Monday, December 24, 2012

Wagering on the Double Zero - Actus et Potentia. Cathexis v Anti-Cathexis

The philosophy of Pascal's Wager uses the following logic (excerpts from Pensées, part III, §233):

1) "God is, or He is not"
2) A Game is being played... where heads or tails will turn up.
3) According to reason, you can defend either of the propositions.
4) You must wager. (It's not optional.)
5) Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
6) Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (...) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.

Now Double negative elimination is a theorem of classical logic, but not of weaker logics such as intuitionistic logic and minimal logic. Because of their constructive flavor, a statement such as "It's not the case that it's not raining" is weaker than "It's raining." The latter requires a proof of rain, whereas the former merely requires a proof that rain would not be contradictory. (This distinction also arises in natural language in the form of litotes.) Double negation introduction is a theorem of both intuitionistic logic and minimal logic, as is \neg \neg \neg A \vdash \neg A .

But what does this mean: Ariadne abandoned by Theseus? It means that the combination of the negative will with the force of reaction, of the spirit of reaction with the reactive soul, is not nihilism’s last word. The moment arrives when the will to negation breaks its alliance with the forces of reaction, abandons them and even turns against them. Ariadne hangs herself, Ariadne wants to perish. Now this fundamental moment (“midnight”) heralds a double transmutation, as if completed nihilism gave way to its opposite: reactive forces, themselves denied, become active; negation is converted and becomes the thunderclap of a pure affirmation, the polemical and ludic mode of a will that affirms and enters into the service of an excess of life. Nihilism “defeated by itself.” Our aim is not to analyze this transmutation of nihilism, this double conversion, but simply to see how the myth of Ariadne expresses it. Abandoned by Theseus, Ariadne senses the approach of Dionysus. Dionysus the Bull is pure and multiple affirmation, the true affirmation, the affirmative will; he bears nothing, unburdens himself completely, makes everything that lives lighter. He is able to do what the higher man cannot: to laugh, play, and dance, in other words, to affirm. He is the Light One who does not recognize himself in man, especially not in the higher man or sublime hero, but only in the overman, in the overhero, in something other than man. It was necessary that Ariadne be abandoned by Theseus: “For this is the soul’s secret: only when the hero has abandoned her is she approached in a dream by the overhero.” Under the caress of Dionysus, the soul becomes active. She was so heavy with Theseus but becomes lighter with Dionysus, unburdened, delicate, elevated to the sky. She learns that what she formerly thought to be an activity was only an enterprise of revenge, mistrust, and surveillance (the thread), the reaction of the bad conscience and ressentiment; and more profoundly, what she believed to be an affirmation was only a travesty, a manifestation of heaviness, a way of believing oneself strong because one bears and assumes”
- Deleuze, (Essays Critical and Clinical, p. 102)
“To pass from Theseus to Dionysus is, for Ariadne, a clinical matter, a question of health and healing. And for Dionysus as well. Dionysus needs Ariadne. Dionysus is pure affirmation; Ariadne is the Anima, affirmation divided in two, the “yes” that responds to “yes.” But, divided in two [dedoublee], affirmation returns to Dionysus as the affirmation that redoubles [redouble]. It is in this sense that the eternal return is the product of the union of Dionysus and Ariadne. As long as Dionysus is alone, he still fears the thought of the Eternal Return, because he is afraid that it brings back reactive forces, the enterprise of denying life, the little man (whether higher or sublime). But when Dionysian affirmation finds its full development in Ariadne, Dionysus in turn learns something new: that the thought of the Eternal Return is consoling, and at the same time, that the Eternal Return itself is selective. The Eternal Return does not occur without a transmutation. The Eternal Return, as the being of becoming, is the product of a double affirmation that only makes what affirms itself return, and only makes what is active become. Neither reactive forces nor the will to deny will return: they are eliminated by the transmutation, by the Eternal Return as selection. Ariadne has forgotten Theseus; he is no longer even a bad memory. Theseus will never come back. The Eternal Return is active and affirmative: it is the union of Dionysus and Ariadne”
(Deleuze,"Essays Critical and Clinical", p. 105).

Sunday, December 23, 2012

With a Hat-tip to Nicrap!

Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643)
Lamento d’Arianna
Lasciatemi morire.
E chi volete voi
che mi conforte
in così dura sorte,
in così gran martire?
Lasciatemi morire.

O Teseo, o Teseo mio,
si che mio ti vo’ dir
che mio pur sei,
benchè t’involi, ahi crudo,
a gl’occhi miei.
Volgiti Teseo mio,
volgiti Teseo, o Dio,
volgiti indietro a rimirar colei
che lasciato ha per te la Patria e’l regno,
e in queste arene ancora,
cibo di fere dispietate e crude
lascierà l’ossa ignude.
O Teseo, o Teseo mio,
se tu sapessi, o Dio,
se tu sapessi, oimè,
come s’affanna
la povera Arianna;
Forse, forse pentito
rivolgeresti ancor la prora al lito.
Ma con l’aure serene
tu te ne vai felice, ed io qui piango.
A te prepara Atene
liete pompe superbe, ed io rimango,
cibo di fere in solitarie arene.
Te l’uno e l’altro tuo vecchio parente
stringeran lieti, ed io più non vedrovvi,
o Madre, o Padre mio.

Dove, dov’ è la fede
che tanto mi giuravi?
Così nell’ alta fede
tu mi ripon degl’ Avi?
Son queste le corone
onde m’adorn’ il crine?
Questi gli scettri sono,
queste le gemme e gl’ori?
Lasciarmi in abbandono
a fera che mi strazi e mi divori?
Ah Teseo, ah Teseo mio,
lascierai tu morire
invan piangendo, invan gridando aita
la misera Arianna
ch’a te fidossi e ti diè gloria e vita?

Ahi, che non pur rispondi,
ahi, che più d’aspe è sordo a miei lamenti!
O nembi, o turbi, o venti
sommergetelo voi dentr’ a quell’ onde!
Correte orche e balene,
e delle membra immonde
empiete le voragini profonde!
Che parlo, ahi, che vaneggio?
Misera, oimè, che chieggio?
O Teseo, o Teseo mio,
non son, non son quell’ io,
non son quell’ io che i feri detti sciolse;
parlò l’affanno mio,
parlò il dolore,
parlò la lingua si ma non già il core.

Misera, ancor dò loco
a la tradita speme,
e non si spegne
fra tanto scherno ancor d’amor il foco.
Spegni tu morte omai le fiamme indegne.
O Madre, o Padre,
o de l’antico Regno superbi alberghi,
ov’ ebbi d’or la cuna.
O servi, o fidi amici –
ahi fato indegno! –
mirate ove m’ha scort’ empia fortuna,
mirate di che duol m’ha fatto herede
l’amor mio, la mia fede
e l’altrui inganno.
Così va chi tropp’ ama
e troppo crede.

Let me die.
And who do you think
can comfort me
in thus harsh fate,
in thus great suffering?
Let me die.

