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.

Crying & Style

In the end it must be as it is and has always been: great things are for the great, abysses for the profound, shudders and delicacies for the refined and, in sum, all rare things for the rare…” Friedrich Nietzsche

This quote has stayed with me, for many years since I first read it. And it is applicable again today.
I am reading Alain Badiou’s Ethics. It is one of those books, that make me cry. Inside. Tremendously, as I feel the words connecting to what I call myself. It is incredible to read words that describe my own struggle with life so precisely and to the point, formally even, and put into syllables those things I have found exceptionally difficult to say. Without falling back into nihilism. Without closing an eye to the impossible. “Nothing dispenses with the need for courage.” (Verso, 2012, p.50)
Although there remain many things that I continue to be skeptical about. And some things Badiou has apparently not understood in the same way I do. But that makes it even more precious to continue reading this small, yet biblical book. After having struggled my way through ‘Being and Event’ and ‘Logics of Worlds‘, I can breathe his sentences and choice of words. It’s like take a lavender bath. It makes me cry.
And it also creates a longing in myself to find my own voice, to acknowledge myself and the courage I need, and take up my pen and stop quoting other people to give strength to my own arguments.
Let’s think the impossible.

After Barthes

Pavel Filonov – Flowers of the Universal Flowering, Мировой расцвет

Yesterday I visited the exposition on ‘The Big Change’, on Russian Art 1895-1917. As you might know by now, I’m obsessed by the idea of ‘change’ (well, it’s the topic of my PhD, so I’m rightfully obsessed by it) and as I am very fond of everything Russian ever since the great documentary-travel-televisionseries by Jelle Brand Corstius, I was curious what this had to offer.
What I liked about this exposition, was that it used all sorts of art, although it was still conventional enough for old people to visit it (they bring in the money, of course) in that it showed mostly paintings. But the little alcoves with music composed in that time and the rooms with moving images made it into a great experience.
But after having read Barthes’ Camera Lucida just the day before, and having some great discussions about it with some friends from the European Graduate School, the paintings gave me a very morbid impression. What Barthes is describing about himself as an observer, is something that is easily recognized: being enchanted by something, as if there if something in the artwork (or, photograph as Barthes is focusing on that specifically) that like an arrow pierces you, hits you, yes even wounds you. It is not something that can be searched for in the artwork, it is not something that is rationally approachable. No, it is not what Barthes calls the studium, something that I see in the artwork that I can relate to, and which therefore interests me. Instead, what is moving me, what makes art great, is the punctum.
I realized at this exposition, that although the topic interested me, and the technique and the movement of that time and place is interesting and concerns something that I am thinking about a lot, this didn’t make me experience something unique, which is what ‘true’ art is able to do, in my opinion. It was this punctum that was missing, that lightening that I was waiting for.
Until I got the last room, in which one artist really made me boil inside. Pavel Filonov, ‘Entry into World Flowering’ 1914-1915. Amazing. I stood before it, for quite some time, not analyzing it, not trying to find out what this experience was. No meta-level. Just enjoying the amazing-ness. It was indescribable.
But something was still missing, that photography is a much more willing character for. Paintings are created, one brushstroke at the time. Photographs capture something fleeting that is now made to be there forever. The more the photographer is trying to bend reality in order for his picture to show what he has thought about, the more interesting the picture might become (in the studium sense of the word ‘interesting’), but the less force of capturing the observer it will have. Barthes describes this beautifully: “The Photographer’s ‘second sight’ does not consist in ‘seeing’ but in being there.” (Barthes, Camera Lucida, 1982, p. 47)
Then, to end this discussion, I’d like to share a quote which was written on one of the walls of the museum. It shows how artists have a feeling for the bigger picture, and try to put it in words in perhaps a beautiful way, but it also shows how naive this can be…

We ourselves are creating our own hypotheses anew and only upon them, as in our inventions, can we build our new life and new world view. Revolution in art has always predicted the breaking of the old public consciousness and the appearance of a new order in life. (Ljubov Pupova 1921)

Turkey and the Illusion of Democracy

Upheaval in Turkey. Government responding to peaceful protest. Tear gas. People died and are still dying. At this moment it is unclear what is actually happening, but at least it is clear that something is going on.
What am I to do, far away, in my comfortable home? I can share my thoughts. Not regarding what is right and what is wrong. Not regarding what should be done, who is to blame. Any remarks adding to the polarization of the situation seems meaningless in a situation in which the power structure of a country is turning against its citizens.

