Archive for December, 2013

A Splurge on Melancholy and Politics (Heart of Darkness)

December 6, 2013

Children and teens can be annoying yes but there is also the sense that they are too unformed, or too easy. There is a lot that is too easy, too intricate, too networked … and there are, I think, whole theories on all this, on how impermanent our judgments are. But I have certain thoughts now that border on sentimentalism, or on nostalgia, dedication — things that I’m honestly not quite comfortable with. I am not an altruistic person, and I don’t believe that children are magic creatuers that should be raised in a bubble. In fact, my general attitude towards that whole attitude is generally accusatory and full of bitterness. But nontheless I find myself drawn to a new understanding of power that may seem sentimental at first — and which I would like to move beyond: power as a kind of collective lying.

The insight, which is perhaps incomplete, hinges on the fact that there are no manipulators and manipulatees, but rather, only manipulaters, who manipulate themselves, or rather, who are manipulated by the logic of manipulating, if that makes sense. Who are manipulated by the logic of hope, but not, therefore, desperate in a direct sense. Kafka had a phrase, “There is hope, but not for us”, which sees at first to be a kind of blank cynicism but I believe that this is what he is referring to.

Let’s consider the final passage of Heart of Darkness. Well, throughout the book Marlow somehow finds himself compelled to life for Kurtz, for some reason. But I think the end is sort of the climax. What fasinates me about this sort of model is just how conscious it is, how consciously this sort of manipulation takes place. It is a very interesting series of lines, very mysterious but also very specific. He lies to her in the end but the whole feeling is, oddly enough, that the was somehow forced, by her, or perhaps other things, into manipulating her.

There is the issue of Kurtz’s memory. It is certainly not as vivd as hers — but that is what is intersting here, as we talk about memories that fade. Here, we are not merely talking about desperation or conviction in the face of a fading memory but rather a kind of indirect memory — she made me see. A memory, while being my own, is somehow … for her — can we even say, brought to life by her? Not quite, I don’t think — there is just the hint of insincerity here which reeks, to me, of nihilism or sentimentalism. Marlow has addressed this sort of discomfort, something to the effect of, “you know, I really hate lying, not because I’m better than all of you but because there is the feeling of death there, like biting into a rotten fruit” — and yet the story contains many instances of him lying on various levels. Yet it is not quite insincere, I don’t think — but what Marlow vividly recalls is not that time — and perhaps not even his own experience, but rather her experienceher understanding of Kurtz. And who knows if even her understanding is original.

Now of course we should address the fact that Marlow heard the leaves whisper, “the horror, the horror”, and saw, in the glass pane of the door, Kurtz staring back at him. There are two possibilites — there is, first of all, the notion that Kurtz himself was able to obtain power, not via manipulation, but rather, indeed, as we have been saying, manipulating the manipulator. Is it that he himself espouses, I mean, with his … exuberance, or with his shock and awe — prelapsarian times? (Indeed, the world of Heart of Darkenss is one of disarray, a postlapsarian one.) Or is it that he refers to those times, somehow, without really espousing it, or maybe both? The second possibility, oddly enough, is this notion that the voice of Kurtz is actually a genuine memory of that time and place — the way in which even that past, perhaps, seems to transform to a time somehow worth saving. But the origins are nowhere.


(Short) Essays without an Introduction: Heart of Darkness, first passages

December 3, 2013

Literature is the evocation of a time and place, it is memory, but not necessarily, perhaps, a time and place that you were physically at. But “real” memories are a pretension anyways, as many of us have come to realize. This thesis greatly simplifies how we read literature — although, indeed, it’s based on assumptions about truth, philosphy, etc. that are outside of the scope of this essay — I mean, it assumes certain sophisticated, and not naive, notions of why we need literature, it assumes a non-constructive model of philosphy and really behavior in general.

Now there seems, at first, to be a difference between literature and an actual place, as that which is evoked in the beginning of Heart of Darkness: the river. The effort there, in the beginning, by the narrator — I mean, where he sits on a yatch and reminesces about the history of exploration — should not be understood as sentimental. There is indeed the sense that it is really a far better understanding of exploration than more materialistic ones. But it does seem to differ from literature, I mean, this much is obvious, literature being words on paper and the historical memory being, perhaps, a kind of recurrence of some attitude, ie, in the sense of asking, you know, how many men in history have passed through this sea-reach.

Although, on a second analaysis, perhaps literature is the same way. It is not the communication of content. You know, so much must be known beforehand, so much must be shared, before any communication takes place — and communication is really just reference to things we already know, typically. Ie, communication is a way of activating elements in a shared memory — it requires familiarity. The space of familiarity I call the neighborhood — a suprisingly deep and central concept in philosophy, perhaps the concept of philosophy. Philosophy is not primarily the application of rules and reason but rather that yearning for an understanding of knowledge and our experience, most of it at least, as localized rather than universal. But memory lies at the border of familiar, in the (un)familiar, I mean, neither and both familiar and unfamiliar. With literature, too, what we do may resemble a kind of placid staring — as we await the clues that would offer us some pivotal insight into memory. This awaiting will bring us to the metaphysics of time and space.