Empty Days

Saturday, June 26, 2004



It is probably a mistake to talk of peace regarding suffering of the created - liberation is the greater word.




Reading Bhagavad Gita I felt prepared, for having already encountered uncouth thoughts of an american man who has achieved partial nirvana - or inner detachment and experience of higher unity. He was unable to enlighten his followers for being too ignorant in terms of human life. I am talking of Richard Rose, the backwoods man from West Virginia.

Perhaps believing or not believing in reincarnation is not the point. Neither it is to chant 'om' or go through complex rituals. However the struggle with doubt - or the seat of ignorance - requires a certain direction of the mind. It is perhaps possible to arrive at the proper direction by mere experience of suffering and endless attempts to find a way out. But the idea of peace one conceives from the depth of affliction is only a pale shadow of the kind of peace one might strive for. At this stage personal efforts will become insufficient.

This is the secret no one can reveal beforehand.




Thoughts on hinduism. In this system the advantage of humanity over animals and unconscious beings consists only in the ability - rarely realized - to overcome the endless cycle of Creation by superseding the world and achieving unity in Brahman. There is no higher essentially human purpose to life. At the same time, animals are free from sin by being unconscious of dualities of life and death, good and evil, oneself and others - that is, by being fully compliant with creation and its unity and pains. It appears that the specifically human sin consists in the ignorance of higher human ability regarding creation and non-created - but not in the error of dualities, which is simply part of ignorance.

In this system my cat is a higher being than I - because I am ignorant.




The way of the library being barred by summer schedule and my sleepiness, I had to turn all thoughts away from Houellebecq and engage with another world entirely - that of Thomas Mann.

The initial difficulties were great - I kept falling asleep and yearning for french accent. But in the middle of the night, towards 4am, I was finally able to free my mind from lingering insatisfaction and immerse myself in the curious pensive flow of Mann's meandering prose. Behold a great writer full of uncanny imagination, a psychologist and a lover of small secret things. The truth of life uncovered in another voice - partial and partially revealed. The Magic Mountain will soon engulf me in its depths, but I am only approaching and the shadows are long.




My love of this world is small. I am attached to life by regrets and fear of loss. Whole continents and entire cities may vanish in one day and I would not feel lessened. One dear being is greater than the whole great world - and this is the extent of my concern.

Friday, June 25, 2004



I wonder what am I doing sitting here all night typing in my reflections... Playing Montaigne, no doubt - very enjoyable (and also useful, though only to myself so far).

***

At the very same time I keep thinking of those who passed away recently - especially the one who kept a blog and liked to mirror his intelligence. It's all gone now, up in smoke. Every day I remember him while writing these.




I think what I dislike most and hold to be a clear sign of intellectual and moral dishonesty are principles and principled convictions. Which is also why I can't quite stand religious types (though, as with intellectuals, true holders of faith can sometimes be found even among those). It is not merely that such people abdicate their freedom of thought in subservience to external prescriptions - what is particularly harrowing is how they lie to themselves in claiming to correspond to a principle that is clearly foreign to their actual inner make-up.

As I said before, thought is organic - so is intelligence. Inner truth is the only measure of truth available to man. Principles and principled convictions usurp on this truth - simply because you would not need either principles or convictions to uphold something that is organic to you.

I think I am describing hypocrisy.




insta-wisdom.

I've been greatly ennoyed with certain lovers of oriental philosophies who kept walking around proclaiming the whole world to be nothing but maya and thus unworthy of either respect or attention. Such shallow misuse of striking ideas is not uncommon - once you gain access to esoteric wisdom, the temptation is great to immediately appropriate what you understand merely intellectually as truly your own and pose as an instant sage. This is obscene rather than simply stupid. Why talk of maya when you have no clue of what brahma might be? Let alone claiming to have overcome the duality of good-and-evil simply for having loved the idea?

Why indeed.




"The measure of your stupidity is the measure of your intelligence - be brave in both."
(from a lost chapter of Bhagavad Gita)




Mein Kampf. Excerpts.

Strangely enough, despite shared tastes and similar propensities, I've always had the hardest time finding a common language with self-declared intellectuals. I suppose my mode of thought and expression are too dismissive of high standards and erudition. I feel awful in academic and literary circles - the boredom of formality and mere appearances are suffocating.

At the same time, those whom I discover to be most suitable for dialogue end up trying to justify themselves as being "smart enough" for our conversation - perhaps sensing my inherent arrogance, of which I am not aware enough to avoid causing such surprising defenses. Most such people harbor deep-sitted yet unwarranted feelings of intellectual inferiority which they try to cover in various ways, but end up bursting the bubble every time. For all my self-doubt, I am not subject to this particular woe - perhaps this is the origin of my perceived arrogance.

Extremely intelligent people are hidden in unlikely places. This is one reason why I completely abandoned any of that youthful seeking out of "interesting people" (which, I believe, is a naive manifestation of early trust in life-forms). Interesting people are not worth looking for - firstly because no such concept is valid (usually it's mere showmanship), secondly because those who are worth something actually try to hide it under most unassuming airs. I've met quite a number of perfectly fascinating individuals - by mere chance and in the most unexpected shapes and forms. In the end, I was forced to admit that I simply cannot know in advance what an "interesting person" might be like and where they might be found - and thus quit looking for any altogether. (Needless to say, they can also be found among intellectuals - but are even harder to spot for all the drama-actors blurring the scene.)

The world is a messy place - and I am a messy subject of this world. Having come to this realization, I abandoned undue pretense and quest for knowledge. In fact, bodies of knowledge never really interested me. What interests me is some sort of an explanation for this overwhelming messiness. I find that a lot of people are engaged on the same quest - deeply and tortuously - and are not satisfied with pre-existing answers. Toying with ideas is not my thing. I can't play and joggle - for being too afflicted. The kind of intelligence I am finding most revealing is rooted in sorrow.




Inactuelles.

If I were anything of a spiritually-oriented character, I could never be a racist or a hater or an envier - even temporarily.

***

Sometimes I think that if somebody was inventive and wise enough to take the Gospels and retranscribe the whole thing by changing all the too-familiar names of actors and places to something entirely different, as well as camouflaging certain archaic pronouncements under a new form - the understanding thus gained would be greatly enhanced.

Removing millenial historical perspective weighing down on a perfectly spiritual message can hardly be a disservice to said message. That, however, would only apply to the four texts - and not the apostolic exegesis.

Just like the Teacher in Gospels was aiming at overcoming the great weight of the ritual law, so the Teacher in B.Gita is talking outside of the scriptural weight of the Vedas. Neither is denying what has been said - simply because tradition is perepheral to their purpose.

***

Perhaps the second coming of Christ would be the destruction of Christianity from within - just like the first coming of Messiah was meant as the destruction of Judaism from within. Superseding stale law of scripture is the spiritual renewal par excellence. Sometimes it takes no less than God (re)incarnated to undo the yoke.

Gospels as the Law of Scripture is a great calamity for its purpose.

***

It is important to note that Christianity as we know it today is not contained in waning churches and attendant sects, but in the very fabric of our liberal, seemingly unreligious societies. In fact, the true seat of Christianity today is Humanistic Rationalism, which is at the base of all our most secular institutions - political, social, and especially economic. The real face of historical christianity is effectively embodied in the ongoing Socialist-Capitalist Democracies synonymous with the West.

How a second coming of Christ might look in such a context is not possible to predict - how a spiritual teacher may arise in the heart and flesh of a world predicated on materialism?

But then what was Judaism when Christ arrived? Was not the rule of law essentially an early form of the same materialism, which we now experience as entirely a-theistic?

It is perhaps possible to speculate that the second coming would arise in the very midst of materialism and utter rationality - and blow it to pieces in its own language: the language of science.




Of all the possible human experiences I was led to prefer the most paltry and limited one - that of mere intellectual enjoyment.




Bhagavad Gita is hard - even harder than Gospels. This is to say that not much may be said.

3. Scarcely one man in thousands strives for perfection,
And of those who strive and are successful,
Perhaps one knows me in essence.

Thursday, June 24, 2004



18. Men of learning view with equal eye a Brahman of knowledge
and good learning,
A cow, an elephant, and even a dog and an outcaste.

19. Creation is overcome, even here on earth,
By those whose minds are established in equality.
For Brahman is the same, without defect to all.
Therefore they are firm and abiding in Brahman.




Freedom.

I tend to obsess about things. There is no doubt about it. Especially things like writers and various thinkers. That's called "being in a world". I spend all the time I need in whatever such world - and then I fall out into the usual emptiness of attending non-reality which is what most of my life is made of anyway. In other words, I use my mind to practice escapism - with great abandonment and without qualms as to what is being left behind. Not much is in any case.

The value of life has been reduced to a minimum. Being around is at most a nuisance to myself and to others - except for those who leech on me as part of their preferred world (friends, parents, relatives). It's important for them that I should hover around, somewhere within mental reach at least. But outside of this superfluous need for my presence, I am just a continuum of enduring nonsense - a flat wave of solitude, endlessly beaming the same tedious signal into the same vacuous space - and that's how I know myself, ladies and gentlemen.

Am I "depressed" for speaking such odious facts? Not at all - I actually feel perfectly fine at the moment. Quite lucid, as a matter of fact. Just saying what is and how it's been and how it's gonna be. Could this continuum be broken, might this ever change through some barely natural fluke of inner/outer circumstances? It's hard to say. I would think not - but that's the logic of my wave-length, and I can't think outside of what is.