“Democracy”, an Illusion

Interesting is how this clash is almost immediately put in the context of ‘democracy’. According to news reports, PM Erdogan said that when people disagree with something, they can let it know by voting during the elections. From a theoretical point of view, I must agree with him on this point. ‘Democracy’ as we know it nowadays, is explained to the masses as a manner in which everybody gets a say as to what will be decided for the public arena. In practise this is limited to elections, and influencing politicians for instance through political parties.
But calling the present political system in Western countries, including Turkey, the United States and the Netherlands, a ‘democracy’ is extremely misleading. In reality, people have hardly any say in public affairs. Even when one party is exchanged for the next one after an election, policy is made by people in ‘power’, and power corrupts, and creates its own reality.

What People Actually Want

The problem with current ‘revolutions’ is that there is no alternative. This has been seen over and over again, from Egypt to Libya, Syria, Iran and probably now again in Turkey. Dissatisfaction makes people revolt against an oppressive system. That system breaks down, and once the rubble is taken away, people realise the space created thus is already filled with a system that is surprisingly similar to the one just overthrown. Surprisingly only for those who are involved with a breaking down without understanding that without a system to take over that creates an equal opportunity for everyone to be heard in matters related to their own being, there is no hope.
But there is hope. Technology and social media is nowadays supporting the people more and more. In doing so, it creates its own power structure. Everybody can shout whatever he wants. But what is picked up upon on Twitter, is not the tweet of the lunatic, but precise analyses and arguments – that are spreading across the world in a way that is truly revolutionary. I am hopeful that this will turn into a system to support something that is actually a constructive answer to cases of oppression: a deliberative system in which legitimacy is created by a procedure that creates a shared understanding of reality and translates this into policy. Bottom-up instead of top-down. In which governments realise their original role of parent of the nation: to educate and promote the interests of all by letting the people see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears.

Lyotard & My Fear for New Humans

Why is the idea of a possible future in which non-humans are capable of doing what humans can (referring not to the enormous amount of unbelievable irrelevant things, but: reflexive thought) so frightening?
Shouldn’t I be just as frightened about my human neighbour when it comes to my being, my ability to ‘earn a living’?
Isn’t every newborn baby a much bigger threat?
But this is a non-issue. Robots who have human capabilities are to be considered humans, a new breed of humans. The fact they are not born as human beings are born nowadays, that they are not confined to nutrients as we are, does that make it impossible to call them humans?
According to Lyotard, accomplishing these kinds of robots is the ultimate goal for human beings, as it secures human thought even after the Pure Event, after the solar explosion. Interesting thoughts, on a Friday afternoon…

