Aphorisms XXII

Ontotheology always wants balance, completion, perfection. But here is no reason to believe in any of these things on a metaphysical level. That pain would balance pleasure, the stronger the pain, the greater the pleasure, that a life cannot be judged before its completion, and that perfection in general is a positive quality things posses rather than a lack of desire for more…

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Aphorisms XXI

Nothing on this earth scares me more than the past that we have forgotten. Accepting that past is like a particularly sneaky part of accepting mortality.

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You can play a game as a past-time, like I would dabble in chess, or enjoy a board game. But then there’s playing a competitive game in such a way that it starts to shape your mind, quieten other pathways, reinforce and enlarge or complicate the shape that develops and queries the game-problems. You lose the spark associated with other parts of your life, you dream about the game. You shrink. To play a game well, it almost demands this total dedication in a race to the bottom amongst those who play it. It drains that elusive, bare kind of joyful ‘fun’ out of the game, leaving yourself with just angry bemusal when you fail – how can I put so much into something only to fail? You play to say ‘yes, yes, I behaved adequately there.’ Not to say, I had a great time. Or the great time becomes that crunchy moment when your team manages to overcome the adequate challenge. No wonder people fall into toxicity where hate drives their performance. There are entire ethics around competition in the Olympics, and a culture of admiration of the athlete. Videogames lack this, and the moments of humour are all that serve to outweigh the hate speech that infuses all the higher ranks of performance.

Game design tries to encourage this intense engagement, as determined by the capitalist drive to squeeze the player base and keep them playing. But there are signs of a better ethic somewhere. The anonymous player is harder to tame than the cultural agent engaged in a sport or IRL game. But with online community and ‘community engagement’ there is a better world to come.

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Aphorisms XX

My guitar teacher used to say to me – learn the theory, learn the chords, learn riffs and learn songs. But try your best to forget it all when you need to write music.

The same goes for advice on writing. You can’t have all that rattling around in your head when you’re trying to get something done. When it comes up, it should pop in like a friend to remind you you need a cup of tea, or better, bring you that cup, with a biscuit.

(This fits into the probably quite voluminous category of meta-advice.)

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When you play a videogame with gestural graphics, that don’t quite add up, you bring a kind of supplement to it. An ideal space opens up on top of everything on the game and adds materiality, similar to when you’re reading a book and you bring images, material from the memory into the book-image. It fills in the gaps, making the whole painting pop. At least, it did when I was a kid.

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Aphorisms XVIII

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius – The Borges story offers quite a neat allegory for the post-truth/propaganda situation. The fake encyclopedia begins as an experiment – can we create a world in detail without the usual connections between material reality and the conceptual scheme? Can we jettison praxis altogether and have its opposite occur? In that world, the concepts begin to cause things to happen, simply by being made. The markers of this are objects that propagate themselves, but slightly changed, exaggerating some aspect – conspiracy objects. Then the completed encyclopedia begins to disturb reality – reality as a scheme begins to collapse due to the overstrong influence of the unreal.

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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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Aphorisms X

The problem with a generation declaring literature to be basically over is that it deprives the following generations of the thought that their lives and thoughts might be worth novelising. It results in the experience I’ve had with Ben Lerner, Luke Kennard, Sally Rooney, suddenly recognising myself in the books, thinking – ah, so this is how novels shore us up. But then on the back cover of The Topeka School I read Sally Rooney’s comment – “To the extent that we can speak of a future at present, I think that the future of the novel is here”. And I feel strange. Does each modern novel writer think they are entourage to the last writers? Do they always feel the door shutting after them?

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The extravagance of poetry is this contention that it deserves the amount of space it takes up. If done unconsciously, it can underwhelm, but with great confidence it shines. Like a single acorn sat in the centre of an small warehouse.

I imagine a solid gold maze hung from invisible wires in a large room, undulating under the diffuse light. Although for some it is not a luxury, poetry is luxurious speech.

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Aphorisms IX

When I was what you could call ‘virulently atheist’ I remember warding off any future professions of faith with great vindictiveness. What did I expect? I imagine it was a form of self-reinforcement.

I would say… if, in the future, I profess faith, then you can know that it is truly a mistake. As if to protect and account for my future self, who would undoubtedly have gone through an incredible transformation.

I’m still atheist, I’m just a lot more materialistic about the cultus now. Now, I would say of my future self – if he professes faith, just be kind to him.

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Say NO! to hysteria

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Metre and syllable limit are machines to make beautiful language, or good poems. There are others, among them actively thwarting metre and syllable limit. These machines routinely break down, when they are not understood as machines.

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Aphorisms V

As a puzzle can have several logical solutions, so movie or a book, a system of statements and objects, can have several interpretations that ‘solve’ it satisfactorily.

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Remember – the artists you have heard about, whose names are on the lips of literary history, are for the most part those who have been promoted massively. That is the machinery of the canon.

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Types of poem – a story, an aphorism, an apology, a thank you, a celebration, a memory, a machine for – disturbing, reinforcing, calming – a cryptic object, a puzzle, an object of conspicuous reference, a song, a praise, a lament, a memoriam, a riddle, a marker of occasion, a cry of – fear, love, undetermined – a conversation with – self, other, influence, nothing – a look into the void, an evoker of images, a vault, a tissue, an ice pack, a pet, a project, a cuddly toy, an aspirant object, a thing original, a thing thought original, a mantra, a thing, a sculpture, a picture, a cry of pain, a cry, a hand, and countless more.

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Do you know any precious rhythms in those around you? Patterns that are unique to the person? Never repeated by anyone else, they define the moments of a life that have seen lonely practice; a laugh, an improvisation on guitar, a facial expression, a method of moving the conversation. Perhaps they move through us like memes, but we know them to embody our friends. Are the memes passing through us, or we through them? I know one set of improvisations, made by a loved one, which are so tied up with their personality that if they stopped, I would worry I had lost them.

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Aphorisms IV

There is no compulsion to consume a particular form of media, or a piece of media. Remember this when it feels the other way – no duty to consume.

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It is slightly odd that someone’s response to a fact might be – but that’s banal, ‘that’s obvious’. How self centred! We don’t say that to teachers, or to those reminding us of things we have forgotten. This response could be translated into emotional terms as “you have underestimated me!” – well, maybe you appeared to need reminding! But then, was the statement aimed at you, if you find it obvious? Think about it.

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Philosophers have always changed the world, without realising it. Marx was wrong, to that extent. Because your interpretation will change the world, based on your philosophising, which has already changed you. People often do things for reasons they have found, new or old, after all.

With regards to Marx, obviously this only transforms his point, which was that some philosophers have justified the world from a position of power, had provided reasons for the rich, for the abusers. Had built an intellectual parallel world whilst the chartered companies and city states expanded empires, pillaged the world. Some philosophers still do.

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The myth that is the most beautiful, the ur-myth, is that there is meaning in things, not just in us. That the clouds of mustard gas are the wings of a terrible dragon. That everything will have its own moment where its particular purpose in the world-work of things becomes evident. That the unexpected family is waiting there at the end of the road. That the loss will have its redemption.

Or maybe this myth is better phrased as – the idea that what meaning there is in things is really meaning for us. And not just a kind of mostly unparsable mess.

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