Oh Theseus, oh my Theseus,
yes, I still call you mine
for mine you are,
although you flee, cruel one,
far from my eyes.
Turn back, my Theseus,
turn back, Theseus, o God,
turn back to see again the one,
who for you has left her fatherland and kingdom,
and who, staying on these shores,
a prey to cruel and pitiless beasts,
will leave her bones denuded.
Oh Theseus, oh my Theseus,
if you knew, oh God,
if you only knew
how much poor Arianna
is frightened,
perhaps, overcome with remorse,
you would return your prow shorewards again.
But with the serene winds
you sail on happily, while I remain here weeping.
Athens prepares to greet you
with joyful and superb feasts and I remain,
a prey to wild beasts on these solitary shores.
You will be happily embraced by
your old parents and I will not see you again,
oh mother, oh my father.

Where is the faith you
swore me so much?
Is this how you place me
on my antecestors throne?
Are these the crowns
with which you adorn my hair?
Are these the sceptres,
the diamonds and the gold?
To leave me abandoned
for the beast to tear up and devour?
Ah Theseus, ah my Theseus,
would you let me die,
weeping in vain, crying for aid
the wretched Arianna,
who trusted you and gave you glory and life?

Ah, that you do not even reply!
Ah, that your are deaf to my laments!
Oh clouds, oh storms, oh winds,
submerge him in those waves.
Fly, whales and orcs,
and fill up the profound gulfs
with these unworldly limbs!
What am I saying? Ah, what am I raving about?
Wretched that I am, what am I asking?
Oh Theseus, oh my Theseus,
that is, that is not I,
that it is not I who hurled these curses,
my anguish spoke,
the pain spoke,
it was my tongue but not my heart.

Wretched that I am, still I give place
to a hope betrayed,
and despite so much scorn
the fire of love is not put out.
For that put out now, death, the unworthy flames.
Oh mother, oh father,
oh superb dwellings of the ancient kingdom,
where my golden cradle stood!
Oh servants, oh faithful friends –
Ah, unjust fate! –
See where a cruel fortune has led me,
see what pain has been given to me as a heritage
for my love, my faith
and for his betraying me.
That is the fate of one who loves too much
and believes too much.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wisdom from the Eigth Dimension...

...what I don't have, is sufficient focus upon what I DO have.... and not chasing a Priddy Penny ;)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

America's Citizenry - Seeking Dionysus

Hither, O fragrant of Tmolus the Golden,
Come with the voice of timbrel and drum;
Let the cry of your joyance uplift and embolden
The God of the joy-cry; O Bacchanals, come!
With pealing of pipes and with Phrygian clamour,
On, where the vision of holiness thrills,
And the music climbs and the maddening glamour,
With the wild White Maids, to the hills, to the hills!
Oh, then, like a colt as he runs by a river,
A colt by his dam, when the heart of him sings,
With the keen limbs drawn and the fleet foot a-quiver,
Away the Bacchanal springs!
- Euripides, "The Bacchae"

Her politicians, however, seek a different end...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Let's Blow this Pop Stand, Richard Parker!

...before the mere cats start dancing and signing their siren songs and REALITY floats away, again!
According to mythology, Leto, pursued by the incensed and jealous goddess Hera, wandered from place to place seeking some corner of the earth in which to give birth to her children, the fruit of her union with Zeus, father of the Gods. But all the Islands and cities refused to receive her, afraid of the vengeance of Zeus' deceived consort, whom only a bare rock in the middle of the tempestuous sea dared to defy.

Prior to this event, the island (Delos) had floated aimlessly in the Aegean, but became anchored in its position by Poseidon who made four granite columns rise out of the sea to anchor it firmly in its present place for the divine birth. This is why the island came to be called Delos, which means 'visible', before which it was a floating, nomadic rock called Ortygia or Adelos (the invisible).

It is said that it was on Delos that Leto finally bore the twins, Apollo and Artemis under a palm. In return for the sanctuary of the island, she promised that the god she was about to give birth to would turn this dry and barren island into a place of great pilgrimage and bring prosperity to its land
- Source.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sovereignty, the Hidden Goal Behind the Sacrifice

Symbolically, along with the object itself, the one who offers a sacrifice is seen as removed from the demands of utility and consequently as possibly a sovereign subject. Those who offer the sacrifice are not completely dominated by the needs of the system or the process, but, rather, can exist free of their constraints in the moment of the sacrifice.

Hence giving a sacrifice becomes an acquiring of power. Sacrificial gift-giving has the virtue of surpassing of the subject who gives, but in exchange for the object given, the subject appropriates the surpassing: He regards his virtue, that which he had the capacity for, as an asset, as a power that he now posses. He enriches himself with a contempt for riches, and what he proves to be miserly of is in fact his generosity.

Thus by making a display of his disregard for his excess he obtains in the eye of the other who observes (and thus the necessity for giving over private destruction) a status, a power of expenditure and destruction. It is a means of killing two birds with one stone. Not only is the necessary annihilation accomplished, but also there is acquired the respect and regard of the other members of the society. Thus, paradoxically, by giving one is in fact gaining in prestige and societal power and status.

This is tied to his conception of sacrifice in that the gift is an escape from the circle of necessity. “An article of exchange, in these practices, was not a thing; it was not reduced to the inertia, the lifelessness of the profane world. The gift that one made of it was a sign of glory, and the object itself had the radiance of glory. By giving one exhibited one’s wealth and one’s good fortune (one’s power).” Thus by association the giver escapes the domination of objectivity through an assertion of the ability to engage in such expenditure. As the object is taken from the realm of utility to the sacred uselessness of sacrifice, so too is the subjecthood, a basic freedom to express an individual will, of the giver affirmed through his ability to expend beyond the demands of utility.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dresden Mania

A man always has two reasons for doing anything - a good reason and the real reason.
- John Pierpoint Morgan

Thursday, December 6, 2012

To the Nymph Calypso

"Wretch that I am! what farther fates attend
This life of toils, and what my destined end?
Too well, alas! the island goddess knew
On the black sea what perils should ensue.
New horrors now this destined head inclose;
Untill'd is yet the measure of my woes;
With what a cloud the brows of heaven are crown'd;
What raging winds! what roaring waters round!
'Tis Jove himself the swelling tempest rears;
Death, present death, on every side appears.
Happy! thrice happy! who, in battle slain,
Press'd in Atrides' cause the Trojan plain!
Oh! had I died before that well-fought wall!
Had some distinguish'd day renown'd my fall
(Such as was that when showers of javelins fled
From conquering Troy around Achilles dead),
All Greece had paid me solemn funerals then,
And spread my glory with the sons of men.
A shameful fate now hides my hapless head,
Unwept, unnoted, and for ever dead!"
_ Homer, "The Odyssey"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

She appeared in such a way that I lost myself And went by taking away my 'self' with her - Mir Taqi Mir

Wretched Catullus, stop being a fool,
and that which you see to have perished, consider it gone.
Blazing suns once shone for you
when you would come wither she was leading, a girl
beloved by us as much as no girl will be loved.
There wherever those many jokes happened,
which you wanted nor did the girl refuse:
truly bright suns shone for you.
Now already she wants not; you also, unable, want no longer!
Neither follow she who flees, nor live miserably,
but endure with a resolute mind, harden yourself.
Farewell, girl! Already Catullus is firm,
neither will he chase after you nor will he ask an unwilling girl.
But you will be sad when you will not be asked.
Woe to you, wicked one! Which life remains for you?
Whom now will go to you? To whom will [you] seem pretty?
Whom will you now love? Whose will you be said to be?
Whom will you kiss? Whose lips will you bite?
But you, Catullus, be resolved to be strong.
-Catullus, 8

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ode to a Myrtle Berry...

