The Art of Belonging – reflection on the NSU summer school

Is it possible to define the sense of belonging that is more than simply the addition of the parts, that does not erase philosophical loneliness but gives it a place and makes you regard it as a strength?

It has been truly a magnificent gift to be able to spend an intensive week with a group of strangers, talking about venturing into the unknown, into the future of (feminist) philosophy, and who, during the final session, dare to share their feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. In life. But mostly in their philosophical being. A loneliness that is both personal and professional. And I wonder how that shared attitude of fundamental openness creates a space of belonging. Continue reading “The Art of Belonging – reflection on the NSU summer school”

Looking back and forward… at my time in the US

I have extremely mixed feelings about my time in the US. Even though I spent some weeks in China shortly before going to the US, I had no idea what kind of shock I would encounter. A shock culturally, physically and emotionally. 

The United States of America, that country that I thought was so like Europe. That I thought to be the epicenter of everything Western. With the change in powers underway at the moment, the double feelings all come back in full force.
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Words&Statistics – "Fact" and post-truths

What happened in 1965? After that date, the word ‘fact’ has decreasingly been used in books. But how come? Did the ‘post-truth’ world start not with social media, but maybe with the rise of relativism and existentialism?

A reflection by Nicole des Bouvrie.
Philosophers deal with words, often in etymological sense, in that they try to understand the meaning of a concept by looking at the history of a word, how it was used, what roots it has. But there is another way in which words are interesting, also for a philosopher: quantitatively. Continue reading “Words&Statistics – "Fact" and post-truths”

Surrender upon demand | US experience part one

After about two weeks in the United States, there is to much too keep in. Writing seems the only sane response to the variety of experiences that cannot be but leave an impression.

After about two weeks in the United States, there is too much to keep in. Writing seems the only sane response to the variety of experiences that cannot be but leave an impression.
I could start with the initial wonder, those couple of days walking around in a haze, the filmset that was movie around me, that I didn’t want to touch anything so that it would not become too real. The steam coming out of put holes in the streets of New York. People walking like they have nowhere to be except right there, in that walk, walking the walk, as stand-ins, always ready for something to happen. The woman in the metrostation randomly starting to talk to me about her life. The people asking me if I have a problem with black men. The New York skyline from a rooftop in Astoria, and it not sparkling me as it should.
Continue reading “Surrender upon demand | US experience part one”

Why again do we want this 'freedom of speech'? Or: reading Spinoza

Watching the news, reading social media contributions, I more and more come to the conclusion that it might be time to end our persistent liking of this concept, the ideal of freedom of speech. In a world where opinions create problems, perhaps it is time to stop having opinions altogether. Especially when having an opinion is seen as ‘doing something’, as ‘contributing something’ to society. Thus, the main problem I have with the ‘freedom of opinion’ is that is seems to warrant a liberty through which people feel entitled to say whatever they want, even if it hurts, even if it confirms prejudice and ignorance.
When we take into account that we are mostly limited in our thinking by the world in which we find ourselves, then we must conclude that our opinions can only be a confirmation of who we already are, of what we already know.

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The Chinese experience – Part I

China, a fascinating land full of new obstacles, opportunities and perspectives that has been a great experience so far. Around every corner there can be something new, disgusting, lovely, beautiful, touching, crazy, horrifying. It is a great test of sanity, of belonging, of becoming.

A little over one week ago I arrived in China, a fascinating land full of new obstacles, opportunities and perspectives that has been a great experience so far. Around every corner there can be something new, disgusting, lovely, beautiful, touching, crazy, horrifying. It is a great test of sanity, of belonging, of becoming. With only a few words of Chinese – and no hope of acquiring that language any time soon – I learn a new language of assertiveness, perseverance and humbleness.
Continue reading “The Chinese experience – Part I”

How to respond to the horror of #Paris?

It is still too early to know exactly what happened, who what where and perhaps the most important question: why? What is clear is that something terrible has happened. Response from all over the world is pouring in, and besides the initiatives where the people from Paris open their doors for stranded fellow-Parisians to find a shelter for the night, there are also possible violent reactions. Which is what this event is also the beginning or continuation of, fear of violence and revenge. Which response is appropriate now?

It is still too early to know exactly what happened, who what where and perhaps the most important question: why? What is clear is that something terrible has happened. Response from all over the world is pouring in, and besides the initiatives where the people from Paris open their doors for stranded fellow-Parisians to find a shelter for the night, there are also possible violent reactions. Which is what this event is also the beginning or continuation of, fear of violence and revenge. Which response is appropriate now? A reflection by Nicole des Bouvrie. First published on Zinweb.nl (in Dutch).
Continue reading “How to respond to the horror of #Paris?”

