Monthly Archives: March 2009

The new hope

Hope bespeaks the possibility of what escapes the realm of the possible; at the limit, it is relation recaptured where relation is lost. Hope is most profound when it withdraws from and deprives itself of all manifest hope. But at the same time we must not hope, as in a dream, for a chimerical fiction. It is against this that the new hope appoints itself. Hoping not for the probable, which cannot be the measure of what there is to be hoped for, and hoping not for the fiction of the unreal, true hope — the unhoped for of all hope — is an affirmation of the improbable and a wait for what is.

— Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation (trans. S. Hanson)

I used to be an artist

I have long begged off the question of my albums reflecting where I am “at” personally. There is more inaccuracy in that approach than accuracy. I tend to hope people will meet me halfway. The “halfway” point is, “here’s some music, forget about the particulars of the feller before you, let’s listen to it and see what happens.”
   But there is the half that gets left off, the half that never gets told. There has definitely been a transition of some sort, an upheaval, which started three or so years ago. You’ve come at an unfortunate time in that I am still trying to sort it all out. I cannot tell you exactly what is going on now. I look at my hands and I don’t know what they wrought in the past. Are they the hands of a bad man? I used to be an artist. I don’t think I am right now. I don’t know if I ever will be again. I am something else. I was a student of personal strife. I ran with the wrong crowd early on. I tortured myself for a song. I thought it was the way. These things changed many years ago, but those stubborn barnacles remained buttoned to my cape. In shrugging off the cape of Smog and running — I am still in the giddy and running stage, where you can’t believe how easy it was to shrug off. I figure I will be giddy and running for another album or so. I’ve got six different sketches for albums that lay ahead of me. Usually how it works is something will come in to usurp all of those plans at the last minute.

Bill Callahan

What you are asking is your treasure house

   Daiju visited the master Baso in China. Baso asked: “What do you seek?”
   “Enlightenment”, replied Daiju.
   “You have your own treasure house. Why do you search outside?” Baso asked.
   Daiju inquired: “Where is my treasure house?”
   Baso answered: “What you are asking is your treasure house.”
   Daiju was enlightened! Ever after he urged his friends: “Open your own treasure house and use those treasures.”

Zen koans

The battleground

Today I woke up very early, with a sudden a confused start, and I slowly got out of bed, suffocating from an inexplicable tedium. No dream had caused it; no reality could have created it. It was a complete and absolute tedium, but founded on something. The obscure depths of my soul had been the battleground where unknown forces had invisibly waged war, and I shook all over from the hidden conflict. A physical nausea, prompted by all of life, was born in the moment I woke up. A horror at the prospect of having to live got up with me out of bed. Everything seemed hollow, and I had the chilling impression that there is no solution for whatever the problem may be.
   An extreme nervousness made my slightest gestures tremble. I was afraid I might go mad — not from insanity but from simply being there. My body was a latent shout. My heart pounded as if it were talking.
   Taking wide, false steps that I vainly tried to take differently, I walked barefoot across the short length of the room and diagonally through the emptiness of the inner room, where in a corner there’s a door to the hallway. With jerky and incoherent movements, I hit the brushes on top of the dresser, I knocked a chair out of place, and at a certain point my swinging hand struck one of the hard iron posts of my English bed. I lit a cigarette, which I smoked subconsciously, and only when I saw that ashes had fallen on the headboard — how, if I hadn’t leaned against it? — did I understand that I was possessed, or something of the sort, in fact if not in name, and that my normal, everyday self-awareness had intermingled with the abyss.
   I received the announcement of morning — the cold faint light that confers a vague whitish blue on the unveiled horizon — like a grateful kiss from creation. Because this light, this true day, freed me — freed me from I don’t know what. It gave an arm to my as-yet-unrevealed old age, it cuddled my false childhood, it helped my overwrought sensibility find the repose it was desperately begging for.
   Ah, what a morning this is, awakening me to life’s stupidity, and to its great tenderness! I almost cry when I see the old narrow street come into view down below, and when the shutters of the corner grocer reveal their dirty brown in the slowly growing light, my heart is soothed, as if by a real-life fairy tale, and it begins to have the security of not feeling itself.
   What a morning this grief is! And what shadows are retreating? What mysteries have taken place? None. There’s just the sound of the first tram, like a match to light up the soul’s darkness, and the loud steps of my first pedestrian, which are concrete reality telling me in a friendly voice not to be this way.

— Pessoa , The Book of Disquiet (trans. R. Zenith)

The first human listeners

… WHEN WILL, when will, when will they let it suffice,
the complaining, explaining? Have we not had masters to splice
human words, compose them? Why all this new endeavour?

Do not, do not, do not books for ever
hammer at people like perpetual bells?
When, between two books, silent sky appears: be glad…
or a patch of plain earth in the evening.

Louder than gale, louder than sea swell, men
have roared and yelled… what preponderance of stillness
must reside in the cosmic spaces, when
the cricket is audible still to yelling mankind.
When stars, the silent, shine for us in the yelled-at heavens!

Oh, if they spoke to us, the remotest, ancient, most ancient forbears!
And we: listeners at last. The first human listeners.

— Rilke (trans. M. Hamburger)

The world will offer to unmask itself for you

6.52 We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched. Of course there are then no questions left, and this itself is the answer.

6.521 The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem. (Is not this the reason why those who have found after a long period of doubt that the sense of life became clear to them have then been unable to say what constituted that sense?)

6.522 There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.

6.53 The correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say nothing except what can be said, i.e. propositions of natural science — i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy — and then, whenever someone else wanted to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had failed to give a meaning to certain signs in his propositions. Although it would not be satisfying to the other person — he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy — this method would be the only strictly correct one.

6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.)

7 What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

— Wittgenstein


You have no need to go out of the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t even wait, just be completely still and alone. The world will offer to unmask itself for you, it cannot do otherwise, it will disport itself before you ecstatically.

— Kafka


Q: That holiness you speak of, we seem bereft of it. It’s not in vogue to have that sense of spirituality anymore. Do you still cultivate it for yourself?

LC: I’m aware that I’m embraced by the absolute, as we are all embraced by the absolute. I feel that the technology for experiencing the absolute has been lost. But all the great religions have this experience, this information, this data, this technology which can [give you] this experience. I’ve always wondered why religions emphasise this idea of ‘belief’. Why should you believe in these matters? But experiencing these matters is available to all of us, experiencing the absolute is available. To be tyrannical or to be in some way oppressive about belief… I think it’s not fair to ask people to believe [when] they don’t experience. But we have the technology to experience the absolute, and I would just invite everybody to investigate their own religions. It’s not necessary to find a new one.

Leonard Cohen