At this time, they tell of an infectious epidemic
that coldly killed the king of Crete, Androgeos.
The Cercropian citadel was to give a banquet for the Minotaur,
with the best youths and equally brilliant maidens.
When these narrow walls shook with evil,
Theseus chose to rush forward, offering his body
for Athens, preferring a certain death
to the rising deaths in the Cercropia.
And so he came on the course of sleek light and slick wind
to the massive and tyrannical seat of Minos
As soon as the young daughter caught sight of him
in the palace, she exhaled a scent like virgin lust
in her bed, still nursed on her mother’s soft embrace,
like myrtle berry on the streams of Eurotas—
a distinct breath drawn out of green colors.
The sight of him before her burned.
It took hold of her entire body. A flame
dug at all of her innermost marrow.
O the miserable frenzy you excite with an unripe heart!
Sacred boy, you confuse happiness with human desire.
And you reign in Golgi and in the forests of Idalia.
On what waves did you hurl her flaring mind,
sighing for the stranger with yellow hair?
How much fear did she hold in her heart?
How often did she turn pale as great flashes of gold?
When raging with desire against the monster,
Theseus strode toward death or hard fought glory.
Not unlike little prayers offered to gods,
a useless promise set fire from her lips.
Just as tree branches shake as high as Taurus
or as cones drip off pine bark,
an untamed wind twists the whirling oak.
Roots thrust up in the distance, torn
and bent over, still twitching.
Theseus arches over the raging body,
arms raised in the vacant wind.
Then he retraced his untouched tracks,
roaming this thin thread,
unaffected by the twisting labyrinths.
He wanders on unnoticed.
-Catullus, "LXIV" (excerpt)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Strike Up the Band for a Modern Tragedie

A Vision

Two crowned Kings, and One that stood alone
With no green weight of laurels round his head,
But with sad eyes as one uncomforted,
And wearied with man’s never-ceasing moan
For sins no bleating victim can atone,
And sweet long lips with tears and kisses fed.
Girt was he in a garment black and red,
And at his feet I marked a broken stone
Which sent up lilies, dove-like, to his knees.
Now at their sight, my heart being lit with flame,
I cried to Beatrice, ‘Who are these?’
And she made answer, knowing well each name,
‘AEschylos first, the second Sophokles,
And last (wide stream of tears!) Euripides.’

- Oscar Wilde

Gerard de Nerval, "El Desdichado"

I am the man of shadows, - the widower, - the unconsoled,
The Prince of Aquitaine of the ruined Tower:
My only Star is dead, - and my starry lute
Carries the black Sun of Melancholy.

In the night of the Tomb, You who consoled me,
Give me back Posilipo and the Italian sea,
The flower which pleased my desolate heart,
And the trellis where the Vine and the Rome are united.

Am I Cupid or Phebus? ...Lusignan or Biron?
My forehead is still red from the kiss of the Queen;
I have dreamed in the Grotto where the mermaids sing...

I have twice crossed the Acheron, victorious:
Modulating by turns on Orpheus' lyre
The sighs of the Saint and the calls of the Fairy.


Such as thou art, sometime was I.
Such as I am, such shalt thou be.
I thought little on th'our of Death
So long as I enjoyed breath.
But now a wretched captive am I,
Deep in the ground, lo here I lie.
My beauty great, is all quite gone,
My flesh is wasted to the bone.

-Epitaph inscribed around his effigy

Friday, November 9, 2012

Daydreams of a Lone Political Blogger

If a man danced upon a beachfront, and no one looked in his direction, would the dance have been any the worse for it?...

How might the man have danced before an audience of many? Or perhaps just of one other? And if the man were Zarathustra?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Long Farewell... then I'm off!

_______ caressed with love
I drifted ashore from the sea
The sand shows a new way

The light blends with the darkness
The wind is full of love
Who are you boatman who paddles this boat, whom I cannot see?
- Nitin Sawhney

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


The industrious races find leisure very hard to endure: it was a masterpiece of English instinct to make Sunday so extremely holy and boring that the English unconsciously long again for their week‑ and working‑days ‑ as a kind of cleverly devised and cleverly intercalated fast, such as is also to be seen very frequently in the ancient world (although, as one might expect in the case of southern peoples, not precisely in regard to work ‑). There have to be fasts of many kinds; and wherever powerful drives and habits prevail legislators have to see to it that there are intercalary days on which such a drive is put in chains and learns to hunger again. Seen from a higher viewpoint, entire generations and ages, if they are infected with some moral fanaticism or other, appear to be such intercalated periods of constraint and fasting, during which a drive learns to stoop and submit, but also to purify and intensify itself; certain philosophical sects (for example the Stoa in the midst of the Hellenistic culture, with its air grown rank and overcharged with aphrodisiac vapours) likewise permit of a similar interpretation. ‑ This also provides a hint towards the elucidation of that paradox why it was precisely during Europe's Christian period and only under the impress of Christian value judgements that the sexual drive sublimated itself into love (amour passion).
- Nietzsche, "Beyond Good & Evil" (189)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Franz Kafka, "Die Brücke"

The Bridge
I was stiff and cold, I was a bridge, I lay over a ravine. My toes on oneside, my fingers clutching the other, I had clamped myself fast into the crumbling clay. The tails of my coat fluttered at my sides. Far below brawled the icy trout stream. No tourist strayed to this impassable height, the bridge was not yet traced on any map. So I lay and waited; I could only wait. Without falling, no bridge, once spanned, can cease to be a bridge. It was toward evening one day- was it the first, was it the thousandth? I cannot tell- my thoughts were always in confusion and perpetually moving in a circle.

It was toward evening in summer, the roar of the stream had grown deeper, when I heard the sound of a human step! To me, to me. Straighten yourself, bridge, make ready, railless beams, to hold up the passenger entrusted to you. If his steps are uncertain, steady them unobtrusively, but if he stumbles show what you are made of and like a mountain god hurl him across to land.