***

I keep thinking about this insidious description Houellebecq made of the act of free-will and though it says a bit more than it really means, still the basic idea is quite sound - and, I would add, accurate.

An act of free-will is one that changes your destiny - or the wave-length you've been engaged on from times immemorial. The outer manifestations of such change may not be all that easy to spot. Some people are extremely driven and jump from one thing to another all the time, while others are perhaps very limited and visibly and tediously monotonous - but in both cases the direction of destiny is perfectly uniform and effectively unchallenged. What freedom exists when you're so blindly bound by your pre-existing dynamics?

Yet, Houellebecq is right - free-acts may and do occur. Except that you're no master of any such liberation. The wind of change blows one knows not whence - and, easily, it never does arise.

Where will you choose to go today? There is nowhere to go.




Houellebecq is often compared to (and in some way reminiscent of) Michel Tournier - a failed philosophy Ph.D. turned philosophical novelist. But, while I found Tournier's ideas more or less interesting, the dry and bitter arrogance of a failed academic greatly spoiled the quality - and especially the freedom - of his thought, in my opinion. Trying being too smart is not exactly the way of natural intelligence. What's more, this endless over-smartness essentially sucked the life out of his novels - leaving only a squeleton of a certain sustained, well-developped philosophical discourse. I remember the ideas - I don't remember either pain or joy. You can say what you will of Houellebecq, but he's certainly not that kind of pretensious bore - notwithstanding all the home-made philosophy he drops in amidst all that spleen and debauchery. (though I do realize that many a one will disagree and in that case it's better to stop reading his books in the first place; I never liked Flaubert for all his talent; result - I don't read Flaubert; but I don't go around saying he's a worthless piece of shit; should I try perhaps?)




Haha. Great photo of Houellebecq. The french sites sport his younger, nicer shots, but this one smacks of hard-core reality. Not really a guy you'd want to meet - at least I would very well dispense with the acquaintance.






Slept through the day, woke up upon a daliesque dream of a totally bizarre Paris where they had a Nabokov museum that looked like a mausoleum. Given that I spent the night with my mind firmly set on french literary scene it was to be expected.

Upon waking suddenly realized that all those Houellebecq books were due at the library, so I rushed up the hill in splendid June weather only to find that this is Quebec and things are closed in Quebec on June 24 (of course I entirely forgot which date it was - despite having a clear sense as to books being due - but I guess I was still slightly disoriented from having spent so much time in that dream).

***

This was a sad promenade though. I think there is a good reason why I avoid going outside too much - the world is too full of life, especially in summer, and when I get to see it all too up close, I have to feel just how out of it I am. The sense of alienation becomes too pressing and I have to retreat to my home/my fortress to forget all and get busy with something that has no bearing on this reality of mine. It's a neurotic strategy but I know of no better.

As the Unabomber says, people need to go through some power-process in this world - and if you don't get a chance and are denied a little power, you get really low and depressed. You become a neurotic. Damn right, Ted.

***

There is no doubt that this blog here and everything attending ("internet as a window on the world") is where I get to do my power-process bit - entirely unwarranted and fantasmatic, but what else is there?

My suicidal UK penpal gets his power-process bit from playing GO online and getting good at it. Others immerse themselves in chess etc. I can't really let myself to just play games that way.




Here's the reason Houellebecq has no qualms playing himself up to the media. That's what you do - when you could care less:
An hour or so later, in a gilded salon of the Hotel Bristol, before literary Paris’s smartest, a shabby figure in a baggy sweater and rumpled scarlet jeans took his check and—in the spirit of his novel—declined to wallow in bourgeois expressions of pleasure or gratitude. Not all were charmed. “It’s an insult to the members of the jury,” one French publisher whispered to me, “for him to accept the prize without having washed or gone to the dry cleaner’s.”
That was Julian Barnes describing how Houellebecq accepted his Prix Novembre, instead of Prix Goncourt. Nice jeans, dude.

Or this:
It also made him rich and famous, although hanging out with him in Dublin, you would never know it. His wardrobe -- a pair of dingy chinos and a couple of flannel shirts -- suggests graduate-student asceticism. Ditto his diet: coffee and tobacco leavened by the occasional bender. ("I don't like to eat," he told me. "I only like sex.") The bookshelves in his town house are cheap, and the wallpaper is beginning to peel. (Houellebecq and Marie-Pierre, whom he married in 1998, plan to move to a house on an island off the southwest coast of Ireland where there are more sheep than people.) Houellebecq said that having money has changed his life in one crucial respect only: it has allowed him to escape "the nightmare" of being an employee. Fame is a more ambiguous blessing. "It's too much pressure," he complained. Then again, he conceded, "my sex life is richer."
Not quite your bobo shit, is it? Anyway - it's always a good question to consider why people write and publish; and 80% of the time there is no good reason except some shit like fame and prestige and status. No great writer is ever born out of such utter futility.




Houellebecq and commercially-driven publishing.

Will Houellebecq remain in posterity and will he be crowned as a major writer of this period of french literature? I have not the slightest idea. And I really don't see why this should be so important. Why - do we need to claim that Houellebecq is as good as Dostoevsky? Must we put him on par with Celine? Should we have known that Van Gogh was going to become the greatest painter of his time - instead of missing on something "so obvious" (never thinking that in Van Gogh's time the proper conditions for such evalutions have not been established yet - the meaning was absent, quite simply).

So what is it - envy, jalousy, dislike, distaste, hate, boredom, indifference? No, not indifference. For some reason, I am not finding much indifference. There are tremendous amounts of vaguely presentable trash that are published every year in that blasted country of France and they get beside themselves over things like Christine Angot - who is not a writer by any stretch of imagination. But at this time everything is pushed as "literature", so people finally get confused and start resorting to desperate means - like going back to well-approved authors, clinging to consecrated authority, dismissing everything that is not sufficiently reminiscent of the established classics.

And Houellebecq who gayly messes with the media and doesn't hesitate to self-promote must necessary appear like yet another faux-autheur of the commercially driven world of french publishing.

I can't really appreciate the extent of either this fear or the confusion out there, simply because I am too far removed from that world and that trash - but I can understand how a guy like Houellebecq might generate such hate and distaste, under the existing hyped conditions, that is. People are tense. Too much is being made of Houellebecq - the man is making too much money. It can't be good... and so on.

But who screwed up french literary scene so bad it can't find its bearings?
Who? - cash, green paper, that's who.
Regrettably, that process is now irreversible.




Against Houellebecq - literature as fine style.

A lot of people in France hate Houellebecq and (or?) his popularity. They find him lacking both in content and in style. They write devastating critiques where they essentially wonder how it is that anyone should like Houellebecq - how it's even possible. Usually, their own analysis makes it so that they can't answer this question; or rather, the only possible answer is too impolite to utter ("those who like M.H. must be tasteless and/or brainless").

But what is really interesting is how such outright haters justify their dislike. There are basically two categories of Houellebecq-bashers: those who hate his ideas (usually extremely ideological leftist types who probably never read the books for all the accounts in the press) and those who just can't stand the man in general and evoke his supposedly bad style as the crux of all his sins. This latter category usually appeals to traditionally revered authors as their model alternative (read: taste). However, this style-bashing sounds mostly like a cover-up for their real motives which are simply that they hate what the man has to say in the first place. Example:
Écrivain. Romancier. Littérature. Houellebecq. Cherchez l’intrus.
Alors voilà, tout a commencé ainsi : un écrivain(1) sort un premier roman (Extension du domaine de la lutte) qui raille la société de consommation et raconte la solitude sexuelle, intellectuelle et morale d’un homme perdu dans le « monde comme supermarché ». Depuis, on ne peut plus échapper à Michel Houellebecq*.

Extension du domaine de la lutte a été publié en 1994 par un petit éditeur de qualité, Maurice Nadeau, après, selon les dires de ce dernier, plus d’un an d’hésitation(2). L’ouvrage devient très vite ce que l’on appelle un livre « culte »** - ce qui signifie qu’on en vend peu, mais à des lecteurs passionnés(3). Quatre années passent, le phénomène Houellebecq se développe(4). Arrive la rentrée littéraire de septembre 1998 : son second roman, Les particules élémentaires, est publié par une nouvelle maison d’édition (pas de chance pour Maurice Nadeau !), d’une tout autre importance commerciale et médiatique* : Flammarion. La parution de ce roman suscite aussitôt un engouement démesuré* : couvertures de magazines, émissions télévisées, interviews multiples. Le terrible « monde comme supermarché» paraît sans doute moins rebutant à Michel Houellebecq lorsqu’il lui permet de faire exploser les ventes de son livre*.

Houellebecq frôle même le monde comme hypermarché au moment de la remise du prix Goncourt 1998, que de nombreux critiques regrettent de voir attribué à Confidences pour confidences de Paule Constant (Gallimard) plutôt qu’aux Particules élémentaires. Ces mêmes critiques sont d’ordinaire moins prompts à dénoncer les attributions régulières de ce prix à de mauvais livres(5). Mais rendons grâce à leur jugement littéraire : oui, Michel Houellebecq méritait le Goncourt. Puisqu’il a lui aussi écrit un mauvais livre.

