“Watching out for my own kind” (A proposed essay)

I really like the last post, and planned for several days to write a follow up or an elaboration of it. Earlier today, I recognized an error: I proposed in that last entry, basically, this notion of a “truth-violence drive”, the violence of blankness, where truth was beneficial (rather than poisonous) to only a certain kinds of people, so that truth was biologically relative but also absolute. My error was not realizing, basically, that the high goes hand in hand with the low. I already knew that the “certain kinds of people” we we’re talking about would not be defined by any conventional border. But we were wrong in believing that we could make an absolute separation between a violence that comes from exclusivity and mastery and a violence that comes from the sacred (“blankness”).

Let me be rephrase all this since what I’m talking about is not at all abstract. I learned some time ago to trust my own gut feelings, not because I’m always right but rather because the path that they led down benefitted me more – ie, in the sense that they were more interesting, more painful, led to more insights. I like to think that I used to be a lot softer and kinder than I am now, but these same gut feelings actually leads me towards a hatred of exclusivity, if that makes sense – ie, me being self-centered meant despising exclusivity. Obviously there are a few conceptual reversals and rereversals here that are may not all that interesting in the end. But the basic distinction we were talking about, the one that in the last entry I felt uneasy making precisely because it was so clear and so well defined, was this distinction between technical mastery and spiritual mastery. Technical mastery, I said, was admiration primarily for the master, it was admiration for the results or the *ends*. But on the other hand, the sacred does not at all depend on the ends, but it depends on what seems possible with the means we have. In fact, are we not talking here about morality *as such* (ends and means), isn’t the sacred, by definition, superior to the technical (so long as red blood runs through one’s veins, so the saying goes)?

But something interesting happened today: first of all, earlier today I realized that the distinction between the high (bad, technical) and the low could not occur between people but always occured together. This is not to say that this distinction is reversible – it is still very real, but they always occur together because of some fundamental human limitation. We can never experience the sacred *as such*, but we only understand the sacred in terms of what it does, it terms of what it has accomplished. The sacred cannot, in fact, be recorded in history, only the high is ever recorded – but the sacred is what is “locked away” in history. Whenever one writes, one writes about the low, but it is always doomed to be misunderstood, initially, as the high. But it is precisely the task of the reader to recover this core of the low, this core of the sacred.

In other words: It is *sufficient* to think about the entirety of a moment, the high and the low, the promise of other words and the promise of hard work, without trying to search for a pure experience of some absolute encounter with the sacred – in fact, it doesn’t exist. The high always points to the low, to the sacred: corruption has some truth at the heart, and as historicans we are perhaps privleged (or maybe, decadent) in that our task is not so much to defeat corruption as it is to link it to truth (which, in being a creative labor rather than simply analytic effort, saves us from absolute decadence). In other words, we shouldn’t *overpursue* the sacred.

But – as I was saying – the interesting thing that happened today was that I went from realizing the error of a project – something that should have doomed the project – to nonetheless continuing on this project despite the error – and this only occurs because the project, built on bad foundations, has become more self-consciously “literary”. (Incidentaly, Paul De Man made the same claim about Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy.):

That is — I went to work yesterday, which usually means, no matter how hard I try, that my writing is held at a standstill. So today, on my day off, I awoke with with fond memories of the last entry which I had reflected over on-and-off during my two days at work (but never with any great focus). I thought about writing an elaboration or an extension of it: “Watching out for my own kind”. But upon further reflection, I realized the error of the distinction — not that the distinction was invalid but that it could never occur in the purity we were looking for. But, paradoxically enough, this meant that I should in fact finish that project (but with a more cunning sort of approach) precisely because in that writing, in that effort of distinction, we could perhaps catch a glimpse of the pure sacred.


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