The Moment

My book, The Moment, will be published in early 2021 by Splice. More details nearer the time.

One’s own basic Yes

Every human being here is asked two questions of creed: first as to the credibility of this life, second as to the credibility of his goal. Both questions are answered by everyone, through the very fact of his life, with such a firm and direct ‘yes’ that it might become uncertain whether the questions have been understood rightly. In any case, it is now that one must begin to work one’s way through to this, one’s own basic Yes, for even far below their surface the answers are confused and elusive under the assault of the questions.

– Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks (tr. Kaiser and Wilkins)

Miniature creation myths

We constantly refer back to the natural world to try and discover who we are. Nature is the most potent source of metaphors to describe and explain our behaviour and feelings. It is the root and branch of much of our language. We sing like birds, blossom like flowers, stand like oaks. Or then again we eat like gluttons, breed like rabbits and generally behave like animals. But then ‘animal’ itself springs from the ancient Sanskrit root anila, meaning ‘wind’, via the Latin animalis, ‘anything alive’, splitting off animus on the way as, first, ‘mind’ and then ‘mental impulse, disposition, passion’ – a reminder of the time that mind and nature were not thought of as contrary entities. It is as if in using the facility of language, the thing we believe most separates us from nature, we are constantly pulled back to its, and our, origins. In that sense all natural metaphors are miniature creation myths, allusions to how things came to be, and a confirmation of the unity of life.

– Richard Mabey, Nature Cure

Being-there—more originary and earlier than human being as usually conceived—is the site of the play of being and the origin of its essential happening. Man, as the entry into this play, is that entity who has at each moment decided for or against being-there, knowingly or not, and who builds his history on the basis of this decision.

— Heidegger, ‘Die Frage nach dem Sein’ (tr. Polt)

‘Something is missing’

It is not an exaggeration to say that being a teenager in late capitalist Britain is now close to being reclassified as a sickness. This pathologization already forecloses any possibility of politicization. By privatizing these problems – treating them as if they were caused only by chemical imbalances in the individual’s neurology and/or by their family background – any question of social systemic causation is ruled out. Many of the teenage students I encountered seemed to be in a state of what I would call depressive hedonia. Depression is usually characterized as a state of anhedonia, but the condition I’m referring to is constituted not by an inability to get pleasure so much as by an inability to do anything else except pursue pleasure. There is a sense that ‘something is missing’ – but no appreciation that this mysterious, missing enjoyment can only be accessed beyond the pleasure principle. In large part this is a consequence of students’ ambiguous structural position, stranded between their old role as subjects of disciplinary institutions and their new status as consumers of services.

– Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism

One of the things we’re most afraid of in silence is this death of the periphery, the outside concerns, the place where you’ve been building your personality and where you think you’ve been building who you are, starts to atomize and fall apart. It’s one of the basic reasons we find it difficult even just to turn the radio off or the television or not look at our gadget — is that giving over to something that’s going to actually seem as if it’s undermining you to begin with and lead to your demise. The intuition, unfortunately, is correct. You are heading toward your demise, but it’s leading towards this richer, deeper place that doesn’t get corroborated very much in our everyday outer world.

David Whyte

The castle opens

As soon as a person appears who has something primitive about
him, so that he does not say ‘One must accept the world as it is’ [. . .]
but says ‘However the world is, I shall retain an originality which
I do not mean to alter in accordance with the world’s wishes’:
at the moment these words are heard, the whole of existence is
transformed. As in the fairy-tale, when the word is spoken, the castle
opens after being enchanted for a hundred years, and everything
comes to life: so existence turns into sheer attention.

– Kierkegaard, The Book of the Judge (quoted by Kafka in a letter to Brod)