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1. i’ve managed to half-wrest myself away from the internet most evenings, and read books and smoke my pipes like a gouty Victorian gentleman. At the moment i’m reading Browning and Plato – the latter a monstrous 1500 page edition i bought 3 years ago, but have only really got into now, in my pot-bellied dotage. One of the odd constellations that sometimes befalls me – all this fell out over an hour:
i) i was reading The Spine blog and thinking about caricature and representation, then:
ii) This post on The New Psalmanazar:
The hard part of drawing is to actually see the things you’re looking at. Your idea of a tree, a mountain, a person, will tend to devolve into symbol. You are constantly lured into seeing through your brain, by abstraction, rather than through your eye. But the wild, absurd, incredible fact of a thing in itself is always more than you can grasp.
iii) Then the next poem in Browning was Fra Lippo Lippi:
I’d like his face —
His, elbowing on his comrade in the door
With the pike and lantern — for the slave that holds
John Baptist’s head a-dangle by the hair
With one hand (“Look you, now,” as who should say)
And his weapon in the other, yet unwiped!
It’s not your chance to have a bit of chalk,
A wood-coal or the like? or you should see!
Yes, I’m the painter, since you style me so.
The Prior and the learned pulled a face
And stopped all that in no time. “How? what’s here?
Quite from the mark of painting, bless us all!
Faces, arms, legs and bodies like the true
As much as pea and pea! it’s devil’s-game!
Your business is not to catch men with show,
With homage to the perishable clay,
But lift them over it, ignore it all,
Make them forget there’s such a thing as flesh.
Your business is to paint the souls of men —
Do you feel thankful, ay or no,
For this fair town’s face, yonder river’s line,
The mountain round it and the sky above,
Much more the figures of man, woman, child,
These are the frame to? What’s it all about?
To be passed over, despised? or dwelt upon,
Wondered at? oh, this last of course! — you say.
But why not do as well as say — paint these
Just as they are, careless what comes of it?
iv) Then onto Plato’s Phaedo, Socrates’ ideal, discarnated philosopher:
Do you not think, he said, that in general such a man’s concern is not with the body but that, as far as he can, he turns away from the body towards the soul?
So in the first place, such things show clearly that the philosopher more than other men frees the soul from association with the body as much as possible?
Then he will do this most perfectly who approaches the object with thought alone, without associating any sight with his thought, or dragging in any sense perception with his reasoning, but who, using pure thought alone, tries to track down each reality pure and by itself, freeing himself as far as possible from eyes and ears and, in a word, from the whole body, because the body confuses the soul and does not allow it to acquire truth and wisdom whenever it is associated with it.
2. Reading Browning, i thought of a repulsive music journalist i knew almost twenty years ago – a penpal, back in the days when such things were. He was a standard trendily left-wing London-based Guardian-reader, though at the time i had no opinions about left or right or even London. He seemed clearly mental to me, badgering and hysterical and vindictive – for example, sending me music compilations and demanding i review each track, to the point where i didn’t even want to play them (merely saying “it was good” would provoke a contemptuous “your comments were inadequate”); he also doggedly harassed me for liking U2 and Bruce Springsteen (this was in 1997, before U2 began their downward trajectory), insisting “your alleged fondness for the Irish songsters remains IMPLAUSIBLE and UNACCEPTABLE – EXPLAIN”. i was young and naive and tried to explain but he would just reply something on the lines of “I fail to see how you can CLAIM to dig Trane [John Coltrane] and the leftfield maverick underground brilliance of Miles [Davis] and also CLAIM to “appreciate” the millionaire Irish balladeers! Explain!” And so on.
