Aphorisms XIX

The hatred of brutalism and modernism is a kind of prolonged hate, by the children of imperialists, of something that was made by or at least sometimes for, in a really important way, us, the children of the workers who held the empire for them. These buildings we built, when the people were in real power for the first time, just worry those with that shrunken ideology that would go back but can never outline where to, beyond that road where we slaves were strung up, on the way to the senate. They are a too forward sign that the new did happen, and could happen again.

The fact that they are disliked, helps us to remember their importance. The first mass architecture stripped of everything non-secular, not taking the temple or the church as its model. Not a castle, but a standing commune. You don’t even need to look up who said ‘each Englishman’s home is his castle’. You just know they had a big house, and a big garden, and probably a servant or two.

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Aphorisms XIV

Pronouns again – A teenage girl bought the airfix. “Did she?” says my friend. But here is a place where I would say ‘they’ – uncertainty again being the aspect relevant to explaining why. I don’t know them…

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Can there be a superlative without the disgust of the ordinary? Yes. In fact, that is a prerequisite. It’s not the difference from the ordinary that makes something superlative, but a superlative relation of that thing to us, experiencing it. And the disgust of the ordinary, the ranking, the military etymology often slides in surreptitiously at the back. It may seem stupid to say that the best film has no relation to other films by that fact, but it is stupider to say that any film could satisfy the language game of suiting the squirly set of conditions for bestness taken in the tool like sense. The best tool for the task does that one job better than the others. But a film without an adjective, has no one task. I guess it’s a classic example of language going on holiday.

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Aphorisms XI

A plot or storyline can be outlined in a more or less random string of images. If you want to, you just have to massage them into shape to make them seem like they were destined to appear together.

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Say a french novel was published in 1954. If you are nostalgic, or a scholar, you may want to translate it in a way that expresses the 1950s in France through a kind of amalgamated 1950s english. But, If I want to really relate with the characters, as it were, I have to go all the way, and rather than travelling back in time to put myself in their positions, I bring them forward in time, putting them in our positions, or at least positions more well known to us, living as we do. Kind of like splicing a cultural form onto our culture to see the strange things that happen with its relation to the mores of our place.

If we are going to translate a book, why not really translate it? Change it. We need both kinds of translations, and more and different still, if we are to really translate something. To do otherwise is to fetishize language, do our best to ignore who was speaking it, or at least to try and control them by confining them to the past, or to a kind of nostalgic reverie.

Good lord, listen to me, I’ve only just  started translating. And I might be terrible at it. So ignore me, or don’t. It doesn’t matter.

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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 VII

On a Certain Experience in Relation to Sex – In response to a talk by Leila Slimani, I think of someone I love browsing on tinder, or not even that, but of spontaneously, magically, having found someone to bring home and fuck. And this causes a pang of something in me. But where does this pang happen? And in relation to what? Is it a spur to action, to step through into my ideal space to avoid missing out, or to assert control? Or is it the same as the anxiety dreams I have sometimes, that in some manner everything would fall apart, that I actually have no power over them, all my power, our relationship, has been undermined or not existed quite how I thought?

What, after all, could I do? For it must be an issue of confidence here, of self-worth. I fear having no recourse to a response, no power to respond to such a situation. Insofar as it is not just a kind of pang of sadness, or of lost hope, of ‘I thought you cared, but now it seems you don’t, or at least not in the way I hoped, to enchant everything about you sexually, morally, like a kind of drug’, it is also this self-relation, that I do not even see the potential to action in response, and rather just experience it, curl up like the proverbial stamped on worm.

But of course, if someone were to perform this act, in reality, what is to say we would not be able to respond, to say ‘I value myself more than this experience, I demand of you something (submission?), a tribute, a change in you, or I will simply walk away, believing I can achieve great things again. In this way it becomes clear that the whole thing about these experiences is that they are tied up with power and power relations, which is another way of saying relations of self-image. Because power is not inherent but relational. I would not care in this case if I did not see myself as essentially powerless, though unconsciously. The whole situation would not occur without neurotic and twisted power relations already being present. All of which would indicate that people don’t get sexually jealous unless they are insecure in some basic way, or in an insecure situation.

But is this any different from betrayal, from paranoia tout court? I can imagine similar pangs happening if I knew I was missing out or hadn’t been invited to some event, though without the extra sexual fizz and burn. Then, maybe that extra fizz is just sex itself, and that is all that there is particular to an experience of sexual jealousy. Thought invests so much in sexual relationships, that they become monolithic and hard to parse.

As Leila Slimani says, I think that having secrets is important, and if not vital then helpful in all things. We must fight the urge to know all, to totalise the relationship, to totalise anything, really. We know that the total is the real lie, the real wasteland. We sense this because knowing everything can bring the moment of banal clarity, and that clarity wipes away all sexiness, all suspense, or it controls and prescribes til that controlling and prescribing becomes everything. We might agree that we shouldn’t know everything about our partners, our friends, because we agree not to know a prescribed set of things about them every day, their breakfast, their toilet routine, their every thought, though there are exceptions to this. We just need to accept more secrets, not worry about finding out. Why act as if love is an investigation, when it’s a lot closer to gambling? In gambling, we know we lose sometimes, that’s part of the charm. But then that also brings its own problems.

Provocatively put you might say sexual jealousy is not something that people in general have, but rather certain societies have.

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Aphorisms VI

When I played Spyro as a child, the world of Spyro was complete, without traces of anything, no history. No background. A world with no influences, music which was never played by anyone, a beautiful summer forest, puzzles and gems and orbs. Now, I start to think about how the soundtrack is structured and that perfect being of Spyro starts to fracture. So I stop thinking because it is not worth the value lost to question the most deep art experiences.

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Isn’t there something disingenuous about a philosopher searching for arguments, as such, to prove a point? Surely they should be just looking closer at the way things work? But pragmatically a good, graspable argument is often hard to find.

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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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Aphorisms III

Consuming isn’t easy, sometimes. It can be a form of emotional labour. Though series and films can play themselves out in front of us, we don’t just sit and absorb their images. Or at least, not by default. In this way, A Clockwork Orange has a quasi-fallacy in it – that being forced to watch something would change us, simply by being made spectator. Of course this is the case for certain experiences, that we are particularly receptive to, but the active spectator can critique whilst in the process of watching (hopefully not out loud though.)

This idea has an interesting expression in the world of music – are there not songs that you love, whilst being almost completely ignorant of the lyrics, or cognisant of them only in a vague, catchphrase fashion. Consuming music like this is simply allowing it to bounce off us, alter our rhythms. But to consume the whole is to process the message of the song, and to come to a conclusion regarding its sense. I do this rarely. It’s a lot of work.

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Sometimes I come across people like this. I ask – do you love books? They say – Yes, I love 1984.

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Nationalism is the symptom of a badly functioning state.

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“Become who you are!” Careful not to read this as an spur to selfishness. For who you are can obviously include others.

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