Un mauvais livre ? Un livre ? Autour du phénomène Houellebecq, tout le monde oublie qu’il faut parler de littérature***(6). On l’accuse d’être réactionnaire, raciste, stalinien, anti-homo, antitout et le reste(7). Comme si cela avait quelque importance. Comme si l’on ignorait que le talent littéraire peut coexister avec la sombre folie d’un homme - voir le cas Céline pour prendre l’exemple le plus connu***.
....
Houellebecq a donc de la culture (scientifique et sociologique), de l’idée, et de l’ambition : ses romans prétendent donner une vision globale de la société*, ce qui est somme toute assez rare dans la production française actuelle. Mais tout cela réuni ne suffit pas à faire un bon écrivain. Cela fait tout au plus un écrivain plus malin que les mauvais écrivains - titre que nous ne lui contestons assurément pas. Le titre de bon écrivain, quant à lui, ne peut être donné qu’à quelqu’un qui possède un style littéraire***. Mais quel est le style de Houellebecq ?
(*) Obscene self-promotion, unwarranted pretention
(**) Good only for a paltry few, probably teenagers
(***) Now let's see what good literature should be like


So what is this glorified "style litteraire" that is apparently the hallmark of all great writers? The author of the critique goes on to refer to Kafka (irony), to Celine (dialogue), Vialatte (minor writer, able translator of Kafka), Saint-John Perse (poetry), and a certain Jean-Patrick Manchette (contemporary author of elegant parisian thrillers).

Unfortunately, it doesn't occur to the spiteful critic that Kafka's "style", for instance, is a horror by any standards of fine writing - and the only reason we love him so and reserve him a place in the literary pantheon is because of the force of his uncanny imagination and his poignantly timely thought. It also does not occur to the not-so-venerable critic that Vialatte, for all his free-flowing finery, is a writer of little interest in his own right, despite the fleeting pleasure his books provide when you perchance get down to read them.

This all-too-french school-bred confusion between fine writing style and literature is not new and has pushed many a critic and reader to believe himself a writer and spoil the fiction-stand with his exquisite exercises in fine styling. Appealing to this sad misunderstanding is not simply narrow-minded, it is nefarious as to the well-being and meaning of literature - if it should be conceived as something more than just an able arrangement of words and paragraphs.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that Dostoevsky, of all people, was not universally loved in his lifetime and many have decried his reactionary utopian ideas, and more still have denounced his novels as near-trash for their over-excited hyperbolical melodramatic manner. As to style... Turguenev had style - Dostoevsky most certainly did not.

***

NB: the short-sightedness of this school-bred arbitor gustibus is well apparent when he bashes Houellebecq for his "unnatural" dialogue techniques - never realizing that this is a pastich of de Sade, entirely meant and meaningful for the fabric of the novel.

In fact I'd love to read a bad critique of Houellebecq - but I'd like it to at least have some insight as to what literature consists of.

Instead I hear nothing but this (from another bored one):
Il ne s'agit pas, bien sûr, de prôner un retour à on ne sait quel ordre moral, car ce serait encore plus ridicule que les efforts déployés au cours de ces quatre cents pages d'ennui pour nous convaincre - comme si nous l'ignorions ! - que notre époque va mal. Relisons simplement dans ce registre Sade, Mirabeau, Apollinaire, qui, eux au moins***, savaient ce qu'écrire veut dire.
Yes, of course, I agree - Sade is a much better writer than Houellebecq. Indeed this is so. But I don't need Houellebecq to be better than Sade - I need him to be just what he is, as he is, here and now: Houellebecq, the guy who's got something to say.

(Incidentally, I disliked the intitial chapters of his first novel, Extension du domaine de la lutte - he tried for a regular novel and it was awkward, boring and useless for the rest of the book - which is where Houellebecq-as-such was finally revealed.)




Psychometer.

It would be nice if there existed a small portable device, like the diabetics use to measure the level of sugar in their unstable blood - to measure the state of various biochemical activities in the brain, in particular for lack or surplus of dopamine, serotonin and other such mood-related little bastards.

Of course, the thing would have to be accompagnied by a whole line of generally available chemical regulators - a bit like self-injections of insuline when necessary etc.

So far, diabetics are better off than psychopaths and depressives - at least they have their first-aid package, while us, the sufferers of the mind, we are being denied even such ancient and perfectly potent remedies like cocaine, extasy and other such stimulants. Instead we are supposed to regularly ingurgitate unclear drugs that have an uncertain and rather tedious effect on our little brains and other parts of the body. In fact, it rather seems that these drugs are designed to diminish our brainy capacities instead of raising them to full-potential. The depressive and the psychopath are intolerably outside the norm - one in being too low, the other in being too high.

But do current drugs at least procure peace of mind (which would seem like the very essence of ideal normality)? Or do they procure a discounted, somewhat mediocre equanimity, where balance is achieved at whatever level as long as you don't feel frustrated or over-hyped? (see dopamine-inhibitors)

I hear curious things about Celexa (citalopram) - apparently it makes you into something of a blissful imbecile, perpetually content of whatever is there, which is perhaps very near the taoist principle of "saying yes to the global flux of reality". According to personal accounts, a curious effect of the drug is that ongoing negative thinking does not affect mood - which is strange, because you would think: if you're in such a good mood, negative thinking would disappear, right? Wrong. And that's how you know you're a blissful imbecile. Or maybe that's what Nietzsche experienced of his own biochemistry - being such a cheerful masochist as he was...

Anxieties are of course a source of torture, and essentially sedative drugs such as Xanax (alprazolam), Paxil (paroxetine) etc are perhaps the best answer to uncontrollable tremors, sleeplessness and jerky behavior due to stress, drug-addiction, or dead-end situations. But make no mistake: it won't take away your problem, which is where anxiety originates from in the first place. My main concern about these drugs is that they act as a sort of smoke-screen - and people purposefully over-dosing on Xanax are not that rare in the end.

In short, we are quite far as yet from the clear state of the diabetic and other suchlike sufferers. The brain is a mess, not to mention the mind. I wonder how they manage depression etc in the Middle-East or Africa... I guess there the drive to outstandingly correct normality is not as high - and violence or holiness are not as much looked down upon.

Depression in the Middle-East - an interesting subject...




Hamlet undead.

39. He who has faith, who is committed to it, whose senses are controlled,
Gains knowledge, and having obtained it,
He quickly attains supreme peace.

40. But he who is without insight and is without faith,
His very self being doubt,
He is lost:
For the doubting one, there is neither this world nor the next,
Nor is there happiness.




On misuses of philosophy.

25. As those who are ignorant (avidya) act from attachment to action;
The wise should also act, O Bharata,
But without attachment,
Desiring to act so as to hold the world together.

26. Let no wise man shake the minds of the ignorant
who are attached to action;
Acting with yoga-wisdom,
let the wise make all action attractive.




East and West.

The one reason oriental philosophies can never sit well with western tradition is because these are not agonistically dialectic deliberations but actual spiritual teachings enjoyning profound action and abandonment of mere intellectual verbiage.

Therefore all attempts at somehow incorporating these ideas into our corpus intelligendi is a continuous failure and even something of a massive cheatery. Suffice it to look at New Age and Carlos Castaneda - esoterics open to all (oxymoron).

However I don't mind the use Karl Jung made of it - for he was a practicing psychologist and not just a "philosopher". Discussing brahmanic visions in a literary salon does not obtain.




46. For a brahman who understands, (who knows what stands-under)
There is as much use in all the Vedas
As there is in a well when there is a flood of water on all sides.




Why I read.

It finally occured to me that I've never read Thomas Mann. Someone once tried to push Herman Hesse on me but for all the pushing I didn't like the premises. Not so with Mann. Missing on this writer is like missing on, say, Flaubert in France. It's permissible but unwise. I don't like Flaubert in the least - yet I don't regret having read him. For some unknown reason I also loath Balzac. In fact, much of XIXc french literature is profoundly meaningless to me (though this is too large of a statement - I love Stendhal, and Baudelaire truly devoured me once upon a time).

But I am not well-read. I am only "well-read" for my own purposes. Which is to say I would clearly miss out on most of those "famous quotations" games that are played in places like TLS (though it's only relevant for anglo-saxon stock).

The reason I am so not-well-read is because I always wait for a meaningful reason to tackle something new. I can never just pick up a book because I know the name of the author - I know too many names, and most of them ring hollow to me until finally something occurs in the high chain of my mental command and I am sent out on reading this particular ever-known writer.

I can't waste time on pointless erudition - I don't see the need.

Gross case in point: I never read Dickens and I am still not seeing the light as to why I would want to read him. Indeed: why would I? Can't think of a reason.




City of knowledge.

The life of the mind is notoriously limited. From mind to mind organic little bridges are constantly formed and destroyed, for nothing quite fits the complex self-absorbed pattern of the individual mind. Voraciously, sentries are posted at all intersections, looking for one who might carry a gift and a letter of passage. This is how ideas come and go and gather together, as if friends of friends sent on a long circular journey.

To form knowledge you must first prepare understanding by establishing friendliness. The greatest teachers are those who know that what is true is only true and valuable among friends. This is how the great circle of culture is entered - with a letter of passage and a friend's guiding directions. Those who come unannounced, ideas without passport, are banished and chased away like a hoard of aliens. This is the predicament of many of those who are trying to teach the uneducated and the resilient - bridges are not built, sentries are not posted to meet friendless ideas.

