Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Indeed, the most intense feeling we know of, intense to the point of blotting out all other experiences, namely, the experience of great bodily pain, is at the same time the most private and least communicable of all. Not only is it perhaps the only experience which we are unable to transform into a shape fit for public appearance, it actually deprives us of our feeling for reality to such an extent that we can forget it more quickly and easily than anything else. There seems to be no bridge from the most radical subjectivity, in which I am no longer "recognizable," to the outer world of life.42 Pain, in other words, truly a borderline experience between life as "being among men" (inter homines esse) and death, is so subjective and removed from the world of things and men that it cannot assume an appearance at all.43

Since our feeling for reality depends utterly upon appearance and therefore upon the existence of a public realm into which things can appear out of the darkness of sheltered existence, even the twilight which illuminates our private and intimate lives is ultimately derived from the much harsher light of the public realm. Yet there are a great many things which cannot withstand the implacable, bright light of the constant presence of others on the public scene; there, only what is considered to be relevant, worthy of being seen or heard, can be tolerated, so that the irrelevant becomes automatically a private matter. This, to be sure, does not mean that private concerns are generally irrelevant; on the contrary, we shall see that there are very relevant matters which can survive only in the realm of the private. For instance, love, in distinction from friendship, is killed, or rather extinguished, the moment it is displayed in public. ("Never seek to tell thy love / Love that never told can be.") Because of Its inherent worldlessness, love can only become false and perverted when it is used for political purposes such as the change or salvation of the world.

42. I use here a little-known poem on pain from Rilke's deathbed: The first lines of the untitled poem are: "Komm du, du letzter, den ich anerkenne, / heil- loser Schmerz im leiblichen Geweb"; and it concludes as follows: "Bin ich es noch, der da unkenntlich brennt? / Erinnerungen reiss ich nicht herein. / O Leben, Leben: Draussensein. / Und ich in Lohe, Niemand, der mich kennt."

43. On the subjectivity of pain and its relevance for all variations of hedonism and sensualism, see §§15 and 43. For the living, death is primarily dis-appearance. But unlike pain, there is one aspect of death in which it is as though death appeared among the living, and that is in old age. Goethe once remarked that growing old is "gradually receding from appearance" (stufeniveises Zuriicktreten aus der Erscheinung); the truth of this remark as well as the actual appearance of this process of disappearing becomes quite tangible in the old-age self-portraits of the great masters—Rembrandt, Leonardo, etc.—in which the intensity of the eyes seems to illuminate and preside over the receding flesh.
Arendt again. It's been on my mind. For now, in reference to this, and the previous post and ones before.

The blankness of technocrats; the inability to read the details of behavior: to sense the casual arrogance of the wealthy, the humility, insecurity and anger of "the lower classes". The retreat to books and ideas. Kenworthy can't or refuses to read lies or elision, snobbery, sadness, regret. He can't or refuses to read subtext, because subtext is ambiguous. Empiricism is only generalization and numbers.

"Is Income Inequality Harmful?" The odds are he and his wife pay someone to pick up after them and their kids. endless repeats.

"Never seek to tell thy love / Love that never told can be." Arendt's quoting Blake, without naming him. Those days are gone.
James’s critical genius comes out most tellingly in his mastery over, his baffling escape from, Ideas; a mastery and an escape which are perhaps the last test of a superior intelligence. He had a mind so fine that no idea could violate it…. In England, ideas run wild and pasture on the emotions; instead of thinking with our feelings (a very different thing) we corrupt our feelings with ideas; we produce the public, the political, the emotional idea, evading sensation and thought…. Mr. Chesterton’s brain swarms with ideas; I see no evidence that it thinks. James in his novels is like the best French critics in maintaining a point of view, a view-point untouched by the parasite idea. He is the most intelligent man of his generation.
Arendt
What the public realm considers irrelevant can have such an extraordinary and infectious charm that a whole people may adopt it as their way of life, without for that reason changing its essentially private character. Modern enchantment with "small things," though preached by early twentieth-century poetry in almost all European tongues, has found its classical presentation in the petit bonheur of the French people. Since the decay of their once great and glorious public realm, the French have become masters in the art of being happy among "small things," within the space of their own four walls, between chest and bed, table and chair, dog and cat and flowerpot, extending to these things a care and tenderness which, in a world where rapid industrialization constantly kills off the things of yesterday to produce today's objects, may even appear to be the world's last, purely humane corner. This enlargement of the private, the enchantment, as it were, of a whole people, does not make it public, does not constitute a public realm, but, on the contrary, means only that the public realm has almost completely receded, so that greatness has given way to charm everywhere; for while the public realm may be great, it cannot be charming precisely because it is unable to harbor the irrelevant.
"..within the space of their own four walls, between chest and bed, table and chair, dog and cat and flowerpot"  Vuillard, Cezanne and Proust.

It would be interesting to see if Eliot read Arendt.  He would have learned a lot from her, without having to give ground. And as far as anti-Semites go, she had Heidegger, and Eliot had Groucho Marx.

"the subjectivity of pain and its relevance for all variations of hedonism and sensualism" The Body in Ecstasy: The Making and Unmaking of the World.

Again and again and again: Elaine Scarry is a fucking idiot. Her stupidity haunts me. The book was published in 1986, when Foucault was a hero, and made no references to sex. The foundation to technocratic liberalism: the ambiguities of life lived mean nothing next to the light of pure and puritan reason. But the word "puritan" gives it a subtext that reason itself does not allow. And the only art acceptable to reason is children's fantasy, because fantasy doesn't undermine the law of non-contradiction, and "literary" fiction breaks it constantly, as we do in our own lives.

House of Cards: In the original you sympathize deeply both with the victims and the glorious bastard of a villain. The US version reduces that conflict to a moralizing prurience; we have contempt for all the characters and we're left with nothing but the unexamined moral superiority of voyeurs. The original, among other things, was a comedy.

We've been here before

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