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robertogreco : transcendence   8

Avery Morrow on What do you think is the key to a ha...
"One of the most famous letters in Chinese history was sent by the historian Sima Qian to his friend Ren An. In this letter, Sima Qian bemoans his castration at the hands of an arbitrary emperor after he tried to speak out in defense of a good man. He proclaims that he will devote his life to completing his history, and speaks of the conviction that keeps people writing in devastating tone:
When Xibo, the Earl of the West, was imprisoned at Youli, he expanded the I Ching. Confucius was in distress when he made the Spring and Autumn Annals. Qu Yuan was banished and he composed his poem “Encountering Sorrow.” After Zuo Qiu lost his sight, he wrote the Conversations from the States. When Sun Tzu had his feet amputated in punishment, he set forth the Art of War. Lü Buwei was banished to Shu but his Spring and Autumn of Mr. Lü has been handed down through the ages. While Han Fei Zi was held prisoner in Qin he wrote “The Difficulties of Disputation” and “The Sorrow of Standing Alone.” Most of the three hundred poems of the Odes were written when the sages poured out their anger and dissatisfaction. All these men had a rankling in their hearts, for they were not able to accomplish what they wished. Those like Zuo Qiu, who was blind, or Sun Tzu, who had no feet, could never hold office, so they retired to compose books in order to set forth their thoughts and indignation, handing down their writings so they could show posterity who they were.

I too have ventured not to be modest but have entrusted myself to my useless writings. I have gathered up and brought together the old traditions of the world that were scattered and lost. I have examined events of the past and investigated the principles behind their success and failure, their rise and decay, in 130 chapters. I wished to examine into all that concerns heaven and humankind, to penetrate the changes of the past and present, putting forth my views as one school of interpretation. […] When I have truly completed this work, I will deposit it in the Famous Mountain archives. If it may be handed down to those who will appreciate it and penetrate to the villages and great cities, then though I should suffer a thousand mutilations, what regret would I have?

(Translated in Burton Watson, Records of the Grand Historian: Qin Dynasty, appendix 2)

This must stand alongside the world’s greatest critiques of writing. Writing, says Sima Qian, is just an elaborate way to tell the world about your indignation. Writing is a therapeutic behavior which you must resort to because you have been wronged or defeated. These are the bitter words of a man whose romantic belief in standing up for goodness and justice was viscerally mutilated by reality.

Sima Qian confides to Ren An that “such matters as these may be discussed with a wise man, but it is difficult to explain them to ordinary people.” The life of the mind is defined by knowing other people write from a state of discontent, not only with local injustices, but with the human condition itself. Those who have never known such deep discontent make poor conversation partners. Conversely, those who have come to peace with the human condition have no need to defend their views in public. This is the meaning of the Tao Te Ching’s verse, “Those who know, do not speak. Those who speak, do not know.”

In this sense, a philosopher, academic, or any kind of writer is the worst person to ask about how to live a fulfilling life. Their obligation to themselves is not to resolve their own problems, but to plumb the depths of their own discontent, seeking after a truth in unhappiness. It is not likely that anything that can be articulated in an intellectually honest essay can bestow a fulfilling life on you.

But in a terribly significant way, Sima Qian leaves out the other side of writing. He is convinced that if he writes something great, then posterity will read it. It turned out that his conviction was entirely right. But why was it necessary that his writing be great? Why does he need to go to the extent of examining everything that happened in the past and analyzing it? Why didn’t he just write a book about how the emperor castrated him and how he suffered? He must have seen something more important than himself in the history of his land.

In this letter, Sima Qian lets his bitterness shine through. But in his magisterial history, that bitterness is intertwined with a capacity for selecting, critiquing, and recording historical facts that ranks him among the greatest of all human civilization. Perhaps we can’t merely be told how to live a happy, fulfilling life with simple instructions. But reading can tell us about the dreams of centuries of men and women, and about what they did to realize them. In their dreams and their struggles, perhaps, we can see hints of transcendence, and find our own fulfillment."
writing  happiness  intellectuals  philosophy  simaquian  renan  wisdom  life  living  via:anne  transcendence  bitterness  fulfillment  thinking  unhappiness  taoteching  knowing 
july 2015 by robertogreco
An Emphatic Umph: Death and the Afterlife
"The other day, I was spending time with a friend and every time I chuckled, she'd say, That's your brother! That's his laugh! Think about what an insane thing that is to say. I wasn't quite sure I knew what she meant at that juncture but I do know the experience of being possessed by my brother. Usually, I feel it when I'm holding forth. Oh, lord, when I was teaching, I'd be mid-lecture when all I could hear, all I could feel, was my brother spouting — sprouting — up through my mouth, a kind of Ouija board.