He came, he tapped me with the iron point of his stick, then he lifted my coattails with it and put them in order upon me. He plunged the point of his stick into my bushy hair and let it lie there for a long time, forgetting me no doubt while he wildly gazed around him. But then – I was just following him in thought over mountain and valley – he jumped with both feet on the middle of my body. I shuddered with wild pain, not knowing what was happening. Who was it? A child? A dream? Awayfarer? A suicide? A tempter? A destroyer? And I turned so as to see him. A bridge to turn around! I had not yet turned quiet around when I already began to fall, I fell and in a moment I was torn and transpierced by the sharp rocks which had always gazed up at me so peacefully from the rushing water.
The mind can satisfy its need to act just by contemplating virtuosity, it can also safely disengage itself from the contradictions of life with the illusory promise of their resolution. - Kierkegaard

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ode to a Magpie

Rosso Fiorentino, "The Contest of the Pierides" (before 1540)

O'er better waves to speed her rapid course
The light bark of my genius lifts the sail,
Well pleas'd to leave so cruel sea behind;
And of that second region will I sing,
In which the human spirit from sinful blot
Is purg'd, and for ascent to Heaven prepares.

Here, O ye hallow'd Nine! for in your train
I follow, here the deadened strain revive;
Nor let Calliope refuse to sound
A somewhat higher song, of that loud tone,
Which when the wretched birds of chattering note
Had heard, they of forgiveness lost all hope.

- Dante Alighieri, "Purgatorio" (Canto I), Cary transl.

Monday, October 8, 2012

"Seeing" Ghosts?

THE soul of man
Resembleth water:
From heaven it cometh,
To heaven it soareth.
And then again
To earth descendeth,
Changing ever.

Down from the lofty
Rocky wall
Streams the bright flood,
Then spreadeth gently
In cloudy billows
O'er the smooth rock,
And welcomed kindly,
Veiling, on roams it,
Soft murmuring,
Tow'rd the abyss.

Cliffs projecting
Oppose its progress,--
Angrily foams it
Down to the bottom,
Step by step.

Now, in flat channel,
Through the meadowland steals it,
And in the polish'd lake
Each constellation
Joyously peepeth.

Wind is the loving
Wooer of waters;
Wind blends together
Billows all-foaming.

Spirit of man,
Thou art like unto water!
Fortune of man,
Thou art like unto wind!

- Goethe, "Spirit Song Over the Waters" (1789)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Executive Responsibilities

David Gilmour Blythe, "President Lincoln, writing the Proclamation of Freedom" (January 1st, 1863)
Adalbert John Volck (1864)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why We Cheat

Dan Ariely, "The Honest Truth About Dishonesty"
...because we can "rationalize" it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

To the Fairest

Now Award to the Appropriate Recipient
An apple of discord is a reference to the Golden Apple of Discord (Greek: μήλον της Έριδος) which, according to Greek mythology, the goddess Eris (Gr. Ερις, "Strife") inscribed "to the fairest" and tossed in the midst of the festivities at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, thus sparking a vanity-fueled dispute between Hera, Athena and Aphrodite that eventually led to the Trojan War (for the complete story, see The Judgement of Paris). Thus, "apple of discord" is used to signify the core, kernel, or crux of an argument, or a small matter that could lead to a bigger dispute.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Shadows of Life

Part II
"The difference between the living and the dead is - the GAZE. - Alberto Giacometti (1952)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Reliving a Summer's Day in 1812

Carl Rohling, "The Incident in Teplitz" (1887)
Going back to Beethoven’s stay at Teplitz, it is safe to say that during the first days he lived alone, solely minding his health. The atmosphere there created by the gathered aristocracy annoyed the composer. On July 14th he wrote to an acquaintance about Teplitz: " There are few people and among these, none of them stands apart. That is why I live alone! Alone! Alone!" Nevertheless, his solitude soon ended. On July 24th Bettina Brettano and her husband came to Teplitz. His greatest joy, however, was around July 15th when Goethe came to visit him. Goethe wrote down in his journal several meetings he had with the composer. On July 19th the poet visited him and wrote to his wife: "I have never met such solemn an artist, so energetic and so profound. I can only imagine how amazing he behaves with those around him." The next day they both took a long walk.

On July 21st, after his second visit to Beethoven, Goethe wrote in his journal: " He played wonderfully." On July 23rd, the poet visited the composer again. But by the end of Beethoven’s stay at Teplitz the relationship between the two deteriorated. Two weeks after his meeting with Goethe, Beethoven wrote in a letter: " The atmosphere at court is much to the liking of Goethe, more than a poet should. Is there any point in talking about the ridiculous infatuation of virtuosos, when poets, who should be regarded as the nation’s first tutors, forget everything for the sake of their own pleasure?"

In his turn, in a letter to a friend, composer Zelter from Berlin, Goethe let him know of his meeting with Beethoven: " I met Beethoven. His talent astonished me; nevertheless, he unfortunately has a tumultuous personality, which is not completely wrong in thinking the world repulsive, but undoubtedly he makes no effort to render it more pleasant to himself or to others. He must be shown forgiveness and compassion, for he is loosing his hearing, thing that affects less his musical side, but more his social one. As laconic as he usually is, he is even more so due to his disability."

The Separation of Two Great Minds

But the event that permanently altered the relationship between the two was the encounter of a group of aristocrats on the streets of Teplitz. Bettina Brettano tells the story of that encounter as such: " As they were walking together, Beethoven and Goethe crossed paths with the empress, the dukes and their cortege. So Beethoven said to Goethe: Keep walking as you did until now, holding my arm, they must make way for us, not the other way around. Goethe thought differently; he drew his hand, took off his hat and stepped aside, while Beethoven, hands in pockets, went right through the dukes and their cortege, barely miming a saluting gesture. They drew aside to make way for him, saluting him friendlily. Waiting for Goethe who had let the dukes pass, Beethoven told him: " I have waited for you because I respect you and I admire your work, but you have shown too great an esteem to those people. "

Clearly, this led to a tacit rupture in their relationship. Subsequently, Goethe never mentioned Beethoven’s name again and after a few years he never returned one of the composer’s letters. Nevertheless, Beethoven held the highest respect for the poet, even trying to rekindle the old friendship, but his efforts were in vain.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Poseidon v. Athena - A Change of Season

And if longing seizes you for sailing the stormy seas,
when the Pleiades flee mighty Orion
and plunge into the misty deep
and all the gusty winds are raging,
then do not keep your ship on the wine-dark sea
but, as I bid you, remember to work the land.
- Hesiod, "Works and Days"
William Bouguereau, "The Lost Pleiad"

Francis Penrose, a British archaeologist studying the Parthenon in 1891, suggested that the site is oriented towards the rising of the Pleiades in the constellation of Taurus

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wilde Goose Chase

"Esteeme a horse, according to his pace, But loose no wagers on a wilde goose chase."
- Nicholas Breton, "The Mother's Blessing" (1602)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Dog Days are Over?

Homer, "Iliad"
Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion's Dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Shared Obscenities


THERE is a Flower, the lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun himself, 'tis out again!

When hailstones have been falling, swarm on swarm,
Or blasts the green field and the trees distrest,
Oft have I seen it muffled up from harm,
In close self-shelter, like a Thing at rest.

But lately, one rough day, this Flower I passed
And recognised it, though an altered form,
Now standing forth an offering to the blast,
And buffeted at will by rain and storm.

