Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mr Bleaney?

I wonder whether I'm now older than Mr Bleaney was – how old was Larkin when he wrote the poem?  Surely quite young, and still, well, very Larkinesque. I suspect on some level he always saw himself as a Bleaneyan figure, Bleaney Agonistes... Which, if so, would have been totally bizarre as we are talking  about one of the foremost poets of his generation. But “success” is not an objective concept and in any case, in the end surely we all fail, and all but the most well wadded also realize it. There is no permanent achievement here, no success to compare with the failures.

Here is the Finnish Pietist in me talking: I surely have gotten one of the least materialist and ambitious world views as an inheritance. It could have been worse, certainly much worse. But as to achievement, being already past Mr Bleaney (I think he must have been in his early 40's), there is prescious little to show. Lots of various stuff, some interesting, some even impressive, certainly, but little in the way of worldly success, and children hardly count as a life achievement, as desperately loved as they are, but independent persons to be protected and sheltered, not to act as one's raison d'être.

I cannot really denounce this inheritance though, not really: the things achievable pale into insignificance with the things unachievable. To have material success in this world rather tells against you instead of for. Maybe Larkin fundamentally did know this, behind the misery there might be other things, closely guarded. Him being an artist.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Under the category of eternity

I have (naturally rather respectfully) mocked here the impossible strivings of classic Western metaphysical philosophy. And, to be honest, what else is Heidegger for example attempting, or Derrida, to speak of modern Western philosophy? Universalizing of our irredeemably local and partial experience is by definition not possible, of course. Thus such philosophy has some fairly ridiculous, pompous cadences, aspects. But only partially - there is great majesty in such attempts, strange harmonies.

And a part of us surely will always belong under the category of eternity, however animalistic, failed, discoherent we simultaneously are. Art takes us there more directly, more efficiently than intricate sophistries and logical structures, and also life, also life, when lived vehemently, intensely, through love and understanding. We fail, naturally we fail: we cannot be fully coherent, fully meaningful, fully serious - but we won't fail totally, irredeemably. There are degrees - and individual stories: some will have only a flicker of this bright flame, well hidden under trauma and brutality (experienced and redistributed), some will burn like a great bonfire driving back darkness and hopelessness.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Quod erat demonstrandum

From a post in the spring of 2007:

 A huge moral collapse is thus celebrated and exalted: iron has entered the centre of a great state's soul, poison lingers about its political elites and public discourse. As long as this goes on Russians will be viewed by their rulers not as individual citizens of independent value but as nameless cannon fodder of power politics, as perpetual pawns of history to be thoughtlessly sacrificed whenever needed by the morally corrupt elite organs. In this way the mad, bloody rites of the early 20th century still go on even today wounding new generations, newly reborn nations. When will we put stop to it?

Link to the complete post: Stalin's willing executioners

Thursday, August 28, 2014

So various, so beautiful, so new

Ah, love, let us be true to one another... This poem has come to mind increasingly these last few months of these last few years of this interesting time of my life. Turning now the corner finally, one does hope, and being in the meanwhile very impressed by Matthew Arnold in this particular poem. He certainly had the scope on those occasions when he had it. An interesting life, a frustrated live, I suppose, like with so many artists (who we think are so lucky and so privileged) - it's not a position, a place for comfort and security, not for most. Much of Dover Beach rings personally familiar, of course: I too have felt, even if bit more distantly, the sea of faith girdling the earth, and that certain and rather specific emptiness it has left behind receding which is necessary, which is sad. Sorrow is in the centre of enlightenment, or if not, there is no enlightenment, just the same mad old bloodthirsty dance. But it can't be all sorrow: it's a signpost to further things - love, friendship, understanding - the long views. We are ever poised, ever stumbling, but without sorrow and love, we would be nothing.

