. The author would like to think that L.W. found it in
Kierkegaard - and can't find where. It serves one to recall when L.W.
lived and what sort of ideas and books were in the air back then. How
interesting that this same stuff is expounded by somebody like
Richard Rose - who says that he read it in Gourjieff. And he
certainly did. Meantime, Gourjieff was really *big* in L.W.'s days,
he didn't even need to read him to have gotten a drift of
these views.
We constantly forget about this whole Zeitgeist thing - the body of
ideas that float in the air, so that you catch them like flu and
don't even know where it comes from but you use them to think.
Likewise, in Shestov, who speaks of people like Spinoza and
Aristotle, there are whole clusters of things that come practically
directly from Theosophy (Count Keyserling etc) - and he never says a
*word* of them. So if you're not aware of the Zeitgeist you will
think he's being uncanny. What *is* uncanny however, is that somebody
would use these ideas in a rather unlikely context with novel
results.
Through Zeitgeist you see who is related to whom - nothing is
apparent or spelled out but it is there regardless. So in case you're
getting a *hunch* that there is some connection somewhere but you
don't know why or how - you've likely spotted something real. No need
to be horribly erudite to pin down this stuff in an articulate way -
the important thing is to trust that hunch and draw your own
conclusions, pending erudition.
Of course, if you're writing an article, that can't be good enough,
but what can you do :-0

Sunday, December 14, 2003



So they got Saddam - big news, can't possibly miss big news. I remembered
Ciauscescu (and forget spelling) being shot with his wife - but he died
convinced of his own virtues, which can hardly be said for a Saddam who's
been hiding in a hole in the ground - can't keep your head high after
that. I think Saddam is a Stalin look-alike: in character and deeds. If
Stalin was on the run, he would never have shot himself, like Hitler did -
not the same sort of guy. So let's say notorious dictators are not all the
same after all, they're all *bad* but that's all we've got to go by in
terms of who the next dictator gonna be here 'n there.

***

Got side-tracked into some sort of mood, off Wittgenstein for the moment.
Too much running around re computer stuff. Hope to get done with it soon
and get back into some sort of concentration on things that are not
entirely futile. It's not so much seeing the light as staying on track -
fragmentary states of mind. Sometimes you get a *glimpse* of something
like a way out or a new road, and then you fall off the course for some
reason - events and encounters, a bit like pool, something hits you and
you fly into some unforseen direction (and it's all inside your head,
really).

Moral considerations are particularly pernicious. And I can't get away
from this sort of thing. Once you start on it, it's a snowball effect -
*everything* comes to bite your ass. Now I worry about this guy who's
suicidal and with whom I've been penpals, an ocean apart - no ping, if
he's dead i'll never know. Or maybe I will, when his account goes dead.
Given that I am his only penpal it's something of a responsability - and
at the same time it's not supposed to be my business, whatever he decides
to do.
Likewise, is it *nice* to take advantage of naive people? No, certainly
not. At the same time I can't help myself - a person falls right into my
lap and then it turns out I am practically swindling this person for no
other reason than she's willing to be charmed. And I do the charm while
the going is good. Houdini despite myself. At the very same time I am
wishing with all my heart that my *ulterior motives* become apparent and
noticed, but they're not being noticed. Lord. I guess the only honest way
out is to stand up and shout: ulterior motives, look!!! Which will make
that person feel bad and stupid, so I don't do it. What I do instead, is I
become visibly disgusted with myself - so the person gets the bad vibes and
leaves with a bad impression but not as completely taken in as she might
have been otherwise. It's awkward but at least I don't get to feel
entirely victorious while *entirely* dishonest.
In a sense, I can't stand naive people: they're so vulnerable and at the
same time so irresistibly limpid, I just have to hate myself by
comparison. I don't even ask the question "how can I be a better person"
- it's hopeless, ulterior motives: you either have them or you don't.

And there's more but I won't talk about it because it's all in the same
vein anyhow - something is rotten in my kingdom and I am one rotten king.
Where's that horse already?






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