Outside of my family, he was the first truly obnoxious, unthinking “intellectual” i met, and the first of many to try to dominate and bully me into submission. Amusingly, he reported burning through something like 15 penpals in six months, some of whom accused him of badgering and harassing them. He was also the first “it’s not me, it’s them” maniac i met, who could report something like this without drawing the obvious conclusion.When i asked if he was religious he replied: “religion, in any shape or form, is for weak-minded simpletons without rationality or intelligence” (so, there you have Milton, TS Eliot, Kierkegaard, Dr Johnson, Dante, etc.) At the time i was living with my father in the middle of nowhere, and only knew one person who read anything or liked any music not to be found on Radio 1 – my then-Muslim schoolmate Shrekh. The journalist seemed, at first, astonishingly cultured. He apparently just spent all his time living with his father, writing vast letters to penpals and listening to obscure music. i introduced him – via letters – to Shrekh, who shared my amazement at someone who had actually heard of Bob Dylan and Shakespeare, and sure enough came to see him as a mentally unstable and spectacularly nasty piece of work. At one point i stopped writing to the journalist, disgusted by his latest tirade (which recalled the hectoring emails i occasionally got from my tai chi tutor, when he was on the verge of a psychotic frenzy); he wrote back telling me i wouldn’t find anyone as inspiring and stimulating to write to, “unless Friedrich N [Nietzsche] rises from the grave”. i showed this letter to my father, explaining that it was written by a 24-year-old unemployed, occasional music journalist and that Nietzsche was one of the greatest thinkers of human history. My father indulged in one of his explosions of uncontrollable mirth, then suddenly sobered up and asked, warily: “Egh, well where does this blessed man live?” (my father had run a psychiatric ward and had plenty of experience with violently mental patients).
i finally stopped writing to the blessed man altogether. It felt like i’d suffered him for two years but i think it was more like six months. In his last letter, he likened our relationship to that of Wagner and Nietzsche, as recounted by Colin Wilson, saying that whereas i was the complacent, self-satisfied bourgeois Wagner, he was the “self-transcending” Nietzsche.
Shrekh continued to write to him a while longer, increasingly infuriated by his total witlessness (the journalist claimed that rap wasn’t hip hop – because he thought rap was shit and hip hop was something underground and therefore worthwhile – and when Shrekh patiently set out the reasons why rap is a form of hip hop, the journalist wrote back “WHAT DO YOU WANT – BLOOD???”), till he too stopped writing and eventually burnt all his letters and tapes, saying he felt polluted to have them in the house.
i wish i’d kept the journalist’s letters but i too was so sickened and depressed by their venom that i binned the lot. Some fragments i remember:
i) He wrote me one of his huge 10,000 word letters about Spiritualized’s Ladies & Gentlemen album, then enclosed a clipping from some music magazine, and i realised that most of what he’d written had been copied almost word for word from someone else’s review; plagiarism aside, i wondered if he had copied it out then somehow thought it was his work, or if this was his idea of original response;
ii) When i mentioned my dog, he said he despised “pet/dog culture”;
iii) When i said i wanted to read a Frederick Forsyth novel he demanded to know why, telling me that FF was “a Tory”, as if that somehow made his novels worthless;
iv) He kept re-using the same words, over and over again: eclectic, maverick, left-field, underground, brilliance, epiphany, groovy, spiritual, existential, fusion, life-affirming, transcendent, revolutionary, outsider;
v) Although he had read seemingly every book ever written, and seen every film, and heard every album, it all seemed to go in one ear and out the other. He said Conrad was shit, explaining that he had no interest in jungles. He said Henry James and Jane Austen were tedious and worthless. Apart from Colin Wilson’s drab The Outsider, he didn’t seem to have been affected by a book in his life. i got the feeling he simply culled names and hurled them at his penpals to demonstrate his massive intellect (somewhat like Dean Moriatry in On The Road, who – as far as i can remember – had read and memorised plot summaries and would hold forth on them, before finally admitting he hadn’t read a single book in his life).
vi) When i mentioned i was trying to learn French, he said that learning languages was a total waste of time and that only idiots bother with it.
vii) He demanded to know why i wrote to anyone else (i had about 3 other penpals, who i stuck with for a year or two before we drifted apart). When i vaguely said they were interesting people, he demanded to know how such non-outsiders could possibly be interesting, and then suggested i was lying.
viii) Whenever he found something difficult to believe, he accused me of lying. After a while, reading the contradictions in his own presented self-image (as a Nietzschean superman) i came to suspect he often lied, and that it was therefore natural for him to suppose deception in others.