I stopped, and said with inly-muttered voice,
"It doth not love the shower, nor seek the cold:
This neither is its courage nor its choice,
But its necessity in being old.

"The sunshine may not cheer it, nor the dew;
It cannot help itself in its decay;
Stiff in its members, withered, changed of hue."
And, in my spleen, I smiled that it was grey.

To be a Prodigal's Favourite--then, worse truth,
A Miser's Pensioner--behold our lot!
O Man, that from thy fair and shining youth
Age might but take the things Youth needed not!
-William Wordsworth (1804)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Das Erlking


WHO rides there so late through the night dark and drear?
The father it is, with his infant so dear;
He holdeth the boy tightly clasp'd in his arm,
He holdeth him safely, he keepeth him warm.

"My son, wherefore seek'st thou thy face thus to hide?"
"Look, father, the Erl-King is close by our side!
Dost see not the Erl-King, with crown and with train?"
"My son, 'tis the mist rising over the plain."

"Oh, come, thou dear infant! oh come thou with me!
Full many a game I will play there with thee;
On my strand, lovely flowers their blossoms unfold,
My mother shall grace thee with garments of gold."

"My father, my father, and dost thou not hear
The words that the Erl-King now breathes in mine ear?"
"Be calm, dearest child, 'tis thy fancy deceives;
'Tis the sad wind that sighs through the withering leaves."

"Wilt go, then, dear infant, wilt go with me there?
My daughters shall tend thee with sisterly care
My daughters by night their glad festival keep,
They'll dance thee, and rock thee, and sing thee to sleep."

"My father, my father, and dost thou not see,
How the Erl-King his daughters has brought here for me?"
"My darling, my darling, I see it aright,
'Tis the aged grey willows deceiving thy sight."

"I love thee, I'm charm'd by thy beauty, dear boy!
And if thou'rt unwilling, then force I'll employ."
"My father, my father, he seizes me fast,
Full sorely the Erl-King has hurt me at last."

The father now gallops, with terror half wild,
He grasps in his arms the poor shuddering child;
He reaches his courtyard with toil and with dread,--
The child in his arms finds he motionless, dead.
Goethe (1782)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Can Love be Bad?

Ερος δαὖτέ μ' ὀ λυσιμέλης δόνει,
γλυκύπικρον ἀμάχανον ὄρπετον.

Now Love masters my limbs and shakes me, fatal creature, bitter-sweet.
- Sappho of Lesbos (Fragment 40)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Viperous Pantalonus

Nietzsche, "Zarathustra"
And verily, what I saw, the like had I never seen. A young shepherd did I see, writhing, choking, quivering, with distorted countenance, and with a heavy black serpent hanging out of his mouth. Had I ever seen so much loathing and pale horror on one countenance? He had perhaps gone to sleep? Then had the serpent crawled into his throat- there had it bitten itself fast.

My hand pulled at the serpent, and pulled:- in vain! I failed to pull the serpent out of his throat. Then there cried out of me: "Bite! Bite! Its head off! Bite!"- so cried it out of me; my horror, my hatred, my loathing, my pity, all my good and my bad cried with one voice out of me.-

Ye daring ones around me! Ye venturers and adventurers, and whoever of you have embarked with cunning sails on unexplored seas! Ye enigma-enjoyers! Solve unto me the enigma that I then beheld, interpret unto me the vision of the lonesomest one!

For it was a vision and a foresight:- what did I then behold in parable? And who is it that must come some day?

Who is the shepherd into whose throat the serpent thus crawled?

Who is the man into whose throat all the heaviest and blackest will thus crawl?

-The shepherd however bit as my cry had admonished him; he bit with a strong bite! Far away did he spit the head of the serpent:- and sprang up.-

No longer shepherd, no longer man- a transfigured being, a light-surrounded being, that laughed! Never on earth laughed a man as he laughed!

O my brethren, I heard a laughter which was no human laughter,- and now gnaweth a thirst at me, a longing that is never allayed. My longing for that laughter gnaweth at me: oh, how can I still endure to live! And how could I endure to die at present!-

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Θυρώρῳ πόδες ἐπτορόγυιοι,
τὰ δὲ σάμβαλα πεμπεβόηα,
πίσυγγοι δὲ δέκ' ἐξεπόνασαν.

To the doorkeeper feet seven fathoms long, and sandals of five bulls' hides, the work of ten cobblers.
- Sappho of Lesbos (Fragment 98)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Anacreon, You Dog, You!

TISCHBEIN, Johann Heinrich the Elder
Ah tell me why you turn and fly,
My little Thracian filly shy?
Why turn askance
That cruel glance,
And think that such a dunce am I?

O I am blest with ample wit
To fix the bridle and the bit,
And make thee bend
Each turning-end
In harness all the course of it.

But now 'tis yet the meadow free
And frisking it with merry glee;
The master yet
Has not been met
To mount the car and manage thee.

-Anacreon of Teos

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Ἔσπερε, πάντα φέρων, ὄσα φαίνολις ἔσκέδας' αὔως,
φέρεις οἶν, φέρες αἶγα, φέρεις ἄπυ ματέρι παῖδα.

Hesperus, you bring back again
What the dawn light scatters,
Bringing the sheep: bringing the kid:
Bringing the little child back to its mother.

- Sappho of Lesbos (Fragment 95)

The Hesperides were daughters of Atlas, an enormous giant, who, as the ancients believed, stood upon the western confines of the earth, and supported the heavens on his shoulders. Their mother was Hesperis, a personification of the "region of the West," where the sun continued to shine after he had set on Greece, and where, as travellers told, was an abundance of choice delicious fruits, which could only have been produced by a special divine influence. The Gardens of the Hesperides with the golden apples were believed to exist in some island in the ocean, or, as it was sometimes thought, in the islands on the north or west coast of Africa. They were far-famed in antiquity; for it was there that springs of nectar flowed by the couch of Zeus, and there that the earth displayed the rarest blessings of the gods; it was another Eden. As knowledge increased with regard to western lands, it became necessary to move this paradise farther and farther out into the Western Ocean. [Alexander Murray, "Manual of Mythology," 1888

*Hesperus (Greek Hesperos) is the personification of the "evening star", the planet Venus in the evening. His name is sometimes conflated with the names for his brother, the personification of the planet as the "morning star" Eosphorus (Greek Ἐωσφόρος, "bearer of dawn") or Phosphorus (Ancient Greek: Φωσφόρος, "bearer of light", often translated as "Lucifer" in Latin), since they are all personifications of the same planet Venus. "Heosphoros" in the Greek LXX Septuagint and "Lucifer" in Jerome's Latin Vulgate were used to translate the Hebrew "Helel" (Venus as the brilliant, bright or shining one), "son of Shahar (Dawn)" in the Hebrew version of Isaiah 14:12.

When named thus by the ancient Greeks, it was thought that Eosphorus (Venus in the morning) and Hesperos (Venus in the evening) were two different celestial objects. The Greeks later accepted the Babylonian view that the two were the same, and the Babylonian identification of the planets with the Great Gods, and dedicated the "wandering star" (planet) to Aphrodite (Roman Venus), as the equivalent of Ishtar.

