Aphorisms XVI

Aphorisms can be like a diary of thought, and, like a diary, shouldn’t be considered a final opinion. But there is no final opinion. We can always speak again. And even death cannot finalise our opinions, since the possibility of opinion rests on the fact that it can be revised. It remains possible that we could have changed our mind, even after we are gone. Our last opinion is not final, in that sense.

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Representation is never perfect, there is always something beyond, a possible beyondness to representation. But through representation we are placed into direct contact with this beyondness, and feel the real through it.

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Amor Fati – Nietszche’s phrase expands. At first, it is to love what you are given, accept what is given to you. But that does not preclude knowing what is given to you in a fashion that allows you to exceed it. In this way, loving your fate is knowing what your fate is, what has befallen you. It is another way of saying ‘love thyself’. But there is also this element of acceptance that comes with knowing. With knowing, we slowly and sketchily learn to differentiate the changeable from the unchangeable, and the necessary from the contingent, and the different meanings of each – ethical, physical, expanding. In this way, it is translatable as ‘accept thyself’, a precis of the serenity prayer. But a true love also does things with the loved, stretches it and expands it to show off its potentials. Allows the loved thing to become truly itself. ‘Become thyself’, become what you are, that is, what you can be.

Perhaps this means that the phrase, which is short and sheds skins of meaning, doesn’t help as a motto or a maxim for life. But we know the good and bad elements contained within it. That’s the useful thing with a maxim. Like a saw it cuts across our trunk and reveals all the rings of growth. Hopefully.

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I’m sometimes afraid to hear new music. Anxiety attached to the feeling of these weird times being linked to a nostalgia recall.

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Orwell on being a writer – I recall a passage in Orwell where he talks about how you shouldn’t congratulate someone on wanting to just ‘be a writer’, which he deems a bland want. You have to have something that compels you, a subject, a problem, to make elements that are valuable appear in your work. Of course this rests on a distinction between writing that is economically justified, which would be any writing that allowed one to make a living, and writing that isn’t necessarily justified in that way, but is worthwhile in a deeper way, to reader or author. These aren’t mutually exclusive, nor are they specifically related to the situation of writing. A lot of bad writing happens without economic reward. I am a case in point! But perhaps the interesting thing here is the notion that writing in the economic sense isn’t necessary for someone to write well, to write something worthwhile. Better – I want to be a writer so I can…

I heard someone say, upon being asked whether they plan their fiction or let it arrive in a more fluid way on the page, ‘well, I’m a professional writer, so I plan’. And that seemed initially perverse to me, because it seemed to denigrate as unprofessional, ways of writing fiction that didn’t involve planning. But really it was just another way of making a distinction between the economic writing and other types, though the speaker might not have realised that. They need to be able to produce text that satisfies a series of conditions, make a profitable or at least helpful text. But text shouldn’t always be profitable, or helpful, and it’s only the link of textmaking to making a living that forces these conditions into higher zones of control over the creative process.

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To return to an earlier theme of reflection – we have always known that, in having children, we open up a being to the possibilities and certainties of pain and death. For some in the anglophone sphere, holding that it is wrong to have kids is a possibility opened up by the decline of christianity, whose injunction was obviously go forth and multiply, and whose condition was that, done well, the raising of a child as christian would bestow upon it a chance of eternal life – or at least this narrative schema would allow those anxieties to be controlled. We have no such assurances now… But did they ever play much of a part in the decision to have children? Or the non-decision when it came to the woman and bearer of the child, often deprived of any decision at all, perhaps even of the knowledge of a decision, until desperation kicked in.

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I look back at old poems and see, with dark themes, sometimes the ability to elaborate is the sign of greater coping. The ability to just represent more about your problem is a sign of progress.