Rather an odd person, in fact. i thought of him today because i remembered him asking if i’d read Browning – in his usual “I have read everything” way; and so while smoking my pipe and reading Fra Lippo Lippi i wondered if he’d ever actually read Browning, and if he had what he would have made of the poem, since he didn’t seem to remember or remark on anything he’d read (except Colin Wilson’s The Outsider). He claimed to have read every poem ever written but i got the feeling he was too literal to understand poetry; for the same reason he didn’t like Conrad because he didn’t live in a jungle. He was, naturally, extremely political and Marxist.
i was moved to Google him and found he’s still a music journalist. He’s a Guardian-reader; he seems to subscribe to all the conventionally left-wing sentiments of that publication – that the wilfully, lifelong unemployed are “the working class” and need more money from “the rich” to escape their squalor, that the Tories are in some way right-wing and hate the poor (despite increasing State expenditure), and so on.
He has a blog, which i skimmed through. His style has matured, so he doesn’t constantly reuse the same dozen adjectives; it’s good professional writing, but everything he writes sounds like a blurb. i read a few of his reviews and found my mind disengaging, as when i read the rants a manic depressive stalker used to write; the words advertise their profundity & significance, but lack roots.
3. So much for that. In Phaedo – concerning the last days of Socrates:
Cebes intervened and said: ‘By Zeus, yes, Socrates, you did well to remind me. Evenus asked me the day before yesterday, as others had done before, what induced you to write poetry after you came to prison, you who had never composed any poetry before, putting the fables of Aesop into verse and composing the hymn to Apollo.
[…] the same dream often came to me in the past, now in one shape now in another, but saying the same thing: ‘Socrates,’ it said, ‘practice and cultivate the arts.’ In the past I imagined that it was instructing and advising me to do what I was doing, such as those who encourage runners in a race, that the dream was thus bidding me do the very thing I was doing, namely, to practice the art of philosophy, this being the highest kind of art, and I was doing that.
But now, after my trial took place, and the festival of the god was preventing my execution, I thought that, in case my dream was bidding me to practice this popular art, I should not disobey it but compose poetry. I thought it safer not to leave here until I had satisfied my conscience by writing poems in obedience to the dream. So I first wrote in honour of the god of the present festival. After that I realised that a poet, if he is to be a poet, must compose fables, not arguments.
i didn’t remember this from my last reading of the book (15 years ago). i’m presently only a quarter finished, and wonder if anything will be made of this oddity. It is strange and jarring, given Plato’s general inclination to (alleged) logical clarity and his later condemnation of poetry altogether. i think of Thomas Aquinas’ late vision, before which all he had written seemed as straw. If i consider the course of this and my last life, it describes a turn from arguments to fables. People like the journalist were a part of this, as unpoetical and unfabulous and argumentative, and vile. It is fitting that almost nobody reads poetry today, for it is not part of the machine world where everything can apparently be reduced to code (“algorithmically compressible”). Paraphrase a poem and it’s gone. The peculiar force of a poem comes from the slightest of manoeuvres; it is sensed – by those still able to sense anything – but cannot be reduced to politics or machine code, to argument.
It makes me mad to see what men shall do
And we in our graves! This world’s no blot for us,
Nor blank; it means intensely, and means good:
To find its meaning is my meat and drink.
And here, one might note that there is meaning and then there is meaning, and perhaps Socrates was turning to the subtler and more enduring (in its subtlety) of the two.
