Beauty Vs Greatness
Beauty seeks out beauty, and is rewarded for its nature - but greatness must drive its own stakes into the ground, and fight for every inch.
To each a degree of truth
To each of us there is a degree of truth and a degree of subterfuge. We are what we are, but also, we are only projections of that. A shadowy self thrown onto a silk screen.
Montaigne, Oafs and Power
"Only observe who have most power in the cities, and are most successful in business, and you will generally find that they are the least talented" - Montaigne.
Indeed, many a blunderbuss, a hippo and an oaf walk the halls of power - but yet, these are the qualities that won it - and more importantly, we who granted them as much, either by our own inaction, our cowardice or our defeat. So who then is the greater, and who the lesser?
Value of Learning
The value of learning is not learning, but creation and discovery.
The man does not make the village
The village makes the man
- I said that.
I think to myself lately that the Ancient Greeks were right to place community (the polis) at the zenith of their esteem. What better thing is there for a good life besides intellectual engagement, the love of family, partners and friends and a community around you?
Life Is Not In The Counting
The days disappear
Unless you count the hours
And the years disappear
Unless you count the days
But life is not in the counting
But in the living
The dreaming -
And the slipping away
Big Thoughts Wide Stage
To have big thoughts, set a wide stage.
On Sleeping And Waking
In science fiction explorations of teleportation, and kneaded over in "The Prestige", is the question of whether the You who is teleported away is the same You who appears on the other side.
From the perspective of the You who appears on the other side it is a seamless connection with past experience - but really it might a turning off of one light at point X, and turning on another light at point Y.
So then, a strange thought: is this hypothetical scenario so very different from the notion of sleep? What if the You who lays down at night, is not the You who wakes in the morning? Again, for the waker, the experience is seamless, their history laid out behind them - yet this is in fact their first day life, of awareness - they are new born.
More interestingly, at this point, I don't see a way to *disprove* this from being the case. Not to say its true, just that it can't be proven not to be the case.
I wonder then, if, each day we are born and each night we cease, like fireflies who live but a day - would we live any differently? Would we spend that day in an office cubicle? Watching TV? I suspect not...
For a disciplined practice, exceptions are the beginning of the end.
Drinking and Thinking
An excess of thinking
May lead me to drink
But an excess of drinking
Will never lead me
- On why I drink less and less these days.
Every man must have a vice
As every man must serve something
As every man must taste surrender
At least once in their life
Human Fallibility And Blindness
We see ourselves as giants with eagle vision, striding across the Earth, when we are in fact pale small worms, wandering half-blind, obstinately, without the cane we so need, bumping into things and being surprised every time "I couldn't believe it", "A real shock", "Never saw it coming". We are gerbils in a maze, we just can't seem to see it.
Civilisation Marches Nowhere
Montaigne: "We do not move forwards, but rather wander, turning this way and that. We return over our tracks".
The anti-Hegelian position and one I strongly endorse. History marches nowhere. While the cosmos may have its Arrow Of Time (one that points toward disorder no less!) there is no such arrow for civilisation. We move, we progress, we change, we evolve to be sure but in no direction in particular.
As Foucault points out, we believe that the abolition of public execution and torture is evidence of our civilising effort towards human rights, when it is more accurately an adaption to the arbitrary changes in power and politics.
We aren't seafarers travelling towards valhalla, we are jellyfish adrift on the tide. As Bob Dylan put it "no direction home".
Sleep, death, wake, live
Just as sleep without dreams can be a kind of death, so waking up, can be a kind of life.
Panchatantra: "All are wise in hours of ease".
I think more and more of Montaigne's position that virtue is only virtue tested under strain, and would add to this that we do not know ourselves or others, the mettle of which we're made, until we've seen them (and ourselves) in the furnace, under great pressure and adversity. We are all good when it costs us nothing, goodness is proven when it costs us a great deal to be so.
No man may escape his geometry.
No man may escape his geometry
Diligence is the path
From a sign outside of the community college in the China Town district of San Francisco: "Diligence is the path up the mountain of knowledge".
Bigger, Better, Faster
Enhancement, upgrade, update - these are the catch cries of America, and by extension the modern West. A pursuit and definition of betterment often contrary to reason, certainly to sober wisdom. Bigger muscles, smaller waists, more friends, more sex, enhanced salaries, enhanced house, enhanced life. Better living through chemistry.