Eosphorus/Hesperus was said to be the father of Ceyx and Daedalion. In some sources, he is also said to be the father of the Hesperides...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Is There Virtue in Modesty?

Ti's d? a?groiw^ti's toi ðe'lgei no'on,
ou?k e?pistame'na ta` bra'ke? e?'lkhn
e?pi' tw^n sfu'rwn;

What rustic girl bewitches thee,
Who cannot even draw
Her garments neat as they should be,
Her ankles roundabout?
-Sappho of Lesbos (Fragment 67)
Well, I said; but surely you would agree with Homer when he says,

'Modesty is not good for a needy man'?

Yes, he said; I agree.

Then I suppose that modesty is and is not good?


But temperance, whose presence makes men only good, and not bad, is always good?

That appears to me to be as you say.

And the inference is that temperance cannot be modesty—if temperance is a good, and if modesty is as much an evil as a good?

All that, Socrates, appears to me to be true...
- Plato, "Charmides"

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Redemption in a Fall from Grace?

Again love, the limb-loosener, rattles me
a crawling beast.
- Sappho of Lesbos
...only if you don't fail afterwards to "find the light." ;)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Parallax Object

The rise of melancholy in Europe temporally overlaps with the prohibition and gradual disappearance of different forms of carnival, of manifestations of “collective joy” (Barbara Ehrenreich) from public life (late 16th, early 17th century) —what conclusion are we to draw from this? The obvious one would have been that the prohibition came first: it deprived individuals of a key source of libidinal satisfaction, and this loss caused melancholy—melancholy bore witness to the fact that modern subjects live in a grey dis-enchanted secularized world from which ecstatic collective experienced disappeared…

What, however, if the causality is the opposite one? What if melancholy PRECEDES prohibition? What if prohibition is a way to resolve the deadlock of melancholy? One has to be very precise here about the structure of melancholy – in contrast to mourning, melancholy is not only the failure of the work of mourning, the persistence of the attachment to the real of the object, but also its very opposite: “the melancholy offers the paradox of an intention to mourn that precedes and anticipates the loss of the object.” Therein resides the melancholic’s stratagem: the only way to possess an object which we never had, which was from the very outset lost, is to treat an object that we still fully possess as if this object is already lost. The melancholic’s refusal to accomplish the work of mourning thus takes the form of its very opposite, of a faked spectacle of the excessive, superfluous, mourning for an object even before this object is lost. This is what provides its unique flavor to a melancholic love relationship (like the one between Newland and Countess Olenska in Wharton’s The Age of Innocence): although the partners are still together, immensely in love, enjoying each other’s presence, the shadow of the future separation already colors their relationship, so that they perceive their current pleasures under the aegis of the catastrophe (separation) to come (in the exact reversal of the standard notion of enduring the present hardships with a view to the happiness to emerge out of them). In short, the mourner mourns the lost object and “kills it the second time” through symbolizing its loss, while the melancholic is not simply the one who is unable to renounce the object; he rather kills the object the second time (treats it as lost) before the object is actually lost—how are we to unravel this paradox of mourning an object which is not yet lost, which is still here? The key to this enigma resides in Freud’s precise formulation according to which, the melancholic is not aware of what he had lost in the lost object —one has to introduce here the Lacanian distinction between the object and the object-cause of desire: while the object of desire is simply the desired object, the cause of desire is the feature on account of which we desire the desired object (some detail, tic, which we are usually unaware of and sometimes even misperceive it as the obstacle, as that in spite of which we desire the object). Perhaps, this gap between object and cause also explains the popularity of The Brief Encounter in the gay community: the reason is not simply that the furtive encounters of the two lovers in the dark passages and platforms of the railway station “resembles” the way gays were compelled to meet back in the 40s, since they were not yet allowed to flirt openly. Far from being an obstacle to the fulfillment of the gay desire, these features effectively functioned as its cause: deprived of these undercover conditions, the gay relationship loses a good part of its transgressive beguilement. So what we get in The Brief Encounter is not the object of the gay desire (the couple is straight), but its cause. No wonder, then, that gays often express their opposition to the liberal “inclusive” policy of fully legalizing gay couples: what sustains their opposition is not the (justified) awareness of the falsity of this liberal policy, but the fear that, being deprived of its obstacle/cause, the gay desire itself will wane.

From this perspective, the melancholic is not primarily the subject fixated on the lost object, unable to perform the work of mourning on it, but rather the subject who possesses the object, but has lost his desire for it, because the cause which made him desire this object has withdrawn, lost its efficiency. Far from accentuating to the extreme the situation of the frustrated desire, of the desire deprived of its object, melancholy rather stands for the presence of the object itself deprived of the desire for itself—melancholy occurs when we finally get the desired object, but are disappointed at it. In this precise sense, melancholy (disappointment at all positive, empirical objects, none of which can satisfy our desire) effectively is the beginning of philosophy. Say, a person who, all his life, was used to live in a certain city and is finally compelled to move elsewhere, is, of course, saddened by the prospect of being thrown into a new environment—however, what is it that effectively makes him sad? It is not the prospect of leaving the place which was for long years his home, but the much more subtle fear of losing his very attachment to this place. What makes me sad is the fact that I am aware that, sooner or later—sooner than I am ready to admit—I will integrate myself into a new community, forgetting the place which now means to me so much. In short, what makes me sad is the awareness that I will lose my desire for (what is now) my home.

The conclusion is thus that melancholy precedes prohibition: what makes melancholy so deadening is that objects are here, available, the subject just no longer desires them. As such, melancholy is inscribed into the very structure of the modern subject (the “inner self”): the function of prohibition is to shatter the subject out of melancholic lethargy and to set alive its desire. If, in melancholy, the object is here, available, while the cause of the subject’s desire for it is missing, the wager of prohibition is that, by depriving the subject of the object, it will resuscitate the cause of desire.

Freud defined Trieb (drive) as the limit-concept between biology and psychology, or nature and culture—a natural force known only through its psychic representatives. One should make her a step further and take Freud more radically: drive is natural, but nature thrown out of joint, distorted/deformed by culture, it is culture in its natural state. This is why drive is a kind of imaginary focus, meeting place, between psychoanalysis and cognitivist brain sciences: the paradox of the self-propelling loop on which the entire Freudian edifice is based and which brain sciences approach with metaphoric formulations, without being able to define it precisely.

“Biography is in fact one of the occult arts. It uses scientific means – documentation, analysis, inquiry—to achieve a hermetic end: the transformation of base material into gold. While its final intention is the most ambitious and blasphemous of all—to bring back a human being to life.”

According to Freud, love arises out of the inhibited desire: the object whose (sexual) consummation is prevented is then idealized into a love object. This is why Lacan establishes a link between love and drive: the space of drive is defined by the gap between its goal (object) and its aim, which is not to directly reach its object, but to circulate around the object, to repeat the failure to reach it—what drive and love share is this structure of inhibition.