[postscript: WordPress screwed up my formatting so i had to insert dashes to separate some paragraphs]
1. i continue to read mainly on my Kindle, for convenience; nonetheless i find it unsatisfactory, i can’t read poetry on it, and end up buying paper copies of anything i like enough to re-read. i’ve now bought my third copy of Alan Furst’s Dark Star (one in England, one given away), as i wanted to re-read it and like it too much for the screen. It’s a book in love with the mystery and matter-of-factness of the physical, reminding me in this of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. Roughly speaking it’s a spy thriller with little plot, centred about a Russian journalist who does occasional work for the NKVD in 1930s Europe. On my second reading i realised the seemingly unconnected scenes are all threaded through with an Okhrana document secreted in an old leather bag in a train station locker. The journalist Szara is manoeuvred into taking possession of the bag at the beginning, and all follows.
2. Here is the bag, in all its physicality:
He examined it and realised he’d never seen one like it: the leather was dense, pebbled, the hide of a powerful, unknown animal. It was covered with a thick, fine dust, so he wet his index finger and drew a line through it, revealing a colour that had once been that of bitter chocolate but was now faded by sun and time. Next he saw that the seams were hand-sewn; fine, sturdy work using a thread he suspected was also handmade. The satchel was of the portmanteau style – like a doctor’s bag, the two sides opened evenly and were held together by a brass lock. Using a damp towel, he cleaned the lock and found a reddish tracery etched into the metal surface. This was vaguely familiar. Where had he seen it? In a moment it came to him: such work adorned brass bowls and vases made in western and central Asia – India, Afghanistan, Turkestan. He tried to depress the lever on the underside of the device, but it was locked. […]
He put one finger on the lock. It was ingenious, a perfectly circular opening that did not suggest the shape of its key. He probed gently with a match, it seemed to want a round shaft with squared ridges at the very end. Hopefully, he jiggled the match about but of course nothing happened. From another time the locksmith, perhaps an artisan who sat cross-legged in a market stall in some souk, laughed at him. The device he’d fashioned would not yield to a wooden match.
He gets it open finally:
At dusk, André Szara sat in his unlit room with the remnants of a man’s life spread out around him.
There wasn’t a writer in the world who could resist attributing a melancholy romance to these artifacts, but, he argued to his critical self, that did not diminish their eloquence. For if the satchel itself spoke of Bokhara, Samarkand, or the oasis towns of the Kara Kum desert, its contents said something very different, about a European, a European Russian, who had travelled – served? hidden? died? – in those regions, about the sort of man he was, about pride itself.
The objects laid out on the hotel desk and bureau made up an estate. Some clothing, a few books, a revolver, and the humble tools – thread and needle, digestive tea, well-creased maps – of a man on the run. On the run, for there was equal clarity, equal eloquence, in the items not found. There were no photographs, no letters. No address book, no traveller’s journal. This had been a man who understood the people he fled from and protected the vulnerability of those who may have loved him.
The clothing had been packed on top, folded loosely but perfectly, as though by someone with a long history of military service, someone to whom the ordered neatness of a footlocker was second nature. It was good clothing, carefully preserved, often mended but terribly worn, its wear the result of repeated washings and long use in hard country. Cotton underdrawers and wool shirts, a thick sailor’s sweater darned at the elbows, heavy wool socks with virtually transparent heels.
The service revolver dated from pre-revolutionary days, a Nagant, the double-action officer’s model, 7.62mm from a design of 1895. It was well oiled and fully loaded. From certain characteristics, Szara determined that the sidearm had had a long and very active life. The lanyard ring at the base of the grip had been removed and the surface filed flat, and the metal at the edges of the sharp angles, barrel opening, cylinder, the trigger itself, was silvery and smooth. A look down the barrel showed it to be immaculate, cleaned not with the usual brick dust – an almost religious (and thereby ruinous) obsession with the peasant infantry of the Great War – but with a scouring brush of British manufacture folded in a square of paper. Not newspaper, for that told of where you had been and when you were there. Plain paper. A careful man.
