Empty Days

Sunday, April 25, 2004



My higher self

Yes, despite evidence to the contrary I do have a higher self - which also acts as an alter ego, when I get really confused as to what's driving me exactly. That happens often and I may as well say - it's a permanent state. I am not aware as to what drives me at any given time. But there are conflicting signals coming from everywhere and I am switching from higher to lower almost in the same breath, and back again.

There are higher aspirations in all people, especially in the criminal and the downtrodden. For some reason, this is less obvious with those who walk on even ground - perhaps because at that level it is important to keep appearances, which are then assumed to be of higher nature. There might be a confusion here though.

That's one of those ideas dear to Dostoevsky. He was a strange man in that he kept jerking the rope and trying to pull out those supposed "real drives" - and pointing out confusions. As I've noted previously, Dostoevsky was not only a conflicted personality, he was an all-around hater. He hated and vehemently loathed people and things - he despised easily and never forgave an offense. In fact, he would elevate that offense into something of a universal woe and fight against it ferociously and without mercy. He hated Jews, Germans, Polacks and the French. He barely tolerated Brits. He pretty much loathed most of his contemporaries and intellectual peers unless they agreed with him on every point. In this storm and hurricane of vehement hate and loathing there were glimpses of "higher things". Things he admired and thought worthy. That included children, criminals and some ideal specimens of the common people. And also some of his friends and family. All in all, most of the things and people he admired were either thoroughly abstract (like art or historical figures) or thoroughly familiar (like friends and family). Everything else was out of range.

Dostoevsky abhorred pretense, especially intellectual pretense. He loved to expose duplicity and "mere appearance". He basically declared that the vast majority of intellectuals are poseurs, spreaders and believers of their own great untruth. He tirelessly "exposed" and condemned what he called "the universal man" - or the abstract humanist, or the abstract socialist, or basically everything abstract and ungrounded in nature and custom.

If this sounds like George Orwell, that's because there are very obvious parallels.

And at the same time... Yes, at the very same time it was probably something he was fighting in himself, given the above facts of his personality. Perhaps the greatness of the man consisted precisely in this monumental combat against himself - and "understanding everything" through being infected with all the ills of that everything. The great soul-searcher who makes the world into his private battle-ground. Well, I am not saying anything new here - the man was a genius. Sometimes evil and petty, and superbly unashamed of appearing precisely as is. Indeed, fighting pretense involved exposing his own underbelly and not being ashamed of being unseemly and seemly at once.

But Dostoevsky too lied a lot. And loudly. The search for the higher ideal resulted in some incredibly corny outbursts. I am not judging the man - being corny happens to lots of people who are entirely devoid of any talent, so let's not quibble about genius here.

But how do you strive for purity while revelling in the darkest muck?

***

I tried to locate Dostoevsky's "Diary of a Writer" online (in english) and of course found nothing. The search yielded one hilarious result: "Buy the Diary of a Writer at Walmart.com". I am planning to buy my next pair of cheap jeans at Walmart - I never expected it would also offer some recondite specimens of foreign literature. Whaddya know.

Now, the absence of The Diary of a Writer online will probably force me to do an ad-hoc translation of the bits that struck me recently as really pertinent to the current debates raging in politics and society at large. In a sense it's a fucking waste of time: translating something that already has some official and elegant translation - so instead of engaging on a boring and laborious effort, I'll amuse myself by using the most colloquial language that I use in this blog for my personal pleasure and ease of expression.

Heh. I don't think Dostoevsky would mind - his own language is pretty lively though he sure has some style I can't possibly match. I won't even try - you've been warned.

***

And how does all this relate to my higher self? Well, I just threw a pile of dishes out the window - it's silly and petty and not high (well, no) in any way. I need some academic endeavor right next to this, you know. To strike a balancing note - boing!





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