The stupidity of modern education is born out of friendlessness. Teachers are retreating into fortresses of their known circle and vast vacuous minds are left outside the high walls. The high walls of erudition prevent entry to peasants and commercial travellers. Heavy-armored knights are sent out with blazing glades to slay the uncultured and push them into arrogant submission. Thus vast stupidity outside the fortresses proliferates unchallenged - bridges are not built, and sentries are not posted to welcome yet only to repell.

Stupidity is the opposite of ignorance.




Ode to ignorance.

The pleasure of my ignorance is boundless in its freedom. My ignorance is what drives me to discovery. The humility of ignorance is false because it never reaches its boundaries. False erudition is the end of freedom for it prizes appearances over substance - the everlasting ignorance of the unchallenged.

The freedom in admitting to ignorance is what drives me away from the boisterous and the presumptuous. My own presumption is circumscribed by my incomparable, joyful unknowingness. Everything I say and know is both final and yet questioning - nothing will ever fill the great void at the heart of the spoken mind. The end of erudition is the end of finality. Should one defend one's ignorance - or rather sing its belated praises?

What would I do without my ignorance - where would I go and what would I beg for?

I am open to your questions, oh ye, the knowing ones.




The meaning of life.

A young man with a bad stutter and a crown of golden hair came to a big city and stayed with remote acquaintances for nearly a year until he was finally able to find a small depressing room and some kind of work. Twenty-five years later the city has grown twice the size, he still lives in the same ugly room, still works odd jobs, he's grown old and fat and bald and his stutter has never really gone away. No woman ever loved him - but he always loved Mozart.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004



Bhagavad Gita or Hamlet's dilemma.
The song of the Embodied-Vision, 18-20

These bodies, it is said, come to an end,
(But they belong) to an embodied one who is eternal,
indestructible, immeasurable,
Therefore, fight, O Bharata!

Both he who considers this to be slayer
And he who considers this to be slain,
Fail to understand: this neither slays nor is slain.

Nor is it ever born, nor dies,
Nor having come to be will it not be once again.
Unborn, eternal, everlasting,
This primeval one is not slain when the body is slain.
___________


Thus war is not the worst and neither is murder - it is this pathetic inability to die that should be cause enough for fear and trembling. Perchance to sleep... not even that, oh Prince of Danes.




H.P.Lovecraft par Houellebecq.

I just discovered the strange fact that the whole book can be consulted online as a gif-based facsimile (thus no copy&paste) and thus not appearing in search-engines.

For instance, while I actually typed in substantial passages in this blog (see here, here, and here), the complete version can be found in the said facsimile. It's somewhat ennoying (because neither searchable nor hyperlinked except for the three main parts) but it's definitely much better than nothing.

In any case, it appears that a lot of large chunks of Houellebecq are scattered in various places online (my blog is a humble example) but the prerequisit to finding them is to have read the books - and then just dump a sentence into google to find the rest.

***

In Russia there is a pretty popular and interesting writer, Pelevin, all of whose works sold relatively well (but book-selling is never a fortune-making device in such a poor country) yet are all available in extenso on a fan-site with his permission. That's how I got to read this author in the first place. It could be said that the man is by now a cult-writer.

Letting one's writings be available online is something of a statement - of the importance of your message over the importance of making a living. This is why Houellebecq is so extensively quoted in so many places - because of the importance of the message to so many people. In a less commercial society he'd be a perfect candidate for having all his stuff available and widely read online. But France and the West in general are too preoccupied with copyright and royalties to allow such distribution. Which I don't really deplore - because without his commercially-driven literary success I would probably never have heard of him. But after books are published and come to attention, they take on a life of their own. And this is what is shown by the appearance of so many parts of his texts on the internet.




Act of free-will.

[Michel Houellebecq, Particules Elémentaires, 1998]


Annabelle avait assisté au départ de l'ambulance, puis au retour de la
Renault 16. Vers une heure du matin elle se leva et s'habilla, ses
parents dormaient déjà; elle marcha jusqu'à la grille du pavillon de
Michel. Toutes les lumières étaient allumées, ils étaient probablement
dans le salon; mais à travers les rideaux il était impossible de
distinguer quoi que ce soit. Il tombait en ce moment une pluie fine. Dix
minutes environ s'écoulèrent. Annabelle savait qu'elle pouvait sonner à
la porte, et voir Michel; elle pouvait aussi, finalement, ne rien faire.
Elle ne savait pas exactement qu'elle était en train de vivre
l'expérience concrète de la liberté. En tout cas c'était parfaitement
atroce, et elle ne devait jamais plus tout à fait être la même, après
ces dix minutes. Bien des années plus tard, Michel devait proposer une
brève théorie de la liberté humaine sur la base d'une analogie avec le
comportement de l'hélium superfluide. Phénomènes atomiques discrets, les
échanges d'éléctrons entre les neurones et les synapses à l'intérieur du
cerveau sont en principe soumis à l'impévisibilité quantique; le grand
nombre de neurones fait cependant, par annulation statistique des
différences élémentaires, que le comportement humain est - dans ses
grandes lignes comme dans ses détails - aussi rigoureuseument déterminé
que celui de tout autre système naturel. Pourtant, dans certaines
circonstances, extrêmement rares - les chrétiens parlaient d'opération
de la grâce - une onde de cohérence nouvelle surgit et se propage à
l'intérieur du cerveau; un comportement nouveau apparait, de manière
temporaire ou définitive, régi par un système entièrement différent
d'oscillateurs harmoniques; on observe alors ce qu'il est convenu
d'appeler un acte libre.

Rien ne se produisit cette nuit-là, et Annabelle rentra dans la maison
de son père. Elle se sentait sensiblement plus vieille. Il devait
s'écouler près de vingt-cinq ans avant qu'elle ne revoie Michel.

__________________


(copied from a french-language forum debate about whether M.H. is a philosopher or a hack - some apparently are still convinced that quantum theories are on par with ufo-seeking; how very backward of them)

While it may appear too far-fetched to link possible behavioral non-determinism of sub-atomic particles known as quanta to no less than what for centuries we have been calling our free-will, it does not appear far fetched in a purely material system where misbehaving neurons and hormones are discovered to rule mind and body in more ways than could previously be so much as imagined.

Who's to blame that philosophy is lagging so far behind it can't (or refuses to) apprehend what has essentially been revealed through every-day application of scientific discovery (to which we all submit if only because it proves effective) - that our supposed free-will is either a fiction or a miracle, or both, but certainly not a God-given tool to use "at will"?

What - or who - moves *my will*(?) - if it's all nothing but dopamine...




The Junkie and the Muse.
(Hamlet speaks, tragic chorus responds:)

Depleted and disgusted today - probably the usual low after the usual high. There is no chance on earth I could ever maintain a steady line. Just ramble away through the listlessness, it's the landscape that does it, there are no shining horizons, only dunes - always the same, always hiding the next dune beyond. And so on.

I could be a junkie for all I know - I already live as one, crawling from one high (or do they call it "stability"?) to another on all four. Biochemistry rules my life - not God or Muses, just dopamine or what not.
Dopamine (C6H3(OH)2-CH2-CH2-NH2) is a catecholamine neurotransmitter in the brain. Its chemical name is 4-(2-aminoethyl)benzene-1,2-diol.
It can also be supplied as a sympathomimetic drug, i.e. a drug which acts on the sympathetic nervous system, producing effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure.
Dopamine is also a hormone released by the hypothalamus. Its main function is to inhibit the release of prolactin from the anterior lobe of the pituitary.
...
Also, the firing of dopamine neurons occur when a pleasurable activity is expected, regardless of whether it actually happens or not. This suggests that dopamine may be involved in desire rather than pleasure.
...
Other theories suggest that the crucial role of dopamine may be in predicting pleasurable activity. Related theories argue that dopamine function may be involved in the salience ('noticeableness') of perceived objects and events, with potentially important stimuli (including rewarding things, but also things which may be dangerous or a threat) appearing more noticeable or more important. This theory argues that dopamine's role is to assist decision making by influencing the priority of such stimuli to the person concerned.
I need some dope! My system is lacking in sympathy - I hate this life! Where, oh where is my supposed free-will?
War on dopamine ...Disruption to the dopamine system has also been strongly linked to psychosis and schizophrenia. Dopamine neurons in the mesolimbic pathway are particularly associated with these conditions. This is partly due to the discovery of a class of drugs called the phenothiazines (which block D2 dopamine receptors) which can reduce psychotic symptoms, and partly due to the finding that drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine (which are known to greatly increase dopamine levels) can cause psychosis when used in excess. Because of this, all modern antipsychotic medication is designed to block dopamine function to varying degrees.
...
Antipsychotics also have some effects as mood stabilizers, leading to their occasional use in treating mood disorder (particularly bipolar disorder) even when no signs of psychosis are present.
...
There is generally a lag of a few days to a few weeks between the time the drug is started and the time that the medication begins to reduce psychosis. Why this is so remains unclear.
It also remains unclear why some people kill themselves while on these drugs. Where oh where has my free-will bygone !




On the problem of immigrant laborers - and labor in general.
40. The labor question.— The stupidity—at bottom, the degeneration of instinct, which is today the cause of all stupidities—is that there is a labor question at all. Certain things one does not question: that is the first imperative of instinct.— I simply cannot see what one proposes to do with the European worker now that one has made a question of him. He is far too well off not to ask for more and more, not to ask more immodestly. In the end, he has numbers on his side. The hope is gone forever that a modest and self-sufficient kind of man, a Chinese type, might here develop as a class: and there would have been reason in that, it would almost have been a necessity.