Monday, July 28, 2014

In praise of - technology

This is not a very fashionable attitude among my fellow-proggressives, I gather. (And maybe am wrong.) Technological advancement has admittedly caused many huge problems too, but I cannot help but thinking that it's still one of the most visible and important signs of any progress on this earth. Yes, there are at places remarkable changes of opinion for the better, but are these not quite clearly more a concequence than a cause? In any case there are more and more tools for a rational, cautious approach to history instead of our blood-thirsty, panicky reflexes: we have increasingly many ways for avoiding ignorance and aggression (as much as the weapons too have "progressed"). One supposes it's a race of sorts: increased supports for reason and humanity vs increasingly disastrous ways of achieving short term dominance. But in view of our rather slowly changing base human nature, this is one of the very, very few areas showing at least some scope for at least some hope.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Feuertrunken

Our experience of being in the world simply cannot be coherent: any permanent human coherance is a contradiction in terms, and, so, if encountered in the world, false. We must remain partial, finite and uncertain. What I think we nevertheless are obligated to attempt is still this sort of harmony, formulated in my case as being between life, art and philosophy. We must both try and fail. A curious journey, curious landscapes, beautiful and chilling.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Keynes, Hobhouse, Hobson

It seems that these days my mild social liberalism makes me a semi-marxist, a semi-communist when it comes to economic policy. The European and US political and economic elites have internalized some crazily un-empirical free market views (from Queen Victoria, I suppose) that seem to be unshakeable come hell or high water. (High water it seems will certainly come, would not be so sure of hell not appearing either, with these trends.) On some level, so far, if not farsically then at least not as seriously as last time, we have the 1930's come again: a classical Keynesian slump "addressed" (after the biggest crisis was remedied by cheap money and activist central banks) by mostly anti-Keynesian "remedies". Especially in Europe, especially by Frankfurt and Berlin (Germany really seems to have the knack to pave the way for right wing extremism in Europe). It is a curious process to follow from the sidelines - not much learned from history, it seems. Maybe not so surprising in these ahistorical times.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In balance with this life

I cannot but help seeing humanity as being permanently poised - it is our dual nature that makes us human. On one hand bestial and cruel, incapable of collective reason, permanently terrified, aggressive - and on the other seeing, perceiving, creating secret harmonies, cohering, constructing: eminently capable for progress and reason and art. If we would one day be able to choose the one or would irrevocably revert to the other, we would seize being human. This is very clear, but it also makes history a prison as I have argued here. We cannot escape our two natures or the fact that it actually is a single nature. Thus history, really, really, is not only a crime but a punishment for one. And that is why we should hope that we would one day be able to end it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Our intentions are intangible and sweet

For much of our lives we are not living them but going through the motions like we were in a waking dream. Life, life as a routine: numb, orderly, devoid of passion, joy and serious thought, serious emotion, conformist and ever fearful. Our natural situation in the world is to lose connetion to the essential by the dead routines of this neutral, materialist Western society. (In the premodern times this disconnection was accomplished by horrible physical want, by irrational and unjust creeds and hierarchies, false collective identities). Our natural situation is not to be connected - but we can be, even here, we can have shorter or longer moments in this life: love, art, friendship, pursuit of understanding are my personal values, my escapes to seriousness. How easily lost in this word, how universally longed for: for our intentions really are intangible and sweet, and even if in history our typical state is this disconnectness, we can escape it even here, and can have, no matter how unrealistically, the end of history as our fundamental goal: the liberation of our better selves into timelessness, the liberation of our seriousness and warmth, our love and sympathy.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Matthew Arnold contemplating Shakespeare

I wonder why it is that the high literary seriousness of the Victorians seems somewhat funny to us, even slightly fake? Victorianism has gotten itself various revisionist defenders over the decades and is not thought about in such black and white terms any more which is naturally mostly a healthy developement. I'm not totally persuaded though: any era will be a polyphony and have much value and high cultural achievements. Even my real bête noire, that awful short 18th century had some real worth amidst all the scented savagery and fake finery of carefully simulated emotion (now talk about unfair descriptions...) And when one reads Matthew Arnold or even Leslie Stephens, there is clearly much that it valuable there. The really awful things you can find in any cultural era, they will always be there. This note is about a certain flaw in strength.

The chasm is likely historical: the 19th century could have next to no idea of the following one - whose shell shocked, scattered survivors we are, frivolous and materialist, amnesic. The Victorians did not know a significant part what they were talking about - from our perspective they are innocents, attempting serious postures without a sense of real historical tragedy. This is of course unfair too, anachronistic, but all eras will aim for conversation with all others, with what has been, what is and what is to come. So, it's not only unfair - and to say this is not to absolve our own era which likely will go down in civilizational memory (should such be preserved) as much more abysmal than the mid- and late 19th century, and justifiably so.