My brother lives in Manila, in the Philippines. But he also lives right here — in me, as me, with me, at least a little. My sister is dead and she, too, lives right here — in me, as me, with me. Death, the Philippines, across town, it doesn't matte: our possession of and by other people transcends time and space, transcends body and ego. This can, of course, be to our dismay. I have familial forces working in me that I'd like to dispel. In fact, in order not to be a total asshole of a father — the key word here being total — I have to wrestle, stifle, and muffle the paternal voices that live in me, that live as me, that haunt me all the time.

We live with ghosts. This is not some supernatural thing, some mystical claim. Events are not discrete. When something happens, it doesn't just begin then end. It continues to happen more or less. This is called, amongst other things, memory. Memory is not a card catalog of snapshots. Memory is the presence of the past, here and now. It's my tying my shoe, craving rice noodles for dinner, knowing the way to my son's school. It's also the smell of my childhood house; it's falling into a pile of dog shit at the ever sad PS 165 playground and then my five year old ass being asked to strip for a bath by the Jamaican nanny I could never understand; it's the wide, radiant, true smile of my sister as well as her confused, sad, skinny face days before she died; it's the daily screaming of my parents that still echoes in my skull. It's everything that's ever happened to me and is still happening to me, right here, right now.

We are events, each of us. We continue just as the things that happen to us continue. Sure, they seem done and gone but they — but we — persist in various ways, as echoes and sentiments, as shadows and gestures, as scars and dreams."
danielcoffeen  douglain  death  2014  kierkegaard  ghosts  afterlife  religion  buddhism  meaning  meaningmaking  living  consciousness  williamsburroughs  nietzsche  foucault  jacquesderrida  paulricoeur  pauldeman  marclafia  memory  softarchitecture  lisarobertson  mortality  aubreydegrey  immortality  events  experience  time  memories  writing  transcendence  deleuze  plato  michelfoucault 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Transcendent dandyism – The art of dolce far niente – Albert Cossery and escape artistry | Lebenskünstler
"Extreme Indolence: On the Fiction of Albert Cossery [http://www.thenation.com/article/168020/extreme-indolence-fiction-albert-cossery ]

"…A novelist who made a cult of laziness, he had no qualms about taking it easy when it came to literary invention—“The same idea is in all my books; I shape it differently,” he once said…



Cossery’s heroes are usually dandies and thieves, unfettered by possessions or obligations; impoverished but aristocratic idlers who can suck the marrow of joy from the meager bones life tosses their way. They are the descendants of Baudelaire’s flâneur, of the Surrealists with their rejection of the sacrosanct work ethic, of the Situationists and their street-theater shenanigans, not to mention the peripatetic Beats or the countercultural “dropouts” of the 1960s. Henry Miller, who raised dolce far niente to an art form, praised Cossery’s writing as “rare, exotic, haunting, unique.” Whether Cossery’s merry pranksters wish merely to have a good time or, as in The Jokers, to wage an all-out campaign of raillery against the powers that be, there is one belief they all share: the only true recourse against a world governed by “scoundrels” is an utter disregard for convention, including the convention of taking anything seriously.



…The proud beggars in this story are Gohar, who has abandoned a professorship to live on the fringe as a street philosopher and bookkeeper in a brothel; Gohar’s protégé, the poet and drug dealer Yeghen, who tries to live his life as if it were itself a poem; and El Kordi, a revolutionary sympathizer chafing against his dead-end job as a government clerk.

…"

Albert Cossery and the Political Subversion of the Transcendent Dandy [http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/114238/albert-cossery-and-the-political-subversion-of-the-transcendent-dandy/ ]

"The Egyptian-French novelist Albert Cossery was a philosophical and aesthetic dandy who loathed the idea of work, celebrated underground movements and ideas, and absolutely detested power. He was the dandy as a political subversive—an idea that must be resurrected.



Cossery, in a sense, is something of the offspring of the Surrealist Jacques Vache, a self-described “umourist” who revelled in doing nothing at all. An artist who decided not to create art, a poet who decided not to write poetry, all in an effort to prove that creation of works is counter-intuitive to the true artist, who must live the art and not leave evidence or relics as proof of genius.



Governments are, in fact, quite terrified of this sort of philosophical dandyism—of the aggregate of individuals who subvert by gleefully doing nothing.



