Friday, October 26, 2007

Kiddush















"When Rabbi Elimelekh said the Prayer of Sanctification on the sabbath, he occasionally took out his watch and looked at it. For in that hour, his soul threatened to dissolve in bliss, and so he looked at his watch in order to steady himself in Time and the world."


-from Martin Buber's Tales of the Hasidim: Early Masters

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Jamestown



























I will admit that I had to give up on Henry James' Roderick Hudson. Oh, it is ridiculously well-written and intelligent, but mostly a bore. I've never been terribly interested in James' obsessive treatment of American-European cross-pollination. But when he concentrates his eye on psychological detail and consciousness, brother is unstoppable.

The James family fascinates me. I always like those semi-freakish families where everybody speaks 10 languages and can paint, write poetry and dissect cadavers by age 12.

William James, especially, has been a hero (or nerd super-hero, if you like) for a while, and I have just started Richard D. Richardson's intellectual biography. Hot damn, what a fascinating time, family, person.
People are right to point out that James is one of the greatest writers to do philosophy, along with Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Plato, Augustine, Hume etc. I like the coda to his slightly bizarre "On Human Immortality" (a defense of the concept of immortality and eternity, or rather a skeptical look at human knowledge and the dead certainty of materialism):

For my own part, then, so far as logic goes, I am willing that every leaf that ever grew in this world's forests and rustled in the breeze should become immortal. It is purely a question: are the leaves so, or not? Abstract quantity, and the abstract needlessness in our eyes of so much reduplication of things so much alike, have no connection with the subject. For bigness and number and generic similarity are only manners of our finite way of thinking; and, considered in itself and apart from our imagination, one scale of dimensions and of numbers for the Universe is no more miraculous or inconceivable than another, the moment you grant to a universe the liberty to be at all, in place of the Non-entity that might conceivably have reigned.

The heart of being can have no exclusions akin to those which our poor little hearts set up. The inner significance of other lives exceeds all our powers of sympathy and insight. If we feel a significance in our own life which would lead us spontaneously to claim its perpetuity, let us be at least tolerant of like claims made by other lives, however numerous, however unideal they may seem to us to be. Let us at any rate not decide adversely on our own claim, whose grounds we feel directly, because we cannot decide favorably on the alien claims, whose grounds we cannot feel at all. That would be letting blindness lay down the law to sight.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Absence












The streets are alive with hearsay and rumor. From Jefferson County to Jerusalem, from the snowy wastelands and swaying conifers of Northern Canada to the muddy Yangtze banks, the talk is everywhere. Whispered tales of my demise, my fall from grace, my brief exploration of man-boy love in a Phnom Penh back alley basement/illegal magazine warehouse. I know you've heard them all.

Well I'm here to set the record straight. As per certain ongoing legal disputes, I can only categorically deny the first two of the above.

In truth, I've been very busy with school and various other thangs, and have been lazy/uninspired to update this crawlspace of genius. I've been enjoying the autumn air, taking frequent, pregnant-womanesque naps, reading much and listening much, recording the odd song with friends, maxin' and relaxin', u know how i do. Some highlights have been a free, intimate concert with Can's Damo Suzuki in which I sat cross-legged with friends way too close to the stage (literally 2 feet away-it was in a small basement) and almost went deaf within 35 seconds. Also, I saw Nico Muhly and his ensemble who were amazing.
I drink lots of Gatorade and read the Hebrew Bible and Henry James (Roderick Hudson). I take walks around the city and pet various animals. I very much like Animal Collective's new album, and what I have heard of Radiohead's "In Rainbows". I am excited for Alex Ross' book, which has been praised, of course justly, by every living being who has discovered the printed word, including Bjork and all the Republican Presidential candidates (except Duncan Hunter, who recently told veterans at an Iowa town-hall meeting, "The bastard devotes a chapter to Sibelius, and not that genius Helmut Lachenmann? You spilled your blood at Normandy and in the Vietnamese jungles for the post-dialectic, dissonant strains of Helmut Lachenmann and his musique concrète instrumentale, not "Finlandia" goddamn it!").

All in all, things have been okay. I hope your families and mistresses have been okay. I cannot say how inspired I will be to return here soon ("You were inspired before?"), but I will return. In the meantime, read all those sites I link to on the sidebar, and watch an acceptable-quality of that great Seinfeld episode with the Mandelbaums.