Insofar as, in love, only the lover sees in the object of love that X which causes love, the parallax-object, the structure of love is the same as that of the Badiouian Event which also exists only for those who recognize themselves in it: there is no Event for a non-engaged objective observer.
- Zizek, "Excursions into Philosophy"

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Uncanny Feelings

The uncanny (Ger. Das Unheimliche - "the opposite of what is familiar") is a Freudian concept of an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange or uncomfortably familiar.

Because the uncanny is familiar, yet strange, it often creates cognitive dissonance within the experiencing subject due to the paradoxical nature of being attracted to, yet repulsed by an object at the same time. This cognitive dissonance often leads to an outright rejection of the object, as one would rather reject than rationalize.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

On Democrats

Heart, my heart, so battered with misfortune far beyond your strength,
up, and face the men who hate us. Bare your chest to the assault
of the enemy, and fight them off. Stand fast among the beamlike spears.
Give no ground; and if you beat them, do not brag in open show,
nor, if they beat you, run home and lie down on your bed and cry.
Keep some measure in the joy you take in luck, and the degree you
give way to sorrow. All our life is up-and-down like this.
-Archilochus of Paros (67)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Running Away from Life

"Run, run, as fast as you can.
You can't catch me!
I'm the Gingerbread Man!"

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Songs of Innocence & Experience

A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

- William Blake

Friday, June 1, 2012

Legal Guardians and Other Liminal Figures

...Guarding the Gate of MY "Before the Law"
The riddling Sphinx compelled us to let slide
The dim past and attend to instant needs.
- Sophocles, "Oedipus Rex"

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

from a Review of Homo Sacer

The question arises as to why and how to think a politics beyond relation when relation lies at the heart of politics. Agamben embraces non-relation as an ethical response to the absolutism that he sees governing our most constitutive of relations, namely, our relation to the law. "The originary relation of law to life is . . . Abandonment", he writes, alluding to the law's sovereign demand that we submit under its full force even when its contents fail to make sense. After an astounding reading of Kafka's "Before the Law", which overshadows ethically and exegetically the impressive deconstructive readings of this parable, Agamben shows that we are not simply summoned by the law, but that we appear compulsively in front of it. Whatever the law, it is law only insofar as it solicits from us the sense of absolute abandonment and unconditional respect, the sublime sentiment Kant called reverence.

Friday, May 25, 2012

I am Rinthon

Pass by over me with a ringing laugh, and then tell me
a friend word: I am Rinthon, the one of Syracuse.
A small nightingale of the Muses; from the tragic phliaxes
I was able to pick an ivy different and mine.


Saturday, May 12, 2012


I was showing my senior card
Under the mocking looks of those pigs
Who started an obscene laugh
At my siren shape

I am old and go fuck yourselves
With my style of dragonfly
I am old and I'm going to die
A small forgotten detail

Go your own way you bastards
Quickly go to the buffet car
I will smoke my cigarette
Quietly in the toilet

Prohibition is everywhere
Alcohol on television
Papers, fags, lack of cash
And getting old in public places

Prohibition is everywhere
Words and screams, fornication
Semen forbidden at 60 years old
Or else scandal and giggles

I am old and go fuck yourselves
With my style of dragonfly
I am old and I'm going to die
A small forgotten detail

Sick people are prohibited
Disposed of in the ditches
Unless they're worth a dime,
Cash for the wealthiest

Old people are discarded
Put to the asylum, to the castle of oblivion
Here is what's waiting for me tomorrow
If I ever loose my way

I have other perspectives, you see
I am going to have sex, to drink and smoke
I'm going to invent myself other skies
Always wider and more precious

I am old and go fuck yourselves
With my style of dragonfly
I am old,fearing neither god nor man
If I die, it will be of happiness

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happy B.D., Sal!

Salvador Domènec Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis de Púbol
(May 11, 1904 – January 23, 1989)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Zizek on Christ

I love the part (around 7.5m in) where Zizek describes the "nature" of Thanatos, or the Freudian "Death Drive", as an expression of infinitude and the desire, not for death, but for a persistence, post-mortem. I also enjoyed his much later characterization of the "information" age, and it's non-materialistic dependence upon government regulation so as to derive "rents" (vice "profits") for the private individual (ie - intellectual property/Bill Gates/Microsoft)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

To Celia

Drink to me, only, with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine ;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise,
Doth ask a drink divine :
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee, late, a rosy wreath,
Not so much honoring thee,
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not wither'd be.
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
And sent'st it back to me :
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee.
- Ben Johnson

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Catching Glimpses of One's Self in the Chamber

Exposure is at the heart of one of the most prevalent myths or nightmares of the corridor, that involving the hotel guest who ventures out of his or her room wearing risible or negligible nightwear, only to have the door slam behind them, leaving them marooned in shame and terror. Jean-Paul Sartre makes the corridor central to his allegory of the operations of human power and shame in one of the most memorable passages from his Being and Nothingness (1943). Imagine, he says, somebody on their knees, peeping through a keyhole, into a hotel bedroom. The voyeur has all the privileges of invisibility. Because their whole being is absorbed in the act of looking, and because they seem to be utterly quarantined from the visual scene on which they are so intent, they are pure subjects, who seem to have absolute dominion of the world. All of a sudden the voyeur hears a footstep in the corridor. Instantly, and without even having to raise his eyes, the voyeur sees himself as a voyeur, an object in somebody else’s field of vision. For Sartre, the hotel corridor is a radically and dangerously reversible space.

Perhaps the point is that corridors are not really places, at all. They are vectors, hesitations, zones of passage, architectural prepositions.

Dealin' w/Bad *ss MoFo's

Cyrnus, this city is in travail, and I fear she may give birth to a corrector of our evil pride; for though these her citizens are still discreet, their guides are heading for much mischief.
- Theognis of Megara (39-42)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sowing the Seeds of Universal Love

"I love you all" acquires the level of actual existence ONLY if "there is at least one whom I hate"- a thesis abundantly confirmed by the fact that universal love for humanity has always lead to brutal hatred of the (actually existing) exception, of the enemies of humanity. This hatred of the exception is the "truth" of universal love, in contrast to true love which can only emerge not of a universal hatred, but of universal indifference: I am indifferent towards All, the totality of the universe, and as such, I actually love YOU, the individual who stands out this indifferent background. Love and hatred are thus not symmetrical: love emerges out of universal indifference, while hatred emerges out of universal love.
Slavoj Zizek, "Living in the End Times"

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Just a Part of the Spectacle Society

Sex Won the Cold War

If thou shouldst challenge me, Academus, to sing a pretty song, and a lad of fair beauty were to stand for our prize in a contest of our art, thou wouldst learn how much better mules be than asses.
- Theognis of Megara (993-996)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Mad Hatter Rag

...does anyone beat your heart for you
does anyone live your life for you
do you cast a vote — plea for intercession
do you hasten your death by forgetting

do you close your eyes and believe
what others say you see.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Ich weiß nicht was soll es bedeuten
Daß ich so traurig bin;
Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten,
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
- Heinrich Heine (1823)

I cannot divine what it meaneth,
This haunting nameless pain:
A tale of the bygone ages
Keeps brooding through my brain.
- translation: Mark Twain (1880)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Above the Misty Veil

May the great wide brazen sky fall upon me —that dread of earthborn men —if I aid not such as love me, and become not a pain and great grief unto such as hate.
- Theognis of Megara (869-872)

The Russians are Coming... our way?