And so it is the politically subversive dandy—the transcendent dandy—who is best-equipped to lead a new politically-subversive movement, where a panoply of ideas merge like a kaleidoscope. The dandy understands the absurdity of power and the various ways to subvert, ignore and transcend it, without resorting to violent means.

Dandyism, at its core, is political subversion, and Albert Cossery was nothing if not a dandy. And it was the dandies, the forgotten and ignored whom Cossery celebrated in his novels.



…Characters opt to withdraw from any idea of a career. To recognize the absurdity of joining power in its game (government) and staying as far away from it as possible. To know that love—for friends, fuck buddies, boyfriends, girlfriends—was all and that it was untouchable, transcendent.

We need a new era of dandyism, of subversives. We need a new counter-culture.

The dandy as imagined by Cossery has time to think and enjoy life. Idleness is not only a virtue for Cossery and his characters, it is elevated to the natural state of being—a rejection of the unnatural tethers which are fixed to our bodies as soon as we escape the womb: the classroom, the cubicle, the wage, the dollar, rent, and so forth."

[See also: http://randallszott.org/2014/09/29/loving-those-that-god-forgets-albert-cossery-idleness-is-more-than-a-way-of-life/
http://randallszott.org/2014/09/29/how-to-stop-time-toward-a-politics-of-the-unprolific-eternal-life-for-the-lazy/ ]
albertcossery  randallszott  2014  dandies  dandyism  idleness  counterculture  subversion  subversives  power  art  poetry  writing  wageslaevery  wages  oppression  classrooms  education  schools  unschooling  deschooling  cv  rent  careers  governement  love  friendship  transcendence  politics  nonviolence  philosophy  nothing  trickster  laziness  classroom 
october 2014 by robertogreco
BOMB Magazine — Teju Cole by Aleksandar Hemon
"TC Thank you. Halfway through writing Open City, I thought to myself that I should learn some of New York history “properly.” So I bought a stack of worthy books and started to read them. But, you know what? Doing that offended the sense of drift I relied on for my novel. The books were too systematic, too knowledgeable. So I just went back to my previous method: relying on the things I already knew, walking around aimlessly, and filling in facts and figures later as needed. The thing had to breathe, it had to drift, and it had to pretend not to know where it was going. (A dancer in mid-dance can’t think too much about her legs.)

As for cities in general: I think they might be our greatest invention. They drive creativity, they help us manage resources, and they can be hives of tolerance. In a village, you can’t stick out too much. In the city, if anyone judges you, you tell them to go to hell. So, there’s that positive side. But the other side is that they are simply so congested with material history and the spiritual traces of those histories, including some very dark events. Your contemporary Chicago is haunted by the Chicago of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Chicago of innovation and of systematic exclusions. Rural landscapes can give the double illusion of being eternal and newly born. Cities, on the other hand, are marked with specific architecture from specific dates, and this architecture, built by long-vanished others for their own uses, is the shell that we, like hermit crabs, climb into.

The four cities I listed are simply four that were important nodes in the transatlantic slave trade and in black life in the century following. They are the vertices of a sinister quadrilateral.

AH Cities do offer spaces for uncontrollable exchanges, but then there is always controlled commerce, which not so long ago included slave markets. But cities also erase and reshape themselves in ways that are different in different places. American cities tend to erase their pasts, particularly the conflictual parts, just as they marginalize the inconvenient and unjust parts of the present—the killing and the greed are always elsewhere. Take the Bloombergian New York, the Vatican of entitlement, where glamour conceals the greed that drives (and destroys) it all.

Cities like Lagos, Sarajevo, Rio, or New Orleans, do not project a harmonious version of themselves, because they cannot—the conflict is ever present and indelible. Hence they’re uncontainable, like language or literature—no experience or interpretation can be final, no delimiting or closure ever available.

Reading your books, I have a sense that, had you taken different routes in your wanderings, a different New York (in Open City) or Lagos (Every Day Is for the Thief) would’ve emerged. Or to put it another way, there is no way to impose a self-sustaining narrative upon any city—only multiple, simultaneous plots/stories are possible. Could it be that cities are therefore more conducive to poetry, which allows accumulation of fragments and does not require narrativization? You invoke Ondaatje a lot, a great poet and wrangler of fragments, as well as Tomas Tranströmer. What does poetry do for you? Do you write poetry?

