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. If we are going to translate a book, why not really translate 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 revery.

Good lord, listen to me, I’ve only just  started translating. 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. There are others, like that of actively thwarting metre and syllable limit. All of 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 all 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. 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

To ask – is it okay to have a child? If it is not okay to propogate existence as such, existence is said in practice to be ‘not okay’. We pronounce on ourselves that we are not okay. To lack even a baseline of worth. For who will continue to care about the world, if we don’t care enough to continue to propogate the possibility of care?

Our basic humanity rests on this acceptance that we can continue. Fantasies such as ‘Children of Men’ show us this emotional truth, that to not have children is to accept the apocalypse. A childless world is a slow apocalypse. And what right do we have to choose ourselves as those who do not deserve propagation? No one has this right. This first form is an attribution of nonexistent rights over nonexistents.

Another form of this is a kind of overload of care – we care about children so much that we will not let them live with a possibility of a worse life than ourselves… We care so much that we won’t allow care to exist. But of course, we will be living most of it with them.

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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 darken. Then 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.

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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. This 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 unique in the history of the universe. I would bet my life on it.

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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 an extent. Because your interpretation will change the world, based on your philosophising, which has already changed you. People often do things for reasons, 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.

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Aphorisms III

Consuming isn’t easy, sometimes. It’s 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 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, for the sake of others…)

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 exhortation to selfishness. For who you are can well include others.

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Aphorisms II

There is a beautiful pathos of history in the fact that the totalising force and the absolutist will always be dogged by those with a blog. The might of the word, of knowledge, is similar to the might of the ocean. You may divert its force for a time, but it will flatten all land eventually. You may think you can divert it. But once something is realised, it stays realised.

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When I hear someone exasperate about the internet, I always think – which comment annoyed you today? Which site fractured your sense of comfort in knowledge? Because of course, there is no such thing as the internet. There are only individual users, and groups… But then, that’s not quite right. The word – internet – like the word – society – has an image or sectional meaning whenever used in this way. It comes accompanied with – a comment section filled with drivel – the endless mass of opinions – lists of reviews, one to five stars, each with their set of entries… And I can’t help but think of this, whenever someone says ‘what’s wrong is the internet’ or jokes that… If it weren’t for the internet, we’d all be happy. The internet, they say, like a compulsion, their fingers itching to pick up a dustpan and brush, or an EMP device. I wonder if they know how they seem to us? We who have lived in the internet. They merely adopted the internet. We were born in it, moulded by it…

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One was not born, but rather became, man. Or, the same, we can say that a newborn has a biological history, but not as yet, a cultural history. But why the past tense? ‘Man’ is dead – now, there is man. Because Man in our cultures was rarely defined against something, it was so throughout, so hegemonic, that it became such that it was never thrown into question. What an incredible amount of violence and ignorance must have been undertaken to reach that point, where everything other was buried beyond sight. But now those who work to define themselves as men, do it against the woman, the other, the beyond. That they do this is a symptom that they have already become different.

Or is this too simple – for who wrote the books, the newspapers, owned the presses? Rich Men knew their rich world, keeping the right company, having all the weapons. And so there must be a history of people outside, in the countryside, in the underground, out of ear-shot, who did not pay heed to the shouting and babbling of homoerotic joy at ‘Man’ (though of course that has its place.) These are the people who have so quickly in our time wrested their voice and as a byproduct of that process, ‘Man’ was destroyed. Their existence was only expected in a crude, partial way, in small encounters soon pushed from the mind. Or their behaviour was put into categories beyond thought. Or, they were simply ignored, kept from the true accounts, as the image was forging. It is an image with a great inner weakness that is destroyed simply by the existence of difference.

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Since the old world is dead on its feet, we need only to keep living how we want, in order to push it softly into its grave. Culture is dead, long live culture.

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Nietzsche

Man stands against the boiling ocean of the possible
Silhouetted by a setting sun – striding
Out into the deep to be destroyed.
He could not keep the truth without dissolving:
A lone skeleton falls apart in the tides
And – drawn to the depths of darkness – this
Pile of white bones dances down – into the abyss.

But not this man, no, this man keeps
To bed clutching scribe’s accoutrements
Projecting a personality of dense defiance
He poeticises wildly in the throes of music
Waxing prophetic on the coming task of men
Struggling in pain to focus, but he knows.
He just can’t seem to formulate the premises in his prose.

Squinting in his nest, his moustache moist, and murmering
About the grand transcendence of the dark,
His mother brings him tea – his rough blanket
Covered in yesterdays crumbs and ink accidents,
Warms on his knees – the will to digestion crowing.
He takes his meagre meal, curses her and even
As she makes matrimonial suggestions, ressentiment quickens his breathing.

‘Woman is weak’ – he spits his damp crumbs wildly
Glaring at the matronly sign and signal
Of his own pathetic nature – he turns aside
Back to constant scribbling – by which he’ll teach
The world its wholly meagre worth in silence:
By embalming modern insights in his head
With half-learned scraps of Darwin from the papers, he will tread
Alone into the deep – and this destiny has said.
He has no one to go with him, not a single friend.

And rather than put this down to his unpleasant selfish manner
(A reason that never occurred to him) he sees his path and hammer
As the wind’s lonely self-justifying answer to the void.