But what was done?— Everything to nip in the bud even the preconditions for this: the instincts by virtue of which the worker becomes possible as a class, possible in his own eyes, have been destroyed through and through with the most irresponsible thoughtlessness. The worker was qualified for military service, granted the right to organize and to vote: is it any wonder that the worker today experiences his own existence as distressing (morally speaking, as an injustice—)? But what is wanted? I ask once more. If one wants an end, one must also want the means: if one wants slaves, then one is a fool if one educates them to be masters. —
The reason I cannot work in a factory and a good host of other menial jobs is not because I am not physically fit or too wealthy to bother - in fact, I'd rather die than work "bellow my station". This is largely why the West continuously imports willing menial labor from abroad - (il)legal mexicans in the US, arabs/turks in Europe.

The curious effect is that children of these workers, once they go through the universal school-system, become equally incapable of working "bellow their station". And the West continues to import slave-labor from the Third-World while biting the dust over integration problems that previous generations of the said slave-labor have produced in the meantime. Thus an alienated foreign-born underclass is created, instead of the original industrial white-trash (of which Nietzsche is talking here - standing at its cradle, so to speak).

Today's racism is largely an outgrowth of prevailing economic realities. The culture of comforts we live in does not tolerate the ethics of poor-and-honest variety. Does it mean we actually have the "means" to undermine this ethic? The universalist dream wants it so regardless.




What is and what should be... but is not.
35. ...Man is finished when he becomes altruistic. Instead of saying naively, "I am no longer worth anything," the moral lie in the mouth of the décadent says, "Nothing is worth anything—life is not worth anything" ... Such a judgment always remains very dangerous, it is contagious: throughout the morbid soil of society it soon proliferates into a tropical vegetation of concepts—now as a religion (Christianity), now as a philosophy (Schopenhauerism). Sometimes the poisonous vegetation which has grown out of such decomposition poisons life itself for millennia with its fumes ...
I particularly appreciate the "I" part - right on the nail, in my own experience. However Fritz is cheating here: saying "I" etc is no less dangerous - and no less conceptual. Yet false humility upheld as a dogma is indeed a very very bad habit.

(PS. - out of spite the French are now resurrecting Schopenhauer as something of a cult-author)




Flamboyant lessons in refractory masochism.
34. Christian and anarchist.— When the anarchist, as the mouthpiece of the declining strata of society, demands with a fine indignation what is "right," "justice," and "equal rights," he is merely under the pressure of his own uncultured state, which cannot comprehend why he actually suffers—what it is that he is poor in: life ... A causal instinct asserts itself in him: it must be somebody's fault that he is in a bad way ... Also, the "fine indignation" itself soothes him; it is a pleasure for all wretched devils to scold: it gives a slight intoxication of power. Even plaintiveness and complaining can give life a charm for the sake of which one endures it: there is a fine dose of revenge in every complaint; one charges one's own bad situation, and under certain circumstances even one's own badness, to those who are different, as if that were an injustice, a forbidden privilege. "If I am canaille, you ought to be too": on such logic are revolutions made.

— Complaining is never any good: it stems from weakness. Whether one charges one's misfortune to others or to oneself—the socialist does the former; the Christian, for example, the latter—really makes no difference. The common and, let us add, the unworthy thing is that it is supposed to be somebody's fault that one is suffering—in short, that the sufferer prescribes the honey of revenge for himself against his suffering. The objects of this need for revenge, as a need for pleasure, are mere occasions: everywhere the sufferer finds occasions for satisfying his little revenge. If he is a Christian—to repeat it once more—he finds them in himself ... The Christian and the anarchist are both décadents.— But when the Christian condemns, slanders, and besmirches the "world," his instinct is the same as that which prompts the socialist worker to condemn, slander, and besmirch society. The "last judgment" is the sweet comfort of revenge—the revolution, which the socialist worker also awaits, but conceived as a little farther off ... The "beyond"—why a beyond, if not as a means for besmirching this world? ...
When you figure how much "scolding" has gone into this one, you might wonder... But bona-fide nietzscheans never wonder. Meanwhile, this is likely the most masochistic thinker that's ever existed (Kierkegaard is a pale shadow compared to the self-negating genius here). On the other hand, I absolutely agree... except for all that glee.

(I also wonder why there are so many nietzschean echoes in Unabomber's writ - can't be a coincidence)




Ah, that Nietzsche...
26. We no longer have sufficiently high esteem for ourselves when we communicate. Our true experiences are not at all garrulous. They could not communicate themselves even if they tried: they lack the right words. We have already gone beyond whatever we have words for. In all talk there is a grain of contempt. Language, it seems, was invented only for what is average, medium, communicable. By speaking the speaker immediately vulgarizes himself. -- Out of a morality for deaf-mutes and other philosophers.
And of course it was those darn Greeks who had all that high esteem - as is learned from reading much Greek literature in the original. A bit suspect, I say, but ideally speaking Fritz is right - idyllically.




Modalities of solitude.

Come to think of it, I feel essentially relegated to a madhouse - which is perhaps the only way to relinquish all responsability towards the world while avoiding interaction. This private niche in the whole of life is practically indistinguishable from something like madness - self-created, but what does it matter...

What is there to live for? People live for each other - when it's at all possible. Otherwise it's moon or mars, whatever, but not anything like a human life by a long stretch.

Megalomanic ravings in a madhouse are the saving grace of this type of existence. In a way it's ridiculous - on the other hand, what else is there?

It's nice when pleasurable artistic creations are delivered from a raving place of this kind - but it's not always the case. Either way, it is extremely important to hide this fact from preening observers. Play dead or lost, but never admit to blissful alienation. Some people learn to lie so well, they almost look normal. Mistake. Especially grave if you suddenly come too close - what a bad idea. Flee as soon as you notice the subterfuge - madmen always survive, they don't need you. You made a mistake - depart.

more >>>

Tuesday, June 22, 2004



Erotic collage.

Happened on some interesting art by Stephanus.



"The fact that I could walk around and see my works displayed filled me with deep satisfaction; and the fact that they disappear very quickly helped me to practice modesty and gave me the kick to start again.

The pleasure of making art lies for me more in the act of creation than in building up a big artistic ego."





Tradition and Reality.

What is particularly interesting is to observe to just what extent those relying on the traditional religious perspective are unable to apprehend the woes actually undermining this world of ours. They claim higher ground of millenial authority - refering to Thomas Aquinas or St-Augustine - yet this searching for ready-made answers in a past long by-gone serves them not: it makes them blind to what the world around them is really made of - in essence, it blinds them to themselves, for they too are children of this world and not that of Aquinas or Augustine.

The inability to apprehend reality while hiding behind the stale shield of once-mighty ideas examplifies the blindness of such critics. They see the rot and can't understand what causes it - all the while claiming mere abandonment of tradition.

But, dear Sirs, restoring tradition "as is" is certainly not the magic answer to this reality of ours. Before claiming salvation you might perhaps want to take a naked look at what this reality is made of, what you yourselves are made of - and you will easily see how your supposed answers do not and can't apply.

A willingness to be blind and well-hidden from himself is the first characteristic of the traditionalist.




Beyond politics.

The End of Power
Without American hegemony the world would likely return to the dark ages.
BY NIALL FERGUSON
Monday, June 21, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT
...Unfortunately, the world's experience with power vacuums is hardly encouraging. Anyone who dislikes U.S. hegemony should bear in mind that, instead of a multipolar world of competing great powers, a world with no hegemon at all may be the real alternative to it. This could turn out to mean a new Dark Age of waning empires and religious fanaticism; of endemic rapine in the world's no-go zones; of economic stagnation and a retreat by civilization into a few fortified enclaves.
Why might a power vacuum arise early in the 21st century? The reasons are not especially hard to imagine.
....
"Old Europe" grows older. Those who dream that the European Union might become a counterweight to the U.S. should continue slumbering. Impressive though the EU's enlargement has been, the reality is that demography likely condemns it to decline in international influence. With fertility rates dropping and life expectancies rising, European societies may, within less than 50 years, display median ages in the upper 40s. Indeed, "Old Europe" will soon be truly old. By 2050, one in every three Italians, Spaniards and Greeks will be 65 or over, even allowing for immigration. Europeans therefore face an agonizing choice between "Americanizing" their economies, i.e., opening their borders to much more immigration, with the cultural changes that would entail, or transforming their union into a fortified retirement community.
...
The fragmentation of Islamic civilization. With birthrates in Muslim societies more than double the European average, Islamic countries are bound to put pressure on Europe and the U.S. in the years ahead. If, as is forecast, the population of Yemen will exceed that of Russia by 2050, there must be either dramatic improvements in the Middle East's economic performance or substantial emigration from the Arab world to senescent Europe. Yet the subtle colonization of Europe's cities by Muslims does not necessarily portend the advent of a new and menacing "Eurabia." In fact, the Muslim world is as divided as it has ever been. This division is not merely between Sunni and Shiite. It is also between those seeking a peaceful modus vivendi with the West (embodied in Turkey's desire to join the EU) and those drawn to the Islamic Bolshevism of the likes of Osama bin Laden. Opinion polls from Morocco to Pakistan suggest high levels of anti-American sentiment, but not unanimity. In Europe, only a minority expresses overt sympathy for terrorist organizations; most young Muslims in England clearly prefer assimilation to jihad. We are a long way from a bipolar clash of civilizations, much less the rise of a new caliphate that might pose a geopolitical threat to the U.S.
It is a very interesting bold article, freely fabulating on possible outcomes of a rather obvious situation. One might say that the process of the Decline of the West (and not just Amerika or Europe) - in the very midst of its apparent opulence and world-wide economic hegemony - has already begun and the upheavals we are witnessing are nothing but early spasms of an upcoming deathly agony. Whether it will be in 50 years or a 100 years is hardly the point.