Be it mine to possess some of my enemies' goods myself and to give thereof much also to my friends to possess.
- Theognis of Megara (561-562)

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Let us give our hearts to merriment while yet pleasant acts bring some joy. For splendid youth passeth quickly as a thought, nor swifter is the speed of the horses which carry a king so furiously to the labour of the lance, delighting in the level wheatland.
- Theognis of Megara (983-988)

Friday, January 6, 2012

An Epistemology Suitable for Intellectually Honest Atheists

I will refer you to a witness who is worthy of credit; that witness shall be the God of Delphi—he will tell you about my wisdom, if I have any, and of what sort it is. You must have known Chaerephon; he was early a friend of mine, and also a friend of yours, for he shared in the recent exile of the people, and returned with you. Well, Chaerephon, as you know, was very impetuous in all his doings, and he went to Delphi and boldly asked the oracle to tell him whether—as I was saying, I must beg you not to interrupt—he asked the oracle to tell him whether anyone was wiser than I was, and the Pythian prophetess answered, that there was no man wiser. Chaerephon is dead himself; but his brother, who is in court, will confirm the truth of what I am saying.

Why do I mention this? Because I am going to explain to you why I have such an evil name. When I heard the answer, I said to myself, What can the god mean? and what is the interpretation of his riddle? for I know that I have no wisdom, small or great. What then can he mean when he says that I am the wisest of men? And yet he is a god, and cannot lie; that would be against his nature. After long consideration, I thought of a method of trying the question. I reflected that if I could only find a man wiser than myself, then I might go to the god with a refutation in my hand. I should say to him, 'Here is a man who is wiser than I am; but you said that I was the wisest.' Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed him—his name I need not mention; he was a politician whom I selected for examination—and the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and still wiser by himself; and thereupon I tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard me. So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is,—for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him. Then I went to another who had still higher pretensions to wisdom, and my conclusion was exactly the same. Whereupon I made another enemy of him, and of many others besides him.

Then I went to one man after another, being not unconscious of the enmity which I provoked, and I lamented and feared this: but necessity was laid upon me,—the word of God, I thought, ought to be considered first. And I said to myself, Go I must to all who appear to know, and find out the meaning of the oracle. And I swear to you, Athenians, by the dog I swear!—for I must tell you the truth—the result of my mission was just this: I found that the men most in repute were all but the most foolish; and that others less esteemed were really wiser and better. I will tell you the tale of my wanderings and of the 'Herculean' labours, as I may call them, which I endured only to find at last the oracle irrefutable. After the politicians, I went to the poets; tragic, dithyrambic, and all sorts. And there, I said to myself, you will be instantly detected; now you will find out that you are more ignorant than they are. Accordingly, I took them some of the most elaborate passages in their own writings, and asked what was the meaning of them—thinking that they would teach me something. Will you believe me? I am almost ashamed to confess the truth, but I must say that there is hardly a person present who would not have talked better about their poetry than they did themselves. Then I knew that not by wisdom do poets write poetry, but by a sort of genius and inspiration; they are like diviners or soothsayers who also say many fine things, but do not understand the meaning of them. The poets appeared to me to be much in the same case; and I further observed that upon the strength of their poetry they believed themselves to be the wisest of men in other things in which they were not wise. So I departed, conceiving myself to be superior to them for the same reason that I was superior to the politicians.

At last I went to the artisans. I was conscious that I knew nothing at all, as I may say, and I was sure that they knew many fine things; and here I was not mistaken, for they did know many things of which I was ignorant, and in this they certainly were wiser than I was. But I observed that even the good artisans fell into the same error as the poets;—because they were good workmen they thought that they also knew all sorts of high matters, and this defect in them overshadowed their wisdom; and therefore I asked myself on behalf of the oracle, whether I would like to be as I was, neither having their knowledge nor their ignorance, or like them in both; and I made answer to myself and to the oracle that I was better off as I was.

This inquisition has led to my having many enemies of the worst and most dangerous kind, and has given occasion also to many calumnies. And I am called wise, for my hearers always imagine that I myself possess the wisdom which I find wanting in others: but the truth is, O men of Athens, that God only is wise; and by his answer he intends to show that the wisdom of men is worth little or nothing; he is not speaking of Socrates, he is only using my name by way of illustration, as if he said, He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing. And so I go about the world, obedient to the god, and search and make enquiry into the wisdom of any one, whether citizen or stranger, who appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the oracle I show him that he is not wise; and my occupation quite absorbs me, and I have no time to give either to any public matter of interest or to any concern of my own, but I am in utter poverty by reason of my devotion to the god.

There is another thing:—young men of the richer classes, who have not much to do, come about me of their own accord; they like to hear the pretenders examined, and they often imitate me, and proceed to examine others; there are plenty of persons, as they quickly discover, who think that they know something, but really know little or nothing; and then those who are examined by them instead of being angry with themselves are angry with me: This confounded Socrates, they say; this villainous misleader of youth!—and then if somebody asks them, Why, what evil does he practise or teach? they do not know, and cannot tell; but in order that they may not appear to be at a loss, they repeat the ready-made charges which are used against all philosophers about teaching things up in the clouds and under the earth, and having no gods, and making the worse appear the better cause; for they do not like to confess that their pretence of knowledge has been detected—which is the truth; and as they are numerous and ambitious and energetic, and are drawn up in battle array and have persuasive tongues, they have filled your ears with their loud and inveterate calumnies. And this is the reason why my three accusers, Meletus and Anytus and Lycon, have set upon me; Meletus, who has a quarrel with me on behalf of the poets; Anytus, on behalf of the craftsmen and politicians; Lycon, on behalf of the rhetoricians: and as I said at the beginning, I cannot expect to get rid of such a mass of calumny all in a moment. And this, O men of Athens, is the truth and the whole truth; I have concealed nothing, I have dissembled nothing. And yet, I know that my plainness of speech makes them hate me, and what is their hatred but a proof that I am speaking the truth?—Hence has arisen the prejudice against me; and this is the reason of it, as you will find out either in this or in any future enquiry.
- Plato, "Apology"

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I would have no man my friend with lips only, but also in deed; he must serve me willingly both with hands and with possessions; nor must he soothe my heart with words beside the mixing-bowl, but show himself a good man by act, if so he may.
- Theognis of Megara (979-982)

Monday, January 2, 2012

For Amanda

Surely there's risk in every sort of business, nor know we at the beginning of a matter where we shall come to shore; nay, sometimes he that striveth to be of good repute falleth unawares into ruin great and sore, whereas for the doer of good God maketh good hap in all things, to be his deliverance from folly.
- Theognis of Megara (585-590)