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Biodiversity – to what extent is the worry about invasive species based on or related to a kind of xenophobic fear? Here where the fear is of the occupying of ecological niches by foreign species, could this be: these foreign plants, coming over here, occupying our evolutionary biosphere…

Or is the terrain the opposite? That we need a greater biodiversity in the world, we need all the species, acting as they have always done, in a symbiotic or competitive action. A multiculture. But surely some species have arrived and aren’t wiping out anything, aren’t causing big problems? Insofar as evolution is essentially a bare action (not necessarily with any adjective) for control of resources, it consists of solutions for that problem. But we problematise it in an aesthetic way. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The question is – why are these invasive problems more important than others on the same level? Are we worried about the speed of the change? Is it an evolutionary conservatism? For the problem isn’t that a foreign species is invading but that some established equilibrium is being wiped out. Before our time, the same thing happened. Just slower.

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Should we be open to the overdetermination of meaning when writing? I write a poem which obliquely refers in its process to evolution, messiah, eschatology, apocalypse, depending on the mood – or should we attempt to give up these hints and tones of meaning to arrive at a crisp jewel? A beautiful web without beginning or end, or a beautiful rock which has nothing connected to outside of itself (that this latter sounds like a fantasy is enough to throw some shade over it.)

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It takes a very particular imagination to create a mise en scène which is interesting in itself – what conditions must be satisfied for that to occur? Perhaps the world must have something to say to us either in the process of its construction, or in the way it shows us ourselves, through the gaps and twists that it performs to our world. To be a list of objects and references the author knows, is not enough (or no longer enough.) Dune, Lord of the Rings, the Hain Cycle, Gormengast, all satisfy this. And to say a story has atmosphere, is this a similar phenomenon?

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The 2020 pandemic’s greeting, here, has been ‘stay safe’. Some people objected to this, seeing it as gratuitous, an unactionable task. But its similar to the older fare-well, which has just contracted with time and use. It’s a simple wish for good luck on the way. Farewell now seems or was more final. Unironically, the last thing you should say to someone before they part from you is that you wish them luck.

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Many generalised political problems either draw their source from or are somehow related to a raising of cultural aesthetics over ethics, something which should not be done. “Your settlement near my town disturbs me with its litter… I think you should disappear.” But those expressing this cultural aesthetic over the ethical world wouldn’t necessarily be satisfied by the eradication of the displeasing element. This totalitarianism will mutate and sour, whatever happens. Or maybe it would be enough for some resentful souls who would have everyone walk to the pub through the village to watch the football after work at the office, forever.

For god’s sake, there are more interesting and pressing things to worry about.

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War is the repudiation of politics by any means. It is the end of the upward crescendo of bickering, where the bully, tired of you not giving your pocket money, finally stops shouting and pours juice over your head. War is the repudiation of diplomacy, which is the heart of politics. Like bullying, it always has an element of stupidity at its heart.

But then, imperialism means that businesses invest in forcibly opening new markets, not necessarily consciously (although we needn’t give the benefit of the doubt too easily) – they just look for the best returns, and some just happen to find them in new markets, newly cooled warzones. Wars start through irrationality, and are jumped on and ridden by imperial concerns. Abolish war.

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Global, imperial, violent or suppressive events are not the end of local and social events, but they try to be. Economic determinism hangs over me sometimes like a dark winter, making me want to be quietist and think of other things. But co-operatives, charities, families, any community where money is not the first language, or at least is only a small part of the story, can begin to grow at any time. It just requires us to put the work in to speak to others, to find others like us. These elements are real physical embodiments of everyday culture. And we can always do cultural work, despite how powerless we may feel. We can change each other and our shared world, just by speaking, and lending each other our time and effort (though of course I have privileges which allow me to feel this.)

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Story Aesthetics – It is not enough to venerate the mise en scene of fairytales, of stories. If you aren’t to misunderstand why ‘stories’ are interesting, you must also try to see why that particular kind of story developed the way it did. Fairytales being cuttingly sparse, and faithful to their strange spontaneous antics, told around a fire – always with a view to the end of the story. The fire isn’t the interesting bit. Novels with their historical focus on character in its social situation. But that they focus on character wasn’t the guiding factor – to choose to venerate character itself is to take writing out of its social context. Also it’s impossible. You have to bring with you your entire social world to help make the character seem full. Of course with genre, all of this is contingent and can change, but we should know that to bring in the tropes or elements of a genre isn’t enough to make something of that genre. Of course, waxworks can be beautiful, but they aren’t people.

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Don’t use this as a stick to beat people over the head with, only yourself.

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