The books were also from the time before the revolution, the latest printing date 1915; and Szara handled them with reverence for they were no longer to be had. Dobrilov’s lovely essays on noble estates, Ivan Krug’s Poems at Harvest, Gletkhin’s tales of travel among the Khivani, Pushkin of course, and a collection by one Churnensky, Letters from a Distant Village, which Szara had never heard of. These were companions of journey, books to be read and read again, books for a man who lived in places where books could not be found. Eagerly, Szara paged through them, looking for commentary, for at least an underlined passage, but there was, as he’d expected, not a mark to be found.
Yet the most curious offering of the opened satchel was its odour. Szara could not really pin it down, though he held the sweater to his face and breathed in it. He could identify a hint of mildew, woodsmoke, the sweetish smell of pack animals, and something else, a spice perhaps, cloves or cardamom, that suggested the central Asian marketplace. It had been carried in the satchel for a long time, for its presence touched the books and the clothing and the leather itself. Why? Perhaps to make spoiled food more palatable, perhaps to add an ingredient of civilization to life in general. On this point he could make no decision.
Szara was sufficiently familiar with the practices of intelligence services to know that chronology meant everything. ‘May God protect and keep the czar’ at the end of a letter meant one thing in 1916, quite another in 1918. With regard to the time of ‘the officer’, for Szara discovered himself using that term, the satchel’s contents offered an Austrian map of the southern borders of the Caspian Sea dated 1919. The cartography had certainly begun earlier (honorary Bolshevik names were missing), but the printing date allowed Szara to write on a piece of hotel stationery ‘alive in 1919’. Checking the luggage label once again, he noted ‘tentative terminal date, 8 February 1935.’ A curious date, following by two months and some days the assassination of Sergei Kirov at the Smolny Institute in Leningrad, 1 December 1934, which led to the first round of purges under Yagoda.
A terminal date? Yes, Szara thought, this man is dead.
He simply knew it. And, he felt, much earlier than 1935. Somehow, another hand had recovered the satchel and moved it to the left-luggage room of a remote Prague railway station that winter. Infinite permutations were of course possible, but Szara suspected that a life played out in the southern extremity of the Soviet empire had ended there. The Red Army had suppressed the pashas’ risings in 1923. If the officer, perhaps a military adviser to one of the local rulers, had survived those wars, he had not left the region. There was nothing of Europe that had not been packed on some night in, Szara guessed, 1920.
3. This passage expresses much of why i prefer paper to electronic books: the tactile sensory resonance, the marks of previous owners, of previous readings, the expanding network of historical associations, the occasional flashes of insight – these latter in particular seem to tap into something in the physical object itself, as i felt once with an SS dagger. And the books made to be read and re-read on the road, in small Asian market towns: if i delete or lose a Kindle file, i can just download it again and there is no difference between the book i read and lost, and the book with which i replaced it: the electronic does not allow this palimpsest of experience, or only in the crudely mechanical way that the NSA (etc.) can view a person’s entire browsing history. i think probably most good readers know what it is like to replace an old copy, and to feel – even if the replacement is exactly the same imprint – that it is not the same. When my last edition of John Sinclair’s Inferno translation finally fell apart, after about 30 readings, i used the pages as decoration, or as packaging for gifts, because i felt something of those 30 readings in the paper, and i did not want to simply toss it in the bin and so eliminate a decade’s reading. The replacement was apparently exactly the same edition, and lacking; not the book i bought in Dillon’s second-hand section in Durham in 1997, before the shop was consumed by Waterstone’s.
4. Furst has a strong sense for the distant networks of history, and their manifold and undislodgeable connection to the present; this is one reason i would never become a socialist/progressive – i am at home in the negotiation between my present and past, and the pasts of many others, and wouldn’t want to simply destroy the past and its echoes, even if i thought such an undertaking were possible. The bright new utopias of socialism do not interest me; they seem as plausible as Disney cartoons; as flatly inhuman as an electronic book; as repulsive as the dreams of a Yagoda, or for that matter, that other great progressive, Hitler: to such fools, the elder locksmith laughs from another time.
And so i like living in Munich, learning a barbarous ancient language, smoking pipes and reading old books – to understand myself through these myriad, overlapping, incalculable networks of thought and action and being; to take my own being from this meeting and friction; to acknowledge my own part in this, as observer and actor both, patient as i am.