Murder with Theatre
Montaigne: "We do not correct the man we hang, we correct others through him"
An idea from Plato - and expounded upon at length in Foucault's 'Discipline and Punish'. The princely meaning of the public beheading, the hanging in the village square, the show trial and the torture, becomes suddenly apparent.
Murder without theatre is pointless, murder with theatre is politics.
The crucible of ideas
Cicero: "There can be no discussion without contradiction"
The necessity of contrary points of view to stimulate, and to advance, debate. The crucible of ideas.
Only greatness counts
I told myself in a dream: to be good is not enough, only greatness counts:
If you come expecting praise
Go back and keep bleeding
What is good lasts an hour
What is great might never fade
Its all about the money boys
The Panchatantra: "They may be honoured gentlemen, they may devoted be, yet servants leave a monarch, who forgets the salary".
As the Coen Brother's Cyclops says in 'O Brother Where Art Thou?' - "it's all about the money boys". Or as Tom Wolfe's high society man in Bonfire Of The Vanities is abandoned by his set when disgraced - it is strange that what truly holds our social, political, professional constellations together is much less what we would like to think (loyalty, love, dedication-to-cause) and is much baser than all that. Absence of this hidden gravity, this dark matter, show true faces. A rich and powerful man, if he wants to know who truly loves him, should stage a fall from grace. He should live a penniless year and then he will know who his friends are, he will know loyalties and liars.
Honesty In Writing
Montaigne: "Others shape the man, I portray him".
The challenging pursuit of honesty in writing. Egoless and unafraid of offence. Tolstoy seemed to have a natural talent for this too. It is a surprisingly difficult thing. To be entirely truthful in writing. At every stroke of the pen, or press of the keyboard, that little moralising, fearful, politically-socially-correct voice in the head checks us, stops to ask how and by whom those words will be read.
We are the greatest enemies of truthfulness. We ourselves.
Socrates the soldier
Montaigne says of Socrates "he was ready to sell his life and his blood very dearly to anyone who might try to take them".
This Socrates, the solider, is of great interest to me. Always depicted as a kind of smiling Yoda figure I try imagine him with covered in blood and dirt. Where is Socrates on killing? On war? On taking lives?
Montaigne and Plato on Fear and Danger
Montaigne: "Nothing is so likely to throw us into danger than a frantic eagerness to avoid it"
Plato: "The less fear there is, the less is the danger"
The Long Way Round
Oftentimes the long way round teaches you more than as the crow flies.
Solitude makes poetry possible
Solitude makes poetry possible.
Of all the qualities that make a successful life I think grit in the face of adversity is the most important. Without that you are tied to whatsoever fate deals up. Grit is no guarantee of success, but it is a common friend to it.
Boastfulness and Bravery
Boastful men are brave
When there is no danger
Great men take action
When the moment is upon them
There is time for everything
There is time for everything
Just not time
For anything else
What matters is not beautiful things
But beautiful thoughts
What means nothing costs us nothing
That which means nothing,
Costs us nothing.
To have a single thing of meaning,
We have all the world to lose.
So love wisely.
Life Is Not A Pilot Episode
Life is not a pilot episode.
There is no seventh season to fix the flaws and imperfections.
There is no time at all. Not really.
Between establishing shot and when the credits roll.
Be happy, rejoice, you who have a moments grace,
Or a minutes ease.
You are the blessed.
Smiled upon by the satellites of heaven.
Beamed down between the raptures of cable news.
Ideas Leaning On Other Ideas
It is hard to talk of one thing in clear terms, in full clarity, without recourse to so many other things, perhaps everything in some ways. Ideas are like this, they lean on one another, they link arms and build upwards, sideways and down.
The Ghosts Of Ex-Lovers
Relationships are haunted by the presence of our partner's ex-lovers. An incorporeal ghost whose qualities, failings and measurements, physical and emotional, we are always sizing up against.
Excess Of Sin
Excess of emotion
Is a sin
Moving house is inherently emotional;
Because marking time is inherently emotional;
Because marking time reminds us
Of our mortality.
Hunger And Holiness
Hunger brings clarity, clarity brings truth, truth and nature are of the same substance, so hunger brings us closer to nature. And by some definitions God is nature. This is why all holy men are thin. That is why Leonard Cohen and Patrick White fasted. Vanity too. But godliness also.