While the esteemed professor is concentrating on the purely politico-economic aspects of such a decline, one would do well to consider the underlying "metaphysical" orientation of this process. A wonderfully cutting commentary was provided by the murderous Unabomber (who probably is considered untouchable by one writing from a tenured office) and of course by the uncanny Michel Houellebecq, whom the vast majority of the politico-literary press considers a joker and a brewer of ephemeral scandals. Mistake: somebody must provide a commentary beyond politics. These two did. Who else was bold - and truthful - enough to tackle the vaster implications?
(here I admit my ignorance; however this ignorance might be a consequence of there being no such thinker indeed)

It remains true that philosophers are those who dare think beyond the pressing concerns of the moment - thus overtaking its ephemeral, myopic character. They frequently err in detail, but not in essence. A philosophe engagé is always something of an oxymoron (like the Unabomber with his vengeful bombs) because seeing the bigger picture rarely ever (and I would say - never) means being able to provide meaningful measures to "correct" it.

Thus the Republic of Plato run by philosophers is a falacy - an oxymoron and a misplaced bid for perfect order. In our times this proved true for all "republics" built on perfect ideologies (Marx) by inspiring philosophers (Nietzsche) - such as the totalitarian states of USSR/China/N.Korea or Nazi/Fascist Europe.

Thus it remains to be seen whether the noted Decline of the West may be averted or only postponed.




H.P.Lovecraft, par M. Houellebecq - 1991.


L'âge adulte, c'est l'enfer. Face à une position aussi tranchée, les "moralistes" de notre temps émettront des grognements vaguement désapprobateurs, en attendant le moment de glisser leurs sous-entendus obscènes. Peut-être bien en effet que Lovecraft en pouvait pas devenir adulte; mais ce qui est certain c'est qu'il ne le voulait pas davantage. Et compte tenu des valeurs qui régissent le monde adulte, on peut difficilement lui en tenir rigueur. Principe de réalité, principe de plaisir, compétitivité, challenge permanent, sexe et placements... pas de quoi entonner des alléluias.

Lovecraft, lui, sait qu'il n'a rien à voir avec ce monde. Et il joue perdant à tous les coups. En théorie comme en pratique. Il a perdu l'enfance, il a également perdu la croyance. Le monde le dégoûte, et il ne voit aucune raison de supposer que les choses pourraient se présenter autrement, en regardant mieux. Il tient les religions pour autant d'"illusions sacrées", rendues désuètes par le progrés des connaissances. Dans ses périodes d'exceptionnelle bonne humeur, il parlera du "cercle enchanté" de la croyance religieuse; mais c'est un cercle dont il se sent, de toute façon, banni.

Peu d'êtres auront été à ce point imprégnés, transpercés jusqu'aux os par le néant absolu de toute aspiration humaine. L'univers n'est qu'un furtif arrangement de particules élémentaires. Une figure de transition vers le chaos. Qui finira par l'emporter. La race humaine disparaîtra. D'autres races apparaîtront, et disparaîtront à leur tour. Les cieux seront glaciaux et vides, traversés par la faible lumière d'étoiles à demi-mortes. Qui, elles aussi, disparaîtront. Tout disparaîtra. Et les actions humaines sont aussi libres et dénuées de sens que les libres movements des particules élémentaires. Le bien, le mal, la morale, les sentiments? Pures "fictions victoriennes". Seul l'égoïsme existe. Froid, inentamé et rayonnant.

________________


Whether this has anything to do with Lovecraft, I don't know. But it certainly prefigures Houellebecq's big novel of 1998. And it would be safe to conclude that he had already shaped his main ideas on the subject well before the early 1990's. This is how any true thinker operates - in continuously reflecting on life and world, and sculpting and shaping his private thought.

For a long time he was on welfare - above you have the explanation as to why.




I can dispense with self-effacing humour when I am alone in this blogsome space - being offensive hardly counts when there is no one to offend.




Academics are not allowed to think by their financial and social dependancy (status) on the intellectual establishment. Subservience to mere erudition is often the result.

Is this true? In most cases - unfortunately, yes.




Fear and Thought.

I re-read parts of my blog (the ones seemingly forgotten) but everywhere I find the same ideas replayed over and over again, in various shape and depth. I observe the timidity of my thought - in that I do not dare to pursue further and arrive at a definitive expression, let alone put it all together. I do not dare to uncover my system or think it through.

This in itself is not a judgement of rank ("great philosophers") but rather a meditation on how I operate and what I have to hide. Why I need to purposefully devalue my thinking - turn away when I could go further and deeper. It's not mere laziness. Always, apparent laziness is a sign of fear and inhibition.

***

Philosophy as practiced in your own life is very far removed from considerations of fame and rank. It is an important and essentially unavoidable activity, aimed at constituting oneself as a personality inside the world - and this is where fear interrupts. Because it implies taking on the world - standing up to it in what you think is important to who you are.

Why would I meditate otherwise on subjects such as the centrality of Holocaust to the current representation of WWII - or the true sources of racism? Why would it matter to me if not because these ideas somehow define me against my reality and my sense of truth?

Every time I think of Houellebecq - I think: "thank God for this fearless man".
Every time I think of Nietzsche - I think: "thank God he dared to so think."
Every time I read Plato - I think: "who else would have meditated so fully."

And quite outside of big names I always find myself feeling deeply grateful when I get to read something that makes sense and is important. People who dare to think are like lights in a great darkness of unthinking human submission.

***

The question of error is something different. What is error? What is truth? What is "objective"? Is Plato objective - is he true or is he in error? It doesn't make sense to so ask. However, it makes sense to look at where his system might encroach on your own - and this in itself uncovers what you hold true, your system.

It is dubious that one can think in a variety of ways and a variety of systems - this is the way of the machine. Human systems are organic. Thought is organic and thus reductive and limited. You may vary in opinion and expression but you will never be able to "replace" your make-up. Personality is an organic continuum and so is thought - your system of thought.

And that is where you may and will err - by becoming submissive to other bigger systems, by losing your native truth and professing as yours what you do not really "believe" in. That happens all the time. And is always uncovered, unless you remain unthinking.

The way of thought is to uncover your true system - pull your personality out of its servitude to the looming world. And that applies even to Kant (the supposedly scientific/objective mind), or Hegel, or Spinoza, or whoever of the same seemingly "objective" method.

***

Could we talk of "science" (and thus "objectivity") in philosophy?

Human sciences are human for a reason - the objectivity is only seeming, and is deeply and firstly organic. And thus not objective at all. Once you take on the world, you become scientific almost out of necessity, you look for a method to find your way out - because you encounter the great multiplicity of "objective" systems that are all somehow interwoven, powerfully rigged descriptions that constitute the legacy of all that has passed - the fact that the world is a history of ideas.

Commenting on the history of ideas (for this is precisely how philosophy is generally known) and struggling to make your own sense out of this history are two very different and perhaps vastly opposed things. The boldness required in the latter case is hard to underestimate - and this boldness is what forms intelligence, rather than the other way around.

"Critical thinking" is often devious - because it only pretends to be critical while remaining fully subservient to the world of established ideas. Such "critical thinking" is nothing but joggling, a performance of erudition, not true thought.

It is hard to under-estimate the great fear that impedes thought.

History of ideas is what makes human world - a social world - it forms the mind and shapes personality. Ideally, it desires you to stay well-formed and accept, accept, accept. Standing up to this and finding your actual bearings - "admiting to what you don't know" - is an act of rebellion.

I declare fear.




Observation

Everything I say makes perfect sense - in my own system at least.

When I read Houellebecq's novels they make perfect sense - because he is able to uncover his system, which in my case (and that of most people) remains largely hidden and only hinted at.

The ability to lay out your system of thought is the ability and the effort of philosophy.

Houellebecq is a philosopher for that reason (and not because his phrases are aphoristically striking, or because he mentions Kant).

***

True philosophical thinking - whether painstakingly systematic or not - requires great fearlessness and audacity. Timidity of thought (rather than word) is the chief obstacle to overcome. It may perhaps be said that all great philosophers (who are the only ones preserved for us to know) became what they were through sheer audacy of thought rather than mere intelligence.

Many a one is brilliant - only a few are bold.

This is the one crucial difference between philosophical commentators (who often look and sound like philosophers) and real thinkers. Shestov looked like a commentator and a critic while in reality he was a philosopher. So with Houellebecq who only looks like a writer of fiction. The measure of greatness in all of this is relative - one can only be bold to his own measure.

But when one is able to uncover his system, it sounds true and makes sense - even though you, the observer, might desagree and dislike.

The act of uncovering is what thinking is all about.