TC I rarely sit down to write a poem, not the kind you can submit to Poetry magazine or the New Yorker. But I think poetry and its way of thinking does infect a lot of my work. I certainly read a lot of it—there’s a discipline and tightness in the language that very few prose writers can achieve. So, yes, people like Tranströmer and Ondaatje and Wisława Szymborska are touchstones for me. It’s a long list: George Seferis, Anne Carson, Charles Simic, Sharon Olds, Seamus Heaney: anyone who has found a way to sidestep conventional syntax. And for this reason, I take pleasure in reading those writers whose prose also contains the elusive and far-fetched. I imagine in reading you, for instance, that you must make notes of the odd and remarkable ideas or moments in a way similar to a poet. Is poetry important to your reading?

AH Actually, I don’t make notes. I rely on memory and its failure. I do think in language and I imagine that is what poets do, except in tighter spaces, closer to the language, indeed inside it, wrangling its rhythms, uncovering its dormant possibilities. When I was coming up in Bosnia the most common distinction in literary discourse was between poetry and prose, and it was not unusual for writers to write both poetry and prose (stories/novels/essays). Consequently, if you were an invested reader, you would read poetry as well as prose. Whatever the reason for that, it foregrounded the notion of literature as made of language. The distinction was founded upon the different uses of language, and not, as in fiction versus nonfiction, upon the relation between representation and “truth.” Poetry is, as far as I’m concerned, essential to the field of literature, it is its purest form. Sadly, I’m not good at writing it (I’ve tried), but I love reading poetry."



AH I was particularly struck by the last chapter in Every Day Is for the Thief, taking place on the street of carpenters who make only coffins. There is a devotion to their work of packing people away into the void, never questioning the meaning of it all. That perhaps redeems all the other failures in Lagos, in the world, in literature. And the photo that ends the book is not only sublimely beautiful but suggests a transcendence that is beyond death, something that might be available to the carpenters/writers if they maintain their devotion for the work.

The questions: Where do you stand in relation to transcendence? Do you pursue it? Must we pursue it? Is that a way to imagine better worlds?

TC Well, open up yourself to our new overlords, Sasha. But, yes, I’m with you, particularly on the cataclysmic climate change that’s coming into view and which will cause so much needless suffering.

As for faith: I don’t believe in the Christian god, or the Muslim one, or the Jewish one. I’m sentimentally attached to some of the Yoruba and Greek gods—the stories are too good, too insightful, for a wholesale rejection—though I don’t ask them for favors.

What do I believe in? Imagination, gardens, science, poetry, love, and a variety of non-violent consolations. I suspect that in aggregate all this isn’t enough, but it’s where I am for now.
tejucole  aleksanderhemon  2014  interviews  memory  notetaking  cities  wandering  howwewrite  writing  language  poetry  representation  truth  prose  seamusheaney  sharonolds  charlessimic  annecarson  georgeseferis  wisławaszymborska  michaelondaatje  charlestranströmer  twitter  blogs  blogging  photography  religion  belief  socialmedia  fiction  literature  narration  faith  climatechange  transcendence  sashahemon  everydayisforthethief 
april 2014 by robertogreco
No priests, no temples – Briarpatch Magazine
"Spiritual practices are often concerned with transcendence, but I like to make a distinction between vertical transcendence and horizontal transcendence. Vertical transcendence is when we’re working so that I can connect with something bigger than myself, which can be self-serving and self-focused. Horizontal transcendence, however, involves a recognition that my devotion to your freedom creates the conditions for my own freedom. It’s about a relational, cultural awakening, rather than a personal awakening."
via:selinjessa  horizontality  horizontalidad  verticality  flatness  transcendence  interdependence  2011  yoga  michaelstone  spirituality  anarchism  anarchy  conviviality  mutualaid 
march 2013 by robertogreco
David Brooks: The social animal | Video on TED.com [Love this quote (and others) in the comments: "there are plenty of policies that can support the ideas Brooks put out. But they are contrary to his political position."]
"Tapping into the findings of his latest book, NYTimes columnist David Brooks unpacks new insights into human nature from the cognitive sciences -- insights with massive implications for economics and politics as well as our own self-knowledge. In a talk full of humor, he shows how you can't hope to understand humans as separate individuals making choices based on their conscious awareness."
psychology  socialskills  philosophy  davidbrooks  cognitivesciences  relationships  consciousness  consciousawareness  economics  socialtrust  trust  humans  humannature  rationality  schools  cv  learning  education  dehumanization  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  dividedselves  emotion  emotions  reason  incentives  motivation  measurement  testing  parenting  children  tcsnmy  empathy  collaboration  metis  equipoise  sympathy  blending  limerence  flow  transcendence  love  douglashofstadter  mindsight  politics  socialemotionallearning  self-knowledge  self  openminded  socialemotional 
april 2011 by robertogreco

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