Why I Watch – Theatre & Me

Lately I’ve been kind of involved in the art we call theatre. Writing, acting. But these past couple of weeks I’ve done none of that, instead I’ve visited a lot of plays. And watching theatre performed right in front of you, is maybe the most tiresome way to be involved.
For either the play is so enchanting, so mesmerizing that I takes days to recover. Words echo in your mind, the smell of the actor’s sweat stays with you, you recognize scenes in every-day life. And, most worrisome of all, you repeat phrases out of context and you’re upset that no-one else finds it as thoughtful as it was meant to be. (“Or not to be, that is the question.” See what I mean?)
But this is fine. It’s like living in a big book of spells and you get to see one acted out in front of you, once in a while. The big ugly world is a little bit sunnier for a while, and life is bearable, slightly, until you need a new fix.
The real problem comes, when you are in desperate need of a fix of captivating mind-blowing blood-quenching theatre, and that you’re faced with a bunch of emotionless hippies that don’t understand a single word they’re uttering – although they might say it with a most delightful cheer. When you’re made witness of an uneventful event that is full of clutter.
Tonight I saw precisely such a play. A beautiful Greek original materpiece, stripped of all its beauty, and left with only the complexity of names and willful and god-inspired acts that are devoid of any meaning, filled up again with attributes and lectures. As if I don’t know who ate whose children, and why Iphegenia was killed. (Not to mention the fact that they didn’t even know how to pronounce Clytemnestra.)
I don’t go to the theatre to be taught mythology, to be told a story, to be entertained. Please, the world is full of entertainment and bad teachers already, don’t take away from me the few things that remain – music and words. Please go away and make television shows for elderly people, teach people correct grammar, something, but don’t spoil the truth that the event of theatre is capable of. Don’t look at me, the audience, but look at yourselves.
Perhaps I am not of this age, in which everything must go faster and wilder, in which sex and murder are the only things that can capture someone’s mind for longer than a second. But there are more people like me, there must be, for else there would be nothing left in this world but the idle imaginations of the remnants of the past.
It makes no sense. It should not make sense. There is no sense. Don’t pretend otherwise. But please, don’t add to the heap of nonsense already present in this world.

© jan versweyveld

The Intrinsic Paradox of Life

There is something intrinsically paradoxical in life. Probably there are more paradoxes, but lately I’ve been struggling with this one, and that is definitely enough for now.
It has to do with this wanting to live. I truly don’t understand where this will comes from. Especially if you live in a world like ours, in which the most one can do to create meaning, is to be helpful, supportive, or any such other rather positive things, for someone else. Someone who is just as average and whose life is just as meaningless as your own. Then what is the reason to help this other person? (Or, for that matter, to bring someone new into this world. Although I get how cute children can be, it is really just another mass of cells waiting to die, and to suffer this meaninglessness in the meantime.)
Of course, the people who really are thinking things through and cannot settle for the enjoying-life-principle as a sufficient reason to live, those people have already taken the one exit-option available. The ones that are still walking around the earth are the optimists, or the pessimist who have settled for the next best thing. It is the Darwinian principle that makes the settlers to continue living, and in a sense it makes the enjoying-life-as-meaning the correct theory.
But this is only the case when life itself has value. And this cannot be proven. Still, it seems wrong to live life merely as a way to fasten the way to Death.
If there is any reason for art to exist – besides the process of making art I mean – than it must be to heal the souls of anyone who is facing this fundamental paradox in life.
Time for some Canto Ostinato, by Simeon ten Holt.

Reflecting on EGS part 1

Being in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, to attend the seminars and evening lectures of people that are on the inside of things, is not very easy when you are in the periphery. It feels as you are thrown around between realizing something enormous that is probably going to change your life, and before you’re able to fully grasp it, along comes someone who either makes you want to die or kill. Of course, metaphorically.

There seems to be only one bibliography, one set of books that everybody passes around, that partly I’ve actually read, and partially I’ve never even heard of. There seems to be mostly Jewish thinkers. There seems to be no heterosexual female thinkers. There seems to be thoughts that get rephrased every two hours, minutes, seconds. There seem to be extremely ignorant people. There seems to be the fact that either I am naive or I will be able to write books until I die. There seems to be the continued recurrence of the same words, creating a living genealogy walking around in bodily form.

Most precious are the meetings with people who share my state of anxiety. In life, in thought, in becoming. Who understand that we’re in a place beyond asking questions that primarily focus on our own ego. Who understand that imposing never makes sense, nor as a teacher, nor as a student. Who understand creating is not a singular process but one that needs to be shared in order to be fulfilling.

And in the meantime I continue thinking my own thoughts, in as far as that is possible. I am in constant fear of creating something that smothers my being, and continuously searching for something that does precisely that. Happy for the struggle made present, at breakfast and when taking a bath. Happy for moments in which one can shout out, in which one understands one’s position in regard to the Other. Happy to become filled with becoming. Happy when greatness of a name does not stop you from limiting the influence of that seeming greatness, to stop fallaciousness to influence on a basic level.

For now, let’s see where this leads us. Me. There is something going on. I am not sure whether I am part of it, and whether I want to be. But for now, let’s trace the untraceable.