Your very something
must become nothing,
drive all something, all nothing away!
Leave place, leave time,
and images as well!
Go without way
On the narrow path,
Thus you will come to the desert trace.
– Master Eckhart (tr. W. Franke)
‘We experienced what we experienced, we’re still alive, all we can do is go on talking to you without talking to you, the anonymous, refusing but accepting our past. Life could go on, could end, or could go on ending. Impossible moments. The past returns, unfortunately. It could go on happening or it could go on ending in our words. We try to speak your words and wonder if it’s the end of the end or a new beginning.’
‘Your words enter me and make me dizzy. You kill me and bring me to life: your words remove you from me and become my words, become you in me. Show yourself. Silence, the word silence shows itself. Is this some kind of test? I name you “you” and try to let you speak, to name me. This is impossible, and we go on.’
‘I ask you to speak to me, to give me a new voice. You tell me my question is a voice, my speech an interruption.’
Q. How did you get into philosophy in the first place?
– Simon Critchley
Comedy is much more tragic than tragedy, I always think, and much more about death. Tragedy is about making death meaningful – with some exceptions: you could say that in Sophocles’s Oedipus at Colonus there’s a different relationship to death. But conventionally the tragic hero takes death into him- or herself and it becomes meaningful; we experience catharsis in relation to that and we all go away happily. Comedy is about the inability to achieve that catharsis. So either you can’t die in comedy, which is why Waiting for Godot’s a tragi-comedy: nobody can hang themselves and it’s funny. Or if they do die they pop back up to life, like in Tom and Jerry cartoons. Now what’s the more tragic thought: life coming to an end or life going on forever? The latter’s much more tragic. Swift explores this in Book Three of Gulliver’s Travels: there are the Immortals, the Struldbrugs, who are marked with a red circle in the middle of their foreheads, and lie around in corners having lost all interest in life and not even speaking the language they grew up with. They’re tragic figures. The worst thing would be not death but life carrying on forever, and comedy’s about that. It’s also linked to depression and all sorts of things like that.
– Simon Critchley (via A Piece of Monologue)
In all important matters, however, the citizens can always count on a refusal. And now the strange fact is that without this refusal one simply cannot get along, yet at the same time these official occasions designed to receive the refusal are by no means a formality.
– Kafka, ‘The Refusal’ (tr. T. and J. Stern)