1. i’ve been internetless for a couple of weeks. My internet provider doesn’t have any English-speaking call centrists and my listening comprehension for German isn’t up to the task, so one of my students called & pretended to be me – an amusing episode, as he did it on loudspeaker in the middle of class, charming the pants off a Frau Hofmann.
There was a connection test and the problem was deemed to lie in my router. A new router was sent, and deemed undeliverable because i don’t have a standard German name so the courier couldn’t find me on the door buzzer. At the moment i’m using a weak & unsecured signal emanating from somewhere in the building, though i only connect for brief moments.
2. i’ve come to pay close attention to coincidences; everything is patterned, which means both that there are no coincidences and that, in a sense, there’s nothing so remarkable about remarkable coincidences – these latter are just a more obviously concentrated pattern. It is not chance that you meet an old friend on the street after a decade’s absence; nor that you forget a hat and it rains; nor that you woke when you did, and the weather was as it was, and your tea or coffee or juice was as it was.
Human intentions count for something but not in the way we suppose, i suppose. This is one reason i don’t really like films with flawless villains and masterminds, where some clever plot is seamlessly executed because someone is clever enough to plan everything. i prefer stories where things go wrong (or right) for small reasons, because somebody is in the wrong place at the wrong time, or trips on an unseen sausage dog (Tarantino films take their energy from this pattern of mishap). One reason i like Tolkien – he comes very close to how our human wishes and blunders are nonetheless part of a wider pattern of things, and “even the wise cannot know all ends”:
‘You give the choice to an ill chooser,’ said Aragorn. ‘Since we passed through the Argonath my choices have gone amiss.’ He fell silent, gazing north and west into the gathering night for a long while. […] ‘Ours is but a small matter in the great deeds of this time. A vain pursuit from its beginning, maybe, which no choice of mine can mar or mend.’
3. The last couple of weeks have been an interesting constellation of happenstance and chance. i adapted quickly to no internet, simply watching my stock of DVDs or reading; and i went more seriously to work on my latest attempt-at-a-novel: 34,000 words in about a month, something i couldn’t have managed with constant, high quality internet. In part it went so quickly because i’ve been plotting this book for years, and wrote the 30 to 40 thousand words earlier this year, in a different narrative voice. At the same time, i fell into the snares of a sexy Afghan girl, one of my old students, and while it’s troublesome to negotiate some kind of “relationship” (to explain, to an extreme extrovert, that i’m strongly introverted – it seems in the nature of extroverts that they cannot understand introversion), it’s also proved stimulatingly difficult.
4. In the midst of this difficulty, i was jostled out of my dread of human society by a Carlos Castaneda book of all things. The more i read Castaneda the more i feel he straddles the border between philosophy and magic (as does Ursula le Guin in her first three Earthsea books). i have no idea if what he writes (encounters with a Yaqui sorceror) actually happened and in a sense it is irrelevant; even if it is pure fiction it gets close to the border between philosophy and magic, where seeing aright starts to alter one’s reality. For me, philosophy is about useful perception – since there is no way of determining whether one is right or wrong, the test is pragmatic: does it make you happier, does it make you less conflicted, less hypocritical, less delusional, less egotistic, less anxious? And can you engage with normal earthy folk (like my Afghan lover) without seeming bizarre and offputtingly unearthly? – and in this sense, my job is the supreme test of my philosophical sorcery.
As i see it, Castaneda’s central point is that our ordinary human personality – the lesser man – is a parasitic element, keeping us drained and fearful and unable to achieve anything worthwhile. He names this the foreign installation. His work is directed to the elimination of this element, the lesser man. From The Power of Silence:
the only worthwhile course of action, whether for sorcerors or average men, is to restrict our involvement with our self-image […] What a nagual aims at with his apprentices is the shattering of the mirror of self-reflection.