Monday, June 21, 2004



"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.
" (L.W.)




Suicide is a stage of life.

Not every life perhaps - but I can only speak for myself and those like me (many). There is no norm to humanity - there are norms of conduct in the flat intermediate field of social organisation. Everything beyond is essentially unchartered. Available descriptions are always lacking for the simple reason that it is unchartered.

Suicide is simply the necessary last step towards the discovery of the unchartered. This discovery may or may not be. It is the road of liberation - from the flatness of the norm, from partial descriptions, from everything that led you to suicide.

The road to liberation is hard and painful, because it takes on no less than the massively accepted truth of the world as seen through the flat-screen of the norm. It may prove too much to bear - in the fight for liberation one may die. But it's worth it.

Suicide is both a dead-end and a beginning. A narrow passage through the eye of the needle. You may die. But you may also cross over. At birth some infants suffocate and die. Birth is a perilous passage. Death too is a passage, it too is perilous.

Fear of suicide and fear of death both belong to the flat truth of the prevailing world. It is not absolute, it need not have been. The value of life and the value of death are forever unknown.

Fear is not an absolute.




The bubble is bound to burst - always. In and out, in and out.

At this stage in my life I simply cannot imagine how it could be otherwise - the other, continuous mode has been lost irrevocably, too long ago. I have to do with what is - now.




My brother is 32 years old and is a virgin.

For a boy-man this is an unbearable failure and humiliation - almost an ontological one. For all our quarrels (when we still shared the same space) I never once touched on this subject - never even dreamed of taking it up against him for all my anger(s).

Perhaps my magnanimity towards him is also a sign of contempt. But I think he accepts it as the natural judgement of the structure of the human world. He is lonelier than I am for that one reason. He still lives with my parents and they treat him as if he were still a child. That too he accepts with humility and has learned not to mind while constructing his own little niche of meaning.

He is less well-protected than I am yet he is able to believe in his humble self - against all odds. His sense of humour is subversively defensive and examplifies a total rejection of wordly judgement. He is ill at ease in all surroundings, and all surroundings are equally indifferent and equally painful to him. He has nowhere to go and he knows it - yet he keeps on trying in the bigger world.

***

My own celebacy is chosen. I do not suffer from absence of sexual life (thank God - it could well be otherwise) and I am not plagued by a nagging sense of defficiency in that respect. I am not particularly sexy since I devote strictly no effort to it and never have, but I know from past experience that this could well have been otherwise.

I also know that seeking sexual pleasure involves meddling with the world - accepting its hierarchical servitutes, its received ideas, its stupidly dependant relationships. I don't see how mere erotic ecstasy could justify all these concessions.

As to emotional involvement - frankly, it's even worse. Emotional involvement always means social involvement - no matter how exclusive the binary relationship might be. The world looks down on you and you have to rise up to it to satisfy your partner's sense of the world. Two perfect reclusives cannot mate - it's a pretty ridiculous illusion, this (though I realize that a lot of lonely and horny subjects imagine otherwise).

***

Either way it is clear that looking for mates is only possible if there is a firmly established inner base to go back to. Then all the individual humiliations of human interaction can be breezily forgotten and repaired. The modus operandi is simple - use and desist.

Emotional (and sexual) neediness is the chief enemy of the hermit. It promises the fullness of life and leaves you with nothing but shame and regret that you were foolish enough to believe that the gates might finally open.

No - you are the only one who is able to open and close the gates of life. No one else should be trusted with that task.

***

In general, human relationships are only possible in some sort of a socially-supported context. Without it everything immediately falls apart. This has to be remembered when you think of the value of human interaction. Emotion does give life - but it also sucks it out of you.

People are needy and weak.




What saddens me without end is that my own parents (whom I love and cherish and pity) and even my so-called friends should be so unthinkingly subservient to the ideology of this world that is intent on killing me - and are continuously attempting to impose it on me through their supposed caring.

It saddens me that I must despise them for it - and fight them off as I fight off the rest of this mamoth structure.

This is perhaps the reason I tend to sympathize with the homosexual mythology - which is a mythology of permanent victimhood, rejection, and search for negative freedom.

I also sympathize with my brother - who is in the same predicament.




For one thing I decided never to seek work again.

It's over - the very concept of holding a job is over and done with. The bare minimum will suffice. Perhaps occasional cash-making, but without fear and without regret if it doesn't work out. I can't escape in any case - so why try to gain the means of escape?

What is unbearable however is when there's nothing to fill the days with, when nothing matters. I wonder if this is simply due to depression - having no taste and no satisfaction in anything. In that case pills should theoretically correct this - and I may experience unfounded self-respect more often than I normally do on my own biochemics.

There is no specific reason why I should be feeling fine now and so receptive and mentally active - when I was ready to off myself only a month ago. I felt correct in early winter as well, when I was discovering Wittgenstein - same receptivity, same ability to marvel at things. Vivid mental life.

What happened? I can't even remember - nothing much really. It comes, it goes, and every time there is really no motive, or all motives are equally inane.

An ever-present abyss opens up and I fall through.

This is not rational and is not really dependant on outside conditions. Yet every time there is some sort of a trigger - a tiny crack in the wall that never closes until a full breach is achieved. Perhaps there are vaguely rational ways to stave off depression, but the breach will open anyway - except that you might not notice it as glaringly as when no conscious defense is put up. But the abyss never goes away - be not deceived, my dears.

In a way, the less possible triggers - the less episodes of depression.

If I lived in the country and had my own place without human interaction or dependence, I am pretty confident that my year-round sufferings would be greatly decreased. "L'enfer c'est les autres" - which means: the human world is always ready to eat you up, if only through your own mind. The sight of the world creates permanent pressure - on those who can't join in. The mental energy that is constantly needed to create an alternative niche, a mental defense of "looking away", is actually tremendous - far greater than for those who are happily "integrated". It might be said that the recurrent depletion of this energy is what actually creates depression in the first place - the biochemical balance is not entirely independant of what one is up against.

The constant insiduous valuation performed by the human world on your frail person is a great offense and a daily confirmation of your inanity. In former times this was sublimated as "the eye of God". Today there is no God - only the bestial many-eyed Argus of the swarming humanity.

Of course I loath the city - and society as a whole, of every place and nationality, the ideology of human crowds.

If I were a teenager or especially high on violent hormones, I would perhaps commit murder or severe maiming. I would run people over and smash their heads in. I would practice savage violence as a means of expressing my anger and humilation at having to sustain the sight of so many people.

None of this is possible - which naturally results in massive periodic self-loathing and desire to self-destruct. In fact I envy the Unabomber.

***

The film "The Arrangement" with Kirk Douglas is a feeble variation on the same theme - on shame and self-loathing in a horridly ugly, humiliatingly vile world.




Heroically-oriented or opinion-dependant types contemptuously call this navel-gazing.

How unfair of them.

Don't you imagine it is far more humane to meditate on your navel in private rathen than parade it in full view as no less than the 8th marvel of the world?

***

For a long time I've been struggling with the youthful question of justification and individual value. No more. Such tortures arise from the ever-unsatisfied and wholly pre-fabricated desire to achieve all the pleasures and meanings of the human world - wine, dine, and drink from the cup.

Once these desires are abandonned, the question of justification falls off like an autumn leaf from a dying tree. But this death is nothing but bareness. And this bareness itself is the quiet readiness to endure the inevitable - the long winter of isolation, the natural loneliness of a life detached from its sources.

Ascetism is enough of a firm ground to sustain all-weather and all-suffering. Glimpses of subdued joy are not excluded. Full blossoming is not envisioned. All is right, all is forgiven.

And yet I do not expect peace.




Resonance and the illusion of meaning

The curious effect of the blog - even when I arrange everything to assume it to be invisible, still there is this illusion of possible readership that gives words an additional minuscule shadow of legitimacy. I've long noticed that I've lost the impulse to write on paper - not simply because it's much less convenient in terms of arrangement and corrections (which are instant in word-processing) or because it's entirely unsearchable (I never remember where I write things - while in bytes everything can be indexed and found again), but mostly because I could no longer tolerate the utter obscurity and purposelessness of the written word lost in a pile of scrap-paper.

I suppose the often-misplaced urge to publish in bona-fide press is a relic of the paper-age - likewise for the need to converse.

Today the necessity to pull words and thoughts out of their semi-mute obscurity into an attempt at address and perfection (or something similar) is instantly satisfied through the illusory device of online-publishing: you can very well pretend you are being read and dispense with looking for an audience - it only takes supressing stats & comments.

The immediate resonance thus achieved is unreal yet perfectly satisfying - posterity and longevity do not matter, apres moi le deluge.

This is a marvelous invention to relieve the loneliness of the urban mind.

If individual existence is something of an illusion, then the value of individual words is equally phantosmatic - and thus subject to illusory repercussions. I belong to a pre-internet generation and my view of this phenomenon likely differs from that of the younger ones - to me it is still too virtual to be equated with the world of human reality as I've once known it.