Koninginnedag 2013

Er is geen grootsheid. In deze tijd, waarin we kunnen overzien hoeveel mensen er zijn op de wereld, beseffen we ons dat wanneer wij als individu ons potentieel niet waarmaken, we niet onze plek innemen en onze bijdrage leveren, er genoeg anderen zijn die die plek voor ons invullen. Wellicht niet omdat zij op hun beurt daarmee hun eigen potentieel waarmaken, maar gewoonweg omdat ze daar zijn, op dat moment.
Het is zo rustgevend om te denken dat onze acties van invloed zijn op de wereld om onsheen. We willen zijn, als de wind die bomen omblaast, vuren dooft en vlag en wimpel laat wapperen. Maar in realiteit is ook de wind niets meer dan een tijdelijk zuchtje. De bladeren in de bomen ruisen dan wel, maar zodra de wind gaat liggen, komt hun originele vorm weer terug. De vlag wappert omdat hij vastzit aan een stok en het vuur wordt vaker aangewakkerd dan dat hij dooft. Nooitsteekt de wind een vuur aan, uit zichzelf. Het kan een katalysator zijn, ietsdat mogelijkheden creeërt. Maar ook zonder zwaartekracht en de stok, zou die vlag nooit wapperen. Maakt dat de wind overbodig? Maakt dat een mens, een individu van vlees en bloed, zoals ik, overbodig?
Wanneer ik mezelf verplaats in het gedruis der mensenmassa, hoop ik het. Ik hoop dat de mens overbodig is, dat het niet allemaal afhangt van het zooitje ongeregeld dat zijn plezier tegenwoordig haalt aan het zich laveloos drinken, hossen op muziek diebezingt dat het vanavond maar een mooie avond mag zijn. Als alles betekenisloos is geworden, blijft immers enkel het moment.
Misschien moeten we de filosofen de schuld geven. Niet misschien, hoogstwaarschijnlijk. Ze baanden de weg om alle waarden die van buitenaf worden opgelegd ver van ons wegte schuiven en lieten ons achter met een immense leegte. Die niet wordt gevoeld, wanneer je hem vol laat lopen met alcohol en andere oppervlakkigheden. Of met traditie.
Koninginnedag 2013, de dag waarop officieel de abdicatie van Koningin Beatrix werd voltrokkenen de inhuldiging en verwelkoming van de nieuwe Koning Willem, vooralsnog gewoon bekend als Willem-Alexander. Interessant daarbij was de mengeling van traditie en vernieuwing. De voorzitter van de Eerste Kamer sprak over het begin van een nieuw tijdperk. Maar de hele toestand was toch voornamelijk een ceremonie. Als alles al in de grondwet geregeld is, waarom zou die ene wet danop deze dag moeten worden bevestigd, door de Koning én door het volk. (Want dat volksvertegenwoordigers die belofte of eed afleggen, betekent dat het volk deze aflegt.) Als dit werkelijk een onderdeel is van het in werking treden en betekenis krijgen van die wet, waarom moeten we dan niet allemaal zo’n eed aande gehele grondwet afleggen? Bijvoorbeeld als we achttien jaar worden. Of elke keer als we willen stemmen, of als we belasting betalen. We voltrekken dan immers onze plicht als onderdaan, als inwoner, als burger van ons land.
Nee, de ceremonie was traditie. Net zoals de titel ‘Koningin’ die Maxima draagt enkel en alleentraditie en dusdanige waarde met zich meedraagt. Getuige het aantal oranje geklede mensen, het minieme groepje Republikeinen die zich genoodzaakt ziet zich te verzetten tegen deze klucht, zijn wij Nederlanders het hier mee eens. We houden van traditie, want het voorziet ons met een invulling van ons lege bestaan. Er is een Koning, die zijn onderdanen bijstaat in tijden van nood enblijdschap, die verbindend optreedt, en ons duidelijk kan zeggen dat we ons best moeten doen om saamhorig te zijn, zonder dat dit een politiek manifest wordt waarover door verschillende partijen gebekvecht moet worden.
Ik ben niet tegen het Koningshuis. Noch ben ik er voor. Wél ben ik voor eerlijkheid over de stand van de samenleving. Er is geen sprake van een nieuw tijdperk, wat betreft een verandering in besef onder mensen. Er is een crisis die veroorzaakt wordt doorde falende instituties in de wereld, maar de mensen laten nog altijd deverantwoordelijke instanties hun eigen probleem oplossen. Dat nieuwe tijdperk is zeker wel onderweg, tenminste, dat is de laatste strohalm waaraan ik mevasthoud. Maar hij is zeker niet ingeluid door een Koning die zijn eerste toespraak grotendeels vulde met ideeën over zichzelf en hoe uniek hij gaat zijn. Zolang mensen, en koningen, zich daarmee bezighouden, zijn we nog eenheel eind verwijderd van dat nieuwe tijdperk.

One Last Final Exam!

Today is the day… I hope I’ll make it, I studied hard for it, but I’m still insecure… when o when am I going to trust in my own abilities? Well, I guess I do trust myself, but exams are so specific to the teacher, that they measure more the being attuned to his idea, than really grasping the material. But, I’m not really sure I grasp the material thoroughly, haha.
It was a lot of introduction material to eight philosophers, whereas I’d rather know more about a few, than a whole bunch of things which you’re supposed to be able to relate to each other…
We’ll see…