This is a project i have undertaken for the last 13 or so years, since incessant self-reflection brought me to a point of near insanity (a wilderness of broken mirrors). Tai Chi and then the magician’s path gave guidance and impetus, for nothing worthwhile can be achieved without abandoning the lesser man: vanity, pettiness, anger, fear, jealousy, spite. i am still largely embroiled in the tentacles of self-reflection, though i can see some progress when i compare myself with my younger self. Castaneda again:
For the nagual Julian self-importance was a monster that had three thousand heads. And one could face up to it and destroy it in any of three ways. The first way was to sever each head one at a time; the second was to reach that mysterious state of being called the place of no pity, which destroyed self-importance by slowly starving it; and the third was to pay for the instantaneous annihilation of the three-thousand-headed monster with one’s symbolic death.
i tried the first and it didn’t work. Then i found the second but could not thoroughly assimilate it into my daily life. The third – i have nearly died (of asthma and suicide) often enough to unsettle the edifice of vanity, but the relentless energy of the “three-thousand-headed monster” is difficult to thoroughly displace. i think the key is what Castaneda calls the point of no pity, where you cease to feel any pity for yourself or others. It is difficult to reach, because pity is the last comfort of the lesser man; and because, if nakedly perceived, it would strike most as monstrous and terrifying – what Castaneda calls the dark touch of the impersonal.
This coldness must be experienced within the midst of human encounters, or it is of little value (i think of Buddhist monks giving seminars in America, suddenly flustered by the sight of women in shorts & t-shirts). It is not easy to reach this point in solitude, but once one has it is then necessary to be tested in society – my extroverted Afghan lover is a means of conditioning & proving my point of no pity, for myself or her; and things would have become hellishly complicated, had i not been balanced in my deepest impersonality, my cultivated absence of pity.
5. It is essential to my philosophical sorcery that i don’t suppose one requires esoteric knowledge of demonic names and whatnot – something i always found questionable in Yeats, with his so-called Golden Dawn – as long as one dissolves the self, it is well. My 5 years of temping taught me the value of secrecy and apparent submission; teaching has taught me to exercise a modulated dominance. Castaneda talks of the man: “whose worldly task was to sharpen, yet disguise, his cutting edges so that no one would be able to suspect his ruthlessness” and this is apt for my work. i regard my students primarily as a testing ground for my will and the dissolution of my self, and on the whole they love me for it – they regard me as a jolly, entertaining, serious, Sherlock Holmesian teacher; one of the ironies of this path, it seems.
6. You do not require special lore. Wittgenstein: Wenn der Ort, zu dem ich gelangen will, nur auf einer Leiter zu ersteigen wäre, gäbe ich es auf, dahin zu gelangen. Denn dort, wo ich wirklich hin muß, dort muß ich eigentlich schon sein. Was auf einer Leiter erreichbar ist, interessiert mich nicht (if the place I want to get to could only be reached by way of a ladder, I would give up trying to get there. For the place I really have to get to is a place I must already be at now. Anything that I might reach by climbing a ladder does not interest me). One requires only discipline, which is i think one reason this day abounds in the lesser man, those thoroughly in thrall to the foreign installation. For those seeking power, matters will arrange themselves to allow him to attain the point of no pity. For me, this involves a degree of otherworldliness, but it is essential that this is merely an extension of what one could achieve in an ordinary, purposed life. It is, in any case, pointless to present lore: such teachings can only be understood by those ready to understand, and that comes by experience and hardship. Tove Jansson from Moominland Midwinter:
‘Why didn’t you talk like that in winter,’ said Moomintroll. ‘It’d have been such a comfort. Remember, I said once: “There were a lot of apples here.’ And you just replied: “But now here’s a lot of snow.” Didn’t you understand that I was melancholy?’ Too-ticky shrugged her shoulders. ‘One has to discover everything for oneself,’ she replied. ‘And get it all alone.’
And for that one should be grateful for these odd coincidences, for broken internet, stupid Germans, sexy Afghan babes, adventures and escapades and Moomins.