Monday, June 28, 2010

Artistry and Invention

Even in the midst of the strangest experiences we still do the same: we make up the major part of the experience and can scarcely be forced not to contemplate some event as its "inventors." All this means: basically and from time immemorial we are--accustomed to lying. Or to put it more virtuously and hypocritically, in short, more pleasantly: one is much more of an artist than one knows.

In an animated conversation I often see the face of the person with whom I am talking so clearly and so subtly determined in accordance with the thought he expresses, or that I believe has been produced in him, that this degree of clarity far surpasses my powers of vision: so the subtle shades of the play of the muscles and the expression of the eyes must have been made up by me. Probably the person made an altogether different face, or none at all.

Beyond Good and Evil §192

The Protestant Work Ethic and the End of Religiosity

Has it ever been really noted to what extent a genuinely religious life (both its microscopic favorite occupation of self-examination and that tender composure which calls itself "prayer" and is a continual readiness for the "coming of God") requires a leisure class, or half-leisure - I mean leisure with a good conscience, from way back, by blood, to which the aristocratic feeling that work disgraces is not altogether alien - the feeling that it makes soul and body common. And that consequently our modern, noisy, time-consuming industriousness, proud of itself, stupidly proud, educates and prepares people, more than anything else does, precisely for "unbelief."

Among those, for example who now live in Germany at a distance from religion I find people whose "free-thinking" is of diverse types and origins, but above all a majority of those in whom industriousness has, from generation unto generation, dissolved the religious instincts, so they no longer even know what religions are good for and merely register their presence in the world with a kind of dumb amazement.

Beyond Good and Evil §58

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Project

I am ostensibly writing a thesis these days (that is, when I'm not watching mediocre episodes of Big Bang Theory and YouTube clips of Cristiano Ronaldo and his beautiful... footwork). It finally has a title: "Dionysian Distance: Reading Nietzsche with Jean-Luc Marion".

The first chapter addresses Marion's explicit account of Nietzsche's project in his early work The Idol and Distance. Following Heidegger, Marion finds that although Nietzsche opens up the possibility of the manifestation of the divine in absence by "sounding out" the idolatry of the metaphysical tradition, he nonetheless remains idolatrous because he privileges presence. In a much less Heideggerian vein, Marion insists that although Nietzsche understands and is even sympathetic to the Christic figure - he who would pour himself out for the revaluation of all values - he cannot imagine the possibility that, in this abandon, one might be met by a divine who enacts a similar abandon.

The second chapter continues with Marion's conceptual pair, idol and distance, to suggest that the presence of the former does not necessarily exclude moments of the latter. I do not disagree with Marion's accusations of idolatry, but show that Marion himself, in his recognition of the dramatic element in Nietzsche's work and his attention to the nature of writing generally, allows the accusation of idolatry to function as the beginning and not the end of an interesting reading of Nietzsche. This chapter remains the fuzziest at this point (read: non-existent), but will definitely examine Nietzsche's use of aphorism and poetry to suggest that distance belongs to the character of the writing.

The third chapter, like the first, is predominantly exegetical (which makes that middle chapter really pesky - it's real purpose is to explain why chapters one and three are in the same thesis). I examine Thus Spoke Zarathustra using Marion's terms in order to find moments of abandon and self-sacrifice (which are everywhere, really), and to suggest that, quite often, Zarathustra does expect an encounter in these moments. I look particularly at the appearance of a feminine other and song at so many key moments in the text. Although the name Dionysus never appears in the text, Nietzsche clearly considers Thus Spoke Zarathustra his most Dionysian of works (he even insists that if Zarathustra is the question, Ariadne is the answer), precisely because of the risk it demands and the expectation it contains. Hence "Dionysian Distance".

The whole project is propelled by several convictions. First, that Christian thinkers read Nietzsche poorly when they seek to find the fatal flaw which will allow them to dismiss his work. This is probably a bad way of reading anyone, but especially someone who wrote to incite and not to establish a contained and self-enforcing system. We should allow ourselves to be challenged and shaped by Nietzsche even if we don't agree with all he has to say. Second, that Nietzsche's interest in musicality and myth is simply the best sort of philosophy, a philosophy that leaves open the possibility of radical encounter in a way that is rarely found in writing at all.

I like this project. Unfortunately, I don't have the skill or dedication to do it credit.

Please, if you're reading this and have any relevant thought at all, do add a comment or question. I need some feedback.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Unexpected approval

An und Fur Sich, winner of the best blog tagline award (“You cannot fuck the future, sir — the future fucks you.”), is a vibrant theological community of sorts, dominated by the sharp tongue (figuratively speaking) of writer/scholar Adam Kotsko. I have recently enjoyed his commentary on Red Toryism and look forward to skimming his new book on awkwardness. He is notoriously severe in his response to blog commenters (although I must say, said blog commenters say a hell of a lot of idiotic things) and is my intellectual superior by... well... I'm not sure I have sufficient measuring tape. So you can understand how much it pleases me that when I recently commented on one of his posts, he not only took me seriously but actually quoted what I had written and wrote back "This is really great".

I have a rather modest scale for measuring accomplishments.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Abysses of Heaven

The first several tracks off Kate Bush's Hounds of Love are some of my favourite songs of all time. Pitchfork is currently featuring an extended documentary on the album. Below you can watch the discussion of the title track and "The Big Sky". I'm definitely a fan of layered percussion.

[Video no longer available.]

I find it curious that more than one of my favourite tunes has the title "Big Sky." Not a coincidence, I think.