Monthly Archives: November 2009

Born grave

The grown-ups pursued me, the just, caught me, beat me, hounded me back into the round, the game, the jollity. For I was already in the toils of earnestness. That has been my disease. I was born grave as others syphilitic. And gravely I struggled to be grave no more, to live, to invent, I know what I mean. But at each fresh attempt I lost my head, fled to my shadows as to sanctuary, to his lap who can neither live nor suffer the sight of others living.

– Beckett, Malone Dies

If this continues

If this continues it is myself I shall lose and the thousand ways that lead there. And I shall resemble the wretches famed in fable, crushed beneath the weight of their wish come true. And I even feel a wish come over me, the desire to know what I am doing, and why. So I near the goal I set myself in my young days and which prevented me from living. And on the threshold of being no more I succeed in being another. Very pretty.

– Beckett, Malone Dies

The desert trace

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)

I could see the road ahead of me

I could see the road ahead of me. I was poor and I was going to stay poor. But I didn’t particularly want money. I didn’t know what I wanted. Yes, I did. I wanted someplace to hide out, someplace where one didn’t have to do anything. The thought of being something didn’t only appal me, it sickened me. The thought of being a lawyer or a councilman or an engineer, anything like that, seemed impossible to me. To get married, to have children. To get trapped in the family structure. To go someplace to work every day and return. It was impossible. To do things, simple things, to be part of family picnics, Christmas, the 4th of July, Labor Day, Mother’s Day… was a man born just to endure these things and then die? I would rather be a dishwasher, return alone to a tiny room and drink myself to sleep.

– Bukowski

Impossible moments

‘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.’

And we go on

‘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?

A. Failure.

Simon Critchley

Comedy and tragedy

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)

 

The refusal

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)