LA PHÉNOMÉNOLOGIE AUJOURD'HUI

Que ce soit dans son dialogue avec les sciences (logique, psychologie, mathématiques) ou avec les autres courants philosophiques (analytique, cognitiviste, herméneutique), la phénoménologie retrouve une audience que le structuralisme ou les philosophies du désir lui avaient contestée depuis les années soixante. On s'aperçoit alors que, contrairement à son image d'Epinal liée pour une grande part à l'existentialisme de l'après-guerre, la phénoménologie possède une histoire complexe dans laquelle son fondateur, Edmund Husserl, occupe une place centrale. La situation actuelle n'est pourtant pas idyllique, et les phénoménologues auraient tort de croire que, dans l'effervescence présente, la partie est gagnée d'avance. De nombreux chantiers les attendent, d'immenses questions les apostrophent : le primat subjectif de l'évidence, le retour du refoulé métaphysique, la difficulté de construire une théorie sociale et politique. Ce dossier se veut un état des lieux de la phénoménologie actuelle, montrant la pluralité des champs de recherche, la multiplicité des approches et l'originalité d'une pensée qui rend notre monde plus compréhensible, donc plus vivable.
____________


Really? Does it "render our world more intelligible and thus move livable"? I wonder whose world that might be... Because I obviously don't live in it. And most of those who claim such intelligibility don't live in it either. And that's pretty much the false value of science and near-science that, while it aims at explaining the world as fully as possible, it fails to make it more livable - on the contrary even.

This question is never addressed for lack of guts.

(thank God for Houellebecq... it took such a long, long time... for so little after all...)




Once in a while I should mention the fact that my life would be immesurably more difficult if it weren't for the naive presence of my cat. The emptiness would be properly unbearable. One tiny living soul (because an animal is a soul as much as any human) makes all the difference - fills the silence with its own wilful movement, its own moods, its careful, instictively insightful relating.

When my cat meditates I cannot know what he's thinking about. And neither does he know what I am thinking about when I read, write, and meditate. We're perfectly even in that respect - that we cannot perceive each other's inner life.

But we are not strangers. We quarrel even. And occasionally I play the tyrant.

***

Dostoevsky in his House of the Dead vividly describes his great joy in hostile surroundings to be met every day, when coming back to camp from forced labor, by the naively loyal stray dog who lived behind the barracks. The great writer would cry hot tears of gratitude just from looking in the dog's kind inhuman eyes. Animals carry the purity of all love.

I certainly know what Dostoevsky means here. When I was depressed and lonesome in the emptiness of Berlin what warmed my heart every time was not the memory of my parents or my friends, but the expectation that upon my return I will be met with the naive unquestioningly loving gaze of my cat.

The innocence of this naive love has since been greatly spoiled by my endless treachery and thoughtless indifference.

Perhaps, if I had children, I'd think of them first too - and my guilt would be greater.




The one moral principle of some import is not to impose undue burden on others - and not to take up undue burden; but neither to refuse what is due.

Inner balance is dependent on this and functions as the natural scales of what is right.

It appears that ideological and sentimental morality is very far removed from what is right on these scales and thus imposes undue burdens. For all my reading of Nietzsche I've never dared to question my own realities in this.




Do I know whether I am worth something or not - whether I am intelligent or not and what is the value of my possible value?

None of this is subject to evaluation. As long as I do not impose my dubious value on others, I can remain without known value.

Does it even matter at all - to know or not?




Why is it that religious word cannot reach me?

I could learn the Gospels by heart and learn nothing from it. What is it that makes the letter dead? The light and air that are needed to carry words are absent. And the words cannot be heard.

Old religions are entirely dead for that reason - except in artificial hot-houses.

Churches and congregations are nothing but interactive neon-lit museums.




In my lifetime this is the era of multiple deaths - people who've been around forever are dying away like flies.

Yesterday I learned that our family-dentist of 15 years has just died of cancer. My parents are his age - and were deeply shocked by the sudden event. Tacitly I know that my parents are next on the line. Already their friends and older siblings are passing away - all in the space of a year or two. And it'll keep coming.

I know - and I am readying myself.

What's more, I am readying myself for my own death. Either self-administered or from early disease. I am learning to let go of life and see what matters.

Nothing matters except what is, no matter how poor and paltry and vain. And I am no wiser for that.

Regrets? I can't know beforehand.




The pitfall of style

One of the most confusing - and fascinating - facts of literary life is that there is no doubt that much reading of fine literature and much dabbling in things of culture contribute to instill in the patient a great propensity towards exquisite writing.

This naturally leads the patient to imagine that, since his style achieves such heights of precision and classical beauty, there is no reason on earth why he would not share this awesome ability with a bunch of less capable readers. Thus literary critics are born - and minor writers as well.

The fact that France is currently suffering from a wide-spread and largely uncontained epidemics of literariosis is hardly a surprise. You should look at French high-school curriculum to realize that this has long been practically unavoidable - the level of education in fine letters is simply too high to leave no traces.

The phenomenon is far less serious in other countries, especially in America where wide chunks of the population are largely untouched by fine arts. However, due to explosive democraphics, american literati are still proliferating in great numbers - I could talk of hundred of thousands if not millions. Proportionally speaking, this is far lower than in France, where the exact numbers are essentially in the same range.


Is this state of affairs a menace or a welcome development?

Once again, it depends on what is more important: achieving resounding success on the publishing scene or producing at least a few authentic writers "who have something to say" - and not necessary to the mind, but also to the soul.

more >>>




How about that? - II

Houellebecq has a few interesting things to say about this whole writing-vs-prestige business. Note that his own work has since been accused "of lacking in style"; note also that Dostoevsky was accused of the same, for his mode of expression has always been more than chaotic and ponderous; and you know what happened - it turned out he actually had something to say...
Note also that Lovecraft as a character is the very ideal all of Houellebecq's "better" fictional alter-egos tend to resemble - sacrifice of human life to mental life: can this be "judged" on writing-style only?

____________________

Le XXe siècle restera peut-être comme un âge d'or de la litterature épique et fantastique, une fois que se seront dissipées les brumes morbides des avant-gardes molles. Il a déjà permis l'émergence de Howard, Lovecraft et Tolkien. Trois univers radicalement différents. Trois piliers d'une littérature du rêve, aussi méprisée de la critique qu'elle est plébiscitée par le public.

Cela ne fait rien. La critique finit toujours par reconnaître ses torts; ou, plus exactement, les critiques finissent par mourir, et sont remplacés par d'autres. Ainsi, après trente années d'un silence méprisant, les "intellectuels" se sont penchés sur Lovecraft. Leur conclusion a été que l'individu avait une imagination réellement surprenante (il fallait bien, malgré tout, expliquer son succès), mais que son style était déplorable.

Ce n'est pas sérieux. Si le style de Lovecraft est déplorable, on peut gaiement conclure que le style n'a, en littérature, pas la moindre importance; et passer à autre chose.

Ce point de vue stupide peut cependant se comprendre. Il faut bien dire que HPL ne participe guère de cette conception élégante, subtile, minimaliste et retenue qui rallie en général tous les suffrages. Voici par exemple un extrait de Prisonnier des pharaons: [..skipped..].

De tels morceaux de boursouflure emphatique constituent évidemment une pierre d'achoppement pour un lecteur instruit; mais il faut aussitôt préciser que ces passages extrémistes sont sans doute ceux que préfèrent les véritables amateurs. Dans ce registre, Lovecraft n'a jamais été égalé. On a pu lui emprunter sa manière d'utiliser les concepts mathématiques, de préciser la topographie de chaque lieu du drame; on a pu reprendre sa mythologie, sa bibliothèque démoniaque imaginaire; mais jamais on n'a envisagé d'imiter ces passages où il perd toute retenue stylistique, où adjectifs et adverbes s'accumulent jusqu'à l'exaspération, où il laisse échapper des exclamations de pur délire du genre: "Non! les hippopotames ne devraient pas avoir des mains humaines ni porter des torches!". Et pourtant, là est le véritable but de l'oeuvre. On peut même dire que la construction, souvent subtile et élaborée, des "grands textes" lovecraftiens, n'a d'autre raison d'être que de préparer les passages d'explosion stylistique. Comme dans Le Cauchemar d'Innsmouth, où l'on trouve la confession hallucinante de Zadok Allen, le nonagénaire alcoolique et à demi-fou: [..skipped..]

Ce qui oppose Lovecraft aux représentants du bon goût est plus qu'une question de détail. HPL aurait probablement considéré une nouvelle comme ratée s'il n'avait pas eu l'occasion, au moins une fois dans sa rédaction, de dépasser les bornes. Cela se vérifie à contrario dans un jugement qu'il porte sur un confrère: "Henry James est peut-être un peu trop diffus, trop délicat et trop habitué aux subtilités du langage pour arriver vraiment à une horreur sauvage et dévastatrice."

Le fait est d'autant plus remarquable que Lovecraft a été toute sa vie le prototype du gentleman discret, réservé et bien éduqué. Pas du tout le genre à dire des horreurs, ni à délirer en public. Personne ne l'a jamais vu se mettre en colère; ni pleurer, ni éclater de rire. Une vie réduite au minimum, dont toutes les forces vives ont été transférées vers la littérature et vers le rêve. Une vie exemplaire.

______________

[M.H. - H.P.Lovecraft, troisième partie]

Actually, here is an example of why they say Houellebecq "lacks in style": une fois que se seront dissipées les brumes morbides des avant-gardes molles is an ugly phrase, there is no doubt about it.

And here's an example of how it is that Houellebecq has something to say regardless: Cela ne fait rien. La critique finit toujours par reconnaître ses torts; ou, plus exactement, les critiques finissent par mourir, et sont remplacés par d'autres.

Regardless.





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